A real bad feeling

Today, something happened that made me feel really bad.  The truth is, I don’t understand what happened, or why it happened, and that is part of the reason why I feel bad.

Over the weekend, I got a notice from the Post Office (it’s called “PhilPost” here in the Philippines) that I had a package waiting for me, and I needed to claim it at the main Post Office in Davao.  The PhilPost Office is closed on Saturdays, so, since it’s Monday morning, I decided to go down and pick up my package first thing this morning.  I had recently ordered something on eBay, and was looking forward to receiving my purchase, which I was sure was the package waiting for me.

For about a week now, I have been trying something new.  I’ve been riding the Jeepney when I needed to go somewhere in town.  The Jeepney is sort of the main public transportation system in the Philippines.  There are thousands of Jeepneys in a large city like Davao City, where I live.  I have ridden the Jeepney a few times over the years that I have lived here (more than a decade), but only a few times.  Since I own my own vehicle, riding the Jeepney is just not something I need to do.

A Philippine Jeepney

For those reading this who are not familiar with the Jeepneys, they are larger version of Army Jeeps from WW2, which were converted into public transportation vehicles.  Over the years, an industry started up building new Jeepneys, since there were only a limited number of Army jeeps to be converted.  A Jeepney can hold maybe 12 to 20 people, depending on it’s size, and how tightly the passengers are packed in.  At the point that I would consider a Jeepney to be full, it would be about 12 passengers.  In the Philippines, do you know how many can fit in a Jeepney?  Always one more!  Ha ha…  anyway, let’s just say that they really pack them full.

Since I started riding Jeepneys regularly about a week ago, I don’t ride Jeeps that are already full, or what I consider full.  I just wait for a different jeep that is partially empty, it’s just more comfortable to get a seat that way.  If a Jeep is full, the people will squeeze together more tightly and give you about 6″ on the seat to sit down.  Well, frankly, my butt won’t fit into 6″, which is why I always wait for a partially empty jeep when I want to go somewhere.

So, this morning I was off to the PhilPost Office to get my package.  I walked up to the main highway where I could catch a Jeepney, just a 10 minute walk or so, and I waited on the corner, watching for a Jeepney that was going to the area where I needed to go (the sides of the Jeepneys are marked with the route they go).  After about 2 or 3 minutes of waiting, an older gentleman, perhaps in his 80’s, strolled up and he was also waiting for a Jeepney.  A few jeepneys pulled up that were going on the route that I needed, but they were so full, I decided to just wait.  I could see that the older man was also trying to avoid a full jeepney, just as I was.

Old man in the Philippines

After about 2 or 3 more minutes, a Multicab pulled up.  A Multicab is similar to a Jeepney, but smaller.  The Multicab was also going on the route that I wanted to take.  The older gentleman also started moving toward the Multicab, and I thought to myself, “Oh, he is going on the same route as I am.”  As the older man started to step into the Multicab, he glanced over and saw that I was behind him.  He immediately jumped down to the ground.  I motioned to him and said “Ikaw ang ikaprimero…” (You will be the first…).  He looked at me in a sort of scornful way and said in a rather mean voice “I’m not riding.”

I felt bad, because the way he said it, it seemed to me that he didn’t want to ride if I was going to ride on the same Multicab.  I cannot be certain, maybe he just realized that it was not the correct route, but by the tone of his voice, I felt that his decision had something to do with the fact that I was going to ride.  He did not want to ride with me.  I don’t know why he would feel that way, and as I said, perhaps my interpretation of his feelings was incorrect, but it did feel bad to me.  My first reaction was that if he didn’t want to ride with me, I was willing to let him take the Multicab and I would wait for another one, but he walked off quickly and didn’t give me the chance to offer that to him.  The Multicab was not crowded either, there was plenty of room for both of us, and a few more people as well.

Anyway, if I did something to offend this fellow, I am just not sure what it could be.  Offending people is not something I would want to do, and especially a senior citizen like that.  My feeling is that perhaps he was not comfortable riding with a foreigner, but I am not certain.

What would you have done?


  1. John Miele says


    It hasn't happened to me very often, but every once in a while I will encounter a Filipino who simply does not like foreigners.

