Tuesday, July 31, 2007


I had this foreign friend who was married to a sweet beautiful little “barrio” girl. One day in casual conversation he said, “My wife is an idiot!” I felt very sad for him. I knew his wife and he was the “idiot” not her. With all his academic credentials he failed to appreciate one simple truth.

“We are all idiots and geniuses depending on the subject”

There are many things about life here in the Philippines she could have taught him but he was not wise enough to listen to her. Because someone has not seen snow or ridden on a train does not make them an idiot. Just as you may not know which fish taste best and how to pick the freshest fish does not make you an idiot. We all have different life experiences.

The truly sad thing about my myopic friend was he missed the fantastic chance to increase his own knowledge and share with her the wonders of his life experiences.

I was in a hotel room with a friend who had spent her entire life in a simple fishing village. She had seen bamboo walls and painted concrete walls but she had never seen “wallpaper”. What followed was an interesting talk about how wallpaper is made and installed. How the pieces are matched and glued to the wall. We even talked about the history of wallpaper. Did you know that many historians think that the great French emperor Napoleon Bonaparte was killed by wallpaper? Napoleon was in exile and living in a villa. The walls of his bedroom had wallpaper with a green flocked pattern. To create this textured surface the manufacturer used arsenic and copper. In the warm tropical climate of St Helena the copper-arsenic together with mold produced a toxic gas. Historians think that over a protracted period of time Napoleon’s body absorbed enough of the poison gas that it killed him.

In the US Army Ranger School survival class the first rule is to “copy the natives”. They know better than you how to survive in their environment. I am constantly seeking knowledge from my Filipino friends. The very title of this column was changed from “purok” to “barrio” based on advice of a Filipina friend.

To my foreign friends instead of trying to change your Filipina wife or girlfriend into something she is not; glory in her uniqueness, in her special beauty. You should honor her and respect her. Explore her world; increase your own knowledge and life experiences. Turn your life into an adventure with her.
Be an Everyday Hero open your heart and your mind.

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