Filipino Fever – August 04, 2007

Philippine IslandsMany readers have asked about security in the Philippines. Overall, it is quite safe. There are places in most cities of the world that are not safe — same for Manila, Angeles City and the Subic area. Tourist destinations are particularly vulnerable. In the past year, there has been one questionable death in Angeles City and none in Subic. Tourists are more likely to be scammed than anything else. The most common is the, “Let’s play cards scam.”

A well-dressed Filipino will approach a tourist and start a casual conversation that will eventually lead to an invitation to join in a friendly card game. Many tourists feel the need to be loved and wanted by the locals or want to experience the native way of living and doing things. When the scammers find one of those they have a field day. Once an invitation is accepted, the host will take the tourist to a nice place somewhere in the bowels of town and the games begin. The tourist wins several low stake hands and starts feeling lucky. If he decides to leave, they put not so gentle pressure on him to stay and give them a chance to get their money back. The stakes are raised and the tourist looses. Big time. He will not have enough to pay the debt and these people take him to an ATM force him to withdraw the funds and pay off. Unless the person has a great memory and can find the house, there is little the police can do.

Kokomos Beach Resort 

Violence against tourists is rare. I have heard of three armed robberies in the last year and those were in those parts of town where nobody should venture anyway. Prudence is the key. Stay alert, stay out of unlit areas, stick to bars that cater to tourists (no need to sit around and drink with the locals — the only thing you will end up with is the bill) and use taxis and trikes (sort of like tuk tuks) at night.  I do not know how it is in the rest of Thailand or if things have changed since I had my share in the bars in Nana Plaza, but I am amazed how well the business owners cooperate in Subic. The Mayor recently asked me to start an international businesspersons association to help promote the tourist industry and form a close working relationship with his office. One of the active business people distributed some invitations and, at our first meeting, had 34 people attend. The meeting was brief but productive. I was involved in a similar organization in Angeles, attended three meetings, and gave up. The organizers’ ego meant that items they wanted discussed were on the agenda and everything else was superfluous. Subic seems so much easier than Angeles City. Maybe it is because of the size or maybe it is the laid-back beach attitude. There is no doubt that licenses, permits and other official formalities are a breeze. My experiences with government agencies have made a skeptic out of me so I wonder when/if the smell of foreign money will eventually corrupt City Hall in Olongapo? Let us hope not. 

In a positive development, the largest hotel developer in Angeles City, the Orchid Group (www.orchid-inn.com) is also venturing into the Subic area. They recently purchased a five storey white elephant on Baloy Beach and are converting it into a hotel, shopping, entertainment, condominium complex. It will also have 17 beach bungalows. The hotel should be open by November and the bungalows sometime in the next month. They are building the most unusual swimming pool I have ever seen. It traverses the length and width of the entire building. It is huge.

Kokomos - Phillipines 

A couple of days ago, I decided to make my annual visit back to the United States. There is not a lot for me there, but it is nice to see my sister and brother-in-law and pay my respects to my parents and grandparents. Then, of course, are the obligatory trips to the “big boy’s toys” shops; Circuit City, Comp USA and Best Buy. All this takes around 3 days, which is fine.

It is a long trip, but I get an annual home leave ticket which is a use it or lose it proposition. What is the point? Well, getting space is next to impossible. At least on NWA (North West Airlines). Not that I have any affection for North West Airlines, they offer the best connection back to Cincinnati. Taking any of the Asian airlines adds something like 8 hours each way. As bad as NWA’s service is, those 16 hours come in handy.  I have been burning frequent flyer miles for years and have been using them to upgrade from business to first. There is absolutely nothing on earth as nice as first class service on Thai, Singapore, Cathay Pacific and Japan Airlines. Besides delicious food and impeccable service, the wines served are some of the best I have ever had.  It is too bad that Boeing dropped their in-flight Internet service. For $20 US, you could have a broadband connection during the entire flight. The caveat for using mileage is that the airlines have only one seat in first allocated for mileage passengers. Four years ago, the staff at the American Airlines office in Manila mentioned that seats are available 10 months before the departure so if you are planning on upgrading or trying to get a full trip, start very very early.

It is still hard to believe we are in the middle of the rainy season. Our usual daily showers are more like twice weekly and last for minutes. That has been great for business as our rain time usually starts around 7 and many guys decide to stay home with their honeyko (telac) and watch a movie.  That is it for this week. If you have any questions, ideas or specific items you would like to hear more about, please let me know. My email is – kokomos@gmail.com  

Till next time.     

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