1. Filipinos Can’t Live Without A Mosquito Net
In the Philippines, you will never escape mosquitoes. They are everywhere and they love foreigners — not kidding!
Filipinos use mosquito nets to avoid mosquito bites but there are people who do not use it for that purpose. Many depend on mosquito nets for sleeping so without it, they cannot sleep. Some use it as a blanket, pillow case, or socks — it is like a habit that seems impossible to let go. If you search it on the internet, you will see that people use it to wrap their feet during sleeping. It may look strange for some people but this is something unsurprising for us Filipinos. In fact, the country’s president Rodrigo Duterte is also a huge fan of mosquito ne and he can’t sleep without it.
In my family, we rarely use mosquito nets and no one is reliant of it when sleeping. Well thank goodness coz most of my friends and acquaintances (if not all) cannot live without it. It is like a staple item for them, like a basic necessity for their survival. It is funny especially when it is an adult male. I also find it cute coz growing up I have this thought in my mind that mosquito nets are only for kids — well clearly I was wrong coz even grannies use it.
2. Small Parking Spaces
It is tricky to find a convenient and safe place to park here in the Philippines. This is an annoying reality for individuals who need to park their cars on a daily basis. The number of vehicles are increasing each year and they continue to overwhelm the existing parking spaces anywhere in the country.
When you go to a shopping mall for instance, expect for annoying things when you park your car. For VIPs though, this would not be the case coz there is an exclusive parking spaces for them. Now if you are like me who is just a mediocre human being somewhere in this city called Cebu, then you have no choice but to deal with all the hassle of parking.
Not to exaggerate but the parking spaces here in Cebu City are too cramped to the point where you cannot even properly open the door or get out of the car. If you are able to do so, then you either hit/scratch/break someone’s car or you are simply lucky that day.
3. Filipino Men Urinate Everywhere
I find it funny but yeah, Filipino men do pee anywhere they feel like it. While not all do this and it is certainly not allowed in many places, this is not uncommon in the Philippines. For tourists or foreigners who witnessed or heard stories like this — it is a culture shock for them, and I do not blame them for it.
If you go to squatters or slum areas, you will see it: an adult man or a little boy peeing on a vandalized wall or somewhere with trees and grasses (of course while trying to hide from the public eye).
This is why there are many areas where you can find a signage that says “Palihug Ayaw Pangihi Diring Dapita” in Cebuano or “Bawal Umihi Dito” which means “Please Do Not Pee Here”. If you look at the first picture above, there is a sign ”Bawal Umihi Dito”, right? But regardless if the sign is big enough to read, the man on the picture was clearly unbothered about it.
4. There Are Very Few To No Signal/Traffic Lights On The Road
For foreigners coming from a developed country, this is very noticeable and quite incomprehensible. I remember one foreigner who said “Why isn’t there a signal in this busy road?”
As much as I would like to express my thoughts regarding the absence of traffic lights in my areas of the city, I always end up scratching my head every time I hear these people’s sentiments. I completely agree with their statements, and just like them, I also cannot wrap my head around it.
One good example for this is the busy road of IT Park Cebu City. It is the home of Cebu’s BPO industry and where rich people live but traffic signals are nowhere to be found.
5. Christmas Is Celebrated As Early As August Or September
In the Philippines particularly in the countryside where I live, we start decorating for Christmas as early as August. Though not all Filipino households are doing it, it is certainly something that is not new to us. We have this tradition of counting down till Christmas, so we start from September for the 100 days countdown.
I could say that Christmas is the most awaited and the most celebrated holiday season in the country. We all gather together as a family and everyone seem to be very happy, excited, and full of positivity.
More than 80% of Filipinos are Catholic so we celebrate or adhere to Christmas tradition more than any other nations in Southeast Asia. This is one of the reasons why many tourists choose to travel in December. They like to witness how Christmas is like in the country, and they love the spirit of holiday season here.
6. Too Many IDs For Each Person
In the Philippines, it is expected that every citizen has at least 3 IDs, and it is something surprising or ridiculous for people from other countries. It seems useless and annoying if you come to think of it. This system has been the norm in the country for as long as I can remember.
Like me for example, I probably have about 7 identification cards and every time I go to a one particular government agency to process something — I am expected to present an ID that is specific for that purpose.
