Philippine Island Times Adventures of an American expat in the Philippines

January 30, 2009

Debtor’s Prison

Filed under: General — Donald @ 8:53 am

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The matriarch of one of the families in my neighborhood is in the hospital following a stroke. She had brain surgery and her bill is enormous. Hospitals here normally will not release a patient until everything is paid in full, but this family can use quite a bit of titled land as collateral, so they have to pay only the doctor’s fee at this time. It’s a small fraction of the total, but still amounts to about 1000 times the typical Filipino daily wage. One member of the family has a good, steady job, so she was able to secure loans at 3.5-5.0 percent per month, but they were not sufficient to cover the bill. Bit of a jam. That is how I almost got into the mango business.

The deal is called a prenda. The owners of a property borrow money against it. Until their debt is paid, the lender enjoys full use of the property, including in this case the harvest from about 60 mango trees. Unfortunately, the plantation is on the mountain, about 1 km from the nearest road, and it has no water supply. Mangoes need water. Boys will haul 5 gallon containers up there for about 10 cents each, but it still isn’t feasible. In the end I learned a lot about mangoes from the island’s top expert, but could not make it work. I believe the family was able to secure yet another loan at some ungodly rate and bring their loved one home.

Sparing the details, I’ve also been exploring rice and coconuts. I like coconuts because they just hang there and grow no matter what. My kind of crop. Occasionally they fall and kill people, but in my opinion we should not jump to hasty conclusions about that.

At the moment I’m in Dumaguete trying to find a good Java programmer that I can hook up with a friend in the States. Once that is wrapped up I plan to avoid business matters like the plague and relax for a while. February is the nicest month of the year here. March starts to get hot, and God willing I will get a lot of swimming and exploring done before then.

January 11, 2009

Ako Pinoy

Filed under: General — Donald @ 7:23 am

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Recently I fixed the fan in my cheap hotel room by stripping the wire with my teeth and using my underwear to establish the contact. My lawyer says the photo documentation of that maneuver qualifies me for citizenship. I am Filipino!

January 6, 2009

Stormy Weather

Filed under: siquijor — Donald @ 12:24 pm

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[Written January 4, 2008; posting delayed by tropical depression]

In my neighborhood we usually get no warning at all of nearby typhoons. A couple of months ago we did and people diligently began making preparations. When I checked the internet I found that the system had already passed and was heading for China.

It began raining hard here a few days ago. New Year’s Eve it poured. I was at home with a fever so it didn’t matter much to me, but it put a damper on the last big night of holiday celebrations for my neighbors. In days since, the sun has not shone and the winds have picked up. I guess that means another unannounced system is passing to the north. Unusual weather for January; maybe the sea has stayed warm late this season. Not good for the many Filipinos who have been visiting family and will be taking ferries this weekend back to wherever they work. Foreign tourists will also be seasick, but at least their ferries probably won’t sink.

I’m anxious for my friends who are traveling today, but mostly I’m sad for a girl just up the road. Last year she was valedictorian of the best high school in the area. Unfortunately, her family could not afford to send her on to college. That seems to have precipitated a depression which ended on New Year’s Day, when she hanged herself. She had been working for a household on a neighboring island since the time I arrived in Siquijor and I had not heard about her before. She was only home for the holidays.

Tuition at Siquijor State College is about 6000 pesos per semester. Students need about another 500 pesos per week to cover room and board and transportation to visit their families on weekends. At the current rate of exchange, that works out to an all-inclusive total of about $350 US per semester. Silliman University, the best school in the region and one of the top five or so in the country, runs about $1,000 US per semester. There are others in between. A couple of you have already asked me to let you know of good kids you could help with school. For you and anyone else who might be interested, I’ll do what I can to find out about them.

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