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|l| - Travel

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No. 23

It’s Adobo Lah! The 10 Ridiculous Filipino Stereotypes And Other Prejudices


Hello, kamusta ka kaibigan? First to begin with a positive note, congratulations to Singapore and Philippines for making onto Lonely Planet’s “Top 10 countries to visit in 2015″! :-) There must be something special about Singapore and Philippines to win this honorary title! (The only two Asian countries) If you are in a dilemma whether to visit The Philippines, a beautiful gem in South East Asia, probably this article can help you clear your doubts and calm your anxiety. The country and its island are somehow misunderstood by many.

The Philippines is sitting at the very eastern edge of South East Asia. Many people seem to have very different opinions of this spectacular country. The harsh reality is, there is a certain stigma towards the country, probably a result from media reports or simply the lack of knowledge.

As a traveler, many people like to seek my recommendation for vacation in South East Asia, the first country which always comes to my mind is the Philippines! Usually people will be skeptical as this travel destination is not something they expect (unlike to mainstream places i.e. Phuket or Bali) It’s undeniable that many people really do not know much about the Philippines and are missing out a lot from this amazing country. Well, I am not saying the country is perfect, but Philippines is indeed a GREAT destination for tourist to visit.

Till now, Philippines is the only beach destination country that had me visited twice. Both times, the Filipinos never failed to surprise me with their genuine hospitality and sincerity. I laughed hard when I heard about some horrendous and hilarious prejudices and stereotypes of the Philippines and this lead to this article for me to share the top 10 misconception about the Philippines. Hopefully this will turn the stereotypes and prejudices into love and you may become a fan of the “Islands of Paradise”. (A title I personally gave Philippines) Who knows, in future you might start wearing tee shirts with the prints “I Love PH”. haha

#1 Wow, are you serious? Philippines is dangerous!

First of all, I am going to start with what I have always heard from people “OMG, I am afraid to visit the Philippines, my mom, my neighbours, my friends, my colleagues, and even my pet told me it’s dangerous!”. I am not exaggerating, well I admit the part on the pet. Other than that, this is a very common misconception from many people. The fact that I made it home safely twice, shows that this country is not as dangerous as you may think. The Philippines is as safe as any other country. Sure you will see reports of kidnappings and violent crimes but just like anywhere else in the world, these scary stories featured in the newspapers and media are the exceptional rare cases. The odds of such things happening to you are pretty low. Well, having said that, low crime doesn’t mean no crime. So all you need is just a good sense of situational awareness and you will be fine just like anywhere else in the world. :-)

I’m not going to deny that there are indeed some places which can be quite dangerous i.e. some areas in Mindanao, Sulu Archipelago or Zamboanga Peninsula. The spin-off terrorist groups i.e. Abu Sayaff and J.I. are responsible for many terrorist attacks in these areas. The country is also plagued with some of the worst natural disasters i.e. Tropical Storm Haiyan was the largest storm ever recorded in the world. That being said, there are pretty good pre-warning systems around the Pacific Ring of Fire. Just avoid the dangerous areas, keep yourself updated and be aware of what’s happening, and you will be fine as well. :-)

#2 What’s there in the Philippines? Isn’t it full of dangerous active volcanoes?

There are approximately 1,500 active volcanoes in the world. Most of them are found at the Pacific Ring of Fire cue in Pacific Rim theme song. There are over 130 volcanoes in Alaska, about 130 in Iceland, 118 in Japan. The Philippines comprises of 7,107 islands and hundreds of volcanoes. of which ONLY 23 are active volcanoes. All the other volcanoes are dormant or ‘dead’ volcanoes where you could probably boil eggs, but it will not burn and destroy your house! :-) The country is not just about volcanoes. In fact, Manila, Cebu, Angeles City and all other cities are located on the big islands, surrounded by the beautiful sea. The Philippines covers approximately 300,000 kilometers and are blessed with a HUGE numbers of stunning white sand beaches that attract large numbers of tourists every year. I was absolutely hooked by the beauty of this stunning country! :-)

#3 The unpatrotic Filipinos wish to migrate out and work elsewhere

Ask yourself this, who will wish to leave their family willingly, if not because they want to seek a better life and improve their future? Poverty and poor standard of living condition is still a harsh reality in the country. For many Filipinos I have met, they truly love their country and I should say, Filipinos are one of the most patriotic people I know. In fact, I personally know a Singaporean friend whose dad (a Singaporean) migrated to the Philippines to retire as he loved it there.

