Loco Loco Lola

It was the fourth time that day I had been asked for money, and frankly, I was really getting irritated.  Had gone to Iloilo this past Saturday to do some shopping and while I was outside the Mercury Drugstore near MaryMart and SM Delgado waiting for my asawa to get The Giant Lizard Killer's (my mother-in-law) high blood pressure medicine refilled, I was approached by a middle-aged Filipino wearing a  fedora and a sport coat that held out his hand. He wasn't blind. He wasn't disabled. He saw a white-skinned "rich" foreigner and was looking for a handout. Begging is illegal according to an Iloilo City ordinance. Illegal for anyone to panhandle and illegal for anyone to give money. It was hot and humid, and I wasn't in a giving mood.DSCGot approached by two young boys that were looking for money as my spouse and I headed across the street to Jollibee's. Again, I did not hand out any pesos. Cold-hearted kano? Perhaps, but keep in mind some of these beggar children are employed by the local syndicates in Iloilo and have to turn all of their money over to the gangs. So three panhandlers have already approached me today. Begging in Iloilo had seemed to be decreasing the past six months but now seems on the upswing again. Don't know if it's due to the rise in inflation or a lack of enforcement of the panhandling enforcement. Probably a combination of both.  Whatever the reason, I do not like being targeted as someone's personal ATM.

The Sainted Patient Wife and I returned home to Guimaras and boarded a crowded jeepney waiting at the Jordan Wharf,  where the dispatcher directed me to the front seat next to the driver, while my wife and our three-year-old niece JalAmiel sat in the back. I offered my boss the front seat, there was room for two, but she declined. She would just stay put. Probably would have taken a gigantic can opener to pry her out of the already packed jeepney anyway.

I joked to the dispatcher that I didn't want a lola (grandma) to sit next to me, but would prefer a cute Filipina. This is one of my favorite lines and please note that even though my asawa is behind me in the passenger area, she is used to this little joke of mine and endures it. She also is not carrying her bolo.  My remark always elicits a laugh from the dispatcher and the driver, and that's all the encouragement I need to keep using this lame attempt at humor. After a couple of minutes and one scare (a particularly aged lola passes by but opts for the back passenger area), I get my seatmate.

The Philippines Expat Advisor - Loco Loco Lola

She wasn't  a grandma, but a young bespectacled denim jacket-clad  lady  of around 30.  I let her sit next to the driver, since my big frame sometimes interferes with the driver's shifting.  You'll rarely see an automatic drive transmission in the Philippines and certainly never in a jeepney.  I remark to her that I was glad she was not a lola, she smiles and announces  she was getting close to that (no, she wasn't.)

After a quick stop for P100 worth of fuel our driver heads home to San Miguel. He suddenly comes to an abrupt halt after just a minute as he notices a load of corn had dropped off from the top of his vehicle. Without warning an aged lola,  with a shawl covering her head and holding the hand of a very young girl,  materializes  outside the front door of the jeepney asking me for money. Already greatly agitated by the earlier beggars in Iloilo, I merely respond with "Wala!" (None.)

  • "Give me some money!" she demanded. "I don't have a home!"
  • "I should give you money just because I'm a white-skinned foreigner?"
  • "Marcos gave us food to eat and a house to stay in." she stated.
  • Oh, so you want the dictator Marcos back?" I asked.

The jeepney passengers are roaring with laughter at this point. My asawa whispers to me:"Dear, I think she is crazy."

By this time the driver has retrieved the corn and tells the woman to get away,  but she remains standing,  still clamoring for money as we pull away. "Loco loco lola!" I say to the driver. He nods his head in agreement. I'm just relieved we're leaving. Yes, I am well aware there are millions of people in the Philippines that do not even have enough food to eat on a daily basis. That said, my first obligation is to my wife and the relatives we support at "The Compound." If I gave money to everyone that asked for a handout, I wouldn't have enough money to feed my own family.

I apologized for my rant to my seat mate, but  she replied that she understood. As I am a foreigner in the Philippines, she is aware that kanos often are approached by beggars and thankfully she did not throw me out of the speeding jeepney. Turns out the young woman has plenty of experience with dealing with irate Americans. More on that story later.

Author: The Kano

POST AUTHOR: "THE KANO." Dave DeWall, "The Kano", is the Publisher & Editor-in-Chief of "Philippines Plus" in publication since August 2009. He is also the CEO of Lizard Poop Productions and author of the best-selling guide book "The Philippines Expat Advisor." Dave moved to the Philippines in July 2009 from Central Illinois with his lovely wife of over 19 years, "The Sainted Patient Wife." The couple reside in a rural province in Western Visayas, Guimaras. The small island province is said to have the sweetest mangoes in the world. They do not have any children but are the proud owners of eight active canines, including a Belgian Shepherd called "Killer" "Killer" has bitten five people in the last two years along with one goat and a carabao. "Killer" doesn't like strangers. Or goats. Or carabaos.

