Eating with Eccentric Econometricians - Filipino Fred - The Felicitous Freshman April 7th, 2017

This period, the PR committee once again managed to convince an Econometrics student to host them for a dinner. Unfortunately for me, the members of the PR committee decided we should make this dinner more professional, and so throughout the evening I was tasked with taking notes, which isn’t the most riveting thing one can be doing during an interesting dinner. Nevertheless, on the 8th of March, four members of the PR committee showed up at Fred’s place expecting a delicious meal and an evening of length conversations. Suffice it to say that we did not leave that night feeling disappointed in any regard. 

When we first entered the house, after taking off our coats and our shoes and taking a seat in the living room, we were taught our first words of Tagalog that night when Fred said “Tagay” as our glasses clinked, cheers! When the last of the members had arrived, we quickly shuffled to the dinner table, eager to get our fill of famously delicious Filipino cuisine. For those who are curious and would like to take a stab at recreating the delicious meal, the ingredient list follows:

Pancit:

• Chicken breast, chopped

• Rice noodles 

• “Gulay” which is basically    

   Filipino for any kind of 

   vegetables 

• Spices – Pepper and Chili

After having eaten to our heart’s content, I quickly ran to get my notebook and a pen, and the interview formally began. While it was less structured than the last PerVectum interview, we instead decided to tell the story and life of Fred without direct reference to the questions that were asked, partly because we did not follow such a rigid structure, but mostly because I forgot to note them down. Fred was born in 1997 on the Isle of Man, making him Manx, while his father is German and his mother Filipino. As if that wasn’t interesting enough, Fred was also the first person being born on the Isle of Man to foreign parents. Fred’s dad works in the shipping industry, which is the reason why he was posted to the Isle of Man.

Around the turn of the century, his dad was sent back to work in the Philippines. Surprisingly enough, Fred went to a German school in the Philippines, where he completed his primary education and parts of his secondary education. In 2013, Fred was sent to Germany to a catholic boarding school. After he graduated in 2015, he took a shot at studying Mathematics in Munich, but decided he didn’t enjoy it and instead came to Maastricht to study Econometrics & Operations Research. Smart choice!

Having grown up in the Philippines, music played a very big role in Fred’s life. Filipinos love karaoke, although Fred considers himself more German in that aspect as he doesn’t enjoy karaoke at all. Fred was always encouraged to be musical from a very young age, and he starting playing drums when he was around 10 years old. In the Philippines, he would often jam with friends. When he moved to Germany, he actually formed a band with some of his friends. They entered into a competition in Germany, “SchoolJam” and came as far as the finals in 2015. Their band is called Sunset Council, and I would recommend checking out Fred’s Soundcloud with their songs!

As we should all know, the Philippines is a disaster-prone country and therefore, like many other Filipinos, Fred was very active in relief aid in the Philippines, helping out whenever possible. It started out with him simply organizing packages of food or other supplies that could be handed out to people in need, and evolved over the years to organizing events such as food drives and charity sporting events. Moving to Germany was a large culture shock for Fred, as many of the things Fred had taken for granted in the Philippines were not present in Germany. This includes things not only like buses actually coming on time, but also that the standard of living for everyone was relatively high. Back in the Philippines, the income discrepancy was large and incredibly apparent. Fred belonged to a lucky minority who always had a roof over his head, even when typhoons struck the area. Poorer people often had nothing left, with everything they owned being destroyed or lost in the aftermath of the raging storms. This is also a large reason why Fred is active in social work, it’s just something that they do in the Philippines, and it was impressed on him from an early age.

In Germany, Fred continued this spirit of taking on social work and helping out his fellow human beings, and so he opted to engage in hospice work in Germany. This was actually what enabled him to get a scholarship from his school, the scholarship being awarded to students who take an active role in socially responsible work. The conditions of this scholarship are that he must engage in socially responsible work at least 3-5 hours a week, but it allows him to study here and enjoy his time in Maastricht. In terms of social work here, Fred joined the Unicef student team of Maastricht. One of the interesting aspects of the Unicef student team is that it consists mostly of girls, Fred being one of the only male members! This offers him a nice and welcome change from the situation in his econometrics classes. His roles in the Unicef team include fundraising activities. Fred organized a concert in 2016 and is currently organizing one happing this summer.

