My family (Andrea, Lucas and Santiago Ryan) and I were lucky enough to get a break over the Xmas period and chose to spend this time in the Philippines gaining a greater affinity with the culture and traditions of a country and people we have grown to love. Filipino people have sometimes been characterised to a Chameleon who easily adapt to unlike environments and thrive to survive. This unique ability ensures the success of Filipino people in environments like the New Zealand dairy industry that by all accounts is not an easy occupation and takes commitment and motivation, traits that Filipinos have in spades!
The current population of the Philippines is estimated to be more than 107 million people. It was only a few years ago (2015), that estimations were around 100 million. We all know that grass grows grass, but to grow in a few years more than the entire population of New Zealand says a lot about the number of people in this country and the infrastructure and environmental requirements needed to keep up to speed with the population growth. Philippines is the 12th largest country in the world by population. It is the 73rd largest country in the world by area with 300,000 square kilometers. By comparison New Zealand is 268,000 square kilometres with a population of 4.8 million people.
Some further comparisons between NZ and the Philippines:
- The GDP per capita in Philippines is $4,700 while in New Zealand it is $30,400
- Philippines has an unemployment rate of 7.40% while New Zealand has 6.40%
- The annual number of births per 1,000 people in Philippines is 24.24 while in New Zealand it is 13.40
- New Zealand consumes 1.4196 gallons of oil per day per capita while Philippines consumes 0.1218
- 9.30 in every 100,000 people are murdered annually in Philippines compared to 1.00 in New Zealand
A brief history on the Philippines islands, shows how they became a Spanish colony during the 16th century and were ceded to the US in 1898 following the Spanish-American war. The next 40 odd years allowed the Philippines to become a self-governing commonwealth and was influenced a lot by the catholic church. In 1942 the Philippines fell under Japanese occupation following the result of the Pearl Harbour attacks on the US, this was resurrected when the Filipinos and US joined forces in 1945 to regain power. The Republic of the Philippines gained its independence on 4th July 1946. Since this time the Philippines has had its share of long standing rulers, people power movements and corrupt officials that have ruled the country for the last 70 years. The country is currently ruled by Rodrigo Duterte, the 16th and oldest president at 71 years, also being the first from Mindanao province to hold office.
Like many third-world countries, the current political agenda is a common topic of conversation at social gatherings and something we gained a greater understanding of throughout our travels around the country. The history of the Philippines is compared to a common dessert called Haluhalo (pronounced halo-halo), which is a combination of shaved ice, evaporated milk and various ingredients including: boiled sweetened kidney beans, sweetened chickpeas, sugar palm fruit (kaong), coconut sport (macapuno), and plantains sweetened with sugar, jackfruit (langkâ), gulaman, tapioca, nata de coco, sweet potato (kamote), cheese, pounded crushed young rice (pinipig). The exotic dessert tastes wonderful and roughly translates into english as “mix-mix”, which as you can see represents the mixed together culture that has been experienced throughout the Philippines since discovery by Spain in 1521.
Our trip began with our arrival in Manila, where we had a few days to meet with Immigration New Zealand office and of course our exclusive agency Bison Management Corporation. We then had the chance to celebrate Christmas as traditionally experienced on the 24th December with the Pelagio family who have long been associated with CCR Ltd. While this event took place outside at night, we were still adjusting to the temperatures and when any sort of extra movement or spotlight was put on you it tended to induce involuntary perspiration. So you can imagine the pool I found myself swimming in, following the request for the Ryan boys (Lucas, Santiago and Warrick) to perform the New Zealand Haka in front of a crowd of 30, mostly unknown to us. This was one of many experiences we had amongst understanding this culture better, where Filipinos love to perform and enjoy each others flamboyant side at social occasions.
We then jumped on a bus at 2.30am xmas day and travelled 6 hours to a little surf town called Baler in Aurora province. With a population of only 40,000 it was a nice break from the organised chaos we found amongst the 13 million people in Metro Manila. The next 3-4 days were spent hiking waterfalls, visiting historical sites, crossing a hanging bridge, all typical activities you might do on a New Zealand summer holiday. I even managed to squeeze in a surf, which was definitely not your typical New Zealand beach break and involved a one hour ride in a motorised tricycle and a hike through the bush to what turned out to be similar to a left hand point break you might find at Manu Bay, Raglan. However, the water is like a bath and I had spot x to myself, unlike the popular NZ surf breaks over summer.
After another 6 hour bus ride back to Manila, we managed to get a night's rest before boarding our plane to Puerto Princessa and a further 5 hour van ride to our destination for the next 4 days El Nido, Palawan. Our adventure to this place was nothing you could ever expect to see in NZ, each day comprised a boat ride to a new horizon - small lagoon, big lagoon, hidden beach, secret beach, snake island. On offer to see here were beautiful coral reefs, fish life, uncrowded beaches, limestone cliffs, lagoons, caves and coves, springs and waterfalls. It was an amazing place to visit and something we will always remember as a family. For Lucas and I especially, as our New Year's eve to see in 2018 was definitely one for the scrapbook. Through a combination of vomiting (for Lucas), tonsilitis (for me) and dehydration we were both admitted to hospital at around 8pm on the 31st December only to be hooked up to an IV to replace fluids for the night and a combination of antibiotics and painkillers the next morning before we were discharged. It didn’t slow us down too much as we headed to Nacpan beach to spend New Years day as our final day in this incredible location before returning to Manila once again.
The highlights of the trip for us, were the friendly smiling faces of all the people we bumped into along the way. Filipinos are the most kind and friendly people, extremely welcoming, curious and complimentary, if I had a dollar for every-time my sons got told how handsome they were? The food and hospitality we received, the glorious taste of Red Horse, the climate and beautiful scenery, the relaxed nature of life outside of the big smoke are all examples of a trip we will never forget. The kindness of the Philippine culture to share their success within the family is a true reflection of the selflessness of these people.
After spending our final days with a few goodbyes and attending a day in the Manila based office of our agency sorting through the arrival details of recently approved visa candidates, we then made the long journey home on the night of the 3rd January only to return a pretty intense storm hitting New Zealand. It caused a small amount of damage but the rain was more than welcome for our farming community!
So as the sun sets over the rice field in the Philippines we have started a new year with big expectation and prosperous beginnings, the year of the dog under the chinese new year which symbolises luck. I strongly believe that luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity, so I wish you all the best for 2018!