Foreigners who love the Philippines
By Paolo Benitez
Filipinos are known to be some of the most adaptable people on earth. With over 10 million Pinoys working abroad, you can almost guarantee a Pinoy in every country. Mga Kababayan, our love for the motherland is never ending, and that’s a given. We all look forward to going home in the summer, seeing our family and friends and breathing in that provincial air. And while away, we all speak of our country with a certain pride and joy that almost brings a tear to our eyes.
We’ve all heard about foreigners coming to the Philippines too. “It’s more fun in the Philippines” as they say. Our country becomes a hot spot during vacation season, with tourists coming in left, right and center. Ironically, however (for the most part), that’s all we associate foreigners with. In fact, you’ll rarely hear about Non-Pinoys living in our country either, but when they do, they become the stuff of legends.
Often, our separation from home makes us miss out and forget the natural beauty that our country has to offer. A handful of travelers have taken to sharing our pride and love through their experiences in the Philippines. These are the game changers, adventurers and free spirits that have taken to loving our country just as much as we do.
Australian – born, but Pinoy at heart! Dwaine Woolley is a Youtuber and internet sensation who has gone viral through showcasing his life in the Philippines and his ability to speak three Filipino dialects (Tagalog, Cebuano and Waray).
Having moved to the Philippines to be with her boyfriend, Susie Potter is a Hungarian girl who has taken it upon herself to be one with Pinoy culture! Her constant exploring brings her more reasons to love the Philippines every day!
Brian Ahern a.k.a Aheezy Da Islander
Aheezy Da Islander moved to the Philippines to be closer to his wife (who is of Visayan descent) and to learn more about the Filipino culture. Having fully immersed himself in the Pinoy way of life back home, Brian regularly vlogs his Pinoy family life.
Brock Blohm, Edges of Earth
Brock is a world traveler and Philanthropist. Through the many good things he did for the less fortunate and his new-found love for the Filipino people, he recounts his stay the Philippines as a rewarding and humbling experience.
Grietje Evenwel, Travel Gretl
Her love for Pinoy culture and the Philippines natural beauty keeps her coming back! Gretl is a free spirit and world traveler who’s love for exploration knows no bounds. She regularly makes handy travel guides which can be viewed on her youtube channel.
How did you end up In the Philippines?
“I’ve always wanted to travel, I’ve always wanted to try living in another country at least for a while so it was obvious that I will move here when I met my boyfriend who is from the Philippines.” – Susie Potter
“I came to the Philippines in 2011 to do missionary work in Leyte and Samar.” – Dwaine Woolley
“After conducting a rather deep Google search, I do that I wanted to head to the Philippines because of beauty of the country. I booked a plane ticket and landed without any plans at all. I was going to make plans day by day.” – Brock Blohm
“I was in Myanmar in a bus (solo traveling) talking to a guy. He asked why I like Myanmar, and I told him I liked a lot, but the open and friendly people mainly. “You should go to the Philippines” he said, according to the friendly people thing. Okay! I thought. Sounds good! I hadn’t considered the Philippines before, but when I came home I said to my boyfriend: we’re up for the Philippines. When he said okay, it was settled.” – Grietje Evenwel
“I married a Visayan babae.. after my contract in the military We decided to move here so I could meet all of her family, friends and to learn her language and culture.” – Brian Ahern
What region do/did you stay in and what strikes you the most about it?
