Single or married? That’s one question box you have to check off when you’re filling out that immigration form for your entry/exit visa.
My friend Lisa, after checking single was immediately asked, “Why are you single? You’re so pretty.” by the customs officer. She smiled and just shrugged it off. (In the Philippines it’s a pretty forward culture, even goofy looking guys like me get asked out by random girls working at coffee shops and malls.)
The real problem started when it was discovered she had accidentally overstayed her visa. Then the immigration officer implied he could let it go if she would go out with him. She of course said no, and just like that her fine was doubled.
Lisa a pretty, and smart girl who was also pretty tough just lost it. The stress of the whole process, the sexual harassment and the absurdity of the situation just wore her down. She broke down in tears right then at the customs office. After the rest of the office noticed what was happening, they had to get a female agent. She stepped in and straightened it out with Lisa in a separate room. Lisa only paid the regular fine for overstaying.
One thing you know when you’re traveling the world looking for the best countries to retire cheap is that things will be different. Different food, different customs, and different languages are things you expect.
One thing we take for granted in North America is that, government officials aren’t going to sexually harass you. Going through immigration, filling out forms and getting interviewed is never a good time. Stressful and horrible are what it is at the best of times. Can you imagine how tremendously stressful it would be if at the same time you were being leered at, propositioned and threatened?
Corruption is something they have in the Philippines, and even my sister in law who was born there warned me about it. The government is trying to change, and I hope one day this otherwise idyllic place will be corruption free.