So after obsessing over the country for a while, my friends and I just came back from a 5-day trip to the Philippines! Most of my close friends during the exchange program at NUS were from the Philippines, and from them my interest in the country and their culture grew. It absolutely amazed me how similar our cultures and languages, among others, are. Anyway, here are some fun facts about the Philippines and its people!
#1. Is it Phillipines? Phillippines? Philippines?
Not many people can get the spelling right. Right, so the way you spell the name of the country in English is “The Philippines” with the, a single l, and double p’s. In their native language, the official name is “Republika ng (read: nang) Pilipinas”, however, I don’t think they use it much.
However, the adjective used to name products from the Philippines is “Philippine”, e.g. Philippine cakes.
#2. The people of the Philippines are called as Filipino(s) or Pinoy and their official language is Filipino.
Filipino or Pinoy is used to describe both men and women, but the specific labels for women are Filipina or Pinay.
Filipino is also the name of their official language. You might think, “What about Tagalog?” Tagalog is actually a dialect which became the main core of the Filipino language today. What I love most about Filipino is that they have SO MANY words that are similar to Bahasa Indonesia. This includes baboy (babi or pig), salamat (which means “thank you” but is similar to selamat or congratulations), ganda (means “beautiful” but in Bahasa Indonesia it means “double”), mahal (which is “love” in Tagalog but “expensive” in Bahasa Indonesia). Some words mean exactly the same, like kambing (goat) or payung (umbrella). Awesome, no? 😀
#3. Pinoys have super long names.
It is always easy to spot Filipino names. They usually sound very Spanish (influenced from the Spanish colonization) or English and consist around four until five names (a bit like Indonesians, huh?). Filipinos also tend to put their mother’s maiden name just before their surname, and if Indonesians have the acronym “Muh.” or “M.” for Muhammad, they have “Ma.” for Maria! (Remember, they are a Catholic country.)
#4. As a friend said, the Philippines is a meat-lover heaven.
If you’re a vegetarian, you would NOT enjoy living there. Pinoys looooooove their meat! Pork or baboy is like a holy food that everyone loves, and it is made into all kinds of food: lechon, adobo, chicaron. They love beef and chicken too, which is why the local #1 fastfood restaurant there, Jollibee, serves all three. Sadly, it was so damn hard to find halal food that I had to go almost 9 days of my stay there without meat, except sea food and eggs. 😥
By the way, I did try balut though! Balut is a Philippine delicacy of half-hatched duck eggs. It looks super yuck but it actually tastes really good!
I didn’t go as far as eating the greyish parts though, which is the little (almost) duckling, complete with feathers and a small beak!
#5. Like ships and boats, all taxis have their own names. True story.
#6. When they say that English is their second language, it really is.
I think it is widely known that mostly Filipinos can speak proper and clear English really fluently, especially the youngsters, even though those who are no longer young can also speak really good English. To my surprise, the sellers in traditional markets can communicate fairly well in English! However, Filipinos sometimes have these unique traits in their English pronunciations. For example, they would sometimes pronounce the ‘f’ as ‘p’ and the ‘v’ as ‘b’. There was a common joke between my Pinoy friends to say “Alabyu” instead of “I love you”. 😀
#7. Let me introduce you the famous Jeepney and the highly efficient Tricycle!
Jeepney is a name of their traditional public transportation. Jeepneys are usually decorated in a very flashy and bold way, and they can usually take up to 20 passengers. Since passengers will have to enter through the entrance at the back, the way they pay the jeepney fare (which is 8 peso or 1.600 rupiah) is by passing the money from one hand to another, until the passenger that sits right behind the driver pass him the money. That’s the same way to receive the change: the driver will pass the money to the passenger behind him, and the money will be passed all the way to the person who the change belongs to. Now that’s a typical example of gotong royong in the Philippines!
Whereas tricycle is also a very interesting public transportation. In Indonesia, it is like ojek, bajaj, and becak all in one, because it consists of a motorcycle that can carry the driver and a passenger, attached to the passenger seat that looks like the inside of a bajaj, and behind that seat is another seat like the one in becak, only it’s facing the back. Really amusing and efficient, it can carry up to 6 or 7 people!
#8. Christmas in the Philippines is big. No, actually, it’s HUGE!
As a Catholic country, Christmas or Pasko is a big deal for Filipinos. The Christmas festive actually even starts since September and ends in early January, and I’m not even kidding! For four months, the streets will be decorated with lights, shining stars and decorations (parol), and sculptures or miniatures of Bible scenes. Then in December, Manila would be like an enormous parking lot with traffic everywhere because everyone is out roaming the streets to shop. Subsequently, the malls will be super packed as well!! We went to Makati area once (which is the financial district in Manila), and we found out later that it was pay day, which means that it was the perfect time to do Christmas shopping. Naturally, people were everyyyywhereeeeee!
#9. Filipinos are mall freaks. Sounds familiar? :p
Yes, like Indonesians, Pinoys absolutely love malls. Their malls are divided into 2 classes in general: for the low-middle class and the high class society. For the former, “SM” is the brand of the mall which is everywhere in the Philippines. SM, which stands for “Shoe Market”, used to be a plain shoe market like the name suggests, but as it developed, it began to own not only malls, but also supermarkets. An example is the Mall of Asia (MoA), which is huge and a popular hangout place for youngsters.
As for elite malls, Greenbelt in Makati is a perfect example. Greenbelt reminds me of Tunjungan Plaza in Surabaya which has TP 1 until 3. However, Greenbelt has 5 parts, full with luxurious brands, top-notch international stores, fine-dining restaurants, and comfortable chill out places This mall is where the expats usually hang out, accompanied with their local arm-candies. By the way, that’s one thing I noticed here: it is a common sight to see old white men walking around with skinny local girls half their age.
#10. This country is so much like Indonesia it amazes me.
True story. Filipinos look amazingly similar like Indonesians, that being talked to in Tagalog was common for me there. Their language is similar to ours. Their culture and habits, even though highly influenced by Catholic and Spanish, is similar to us in many ways. This includes their custom to bring back pasalubong (oleh-oleh) when they balikbayan (pulang kampung) 😀
They worship America and everything that comes from the US, like Indonesian teens adore American products. Their kindness and hospitality are so similar to Indonesians’ too! The people are unbelievably nice and friendly, and they would salute you by adding the salutation po after every sentence (for example: salamat po to say thank you, change po to say here’s your change, and so on).
Their messed up politics and government is undoubtedly like ours. The traffic, the streets, the infrastructure, the crime rate, and the public transportation (especially in Manila) is like ours (or Jakarta’s, at least)! The food (minus their love for pork) is so like Indonesian food as well, like adobo (tumis kecap), chicaron (the pig version of kerupuk rambak kulit), and halo-halo (es campur).
For all these reasons, people may think it quite strange that I chose to take a big interest in this country. But in my personal opinion, the Philippines is a love-hate imposing country, just like Indonesia. A country which makes you frustrated, in despair, and fed up, but every time you leave, you will always long to go back… just because it’s home and no other place feels quite like it… 🙂