Things that we find awkward
1. How can you eat pork all the time – and I don’t mean the good parts?
It smells burnt in the Philippine streets. Barbecue is very common here, especially grilled pork. Don’t expect to get a typical Western steak or roast. Usually there is a list of pork parts you can chose from, everything from the head to the toe is served. Even the ears and the snout can be found on those lists.
One of the Filipino delicacies is ‘Sizzling Sisig’, a hotplate of fried head portions.
The Filipinos are definitely not picky and wasteful with their pigs.
2. Please stop shouting ‘Hello my friend’ if you just want to make fun of white people or rip them off
We already know what to expect when leaving the airport or the ferry station. If it’s the typical “Hello my friend” or “Where are you going?”, nothing can surprise us anymore. The best way to approach their chanting greets is by greeting back and moving forward.
Some people say it’s just a friendly way to welcome the foreigners, but those people also believe that Filipinos like foreigners.
There is nothing more annoying when entering a new country then getting attacked by those locals sitting on the streets, making fun of you. Backpackers are seen as walking Dollar signs, easy to rip off.
3. Why do locals prefer to live in ugly big cities, if they can have a laid-back life in the provinces?
It was one of the saddest experiences to walk through the slums of Manila, especially the area along the river leading to the main port of Manila. Families with way too many children live in miserable shanties. There is no running water, nor toilets.
Women sit on the streets, using buckets to barely wash themselves. Half naked kids run around, begging for money. Some of them sit on the floor inside and watch TV. The main thing here is TV as the only means to distract from the prevalent poverty.
Once we escaped Manila and went to Cebu and the other islands in the South we felt so much relieved. Of course there is also enough poverty, but the situation is completely different. The air is cleaner, the noise is less and everything seems to be more peaceful. Villages serve as living communities, helping each other with food supplies and childcare.
The growing trend of urbanization in third world countries increases poverty, crime and child labour. In big cities, like Manila the gap between poor and rich is scary but even more scary is that there is nothing the people can do about. The government including the social services are corrupt, healthcare is non-existing and education is just for those who can pay for it. International aid organizations have limitied options to better the situation as political interfering is banned for non-locals.
There is no mercy for the kids from the shanty town. After facing this social injustice, we became more aware of how good our life is. Filipinos believe that they can make a better living when they move to the cities.
This is the biggest lie of globalization, the delusional promise of a better connected and more advanced world. The poor outsiders will always remain the losers. Instead of following the wrong ideals, it’s much better to stay in the provinces, learning how to grow your own food and offering your children a safe and idyllic place to grow up.
4. Everything happens in slow motion
The slogan of the Philippines is “it’s more fun in the Philippines”. It could also be “it’s more slow in the Philippines”. Slow speed can be experienced in every single area of daily life. People wait for ages in lines just to get on a boat transfer. Nobody walks. People wait for trikes and jeepneys just to get a ride to the next corner.
Drivers make stunning faces, if you tell them that you can walk a few meters.
The slow pace life is happening here can be sometimes annoying and procrastinating, however it is a good teacher to pause for a moment and calm down before getting the next impatience attack.
5. Jeepneys might be practical for locals, but they are not for travellers
Public transport is very experimental in the Philippines. Jeepneys and trikes provide an inexpensive ride for the locals, who most often don’t have an own motorbike. Jeepneys are remnants from the war and trikes are motorbikes that are connected to a carriage. The inside of a jeepney offers space for 20 people, although it’s not suitable for travellers with luggage. The ceiling is very low so that you have to take care not hitting your head.
The jeepney driver will not wait until you drag your luggage and yourself into the vehicle, he will most often continue to drive while you’re still looking for a place to sit.
6. If we need a trike or a taxi, don’t worry, we’ll tell you soon enough
The Philippines is just another Asian country that has the most annoying taxi drivers or people who offer you a ride in their private vehicles charging prices that are far away from realistic.
Dear good people, if we need a ride, we’ll let you know. And here’s another tip: if you keep bothering us, we will probably keep walking until we find another ride.
7. Getting around can become a nightmare in the Philippines
There are no schedules for jeepneys, nor there are official stops. To get a ride, the easiest is to watch out where the locals are standing and waiting for a ride. Only the locals who use the jeepneys daily are familiar with the system.
To give a jeepney the sign to stop, you have to hail. If you want to depart, locals make a noise with their lips that sounds like a seal.
8. Not a place for vegetarians
Veggies are rare to find, especially in the supermarkets. Onion, carrots and green beans can be purchased cheaply in the local markets. Same applies for fruit like mango, bananas and melon. If you can’t cook yourself, it’s gonna be hard to find a place with vegetarian food.
In tourist places like Bohol, there are some Western restaurants offering salads and soups, however they’re way too expensive. Meat-eaters can save much more in the Philippines. Most of the time I had to make do with McDonald’s fries and some pastry from one of the many bake shops.
9. The Philippines are so close to becoming a Fast food nation
McDonald’s, Jollibee, Dunkin’ Donuts, Burger King, KFC, Skakeys, Pizza Hut.
