Fred owns a two storey house in Bulacan, about 40km north of Manila. Meandering through the quiet local streets to his home, the bustling traffic of EDSA and Cubao are forgotten, and the pace of life slows down alot. Fred’s pace of life mirrors his surroundings.
Getting up in the morning, he shuffles around his home, gets his live-in girlfriend to make him some breakfast, and smokes a few cigarettes over the period of a couple of hours.
Fred’s a pretty jovial fellow, easy to chat with in English as well as, of course, in Tagalog. Like the majority of Filipinos, he’s very welcoming and hospitable, and strikes up a conversation quickly.
Wondering why Fred’s so relaxed and shuffling around at home at a time when most people would be racing off to work, I ask him “So Fred, what do you do? Do you have a business? Or work for somebody else?”
“Unemployed” says Fred, and then, after just a momentary pause, “My parents live in US”. That, of course, is an explanation — as if to say, I don’t need to work because my parents can support me. Almost as an afterthought, he then goes on to tell me that he owns the house we’re standing in, along with the two strata-style units that share its back wall which he rents out.
He also rents out a spare room within his home, not much bigger than a broom closet, to a lady who lives in Laguna but works as a representative for a pharmaceutical company and is responsible for the territory around Bulacan. She stays there as a base for the days she needs to visit clients in her territory, but then returns to San Pedro and her daughter, 2 brothers, and 2 half-brothers whenever she can.
Fred’s got something to say on most topics, and is happy to talk about the local economy.
“Mostly it’s the women who work around here. They work in office, they do administration work. For us guys, it’s mostly just work in factories. There’s lots of factories here. But there’s not enough jobs for everybody.”
Fred can see all sorts of possibilities for exporting products from the region to rich developing countries, but it doesn’t seem to get much beyond ‘in principle’ enthusiasm. He’s pretty sure there’s probably other local business opportunities too. But he doesn’t seem to feel any great urge at this point to invest too much energy in instigating something himself.
As our fleeting visit comes to an end, and I start walking down the street with my friend to catch a tricycle, Fred calls out down the street, “Next time you come back, we’ll drink together!”
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