Family ties

A couple we assisted with their divorce in the Philippines almost two years ago (Adam and Jessie) now living in the USA, recently came back to Davao to visit their family. They contacted us to say hello and we agreed to met them at their hotel. We then decided to go to one of the day trip resorts and decided to go to Blue Jazz for lunch as it is very easy to get to. I have been there previously during the weekends and it was busy and an enjoyable spot to relax. Unfortunately when we got there we discovered that one of the main attractions, the water slides, were not operating so that was a big disappointment to them and an embarrassment to me as I had recommended the water slide to them.

We had a reasonable lunch although the service was very slow. So often the case in the Philippines! Jessie had met a Filipina friend there so they were very busy chatting and spreading local gossip. Adam and I sat slightly apart from them so were able to talk without being distracted by the ladies.

I asked Adam if his marriage was working out OK and he said it was great and that Jessie was a wonderful wife, a great cook and handled the housekeeping budget very carefully. At first she was amazed at the cost of the daily commodities as she was comparing them with Philippine prices. Once she got over that surprise and became familiar with what was available she began to look carefully at the markets to get the best deal. She also got to know the local small shop owners who treated her with respect and showed her the best specials they had that week.

Adam said that there were some downsides to having a Filipina as a wife/partner. Specifically he mentioned the other Filipinas that met at his home from time to time for coffee and chat sessions. When they left his wife always became very quiet and reused to speak for several hours and that concerned him. If his previous wife had occasionally kept quiet, he said, they might have still been married! He finally discovered that during those chat sessions the woman talked about their husbands and what they had given them and how much money they could send back to their families in the Philippines.

Before they left the Philippines for the US they had agreed verbally that they would provide 5,000 php each month to her mother. Her two brothers both had full time employment in Government offices as civil and electrical engineers receiving good salaries and the family owned a comfortable and spacious home and lived at home so there was sufficient money coming in.

The other Filipinas claimed their husbands were sending much more than 5,000 php per month to their families so that made her feel unhappy. He said that had caused some issues between them so he increased the monthly amount to 8,000 php.

A few weeks later he was told that some other women were sending 10,000 pesos each month.

He got annoyed and on the next due date he did not make any bank to bank transfer at all. Nothing was said so the following month he reverted back to sending the agreed 5,000 php. He has been doing that for the past six months and no one has complained.

He asked the husband of one of his wife’s friends about the amount he had been sending each month and was told that they sent $50 US each month and nothing like the 10,000 as claimed by the woman.

It appeared that these women during their gossip sessions were simply trying to outdo each other as to the generosity of their husbands. This is a trend that occurs with almost every foreigner’s wife’s family and other foreigners have related similar stories – but none have wanted to exchange their wife for another!

All marriages have to be based on give and take and next time I will relate a story about a foreigner who married a Filipina nurse. It has a very nice end!

Another Success Story

About 12 months ago we had a call from a client living in Davao City who was inquiring on behalf of her US boyfriend about the possibility of getting a divorce in the Philippines. He had learned about us through one of our earlier clients. For the purposes of this story I will call her Ruth.

The information Ruth initially provided through the Contact Us page was sufficient to suggest that if she wished she could proceeded to the second stage and send us scanned copies of her Certificate of Marriage and her Certificate of Birth and give a few more personal details about her situation. She said it was difficult for her to scan the papers because she did not have access to a scanner and she did not really know how to email scanned copies to us.

Because Ruth lives in one of the smaller towns near Davao City and it was convenient for her to travel into Davao by jeepney we decided to meet in a coffee shop at one of the malls where the noise level allowed us to speak without shouting.

Ruth arrived right on time and I saw her sitting near the entrance to the coffee shop as we arrived so I guessed she had been there early. That’s is always a good sign! But I shuddered when I saw her little girl with her as past experiences of having children present during important conversations had not been so good.

After we went inside I ordered some drinks and cakes and I had the impression that she was very nervous and possibly saw our meeting as some sort of an intensive interrogation!

We chatted for probably 10 minutes about various aspects of Davao and although she had some difficulties understanding my accent my wife was able to put her at ease her by speaking in both Tagalog and Visayan. After she was more comfortable and had tuned in to my accent we had an excellent conversation.

Her daughter was quite different from what I had anticipated. She sat quietly looking at her book while watching me at the same time. When she saw me glance at her book she open the page and showed me the picture and said it was an elilump. Maybe you mean elephant I said. She looked at me sweetly and said in clear English, no Lolo (grandfather) it is elilump! I took the booklet she offered to me and looked carefully and sure enough the elephant was named elilump! What a little cutie she was and just so well behaved!

After a good laugh we went back to our conversation and obtained the further information that we needed to accurately assess the possibility of a successful outcome for a Petition for Divorce in Court.

