His First, Her Last: The Incredible True Story of an American Lost in the Philippines by Jonathan Sturak
My rating: ★★★ / ★★★★★
Engaged couple Jason and Hazel travel across the world to meet her family in this true story of love and adventure. The moment Jason steps off the plane in the Philippines, an exotic island caught between the East and the West, the past and the present, grabs hold of this naive American and seduces him with its beauty, its places, and its people. Temptation looms as the best friend of Hazel tests their relationship and touches their souls.
A deeply personal account of the conflict of culture between American excess and Philippine poverty, His First, Her Last explores the ability of love to transcend two worlds apart. But after an accident spills blood on the streets of a remote village, the lives of this couple flash before their eyes.
Will he escape? Will she survive? Will his first trip be her last?
Take a journey across the world to an exotic land where you will find love, life, and what it means to be alive.
As a Filipina who has been in a relationship with a European man that I now married, it piqued my interest when I receive a request to review this book. I was truthfully eager to start reading and know the experience of another foreigner in the Philippines.
And before I get to the point, I want to mention that I want to applaud the author for his clever observation about the Philippines. Many foreigners go to the Philippines then they go back home, thinking they’ve been to paradise, that’s because-not all- but many foreigners who went to the Phililippines for vacation only experience the tourist places, the organize environment for tourist and for the rich and the famous, but that’s just a part of the Philippines. Jason (the protagonist) experienced the real Philippines with its good and bad.
I agree with him for many things; the crazy organized chaos traffic, the balut (ugh, I hate balut! I feel bad for that little bird being boiled alive!) and yes, the cock fighting too, my father brought me in one of those tournaments when I was a child and that has traumatized me for the rest of my life, even now I feel like crying remembering those cruel days. Poor living is not an excuse to resort to using the roster that way. There’s many ways to get money in the Philippines you just have to be creative (and no, I don’t mean that you should join the mafia) and if I want to feed myself (one way is cutting the neck of that chicken-quickly before he knows it and have some nice adobo. Okay I admit, I’m ranting.)
Anyway here comes why I didn’t give this book a five star even though I REALLY LIKED IT.
1) Okay, many Filipinos might go and get defensive saying “it’s not that bad” but I’d say: “it is that bad” at less in the poor Philippine areas but I’ll agree with one of the reviewers before me in Goodreads. Jason did make it sound like no one take showers there. Just to state the fact many Philippines are very conscious about appearance. Doesn’t matter if the house looked like it’s about to fall, washing up is something many prioritize, especially if they are to work in a bit “normal job” (I specially noted it on the Flower man) and yes, some might mix up, he/she, him/her. But I find that really strange, anyone who has been in school for at less grade 4 should be able to use it perfectly. I have yet to meet someone who needs to be reminded so many times.
2) I’m actually maybe gonna rate this with 5 stars if Jason hadn’t annoyed the hell out of me. In the beginning I feel like Jason was overly cautious (way over the top) then the incident with the cops. One shouldn’t need to travel the world to know that a place like the Philippines is a place where rules are often ignored in exchange for a price. And sure he’s in a foreign country but does he have to behave like a helpless kid when the beggar kids flocked around him?
3) And okay, food isn’t the best the Philippines could offer (I personally think so too) but does he have to behave as if everything given to him is a potential poison, with the exception of pizza and McDonald food? McDonald might be licensed from US but he should know that the foods they serve there are cooked in the Philippines! So, tell me. What’s the difference between that and the meal serve from a high class restaurant which is not American license?
4) Hand sanitizer much? Why does he keep spraying himself for every Filipino he encountered? I’ve met, talk and become friends with a lot of western people and seriously, they don’t carry around a sanitizer and squirt their hands for every thing, that won't keep you completely safe.
5) And what annoyed me most with Jason is that, I feel like he has sexual desire of all Hazel’s friends. Especially Joy. Others might say “it’s okay that’s what being a man” but no, for me he’s actually cheating on Hazel—mentally or physically makes no difference and especially irritating because it’s his fiancée’s best friend. No, his fantasy over her is just to much to ignore.
I actually really wanted to stop reading the story at 20% but out of respect for the author, and I promised a friend to finish it to the end so I forced myself to finish reading this story. And so, with all that being said, I would like to say that this book made a lasting impression on me, the author writing was neat, I also like his style, the book was easy to read (though his personal thoughts really disturb me sometimes), it would have just been more entertaining if Jason has a more likeable attitude. The only thing I like about Jason is that he sympathizes for the animal and that we both have Back to the Future as a favorite movie, but throughout the story I did learn to respect him for his honesty and I feel really sorry for what he has gone through.
I’ll recommend this book to foreigners who planned to visit the Philippines, it’s a great manual written in fiction or semi-autobiographical form. And no, I’m not going to sit here and say that hospitals in the Philippines are better than that, my own personal experience forbids me to do so. However, I would say that if you want a better and more comfortable experience, I suggest going to private hospitals.