What is it like to live in the Philippines?

2021-09-12 | aprates.dev

[1] Leia este post em português

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I've been living in the Philippines for over 2 years now, in Cebu City, capital of the island of Cebu, second largest city after Manila, capital of the country, and these are my perceptions so far.

Philippines is a tropical country, made up of more than 7,000 islands, a third world country with all the issues of social inequality and underdevelopment, and with many places of exuberant and beautiful nature.

Their culture has traces of native peoples' traditions, but it also has Spanish, American, Japanese, Chinese, Arab and Indonesian influences. It's a real cultural mix and, despite being geographically located in Asia, it has a predominantly Catholic influence, which curiously reminds me of my country of origin, Brazil. On the other hand, I feel like it lacks a bit of cultural identity here, or it's a bit Americanized.

Although English is an official language, each island has its own language. Filipinos, in general, speak pretty good English compared to other Asian countries, so if you speak English you won't have any problems here. But it won't always be that easy, as the poorest portion of the population speaks a very poor English when they do. The locals are attentive, and always try to help. Many use gestures and facial expressions for communication. And to show the way, sometimes they just point with their mouth, lips and chin in the direction. Pretty funny.

Still in the cultural aspect, a curious point is the attachment to bureaucracy and paperwork. Living here, be prepared to have to deal with rules that don't make sense and have to solve a lot offline, filling out forms by hand, elaborate and illogical protocol procedures, needing to physically visit local government departments and… have I mentioned? thousands of forms :O

About cultural details in bathrooms. Generally speaking, many Filipinos use water with a small basin called a "tabo" to clean themselves after using the toilet. Shopping malls, even the best ones, do not always offer toilet paper in the bathrooms, and neither "tabo". Some have a machine that accepts coins to buy paper outside the restrooms. Before heading out to a mall make sure you are bringing some coins to secure the toilet paper. Always make sure you have paper at your disposal before using the bathroom, so you don't get into a "situation" afterwards.

The air on the streets of capital cities is often polluted and dusty, with the smoke from heavy traffic thrown up mainly by diesel vehicles, especially from Jeepnys. Perhaps that's why, even before COVID-19, I've noticed Filipinos wearing a face shield since I got here (or perhaps as a reflection of the earlier SARS-2006 virus). In any case, even after the pandemic has passed, if you wish to walk the streets for long distances, if you manage to tolerate the strong heat, it may still be worth using airway protection.

It is a folk who are used to natural disasters: earthquake, hurricane, typhoon, volcano, because the islands are located on a fault line known as the Pacific fire belt. I have never experienced an earthquake, but I was in Manila (the Philippine capital) when the Taal Volcano erupted in early 2020, being stuck in Malina region for almost a week due to the ash, and airports restrictions. I was also stuck for two days in Bohol (neighboring island of Cebu) due to a typhoon.

This text is adapted from a post I originally made on Quora:
[2] Como é viver nas Filipinas? (in portuguese)

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