Life in the Philippines
Often when we tell people that we are preparing to be missionaries to the Philippine Islands, they frequently have visions of half-naked people running around a beach in loin clothes. They imagine us living in a situation without running water or the basic necessities of life. Although there are isolated scenarios that this may be the case, this is not typical nor will be our situation. While the Philippines is still considered a third world country, it is rapidly catching up to the 21st century. We will briefly survey three areas of life in order to give you a more realistic perspective of what our daily life will look like. This includes life at home, life on the road, and life in the market.
Life at Home
In many ways life at home in the Philippines is very similar to life here in America. We will have access to all the basic appliances, which include oven/stove, refrigerator, clothing washer, and various other small appliances. Our floors although stone, will be smooth, clean and dirt free for the most part. Furniture is also similar. We will sleep on a western bed, have a round table for meals, and have a standard sofa and chairs for our living room. Nevertheless, there are some notable differences. The most prominent difference is the lack of central air. Typically, only one room if any will have air conditioning so the house is noticeable warmer than then the 70o F constant room temperature of typical American homes. Another noticeable difference once you are acclimated to the setting is the many gecko lizards that occupy your walls and ceilings near your lights. These house pets are unavoidable, yet helpful for pest control. The sun dries your laundry. Your bathroom does not have a tub, so you can forget bubble baths. The last noticeable difference is the yard. This is both in appearance and size. Every yard has at the least a six-foot high fence. That fence may have additional barriers for protection. These may include barbed wire, electric wire, shard pieces of glass, nails, and sharpened steel rods. The unique benefit of the yard is its beauty. Because of the warm weather and heavy rainfall, Filipinos are able to fill their yards with beautiful tropical flowers and fruit trees. The beauty is striking and relaxing. The worst disadvantage is the inability to walk in your own yard barefoot for fear of the mighty red ant.
Life on the Road
Once we shift from home life to the road, things begin to become a little crazy. Whereas public transportation is an anomaly in the American suburbs, it is the norm in the Philippines. Tricycles, motorized cabs, jeepneys, vans, and buses jockey for position as one enters and drives around the city. Tricycles and motorized cabs are simply the attachment of a covered side cart to either a bicycle or a motorcycle. Jeepneys are infamous in the Philippines. They can carry well over 20 persons in their side bench seats, back, roof, and hood. Essentially, any flat surface is a potential seat for the daily commuter. Once you are on the road you will immediately realize two universal rules. First in contrast to accelerating when approaching an intersection, the rule of thumb is to stop. This will significantly reduce one’s risk of accidental collisions. The reason for this may be explained by the second rule. The right of way is always granted to the largest vehicle on the road or the vehicle that races to the intersection first. In contrast to the horn being used in the U.S. only for extreme situations or expressions of road rage, it is a common signal to notify other drivers of your presence and to ask them to kindly move to the side as you pass through. If you make it to the market without incident you have become a proficient Filipino navigator on the road.
Life in the Market
One of the Filipino’s favorite past times is shopping. It does not matter if it is window shopping, grocery shopping, or clothing shopping, shopping is both a weekly chore and weekend highlight for Filipinos of all ages. Because the Filipino culture is very social, this activity allows for group participation and comradery and has become a favorite past-time. Consequently, the Philippines has a great array of shopping stores. The three major categories are the traditional market, grocery stores, and, of course, shopping malls. The traditional market is still the preferred place of shopping for one’s food necessities. The market is known for its very distinctive smells and images. One will never be the same once they have traveled through a Filipino market. This unique once-in-a-life-time experience will make one a more well-rounded individual. In addition to the traditional market, they have begun to build supermarkets very close to their American counter-part. These have a similar layout and for the most part, sell equivalent products. Finally, the Philippines has excelled in the development of their shopping centers. They have become world-renown for their shopping malls. Metro Manila contains some of the largest and most advanced malls in Asia. Two of the most famous are MOA (Mall of Asia) and the SM Mega-mall. In conclusion life in the Philippines is not as radically different as one might expect.