“I’m living in Northern Luzon and even though it’s that part of the Philippines that tourists don’t visit that often, there’s a lot to love about this place! I love the all the beautiful hidden places you can visit here. Hidden beaches and waterfalls without too many people….where there will be no crowd just the beautiful nature itself. It happened many times that we visited a beach around this area and we basically didn’t meet anyone during our trip. It’s definitely an amazing experience to have a whole beach on your own for a day. I love the fact that I can reach amazing places like these anytime just in a few hours.” – Susie Potter
“I stay in the island of Leyte. What I love the most is that despite the poverty, Filipinos are so happy. I’ve never seen anything like it in my life. Kahit mahirap ang buhay, masaya pa rin sila.” – Dwaine Woolley
“On my first trip to the Philippines, I stayed for 15 days. I planned to travel around the beautiful landscape of Northern Luzon, after arriving and experiencing a taste of manila, I decided to stay. I stayed in Makati. Every single day I traveled miles and miles on foot. I went everywhere. I even went to the places with the locals told me not to go. It was too dangerous for a foreigner they said. That made me want to go even more. On my second trip, which was another 35 days or so, I travel by bus down through many cities in southern Luzon, I went to Mindoro, and then I went to Palawan. This was a whole different experience in itself. This footage is not on YouTube because I have not found time to edit it, just yet. It will be on my channel in a couple of months. What strikes me most about this country was the people. The people were always so kind and friendly and very welcoming to a foreigner. No matter what their background, they wanted to talk to me. Everyone wanted to welcome me, rich or poor. Kindness seemed to be embedded deeply within the hearts of everyone.” – Brock Blohm
“I did 3 trips to the Philippines. To Palawan 2x, Mindoro, Batanes and Banaue and surroundings.
I was most surprised by Batanes. The landscape there is something you don’t find in the rest of the Philippines, and the extreme safety is something you find nowhere in the world even. I remember in Itbayat when we went to see sunrise over the sea and hills. It was so quiet, so beautiful. It really felt as if we were at the end of the world.” – Grietje Evenwel
“I stay in the Visayas Region 7… This is Lapu Lapu’s home territory! Beautiful historical churches, overwhelmingly super happy smiling people. I Just love it.” – Brian Ahern
How is living in the Philippines different from living in your home country? Do you get homesick?
“I’m pretty sure I could list more differences than similarities! The lifestyle and the mentality of the people is so so different here than in Hungary, where I’m from. The first thing I’ve noticed when I got here is that everyone is so relaxed in the Philippines. For example I don’t think that I’ve ever seen someone here running because they were in a hurry. Life is definitely less stressful here. But of course I still get homesick quite often because I miss my family. Otherwise I definitely prefer this less stressful and more positive environment.” – Susie Potter
“The Philippines feels like home to me. Why you ask? Because the people here make me feel like I’m at home. They are very kind, very polite and hospitable. They laugh alot and are constantly smiling. I feel that anyone I meet is my instant friend. In my home country, people tend to be a little cold, and get upset over small things. In the Philippines people seem to know how to handle problems well and focus on the positives in life. It’s a great atmosphere to be in. I certainly don’t feel homesick here because this feels home to me. The only thing I miss in my country is my family.” – Dwaine Woolley
The poverty here was mind-blowing. It’s not a fun topic to talk about is a real one. Before arriving in Manila, I can count on my two hands how many homeless people I had seen in my entire life. Honestly. To walk around Manila and experiencing the unimaginable level of poverty was quite sad. I felt very bad for many people and did what I could to help. The prices where significantly lower than that of the USA which is very encouraging to a traveler because it allows us to stay for a longer period of time. Everyone was so friendly – the employees who were representing large companies all the way down to the people working on the streets, everyone was. Always. It didn’t matter if I was purchasing a meal inside an expensive Mall, grabbing a quick quail egg from a stall on the street. Everyone greeted me with a smile and thanked me for my business. The human element is slowly drifting away with in modern society – and it’s very encouraging to see a whole country who still hangs on to this utterly important piece of humanity. Fortunately, I do not get homesick. We live in a world full of technology and I use it to the fullest potential. I’m able to communicate to all of my friends and family back home with a click of a button. This somehow replaces my desire to go back home. – Brock Blohm
“Well nature and temperatures are obviously different. Small things are arranged in other ways (like when you say ‘yes’ and what that means). There is a whole lot of different kind of foods to try. The Philippines and the Netherlands both ain’t famous for their foods, but there is still a whole lot to discover! I don’t really get homesick. I always know when I go back again.” – Grietje Evenwel
“Yes, of course I get homesick and feel the missing wanting feeling of my family there sometimes but if I’m focused on a goal I tend to not think of that. The most recent time I felt it was recently out of nowhere because of an Instagram picture. A Filipina woman was standing infront of a car Washington State. Seeing the license plate maybe sparked it.” – Brian Ahern
Have you adopted any Filipino practices?
