Punny Philippines

26 Dec

1707 Pilipino Islands

1707 Pilipino Islands

There’s no F sound in Tagalog, the main Pilipino language (they pronounce F like a P) so that will be pun ;-) And the nickname for the people there are ‘PinoY’ (like the big bird in Sesame street – at least in the Dutch version of it – or is Sesame Street globalised?) – apparently with Y at the end (someone pointed out to me – lol)

  • Any more travel suggestions? – let me know, add it in a comment below!

The guidebook says that “the Philippines have Asian roots, but have spent 300 years in church (Spanish domination) and 50 years in Hollywood (American influence)”.

A Pino friend of mine told me that indeed, you can still notice this mix of influences. The Pilipino core is definitely (South-East) Asian (e.g. rice, harmony, face, hierarchy, family, tan,…) but did get a Spanish coating (e.g. Catholicism, machismo, fiesta, mañana,…) and a little touch of American influence (e.g. freedom of speech, expressing themselves, English, shopping,…).

It’s intriguing to find behind the outer ‘Western’ appearances and similarities an ‘Asian’ core and way of life. A bit like when I was in Canada and heard people speaking English: it sounded soo US American to me that I caught myself putting them on one heap with the US Americans, whereas they are quite different underneath ;-)

  • Of course, all of this are gross generalizations, which they I’ll confirm or infirm during my Pinoy trip, probably by April or May?

The Asian core

Miss Philippines 2007

Miss Philippines 2007

As other South East Asian countries also value harmony and would avoid the loss of face at all cost. If something goes wrong they just smile to recover dignity (or allow the other to exit from the embarrassing situation chin up). They value strongly smooth interpersonal relationships, so they would go out of their way to avoid direct criticism or confrontation and forgiveness comes easy.

  • The purpose of communication is harmony, not giving information“. (This is definitely something I have to learn!).

Being part of the family, togetherness and belonging is of huge importance. A Pilipino is what he is because of their family support, whatever wealth and achievements benefit the family, the shame I harvest is carried by the whole family. Most Pilipinos live in an extended family and take care of each other. Also, when 2 persons get married, it is the families that are knotted together, not only the husband and wife. A favour done entitles you to get one in return – favours are seldom refused (smells a bit like corruption and nepotism… but if it keeps people happy).

  • Being alone is one of the most dreaded situations – so I wonder where that leaves me as a lonesome traveler? A table for one? Or maybe the other way around, people I’ll meet along the road won’t want to leave me ‘alone’…

One of the favourite expressions of the Pilipinos is ‘Bahala Na’ which means something like ‘leave it to the gods’. So whatever happens happens and they take it with a smile. I think I’ll be smiling a lot (as in rest of SEAsia, I guess).

Spanish influence

Paoay Baroque Church - Luzon

Paoay Baroque Church - Luzon

The ‘god decides’ fatalist approach is nicely compatible with the Spanish ‘Mañana’ which was readily adopted in the Philippines. Time is more elastic than in Europe. Things will get done… when they’ll get done – Bahala Na.

The Spanish left a heritage of Catholicism and religiosity in the country. Most of the Pilipinos are devout catholics (or some other Christian charismatic groups / sects?) so many festivities have some religious origin or inspiration (e.g. new houses & cars are blessed by the priests, many go to mass, saints are carried around in processions, etc.).

  • I could try to arrive in the Philippines for Easter to get my dose of religiosity – and see Pilipino society in action. (although they told me life will be crazy during this period). And when is Easter anyway? And do I, as an ‘abdicated’ catholic, want to indulge in Catholicism again?

Maybe the Spanish are also responsible for the male macho man behaviour (guys showing off how cool they are – oof, not my cup of tea), and the women that are desperately romantic (blame it on the Spanish telenovelas, or the American soap operas?). Women are also very baby-minded and children (also of others) are cherished and pampered.

