Philippines vs. The World 2 (Again, I love the world. Peace.)
It’s about time I write a second one. There have been so many things I’ve learned already about all sorts of differences and similarities, subtle and striking, as we randomly do things here and sometimes when we stay up until three in the morning just talking about our lives back home. But, what I’m in the mood to share about right now is about the ‘dangerous Philippines’.
Insiders. So many exchange students have gone to the Philippines already. There was even a week when there was at least one group flying out each day. Some went to Cebu, others to Puerto Galera, some to Subic and some just in Manila and since there are only two Filipina exchange students here (Pilipinas reprezzent), they ask us about places where they should go, how long the flight is, but most importantly, they always ask us, “Is it really dangerous in the Philippines?” in this I-don’t-want-to-offend-you-but-I-just-really-wanna-know kind of way. I was never offended, really, because well I know my country isn’t the safest place on this Earth. Locals still ask me about the hostage taking, other exchange students remind the others to watch their bags, etc. All those were not new to me, I watch my things carefully in the Philippines, I know that the hostage taking took place – I even watched it live on TV. And so, I always tell them, ‘Well, you just have to be careful and watch your things, don’t go to sketchy places, and you’ll be fine. It’s dangerous but only in some parts.’ Always, I say this. For me it’s common sense to do these things when you go to an unfamiliar place, be it in the safest place in the world (wherever that may be) or the complete opposite. Unfamiliar usually spells caution. Because again, I feel like this ‘danger’ in the country is overrated, in the same way, that a lot of people think that the Philippines is at war (what they mean is the war in Mindanao). I feel like aside from our beaches and Manny Pacquiao, the only thing people know about the Philippines are the crimes they see on the news. And I can’t blame them, it’s just how it is. I’m guilty of doing the same thing for other countries. The only thing I know about Austria is what I’ve seen from “The Sound of Music” and so – I get it, I get them. And of course, if there’s anything I’ve learned during my two-month stay so far is: never assume you fully get anything. Because apparently, I was far from getting ‘it’.
Outsiders. We got to talk to one of our German friends when he came back from the Philippines and he started with the good stuff: everyone was so nice, they loved the fact that everyone was smiling, the food was great, they could not get enough of being called Sir during their entire stay, the beaches were awesome (some said it’s really paradise). Very heartwarming, yes. Shocking, not so much. And then he moved on to describing Manila. He said it’s very strange. He wasn’t trying to say it was bad or good, he was just saying it’s different. He said, “What is it in Manila, where there are gates… um, gates? Walls? Something like that.” He was struggling to find the word and so we were struggling to figure out what he was trying to say. We decided quickly that he was talking about Intramuros, walled city and a tourist spot, makes sense. Then he said, “No, it’s not like that. People live inside.” And now, I was so confused, what is this German guy trying to say? After a lot of asking and explaining, I finally got to ask, “What do you mean? Subdivisions? Like villages?” I explained what it was though I had a weird time explaining subdivisions. It’s like explaining why the sky is blue (corny, though we learned the actual reason why in Physics and I was so amused). Subdvisions, it’s just what it is. What is the big deal about it? At this point I was more lost than ever.
To cut the story short, after he finally absorbed that it’s very normal to have subdivisions in the Philippines and after a lot of ‘that’s so strange’ comments, he finally explained. He said that in Germany they did not have gates. I said, oh yeah, like in the US, only cute little fences. Eric, another German, said that they did not have fences either. He said something like, if you wanna see me, you just go to my house and open my door. Okay, kinaya ko pa to, thanks to movies. So he asked me if I lived in one of those things and I said, yup with the gates and everything. He then mentioned that what was even more strange is the fact that these gated villages had security guards with shotguns. And I just had to say, “Uh, our security guards have shotguns too.” By this time, Eric was really shocked. You live in a place with guards with shotguns? And I was, yeaah, that’s what you pay for – security. He said it’s weird that I would feel safe in a place surrounded with armed men. And I really couldn’t follow their logic. Isn’t it weirder to feel safe in an unguarded place? It really made zero sense to me. He said he has always felt weird in our dorms because there are guards everywhere, going around, and forever in the entrance. So strange. Ayun, so strange. And because we’ve had so many talks about cultural differences and other things, I had to open my mind which I thought was already very open. So this is what they meant by saying that the Philippines is dangerous. Well at least one of the reasons. It’s because we need security guards with bigaszz shotguns to protect us. Okay, it’s starting to make more sense now that I think about it. I wouldn’t say it completely makes sense to me now but well I’m starting to see the light from their side. Golly, the world is indeed big. I’m still thinking what else I can say about this but until now that I got think about it again, I still don’t know what to make of it. Mhmm. Thoughts anyone? Haha.
Nitty-Gritty. He added that between these big villages, there are clumps of makeshift houses which again did not make sense to him. It’s been pointed out countless times that the gap between the rich and the poor in the Philippines is pretty big but when he put it that way, in this sincerely incredulous face, it has a different effect, you know. Slap on the face again that yes, it is very strange. Another thing from a French friend, when I was explaining to her that when I commute, I would never sleep because of the risk of getting your phone stolen, she just looked at me and literally just opened her mouth for a second. She said, “This is what I meant when you say that the Philippines is not dangerous, maybe it’s just for you since you’re local.” I said it’s not like that because I thought she was trying to imply that it’s more dangerous for foreigners simply because their foreigners. (Sometimes yes, because anyone with blue eyes, brown hair and white skin would look rich in the country.) But apparently, she was trying to say that it’s not that dangerous for us because we grew up in this. We are used to these things and it’s “stupid” to do some things that would attract danger. Apparently, the “stupid” things are far from stupid to them. And again it will always be hard to put myself in their shoes simply because it’s not that easy to wear another pair, you know. I have spent the whole of my nineteen years on this planet in the same country, learning the ropes (and still learning a lot) on how to survive in it. I still cannot get a handle on these “other” things now that I’m starting to hear about them (e.g. Bernice who we met in Guangzhou recently said that her Finnish friends just leave their houses open in Finland – whyyy). I have never known any other way on how to simply be in a country, well, at least now I’m learning.
Disclaimer: I do not represent the country when I said that I don’t sleep while commuting for fear of getting my phone stolen. I know a lot of my friends sleep and they don’t lose anything. Just to be clear. I know praning ako than most people.
I’m starting to realize every after I write stuff like this, I don’t what to think. Just like my first P vs. W post, I don’t know what to say except that National Geographic had it right: The more you know, the more you know you don’t know.
It’s like summer everyday in the Philippines, right? No wonder you guys are always so happy.