Life in the Philippines and America

Life in the Philippines and America

By Apolinario Villalobos


America is touted as the land of prosperity and opportunity which is true, but only for the disciplined and those who are willing to work. I may not have been to the United States but I have eyes that read and brains that comprehend, aside from ears that listen to the stories told by friends who went there as tourists or are still there as immigrants. Take note, physicians diagnose patients and prescribe drugs for them, not because these medical practitioners have had suffered many diseases themselves, but their decisions are based on cases that they have previously handled, written references, and information from colleagues during conventions. I am in that situation. I am making this early clarification because I am aware of the skeptic viewers who may question my right to write about this topic.


Also, I expect denials from viewers who are in situations far from their expectation of immediate success upon setting foot on American soil. These are Filipinos who want prosperity but without a bit of willingness to do menial jobs even temporarily, for immediate sustenance. Some Filipino executives who left their lucrative jobs in the Philippines expect to land in positions similar to what they have left once they set foot in America, but they were wrong. I admire those who have bravely faced the reality and immediately reset their mind to conform to the new situation they are in. In time, by dints of their patience and perseverance, they have achieved what they longed for, although perhaps, not totally. There are still many who failed until now but keep on dreaming about success which just become as evasive because of their finicky attitude.


The following are some of the situations that I can share based on my personal observations in the Philippines and second-hand information from references and friends who have experienced life in America, though not necessarily arranged according to their positive and negative implications:


  1. In the Philippines, prestigious companies base their hiring on preferred colleges and universities, so that the intelligence of a cum laude graduate from the province is no match to a below-average graduate from an elitist university in Manila; in America, you have to prove your worth during interviews and qualifying exams.
  2. In the Philippines, those with “golden voice” but not so pleasant face do not win in singing contest; in  America, even foreign-blooded singers are given a chance and they succeed…an example is Jessica Sanchez.
  3. In the Philippines, parents can discipline their stubborn children even to the point of using physical contact, such as mild spanking; in America, neighbors and even the children can report parents to the police, if spanking happens.
  4. In the Philippines, coins that are less than one peso, especially, the twenty five centavos are  not appreciated, an attitude of many elders which is emulated by children; in America, all tokens of exchange, to the last nickel are considered valuable, as even “coupons” can be exchanged for food items.
  5. In the Philippines, prominent personalities cannot work even on part-time basis as Receptionist, Waitress, Waiter, or Taxi Driver; in America even popular actresses and actors work as such when there is a lull in their assignments.
  6. In the Philippines, packaged foods usually come in small sizes; in America they come in jumbo size.
  7. In the Philippines, one can buy from sidewalk vendors in which haggling is possible; in America items are purchased as tag-priced.
  8. In the Philippines, consumers of electricity, water, and tenants, are given a “wide allowance” for the extension of their obligations, as extensive as 3 months; in America, pleading is not possible.
  9. In the Philippines, tenants can accumulate even six months arrear on rented apartment or room covered with guarantee from the Barangay; in America, a two-month arrear can result to eviction.
  10. In the Philippines, if one is depressed he or she can barge into the home of a friend to seek solace or a shoulder to cry on; in America, visits are scheduled, understandably, as practically everyone is maximizing the use of time in productive undertakings.
  11. In the Philippines, an employee makes do with a contractual job that eats up eight hours a day; in America, the industrious can squeeze in his or her time up to four jobs within 24 hours, as they come on hourly basis.
  12. In the Philippines, only the rich can eat in high-end restaurants; in America, part-time jobbers rub shoulders with show business personalities in such restaurants.
  13. In the Philippines, children shyly admit in school that their father is a taxi driver or a carpenter, or that their mother is a laundrywoman or a sidewalk vendor, or worse even pretend to be scions of businessmen; in America, children proudly declare in their class that they have a single mom or single dad…meaning, they are proud of their parents.
  14. In the Philippines, many parents give in to the whims of their children who refuse to eat vegetables so they serve them hot dog every day; in America, greens, roots and fruits are part of the family’s daily diet.
  15. In the Philippines, those who reach the age of 60 are considered senior citizens, by virtue of which they are given discounts and privileges one of which is a special lane, free birthday cake and movies in many cities, and additional allowance from the DSWD, but only very few of them are given the opportunity to work despite their obvious robust physique and good health; in America, senior citizens are encouraged to work despite the availability of social benefits upon reaching such age.
  16. In the Philippines, traffic lights are good only when there are traffic enforcers around, and at daytime; in America, even without the traffic enforcers, the changing lights are respected, even in the dead of the night.
  17. In the Philippines, elders are taken care of by responsible and grateful children; in America, most of them are relegated to the homes for the aged that charge hefty fees.
  18. In the Philippines, politicians, even those in the lowest rung of the hierarchy, expect motorists to give way to them as they speed along narrow roads and highways; in America, all motorists have equal rights under normal conditions.
  19. In the Philippines, pouting lips indicate direction when both hands are not available for such generous act; in America, pouting lips indicate beauty!
  20. In the Philippines, families need not leave their home to enjoy the noise of firecrackers and sights of fireworks in the sky during New Year’s Eve; in America, a place is strictly designated for this, where celebrators congregate.
  21. In the Philippines, Christmas starts in September and ends in January, so the contaminating joy is felt for a long time, and though paganistic characteristics of the celebration are observable, still the spiritual aspect can also be clearly discerned; in America, Christmas is observed faithfully in December, but many Filipinos over there say, that despite the highly- spirited mood in the air, a clearly defined difference can be “felt” making them long with aching heart for their home beyond the oceans.




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