What Foreigners Need To Know (Part I)
SOME FACTS ABOUT THE PHILIPPINES:
1. The Philippine archipelago is composed of 7,107 islands.
2. The Philippines is the world’s 12th most populous country with a population approaching 87 million people.
You won’t be able to meet some 8% of us though because they are working abroad. But hey, there’s still 80,040,000 Filipinos left, so cheer up! And there will be babies born every day that you’re here so don’t worry, you’ll have plenty of company. Oh and by the way, please don’t expect a lot of manicured lawns, clean streets, and clear rivers in the Metro. In fact, the moment you spot land from the plane, that’s not actually land although it’s brownish in color. That is actually rust…rust-covered roofs of shanties owned by squatters, to be exact.
3. The Philippines has approximately 5,331,574 registered vehicles as of 2006.
Some of us own cars. However, most take a bus (a choice between ordinary-slash-non-aircon-slash-cockroach-infested and the airconditioned ones). Other public utility vehicles include jeepneys, colorum vans (vans without a franchise or whose franchise is fake), pedicabs, tricycles, motorcycles and if it’s pay day, some ride cabs. We also have trains, trucks, trailers and the unaccounted for unregistered vehicles. With that said, expect heavy traffic, rude drivers and a lot of vehicles overtaking you, desperately weaving from one lane onto the next in spite of the obvious heavy traffic. Unless you arrive after the rush hour or at dawn, the way to your hotel would be a hair-pulling experience and we don’t want you to have a negative, first impression. Consider yourself warned so plan your flight schedule wisely.
4. The Philippines is one of two countries in Asia with Roman Catholic majorities.
About 94% of Filipinos identify themselves as Christians. We would like to think that we are a religious bunch – full of faith and God-fearing. Pardon some of us who will snatch your purse, charge you more for cab fare or offer you prostitutes. Pardon those of us who will sell you pirated DVDs or extort more money for that replica Louis Vuitton bag (Oh wait! Those are not Christians…those are Muslims!). But pardon them as well.
5. Filipino and English are both the official languages in the Philippines. Many Filipinos understand, write and speak English, Filipino and their respective regional languages.
Yes, we can understand English. Most Filipinos can speak it, others can even imitate the American accent. “‘Sup?” Where are yah goin’?” I’m gonna go to Starbucks, wanna come?” “Nah, I need to go home. It’s a long ride to Kamunin’?” “Ayt, see yah!”
Whilst many Filipinos are well versed in the English language, some can’t speak it properly but they sure can express themselves well through body language and a little bit of basic English. Rest assured that even the beggars and the street vendors can point you to the right direction or entertain any of your questions. “Do-you-know-the-way-to—-?” “Yes sir!” Streetlight…go right…right lane. Then straight, no turn okay…just straight. You see man…like this (man gestures – his arms stretched apart, chest out, legs closed, bending slightly backwards, head titled back and facing the sky)…okay? That’s Oble! Yes! Yes!”