January 31, 2015: These are my personal lists of the things I love about the Philippines and the things I don’t. They are random. They aren’t exhaustive, well-researched or particularly insightful. I haven’t really given this a lot of thought. This is just how I feel today, after two years in this beautiful but complex country. If I were to do this again tomorrow, next week or next month, my lists might look totally different. Then again…maybe not.
Things I Love About The Philippines
- So many of the incredible people we’ve met.
- The fact that people smile and say “Good morning” when I’m walking down the street.
- The generosity and resilience of many Filipinos in the face of adversity.
- The food. Tinolang Manok. Kilawin. Sisig. Tuna Sisig. Lechon (whole roasted pig). Laing. Sinigang. Boneless Bangus. Lapu Lapu. Garlic Rice. Turon. Puto Bumbong. Bibingkas. Rice Cakes. Cassava Cakes. Calamansi on everything!
- Any excuse for a party. Street festivals, Mardi Gras, elections, parades, holidays, graduations, debuts, reunions, family celebrations, birthdays. Not to mention all of the National Holidays! Parties usually mean lots of food and karaoke. And fireworks! When was the last time you attended a wedding with fireworks?
- Exploring in the markets. Riding there in a jeepney or a trike.
- The incredible sunsets (and sunrises too, but I just don’t see those nearly as often).
- Drinking an icy beverage, like a Green Mango Shake, on a really hot day.
- Carabaos, the big water buffaloes, that many rice farmers still use to work their fields.
- Great diving!
Things I Don’t
- Mosquitos. Ants. Cockroaches. Weevils. And other crawly things and flying things. Especially the ones that bite me.
- Garbage everywhere (on the streets, on the beaches, in the water). The prevalence of littering and the lack of organized recycling.
- When people who know me call me “mam” instead of Sandra. I understand it’s a sign of respect, but it makes me feel old. (On the upside, a lot of Filipinas call me Ate (pronounced ah-tay) or Ate Sandra, which basically means big sister. That’s kind of cool.)
- People who walk really, really, really slow in groups and block the entire sidewalk. Or the ones who just stop in front of a doorway and block it.
- A litany of natural disasters and disease outbreaks (typhoons, floods, landslides, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, leptospirosis, measles, dengue, malaria).
- Trying to find women’s shoes in my size and clothing made of natural fibers. Whatever happened to gauzy cotton and linen?
- Seeing dogs with mange, female dogs bred too many times and scrawny feral cats.
- Going to four or five or more different shops to look for a specific item and still coming away empty handed.
- The huge and growing gulf between the very rich and the very poor. Don’t even get me started on all the corruption scandals and strange government decisions…like the temporary clean-up (i.e. removal) of street people from Manila to a luxury holiday resort far away from town during the recent visit by Pope Francis.
- Comfort room etiquette (or lack thereof). Wash your hands please people! And don’t stand on the toilet seat.
Philippine flag art by Schizophrenique at deviantart.com