Pre-blog note: My lovely uyab, Michell, had a job interview today. She must done something right, because they hired her on the spot. I am not sure as to the particulars of the position, but it seems to have something to do with “gathering intelligence,” a skill that Filipinas tend to excel at. 🙂 Or perhaps the NSA has finally woken up and has jumped on the outsourcing bandwagon. Irregardless, it is a happy day as I think it will give her some stability and purpose – she’s been in a bit of a funk since her dad passed away, so hopefully this will help.
Anyhoo – congrats, Michell. We’re going out for a celebratory dinner tonight!
And it’s a good thing she has a job now, as we are going to be needing pesos for a new office chair. The one we had for a little over a year imploded beneath me last night when I was doing work on the computer. It’s either a case of cheap, Chinese manufacturing (you can actually see all the air bubbles in the plastic parts that snapped off) or one of just being too big for a Filipino sized chair. Mebbe I’ll have to get a bigger one….
Now, back to the blog entry which is actually a chapter section that I am going to be adding to our book, Chasing Your Philippine Dream: An Expat’s Guide to the Philippines.
OK, so we just talked a bit about the importance of physical exercise, especially for us older dudes who are fighting burgeoning bellies and assorted aches and pains. Now let’s take some time to talk about something that is equally – or even more – important: Having a passion and purpose in the Philippines. Basically, what we are talking about here is maintaining good mental health.
A while back – a long while back actually, seeing as it was November of 2014 – I shot a video on “Passion and Purpose in the Philippines.” Having been in the country for nearly a year, my unusually slow and sloth-like intuition had finally concluded that it’s pretty important to “have something to do” if you are considering living in a foreign country – especially if one is contemplating retirement. For students and folks still working, those two activities are going to pretty much consume a good amount of your daily hours. For those leaving the work and school world behind, however, the shock of having to deal with many empty hours over the course of a day can be somewhat intimidating. Sure, you might be dreaming of long, lazy days on a white sand beach with a frosty margarita in one hand a bubbly, peanut-butter brown beauty in the other, but after a while, simply doing that doesn’t seem to be enough.
The French, I believe, call it raison d’etre – a reason for being. In America, we tend to draw it out a bit more, our first inquiries to strangers generally being, “So, what do you do?”
Hmmmm….. heavy question, that.
And for those who have lost the track as to that perennial question on the human condition, the prospects for happiness and tranquility become rather bleak….
In maintaining good mental health, we need to cultivate positive self worth. This can be defined in a number of different ways, but for our purposes here, let’s try to keep it simple – what are you doing (or can you do) to make yourself feel as if you are fulfilling more than simply your biological presence upon the planet earth? Because, in my (rather limited) experience, if you aren’t involved in something that you are passionate about, you’re going to feel unfulfilled (not to mention bored out of your mind) and you just might end up being one of those guys who starts drinking himself into oblivion right after lunch.
And we really don’t want that to happen.
So, here are some things that local expats in the Philippines do in order to maintain a sense of self worth and actualization through passion and purpose. It’s not a complete listing, but it should give you some idea of what we are talking about.
Gentleman Farmer: A good number of guys take to the agrarian route, growing all kinds of hard-to-find vegetables (lettuce and garlic) for good profits at the local market. Other guys maintaining the Mr. Greenjeans lifestyle raise roosters, chickens, pigs, cows, carabao and roosters. In addition to being a source of income and fresh meats and produce for them, it also conveys a strong sense of accomplishment – working with the land to meet our vestigial needs kind of has that affect on people.
Raising a Family: Sure, they might be in their 60’s and 70’s but the plumbing still seems to be working and some guys end up with a 2nd (or 3rd or 4th…) family in the Philippines. And if it’s not their biological offspring, they seem more than happy to take in their significant other’ kids. Raising a family might sound like a big undertaking for those in their winter years but with the availability of low-cost maids and ya-ya’s (nannies), it makes the process a whole lot easier.