    There are some in the older generation who do not trust outsiders. For instance, Rebecca has an elderly relative who is 100% certain in his mind that I work for the CIA and that I am up to no good. No matter that Rebecca, my mother in law, and nearly the entire family have told him what I do and that I am OK. No matter that I have told him myself.

    I'm not certain if you remember, but a couple of years ago I wrote about a restaurant in Tuguegarao where not only were foreigners not welcome, it is downright dangerous for foreigners (ANY foreigner… Not just Americans) to even walk in front of the property. The owners view foreigners as oppressors… and they simply will not conduct business with them. To be fair, this area has a bit of an NPA history, and some of that ideology has stuck. Additionally, I have written many times about OFWs and how they are treated, the jealousies that occur, and what it does to families. Very seldom have I heard a Filipino say they were treated well in the Middle East, and I know you are familiar with how foreigners are often regarded in the United States by the very few, vocal idiots.

    I suspect that your encounter may have been something similar. Though Davao is progressive and modern compared to much of the country, there are many in Mindanao who have been oppressed or marginalized over the years.

    I think that you did the right thing. You were polite, and you try to live your life as respectfully as you can. That is about all you can do.

    • says

      Hi John – I had forgotten about that article, but I do recall it now that you mentioned it. You are right, it has been very rare in my years here that I encountered a Filipino who was not friendly to me. I would have to say I could count such encounters on my fingers and still have a few fingers left over! 😆 It just gave me a bad feeling this morning, though, that I had somehow offended this elderly gentleman. I can only assume that he had some kind of foreigner bias, because I can think of nothing I did to offend him.

      • David Severn says

        I am always happy to read your postings Bob but yesterday Monday, as I was watching television I now understand why some Filipino's have a preconceived idea of Foreigners.

        I turn on the television in the morning and there sits and American man in a forum with the commentator and two Filipino women, who were both his girl friends and he was trying to make a choice as to which one he loved more. It was just embarrassing to see such a person on Filipino Television. The girls were very upset, looking for a single answer as to which one he loved more. Then we wonder why some Filipino's have such a bad outlook on Foreigners.

        This guy had no emotions, but smiled nicely the whole time and by the end of the show he still had not made any choices or made things easier on either girl or the family of the girls but still had his great smile. It was truly shameful to view such a cruel situation on public television and was truly a negative mark on all Foreigners here in The Philippines. All the guy did was grandstand to get his face on television at the expense of the rest of us Foreigners. The guy is lucky that I am not the father to one of those girls, he was truly shameful.

        • says

          Very shameful, David. I often write that the wrongdoings of other foreigners put the rest of us in a bad light. People should realize, though, that the bad actions of one foreigner should not be used to show that other foreigners are also bad.

          I have seen things on TV similar to what you describe, and I am never comfortable or happy with it!

  2. says

    Hi Bob, I had an incident similar to that. The bus was full and next to me was the only space. A young lady got on and when then conductor pointed for her to sit next to me she said in Bisaya,'I'm not sitting next to that foreigner." and then stood up at the back of the bus. I just looked at the conductor, pretended to smell my armpit and said" I took a shower this morning"! We both just laughed. Don't let it bother you Bob. I'm sure you also took a shower that morning!


    • says

      Hi Bud – Nice to hear from you. Your incident sounds much like what I experienced this morning! And, yes, I had already taken a shower! 😉 OH well, all I can do is forget about it, but it just didn't give me a good feeling, though!

      Take care, Bud!

  3. says

    Hi Bob…I am a filipina but I really do not understand some filipinos being mean to foreigners at times. So many times it happen to my american husband. I think some too high pride filipinos think they're being understimated by foreigners so that they tend to "over react" or just "insecure"….I cannot blame my husband when he tells me at times that filipinos are arrogant….

    • says

      Hi coi – Thanks for dropping by and leaving your comment. I hope that your husband doesn't have bad experiences very often. I know that it is rare for this kind of thing to happen to me. But, it just doesn't feel very good when it does happen, especially with an elderly guy like this, because I try to respect the elderly. Take care, coi!

