Vita Expatriate – Living, Traveling and Working in the Philippines
An Expatriate Take on the Philippines
Hence, in foreign countries, what a respite! Here I am protected against stupidity, vulgarity, vanity, worldliness, nationality, normality.
Roland Barthes, Empire of Signs
Expatriates seem to me to be a relatively modern phenomenon. We are creatures of a more compact world. Hardly connoting the world of the émigré. Émigrés: well-dressed, sanguine types wearied by elegant poverty and the harsh, authoritarian forces that hastened their departure from Sarajevo, Edirne or Petrograd, say. Expats inhabit a space far from the émigré’s garret — more Richard Boyle than Rick Blaine.
Technically we are, as Wikipedia states, “… a person temporarily or permanently residing in a country other than that of the person’s upbringing. The word comes from the Latin terms ex (‘out of’) and patria (‘country, fatherland’).” We arrive voluntarily to work, recreate indefinitely, or retire. Merriam-Webster tersely defines the noun, expatriate, as “one who lives in a foreign country.” They go on the specify (inaccurately, in my opinion), “one who has renounced his native country.”
Wikipedia attempts to help us understand that there are various categories of those who live in foreign countries. “[Expatriate] is often used in the context of professionals or skilled workers sent abroad … rather than for all ‘immigrants’ or ‘migrant workers’. The differentiation found in common usage usually comes down to socio-economic factors, so skilled professionals working in another country are described as expatriates, whereas a manual labourer who has moved to another country to earn more money might be labelled an ‘immigrant’ or ‘migrant worker’.”
I don’t agree that expatriates have renounced (defined by Merriam-Webster: “…to give up, refuse, or resign usu. by formal declaration…) their country of origin. My definition includes retirees, not just “professionals or skilled workers sent abroad.
A Refugee from Regular
If I were a refugee of some sort, I would be fleeing the predictability and normality of (but not renouncing) the U.S. It’s a personal choice, of course. Predictability is certainly important. Drinking a glass of water from a kitchen sink is a wonderful and significant accomplishment.
There is something to a respite from the world of regular. The Philippines foots the bill. Better, it is, to paraphrase Barthes, the frequent occasion of my writing. My time is divided between Makati, Manila and Dumaguete City. Dumaguete is situated at the bottom of the province of Negros Oriental where access to outdoor pursuits like scuba, snorkeling, spelunking, fishing, hiking, and biking abounds.
In Dumaguete many businesses, use the D’ as a signifier of local affiliation. Things in Dumaguete are D’This or D’That. Its no means pervasive, but its pretty common. Its just the kind of little surprise that keeps me engaged with life here in the Philippines. I’m sure many municipalities have their little colloquial quirks, but I find Dumaguete’s appropriation of the contracted form of “de” (a Romance language preposition meaning “of, for, or about”) particularly endearing somehow.