Charitable Works: Let’s face it: When it comes to financial resources, foreigners tend to have an advantage when it comes to the vast majority of Philippine natives. Some foreign expats residing in the Philippines have found purpose in creating long-lasting legacies that help out their communities. From building basketball courts to medical clinics to volunteering their services in local hospitals, schools and outreach centers, there is a lot to be said for this Win-Win method of cultivating passion and purpose.
Social Clubs: Like other countries around the world, the Philippines has a good number of local Lions, Rotary, Masons and Elks clubs. These fraternal orders are committed to initiating and supporting charitable works and are a great way to both get involved with the local community and make new friends. As with charitable giving noted previously, such activities are generally a Win-Win for all involved.
Writing: Late-blooming Ernest Hemmingway’s can find the Philippines to be a rather idyllic writing spot to get in touch with their inner muse – provided they can find a residence free of barking dogs and boisterous roosters. Everyone has a story to tell and filling empty hours (and empty pages) by writing is a joy in its own right. Even if your audience is rather limited, there is a great deal of happiness to be found in getting into the artistic process that creative writing requires of its wielder.
Art: Speaking of the artistic process, this book’s authors have run into more than a few expat artists seeking to recreate what Paul Gauguin had for himself in Tahaiti – minus the syphilis and 13 year old wives, of course. Just the vivid colors of the sea, sky and landscapes are enough to invoke the inner artist in just about anyone. And if they can’t even draw, there’s time enough to learn. Also note that “art” isn’t just limited to drawing – it can also include photography, sculpture, pottery and any and all other outlets for one’s creative penchants.
School: And since we mentioned learning, let’s take a look at foreigners that come to the Philippines to attend university. Sure, the vast majority of them are young foreigner seeking a way to a college degree without a crushing load of student debt upon graduation, but there’s also the opportunity for foreigners of any age to attend college on the cheap in the Philippines. How cheap, you may ask? Well, at our local university in Dumaguete (where credits can be transferred to the US), a semester typically runs a tad over a thousand US dollars. Not too shabby, huh? Retirees attending college has been a burgeoning trend in the US, and why not? Despite the adage, one is never too old to learn new tricks. And as a bonus, since most of the students speak their local dialects outside the classroom, it’s a cheap (free) way to learn a new language.
Zen Master: Our friend, Holistic Dan, runs the Pyramid Wellness Center up in the hills behind the bucolic town of Valencia. (If you haven’t seen the videos, you can find them in the “Relevant Videos” link at the end of this article.) Amidst the unspoiled beauty of the upper hills, Dan has created for himself (and visitors) an island of calm just outside the congested heart of Dumaguete City. Whether its yoga, transcendental meditation, aromatherapy, alternative medicine, or whatever else interests you when it comes to the mind-body-spirit fusion, the Philippines can be a place where you can endeavor to develop or fine tune those skills.
Teaching: Since Dumaguete is a college town, a number of expats are following their passions by volunteering to teach college classes here. Some of them are ex-teachers, but a number actually arrived with no teaching experience whatsoever. So, if you’ve got a college or graduate degree or are possessed of some teachable unique life experiences, getting in contact with a local university to teach is yet another option for maintaining a sense of purpose while thousands of miles from “home.”
These are just a few ways to maintain a passion and purpose when living or retiring in the Philippines. Please note that the list isn’t exhaustive – it’s not even close. Other passions one can follow or develop in the Philippines include mountain climbing, sea kayaking, underwater photography, bird watching, amateur radio, cooking (pretty necessary here), metalwork (like our friend Chris at ruwak.com), archery (huge in the Philippines), hiking, rafting, stunt kites, flying (lessons are available at local airports), fishing and any number of sporting activities that are hugely popular in the Philippines (basketball, volleyball, badminton, mountain biking…) The list is pretty much endless.
The opportunities are here – but it’s up to you to find your passion and purpose amongst them.
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