FREEDOM – defined by Webster’s Dictionary as “The Power or Right to Act, Speak, or Think as One Wants Without Hindrance or Restraint.”
Several other definitions also ‘define’ the word freedom – and like those definitions, the word freedom means something different to us all.
One definition pops out from the rest when thinking about living in the Philippines, or anywhere abroad for that matter – “Absence of Subjection to Foreign Domination or Despotic Government.” An interesting use of the words ‘domination’ and ‘tyrannical’ – these words are subjective when living in a foreign land.
Recently I asked a few personal and close expats who lived or retired in the Philippines what their definition of freedom means to them – the answers may surprise you, some may not, but in the end I was slightly challenged by the fact that many truly do not know or comprehend that they are in fact ‘free.’
In the United States we tend to glue ourselves to the First Amendment to dictate our freedom. The First Amendment is an inherent freedom, not something that I’m trying to press upon here. I only bring it up now so the comprehension of the freedom to live abroad is just the beginning of a whole new life for many of us.
The kind of freedom I speak of today is a mental state of mind type freedom, one that sets us all free while giving you choices to make on a daily, weekly, yearly or lifetime basis. Many may not comprehend that we often change our status of freedom due to life changes, love, divorce or for some, to simply stop giving a shit about everything.
Freedoms like those above are sometimes hard to find – finding that perfect piece of mind is more of a challenge then preparing for an Olympiad race. That challenge is also true for those who come to live in the Philippines, leaving a world of daily strife, anguish, ongoing problems, family, relationships, addictions and a mountain of other issues that often hinder us to make the right choices.
To understand the release of such notions, I have to look back at my father’s last years in life – a man who in the end killed himself because he could not and would not release himself from the worry that shrouded him in his golden years. It not only caused great heartache to himself, it created guilt and immense anguish for the rest of us.
Like my father, we all have fears – each and every day brings about a new possibility to churn, fret, ponder or simply find a solution and push it aside – but for now let’s set that aside and see what other freedoms we have.
Living in the Philippines gives many a lifestyle of freedom – those who cannot find peace within their own borders at home, often cannot find peace in any country. I truly doubt anyone of use can trumpet the idea that we are 100% free. We all have responsibilities in life, we all have things which dictate our days, nights, what we see, where we go and so on – so in essence our freedom is limited by factors which we live our daily life by.
Laws are known as one of the largest limitations of freedom to foreigners, even Filipinos for that fact. Many say the laws of the Philippines are not fair, a limiter to our freedom. No country can live without laws and restrictions and boundaries are put in place to ‘guide’ us, for a lack of a better word. I will whole heartily agree that many of the laws in this country are not ‘foreigner friendly’ – but many laws you see here are in fact duplicated from U.S. laws, even the Philippine Constitution is mirrored by the American Constitution, something many of us say they are running from due to the perversion of such inherited laws.
So what does that give us? do we run from the laws we left behind and argue about the laws of the Philippines until our last breath? or do we move on, trying hard to find a life of peace, prosperity and yes, the pursuit of happiness.
This is where freedom of the mind and freedom of the law part. Finding freedom within our minds is not any easy quest, even for me. Every decision we make dictates who we are, how we are looked upon – in essence we are dictating our freedom, oddly enough.
For me, living in the Philippines has given me many types of freedom – the freedom to live as I want, all the while flirting on the edge of sedition in some cases, but without question I find myself walking a narrow path between right and wrong in the past few years.
Those who come to vacation in the Philippines tend to take a long stroll off that narrow path – somehow many end up in my weekly news blog for their actions, but like it is said “there it is” a majority hold on many of us facing a morally based reality, one that establishes the very thing we are talking about here today, “Freedom.”
I have spent a life being free, I never dealt much with the 9 to 5 type jobs – I was always self controlled, living a life that many could never have in three of my lifetimes. Today I even forget to remind myself that I am truly free – maybe I need to summons a ‘pinch’ from a friend, neighbor or loved one each morning to remind me of that fact.
Those who have lost their freedom, either by incarceration, relationships, or even death for that fact – their life to re-obtain freedom is not as easy as those of us who live free, not counting death of course.
The world has hurried up and subjected itself to one of the oddest phenomenons of the century, maybe a lifetime – the “Police State” of the world we see today is a misfortune of the times. Living in the Philippines is a bit different, police here tend not to snoop around looking for trouble – they actually may be busy playing ping-pong, but in my times here I have never seen an officer just walk up and start lying, accusing or subject someone to an illegal search – even if you film the police here you’ll most likely receive smiles, hand-waves and “Hey Joe, welcome to the Philippines.”
Okay, good and bad police exist around the world, but here the police generally tend to roll in such a silent way you simply forget that they are here to protect you, assist you and most of all keep you on that ‘narrow path’ we spoke about earlier.