22 thoughts on “Loco Loco Lola

  1. Dave, your story reminded me when I took the BF to PI for the first time. I always loved shopping in the Colon area in Cebu. Not sure what the name of the street was, but it was the T-intersection in the Cebu Gaisano Mall in Colon. As soon as we disembarked from the jeepney, the beggar children and one older thin woman surrounded us and in the corner of my eye, I saw one kid lightly patting my BFs back pockets. I gave the kid’s hand a light smack and told him to stop it, as I quickly dragged BF to cross the road. They even had the cheek to follow us right near the door of the Gaisano. I abandoned the idea of shopping at the local stalls that day, although BF was still keen on it. I just said it was not safe. Annoying really, but we decided to stick to the reputable malls.

    1. Good thing you caught the kid trying to lift your BF’s wallet, Christine. Personally, we stick to the main malls, also. Had three kids knocking on our taxi windows Monday night as we left the airport and stopped at a light. Had one young girl, maybe around 12, knocking on our taxi window to get to our sister-in-law’s home in Caloocan asking people for money. I just rapped on the window to return her knocking, and she left.

  2. Dave,

    I have seen the same thing in Manila and Ormoc. MBA educated me about the local syndicates in Manila that use children to raise money. It breaks my heart to see hungry children but giving money does not help feed them. I have heard stories that they end up gambling the extra money they keep. I was approached by twin boys in Ormoc at an open area food court(?) and gave them a couple of pesos. We had a left over hot dog. I looked around for the boys and saw them with their parents. The mom was breast feeding a baby. I gave the hotdog to one of the boys and he ate it very fast. I regretted not feeding them.

    PS … Christine … I carry my wallet in my front pocket. I have heard the many stories about children being used to pick pocket foreigners. I also have MBA carrying 1/2 of the money. If one of us gets robbed, we still can get home.

    1. Hi Jack, actually I found that giving beggar children food is a big mistake also because then they won’t leave you alone!! When I took my family to an open door BBQ area in Cebu, my brother rounded up the scraps and gave them to the beggar children. But then they refused to leave our table and sat down with us very comfortably, as if they were part of the party! I told them to leave but they just ignored me. I got very annoyed and told them no more food next time. I then called the shop owners and requested the children be removed from our table as they were intruding. We later returned the day before I had to leave for Australia, as a bon voyage dinner for me, and even before we ordered our meals, same kids sat comfortably in our tables, wanting to be part of the party! I again had to ask the owners to remove them. I later told my brother that being kind to beggars does not bring a good outcome as it just encourages dependencsy and of course like you mentioned above, if they are given money, they don’t necessarily benefit from it.

      I never allow BF to carry wallets in the back pocket. BF has some kind of special socks with zip pockets (not sure where he buys them from) so it was a waste of time patting his pockets anyway. And oh, we never wear jewellery, but I carry a watch in the front pockets of my denim jeans. When in PI, it does pay to out-smart the criminals.

      1. We ate at our hotel restaurant Monday night around 9 pm in Manila’s Chinatown, Christine, and made it a point not to sit a table by a window. Didn’t matter, a group of young kids still pressed their noses against the closest window to try and get our attention. The hotel security guard soon ran them off. It’s amazing and quite sad to see all the young kids loose at all hours of the night in Manila. Don’t see that on our little province of Guimaras.

        1. This is the one thing that makes Melyn and I somewhat reluctant to move or even visit there. I think it would get very old very fast to have to say no not only to beggars but family and everyone vaguely acqauinted with family or friends. Some of Melyn’s friends from there ask about gifts and then say “joke joke”. They do not undertand it is not a joke. Seems it would be hard to do much without the stress of being the only person you know with money.

          1. Well, John, Melinda was adamantly against moving to Guimaras originally because she is related to half the people on the island. I advised her that since she already owned her house and the property it sits on, and is paid for, we can live in Guimaras for a few years until our finances will enable us to build a new home elsewhere in the Philippines. We hear that “joke joke” too a lot. Does get annoying after awhile.

      2. Christine and David,

        You both gave great advice. The problem seems smaller in Ormoc and we normally don’t visit the restaurant enough to have the same problem that you experienced. I am guessing that the problem with children begging for food will get worst because of inflation. A friend of mine who girlfriend lives in Cebu told me a story about 2 girls who would showup at his girlfriends home at meal times. Their mother left the father because all he did was gamble and drink Redhorse. The girls father should definitely be punished and the girls should be removed from his custody. I have one question. How do you help?