A high number of world-famous fast food brands are well-established in the Philippines. Fast food restaurants are not only visited by tourists but mostly by Philippine locals. Some of them come for lunch daily. The people, once said to be more of a skinny type, are becoming chubbier.
Apart from all those imported franchise restaurants, the Philippines have less to almost no home-made brands. Filipino food is most often sold on the streets or at the market.
10. Foreigners are treated different than locals
If you want to buy something in street markets, shops or just anywhere you’ll quickly find out that there are different prices for foreigners and for locals.
Sometimes you can hear a vendor accidentally saying “the tourist price is 200 pesos”. Price discrimination can be experienced when purchasing a ferry ticket, paying for a trike ride or buying some snack in a stall.
11. Filipinos pretend to like foreigners so that they can rip them off whenever they can
This doesn’t apply to all Filipinos, but definitely to those who belong to the “Hello my friends” shouters. If a Filipino is acting nice, offering you to buy something from his stand, you have to be careful.
Either the price is way too high or the quality of the offered product is not the best, you should check before you buy.
12. There are no trash cans anywhere
“Notice: Littering is awful” was written on a note in one of the hotels we stayed. Thanks for this information was all we could say about that. No trash can anywhere. Not in the room nor in the bath room.
Same for toilet paper. It’s not allowed to throw paper in the toilet but where else to throw it they don’t even provide a bin. The worst however is the situation in the city. There is absolutely no trash can, not even a trash bag. The consequence are rivers and canals full of trash and bad smell.
Things that we admire
1. The patience gene
There is one thing that you can’t say about Philippines. That they’re not patient. A Pino is the personification of patience and no waiting time can be too long for him. While we were sometimes so close to just give up and leave, the Filipino just smiled at us.
There is barely anything that can darken the mood of a Filipino when it comes to waiting.
2. The high value of the family
Ever seen a Filipino alone? Those guys always seem to be surrounded by family, relatives and friends. Herd instinct is very common in Asian countries. Young family members care for the old and children grow up in a multi generation home.
3. Willingness to haggle
Although Filipino start with unreasonable prices when they want to sell something to you, they’re willing to haggle. Travellers should never accept the first price proposal but try to meet somewhere halfway.
4. Vendor’s trays are common and allows everyone to run a little business
When you stroll through Philippine streets, you’ll pass a lot of women and men who sell little items from their baskets and mobile stalls. You can purchase single cigarettes, single candy, phone cards, beverage and snacks. These self-run vendor trays keep those busy who can’t find a job.
5. The community spirit
If it’s not the family that can help, Filipinos can always count on the support of their living communities.
Neighbourhood, congregations and villages are more reliable than any governmental aid.
6. People are sitting outside in the evenings
Where are they? People who are sitting outside, in their gardens or courtyards to enjoy the evening over a beer. Filipinos know how to honor the cool breeze that comes up in the evening.
The heat during the day makes it hard to be outside for a long period.
7. Shops are open all night
Not only a Philippine thing, but the common trend for all Asian countries. 24 hour shops. For us travellers it’s practical when we arrive late in a place and still can buy water and some food.
Some of those shops like Seven Eleven also sell warm snacks and coffee.
8. Water refill stations against plastic waste
It was my first time to see water refill stations in an Asian country and then in the Philippines, a country that belongs to the poorest.
For a few pesos (5 Pesos) you can refill your bottle. Just throw in coin by coin and keep your bottle under the tap.
9. The joy of children
Filipino children are totally different than children from any other Asian country. We don’t know exactly what it is that makes them so special.
We guess it’s the bright smile and the big sparkling eyes. Filipino children are open-minded towards travellers and you won’t pass a group of children where at least one would greet you.
10. Filipinos accept the things the way they are, without complaining
If you ask a Filipino why the government acts how it acts, the standard answer will be “It is how it is and we can’t do much than just accept it.” Only in times of elections, there might be some revolt spirit.
If it’s waiting lines, unnecessary bureaucracy or the corruptness of administrative services, Filipinos are not made to complain, or they know that it’s just waste of energy in a thoroughly corrupt state.
11. The Spanish influence
The Spanish influence can be experienced best on the Philippine islands. When we walked through Lapu-Lapu in Cebu, we felt the special Latino flair. The decoration of the streets, the colonial-style houses, the cheerful markets, or Siesta time. Viva España!
There is so much adapted from the Spanish. And indeed the Philippines have a rich Spanish background that can be traced back for more than 300 years.
The Portuguese Ferdinand Magellan discovered the Philippine islands. His main purpose was the establishment of Catholicism. Further, the Spanish influence can be seen in many parts of Philippine life, like the language, the last names, the Western culture and the food.
12. Strong belief
Churches, ceremonies in honour of a Saint and Christian signs in public places. Catholicism is practised by the majority of the Filipinos in a very intensive way.
Statues of Mother Mary, Jesus and different saints contribute to the main decoration of the city. The Philippines are a god-fearing nation.
13. Rhum is the common drink
Tanduay is the name of the local rhum and can be bought everywhere. A 600 ml bottle costs around 38 pesos (about € 0.70).
There is almost no traveler that has been in the Philippines without trying rhum. Indeed, Rhum is a beverage that fits perfectly to the Filipino laid-back lifestyle.