Safety First

Probably the most common question I get from people considering a move to the Philippines is whether I feel safe here.

My answer: Yes.

Next question!

Joke, lang. (Just a joke!) Let’s talk about it a bit more.

There’s the phrase floating around that may be dying off. I don’t know. American pop culture is harder to follow from the other side of the planet, but the phrase is “check your privilege.” Let’s alter that a little and say, “check your bias.”

As Americans, we grow up hearing that we are The Best. That people in other countries lie awake at night, wishing they could live in America. That if we loosened our immigration policy, 7billion people would show up at LAX, abandoning the places and faces they love so they can take all our jobs and freedom.

Don’t get all worked up and mind-blown about this, but people are people regardless of their nationality. Most people are quite content where they are. They love their families. They love their friends. They take pride in their communities. They find fulfillment in their work. Or, maybe they don’t. Because they are human, and sometimes humans don’t enjoy their family, and their neighbors bug them, and they think their jobs stink, but they have to make a living. Most people don’t really care about America. They have their own things to worry about.

Why do I make that point now when we are talking about safety? Because a lot of the questions I had coming here myself, and that are asked of me by others now, seem to be influenced by the fact that we are told from birth that we are the luckiest people on the planet and everyone else is just jealous. It’s just not true. You will meet people here who are up on American foreign policy, because the Philippines does still rely on the US for military support and a good chunk of trade. Many people work at call centers handling calls from Americans for 10 hours a day. However,  most people, I would imagine, think about the US on average, about every time they see me and think, “Oh, there’s Annie the Expat. She’s from the US.” And then they go on to think of other things. This persistent safety question is a perfect example of the fear that can come from being told constantly that we are so great that others wish they were us.

My advice to people who are concerned about their safety in the Philippines is this: Don’t be dumb.

I’ll elaborate:

Don’t pick fights.
Don’t walk around with your money, wallet, or phone in your hand.
Don’t let your kids run around in dangerous areas, like along the street or where they could get out of your line of sight.
If your kids are little, make it a rule that they hold your hand in public. (Hand-holding is normal here, up to and including adults, and you will see grown men holding hands or leaning on one another as they walk down the street.)
Don’t go down dark alleys alone.
Don’t believe fishing texts or phone calls that say they have something/one of yours and you have to wire them money to get it back, or that they need to talk to you but need money because their phone is almost out of load.*
Don’t steal things.
Don’t use illegal substances.
Don’t hire prostitutes.
Lock your doors when you leave the house or car.
Don’t leave valuables in plain sight in your car when you do leave it.
If you are on a trip, ask the front desk at your hotel where you can get reliable transportation and how much it should cost you to get where you’re going.

Basically, be as smart with your body and property here as you would be anywhere else in the world. Honestly. Someone might pick you out to try to hurt you, but that’s a risk you take by stepping out into public where ever you live. I have never been robbed. My kids have never been kidnapped. My husband has never been beat up.

Additionally, know that most places you go, the people around you will be actively looking out for you. I have found myself in a fairly dodgy area at night before, and the only people who approached me were those coming up to check on me to make sure I was safe. They then backed off a ways and stayed close until my ride arrived. I’ve set my wallet down on counters in front of me while I look at something I’m thinking of buying, only to have it snatched up and handed back to me by a passer-by who is concerned someone would try to steal it. (This has happened several times, actually. I’ve finally learned to just keep my wallet in my bag where it belongs to protect it from people being so kind.)

So, do I feel safe here? You betcha.

*I got a kidnap for ransom scam call once. When we were home visiting family in the US.
Here, I get occasional texts, in Tagalog, saying something along the lines of “Hey! I miss you! I want to talk to you more, can you send me load?” hoping I will transfer some money to their number. It happens about twice a month. You can just block their number on your phone. Easy-peasy.


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