Saturday, May 30, 2009

Safety in the Philippines

Safety in the Philippines is a topic that often comes up on forums and web sites regarding Philippine life. It is a difficult topic to talk about completely objectively as every person has to decide for him or herself what constitutes reasonable safety. Quite honestly unless you have actually been victimized by crime, safety is a state of mind, a feeling.

A problem can arise when your state of mind is way out of sync with what we might say is "reality". I put that in quotes because Your reality will vary depending on your place of stay, your wealth, and your attitude and lifestyle. If this sounds as if it could be anywhere in the Western world, you are are right. These general conditions tend to influence whether crime is perpetrated on you or not regardless of where you live.

What is different about the Philippines? If you are an average Filipino, nothing. If you are a wealthy Filipino or Chinese Filipino (Chinoy) maybe you are in some jeopardy from criminal elements. If you are a Foreigner from the West unfamiliar with Asian, let alone Philippine society, you have risks associated with your obvious looks and more importantly the assumption that all foreigners are wealthy, plus perhaps your unfamiliarity with the culture.

OK, to the point. the majority of Philippine people especially in the provinces are friendly, generous, and truly good people. Now maybe some urban Filipinos will think I discriminate, please that is not my intention. Cities merely offer a wider cross section of society in larger concentrations than the rural areas. Tourist areas sometimes will have a larger percentage of locals trying to exploit the tourists for extra money, higher prices on goods, and services rendered. This is also not uncommon in other parts of the world.

Crimes against foreigners fall into a few categories.

Poor people do not commit crimes here because they are poor, the vast majority of Filipinos are poor, only a minority are criminals or are likely to steal from you based on their poverty. Most crime here is local on local, family feuds, drunkenness, political murders, petty theft included.

Most robberies and or violent crimes on foreigners are committed by girlfriends, their boyfriends, or maids or other employees. Maybe you gravely offended a neighbor and acted like an arrogant bastard, but more likely they will get back at you not by stealing from you but irritating you by starting a smokey fire when the wind is blowing in your direction. In other words crimes are most often committed by some one you know. Drug related crimes are ever present. This kind of crime is usually random, and targets both locals and foreigners. This is relatively easy to guard against. If you are wealthy and look it with a big house, maids, car etc. you need to be in a gated compound or estate. Locked gates, bars on windows, security, and prudence go a long way to keep you safe. Good advice for anyone is to avoid high risk areas, travel in daylight hours, and keep a watchful eye for unusual behavior near you.

Techniques criminals use include cell phoning from inside a bank to an operative outside when making a large withdrawal. Use a secure bank for your local money in a safe location, and many now prohibit cell phone use inside.

If you are the type of person that stays out late, and looks for fun or female companionship, be aware some girls work in partnership with a Gay pimp. They will offer drugs to you perhaps, well, good luck... One fellow I knew is dead because he was stupid that way.

Drive by robberies do occur in Dumaguete. usually targeting locals but on a few occasions foreigners have been targeted, again because of a connection via a girlfriend or employee. The hooded perpetrators drive motorbikes and will pull a gun on you as you drive. I have one friend who has a hole in his gas tank to prove it. He was traveling listen carefully... late at night, alone back to Valencia from Dumaguete. In his case they were just looking for foreigners going home late at night.

What about all those terrorist groups you here about on the various CIA, U.S. Embassy web sites? Well unless you are in specific areas in Mindanao, or maybe a few other hot spots of Abu Sayef activity you have little to fear from Muslim terrorist groups. If they kidnap people it is more likely to be a rich Chinoy whom they know will pay a ransom and not call the authorities. The few times they have kidnapped Western foreign nationals, of course it hits the world press.

The New Peoples Army or NPA, seldom if ever target foreigners. They simply in my opinion want no centralized government telling them what to do, and spend most of their time sparing with local government troops, again rarely ever will a foreigner witness any of this. Dumaguete is surrounded by active NPA. Seldom will any foreigner be aware of this, nor should it be a concern. Let's just say the NPA has a stake in keeping Dumaguete safe for Foreigners. I have met no doubt many so called NPA, I don't ask them, they don't say. Some are the local Barangay chiefs.

One thing you should be aware of, political alliances are constantly changing and constitute relationships between dissident groups, police, local government, and criminal elements. Sometimes its difficult to know who you are talking to, even when you think you know. The best advice I can give to anyone making their home in the Philippines is be friendly to everyone but choose friends carefully, don't discuss politics with locals unless yo know them well, and make good friends with your immediate neighbors, especially if you live in a non secure area (Good advice in any area really). Living in the Philippines is about building alliances, either family or community or both.

I have never lived in a gated community, I have been fortunate, made good local friends, and even though I was victimized in a random hold up once in my four year stay, still choose to live in local Filipino neighborhoods. But I carry a cheap cell phone, never carry large amounts of cash, and keep a low profile.

Living in the Philippines is a great opportunity to mesh with another culture if you so choose. You will bring away from your experience pretty much what you bring to it. Knowing a few guidelines, Living and getting along in the Philippines is not so different here as anywhere else.

A note about police. Here the police are not here to protect you or solve crimes. Once you are aware of that then you can choose for yourself how you want to deal with them. Having a friend as a police officer can be advantageous, but be careful not to get in a position where you owe him something. If you have family involved in local politics or the police better yet.

