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Tuesday, January 27, 2009

American in Davao has Moved

From some prodding and pushing from friends I now have my own domain and hosted website.

I will eventually put something to redirect traffic from here to the new location, but until then, please go to to visit and keep up with my life and thoughts.

Remember to change your bookmark to my new URL and keep reading and commenting.

I hope you will continue to visit.

Thank you all for your loyal support.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

English in the Philippines

I know I have touched this subject in past articles but I thought I should post something I just wrote for the "Living in Davao" yahoo community website.

There was an American and English Teachers discussing employment possibilities here in Davao. The discussion went to different directions. One was “the Queens English” used in England verses “American English” used in America. Then there was talk about the need for OFW’s (Overseas Foreign Workers) needing to pass English Proficiency tests to work in many countries.

At the start of these discussions was about job opportunities to teach English here in the Philippines. To work here is a subject I am investigating but have not found a complete answer. I have recently received my 13a Visa (permanent residency). Even with this, I think I will need a work permit from the Department of Labor and Employment. Because of the “Philippine First” laws, a foreigner cannot take a job that can be filled by a Filipino. Being an English teacher would probably be accepted.
About the use of English here, I am in conflict and guilty of some of my thinking. Being an American with a poor ability to learn languages I came here because most Filipinos have some knowledge of English. Unfortunately as people get older and do not use English often, their proficiency in English decreases.
One point is, we are visitors here and out of respect to the country we reside, we should learn their language. To be able to be understood in all regions of the Philippines and to watch TV, Tagalog would be the language of choice. If you want to easily converse in Davao and a lot of areas, then Bisaya or Cebuano (which are almost identical) should be learned.
As mentioned, to work abroad in many countries, a test for English proficiency is required. To do this Filipinos will need to learn and practice. Unfortunately English is not taught in public schools until High School and most teachers here are not competent to teach this. I am not sure of my accuracy but I think I heard of teachers teaching English in public schools, 86 failed.
In the Universities where English is required, some teachers allow Bisaya to be substituted. With the heavy course load and the inability to teach proper English, the Filipino student is getting the short end of the deal.
There is another point I find humorous here. Government signage, traffic postings, most business signage and advertising and a lot of newspapers are in English. So what does someone who cannot read English do? That is one of the many contradictions here in the Philippines.
So what do we do, change what we can, help when asked and learn to accept what we cannot change.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Reflections of a Retired Priest - Philippines

A few weeks back, a friend of mine, Thomas Martin wrote 2 articles for my site. His thoughts and insights are open, honest and interesting.

Well, as you now will find out, Tom is a retired Catholic Priest from Texas. For his own reasons Tom moved a few years ago to the Philippines. From the first moment I met him, I felt a comfortable and trusting friendship.

I do not know if it was because of my site or just the need to have a blog of his own, Tom has started his own blog Reflections of a Retired Priest - Philippines.

I hope you will visit and enjoy his thoughts, reflections, and observations.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Moving to and Living in the Philippines

I am working on an idea I have about moving and living here in Davao and in the Philippines.

There are many areas to write about and give my views. Relationships, housing, people, money, banking, friendships, driving and many others.

As I work on these articles I realize I have only lived here a little longer than a year and my views are from my observations. There are people here who have lived here longer and have different views and different situations here.

I hope I will get comments asking me things they are interested in knowing and then there will be many who will disagree with what my views are. This is good since nobody has the same situations and we can learn from each other.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Construct Projects in the Philippines

Construction, at times you need something built, renovated, or fixed. You mention it to your wife/companion. A lot of times you hear “my friends neighbor has a friend whose brother is a mason, carpenter, plumber. “

Here in the Philippines there are a lot of tradesmen in the building and renovating trades. Some are good and some are not as high quality. How do you know? It is not like in America where there are licenses, Better Business Bureau or even reference lists.

Then there is the cost of the work. Many times a Filipino sees a foreigner and he thinks, “He is a rich foreigner, I can charge more.” It does not happen all the time but it happens a lot.

So, how do you get quality work? You can hire an architect and have him hire the workers. But then you need to pay the architects fee too.

I am lucky, through my past work here and from people I have met, I have gotten to know someone who is a Construction Manager. He either does the work himself of has the quality people contact.

Now, you find the people you need. How does the work and payment go from there? There are different was to hire.

You can get a bid for the total job, labor only, or by day fees.

If you are buying the materials, and you have a tradesman who you are comfortable with, use him to bring you to the suppliers. They know what store has the best prices and he can get the lower contractors price, not retail as you would get at the large retail hardware stores.

As I wrote about in my article “Busy Lately” I was helping a friend set up a Carenderia. My Construction Manager sent me a good electrician. When we went to the electrical supplier, he introduced me to the manager and set it up where I can buy at contractor’s price by myself. I have also found small hardware stores where you can get most items lower than the big retail stores.

For electrical, in Davao, make sure he is certified with Davao Power and Light. This will mean he is knowledgeable and can sign the inspection forms if you need a meter or main wire repairs.

If you hire for labor, and he will bring his workers, make sure he is responsible for his workers costs. A day laborer needs money for transportation, meals, and snacks. Filipinos do not eat a lot, but eat often. They eat a breakfast, then about 10am a snack. Lunch is about 12 noon, then at 3pm a snack again.

Also, every few days you will be asked for advances to pay his workers. They have a home and family and need money to take care of them.

You might think this is a tedious way of life, but remember, there are so many people here and so much unemployment, and there are a lot or quality people who do not work every day.

For me, it is amazing and interesting to see workers with the basic tools able to do quality work. Miters cut with a hand saw. Level counters using a long plastic tube with water to make moldings and counters level. Shaped metal to put cornice trim out of concrete mortar.
With the different levels of understanding English, you need to explain slowly and ask for them to repeat what you ask. Or else have someone proficient in English with you to translate your needs.

Do not be a pest, but it is also to be there watch the construction. Be there to point out misunderstandings, correct differences and to keep the job running smoothly. That was my job. I would ask if there are problems, run and get materials and to give a kind word at times. But you need to know when to step back and let them get things done. I was also in contact with the owner to let him know when he was needed to make decisions and get money.

From my live here and these experiences, I am lucky to have met many good Filipinos to assist me when such a project comes along.

If you have any experiences like these, please share your comments. Also if you need me to assist you in getting tradesmen, do not hesitate to contact me.