Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Staying Safe in Dumaguete

People often ask, "How safe is Dumaguete for foreigners?" This of course is a somewhat loaded question. To be safe, secure in ones home, or safe to act as one might in their own country. Safety is a state of mind regardless of where you are.
Of course certain realities exist and will intervene no matter where you live. Dumaguete is a growing small provincial capital. With growth comes an influx of money to the area. And if you think just a little, criminals will be attracted to the riches and perceived wealth. Crime is extant in Dumaguete. If your main concern is your personal safety, there are ways to easily ensure a relatively safe and secure stay or residence here. It is no different than anywhere else.

The difference in Dumaguete, is that if you are an expat, you will become a target for those few criminal elements who percieve "foreigners" as all being rich. Taking precautions when traveling at night, securing your residence, and not letting your guard down, will all serve you well to a safe experience here.

The police here are trying to do their job, but are strained by budget, and manpower problems. In addition, there investigative techniques are quite different than those in western countries. Hence your best bet is to prevent a crime against your person, rather than rely upon the police.

During daytime hours ordinary precautions with regards to carrying bags, wearing expensive jewelry, and handling money are all that is needed. Use a secure ATM. Change your habits occasionally to avoid being stalked.

A greater danger comes after dark. Most crimes are committed under the cover of darkness. Avoid deserted streets, stay in the populated areas that are well lit. Watch that you are not being followed, especially if you are on a motor bike. Criminals often ride tandem on motorbikes cruising for victims. The back rider will carry a gun and point it at you to pull over.

There are certain areas of the city that are listed as higher risk than others. the area north of the Boulevard in Looc by the waterfront, and south of the boulevard in Tinago and Canday-ong are noted drug dealing zones and are frequented by undesirable elements. Again daytime hours present little risk anywhere in town, but be cautious at night.

Is Dumaguete Safe? Ultimately I believe it is as safe if not safer than some other areas of the Philippines, but one must always be aware, and diligent.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Utang Na Loob

Fourth in a series of Articles on Philippine Culture

Social organization in the Philippines generally follows a single pattern reflecting the influence of local traditions. Among many provincial Filipinos, social organization continues to be marked primarily by personal alliance systems, that is, groupings composed of kin (real and by association), grantors and recipients of favors, and friends.

Philippine personal alliance systems are anchored by kinship, beginning with the nuclear family. A Filipino's loyalty goes first to the immediate family and personal identity is deeply embedded in the matrix of kinship. It is normal that one owes support, loyalty, and trust to one's close kin and, because kinship is structured bilaterally among relatives, one's kin can include quite a large number of people. With respect to kin beyond this nuclear family, closeness in relationship depends very much on physical proximity.

A bond between two individuals may be formed based on the concept of utang na loob. Another way of saying obligation to repay a loan or debt. Although it is expected that the debtor will attempt repayment, it is widely recognized that the debt, as in one's obligation to a parent, can never be fully repaid and the obligation can last for generations.

Saving someones life, providing employment, or making it possible for another to become educated are "gifts" that incur utang na loob. Moreover, such gifts initiate a long-term reciprocal interdependency in which the grantor of the favor can expect help from the debtor whenever the need arises and the debtor can, in turn, ask other favors. Such reciprocal personal alliances have had obvious implications for the society in general and the political system in particular.

It is why if a family member has a Sari Sari store near their relatives, it is hard to make any money. "Utang" is often exploited to get credit for which repayment may be slow in coming. To a foreigner it is often puzzling why this is so.

In today's modern urban Philippines this concept of indebtedness is less prevalent than in the provincial areas. To know the fundemental principles governing the behavior of Filipinos, one can begin to understand how and why people act the in the way they do. Empathy and tolerance follows.

See also:
Amor Propio

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Tokay Gecko

When you come to the Philippines even for a short visit you are likely to encounter the night time call of the Tokay Gecko. A croaking "Tukawh Tukawh, sounding like a cross between a frog and a wild turkey. It was several weeks after first hearing this haunting call that I actually saw on of these common lizards.

They are strikingly pretty with grayish bodies with bright red spots and bulging eyes. They grow to 30cm in length and have a reputation for being very aggressive. Many here consider them good luck and advise not to touch them or harm them. There is another very practical reason for staying a good distance from these Tokay Geckos. they have the reputation of being the pit bull of lizards. Unlike many reptiles they are aggressive and will often jump or bite someone attempting to handle them. They are not poisonous, but once they clamp on to your hand or finger you might wait one hour for it to let go. If you try to pry it off it just clamps down. supposedly dunking the attached Tokay in a pail of water will cause it to release it's grip.

Widely spread all over Asia they are one of the most common Geckos. The Latin name is Gekko Gecko, and locally they are called the Tukaw Gecko. They are normally nocturnal arboreal dwellers that eat almost anything. Their life span is 7-10 years. Being carnivores they hunt insects and small mice. Tokay Geckos have adapted well to city life, and often dwell in houses climbing the walls at night in search of food.

