(I had tried to post this a week ago, but lost my wifi while typing, then left my PC at my friend’s apartment when I went up north for the week and just got it back now. As usual, photos will have to wait until some time after I get back to Japan.)
On March 18, the day after meeting Julie in Victory Village, Legazip City, we took a jeepney over to the tiny coastal town of Santo Domingo, a town noteworthy for nothing in particular annd not even mentioned in the Lonely Planet, but a really lovely place with amazingly clean air, nice houses, and none of the grit and grime part and parcel of the urban Philippines landscape. It is great to finally see a town with no homelessness, no begging, no dirt. Many people may be poor, but it is a qualititaively different kind of poor than in the city-the kind of poor where you may have almost as few electronics as Manila shanty-town dwellers, but you also have health and a real house. Joosje had asked around for such a place, and it was delivered. There is little to say about Santo Domingo, although I have some nice photos that will be up later. But I do have these two brief conversations in my notebook I had when we walked around the central marketplace, which are characteristic in many ways of the sorts of conversations one has all over The Philippines.
I first spoke to Chris, married one year. Native to Santo Domingo, he studied computer science in Manila and then worked for three years in Bangalore, where he made money, made many Indian friends also in the IT business, and ate a lot of spicey food. He then came back to the home village, got married, and is enjoying his life in the countryside just working at his father’s food delivery business. It may not be exciting, but the quality of life is in so many ways so much higher than in Manila, even without all the possible luxuries one can have there. He has no desire to return to Manila, although he does often miss life in Bangalore. I kind of expect that with his skills, background and experience he will not just be driving around a truck delivering food, but will eventually make the move from mere delivery to distribution.
He has an aunt in Tennessee who has offered to sponsor him for a family immigration visa, which he is considering, althoughfor now he prefers to stay put. However he does dream of at least visiting the US someday.
Chris’s story is both highly typical and somewhat unusual. The common elements are all there, but it is depressingly rare to meet somehow with the chance to emmigrate who is actually content where he is.
I also spoke with a man running a little shop in the marketplace, whose name I sadly forget, who has a daughter living in Ottawa, Canada. She married a Canadaian man she met in Manila, has been there for one year, and is now looking for work. The man is from another nearby town but moved to Santo Domingo 23 years ago since his wife is from the town and teaches at the elementary school Normally the woman would move to the man’s place, but they now have a house only three-minutes walk from the school (which is itself just minutes from the market where he keeps shop). Upon retirement next year, she can choose either a lump sum or an annualized pension.