        1. Hi Jack,
          “how do you help?” It is a difficult question indeed because as Dave says, the children and even the infirm were also being used by syndicates for money, or the parents simply gamble the money you gave. And as you can see in my example, a good turn are rewarded with intrusion, albeit a minor inconvenience, but an inconvenience nevertheless, especially if one does not see family that often. I imagine the Philippines social services called DSWD (Department of Social Welfare and Development) are all underfunded and overworked. So my guess is as good as yours.

        2. Christine and David,

          This is a healthy conversation and I appreciate the responses. If it was me, I would feed the 2 girls and ignore the father. It’s hard to see a 40 year old man sit around and drink beer all day. It bothers me in the USA and it bothers me in the Philippines. The difference is that the lalaki in the Philippines seems to give up on working.

          How did the Sainted Patient Wife attitude change on returning to the Philippines and seeing your brother-in-law waste his life on booze and drugs? I am curious to see if Jho’s (MBA) reaction is different when we return for a visit or retirement to the poverty.

        3. I am not trying to make excuses for the drunk and lazy husbands. I sometimes wonder though whether losing hope at not being able to find a job and support their families drives them to depression, and of course with no expert Psychiatric help for the poor, they turn to alcohol to self-medicate. Even western people turn to alcohol to numb emotional pain, as many do not realize that there are help out here.

          But to the Filipina’s credit, they often take up the slack, find a job, any job to keep the family going, even sacrificing themselves to become domestic helpers abroad. And yup, I’ve seen enough Pinays too who repeatedly forgive their drunk and unfaithful husbands. And that’s regardless of the husband’s nationality too!

          1. I hope I was not implying, Christine, that there is an abundance of drunk and lazy husbands just among Filipinos. These type of guys cross all nationalities of course. And the facilities to help those with a drug or alcohol abuse problem are severely limited in the Philippines. Unfortunately, those wives in the Philippines with drunk and unfaithful husbands are sometimes forced to stay in their situation because there is no divorce law in the Philippines. I am certainly not advocating divorce, but like women world wide, the Pinay find a way to care and provide for her children no matter the circumstances.

        4. Not at all Dave, I was not implying anything about you at all. But like most generalizations, I have seen some Kanos (have not seen any in this forum) mouth off about how Pinays chose them because Filipino men are drunks and don’t look after their families. While this may be true for some, there are certainly Filipinos who are just as responsible and caring to their wives and families, and there are Kanos here and in the Philippines who were just into alcohol just the same. Also, there are Filipino males (such as in my town) who just prefer to laze around and gamble and drink all day. We can see how generalizations can paint such a negative picture for all though.

          1. What you say is, true, Christine. I hate it when I see some bonehead mouth off about how all Filipino men are drunks and irresponsible, that just isn’t the case. Listen, as a guy, I can tell you that some of us are drunkard lazy sluggards (sheesh, “sluggards?,” I think I pulled that out of my old King James Bible), and that type of guy is universally found in every culture and country on this globe. My brother-in-law, Joery, is a hard working Filipino guy that loves his wife, works hard, and is typical of the vast majority of Pinoys (and hopefully representative of most men across the world.)

    2. I know it breaks to my heart, too, Jack, to see the hungry kids. Sadly, the syndicates do use the kids to raise money. I guess next time we are approached by some hungry kids is at least make sure there is a food stand nearby where we could at least give them something to eat like you did.

      I ALWAYS carry my wallet in my front pocket, too, Jack, and split any money with the Sainted Patient Wife.

  3. Hi Dave: It is annoying to be approached by beggars that many times in one day. When the woman said: “Marcos gave us food and a house to stay in”, she must have thought that you are a political figure!

  4. Dave,
    Beggars you will find everywhere in the PI. I also see them a lot and they are alwways asking me. I only have two words for them: walang pera.
    Sometimes I give a few pesos: but never to young children or people who are fit to work.
    Just old people, or clearly disabled ones sometimes get a few pesos from me.

    I also see a lot of ‘blind’ people especialy when in a traffic jam asking all cars except jeepneys and taxis for money, I also do not give those.
    regards, Jan

    1. I also give sometimes to the elderly and disabled but not young children or people who are fit to work. That’s funny about the fake “blind” people, never seen that.

  5. Thanks, John, I’ve got it corrected. Yep, I’m trying to keep the website updated with new posts, and rushing too much, but I’m not at my usual location. I’m sitting on the second floor of my sister-in-law’s house where the computer is located and with temps approaching the upper 90’s outside with no air con turned out yet, it’s rather warm up here. Probably won’t be back at “The Compound” in Guimaras until late this month. Had our interview for my 13a Permanent Visa yesterday and now have to wait a couple of weeks for the the result to post online. No sense of spending extra airfare to go back home when we’ll have to turn around and come back a couple of weeks later.

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