05-12-2005, 07:29 PM
Hey guys, love the board! I've been following Cecil through the Reader and the books for a long time now.
I'm interested in what difficulties an American would have to make to adjust to life in the Philippines. I know the weather, but I've also heard the pollution is bad? Is this just the water, or is it the air too?
I'm sure I'll stand out since I look like a foreigner. Should I expect prejudice?
I'm also interested in the biggest cultural differences I will have to get used to. I'm sure it'll be a shock.
Anyone who's lived there or who has visited that could share some stories?
05-13-2005, 02:11 AM
I have spent the past two years living in the Philippines, and the first 6 months here were fairly difficult for me. I live in Cebu, the second largest city here, and my number one complaint is the noise, it is almost impossible to escape the noise pollution.
The neighborhoods have no zoning or noise ordinances, and Filipinos love their karaoke all day and night. Plus, there are thousands of roosters, motorcycles with no mufflers, constantly honking horns, etc. The air pollution would be the worst in manila, and then here is Cebu is pretty bad also. Plus, Filipinos just throw their trash anywhere, the streets are covered in trash.
Air and water both are polluted, even the beaches near the city are polluted. You probably do not want to drink the tap water.
The only prejudice you will encounter is that some Filipinos make it a sport to charge the foreigners a higher price. You may even encounter some hotels that will refuse to give you the same price they charge the locals. On a daily basis the most common prejudice you might encounter are the taxis, they can be difficult to deal with sometimes. Many will try to overcharge you.
The smaller cities have all the same problems, just to a lesser degree. Due to the poverty here, and due to the fact that many people here are struggling just to have enough food to eat, most people here do not really pay much attention to reducing pollution or keeping the country clean.
The positives are that most of the people here are very sweet and polite. Filipinos are very friendly, and you can start a conversation with almost any person you see. The prices are much cheaper than America. Most Filipinos only earn about $3 or $4 a day, so anything with a price based on labor is very cheap.
Can I ask why you are moving to the Philippines ? Your culture shock can vary based upon why you are moving here. The Philippines is almost always different from America.
05-13-2005, 05:37 AM
Mabuhay! (That's the Filipino way of greeting someone. Welcome!) Welcome to the SDMB and you will surely receive a warm welcome when you arrive in the Philippines. I am a "white" American married to a Filipina and I've been there twice so I'll try to give you an idea of what to expect. My visits were to Batangas which is about 2 hours from Manila, where I assume you'll be going according to your other post.
First, the environment.
You already know about the weather so don't even bother to pack any long sleeve shirts. You'll never wear them. In fact, you might do well not to bring anything more than the clothes on your back and buy what you need when you get there. Shorts or lightweight pants, sandals, and a T or polo shirt are most practical. For formal occasions a barong is the custom.
There seems to be 2 seasons in the Phils. Hot and dry, and hot and wet. My first visit was in May (dry) and my second visit was in November (wet) I liked May better. YMMV.
Air pollution from automobiles and industry is probably as bad as it is in Chicago but probably not worse either. However, outside of Manila, there are open sewers, farms, and fertilizer plants that will no doubt get your attention.
Don't - I repeat - Don't drink the water! You will get sick if you do. Even the local people drink bottled water or get it from purifying shops. Even though I was cautious, on my first visit I still became ill because I forgot about the tap water that I used for brushing my teeth! My second visit I used purified water to brush but I forgot about the ice cubes in a cold drink. Got me again!
Last environmental note here. Living so far north of the equator we not only have seasonal change in temperature but we also have seasonal changes in our day and night. When the weather is cold the sun goes down at 5PM, and when the weather is hot the sun goes down at 8PM. So when I saw the sun set at 5PM on a 95 degree day it twisted my whole sense of time around. It was like the planet was out of orbit or something. Really freaky!
Now let's talk about The Land:
Rice paddies, mountains, coconut trees, wild flowers, grass, rivers, bamboo forests! Man, it's beautiful! And there's food growing everywhere! Every house has a mango tree. Coconut trees are like weeds...They're all over the place! Same for bananas and avocados. Oh yeah, pineapples too! And they grow bushes of little chiles called siling peppers. Whoo! Hot stuff!
I guess you could say Animals are part of the land or environment so let's talk about them here. First - Domesticated animals. Chickens. Everybody has chickens! Funny thing is, I didn't see one damn egg the whole time I was there. But man, oh man, did I see some chickens. And something else I learned: Roosters crow 24 hours a day! That's right. All through the night they crow to mark their territory. And to tell the truth, I kinda like it. There's just something peaceful and relaxing about that Arr-Arr-Arrrrrrrrrrrrrr! Too bad we can't keep poultry in Chicago. Those with enough land also keep goats and pigs. And the "beast of burden" is the Caribou, or Water Buffulo. One sad note about the domesticated animals is that they still condone cock fighting. And, of course, I would be remiss if I didn't address the fact that, yes, some Filipinos do eat dog. I am told that the practice is dying out and I, myself, did not see it, so let's hope it is rapidly becoming a thing of the past.
Now, as for Wild Animals - I was greatly disappointed. I thought when I visited this tropical country I would see a great many exotic animals. Never happened. Even in Chicago we have squirrels, rabbits, raccoons, opposums,and many species of birds. But outside of a few sparrow like birds..... nothing! I was told that there were some wild monkeys up in the nearby mountains but no feral animals near the populace. Why? I asked. Because anything coming near the inhabitants would be eaten, I was told. So that brings us to the next section of my Philippines experience.
The People and Culture:
The first thing you will notice when you arrive in the Philippines is people, people, people! There are people everywhere 24 hours a day. Young people, old people, people on foot, people on bikes, people on tricycles, people in jeepneys, people coming, people going, people staying. Organized chaos is what it is. It looks like utter confusion but everyone knows what they're doing and where they're going.
In Manila you won't stand out because they are accustomed to foreigners. But once you get away from the city to the smaller towns you will, indeed, stick out like the proverbial sore thumb. At first it's a little disconcerting with people staring at you, but after a while it's kind of cool. Makes you feel like a movie star.
English is spoken by almost everyone. And to be honest, better than most Americans. (like, like, like,.....ARRRRRGGGGHHHHHH)
Now here's my take on the Filipino people. They are very friendly, respectful, hard working,honest, family oriented, traditional and religious.
If you want to meet the real Filipinos you must get out to the provinces and ride the jeepneys, eat in the restaurants, stop at a roadside stand and buy buko pie. Talk to them, answer their questions and ask your own. You will see what they think of America and Americans. It has been my experience that they love America and are very eager to learn about us and our ways. I must say I had a good laugh when my inlaws told me about their idea of American workers. They seem to think that we work all the time. Never take a vacation. No holidays. Nothing. Just work, work, work. I didn't know how in the world they got that idea till I thought about it for a while. It seems the only information they get about the US is from relatives who are here. And, of course, we all know that the Filipinos who are here do, indeed, work 2 or 3 jobs in order to help support their families back home. In fact, Mrs. P. says she feels like she's unemployed if she only has one job. (hot damn, I married well!)
There is no need for you to worry about safety or racism as long as you're in the northern islands.
Well this is getting kind of long so let me wrap it up with a few words:
Don't drink the water.
Do eat the mangos.
Do eat the ugly little bananas. They might look spoiled but, man o man, they are the best bananas you will ever have in your entire life!
Be generous. (not extravagent. just generous)
As a testament to the Filipino people I want to say this:
Not once in the entire time I was in the Philippines did I see anyone hit, threaten, or so much as raise a fist to another person.
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