  4. says

    bob, i think it's not so much as people hating foreigners, but more of shyness or fear of the foreigners talking to them in English, especially because you had communicated with him initially. some people are afraid of small talk because they cannot/do not speak English well.

  5. Bob New York says

    I had almost a reverse situation happen to me on one of my visits. I got on a jeepney in front of the Gaisano Mall in Iligan along with a couple of my friends. As we are waiting for the jeepney to leave, a Filipina in the jeepney says " Oh look there's a Foreigner ! " . I take a look in the direction the filipina is pointing and there was a caucasion man holding a couple of those large green Gaisano bags who appeared to be waiting for another jeepney or taxi. At the time I guessed maybe the guy might have been Austrailian . The filipina that made the comment did it with sort of a surprised tone of voice and not in a negative kind of way. I thought to myself, I am sitting right across from her and no one said a thing to me in that jeepney LOL, maybe just as well, and I wasn't even wearing dark sun glasses LOL. I do not think Iligan City has a tremendous amount of foreign visitors so maybe that is why the guy standing in front of Gaisano was pointed out. Got me to thinking I wonder what some people say to themselves when I am walking on the sidewalk or seen anywhere else ? So far, I can not recall anyone there saying anything negative to me, at least not to my face or where I could hear it.

    • says

      HI Bob – Like you saw, I get a lot of surprised looks and such when I ride the jeepney. It's always fun to ride and see the reactions of people. Last week, one time I was riding, and I was the only person sitting on one side of the jeep. The other side was loaded with people! Ha ha.. people were too embarrassed to sit next to me! 😆

  6. Douglas PM.. says

    I road jeepneys almost every were I went since 88.

    That is something that never happened to me.

    My biggest problem was being short changed by conductors.

    But I found a cure for that.

    When I came home at night. I would get handed my change and I would stop the jeep walk around to the head lites to make sure I was given the correct change.

    If it wasn't rite I would insist the driver make up the difference.

    Then I would wave the jeep on.

    After probably embarrassing several conductors The change started getting very accurate.

    And I'm sure the word went around not to short change this Kano. :-)

    I do have many other Jeepney story's . :-)

    • says

      Hi Douglas – I bet you do have some good stories! ha ha…. I have had no problem with getting the proper change. But, most of the time I pay exact change, so it's not an issue. But, the times when I have paid with a 20 or 50 note, I have been given the proper change.

    • David Severn says

      Bob, I would not worry to much of your situation. I have put up a volleyball net here in Rojales Carmen where we live as my wife and the family loves to play. However a few days later we had 60 people or near there sitting all around the volleyball court and playing volleyball. They also asked permission which was appreciated and as long as things went well I had no problem. Where this fits into your story is that one day I walked up to the volleyball court and I got some interesting looks. As I stood a few minutes I noticed some walking off and I just could not understand as I am friendly to everyone. I asked my wife if there was a problem? She said oh don't worry of that they are afraid you might talk to them and they don't know good English so they would rather leave then not be able to communicate and that did not make me feel much better. As time has passed I now am able to walk there and most stay and most everyone yells a hello Joe. But it took time for them to figure me out and how I was towards them. There is not much of a problem anymore and everyone has smiles and a good time. But Bob, until they figured me out a bit it was a bit unsettling.

      • says

        Hi David – Interesting story, and there is sure a parallel to my experience yesterday. It really gives a bad feeling too, I agree with you on that. When you are trying to be friendly to people and they reject you, well, it's like a slap in the face!

  7. says

    Hi Matthew – I agree that family is the most important, but I do think other things matter. When you have lived somewhere for a long time, you don't want to feel an outsider, but feel you are part of the community where you live. This morning's incident really made me feel an outsider much more than anything that has happened in many years.

  8. says

    Been there many times. I no longer let it get to me. Roll with it, some folks are just angry about there past. Shoot I ran into someone like that last march. That guy got all bent out of shape. All cause I am white and married to a filipina. I just let him vent and walked away. He was around 70ish. What can ya do. Your in their country brother it isn't always easy to be nice all the time. But you did the right thing. Carry on.

