One evening, a middle-aged German guy stopped me on the street and asked if I could spare 20 pesos(40 cents). I was taken aback. He was obviously embarrassed but desperate. Normally, I would have disregarded such pleas, but when a German guy asks for money, something’s up. Yes, it’s racist to judge someone by color or ethnicity. Yet in the Philippines, a middle-aged European asking a local for change is very unusual.
I chatted with him a while, gauging his character and subtly asking him questions to probe his background. He claimed to be a logistical economist. I probed a bit more and he proceeded to discuss about utilization of resources and balancing costs. He claimed to have his cards and papers stolen from him and that he was having a hard time getting people back in Germany to work on his papers. He also said the German embassy was not of much help.
I asked him if he had eaten. He said not really so I invited him to join me. He expressed his frustration with his situation. I was cautious, always keeping in mind that this could be a con. From what I’ve gathered in our conversation, he was a very intelligent man but had no grasp of the practical things in life or human nature.
I was having a hard time deciding if he was truly naive or putting up an act. He has been staying in the barangay hall(community center) since September 2017. He never really got to explain how he ended up here(although he has a Philippine resident visa and had spent more time scouting mountains for manganese or lead).
I tried to probe but he was very guarded.
Instead, our conversation focused on his son that he had with a local girl. How local girls seem to be more interested in money. How lonely he has been and thinks it would be okay if he finally got a wife. And how he likes our brown color and how exotic we are.I suggested he go for the educated or affluent girls. I pointed out that he’s been hanging out with the wrong crowd and there’s actually an industry out there where local girls latch on to gullible, rich, old white men and bleed them dry. Although, there are instances of true love.
I told him about what happened to another German guy I chatted with in 2016. He had to relinquish his condo and car to a local girl he married, whom he met on the internet. That German guy discovered that the girl he married was getting violent and threatened him every time he refused to give money. He ended up staying in a five-star hotel for a month. He looked truly terrified after he heard my story. Hopefully, he’ll be more circumspect with the girls he’ll meet.
I still don’t know what he told me were true but at least I had good conversation during dinner. Also, the people at the restaurant I usually eat at would now probably think I’m not some weird loner who eats the same thing every time. The staff smiled more widely at me than usual when we left.
He asked for my number. I gave it. Europeans have helped me many times in Europe despite the language barrier(Germans have been especially nice). But, I’ll still be wary although I could not help thinking he’s some guy who has somehow lost his way in life.