Streetbuzz Interview

February 26, 2007

Dave Clark: Expatriate.
Lives in Cebu, Philippines part of every year.

A STREETBUZZ INTERVIEW

Dave Clark

STREETBUZZ: Dave, how old are you and where were you born?

DAVE: I'm 59 years old and I was born in the USA.

STREETBUZZ: How about your family?

DAVE: I grew up in a bar; my father owned a tavern in Pennsylvania.

STREETBUZZ: How was your childhood?

DAVE: It was just a typical childhood, in a nice American family. I come from a regular family you know, mom and dad...and big brother. .

STREETBUZZ: How about school?

DAVE: I graduated high school and had one year of college. I was just an average student, but I was a very good athlete in school. I played track, I played football and I wrestled.

STREETBUZZ: Then Vietnam came along, right?

DAVE: I was drafted, and served in Vietnam from 1968 to '69. I was with the 9th Division, United States Army, and we were in the Mekong Delta. I was buck sergeant, squad leader, in an infantry company. I think that says it all right there: if you're in the infantry, you're in combat, for those that don't know it.
War is hell; that's not a direct quote, because what do they say when you take the words of someon else, it's not my original words...but it's true. it's like no other experience you'll ever have. You ever heard of Baldidge? He wrote THE book on navigation, its very thick; he said "Words cannot describe what it would be like to go through a hurricane at sea." I read the whole thing.

Dave Clark

STREETBUZZ: So you came home from Vietnam and then what?

DAVE: I came home from vietnam and then I decided to leave the United States.

STREETBUZZ: Why?

DAVE: That's a good question. See I know why, I just don't know if I want to put it in writing.
I saw some senator say "America love it or leave it", so I left. I came back to Asia, and decided Asia wasn't the place for me. So I headed for South America. Then, I ended up in Columbia. and lived there on and off for the next seven years. And I still think it's one of the most beautiful countries I've seen. But the political situation there is even worse than here. And more dangerous there also.

STREETBUZZ: And then?

DAVE: In the 1980's I worked around the United States, doing mostly construction, carpentry, cement work. General building, that kind of work. I did that through most of the 80's. And then in 1990 I decided to come to the Philippines. And I've been coming here ever since.

Dave Clark

STREETBUZZ: Philippines...hmmm, now there's an interesting topic...

DAVE: OK now we're on a subject I know something about. What's the question?

STREETBUZZ: Unleash thyself on the topic!

DAVE: I been here every year the last seventeen years, since 1990.

STREETBUZZ: And what can you say about the Philippines?

DAVE: The climate is much better than the climate in mainland Asia. It gets really hot and really wet in southeast Asia. The Philippines is lucky: they're an island and they get a different weather.

STREETBUZZ: The culture?

DAVE: Philippine culture is probably the most unusual culture I've dealt with. It appears on the surface to be more western than it is. Because in my opinion, it is purely an Asian culture, with a western religion. And the mindset of the people here is Asian. And that's one of the dilemmas living here in the Phillipines. Because the people speak English, you sometimes get fooled into thinking that you nderstand them. But in reality, what's going on here, us foreigners have no idea.

STREETBUZZ: Can you give me an example of what you mean?

DAVE: Yes: a simple example is time. Two o'clock to us means two o'clock. Two o'clock to a Filipino mean anytime after twelve o'clock. In fact, nobody has their watch set to the correct time because correct time has no importance here. In essence, if you miss the boat because you were late, no problem. You take the boat tomorrow.

STREETBUZZ: Can you give an example in terms of social interaction?

DAVE: This is common in most of Asia: people don't say what they mean a lot of the time. They say what they think you want to hear, or what they think will make a situation better. The truth is not as important often as the way that you say something. And here in the Philippines, just a smile will take your words a lot further than the meaning of those words. So it's very important to smile in the Philippines; and not so important what you are saying, nobody's listening anyway.

STREETBUZZ: How about relationships... with girls, for example?