On top of that, the Pilipinos do have a talent for ‘la Fiesta’ – any reason is good enough to have a party. And parties always include singing or karaoke and lots of noise (as I noticed at a Pinoy Xmas party/fair in Brussels)… So I better take my ear plugs.

Pilipino grooming...

Pilipino grooming...

Pinoys tend to take life positively, like to be entertained and have a good sense of humour. That sort of fits with my impressions of the few Pilipinos I know in Belgium. They take life with a smile (again, smile smiles smilisimo) and seem to be easy-going, down to earth, not complicating life too much.

Besides the Asian ‘keeping face’ there is also the Spanish ‘amor propio’, a sort of self respect. Pinoys do like themselves (proud and cocky?) and would never go out of the door without being dressed and groomed properly (says the guidebook). It is even common for employees to take their toothbrush & comb to work… They seemingly like to show off and give a good impression. Reputation (what others think about them) is vital.

  • So here I can get some ideas for my search/need for recognition? How do the Pinoys construct their reputation without overdoing it…

And the Americans?

Flag of the Philippines

Flag of the Philippines

So what did the Pilipinos inherit from the Americans? Besides the fast-food and blockbuster movies, the US period (occupation, if you want) also taught people to express themselves (freedom of speech & democracy) in English. The Pinoys I know all tend to be very social and well spoken (knowing what they want, no beating around the bush).English seems to be wide-spoken, so less communication problems when traveling there, but this might confuse me more in realizing that they are Asian and not ‘western’.

  • It is this funny mix of Asian core and Spanish/American influence that made me choose for the Philippines when booking my travel, as opposed to Indonesia, which will have more traditional Asian things (temples, etc) like the other SEAsian countries I’ll be visiting.Even though the Philippines has less of this Asian exotic culture, the country is less traveled/touristy, which makes it all the more exotic for me!
The (in)famous Jeepneys

The (in)famous Jeepneys

The Pilipinos also took over the abundance of US army jeeps after the second World War and turned them into the typical ‘Jeepneys’ – a common and cheap way of transportation in the Philippines. It is also from the WWII that the tradition (in the countryside) stems to say “Hi Joe” to all the white foreigners – maybe I’ll just respond ‘hola pablo’ or so ;-)

When someone turns 18, the parents tend to give a big gala ‘debutante’ bal, with tuxedoes and gowns, like the prom balls in the American movies… Not sure how widespread this is, but definitely not an Asian tradition ;-)

Malls and shopping are also a huge pass-time for the Pinoys – especially after getting the Friday paycheck (maybe also because the malls are air-conditioned, and temperatures outside can be hot hot hot). So is basketball – maybe because of American influence – or maybe it is just because basketball is a less costly sport that doesn’t require lots of space or infrastructure? So no badminton for me in the Philippines?

Some other punny Pilipino things

  • Pinoys are very reluctant to pay taxes, so corruption and tax-evasion is a national pass-time – just like in Belgium – so I’ll feel at home, lol.
    The Pilipinos don’t talk about the weather (that’s Britain, darling), but they talk about… the traffic. This is apparently also the main excuse for being late somewhere.
  • It is etiquette not to accept an invitation from the first go. It needs to be repeated a few times to be sure they really want you. That sounds a bit Irish to me…
  • It is not polite to come on time. Pilipino time recommends to be half an hour late for a dinner party (otherwise the host will never be ready).
  • Balut - duck embryo - bon appetit

    Balut - duck embryo - bon appetit

    The Pinoys say Hi with their eyebrows, raising them, together with an eternal smile. I should not interpret that as ‘interest’… So I bet I’ll catch on to this habit by the time I go home again, like I was nodding my head sideways after coming back from India…

