In recent years, the cultural landscape of Cebu City has changed due to its growing population coupled with the influx of local and foreign tourists. The number of expats in the city has increased tremendously that it is now easy to spot a Korean from afar, middle-aged Caucasian men with their diminuitive teenage girlfriends/wives, and Japanese tourist lost in translation. On any given Sunday at the malls (Ayala Center or SM City Cebu for that matter), you will see that our place has become a little bit multicultural with the addition of Chinese vendors selling ripoff electronics to fake fashion brands, Indian IT executives from call center and BPO companies, Iranian medial students, European backpackers, and occassional Russian sightseers.
What has changed? We have now catered to the needs of these new faces with the addition of Korean convenience stores, English language schools, apartments and condominium units, Internet cafes, specialty foods, tour agencies, souvenir shops, and money exchange centers. Tourism is indeed booming in the Queen City of the South. I'm just wondering about this cultural exchange of some sorts, many foreigners want to stay in the country because of the climate, the people, and the experience. Unfortunately, many Filipinos go outside of the country to follow their "American" dreams, earn big bucks abroad, and get out of our "God-forsaken country." Whatever their reasons, this trend is expected to change the cultural landscape of our place. I'm not at all surprise since most cities in the industrialized West are now becoming multicultural as well. Why not here in Cebu too?
Amid the building frenzy of new residential high-rises, new IT investments, and large shopping malls, so goes the rise of foreign expatriates. Have you met some of these interesting individuals? Unfortunately, we tend to stereotyped them.
(1) Americans - We have a long love-hate relationship with the Americans because we were once an American territory. Nowadays, most Americans that flocked our beaches and hang out in favorite watering holes are mostly middle-aged men looking for love and some interesting characters from time to time. Let's face it, many Filipino women dig these "sugar daddies" although there are those girls really in love with them. Unfortunately, we can't discount the fact that some men are here for sex with underaged, naive women drawn to the need to have a better life. What makes it worst is that there are some men who managed to enter the country despite having criminal convictions in the USA and find ways to evade justice. Think about pedophiles, child molesters, and serial sex offenders?
Nevertheless, not all of them are that bad. There are occasional backpackers who tour different places to find adventure in our island. Some are drawn to our laid-back yet happy-go-lucky lifestyle. Perhaps the product of the U.S. Peace Corps volunteerism in the past, many of them keep coming back for more. BPO companies also brought some of them into the IT sector as you could see some of them taking a cup of coffee at Starbucks or chilling out at TGIF.
(2) Europeans - We mistakenly lumped them up with the "Amerikano" tag and I wouldn't blame a British or German to go berserk if they are labelled as such. Stereotypes can be common as they can be attributed as rich benefactors to young women. However, some of them tend to live in the provincial outskirts because they love life outside the hassles of city living. Many of them own businesses with their wives particularly beach resorts and specialty restaurants.
(3) Koreans - They are here! The invasion has transformed our city into a growing Korean town with hair salons, churches, schools, and communities. Many of them tour the city in groups or pairs with occasional chaperone of Filipino English teachers. Stereotypes are ripe when it comes to the reputation of Korean men as rude and troublemakers. Could this be just language and cultural barrier misunderstood? It could be, I guess we need to be tolerant because we don't want to see our friends and loved ones persecuted in other countries.
(4) Chinese - Though we have a long history with them but this time there is a growing number of illegal and undocumented Chinese nationals doing business in our country with products that ranged from fake branded products to DVD films, pirated software to second-hand clothes, and smuggled goods to illegal drugs. Again, our fears and insecurities has made us very suspicious with them when there are also Chinese who are here legitimately.
(5) Iranians - Due to the restrictions placed by their government on them with regards to educational opportunities in the field of medicine, many of them study here. Most Iranian men and women study in our premier medical schools like CDU and Velez. They are attracted to Cebu not because it is cheaper to pursue their education here but the freedom they have in here. Many who escaped from the 1979 Iranian Revolution were naturalized as Filipinos.
(6) Indians - "Paybsiks" and "Bombay" are the usual banters we hear when we see them. But most of them are executives and managers manning most call centers and BPO companies because of their expertise in this field. If you meet an Indian, you can guess that he/she must be working as a computer or IT executive. This is a major, major (think of Venus Raj) development in the business sector.