“Yes a lot! Actually I’m about to make a video about this topic. The positivity I mentioned earlier had an effect on me too. My favourite example is that the first time when I’ve ever experienced a typhoon I was so nervous and scared…but after seeing how well local people are handling it I got a lot more relaxed about it. And about everything else also. I think I adopted this peaceful stress-free mentality pretty well. And there are some smaller things too, some funny ones like I adopted some local gestures and habits (for example eating everything with spoon)” – Susie Potter
Yes I certainly have. I learned to speak 3 languages in the Philippines which are Tagalog, Cebuano and Waray Waray. (Di na pwedeng mabenta) I understand the Filipino sense of humor and have became Filipino at heart. It’s funny because when I go back to Australia to visit my family they ask me things like “why are you eating with a fork and spoon?”, “why are you pointing with your lips?”, “why do you keep saying pak ganern? What’s that mean?”. – Dwaine Woolley
“At this moment in time, I’ve been traveling around the world for 10 months. I have come across many cultures. I don’t feel that I have adopted any piece of the culture that I can identify. Who knows, maybe I have and I just don’t realize it.” – Brock Blohm
“Trying to help strangers in the street more. When I see people with a map I ask if I can help them. Haha, they always look surprised and say ‘no’ immediately. Though I don’t think I’m that scary.” – Grietje Evenwel
“Oh man what have I not?? haha! I have eaten Sardinas with Suka, a ton of Balut, Pancit Canton with rice… kaon daghan lechon manok but dili kaon baboy because of my wife’s religion. – Brian Ahern
What was the impact of the Pinoy way of life on you?
“I think I started to learn how to appreciate small things in life. I’ve seen so many poor people here who didn’t live in the best conditions but they were still so happy and thankful for what they had! It definitely helped me realize what is really important in life.” – Susie Potter
“The Filipino people have changed my outlook on life. Their culture and attitude has taught me to cherish and love what I have in life. They have taught me to be grateful and to laugh more.” – Dwaine Woolley
“It takes a lot to change my ways and my habits. But one thing that I noticed the Filipinos had, was resilience. They seem to make things work even when all odds were against them. Observing their mindset to ‘make it work no matter what’, definitely motivates me too put a bit more effort into a situation when it is tougher than usual.” – Brock Blohm
“First time we went was after a hard time me and my BF had in our lives. (no problems together or anything, just in our private lives). In the Philippines, relaxing far from home, we could let go of troubles and we really came back a bit different than we left.” – Grietje Evenwel
“Don’t need much money to live a Happy go lucky Simple life style/Layed back life style when all you need is a bamboo house and food on the table and there will be smiles all around” – Brian Ahern
What do you think about the Filipino people overall?
“If I would have to sum it up I would say filipino people are probably the friendliest people ever!” – Susie Potter
“They are beautiful people with big hearts. Very joyful and full of life” – Dwaine Woolley
“I could literally talk for an hour about the people, alone. Everybody was so kind, friendly and curious. Everyone would come up to ask me the same questions over and over. It didn’t matter which part of the Philippines I was in, it was always the questions; What is your name? Where are you from? How old are you? Are you married? What hotel are you staying at? I wasn’t sure of their intentions, so I simply took it as a sign of curiosity. There were many times that I visited the slum areas of the Philippines and I was greeted countless times by people. I can’t tell you how many times I was invited into their home for a quick beer or even dinner. This was quite surprising to me, as many of them, I could see, struggled every day to pay their bills. But yet they still found it in their hearts to not only welcome me but to offer something without asking anything in return. Very heartwarming.” – Brock Blohm
“They are friendly, open, proud of their country (as they should be) but also many times hard working abroad, missing their country and family. I’ve been in the airplane so many times on an international flight, when going to the Ph, next to a Filipino. Talking proudly about going back to their families, and the love for their country.” – Grietje Evenwel
“Super friendly, Funny and Talented.” Brian Ahern
Is there anything else you like about the Philippines?