Like so many of our female clients she had married early because she thought she was in love with a guy who had paid her so much attention. Unfortunately, although she had only meet him a few weeks previously, she became pregnant and immediately it became known family pressure forced her to marry. Neither of those situation are great reasons to marry, particularly in the Philippines.
They had lived together at his parent’s house for about 6 months before the marriage started collapsing around them. Some aspects of her pregnancy contributed to the situation. He began drinking more heavily than he previously did and often hit her before committing what in the Western world would constitute rape. This theme of violence by the husband is also common in other divorces we have facilitated.

Within a week of the baby being born her husband disappeared and began living with a different woman. He refused to provide any money for food for her or the baby and even his parents rejected the girl and finally she had no option but to return to her parents home.

Ruth met her 59 year old US boy friend through an online dating service and they corresponded for several months. He came to Davao last January and we arranged to met him and his lady friend, and the little girl. He told me that he had been very unhappy and discontented with life since he and his wife divorced 20 years back. The reason the divorce occurred was due to her mental health issues from which she later died in a mental institute.

The US guy is named David and he is a retired school teacher having worked mainly in a school for children with special needs. I observed that the little girl holds his hand at every opportunity and I heard her call him Dada several times. He gives the impression of being firm but fair but there is also clear evidence that the child will soon be able to twist him around her little finger! When he dropped some cake crumbs on his shirt she quickly brushed them off and gave him a table napkin to put over his trousers.

I could see he was enjoying the attention immensely and had genuine affection for the child. His attitude towards Ruth is also one of caring and support and it is obvious they are very happy in each other’s company. I have every reason to believe that their romance and marriage will be another success story.

David added that since meeting Ruth his whole life had changed for the better. He said he now had many reasons to wake up in the morning knowing that he could say good night to Ruth in the Philippines. He said that he had purchased a low cost second hand desktop computer and a Smart T stick for her so that they could keep in touch.

We discussed the details of facilitating her divorce in the Philippines, explained the complete process – and they decided to formally accept our offer to act for her.

Her divorce has been granted now and they are in the process of deciding whether Ruth will go to the US or David will relocate to the Philippines.

Living in the Philippines – some challenges

Becoming involved with a Filipina or living in the Philippines can be an exciting event in many older or retired person’s lives. Not all partnerships require to go through a divorce in the Philippines to (usually) legally separate a girlfriend from her estranged husband, but many do.

It is not just the excitement of having a good-looking younger companion that being in a foreign country provides but it is also related to an almost total change of living styles.

Unless the retiree is wealthy and can afford to live in a gated community with 24 hour security on call, the alternatives are to rent, buy an existing house or build somewhere. Building from the beginning gives the homebuilder the opportunity to erect a house to their exact specifications thus recreating what they might have owned in the past. Of course building costs are considerably cheaper in the PI than most western countries although it is fair to point out that the quality of the building work is often very poor and frequently results in major and expensive remedial work. Disappointment with the work might only occur after a year or two of living in the house when the issues of the inferior products and poor workmanship become obvious.

Usually these issues are with the roofing, drainage and plumbing. Paint finishes frequently leave much to be desired. Cracking of the plastered wall finishes are also frequently seen.

Very few materials used in construction could meet accepted overseas standards even though they carry well known brand names. Substandard materials such as undersized reinforcing bar is actually supplied by merchants who import low grade steel products from rolling mills. Undersized rebar is often oval in section so the cross sectional area in a rebar sold as 10mm might only be 7 or 8mm – so using substandard materials can only produce a sub-standard strength wall.

Concrete hollow blocks are often hand made in one man businesses. The aggregate used is normally a sharp aggregate with about a 40% fine sand component. The ratio of cement to aggregate in concrete blocks in almost every Western country is about 1:6. In the Philippines the block manufacturers want to make them as cheap as possible so use a cement to aggregate ratio of 1:25. Consequently the block has very little compressive strength and will often collapse even when being carefully lifted. The strength of the wall is only developed through the concrete that is used to fill the blocks and the steel reinforcing used in the verticals.

One of the more relaxing and enjoyable aspects of living in the Philippines is the huge number of beach front resorts. They are cheap to get to and sometimes the food is of a reasonable standard. Long delays getting the food prepared and served make some visitors considerably annoyed. If you are a couple do not expect both your meals to be served together! This is a cultural thing and the Philippines way of life is based on slowness and inefficiency and nothing will ever change that attitude.

In a future post I will write a little about the “family” and how it can affect both positively and negatively a foreigner who marries into one. Obtaining a divorce in the Philippines for a girlfriend is only a part of the ‘fun’ awaiting a foreigner – there are some real culture shocks here!