There are a thousands things I miss about the Philippines. The two times I've been there it's like I've never left and that is what home makes us feel. And if home is the Philippines, no matter how much you have always craved for everything that is you, there are things that you just cannot stand anymore once you've tasted & been on the other side.
Traffic & driving in Manila. That's right, what's new? This is the national stamp of the country but when traffic has gotten a little bit better even with the humungous cars, it's the discipline & character of the drivers that made me crazy. When my mom & the driver was hit by another car from behind, the guy had the guts to ask them for 5Kphp when they saw it was an old car, a badly coiffed driver & an old lady. He even death threatened our driver. Don't care about morality, my car is more expensive & you look stupid. In the end, the guy hit & ran our driver when they were supposed to meet in the police station. Then there's the constant "I go first" attitude & nobody just wants to give way. The few times we went to Makati, we were stopped by the police twice on issues of vague rules by the stoplight eg. was there a sign on making a turn on red. And I have almost forgotten how busy the roads are in Manila. In one main road, you can have taxis, jeepneys, buses, people crossing, bicycles on the left lane, pedicabs in the middle lane, motorcycles & scooters, all at the same time, all the possibilities that can happen. And everytime I point out this madness, they always remind me how I handled it before, with craziness as well but I've outgrown this craziness due to lack of practice.
Philippine Government Agencies: BIR - if you can't beat them, join them. You will never understand what it means to go through them until you've experienced it. Driving licenses, cedulas & the like does not count. We always find someone to do the biggies for us when it comes to the tough guys of BIR. I was left alone with my mom to do one of those biggies, the form 1801.
For those who had to do the Estate Tax, fear is always the first reaction to it. We know it means big money especially for us common people who has a small piece of land, for privileged people with many pieces of land exactly know what it means, big lawyers & accountants. But our hired humble accountant seemed promising to help us go about the process with the City Hall & BIR. One dry afternoon, we met her City Hall contact who was in charge of the Tax Declaration. This means the land's zonal value & improvements, apparently a very important part of the process. He then informed us, with a voice almost to a whisper while scanning quickly his surroundings, that the paperwork which will normally amount to 150-170Kphp will cost us 70Kphp. Awe was my first reaction but I thought it was reasonable even without a hint of how much the true amount is. We just want to get it over & done with. We just need to talk it over with the rest of the family then I sincerely thanked him for his help.
After one dinner & a night's sleep, the decision was to go for it. The accountant went her way to start the said paperwork. Like a reeking fish, she came back telling us that her contact raised the amount to 120Kphp. So she took it in her own hands & went straight to BIR coming back with the final amount of 90Kphp. Not only that they were all robbing us blind, they had the audacity to negociate our ignorance & situation. We don't even know who was the most corrupt, the City Hall contact, the BIR or our accountant. This caused a dispute among us & my mom insisted of gathering information among her widowed friends. I felt so bad in thanking these sharks.
One mahjong afternoon at her friend's, she was able to collect considerable news & a valuable lesson. Her friend gave us a copy of her form 1801, showed us how to compute & tipped us on the important estate tax table at the back of the form.
In the end, our taxable amount totaled to a negative making us exempted from paying anything at all! Pointing this to our accountant, she tried to debate & convince us of wrong computation & that in the end, it's her first time handling a biggie like the form 1801. My proud mom had the courage now to go to the BIR, kicking out our accountant, to file our Estate Tax by ourselves.
Arriving at the BIR, there were so little signs except for where things are. I was getting too impatient & embarassed of actually being there without a clue on where to start. The best way is to inquire at the information desk without giving out too much of our file just yet. There is something about the BIR that you just cannot really trust. Fortunately, our file was almost ready except for other documents I don't even know when the lady started asking me more about our background. It made me & my mom realize that we cannot make this clean as much as we want to. There will always be something & we'll end up paying people to make things easier for us. In the end, we rehired our accountant for 20Kphp to go through all the hassle. The valuable lesson is you can never be lily white when it comes to Philippine governement agencies. Corruption is at every level. As we speak, our paperwork is still not yet finished. I've never seen corruption so raw, taking advantage face to face without shame & that went up to 120Kphp. Afterall, the BIR & the Customs are the most corrupt department in the Philippines & it will take many generations to disinfect them.
These & among other things make the Philippines. People see it in their own eyes & complain everyday but nothing is done. People live by it because it's as if there's no other choice to be what it is. Yes, what can we do? That is the spice of the country among the beautiful islands that is home.