Impressions of a balikbayan

I left the Philippines for the U.S. 50 years ago and had my last vacation five years ago. Things have changed for the better — especially in the area of discipline — shades of the first few years of the Marcos regime.
Here are my impressions from the outside looking in at people’s behaviors under President Duterte’s Administration:
1. People are more disciplined, respectful, and polite – from top government officials to food servers and the common “tao.” Government officials that we met were humble and grounded. Magalang.
2. Our trip started on a positive note as we breezed through customs in a new separate line for “Nothing to Declare.” Goodness gracious! We merely walked through Customs. No hustle, no lagay.
3. Senior discounts! U.S. should follow our lead.
4. I stayed for a month and did not observe anybody litter in the sidewalks.
5. No public spitting either.
6. No stinking garbage in the streets. I think that households are not allowed to bring trash out until just before pickup. Nice.
7. No kids or beggars knocking at car windows asking for “palimos.”
8. No street vendors hawking “yosi” or chewing gum.
9. No homeless people sleeping on public sidewalks.
10. Guns, guns, guns, and more guns.
11. Passengers waiting for taxi, bus and jeepneys line up and queue — you heard that right — commuters actually line up! What a sight to behold. I remember the old days of chaos, of “agawan” when people pushed and shoved each other to board jeepneys and bus.
12. I brought anti-mosquito lotions with deet and citronella. I had two encounters with  mosquitos in four weeks of stay. Two.
13. I used lavatories with little water problems.
14. There are no paper tissues inside many CR or “comfort rooms.”
15. Table napkins are so thin and flimsy that they break and fall apart upon use. You end up using more.
16. Skyways in Metro  Manila relieve traffic anxiety among tourists and reminds you of driving along freeways in the U.S.
17. Oh yes, driving is chaos. It’s a free for all affair. Crazy. Drivers don’t stop at stop signs. They don’t follow lanes: yet, we witnessed only one accident. Himala. 
18. Kalesas are gone.
19. Jeepneys are almost gone. I feel sad to lose these Sarao and Francisco Motors decorative vehicles from surplus origins that graced travel magazines and once symbolized our country.
20. Palays are no longer spread for drying on main highways. I saw some but on the side of the roads.
21. But a traffic menace lingers: Tricycles! These slow moving transports rule roads going to the provinces. And there are plenty of them. They clog highways. Despite a column of vehicles jammed behind them, they stubbornly refuse to yield and move to right lanes for slow traffic. Pasaway. Shades of old Philippines.
22. Subways are the final solution to our traffic woes; all others are temporary bandaid fixes.
23. There are three major sports seasons in the U.S.: basketball, football, and baseball. Here we also have three: basketball, basketball, and basketball. Yes, we are fond of Curry, LeBron, KD, Jordan, and Kobe but corporate sponsors need to reallocate their support to sports where height is not a major factor.
24. Bicycling, weight lifting, Tennis, anyone? Perhaps Olympic medalist Hidilyn Diaz can get funding to promote weightlifting. Golf champion Jason Day needs another Fil-Am to bolster our stock at the golf course. Asian ladies dominate the international scene.  I remember watching a colorful (literally) golfer Jennifer  Rosales share a lead at the U.S. Open many moons ago.
25. We salute boxing promoters like ALA, Manny Pacquiao, Salud, Yap, Elorde, Pinol, and Penalosa for supporting local boxers. Our boxers need more lucrative  fights in America. They need more world class sparring partners at Freddie Roach’s Wild Card Gym  in Los Angeles, Robert Garcia Boxing Academy in Oxnard, or Kronk Gym in Detroit. To compete with elite boxers worldwide, our trainers need to shift strategy from head hunting to body punching. It’s harder to win WBA or WBO titles without great body work. (BTW: I offered Rodel Mayol and Romero Duno a choice to shop or watch an NBA game. As expected, they chose to see a Los Angeles Lakers exclusive practice at Staples Center in LA Live).
26. Culinary presentation has improved but bulalo and bagoong rule! Despite health risks, we get stuck in the dark ages. We feast on sodium and fats that lead to high blood pressure, stroke, gout, and diabetes. The Department of Health needs to step up public awareness to improve our eating habits. It’s hard to find restaurants offering vegetables. But Bagoong is all over. Until then, long live Bagoong!
Salamat po.

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Victor Santos Sy graduated Cum Laude from UE with a BBA and from Indiana State University with an MBA. Vic worked with SyCip, Gorres, Velayo (SGV – Andersen Consulting) and Ernst & Young before establishing Sy Accountancy Corporation in Pasadena, California. 

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He has 50 years of experience in defending taxpayers audited by the IRS, FTB, EDD, BOE and other governmental agencies.  He is publishing a book on his expertise – “HOW TO AVOID OR SURVIVE IRS AUDITS.” Our readers may inquire about the book or email tax questions at

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