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Random But Related Thoughts on Tourists, Filipinos, and Balikbayans. Not Necessarily In That Order.

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Some months ago, I came across an article online. It was by Jessica Zafra, and it was a satirical {often sarcastic} piece she directed at “expats, tourists and other visitors to the Philippines.” I admit I found myself chuckling at some lines in her piece. I too have had my encounters with the stereotypical tourist, and have left those experiences with a bad taste in my mouth.

But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that the sarcastic tone of the article often overpowered the satire.  In my humble opinion, I believe that as Zafra generalized all such foreigners (perhaps to avoid focusing on one culture?), her words ended up painting all tourists in the same undesirable light. Talk about fighting generalities by stereotyping all. Furthermore, and as much as we hate to admit it, we Filipinos have many faults as well. But in the article, these are glossed over as the faults or implied ignorance of tourists from other cultures are pointed out.

I am not being totally objective, of course, as I do have some friends who have visited the country as tourists and have been wonderful. So I am protesting partly in their defense. But mostly, I am speaking up because I know that not all foreigners are uncouth, looking to take advantage of the average Filipino. In the same way, not all Filipinos are innocent bystanders. Many have taken advantage of some hapless tourist as well. It’s the same all over.

The truth is, the world is a smaller place now, and we’ll find that we have many things in common with the rest of humanity. So it’s not a case of Filipinos against obnoxious tourists–it’s a case of all humanity against them. After all, I’m pretty sure the Philippines is not the only country that attracts this kind of visitors. And Filipinos are guilty of the behaviors listed by Zafra as well.


Living in America has shown me a side to many Filipinos that I have found as tasteless as Rizal’s proverbial rotten fish. For instance, and I only share a few, I have had the pleasure of the following now-humorous-encounters:

  • A lady who hails from a province known for their bagoong (fish sauce) product once exclaimed, as a friend and I sat eating green mangoes with bagoong, “Ay, bago-ong! I can’t take that smell anymore!” What made this funny was the fact that I caught her eating the same a few weeks later. And enjoying it.
  • Another young lady, who at that time had only been in America for a few months, started speaking to me this way, “Ohh may gowsh, ganitow nah rain akoh mag salitah!” (It’s only funny if you know Filipino, but she started speaking her native language with a thick American accent.)
  • Yet another lady was getting ready to go back home for a visit. She was listing all she had to do–visit the doctor, buy and bring medicines and mosquito repellant, sunblock etc. She was complaining about how all these would fill up her luggage so I suggested just getting the stuff back home. She looked at me with one eyebrow raised, “Why? Alam mo naman sa atin…” (You know what it’s like back home.) She left that statement hanging but her meaning was plain. Her statement was a precursor to many negative ideas about the Philippines. Those thoughts, I realized, were ones she passed on to her kids.
  • And then there are all those people who show no interest in visiting their home country at all. In conversations with them, they seem to dwell on the negatives. I often wonder, where do all these people come from and how have they missed all the wonderful things I love about the Philippines? What is it about their experiences that have led to this–having stepped on another country’s soil, their own turns into some hell story brought up only for shock value?


There will always be foreigners who will come to the Philippines looking to gain something, not caring what it will cost the Filipino people. It’s a sad truth, but a common one as well. Without disregarding the harm these people will and can do, let me just say that I find immigrant Filipinos who act with superiority towards those who stayed behind much more harmful. In all honesty, I find disgraceful Filipinos who, after having their desire to live somewhere else granted, look back at their roots with scorn and contempt. We can find bad tourists anywhere in the world. It’s an international problem. But Filipinos disrespecting their own Philippines? Now that’s something to get really mad about.


One time, the hubby and I took our kids to a Filipino restaurant. After our meal, my seven-year-old turned to me and said, “Mommy, I really like it here. I don’t feel so alone.” I felt my heart swell with joy. Somehow, by God’s grace, we are raising young boys who find pride in their cultural roots. One day, I hope that the men they become will find a way to give back to the country their parents loved and treasured.

author:  abetvictoria


  • dayan

    ganyan talaga ang ibang pinoy, pag nakatapak na sa abroad parang ewan na! sarap sapakin! haha!

  • oryxman

    Wow yan po ang tunay na Pinoy kahit saan man mapunta o mi sarili ng passport ng bansang pinuntahan Pinoy pa rin talaga ang ugali,totoo po yan kahit saan naman iba iba ang pag uugali ng ating kababayan minsan maisip mo bakit kaya ganun sila magsalita pero,nasa tao nalng talaga yan cguro po naging pangit ang kanilang naging karanasan nang nasa atin pa para itakwil muna kong saan ka nanggalin at parang di mo naranasan lumaki sa Pilipinas.
    Saludo po ako sa mga Pinoy at Pinay na marunong magturo ng kultura ng Pilipinas kahit sila ay citizen na ng ibang bansa di nila kinahihiya na sila ay bahagi ng kulturang Pinoy at kahit mangibang bayan ka pa di mo maiaalis na minsan ikaw ay nagmula sa Pilipinas at kinalinga ka ng bayan mo bago ka pa naging bahagi ng ibang bansa at naging citizen na doon.
    Sa mga turistang dumadayo sa atin di naman lahat masasamang tao,tulad din natin iba iba ang pag uugali,pero dahil na rin sa taglay na luntian at maraming mga bayan natin ang talagang nakakabighani kaya sa ayaw at sa gusto natin miron pang mga dayuhan na patuloy na tatangkilik dahil sa ano man ang hangarin nila for pleasures or purely fun and thats TOURISM..Mabuhay po ang lahat ng Pinoy at Pinay sa Buong Mundo.