For instance, if I go to the PRC office to renew my nursing license, I have to show my PRC ID or nurse ID in order to proceed or be entertained. Another example is, if I want to use my PhilHealth insurance upon paying for my hospital bills, I have to show my PhilHealth ID in order to be catered — otherwise I cannot do business with them without it.
Note: PRC means Professional Regulatory Commission (a place where I can claim, renew a professional license and the like)
Just imagine the hassle of keeping so many IDs — from claiming to renewal. It is troublesome especially to elderly and person with disability.
Now, the good news is that this year of 2021, the government has already started the national ID system for Filipinos. So far as of July of this year, more than 37 million Filipinos were done with data collection for national ID.
7. Unlimited Sim Cards
In the Philippines, you can buy as many sim cards as you want. Every time I tell my foreign friends and students about this, I often get funny comments: that it is perfect to prank someone, that anyone can use it in illegal transactions, among other things. Well, they are all true. In fact, I did prank a few of my friends before.
If you know someone who live or grew up in the country, then you can ask about the quantity of sim cards he/she owned over the years. I am sure you will be surprised. I probably bought about 10 sim cards in my whole life.
Sim cards are cheap so many people can easily purchase it anytime and anywhere they want. We can find stores that sell sim cards pretty much everywhere: at the airport, shopping malls, convenience stores, street sellers, online market, and even from a co-worker.
In my country, we do not have a mobile number that is exclusively belong to each one of us. The Duterte government has started its campaign about one phone number for every Filipino citizen but it has not been realized or implemented yet.
8. “Tabo” or Water Dipper Is A Commodity
In many parts of the country particularly in the countryside, Filipinos use a water dipper or a small basin with handle or “tabo” in Tagalog.
This is something that is very Filipino and I do not think many other countries use this at home. It is like a staple household item in the Philippines. Whether you go to Manny Pacquiao’s mansion or simply visit a tiny hut, you will definitely find a “tabo” from either the kitchen area or bathroom. Well, it will be likely in the bathroom since we mainly use it when taking a shower.
9. Stubborn Hard Water Stains On The Bathroom Tiles
This is probably one of the most annoying things you will experience living in the Philippines as a tourist especially if you used to live in a country where there is no constant white spots from your bathroom. You will see these stains on the floor tiles, walls, and even to cosmetic bottles or shampoo containers — they are pretty much all over the place.
Whether you stay in a fancy hotel or live in a typical house — you will definitely see it. What makes it annoying is that, you need to regularly clean or brush your bathroom tiles at least twice a week or else your bathroom will look haunted or forsaken.
10. Water Heater Is Not A Necessity In Many Households
If you visit a random house anywhere in the Philippines, I doubt that you will find a water heater. Perhaps out of 10 households, only 1 to 2 of them have water heater installed. However, if you go to areas where wealthy people live, then you will probably see a water heater in every home.
We live in a tropical climate which is for the most part hot and humid throughout the year, so we have no winter and need not worry about taking a shower in a freezing cold water. We only have two seasons: wet and dry, so in general or for the majority of Filipinos, a water heater is not a basic commodity. Besides, having one is a luxury for many households especially if it is in the rural area.
I remember when I was in primary school, we did not have a water heater and now that I live in the city, I realized how useful it is to have one. This time I do not fear the cold when taking a shower at 4AM (haha). Though I can live without it, it is definitely something worth considering. Not to mention, it is perfect when I need to sterilized something.
11. No Strict Recycling/Proper Waste Disposal
Unlike other countries like Japan and South Korea, Philippines do not have a strict or effective implementation of garbage recycling.
When you are in the country, it is difficult not to notice it coz you will see or witness it every day: from people in the streets, in all establishments like hotels and convenience stores, or wherever place you are in. Though you will see labeled trash bins with bio and nonbiodegradable, most people care less about properly and consistently segregating their wastes.
If you visit a Filipino house and inspect their trash bin, I assure that you will find all sorts of garbage all mixed up together: papers, plastics, bottles, broken glasses, wet or dry waste, whatever that is.
12. Very Few (Or Almost No) Sidewalks For Pedestrians
This is what I dislike the most when I am in the city. There is no safe area to walk on the road. It is almost impossible to find a walkway when you come in Cebu City, and the situation is quite the same in other cities.
When you want to jog, stroll around with your pet, ride a bike, or go to work — Philippines is not a great a place for that coz there is no safe area for you to walk. Perhaps there are sidewalks somewhere in Davao City since it is the safest place in the Philippines.
