Tuesday, October 02, 2007

What Differences Perspectives Make!

My blogmate Phil over at PhilippinesPhil ponders on certain observations acquired with living life large in the country of his Filipina wife. Certain life experiences that are judged unique or different enough to merit a comparative look to life in his old homeland, The United States. And since our family is on the same boat except that it has gone the opposite way, couldn’t help but be piqued with interest at his and his commenters observations.

So I thought I’d scribble a thing or two about it, this time from the perspective of the observee rather than the observer.

And I say what differences perspectives make! And stoutly glad to note that the observations are coming from transplanted residents in my old homeland, the Philippines.

Because we ex-pat Filipinos know too well that indeed during daytime and all through the night, Filipinos tend to congregate outside their houses and converse in audibly loud conversations among the neighbors. Children cavort on streets and are shooed indoors only when daylight has faded. And houses are so located and constructed such that neighbors invariably hear what the others are listening on radio, the kind of music being played, and even intimate conversations among family members. And even what the neighbors are cooking because the smells waft through and permeate the neighborhood from open windows and doors. And this even when tall fences separate the houses.

And city streets are almost always crammed with pedestrians walking about or simply loitering around. Even driving around or between towns can be hazardous given the propensity of residents, their pets and fowl, to walk in the middle of or cross over roads and highways unmindful of vehicular traffic.

People appear to be everywhere. And even people passing by your house look and stare at whoever they can find visible, whether outside or from open windows or doors.

This revealing difference almost always gets into my conversations with the wife during our trips back.

And we think that a good part of the reason for this is the hot and humid weather which carries over even into the dead of night. Thus, many males loitering outside are naked from the waist up, in shorts and slippers, or in sando (sleeveless T-shirts). Staying indoors, especially where accommodations are tight and crowded, can be quite challenging. Staying outdoors as long as practicable then becomes the practical alternative.

I confess I revert to this practice when I get back there, retracing childhood when going to our rooms was when it was time to sleep, no earlier and no later. Except when the rains come. But then it gets cool enough inside for comfort.

Of course, a happy part of the culture is also being gregarious, leading to a lot of fraternizing and exchanging tsismis (light banter) with the neighbors. Some would say, tending toward being busybodies.

And needless to state, many poor people in a third-world setting practically live outdoors anyway. Their abodes very crude and threadbare, their worldly possessions very minimal.


  1. I've found that a lot of Filipinos miss "mixing it up" with the neighbors once they move to the states, compared to the Phils, a much more boring place on the social scale, and also a place where no one is home in the day anyway because virtually EVERYONE is working. That's the other piece of the puzzle as to why so many people are out and about and just hanging out in the land of your birth. If one doesn't have a job, and its too hot indoors, you might as well be enjoying the company of other similarly unemployed and friendly people. Its almost like attending a party everyday. The Philippines is a fun place in that way, especially if your a social animal, which pinoys and pinays certainly are... thanks for piggybacking Amadeo...

  2. i followed on the link, quite an interesting perspective. thanks

  3. Right you are, Phil. High unemployment and very rampant underemployment translate to a lot of idle time for the citizenry to while away.

    BTW, on the other side of the coin, I notice here in the US, observed only in the places where we have lived, that the more diverse ethnically the neighborhood is the more isolated individual households become. Especially in neighborhoods where assimilation has not been aggressively pursued, where people continue to hold on to old-country ways, including speech.

    But ironic to observe that when we first got here and stayed in a predominantly Hispanic area of SF, along Mission St., our first acquaintances outside of family were those families who were combinations of Irish and Italian, English and Italian, and Canadians; and got close enough to get invited to their homes and traditional holidays. But of course, they were not next-door neighbors but rather co-employees at work.

  4. Siu:

    Thanks for visiting. I go regularly to Phil's site because his observations are interesting and very revealing, coming as he is from a different perspective.

    Going this way teaches us more about ourselves.

  5. I've seen local folks doing their cooking and bathing out in the streets, too.

    Interestingly, the scene you had described can be applied to certain New York City neighborhoods, especially during the summer weekends.

  6. Yes, Eric, even in the old movies about certain NY neighborhoods. Half-naked kids opening up fire hydrants and enjoying the instant showers.

    So, heat whether summer or not does bring out people outdoors.


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