DAVE: Well Chris as you know, we're all here because of relationships with the opposite sex. And really there's no other reason to come. We don't come for the food, we don't come because of the culture, we come because of the Filipina. And in my opinion, their girls are as pretty as any other women in this world. They're sweet, they're sexy, they're loving, and they're caring. And they'll be happy to tell you that. And we've all made the mistake of falling in love here in the Philippines. But for 99.99% of us, it never worked out.

STREETBUZZ: And the reason is?

DAVE: The reason is simple and also complicated at the same time. The main problem is most of us (foreigners) here, are retired, we're older in age. And the girls we like are teenagers. And you don't have to be Freud to know that won't work. Yes, I think it's more the age difference than a culture difference. Because a lot of young guys who marry Filipinas within their own age range, it works out. If you marry a Filipina within five years, you got a better chance.
"Age doesn't matter"; have you ever met a Filipina that didn't say that? And in my experience, only in the Philippines do they use that expression. In Thailand, in the contrary, many times the girls tell me I'm too old for 'em.
So pity the foreigner who believes age doesn't matter; and anybody who's studied psychology knows that beauty attracts beauty. Beautiful women are always attracted to handsome men. If they say "I don't want handsome", pity the foreigner who believes that!
The terms "Age doesn't matter", and "I don't want handsome", mean "I'm looking for a rich guy to take me out of my situation."

I don't wanna sound cynical Chris, but if your nineteen year-old girlfriend tells you she loves you, you better take a good look in the mirror and ask yourself if she's telling you the truth. Just look at my pictures, that's why I'm putting them on here. My girlfriend is only nineteen. And she told me I was a very lucky person because I'm so handsome; and pity me because I believe her.

STREETBUZZ: How about some other aspects of Filipino culture?

DAVE: The cuisine here is really a strange situation. It takes several years to acquire a taste for the food here. I actually eat Filipino food and prefer it to western food; every day I like to eat rice and I like to eat vegetables, Filipino-style. And now sometime I even like to eat rice three times a day. Because as Filipinos would say, if you don't eat rice, you will die.

STREETBUZZ: What else about the Philippines?

DAVE: I would like to talk about the work ethic of Filipinos, because I have my own opinion on this. A lot of people think Filipinos are lazy, I'm not one of those people. A lot of people think Filipino women is more hard-working than the man, but I don't believe that either. I think a lot of the men here are very hard working. And when I go to the docks, or the warehouses, or in the farm country, I see a lot of men working very hard. Actually I see men working harder than I've every worked. And a good example: just watch guys cutting sugar cane or just seeing men unload fishing boats. Or seeing a lady in the mountains carrying abaca on her head; and then she's gotta walk down the mountain with it. Life's very hard in the Philippines and for the people in the province, they're very hard working. In the city, they're also hard working in the city, but the problem, mostly we see the people standing around on the corner, we se the bugaw (pimp), we see the people just asking for money but just take a walk down to Carbon Market, watch the boys moving the goods there. Or go over to MEPZ. And I know girls over there working twelve hours a day, six days a week. I don't think Filipinos are lazy. People don't realize that almost everything that's transported around this country is transported by hand.

STREETBUZZ: How come after 60 years of independence the Philippines is such a mess? Any insights?

DAVE: The only possible insight I might have is that the western world has tried to instill democracy on the Philippines. And democracy just doesn't work every where. That's the only reason I can come up with. I heard the country was better under Marcos, but I don't know if that's true or not. Democracy just doesn't work everywhere, it just doesn't. Democracy in Iraq? Impossible.
I don't know if America really tried to Americanize here. I think American really wanted to have bases here, and along with American bases came influence. America tries to influence democracy everywhere in the world. But American politics is something altogether different.

STREETBUZZ: Closing comments on the Philippines?

DAVE: I think most of us have a love-hate relationship with the Philippines. And again, I think the main reason for that is, we're looking at people in a western way because they speak English, and they're an Asian people.

STREETBUZZ: Final comments?

DAVE: Chris, I gotta go, my chicks is waiting for me.

Dave Clark

*****

A STREETBUZZ INTERVIEW