“I love all the exotic things here! Exotic looking trees, exotic fruits, exotic birds, rice fields and carabaos…These are all things that were not real for me before. I mean I’ve only seen things like these on TV before so seeing all of it in real life is an amazing experience. Even after living here for 3 years I still can’t get over fact that there are real life monkeys living in the forests, or that I’m walking under real palm trees and eating fruits I didn’t even know about before.” – Susie Potter
“Apart from the people, I love the food! Ginataang gulay, caldereta, Bicol express, anything with gata is amazing. Nakakapag paligaya sa tiyan!” – Dwaine Woolley
“The landscape and the people. Seriously. Need I say more? This is literally one of the most beautiful places on Earth and it is full of people who are so kind and welcoming. Doesn’t quite get much better than that.” – Brock Blohm
“The combination of amazing nature, real stunning, with the good people next to it. That’s amazing. Also behind the scenes. I make vids of many countries but no one is so reactive and encouraging as the Filipino people.” – Grietje Evenwel
“The People Beauty of tropical country, also the Diversity of Culture and Dialects rich in their unique history.” – Brian Ahern
Is there anything you don’t like about the Philippines?
“It’s not that I don’t like something it’s just that I’m sad to see a few things. Of course I’m sad to see the poverty, being a big animal lover I’m very sad to see that there are so many dogs and cats living here in very poor conditions. I’m not used to seeing these things back in Hungary or if I did, it was easy to help them. But since there are so many homeless, starving animals here I can’t help all of them. Same thing with people.” – Susie Potter
“Every country has its Pros and Cons. No country is perfect. The only thing I don’t like is the pollution in Manila. And the traffic of course. Hopefully people will begin to build and invest outside Manila to reduce the traffic and pollution” – Dwaine Woolley
“Well, terrorism. This made me a bit nervous as a foreigner. Even while I was staying in Palawan, a man just south of me lost his head to terrorists. Scary stuff! But, every country has its problems. There is no perfect country.” – Brock Blohm
“It touches me when I hear about troubles in the country, like in the south or anything drugs related. If I would live in the Philippines I am sure I would notice some differences in the deeper structure from the Netherlands. Everything here is quite well arranged when you compare it to the rest of the world. I hear stories about bribery and so on, am sure I would struggle there.” – Grietje Evenwel
“Of course there are things like Infrastructure that tick me off. Lack of planning because of corruption in the past.” – Brian Ahern
What advice do you have for people who wish to travel or live there?
“If you would like to visit the Philippines I would recommend you to find some less popular, less touristy place. You can experience the beauty of the nature and the life of the local people a lot better if you go to those areas that tourists don’t usually visit.” – Susie Potter
“Unfortunately the media portrays the Philippines as a dangerous place. In my experience, I have felt safer in the Philippines than in any other country I’ve lived in. There is nothing to be afraid of here. Go swim with the butanding in Oslob, visit Palawan and Boracay, taste the local food and get to know the people. They will change your outlook on life.” – Dwaine Woolley
“I encourage everybody to Simply let go. Let go of your current belief systems that will hold you back from doing or experiencing the culture at hand. Also, say ‘yes’ more often. If a local invites you to do something..simply say ‘yes’. You literally have no idea what you could be missing out on if you say ‘no’.” – Brock Blohm
“Be open, be friendly, and bring sunscreen 😉 ” – Grietje Evenwel
“Just be friendly. Don’t compare it to something else. Just because they speak very good English doesn’t mean this is the USA. Just respect their country because you’re the stranger and guest here in the Philippines.” – Brian Ahern
What is your message to Filipinos out there?
“I would tell to all Filipino people that no matter where they live in the world they should be very proud of their country because it’s such a unique and amazing place with amazing people!” – Susie Potter
“Be proud to be Filipino. You are an inspiration to people like me.” – Dwaine Woolley
“To be honest? Don’t change a thing! Your buildings and your architecture, no matter how beautiful, will not bring me back. But your kindness, your generosity, and your warm welcoming smiles, will!” – Brock Blohm
“I can mainly say things according to tourism. I would say: it will get busier and busier in the Philippines with foreigners like me. I saw it in El Nido for example. Please conserve and structure your natural beauty’s they are such an amazing thing you guys have!” – Grietje Evenwel
“Mga kababayan! Mahal kita! Stay strong and Stay Focused on your Goals!” – Brian Ahern
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PAOLO GABRIEL BENITEZ – Junior Contributor
A visual communications student, Paolo is an aspiring artist, seeking to make his mark in the world of cinematography and the performance arts. When not dancing in the living room in the middle of the night, he functions as a perceptive young man, seeking to learn how things are the way they are and providing insight on the various issues that plague his generation.