I have some good friends who don't agree, they revel in having many high ranking local politicians and military brass in their circle. I believe this can be risky, especially if you expect them to act like you in all situations. Do so knowing what you are dealing with, a different culture.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Casaroro Falls in Valencia

Casaroro Falls in Valencia is only 10 kilometers from Dumaguete. Visitors to Dumaguete often trek to this tourist spot to sample the mountain adventures available in Negros. An hour’s jeepney ride will easily take visitors to this spot. A private van hired for a trip to this tourist spot near Dunaguete is about 1000 pesos ($20.00).

Casaroro Falls is hidden deep in the crevices of the rough Valencia mountains. Casaroro Falls feeds the Banica river from the natural rock basin beneath the waterfalls. This eco tourist spot near Dumaguete originates from a 100-foot high natural spring water source, and is fed by the seasonal rains. The narrow path to the mouth of the falls is one of its unique features, the relatively narrow water flow out of its mouth creates a resounding boom as it hits the rock basin. The loud droning effect is a hypnotizing constant drum beat that makes the environment seem primordial. You can easily imagine yourself in a place untouched by time.

Casaroro Falls features a challenging 350-step climb to the site from the level ground below. The undulating character of the terrain makes this tourist spot near Dumaguete a favorite hiking destination of novice hikers and climbers. Along the climb, sightings of rare birds may provide respite and renewed vigor for the climber, take plenty of bottled water as well!.

Enjoying the waterfalls doesn’t come without first testing the endurance and determination of the visitor, only those with enough perseverance and stamina for the steep climbing get to see this spectacular waterfall near Dumaguete. The 300 plus step concrete staircase is the only link to this tourist spot near Dumaguete.

The Casaroro Falls eco tourism destination near Dumaguete is worth the effort to find it . An adventurous tourist who wants excitement and adventure against a backdrop of rocky mountains and rough terrain will no doubt enjoy this challenge.

Timing your visit is important, during the rainy season the falls are full and spectacular, but it is dangerous to make the trek at this time. Best to wait until after the rainy period and before the summer dry period. this of course varies from year to year. Use common sense as there are no park rangers to save you if you get in trouble. That said there are locals who will be happy to escort you down and back for a small fee.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Summer In Dumaguete

Summer in Dumaguete means going to the beach, driving or riding into the mountains to find a remote water fall or grotto, or simply relaxing at a cafe or music venue on a balmy summer evening. Being a college town, the students set the tone, (those who do not go back to their province).

Silliman beach is a favorite free beach popular among the locals, It is no frills, but offers a taste of the local life. From there you can move north along the coast or south and find a variety of resorts from modest to garandiose. North of Sibulan there is Sea Forest resort. Going south there are many resorts to chose from beach to pool resorts, to scuba diving resorts.
Mountain lovers will love to explore Forest Camp resort, it has water, hiking trails, ATV rentals, and guided mountain trekking.

Evenings will find many students at Garahe, or any other numerous acoustic music venues. Special musical events are numerous often sponsored by San Miguel Breweries. These feature national recording artists, and some excellent bands visit Dumaguete on these occasions.

What ever your pleasure Dumaguete offers the best of summer at a lesurly pace. A great combination of popular culture and natural splendor is available.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Dauin Diving Paradise

Dauin is a low-profile tourist destination where scenic spots abound but has a sheltered laid back ambiance. This picturesque town near Dumaguete reveals a unique and mostly uncharted sea underworld as well as many virgin dive sites. Dauin is a diver's paradise.

A small and quiet place where big treasures are hidden underwater---this is what Dauin is to most tourists who have gone to Dumaguete, Negros Oriental. Dauin is some 12 kilometers of coastal scenery south of Dumaguete. It is a dive-capital in Dumaguete due to its numerous and pristine dive resorts. Dauin's main highway snakes along the Negros coast, while inner roads go past the groves of palms leading to the hidden resorts. Perfect beaches of fine sand stretch on for miles through Dauin seaside terrain.

Dauin is reached through a plane from any nearby provinces going to Sibulan Airport which is in Dumaguete City. From the airport, public transportation is available nearby to Dauin. Straight from Manila, a tourist can take a plane to Cebu and a ferry ride from Cebu, enjoying a 3 and half hour sea trek. Better yet, a straight flight from Manila will only be an hour's travel.

Dauin may seem like another typical rural town near Dumaguete at first glance, but its true tourism value is hidden deep beneath---one has to literally delve and uncover the potential of Dauin. In fact, Dauin's treasure lies buried, not in depths of earth, but in the obscure recesses of Dauin waters. Dauin's most fabled exotic dive spots are the marine protected areas and the "Car Wrecks".

When we talk of Dauin, we talk of the Car Wrecks---the specific spot in Dumaguete where a plethora of sea wreckages abound, among them automobiles. Dauin's "Car Wrecks" is a highlight among other dive sites in the area that attracts the curiosity of dive tourists. Another enchanting site is the "Banca Wrecks". The rich coral reefs that have grown among the wrecks are also eye-catching and loaded with deep sea life.

Nearby Dauin is the fascinating Masaplod marine sanctuary. This spot is reserved as a habitat for exotic fish species like scorpionfish, batfish, snappers, sweetlips, and others. Dauin's scenic coasts are dotted with reefs that shelter marine wonders. These are considered among Asia's best.

Dumaguete is definitely excellent, but wait till Dauin's secrets are revealed. A wide-eyed dive tourist will certainly return to Dauin and its rich underwater sea treasures, considered in Dumaguete as one of Asia's best. Dauin is one more dive destination near Dumaguete worth the trouble to discover.