Random But Related Thoughts on Tourists, Filipinos, and Balikbayans. Not Necessarily In That Order.



Are you Filipino like me? Or perhaps a fellow immigrant, now calling some other country home?

I have called America home for 10 years now. And in many ways, I have come to love my adopted country as much as my native one. America has been good to us, and on her shores my hubby and I have fashioned out a life for ourselves and our children that will hopefully make a mark for the better, today and in the future.

And even as we are now considered “Americans,” we continue to find ways to give back to the Philippines. And we have never stopped trying to instill in our children’s hearts a love for both countries–the one they live in and know so well and the one they visit and are getting to know through our stories and memories.



A few days ago, I came across an article online. It was by Jessica Zafra, and it was a satirical {often sarcastic} piece she directed at “expats, tourists and other visitors to the Philippines.” I admit I found myself chuckling at some lines in her piece. I too have had my encounters with the stereotypical tourist, and have left those experiences with a bad taste in my mouth.

But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that the sarcastic tone of the article often overpowered the satire.  In my humble opinion, I believe that as Zafra generalized all such foreigners (perhaps to avoid focusing on one culture?), her words ended up painting all tourists in the same undesirable light. Talk about fighting generalities by stereotyping all. Furthermore, and as much as we hate to admit it, we Filipinos have many faults as well. But in the article, these are glossed over as the faults or implied ignorance of tourists from other cultures are pointed out.

I am not being totally objective, of course, as I do have some friends who have visited the country as tourists and have been wonderful. So I am protesting partly in their defense. But mostly, I am speaking up because I know that not all foreigners are uncouth, looking to take advantage of the average Filipino. In the same way, not all Filipinos are innocent bystanders. Many have taken advantage of some hapless tourist as well. It’s the same all over.

The truth is, the world is a smaller place now, and we’ll find that we have many things in common with the rest of humanity. So it’s not a case of Filipinos against obnoxious tourists–it’s a case of all humanity against them. After all, I’m pretty sure the Philippines is not the only country that attracts this kind of visitors. And Filipinos are guilty of the behaviors listed by Zafra as well.



Living in America has shown me a side to many Filipinos that I have found as tasteless as Rizal’s proverbial rotten fish. For instance, and I only share a few, I have had the pleasure of the following now-humorous-encounters:

  • A lady who hails from a province known for their bagoong (fish sauce) product once exclaimed, as a friend and I sat eating green mangoes with bagoong, “Ay, bago-ong! I can’t take that smell anymore!” What made this funny was the fact that I caught her eating the same a few weeks later. And enjoying it.
  • Another young lady, who at that time had only been in America for a few months, started speaking to me this way, “Ohh may gowsh, ganitow nah rain akoh mag salitah!” (It’s only funny if you know Filipino, but she started speaking her native language with a thick American accent.)
  • Yet another lady was getting ready to go back home for a visit. She was listing all she had to do–visit the doctor, buy and bring medicines and mosquito repellant, sunblock etc. She was complaining about how all these would fill up her luggage so I suggested just getting the stuff back home. She looked at me with one eyebrow raised, “Why? Alam mo naman sa atin…” (You know what it’s like back home.) She left that statement hanging but her meaning was plain. Her statement was a precursor to many negative ideas about the Philippines. These thoughts, I realized, were ones she passed on to her kids.
  • And then there are all those people who show no interest in visiting their home country at all. In conversations with them, they seem to dwell on the negatives. I often wonder, where do all these people come from and how have they missed all the wonderful things I love about the Philippines? What is it about their experiences that have led to this–having stepped on another country’s soil, their own turns into some hell story brought up only for shock value?



There will always be foreigners who will come to the Philippines looking to gain something, not caring what it will cost the Filipino people. It’s a sad truth, but a common one as well. Without disregarding the harm these people will and can do, let me just say that I find immigrant Filipinos who act with superiority towards those who stayed behind much more harmful. In all honesty, I find disgraceful Filipinos who, after having their desire to live somewhere else granted, look back at their roots with contempt and scorn. We can find bad tourists anywhere in the world. It’s an international problem. But Filipinos disrespecting their own Philippines? Now that’s something to get really mad about.



Last week, hubby and I took our kids to a Filipino restaurant. After our meal, my seven-year-old turned to me and said, “Mommy, I really like it here. I don’t feel so alone.” I felt my heart swell with joy. Somehow, by God’s grace, we are raising young boys who find pride in their cultural roots. One day, I hope that the men they become will find a way to give back to the country their parents loved and treasured.

5 responses »

  1. A comment a saw on jessica’s article. you and mr. marana should meet each other hehehe

    having said this, i totally agree with you.

    Brian Marana · Manila, Philippines
    So to summarize…

    1. Foreigners dress in such a way that they have no respect for themselves.
    2. Foreigners stink.
    3. Foreigners are ignorant of Philippine history.
    …4 – 8. Foreigners think they’re better than Filipinos and come to the Philippines to feel like they’re worth something.

    I understand the piece is satire. And it’s only right to address the stereotypes / misconceptions that foreigners have of Filipinos. But it doesn’t seem right to address those stereotypes by throwing stereotypes right back at them.

  2. Hi! Abet, I really appreciate your still in touch with the Filipino cultures and finding some ways to teach your children the way Filipino’s style. God bless your Family.

  3. both effective. mas malumanay ka lang agsurat hehehe i checked the guy’s profile, he is a pinoy residing in baltimore, maryland

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