  9. says

    We as 'EXPATS' sometimes assume too much , we expect that peoples no matter where we are 'SHOULD' like us – we have to accept people as they are, even if we don't like them or in this case they don't like us , i am 64 years old and genuine humility is a hard thing to practice – i certainly feel an outsider in the UK – nothing new – I, like you, have adopted the Philippines as my home, and most of the time people ( I think !) have accepted me for what i am- that is the best we can be.

  10. maynard says

    Hey Bob dont sweat it,he may have had a run in with a foreignor before that was not good.Yes we are in their country and we are the outsiders.As far as i can see we will get alot of bad looks from the men but not the women,just saying.

    • says

      Hi Maynard – Thanks for sharing your thoughts. Yeah, maybe he had some problem with another foreigner and it affected his willingness to mingle with other foreigners. Lord knows, a lot of foreigners don't really give us a good reputation! 😆

  11. says

    People will disappoint us Bob anywhere we are, racial discrimination also happen at USA but not as much as Dr. Martin King's time. Do not let it bother and offend you, life must go on and sometimes we have to stay away from people that tries to throw garbage attitude in our face.

  12. says

    I fully agree, most Filipinos, the vast majority, are very accepting and nice folks. I have only met a few Filipinos who really had any hatred or bad feelings toward me.

  13. says

    Thank you, Jeff. Yes, at the time when my wife and I lived in the States, she experienced racial discrimination a few times, but only a few. I felt terrible for her… not I am on the other end I suppose, but thankfully it is rare.

  14. says

    your welcome Bob, there are a lot of elderly people who already made up their mind and hard to change. Forgiveness is the secret to free our hearts from difficult people otherwise it will just ruin our day.

  15. Boss says

    I have been in the Pines in and out for about 5 years now. Over the last year I have been an OFW – Overseas Foreign Worker sending money back to my family in the Pines. Strangely on my last visit back the feeling around me hasn't felt so good. I had my first incident with a tricycad driver spit towards my direction and called me a bohol labot americano. I knew exactly what he said. Another man came up to me and said life must be good for you, you come and go as you please and use the Pines as a toilet? I was obviously a bit cut because I have spent a small fortune helping a lot of people in times of need and that's what I get on return?

    My fiancé said off handedly, don't worry Dad, what Philippinos say and what they think are sometimes two different things. That comment actually worried me more. I don't know there seems a change in the air.

    • Elliotte says

      I belive that to be true with all peoples. most places. there are nice and friendly ones. some just having a bad day, and a select few looking for trouble.. I have a large filipino family. there all so fun to be around. there alaways looking for a reason to have a family gathering. i like that personaly. they treat my as family. I love them all dearly. i concider rhem all close friends. i really enjoy there company,

  16. says

    Hi Bob Martin, it is unfortunate you experienced that. There are people like that everywhere. Staying polite and keeping our composure takes more energy and discipline. My thing thing is to not give these bozos the power to ruin my day… stay positive Bob.

  17. says

    Perhaps…there was a communication gap. Maybe the man didn't like to sit in the inner- most – part of the jeep and can't explain it to you.so he appeared hostile, instead of declining amicably.

  18. BrianW says

    My fiance and I rode a jeepney in Davao city and I got only one bad look from a younger guy. I think he was jealous that I had a girl and most likely a little money thats why I was there. Now if I was in NYC on a subway and saw Puff Daddy with 6 hot chicks and money falling out of his pants I might be jealous too if I was single. As for the old guy you might have scared him, you said you waited like him and when he went for the ride and so did you he being old freaked out. I'm sure some big kano doesn't do that too often around him. I know you well enough that your feelings were hurt. But you should forgive him and say a prayer for him then ask God to remove your hurt. Later Buddy

  19. says

    Maybe he has experienced some kind of situation with a foreigner which ticked him off hence his action. Who knows.. Don't feel bad or be discourage. There are Filipinos that aren't friendly. How's your Jeepney experience? In manila they're the king of the road.. except in EDSA.. he he :)

  20. Phil R. says

    Will i guess you can't make everyone happy Bob I haven't run in to that yet , But I gues it is something i can lookforward too .. :) …Phil R

  21. says

    hi kuya Bob, what you have experienced is not true to all Filipinos. we are well-disposed and hospitable. those few of ours are just deficients of respect and discipline. scratched off that experience and continue a good stay here in the Philippines. :)

  22. says

    I think this was one of those cases where you could have done everything right and you would still be wrong because of who you are. It's unfortunate, but this elderly gentleman may have had a prior bad experience or established prejudices long before he ever encountered the likes of you. All you can do is not let this incident get under your skin.

