how the world sees america


December 6, 2007 1:00 PM

Little America, in Manila

All roads lead to the Starbucks Siren

MANILA, Philippines – This is the first city I’ve visited that has more Starbucks, McDonalds, 7-Elevens, TGI Fridays, and Pizza Huts per square foot than a strip mall in suburban Washington D.C. I’m actually writing this from a Starbucks on Adriatico Street. Shame on me.

My home here is in a college friend’s apartment in a somewhat seedy part of town. Storefronts below my place offer “Foot/Body and Reflexology Massages.” Outside the parlors, dozens of women wearing matching pink uniforms call out, “Hey Daddy” to business tourists passing through. Gnarled men hawk boxes of Viagra, saying, “Buy My Vitamins.” A young boy wears tattered boxers and a t-shirt that has “Fitch” emblazoned on it in red felt, under which the letters “N.Y.C.” are scrawled in what looks like ink from a black Sharpie pen.

Next to one parlor is a Tex-Mex and Steak joint called Boston Charcoal Grill. Beside the word “Boston” there’s a big neon cowboy hat. In the four years I spent in Boston, I didn’t see much connection between Boston and Tex-Mex, but who knows? This is America reinvented.

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December 10, 2007 9:00 AM

Filipino Colonel to America: Reinforcements Welcome

LtCol Pablo Lorenzo leads his 35th Batallion.

One thousand Moro National Liberation Front rebels encircled 180 of Lieutenant Colonel Pablo Lorenzo's infantrymen in the coconut groves outside Panamao, a small town in the predominantly Muslim south of the Philippines. It was February 6, 2005, and the separatist Islamic rebels violated their peace agreement, firing down on Lorenzo and his men with mortars, machine guns, and 90-millimeter recoilless rifles.

Reinforcements from the Philippines Marines were ambushed in the adjacent town of Patikul by fighters from Abu Sayyaf, a group connected with al-Qaeda that is increasingly considered simply a racketeering outfit. Air support was spread thin. So Lorenzo and his men had to wait out their attackers in trenches and foxholes.

Sound familiar? asks Lorenzo, now on a break in Manila. He says Americans in Iraq can learn from the lessons of the the Philippine military’s three decades of experience fighting insurgency on its islands. And he believes U.S. military involvement in the Philippines is essential to professionalizing the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), providing humanitarian assistance to the Muslim south, and hopefully ending the Islamic insurgency here.

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December 12, 2007 9:55 AM

McMinister: Playing the 'White' Card

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DAVAO CITY, Philippines - When Pentecostal missionary Darrell Blatchey brings dying kids to the public hospital here, local Filipino doctors immediately move him to the front of the line -- not because the children he brings are near death, but because Darrell is a white American.

This missionary tells me this over a 'Double Quarter Pounder with Cheese' at the local McDonald’s. He loves this American chain and eats at least six meals a week here. "Ah, McDonald’s," he sighs. For him it represents "consistent excellence, cleanliness, quality service, and kid-centered-fun."

These qualities are American, he says, and they inspire his missionary work. Twelve years ago Darrell founded "Family Circus" with his wife Sandy out of the back of a bright yellow truck in Davao City. The husband-and-wife team decided the best way to lure kids to the gospel was to reenact its dramatic scenes with clown costumes, live snakes, and music.

Darrell says his American looks made it easier for him to attract his initial audience. "When I enter a room, kids think Hollywood star -- the tall, white American -- and they pay attention right away." This extra attention has given him a leg up spreading the gospel here.

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December 14, 2007 8:04 AM

"House MD" Lures Filipino Nurses

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DAVAO CITY, Philippines - When Teri Hatcher’s character on “Desperate Housewives” said on the show she didn’t want a doctor from "some med school in the Philippines" examining her, it raised a furor here last month. Protests. A signing-campaign. Then an official apology from the show. Why so touchy?

“We’ve lost our best nurses and doctors to America…and got nothing in return,” says Brokenshire Hospital’s director Dr. Jack Estuart in a faded yellow operating room. His nurse manager led a team of 108 nurses for eight years before one day informing him she was going to Odessa, Texas.

“Odessa!” he says. “Where is that? Where? She’s gone from all this responsibility to nothing.”

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December 18, 2007 9:00 AM

Child of a Filipina Prostitute: “The Dirt of the Americans”

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OLONGAPO, Philippines - Six-year-old Shiela Maria Daet used to watch her mother strip naked and gyrate on Red Rooster’s stage. African-American servicemen hooted in the dark and threw cash in the air.

“It was disgusting,” she says. But even back then, in 1986, Shiela knew her father, Samuel Gill Barber, had once been one of those American servicemen at the bar. She knew Sam had hired her mother for a night in 1979, fell in love with her, impregnated her, and then left for America a month before Shiela was born.

So for the next two decades Shiela looked for her father Sam. She found him in 2006, broken, serving time in a Georgia jail.

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December 20, 2007 9:00 AM

Love at First Click

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OLONGAPO, Philippines - Theirs was a match made on Fifty-one-year-old Floridian Phillip Stephen Dennis was struck by 29-year-old Christina (“Tin-Tin”) Geronimo’s profile picture on this auctioning/social networking site, so in February, 2007 he typed: “Hello.”

Six months later, after hours of Yahoo! chats and staccato webcam conversations, the two proclaimed their love for one another. And just yesterday, Phil texted Tin-Tin asking for her ring size. In February, 2008, exactly one year since Phil first clicked her picture, the two plan to marry.

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December 24, 2007 10:26 AM

USAID's Promise to the Philippines

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CARMEN, Philippines - Amalia Datukan worried that if America didn’t follow through on its pledge to provide farming assistance here, she’d have to pay with her life.

That was back in 1997 when the United States Agency for International Development (USAID)'s Growth with Equity in Mindanao (GEM) project hired her, a Filipina local, to help them distribute aid to Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) rebels. The MNLF, a Muslim insurgency here in the southern Philippines, signed a peace agreement with the government in 1996. USAID wanted to make sure that peace held by giving former fighters a stake in it.

But Amalia's tough childhood memories complicated her new job. When she was fourteen-years-old, MNLF combatants blasted Amalia's hometown, forcing her family to evacuate. Amalia grew up a refugee, thinking all MNLF rebels were “violent, irrational, unreasonable people.”

So how did she feel distributing aid to these former combatants on behalf of the U.S. government?

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PostGlobal is an interactive conversation on global issues moderated by Newsweek International Editor Fareed Zakaria and David Ignatius of The Washington Post. It is produced jointly by Newsweek and, as is On Faith, a conversation on religion. Please send your comments, questions and suggestions for PostGlobal to Lauren Keane, its editor and producer.