“You Will Die!” … Over 20 Philippine Pesos

Something I’ve been having issues with since coming to the Philippines earlier this month (and really on every trip to the Philippines before this) is being overcharged.  You can get around that by going to stores where the prices are clearly marked on the items before buying them, but then you miss out on all the good deals keep your wallet thick.  This problem goes for the markets and for services, like public transportation.

If you’re not familiar with the Philippines there are tricycles, which are a motorcycle with a sidecar, that are used for short-range transportation.  The prices are set by organizations and the local government and those prices are posted inside the vehicles with a sticker.  Set routes to neighborhoods outside the town proper are set by the organizations.  Even so, I’m constantly arguing with people that are trying to overcharge me, like I have pesos falling out of my butt every evening and can afford to just give away extra on every transaction I make.

Tonight, we came out of the grocery store with a buggy full of items and got into a tricycle.  We needed transport over about 1 km (or less) of distance to pick up our laundry.  Our bags were too heavy to walk that far, especially given how crowded the streets are in the evenings in Antipolo.  So, the fare should have been 20 pesos.  That’s the standard.  When we pulled up in front of the laundry place, my wife handed the driver 20 pesos and the jackass started demanding 40.  The night before we took the same route and the jackass in that tricycle was demanding 30.  I like to call this the “white tax”.  While arguing with the guy I quickly pulled all of our stuff out of the sidecar in case he tried to take off with our things.  Then we ignored him and went inside.

When we got our laundry we packed it away into a bag we had bought.  We’d actually taken our laundry to the cleaner in black plastic trash bags because we hadn’t found a proper bag for it yet.  When I looked out the window, this prick was still sitting there watching us, as if he expected us to come out and say sorry and then pay him what he was demanding.

I told my wife to ignore him and not give him anything more than what he was owed.  I’m not in the Philippines to make everyone rich at the expense of our livelihood.  So, when we walked out and started up the street, he started his tricycle and shot past us screaming “You will die!”  Ya, good job dude.  We wrote down his plate number and we’re going to report him in the morning.  The fines for tricycle drivers who attempt to overcharge are pretty steep.  I hope he enjoys his 1000 peso fine for trying to be a prick.

When you live on the local economy you can’t afford to let people nickel and dime you to death, and even if I had a huge wad of cash, I wouldn’t be handing it out for free, or to someone who tried to rip me off.  I’m nobody’s chump.

Standing Out Like A Sore Thumb

When you’re a white guy and you’re in the Philippines you’re something like a superstar.  It feels like you’re being followed around by the paparazzi or something.  This isn’t really the case in the Manila area, well not so much anyways, but out in the provincial areas, everyone takes a look at you.

I get the feeling that in the Philippines people who live in the provincial areas don’t travel too much, so they probably don’t see foreigners very often.  When I was walking around the Pampanga area people would sometimes plainly stare.

There was an instance where I was riding on a Jeepney with my wife and my father-in-law.  Two Filipinas were sitting across from us at opposite ends of the bench.  Every time I looked their way they were eyeing me.  One of them had a distasteful or maybe a hateful look on her face.  Maybe she had something against me being there, or maybe the look was aimed at my wife, who’s also a Filipina.  The other one looked like she was hoping I would come talk to her.  When the latter one got off the Jeepney and walked past us, she gave me a funny looking smile, like she was trying to be cute.  I thought it was even more strange, because she didn’t seem to care that my wife was sitting there with me.  It’s not as if I was trying to hide my ring or anything.  My wife told me that it’s normal.  Just the fact that you’re from another country makes you extra attractive in the Philippines and she says a lot of the girls there are very unscrupulous when it comes to married men.

Other times the stares weren’t quite so pleasant.  When we were traveling from Porac to Antipolo I was carrying my laptop in a bag.  Quite a few people looked me up and down like they were sizing me up and contemplating what might be in my bag and whether or not it might be worthwhile to try to rob me.  My wife says that a lot of Filipinos have the mentality that all foreigners in the Philippines must be rich.

That mentality definitely has its downsides.  Everywhere you go people call out “Hey mister! Hey mister!” to you, trying to get you to purchase something from their stall or something they’re carrying around.  Like I mentioned in a previous post, it’s like having a cloud of mosquitoes buzzing around you all the time.

Being a foreigner in the Philippines has its ups and downs.  Sometimes you feel like a superstar.  Other times you wish you could just blend in and enjoy the scenery without being bothered.