One disturbing fact that I’ve seen many times while living in the Philippines, is the act where foreigners and expats begin to berate their own countries to justify why they live in this one. I can never comprehend that reality, I am a westerner and you cannot take that away from me. I live in the Philippines but I can never accept many things here, simple as that. The same goes for the U.S. – and if anything, I should still subject myself to both countries so I do not loose reality of who I really am.
I will agree to the “Police State” of America, that is just as simple as that. I find myself in awe looking at the news and seeing what a public servant has done to another person in our country – shocking to say the least. I’ve seen some dirty underhanded tricks here too, so let’s give ‘fair and balanced’ news to both.
Today I spend a majority of my time online, creating content, news, information for multiple platforms such as social media, websites and even brochures. Though I was a writer for a conservative online magazine in the past, I have found peace in leaving behind the reality of writing about something that I no longer involve myself in. Simply said, I miss the pay, I miss the challenge but I do not in any way shape or form miss the enslavement of being pushed to the limit to product news and information that is sometimes questionable or at best, unrealistic.
Today when I speak to those who want to come live in the Philippines, I never forget to express my reality based ideas – and yes, also expressing the freedoms of living in this country too. It is my belief that those who are thinking of coming to this country are sadly cemented in their mother-lands by fear – the simple fear of the unknown. That little ‘fear’ is a perfect storm for restricting our freedom, a mind game of sorts.
When I’m asked to explain freedoms in the Philippines I try to give a double sided aspect which includes the most important word of today, ‘reality.’ A simple explanation of freedom versus reality is this, if you ‘fuck up’ in this country, your freedom can cost you your life, your life’s savings and/or your ability to ever leave or see this place again – it’s as simple as that.
I’ve known many incarcerated in the Philippines, suffering from injustice, taken down by distortions of the truth. Though nothing is perfect in this country I will say I did enjoy handing over 500 pesos lately to an officer who caught me ‘enjoying the smooth roads’ a bit to much – giving a ‘donation’ to this beautiful island was just one type of freedom where I’m off in under 9 minutes flat and on with my life. This might be an actual twist of the word freedom, but trust me a day at the LTO is not my version of freedom.
Many types of freedom exist in the Philippines – sure nothing is perfect, for sure the Philippines and perfect are an oxymoron in the same sentence but ‘it is what it is’ – and that is that.
A disturbing trend in the Philippines today is the mix of foreigners who seem to create a massive tsunami of hate and infighting – not only in person but online in social media outlets. I’ve caught myself in those little ‘turf wars’ but today I have an extended “block” and “ignore” list in numerous places and let me tell you this, it’s the best option when it really comes down to it.
Didn’t we come to the Philippines to live in peace? I came here overweight, stressed to the limit, looking for a place to take a break, a hiatus of sorts – but today, nearly ten years later, here I am.
I know and comprehend many freedoms. Though I am not a highly educated man, I have had a lifestyle that many would lay down arms for. Today my lifestyle has drastically changed, but when I walked away from my old lifestyle I found something that worked for me – I found “freedom.” I have worked, tweaked and altered that to my lifestyle today and let me tell you, in 10 years it does not look the same as when I first came here.
Many ask me if I’m willing to return to the U.S.? I do not hesitate to say “Yes” – given the right opportunity I would go to any country, even some worse than the Philippines!! I’ve stayed because of my children but if the time comes I must once again change course, find anew, create a path and walk on.
In closing I would like to say that freedom is often expressed in many ways, some that we humans do not even take notice to. Today while you are walking in the park, swimming in the sea, relaxing on that comfy chair at the corner coffee shop – try to think of the freedoms you enjoyed today. Money does not always dictate freedom, I am living proof of that. I would not give up my life today for what it took me to create my business lifestyle from before – so today, remind yourself to ‘make a little freedom,’ I’m positive you’ll be a better person for it.
So today’s lesson is? well instead of ‘freedom,’ let’s give another answer, ‘choices.’ The choices we make today can greatly alter our freedom tomorrow, but remember, taking that in a positive way can in fact give you more freedom, the freedom to think about the future and bring yourself to what i said at the start, “happiness.”
Today I touched on the ideas of living in the Philippines and the ability to positively see yourself here. Though we all must climb plateau’s in our life, we do so for our future, that future may not include just you, it also may include that special someone that so many of us find right here in the Philippines.
At the last minute I’ve decided to include a movie clip from one of the most epic dictations of freedom one can ever comprehend. The movie ‘La Amistad’ is a realistic adaptation of the slave ship ‘La Amistad.’
The best part of the movie is when John Quincy Adams spoke before the United States Supreme Court – this part is a ‘home run’ for those who do not realize that freedom has been fought in every corner of the world, not just here in the Philippines.
Adams won the right to free the slaves of La Amistad and he did so in a house majority of slave owners that were seated in the very court in which he argued his point. This video clip should be remembered as many men, women and children risked their lives to help others be who and what we are today, “Free.”
Take a look, and just maybe, maybe today, you too can find a little piece of heaven, that little fabric of life that stands right before your very eyes – right here in the Philippines. Enjoy!