13. No Safe Road For Cyclists
The Philippines is not a safe place for people who commute through bicycles. There is no lane or roadway that is exclusive for them so these people have to compete with the rest of the vehicles which result to traffic congestion and collisions.
Road accidents are common especially in big cities like Cebu City because of the unorganized road system in the country. Our roads are too cramped for a place like Cebu. Cars and other type of vehicles are increasing each year but the road has never improved or expanded.
14. Internet Connection Sucks
Do you know that internet sucks in many parts of the country?
It is awful when your job is reliant to your internet connection coz finding the best or most reliable internet provider does not exist here. Whether you subscribe with the most expensive subscription, there are always issues in connection. Maybe this is not the case for call center businesses where they pay millions or even billions for them to operate.
15. Most Establishments Have Security Guards
Premises like convenience stores, fast food chains, banks, shopping malls, and other establishments have securities in place. You can see them anywhere you go, whether it is a small or huge store — business owners find it very important to hire at least one to two guards.
When you step foot in the Philippines, do not be surprised to see security guards with guns. These men are trained to be in that position and they are permitted to carry guns at work.
In addition, security guards here are very friendly compared to what you see on tv. You can even ask to take a picture with them or let them take pictures of you if you are a tourist.
16. Black Exhaust Smoke From Vehicles
Philippines is a polluted country and it is clearly evident when you go to big cities like Manila and Cebu.
Unlike with developed countries like Singapore, South Korea, and Japan, they have a stringent vehicle maintenance and inspection. In the Philippines, there is no strict implementation of that that is why drivers or vehicle owners are very complacent.
I remember, a foreigner once said, “What the f* is that? We do not have like that in my country coz that is absolutely not allowed. Isn’t there a smoke test in the Philippines?”.
17. People Burn Their Garbage
While this is not common in urban areas, people in the countryside absolutely do this every day. It is sad if you come to think of the effects of it in our environment. The burning of plastics and all that stuff is continually practiced in my country.
Like in the province where my parents live, people there burn their garbage: assorted wet and dry wastes. One reason why people do this is that, Filipinos (in general) believe that the smoke we create from burning keep the mosquitoes away. Though many are aware of the harmful effects of it to our ozone layer, in reality — humans just don’t care. They probably think twice or feel guilty at times — but they do it anyway. I mean many of us are still doing it anyway.
Some people from our neighborhood including my parents, they create a garbage pit so they can throw other waste products like plastics and broken glasses. They burn leaves and grasses too (since we have trees that surround our house so after sweeping some fallen leaves, we have to either burn them or decompose to make a fertilizer.
In cities, this practice is strictly prohibited and one can be fined for doing so. Of course nobody does not want to get in trouble, right? Besides, in urban places like Cebu City, there are garbage trucks that regularly collect the garbage from every household. Hence, the situation for people who are situated in the city is way better than countryside coz there is garbage collection every week.
In my hometown, the system sucks coz the mayor does not care about resolving the issue of waste disposals so the locals do not have a choice but deal with it on their own.
18. Shirtless Men In The City
It is no surprise for Filipinos to see people who are shirtless or even bottomless on the streets. They can either be children, elderly, homeless, or mentally ill person. If you come in the Philippines for the very first time, you have to brace yourself for what you are going to see coz you might come across with someone who will suddenly wink at you or approach you for money.
19. Homeless People Including Children Everywhere
Many foreigners who have not been here are not aware about the seriousness of poverty in the country. Though modern buildings and infrastructures divert the attention of tourists, there are still many areas where the impoverished are visible to everyone’s eyes.
This is why the Philippines is often called a third world country with over 16% of the population living below the poverty line, and with a low GDP per capita. Approximately, there are 4 million homeless people including children living on the streets based on the latest survey, and it has declined since the reign of President Duterte. Prior to his administration, the percentage of homeless people were more than 26%.
20. Sari-Sari Or Tiny Convenience Stores Are Found Anywhere In The Country
Filipinos love selling goods and services to their community — not only coz it brings them closer to the people, it also allows them to make a living. This kind of small business is probably the top pick for most Filipinos especially those who are living in rural areas. It is usually an extension to their homes or a rented one somewhere downtown.
Most of the sari-sari sellers are those elderly, parents who have no full-time jobs, housewives, individuals living alone, and some even open a sundry store like this for recreation.