When we asked Fred how he’s enjoying living in the Netherlands so far, he recalled a recent interaction he had with some locals of Maastricht during the carnival break. He was approached by an elderly couple who asked where he was from, and after a bit of small talk they ended the conversation by saying “wherever you’re from, you’re always welcome in the Netherlands”. Aside from this, the Netherlands has a very relaxed and open nature, and being here everyone can just do what they want, adopting a very “you do you” kind of attitude. 

After hearing his life story, we were digging for some insights into how he became the person he is now, and so we asked him about some of the things he enjoyed through his multicultural upbringing. He cited his broad array of friends, and how this reflects himself. For starters, he is a strong proponent of open mindedness, and believes that his being brought up in numerous, drastically different cultures has helped make him more open minded. As an addition to this, having a taste of many different cultures makes a person more adaptable and knowledgeable of what to do socially in unfamiliar situations. However a large downside to this is that it is oftentimes hard or impossible to feel like he is really a part of the place he is currently residing in, as friendships often seem more temporary and harder to maintain.

As we were quite far into the interview and slowly but surely filling up with liquid courage, we decided to ask the more hard-hitting questions, and what follows is a short discussion of Filipino politics which evolved into a general ideological discussion regarding the current extreme right movements that are rising in prevalence throughout the world. If discussions of politics do not interest you, please consider the article as finished. If, however, you wish to see an insight into a Filipino’s perspective of some of the political issues in the world, feel free to read on.

Considering you are half European and are richer than most of the population in the Philippines, did you feel any resentment towards you from the locals while you were living in the Philippines?

Since, on the global stage, the Philippines is quite an insignificant country, for Filipinos it’s just very exciting that a foreigner would pick to go to the Philippines, which makes them very welcoming and hospitable to tourists and foreigners. One thing Fred and his friends always say is “#MoreFunInThePhilippines”. So the conclusion was no, there wasn’t a feeling a resentment amongst Filipinos towards people like Fred, and in general everyone there was very welcoming and happy.

Does the election of President Duterte deter you from being proud of the Philippines? 

No, it doesn’t. The fact that Duterte was elected did not come as a surprise to me or to many Filipinos. This is simply because of the way things were going prior to his election were already in a very bad place, with a large wave of drug-related crimes and corruption. One thing that annoys Fred about the Western media is that to some extent it is portrayed as a large portion of these problems that the Philippines faces were shown as being a result of Duterte’s rise to power, when in fact these problems were already there and had been for many years. People only care because of the outrageous things he says, but this is nothing new for the Philippines as previous presidents had similar problems but just didn’t speak out as much. It definitely has some parallels with the Trump administration.

How did you experience these problems that are present in the Philippines (e.g. drug-related crimes, corruption, etc.)?

He only really noticed these things when he moved to Europe. A large surprise was the independence of people here in Europe. In the Philippines, kidnappings are very prominent, especially among young white people. If something like that were to happen here in Europe, the police would do their best to investigate it and find the perpetrators, whereas in the Philippines, bribes are sometimes necessary just to get the police to come to investigate.

Speaking of the current global political climate, are you worried about the extreme right movement throughout Europe?

It’s definitely something Fred thinks about a lot. But he isn’t really worried. He has more of a “bring it on” attitude. This is largely because he likes debating, especially engaging in political debates. A big problem now is that people who stand on the left side of the political spectrum find themselves talking only to other likeminded people, and the same goes for people on the right. This causes there to be a lack of critical thinking and reflection of policies and ideologies, which would be helped if there were more open discussions and debates amongst people of all political standings. This is also the trouble with the rising popularity of safe spaces, and in the end, as Fred stated, “there’s only one reality”. People need to be open to other points of view, other ideas and to critical thinking in general and with safe spaces this simply becomes much harder to do.

At this point, we had exhausted ourselves mentally with lengthy and interesting political and ideological discussions, and so thanked Fred for his time and his cooking skills, excused ourselves and headed home. We had a very interesting night, with an immaculately cooked dinner and very engaging conversations. We urge you all to strike up a conversation with Fred whenever you see him around the SBE or Maastricht, as he has limitless interesting stories to tell and new perspectives to offer. We want to thank him once again for agreeing to host us, and wish him the best of luck for the rest of the year!