Well, it is quite obvious, isn´t it?
People here earn the equivalent of three dollars a day, and consider themselves lucky to be earning that much. So when the Princes from the Lands across the Sea arrive, more often than not quite old, a bit on the fat side, and sporting a moustache a walrus would envy, many Pinayas consider themselves lucky.
Or, better put, they continue the battle started by Magellan and Lapu-Lapu so long ago with their own set of beautiful weaponry. The three expats I´ve met so far have quite similar stories, two of them kids, and none of them seems too happy about the extended family. Obe of them got attacked with a broken bottle the other day, by the mother of his two children. Another Englishman seemed rather happy, in a I-no-longer-care sort of way.
These scenes begin right at the start, in the plane to the Phillipines, where beautiful young women travel to their motherland with husband attached. Now, perhaps it´s just me, but I have a hard time imagining tales of true love on sandy beaches between men the age of my granddad (mostly quite ugly) and women the age of myself (stunningly beautiful).
Seeing the eyes of these young women, who undoubtedly have to endure the clumsy advances of their legal spouses from time to time, I saw pain, resignation, and a certain stubborn pride.
They´re not the only ones fighting for survival in this paradise lost: The Moros in the southernmost islands have resisted conquerors since the spaniards arrived. The USA, the Japanese, even the independent Manila government never managed to really take control of that territory.
Fighting has a proud tradition here, and Lapu-Lapu, the chief who killed Magellan, was just the beginning: Guerillas fought bravely against the Spanish and the Japanese, and continue to do so even today, although with different enemies, ideologies and goals.
And that´s what I´m here for: to learn the ancient art of Eskrima, the fusion of indigenous swordsmanship with spanish techniques, which, until recently, used to be essential for survival on the streets. The old-style lethal duels known as "Juego Todo" still exist underground, if the rumours are correct, and every Eskrima school has it´s own stories and legacies of their Grandmasters and their mostly violent deaths.
But that´s of course not what I´m looking for.