PH collegiate sports

A cheat sheet for Fil-foreign athletes in PH? Ask La Salle’s Ben Phillips

Ben Phillips
A cheat sheet for Fil-foreign athletes in PH? Ask La Salle’s Ben Phillips

UAAP

La Salle's Ben Phillips provides Fil-foreign student-athletes 10 tips in navigating life in the Philippines

MANILA, Philippines – When I first left the Ninoy Aquino International Airport, the only thing that I was certain of was how nervous I was halfway around the world and far from home in Cincinnati, Ohio. I wanted to put a small guide together that would serve as an initial roadmap for Fil-Ams and Fil-foreigners so you wouldn’t feel lost and alone figuring out this new chapter in your life.

My name is Benjamin Phillips III, an MBA student-athlete at the De La Salle University, and here are my 10 survival tips:

Pre-departure

There are so many things you can do while you are still at home to prepare for your overseas journey, but these three topics are essential and will aid you in the long run. 

1. Start learning the language if you still haven’t. Find a personal Tagalog tutor or use a language app (Drops/Rosetta Stone) for beginners. Start listening to OPM (Original Pilipino Music) and read the lyrics to get more familiar. Apo Hiking Society is a MUST. Watch Filipino movies and series on Netflix with subtitles on as I learned most of my conversational Tagalog from Four Sisters and a Wedding.

2. Research the local UAAP and NCAA schools, their course offerings, their culture, history, and alumni. Every school shares different aspects of this beautiful country and choosing the right school, or learning more about your selected school, will make you feel more connected to your new home.

3. Get a solid pair of sandals (trust me on this as they will take you far), because they are essential with the traveling, beaches, flooding, etc. There will be so much to do when you get to the homeland and trying out new things is extremely important! New restaurants, museums, (making tambay at local hangout spots), and daily walks are a pair of sandal’s favorite pastime.

Now arriving

Yes, the jet lag you are experiencing is real once your adrenaline wears off. Be prepared for a lot of stares, pictures, and the nicest people in the world. Welcome to the Philippines, Mabuhay!

4. Be prepared for the weather shift. Whether you are coming from the Midwest like myself, or even the West Coast, California, the air and heat are different out here. (Sobrang mainit!) Bottled water is a must at first to get adjusted and to stay hydrated. 

5. Find some local snacks that you like and remind you of home. Convenience stores and supermarkets here have everything you are looking for. I never leave a 7/11 without Haribo Gummy Bears that I would always eat back in the US. Don’t be afraid to try new things either! (I have fallen in love with Strawberry Hello Pandas and Yan-Yans.)

6. Get a Filipino phone or a Filipino SIM card. This is your Willy Wonka Chocolate Factory Golden Ticket here in the Philippines. A Filipino phone/Filipino SIM card will help you with local transportation (Grab and Angkas), food delivery (Food Panda), Shopping (mall-Wi-Fi and Shopee), and easier communication with locals and your teams (Viber). Make sure you have this as a high priority on your task list.

Settling in

Congratulations! You have made it through your first few weeks and you are starting to get your bearings together. Now is when your discipline must kick in. 

7. Go to class! Fil-Ams and Fil-Foreigners have a reputation of not encompassing the student aspect of a student-athlete. A degree from the Philippines will only be beneficial to your future and will open more doors than you know, whether it is an undergraduate course, a Master’s degree, or if you want to join me on completing my Doctorate here in the Philippines. Connecting with your fellow students and professors is one of the core components of coming here. You are not just here for your sport; you are here to represent your school to the highest capacity and honor your academic scholarship that many people wish they could have. Remember, you are not here to party and be a staple in the club scene, especially not in your rookie year when you have not earned anything yet. Have your fun in moderation, but remember you have a job to do and every single decision you make affects your personal brand as well. 

8. Make a budget. I talk about this a lot in my own publication, Lone Wolf Mentality: A Millennial Mindset, but students and young adults everywhere need a budget that they can strictly adhere to and follow, especially in a new environment. Even though the cost of living may seem cheaper here compared to back home, that does not mean you can go crazy and splurge every day. You need to create a list of all your expenses (and yes, that means daily Starbucks and Jollibee trips) to accurately manage your newfound financial independence. For the most part, you will be on your own, so knowing exactly where every dollar/peso of your student allowance or other income is going will be imperative to your survival, not just in the Philippines, but all throughout your life.

Golden rule

10. Treat others how you would like to be treated. It is an old adage, but one that will continue to last for millennia across all countries. Be humble, smile, and share kindness with everyone you come across. You never know whose life you will impact with the platform you are blessed to have over here. Impossible is nothing! Stay true to your values and beliefs and do not shift from the good principles you were taught and raised with. Do not focus on what someone else has, whether it be their endorsements or opportunities, but continue to put your head down and keep working. Your time will come. I came here as a non-recruit and flew so low under the scouting radar that the Dragon Radar from Dragon Ball Z couldn’t even pick up my trace, but I continued to work hard every day with a chip on my shoulder that I would do my best to make it out here. I treat every single person I meet here as someone I could learn and garner wisdom from, and that has been the best thing to ever happen to me in this beautiful country of the Philippines. – Rappler.com

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