Thursday, May 5, 2011

A Foreigner's Life in Iloilo City

Iloilo City, Panay Island, Philippines

Iloilo does not get nearly so many foreign tourists as places such as Boracay, Cebu, Manila and even Dumaguete and Bohol. Often, I can spend the day in the city and not see another foreigner. Of course, there is a community of resident expats, many who have been in Iloilo many years. Expats hold meetings twice monthly. On the first Wednesday of the month at the Balkonahe Restaurant in Jaro and on the third Wednesday at the Marina on Diversion Road. As elsewhere in the Philippines, there are many Koreans here studying English.

Based my first year and a half in and Iloilo and several months in Cebu City, I find Ilonggos, male and female, to have a reserve and seriousness which differentiates them from the more outgoing Cebuanos and even Tagalogs. They seem serious, proud, industrious, honest, and pious compared the more fun-loving Cebuanos or Tagalogs. Beyond the reserve, I find Ilonggos to be honest, kind, and courteous but don't expect them to fawn over you because you're a foreigner.

There's certainly nothing unusual about young Cebuanas dating foreigners but this does not seem common here. While Iloilo has a few "girlie bars" it does not have the kind of pervasive sex tourism/bar scene found in Angeles or Cebu City. Casual dating of a "white" guy would not be considered proper by many Ilonggas. I rarely see young Filipinas with older foreigners, a very common sight in Cebu. Many of the Filipina-foreigner couples appear to be married couples who have grown plump together over the years.

The upside of this is that the foreigner is more a curiosity than an opportunity and is generally left in peace and treated with respect. It's unusual for me to be overcharged or otherwise taken solicited or taken advantage of because I'm a foreigner. There are not so many beggars. Sometimes when I do see children begging money, they will approach other Filipinos or my wife but not me. I have never been approached by prostitutes or other hustlers. "Hey Joe give me money" is rare here. I relate the relative lack of begging and prostitution to Ilonggo pride.

I ride jeepneys almost every day. I walk the streets downtown. So far, I have never had even a hint of a problem with crime or pickpockets, although friends have. On the contrary, I left a bag with cellphone and digital camera behind when getting off the jeepney. Fellow riders stopped me to be sure I did not forget the bag. If I drop something, multiple people rush to make sure I get it back. There is a robust police presence in many parts of Iloilo City. I do not wander the streets at night. If you do your mileage may vary.

Copyright Robert J. Hammerslag



Post a Comment