  23. says

    Hi Bob, with so many replies to your post, I am sure by now you have a good idea of what might prompt folks to behave like he did…. the good thing that came out of this incident is that you maintained your sense of self, and showed genuine concern for whatever prompted the old guy to react the way he did. Full marks to you for your empathy & for sharing it with us. Best wishes, Peter

    • says

      Hi Peter – Yes, the responses on this have pretty much confirmed the things that I already had on my mind, but it's good to get other people's thinking to get confirmation. Thanks for your comment.

  24. Dr Henry B. Lain says

    Hello Bob,

    After having read the various comments; and, having been FB friends for a few years now. It has been rare, but as a missionary I have traveled to several countries in Asia. I had a thought, the 'old timer' may (1) not like any foreigner, and (2) may be old enough to still have 'bad feelings' about WWII. You did absolutely nothing and I would be sad like you. Any caring person would be , as you were, taken aback.

    Try to let it just roll off your sleeve as this old guy has issues. May be he will 'grown out of them! LOL Enjoy all the beautiful friendships and experiences during the time you have lived there.


    Henry B. Lain, DD, PhD

  25. ChocolatePinoy says

    Hi Bob, Sorry to here about the old man and jeepney incident.I am an African American living in Biliran Island Province. At 61, I have seen much discrimination at home and abroad, but here on my Island is the only place I've ever lived that I am accepted and respected as a man. Not the "Black Guy", but just a man. I am married to the most wonderful woman on earth and I see her parents as my very own. "My" Tatay and Nanay are just 10 years my senior but I respect their love and wisdom very much. Biliran Island and Leyte were once one province, but are now separated. It took a while for me to understand how racially different and culturally different the people are here in the Philippines. I have seen problems with religious differences but most people I have met here are great. But my family did warn me not to flaunt my finances. I understand that now, but initially I was just trying to help everyone I could. My Wife and "Tay" explained that that some here resent opulence or even the appearance of it. We once lived in Pampanga and the differences there were based more on "big city" lifestyles as opposed to the provincial ways. All things considered, coming here is one of the best decisions I've ever made. I was introduced to the Philippine lifestyle when I first came here, on my way to the Vietnam war. I always swore i would return. It took a few decades and a handgun of a 14 year old kid pointed at my face while I was with a Police Department in Los Angeles to convince me, it was time to come here for good! Keep up your good work Bob, you have helped many of us adjust here. Bravo to you, Brother!


    • says

      Thank you so much, Gary, for your kind comment. I really appreciate your words of wisdom. I wish you the very best in a continued life of happiness in the Philippines!

  26. James says

    I just started reading your blog and I’ve been reading for few hours non-stop. I am a Filipino and I don’t really know the real reason why grandpa did not want to ride with you but I want you to know including other foreign readers on this blog that Filipino’s are very shy in nature and tries to avoid confrontation due to the fact that many Filipinos are still not fluent in the English language especially the common people so they avoid such confrontations like sitting next to a foreigner. I just hope that you also take this for consideration.

    Sorry for my bad English.

    Anyways I really enjoyed your blog and learned a lot from it.

    • says

      Hello James – Thank you for your input, and I am also glad to hear that you enjoyed reading my site. Also, one of the first things I want to say is that your English is not bad at all.

      I never really considered that just sitting next to a person is an act of confrontation. I ride jeepneys almost daily, and have found 99% of the people to be friendly, and cannot feel that there is any confrontation, or even discomfort among those that are my fellow passengers.

      Take care, James.

  27. Will says

    Hey Bob,Just came across this and read many then I saw this happened back in 2011.I would say-the old timer treated you that way that day,if you ran into him the next day doing the same thing I bet he would have been different.I see americans in the states all the time.One day you’d swear they hate you and the next they are friendly.I think it has something to do with there diet,really.

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