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FHM Philippines
Just What the Country Needs

For all the crises the country goes through, it's hard to believe we'd even find FHM Philippines - that's right - FHM, or Friendly Honest Men in the Philippines.

Reports about FHM in the Philippines are few and far between, but many wonderful, inspiring incidents are merely undocumented.

Jose Buenaventura, a lowly driver of a pedicab (a flimsy three-wheeled vehicle comprised of a driven bicycle and a hooded cab for passengers), returned a little over $2,000 to a woman passenger who inadvertently left the cash in Jose's leg-powered vehicle.

The money was to be used as a downpayment for the purchase of a house, and Carolina, the owner, was very distressed upon learning about the loss. It was their life savings.

Jose never thought twice about returning the money. Although he only had a ramshackle shanty for a house, his good reputation meant more to him.

The same is true for Filipino-American cab driver Nestor Sulpico, who, two years ago, found a bag containing rare Micronesian pearls worth $78,000 inside his cab in New York and wasted no moment in trying to call the owner Mr. Policastro, an Italian Jew from Connecticut.

Mr. Policastro was so moved by Nestor's honesty that he promised to help subsidize the latter's Nursing education.

He was also honored by Mayor Bloomberg that same year during the 2004 Driver Recognition Ceremony.

This only goes to show that FHM Philippines is conquering not just the country, but also the world!

The year after that, Reio Lance, a cab driver who also sells balut (duck's egg, a popular Filipino delicacy) and sampaguita (flower garlands made by stringing tiny white flowers) just to make ends meet for his family, returned a bag containing cash worth P150,000 (about $3,000) to Annie Joy Angana whom he brought to the airport one morning.

She was bound for the southern Philippines. This is a beautiful case of 'FHM Philippines' indeed - it turned out that the money was borrowed by Annie from a friend to help pay for her daughter's brain tumor surgery.

Reio was commended for his impressive honesty by his town mayor, who promised to assist in the education of the cab driver's two young children.

FHM Philippines is not only limited to Filipino men belonging to the lower middle class.

In fact, one Friday morning in August of 2005, Batanes governor Vicente Gato returned a Japanese reporter's bag containing almost $18,000 in cash.

Due to a mix-up at the airport's x-ray machine, the governor's aide accidentally picked up Mr. Maki's bag instead, and placed it in the car where it stayed until Saturday night.

Gov. Gato personally went to the airport to return the bag to the Japanese national, who gave it up for good.

When interviewed by the media, the governor proudly brought up the Filipinos' honesty, and he mentioned that Ivatans (natives of the country's northernmost group of islands called Batanes), especially, were known for their admirable traits.

In fact, many tourists who have been to that province have seen how, if you accidentally leave a bag on the roadside, you'll still find it in that exact same spot where you left it even after several hours.

I have also encountered an 'FHM Philippines' myself.

Many years ago, my husband and I decided to take a trip to the lakeside city of Tagaytay. Unfortunately, when we were on our way home, the car's dashboard had a short circuit and in seconds, flames were licking the car's control panel!

We immediately scrambled out of the car - my husband; me, holding our 8-month-old baby; the nanny; and our baby German Shepherd.

We were standing along the highway for what seemed like hours - wind blowing, temperatures dipping to about 65 degrees. There was no public transportation in sight, the skies were getting dark, and we were hesitant to hitchhike as this practice is taboo in the country.

Just then, a van pulled up and a man got off to hurriedly usher us inside. He took us to a hotel where we were able to spend the night while we had the car fixed. Before alighting, I asked him his name, but he brushed it off.

The guard at the hotel told me that he was Mr. Aurelio, the owner of one of the most popular restaurants in the city.

I don't think I ever got around to thanking him, but I hope that there would be more FHM Philippines like him.

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