Some years ago, we lived in Cebu, one of the many islands that make up the Philippines. On the face of it an idyllic place to live – warm, but not too hot, all sorts of delicious fruits to eat at extremely affordable prices, some of the best scuba diving in the world (also very affordable), physically a very beautiful place as well – all the swaying palm trees and other tropical paradise stuff you could wish for.
However, as always, there is another side to this paradise, an altogether less attractive aspect of life in the Philippines. And here I am not talking about the normal third world problems – rubbish strewn streets, rotting buildings, almost non-existent infra-structure and such aspects of poverty stricken Asian countries.
Apart from the two things I want to talk about here, there are also guns – lots and lots of guns. It is the only place I have ever seen the following sign on the doors of banks:-
“Please check your pistol with the guard before coming into the bank”
Please note, this is not a law, simply a polite request!
No, there are two things that make the Philippines stand out from most other South East Asian countries, and those are the unbelievable level of corruption all through Philippino society and the extremely repressive Spanish Catholic church.
I could now happily write about 20 000 words citing examples of corruption I saw in the three years we lived there, but I shall restrict myself to a couple of the more astounding bits of corruption I came across while there. Stuff I know to be true, and not some sort of urban myth.
No: 1. Cops guarding vote buying money.
Uniformed cops being used to guard the vans with the cash used to buy votes at elections. These vans went around, handing out 600 pesos (about $13) to people in exchange for them promising to vote for whoever it was who gave them that money. To ensure they did vote the “right” way, they had to show their ID cards to get the money.
And as I said, uniformed cops went around with these vans to ensure that they were not robbed.
No 2: Local Politicians selling explosives to dynamite fishers:
One of the saddest things is the use of dynamite for illegal fishing. This consists of home made “bombs” which are thrown into the sea on top of the reef, which kills all creatures in the area, those that can be eaten are gathered up and sold to the fish mongers on shore. This style of fishing of course destroys the entire environment, kills every living thing in the area, and is totally unsustainable, so is obviously destroying the livelihood of the fishermen themselves. But they are desperately poor people, who cannot think about the future.
Sadly it also kills scuba divers too… Including a good friend of mine, who was a diving instructor, and was killed by one such bomb thrown into the sea near to were he was diving.
Anyhow, where do these fishermen get their dynamite and detonators? In the case of Mactan (where I dived regularly) they obtained their illegal explosives from one of the local deputy mayors. One of the officials who were charged with stopping this illegal form of fishing. Oh and he was also in charge of the cops in the area, so he made sure they never were on hand while the fishermen were at work….
I could go on for ages with more examples of how things are done in the Philippines, but it becomes repetitive and boring.
In the noble tradition of the Catholic Church in Franco’s Spain, the church in the Philippines is highly active in national and local politics, exerting an enormous influence on every level of society, controlling which laws get passed and how people think and vote.
Any attempt to introduce easily obtained birth control methods or information are fought against tooth and nail by this church, ensuring that unbelievably poor families have upwards of 10 or more kids, thus ensuring that the great majority of Philippinos are condemned to a life of real poverty.
This church uses its priests to control how the people think, how they vote, and every aspect of their lives is governed by this primitive and repressive church. Every aspect of their daily lives is totally controlled by what the church will allow them to think or do. It is the most total system of mind control I have ever come across…. The saying of “give me a child before he is 5 and he is mine for life” truly applies in the Philippines!
Otherwise it is a splendid place!