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The Philippines

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The Philippines - Michelle Alcaraz Dunlop
The Philippines – Michelle Alcaraz Dunlop

So this is a pretty crazy story, and a cool one, and one that is pretty amazing. So, as you know Michelle and I are husband and wife, and Michelle is 100 percent Filipina. She was born and raised in the Cavite area in the Philippines. Michelle and I dated for about three years all via Viber and Skype, with some emails smattered in there. When we first started talking Michelle was living in Brunei where she was working in a department store I swear I was in, but in the mid 90’s when I was in Brunei with the Canadian Navy. I have always said it’s a small world, and I seem to prove it time and time again.

Southeast Asia

I have had the honor of living in a few different countries in Southeast Asia. I have been on Sibu Island Malaysia managing a dive center at a resort called the Cabanas. I also spent time in Johor Buru, which I remember fondly. Then a couple of weeks in Kuala Lumper, which was fantastic!! I then spent time living in Pattaya, Thailand, and to this point it was one of the most favorite stays. For no other reason  then the fantastic people I met there and I am contact with to this day! Then I did two stints in Sihanoukville in Cambodia managing two different dive centers, and Cambodia always felt like home to me.

But then, Michelle and Bacolod City came into my life, and things have not been the same ever since.   There are no words that come to mind to describe Michelle. When I say she is beautiful, it’s a strong word, but when

The Philippines - Bamboo in Patag Silay
The Philippines – Bamboo in Patag Silay

you see Michelle flash that smile of hers when she laughs at something silly I have done, beautiful is certainly not strong enough. Elegant, she is very much that for sure, she has this air of proper around her when she is out in the public. Though I know the Michelle at home, when she lets her hair down so to speak and starts teasing and laughing and joking around.

Bacolod City is unique unto it’s own. It is affectionately known as the city of smiles, and when I first was there I would have said I did not see it, but then I was only there for a couple of weeks, and it would not be fair of me to judge that sort of thing. But now, after living there for 6 months solid, the people I have met in Bacolod City are easily the friendliest and most helpful people I have ever met, and I have been in 250 different cities around the world, so I have some experience to draw upon.

People are very honest as well. I once paid a tricycle driver 1000 pesos, for a 100 peso ride, an honest accident, and I certainly didn’t notice the mistake I had made when I paid the driver, but he quickly showed me I was making a mistake and went on his way. Standing in SM mall and I dropped a 300 peso phone card out of my pocket, and a gentleman picked it up for me and hand it to me, saying I had dropped it.   I think if there was one thing I learned about Filipinos it is that they are a very hard working, honest, god fearing, strong, determined people, who no matter what is happening they try to find the happy things in everything. I spent a day at Mambukal with a group of Michelle’s work peers, and they did nothing other then laugh and have a good time. No one was trying to be better or out do anyone else. It was genuinely a fun day. I spoke to a woman who was there tonight, and we were talking about how much Michelle and I love one another, and our conversation turned to the day out together, and she said everyone was concerned I would feel left out because I don’t understand their language, and I said, I was honored to be included, and I loved trying to follow what was being said. I have never felt so included in an event with a group of people in my life.

Rice Fields in the Mountains
The Philippines – Rice Fields in the Mountains

I am sitting in a hotel this evening in Manila, waiting for my flight back to Canada, and I feel lost. I have all my life gone places, and after so long had to leave, and I have been despondent and quiet about leaving for the next chapter in my life. Tonight however, I feel lost like I have never felt before. There are a couple of big reasons for this, and the main one, is that I have had to leave Michelle in Bacolod City, to wait for her Permanent Residence application to be processed, which is widely known to take 17 months. During that time, I maybe allowed to try to get Michelle a tourist visa so we can be together, but that is only if she qualifies. To qualify, I have had it explained to me that she needs to prove that she has ties to the Philippines. Her being a citizen of the Philippines does not count. Her having children does not county. Her having a job does not count, unless she is the owner of the business. The things my country wants, is proof of ownership of land, business or a home, plus 4000 Canadian, or 144,000 pesos in the bank. The fact her husband is a Canadian, is actually a hindrance, and we were actually directed by one Immigration Consultant to lie about our relationship.

Here is the strength of a Filipina, Michelle said, she loves me, she will wait no matter how long it takes, because she loves me. She then through both of our tears said, think about how soon we will be together again.

The Philippines

This country has so much beauty to share with you. Whether you are an Ocean person, scuba diver, photographer, explorer there is so much that is beautiful for you to see and do.   A word to the wise though, I have heard it said that the Philippines is pretty cheap to visit and live, and I am afraid I would have to disagree. Rent is certainly cheap. The cost of our apartment is about $155.00 Canadian and Electricity, water and our internet this month totaled about 1500 pesos, or $40 Canadian.   However, shopping for food is close to the same amount. Need clothes, and you shop at SM, it is as expensive if not more so. I had to scan some documents the other day, and I was told 20 pesos a page which is about $0.80 cents, and when you say 40 pages, that is pricy. You really need to pay attention to costs otherwise it will surprise you.

The Land of the SPA

I have never seen so many different Massage, SPA kinds of businesses in my life. Michelle works at Spa Natura

The Philippines - Spa Natura at Mambukal
The Philippines – Spa Natura at Mambukal

and The Blade as well, and both places are so professional and give a fantastic service to the public. Spa Natura has figured out that service plus ambiance will give the customer that dreamy experience. The layout and decor is beautiful there. The therapists are professional and give a fantastic service.

Vacation Time

I know the first thing Canadian’s thing when it’s January and you want to head to the fun and sun, you say Mexico. What!! Mexico…it’s like a warm Canada or United States. Seriously even if you only have 7 days, go to the Philippines. It is so worth it. The People are fantastic! Scenery puts Mexico to shame, and the dollar is still pretty strong even though, I said the Philippines is not as cheap to live in as people let on….visiting for a vacation is not all that bad, and there is so much to see and do, with beautiful fun people!!

Keep good thoughts for Michelle and I, as we tackle CIC in Canadian, hopefully my government will allow me to spend time with my lovely wife. Mommy please can I have a friend over!!!

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