I met Robert and his family at an impromptu BBQ put on by the gracious Gerard & Edelweiss Villoria. Over a meal of smoked Hawaiian ribs, we spoke more about how he and his family came to the Philippines. A citizen of Italy, Robert came to the Philippines 7 years ago to train and teach martial arts. In the Himalayan summer months, he travels with his wife and son to northern India to reside in a Tibetan monastery in Himachal Pradesh. There he studies Buddhist teachings, meditates, and teaches martial arts techniques.
After deciding to make a more permanent residence in Boracay, in 2011 he sold his apartment in Italy and used the money to start construction on a multi-story building in Diniwid Beach, where he would reside with his family in the top apartment and rent out the lower three units to supplement his income. After three long years, the building is still in construction. Poor workmanship and dishonest contractors have plagued his efforts, so much so that this year he and his family were not able to make their annual pilgrimage to Himachal Pradesh, instead having to track down a contractor who skipped out on Robert with thousands of dollars worth of unfinished work already paid for.
When touring his future home, he spoke of the numerous headaches he's suffered in trying to get the place finished. "The point is, you're considered stupid or naive if you're normal and honest, and smart or clever if you're a thief."
A man of strong and imposing stature, Robert is more peaceful and jolly than his physique lets off. And while other people may have succumbed to the bitterness and callousness that comes with being constantly cheated, he still retains his joyful disposition and gracious attitude. His advice to Sacha and I as we said our farewells:
"To be honest anyway. Despite what happens to you, be honest. And in seeking justice, be honest. Be honest in everything you do. If you read from every [religious] book, they all say that this is the point; to be honest."