  • Traffic signs in the Philipines are only suggestions: the driver decides if they fit to the situation or not, leading to total road chaos. They must have gotten their inspiration in China!
  • Gambling is allowed (some) and many people bet on e.g. cockfighting. I heard there are even charter flights from Taiwan to the Philippines for gamblers. (so that would be a cheap way to add a little Taiwan chapter on my blog).
  • Traditional and faith healing is very popular in the Philippines. Think garden gnomes, house spirits, TV-priest-healing. (Worth a try?!) They are used in parallel to Western medicine.
  • Philippines will be the only country on my trip where they do deserts! In other South East Asian countries you won’t get any further than a bit of fruit, but the Philippines do specialize in sweets and deserts – mmmm – to gain back some weight after all the months of rice rice rice ;-)
  • Culinary tip: ‘balut’, a half developed duck embryo which is eaten in one piece, with beak, feathers and all…
  • Good thing there is the locally brewed San Miguel beer to swallow it down…

What to do – where to go? (Thanx Eric & Herman for the tips!)

  • One of thousands...

    One of thousands...

    I arrive in Manila, but besides for shopping and going out (e.g. gay scene) my Pinoy friends recommended to get out of this smog-riddled & traffic-jammed city bigger than the whole of Belgium (in number of inhabitants) but of course there are some traditional areas such as Intramuros.

  • Going North on Luzon (the Island where Manila lies) there are the huge terraced rice fields in the Philippine Cordilleras, which make picturesque pictures.
  • Besides these World heritage rice fields, there are also some Baroque churches from the Spanish period, which are also on the UNESCO list of wow-sites.
  • And while we’re there, I’ll have a look at the 16th century village of Vigan, which is one of the best preserved Spanish colonial towns in Asia (so says the tourist brochure).
  • Boracay is THE idyllic dream beach with white sands, azur water, palm trees, bamboo huts,… and loads of tourists ;-(  but there are many alternative more quite beaches (as the Philippines consist of 7107 islands, there must be one leftover for me!)
  • Chocolate hills...

    Chocolate hills...

    On the Bohol island there are the Chocolate hills, which look like a tray of chocolate pralines – and recommended to me, at the river side, there was Nuts Huts, a nice place to wind down and relax (if I would not be relaxed by then yet after all the leisurely traveling and beaches)…

  • On Palawan there are some underground caves and the area is very laid back and relaxed.
  • Roxas is good for diving at the coral island (if I got my diving license in Malaysia) and a crocodile farm nearby to visit (hm?).
  • There is the Taal Volcano and Taal lake
  • A visit (flight) to Cebu, the second largest city of the Philippines, called Queen city of the South, should also be worth a try…

Anything else? Add your suggestions in the comments!

It is difficult to think about what I’d do in Philippines already now, because it will be the final destination of my trip after 5 other countries. My Pinoy friends also put me in contact with some of their friends, so maybe they can take me for a ride..


2 Responses to “Punny Philippines”

  1. eric 26 December 2008 at 15:22 #

    Finally something about the Philippines! well yeah could be the last one posted but nevertheless the least of your interest.
    Reading this gives me the urge to book a ticket and fly to Manila.. I’m jealous that you have such time and courage to travel around for a long period.

    Take your trip the filipino way – “Bahala Na” and you see that you will enjoy every bit of your travel, without regrets.. Anyway if people around you think this way then it’s better to go with the flow.

    I will follow your journey through this blog, ik hoop dat je de tijd vindt om het af en toe aan te passen. Wanneer je in de filippijnen bent zal ik nog wat tips en advies geven. Hou in contact met onze vrienden ginder, ze zijn toffe mensen en gastvrij. Doe hen ook natuurlijk onze groeten.
    By the way, “Pino” is met een “y” vanachter – “pinoy” dus.. “pinoys” – meervoud.

    N’essaies pas de parler en espagnol aux jeunes parce qu’ils ne l’ont plus étudier. Peut etre les gens de 40ans et plus le peuvent faire.

    Buen viaje y muchos bessos de Amberes!

  2. justaddh2o 26 December 2008 at 17:20 #

    great post (signed prom a pormer presh op the boat pinay)

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