I can attest to this as we have a mating pair living under our entrance stairs. In fact last month they hatched babies and we saw at least two tiny geckos crawling around the stair case under the watchful eye of mother or father. Apparently they mate for life as we have had the same pair in residence for over a year, and they also seem to be protective parents. Oddly, or perhaps luckily, these particular Tokay Geckos seem to be mute. I have nor once heard either one croak, perhaps they are being polite or simply go outside to make noise.

A common sight in the country side, and more likely a common sound at night, the Tokay Gecko is an integral part of life in the Philippines

Monday, June 2, 2008


Third in a series of Articles, see Philippine culture category at right

Hiya, pronounced “heeyah” is ‘shame” or the loss of Amor Propio. Individuals in the Philippine culture behave in a way to prevent hiya or loss of respect. Filipinos believe they must live up to the accepted standards of behavior, and if they fail to do so they bring shame not only upon themselves, but also upon their family. In order not to bring upon Hiya, Filipinos will share sometimes more than they can afford at a party in order to avoid losing respect among peers. It is why in part, at Fiesta time even the poorest families invite all the neighbors into their house for food and drink. It is also why you see extravagant graduation parties for sons and daughters and lavish “Debute” 18 birthday parties for their daughters. It is all part of maintaining Status and avoiding Hiya.

On the other hand, if you were to insult or verbally accost a Filipino in front of others, he or she would immediately suffer Hiya. More than simple embarrassment it means loss of Amor Propio or “face”. The result might be anger or rage, or a strong resentment. It is considered rude and inappropriate to argue or insult someone in public. It is why there is so much discussion when there is a disagreement among individuals or groups; everyone is trying to maintain Amor Propio while at the same time trying to avoid inflicting Hiya on others.

I have seen an occasion where Hiya was unintentionally inflicted on an individual by a very good friend. A comment was taken in the wrong manner. Completely out of character, and without warning, he picked up a bottle and threw it at the unsuspecting fellow. It is thankful that friends were there to intervene. Volatile reactions are often the result of inflicting Hiya. This should not be confused with simple anger as might be the case in other cultures. Once the basic concepts of Pakikisama, Amor propio, and Hiya are understood one can begin to understand how the Philippine social structure works.

See also:
Amor Propio

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Lakbay Aral

Lakbay Aral, means “study tour”, and in that context I had the pleasure to meet Hannah Meditar, a member of the government agency that concerns itself with waste treatment and environmental issues. Working out of South Cotabato (region 12), she was a participant on a fact finding mission to Several Negros communities. Lakbay aral is organized and sponsored by Environmental Governance 2 a USAID project in which Mr. Ferdinand Esguerra is the regional coordinator of South and Central Mindanao.

The first group had a total of 31 participants.

Provincial Technical Working Group (PTWG):
1. Cotabato Province - 6 participants - 1 Provincial Planning and Development Office (PPDO) and 5 active PTWG members)

2. South Cotabato - 4 participants Provincial Environmental Management Officer (PEMO) Ramon B. Ponce de Leon and active PTWG members.

Municipal LGUs
1. Magpet - 6 participants: MENRO, 5 active TWG members
2. Pres. Roxas - 6 participants MENRO, 5 active TWG members
3. Kabacan - 6 participants Hon. Mayor George Tan, 5 active TWG members

2 participants

DENR Environmental Management Bureau (EMB)
1 participant

Hannah’s office is DENR-Environmental Management Bureau (EMB) based in Koronadal City , Region 12. Its vision is “a nation empowered to protect our finite natural resources, attuned to the pursuit of sustainable development, for a clean and healthy environment that enhances the Filipino quality of life for present and future generations”. Its mission is “to restore, protect and enhance environmental quality towards good public health, environmental integrity and economic viability”. Locally, EMB visions a “Pollution-free Region XII” and to realize its mission “to establish and carry out the vision, to ensure public health, environmental protection and safety and to adhere excellent practice of good governance”.

Their mission in Negros was to examine some newer facilities for waste water treatment and solid waste disposal. The idea was to gather information and see if some ideas could be taken back and modeled by other communities in Region 12.

Dumaguete was one of the communities examined both for waste water treatment from the public market, and its solid waste management program. In addition the group surveyed local recycling efforts, and visited local organizations involved with making products from various recycled materials. There are a variety of programs that many people might not be aware of. For example some barangays and local universities are recycling a wide array of materials including

· demonetized currency
· plastic bottles and bags
· newspaper
· vermiculture composting projects
· glass

The Vermiculture composting facility is located in Barangay Calindagan. They are using biodegradable waste to manufacture compost for gardening. St. Pauls University is involved in the Plastics recycling, making shopping bags and rope from plastic bottles among other products.
Here is a picture of the Mayor of the Municipality of Kabacan in North Cotabato, Hon. George B. Tan examining products made from recycled paper.

What I learned from talking to Hannah was that there are indeed many people in the Philippines who are concerned about the environment and pollution, both in the government and private sectors. While these initially may be small efforts, every effort contributes to a better environment. What I was not aware of was the depth of local interest in researching the conversion and use of recycled products.