Tell it to SunStar: Progress and change

WHEN I first came to the Philippines in 1990, I met my fiancée in Manila. She is from Bayugan in Mindanao. We wanted to brief her family of our arrival in three weeks, so I suggested to write a letter. We mailed it at a post office.

But my fiancée said it would not arrive in time. She went to the bus station hoping to chance upon someone from her place to ask him or her to bring the news to her parents. When we arrived her parents were prepared to receive us. The letter arrived a week later, it had taken one month from Manila to Bayugan.

Today a text message would do.

I had VISA traveler’s checks, but no bank could cash them. The only Philippine National Bank branches in Mindanao were in Davao and Cagayan de Oro. So I rode a bus to Cagayan. I got my money the next day because the employee had to call the main bank in Manila who contacted VISA in America who contacted my bank in Germany. I had to pay P2,800 pesos for the calls.

Today almost all banks have automated teller machines that accept VISA-cards. Philippine banks do money transfer world-wide.

Later in 1995, we heard that cell phones were the new means of communication. We bought a Motorala. Including its antenna. It was as big as my lower arm and weighed 1 kilogram. No texting and no apps, only calling was possible, a far cry from today’s smartphones.

In the evening in Cagayan in the hotel there was television. A bunch of people assembled outside to watch a telenovela through the window. When it ended, everybody left. I sat inside together with the inn keeper. The daily news was the next program, but my host switched off the TV.

I asked him if he was not interested in the news, the politics of his country. He condescendingly told me: It is always the same, politicos quarreling with each other. We are fed up. Our government is corrupt. There is no hope that it will ever change.

That was 28 years ago. I hope the innkeeper still lives to see that change has come.--Erich Wannemacher, German expat living in Lapu-Lapu City
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