Having been accused many, many times of being "so NOT Pinoy", I have attempted to decipher why it is I have been labeled as such. To be clear, I was born in the Philippines, and have been raised here, educated here and lived here all my life. Unfortunately, I seem to have been wired differently, and most of the things accepted as a "given" on a daily basis cause great strain and distress on my part. (Recipe for stress-related conditions, which deserves another post on its' own.)
With that said, I will attempt to enumerate some of the cultural idiosyncracies that have endeared me to most people in this country. (For the irony-challenged: Yes, that was sarcasm.) I can also call this list "Things An Extraterrestrial Being MUST Take Note Of When In The Philippines."
1. Throw out your watch. You won't need it.
Back when I was in sales, I would set up tons of meetings with potential clients. We would set a time and place to meet, and being the diligent person that I am (how's that for self-propping), I would arrive AT LEAST 15 minutes earlier than the appointed time (usually I give it a half hour's allowance). I'd settle in and have my usual coffee (black) and pass away the time either reading magazines, or accessing the web (if wi-fi is available). It would then occur to me that I have either read through half the magazine or gone through all my notifications on social media when I would notice that it's already close to an hour after the appointed time. And when I follow up clients by asking what time they would arrive, they would either:
a.) Ignore your text message.
b.) Hang up your call. (Way to go, obvious oblivious.)
c.) Say "I'll be there...didn't we agree to meet at X+1 hour?" (X being the appointed time.)
So treat timepieces as decorative accessories. That's what they are here.
2. Endure greetings of "You've gotten SO fat." Lots of it.
Apparently, this is a form of "endearment" in Philippine culture, one that shows that you are "close enough", and proof of which is that they can freely comment on one's weight. Did I say "close"? I meant to say "most anyone can do it", even people you've just met or casual acquaintances.
This is a complete mystery to me. Is there NOTHING else to talk about? Are we so devoid of conversation skills or topics to pick at that this is what we automatically resign ourselves to as a proper greeting? I could ask about one's job, or what interests a person has (that maybe I can help with or find common ground with), or even what they are in town for. Instead, we are rountinely subjected to idiots who think that talking about physical appearance passes as "witty banter".
Not to mention that if a person is indeed fat (by whatever standard/s), don't you think that person already knows that "fact"? (And we can all attest: Our worst critics are ourselves.) Chances are, that person has enrolled in a gym, or is dieting like crazy, because, heaven forbid, you won't land your "dream date" or an entire business could go bankrupt if you don't have an hourglass figure or biceps the size of Sequoia trunks.
Plain and simple: Saying "You're SO taba na!" ("You're SO fat already!") is just bastos (rude/uncouth).
3. Lines don't mean anything. Unless you want to be ostracized.
I was in line for coffee the other day, when an older woman (take note, I said older, not old) started pushing ahead, all while saying "Mas matanda ako, paraan!" ("I'm older, give way to me!") Most everyone gave way to her - even though she wasn't carrying a respirator, neither did I see a tattoo saying "Cancer Patient In View" - and when she got to me, I pointed to her the big sign that says "Please Line Up Properly". She suddenly blurted out "Swapang!" ("Arrogant!") then physically pushed her way to the front of the line (in my mind, I can still see those people being thrown in the air)...to ask where the bathroom was.
Being a man in this country means you will be served last. You're a woman? Ladies first. Elderly? Let's help you along with your arthritis. Children? Best to let the screamers get ahead. It's enforced everywhere, right down to the MRT (Mass Railway Transit), where an entire car is "Ladies Only". And here I thought we were supposed to be "equals". What this tells me is that women want men to hold the door for them, and at the same time, be the CEO. We have to take the crap with the perks, and that means taking your place in the line, fair and square. I mean, how far back do women want to go? Do women still want to vote? If equality is to be truly enforced, no special treatment should be given on the basis of genitals, or age, or any other demographic factor that is being used to get ahead of the line.
4. Public Urination? Trash Thrown At Your Door? That's Life.
Well, life in the Philippines, that is.
It doesn't matter that the trash can is just 12 inches away. People go out of their way to MISS the receptacle for disposables. And when confronted, they say "Bakit?!? Ginagawa naman ng lahat, diba?!?" ("Why?!? Everyone does it, right?!?") So, set yourself up for noxious fumes from every which direction, as the joys of urinary dispersal and food decomposition pleasantly assail you.
On a side note, I actually witnessed a lady taking a crap along a flight of stairs in SM Megamall. Seriously.
5. When Confronted With Items 1-4, Smile And Suck It Up.
And the most confounding thing of all, you have to accept the insults, the inequities and the urine with gratefulness and with the biggest smile you can muster. You don't want to be labeled a sourpuss who doesn't "get" Philippine culture, do you?
Oh, wait. They already did that to me.