I’m back from the Philippines!

So yes, I’m back from my three-week stay at the Philippines–my first time there. I think I’ve said I’m Filipino, but I wasn’t raised in the Philippines; I was raised in California. So there were a lot of familiar things I saw there, and many new things to try, and some culture shock.

For example: jeeps. I did see pictures of them prior to this trip, but they were seldom. So I’d forgotten to prepare myself to see all the jeeps around. There’s also the tricycles, which I totally did not know about at all. When I first saw them, I thought they were motorcycle-drawn carriages, which could be a good description for them. Then I was told that those were actually tricycles. I didn’t get to take a picture of either, so here are some pics from Google Images:

These jeeps don’t always look exactly alike. Some can be really decorative and colorful like this one, and some can be a plain color, usually silver. Either way, they have a nostalgic–and often reckless–air to them. People usually take the jeep to commute (unless they drive a car).
These tricycles can also be colorful, but most of the Philippine trikes I’ve seen are plain. They are called tricycles because they have a motorcycle, which is two wheels, attached to a small one-wheel cab.

Philippine culture is a great big assimilation, with Thai, Indian, Chinese, Spanish, Mexican, and American influences. Sometimes you can see more Western influence than influence from other Asian countries. For example, my dad grew up in the Philippines, and most of the language he heard was English! (Yes, they do speak English there. Fear not, non-Tagalog speakers. However, some people may notice you’re a foreigner and ask you for money because they think you’re rich.) But there’s still some differences, besides the food. I’m not sure if some differences are noticeable enough to the average person, but I was extremely observant, and here are all the differences I noticed:

  • You can feel there’s more gender equality. Women can be the boss and the men don’t really mind. Take Cory Aquino, a former woman president of the Philippines. (Her son is the current president.) This may be true in a lot of places in America, but there’s fewer stereotypes about genders in the Philippines.
  • In America, tanning booths and sprays for bronzy-tan skin are all the rage. “Sun-kissed skin so hot, we’ll melt your Popsicle…” But in the Philippines, people open an umbrella under their heads all the time, whether it’s raining or not. In stores and on billboards, there’s always ads for radiant, glowing WHITE SKIN. Whitening facials. Whitening underarm deodorant. Whitening shaving cream, I think. A lot of the celebrities have extremely pale skin in the Philippines, whereas in America, you have the tan Kardashians and David Hasselhoff. And I read that JFK’s votes were influenced by his tan skin! White skin traditionally meant that you were rich and could stay indoors, while tan skin meant you had to work outside in the fields.
  • The gap between the rich and the poor is sadly bigger in the Philippines. There are beggars everywhere who knock on your car windows, follow you around for food and money, and sometimes sell sampaguita flowers strung on necklaces.
  • Natural beauty doesn’t seem to agree with a lot of Filipinas. There are Americans who love to go under the knife, but in beauty magazines in America, they usually talk about keeping it more low-key and natural. Many Filipinos want to look Caucasian, which dates back to Spanish colonization, in which being a mestizo–half Filipino, half Spanish–upped your social class. In America, I see more makeup-free women. Here, virtually every woman I see is wearing makeup. Powdered face with rosy blush, mascara with some eyeshadow, and loud pink lipstick is a typical look.
  • Filipinos are very loyal to brands and restaurants, so if your brand has a Filipino follower, chances are that follower will stick to it forever more and possibly tell his/her friends and family. For example, Shakey’s is a restaurant that was founded in Sacramento, California. But in the Philippines, there’s a Shakey’s on every block! That’s because, usually, when Filipinos like something, they really like it.
  • All the stores are packed inside malls. There are no individual stores, except for restaurants, like supermarkets, hanging around on their own. The mall is everything.
  • The perks of the rainy season! In the Philippines, there are two seasons: dry and rainy. During the rainy season, school is sometimes suspended or even canceled.
  • Not a lot of people go to public schools. You’re much better off in private schooling, particularly Roman Catholic schooling. The public school system isn’t that great.
  • When you’re shopping and you need assistance, it’s at your service before you can even ask. There are so many salespeople assigned to small, specific areas of the store. My relatives said that it’s a sign that it’s hard to get a job, but at least there’s help when you need it.
  • Despite so many Filipinas looking really thin, it doesn’t seem like eating disorders are so much of a problem as they are in America. Food is so valued here. Everyone eats out all the time. Maybe it’s because Filipinos walk a lot if they’re not on the jeep or the tricycle, so they get hungry.

So those were all the differences I saw! All Filipinos–do you agree? Disagree? Do you have something to add to this list?

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