A typhoon to change his mind
Jørgen West has lived in Spain for many years as a part of the large Scandinavian community at Costa del Sol. But a couple of years ago, he moved to Philippines, which he visited first time five years ago.
“I have always been attracted to the East. In the beginning it was the romance of Thailand with its temples and elephants”, Jørgen says, but then he started visiting Puerto Galera in the Philippines. One day on the beach there, he met a girl who is now his girlfriend.
“We thought we were going to build a house there, but then the typhoon came on December 1st last year and we changed our minds”, he explains. The typhoon devastated their dreams along with thousands of homes. “We were lucky that we were in a real house. If we had been sitting in a wooden house at the time, we would not be alive anymore”, he says.
In stead Jørgen has moved into a penthouse condo in Makati City in Manila along with Gizel and her two daughters. The apartment has Danish furniture – bought in Spain – and pictures on the wall of blonde children; Jørgen’s son and grandson in Denmark.
These days he is struggling to pack everything into boxes and sending it to the capital of Negros, Dumaguete, where he has chosen to reside from now on.
“Dumaguete has universities, hospitals and so on, but it is still a small village with a international community. That is why I want to move there”, says Jørgen who hopes to buy a beach lot to build a Spanish house on.
An early retirement from rock’n roll
In the 60s, Jørgen played organ in jazz bands. “One night playing at La Cubana in Copenhagen, Bjørn from Bjørn & Okay came up to me and asked if I would start playing with him. I was curious about the money which turned out to be good, so I took the job and started playing with him January 1st 1970”, Jørgen says.
After a couple of years Jørgen and his girlfriend at the time, felt stuck in Denmark and decided to move abroad, but when she died, Jørgen was left alone in the house in Spain.
“I was getting lonely in Spain. I sat in my big house all alone and one day I got up and moved”, he says. “So I moved here, because Denmark no longer interests me. I had a company in Spain that sells and installs TV antennas. I don’t have it anymore, but I am spending an increasing amount of time on computers and electronics”, he says. The two organs of the house are hardly ever in use.
“Only for birthdays”, says Jørgen who does not have plans of getting back to his old life on the road. “I would like to play sometimes, but I just never get around to it”, he says and adds that he might have caught some of the fatalist ‘Filipino spirit’. “They have a tendency of waiting for something to happen. And sometimes it does”, he says. “I might have retired a couple of years too early”, Jørgen says.
The two Philippines
But the Philippines is not all paradise to Jørgen. “I don’t like the system here”, he says.
“There is a small group of extremely wealthy people. For example the woman who bought our other apartment. She had three maids, a driver and two cars. People like that make most Danes look poor, but the rest of the Filipinos have nothing. It’s only the tip of the iceberg who actually has the purchasing power to visit the malls in this area”, Jørgen says with reference to nearby Greenbelt and Glorietta Malls.
“Then you have a large group of overseas workers who really want something with their lives. The rest they just sit at home and wait for the money”, says Jørgen. In the island of Mindoro he has seen both worlds.
“You have all the big modern hotels on the northern coast, but in the rest of the island people live as we did 2000 years ago”, he says.
“Manila is today what Copenhagen was to Denmark 40 years ago. A cultural centre from where radio, TV and even the air traffic evolved. That is why you can hardly get a domestic flight in the Philippines that is not either from or to Manila”, Jørgen says.
“The Philippines is a sleeping tiger. I’m just not sure if it ever wakes up”, he says.