Filipinos are raised with strong nationalistic values and have pride in their own heritage. When I backpacked around the world, the Filipinos and the Canadian were the only two nationalities who proudly sewed their country flag badge onto their backpack. Well, have you ever sew your country badge onto your backpack before? I always wanted to, but just didn’t do it. haha

Often, many Filipinos love the fact though some can’t believe that I have been to their country and love it there, and it can really make their day when they hear foreigners complimenting their country. Rather than just a skeptical reply from the locals, many Filipinos actually provided me with some tips for my next visit, some even humbly invited me to stay with their family if I visit Philippines again. :-)

#4 Philippines is full of domestic helpers and call centre operators! No?

Oh god, one of the most ridiculous misconception I ever heard! Only ignorant people will make such a comment. I believe everyone is born with differences and diversity. Just because there are many who leave the country and work as domestic helper overseas doesn’t mean everyone is the same. ARGH! In fact, Filipinos are considered a major backbone for many industries. Their skills, talent, and passion is very strong or perhaps, even better than where we are from. The Philippines also has the largest diaspora network in the world, with approximately 11 million of Filipinos living and working overseas, but of course, not everyone work as domestic help or call centre operators! The country is the world’s largest supplier for expat nurses. I have a few Filipino friends who are working in the banking and finance industry, IT industry, entertainment industry as a singer and one great writer too! :-)

Disclaimer: Domestic helpers and call centre operators are honest work and in fact a tough job! These workers often need to sacrifice and bear the pain of missing home, just to earn a living. For every penny they earn, it’s definitely a hard-earned money. The work they are doing is nothing inferior to other “prestigious” job people are pursuing for, therefore the same respect given to the expat, should be given to them as well.

#5 I thought Philippines is boring, no?

I don’t really understand why would people think Philippines is a boring country. This is definitely an understatement! Try visiting Philippines during the Christmas season. I did it twice and I know how amazingly fun it is to visit Philippines during this period. Christmas decorations in the public and individual homes would have been set up and Christmas jingles could be heard as early as September to December. What a long celebration and festive mood by the fun loving locals! Imagine this, when we have yet to discuss next year’s work-plan or appraisal, Filipinos are already celebrating Christmas! How cool is that? :-)

One thing to take note, Filipinos are very fun people, and excellent singers too. For party animals, this is a bad place for your liver and kidneys because alcohol drinks are dirt cheap, in fact, cheaper than fruit juice. For non-alcohol drinkers, the islands offer the best fruit juices that will pleasantly excite your taste buds till no end! :-)

Philippines is NEVER boring and has so much to offer. To learn about the the fun activities I did with my buddies, in the renowned island of Boracay, check out my article: 25 Must Do Activities In Boracay, Philippines

#6 Filipinos are mostly rowdy, unfriendly and unhappy people

Filipinos are the friendliest bunch of people I have ever met. They always present themselves as friendly, joyful and happy. It is like party mood everyday. For first time visitors, do not be surprised with the genuinely warm and friendly nature of the Filipinos. They are just lovely and hospitable!

There is something I really admire about the Filipinos, can you imagine, even with poverty, natural disasters, people still lead their life normally with a positive outlook and remain happy and friendly to everyone they meet. They believe in living their life to the fullest. They have a strong positive outlook of their future and it doesn’t matter if they are sick, jobless, or whatsoever, they believe their luck will improve eventually.

Despite living in harsh condition, they never failed to put up a smile and genuinely want to befriend you as their friend! They are curious about your background and will sincerely host you. With such warm hospitality, you will rarely be neglected. :-)

#7 Filipinos are not Malay?

If you say this, you probably sound really ignorant. In fact, Singapore immigration classified Filipinos as “others” race, not Malay. Filipinos have very different ethnic background, mainly Malay, Chinese, Spanish, and American etc. It’s the only country in the world where you see an amazing blend of Spanish, American, Malay and Chinese people. Filipinos have their ancestry origins attributed to these ranging from 1520 (Spanish rule) to as recent as 1946 when America ended its colonial rule. The Philippines became the first Southeast Asian nation who declared independence and ended the western colonization.

Philippines and China are super best friend or at least in the past! The Chinese influence is still pretty evident on a Filipino way of life even till today. You can read up more and refer to my Filipino friend – Ryan Buaron’s article: The World Oldest Chinatown – Binondo, Manila’s Chinatown Some interesting discovery and heritage history of the Chinese settlement in the archipelago. :-)

I want to clear the racial air now, to me, it does not matter what race you are. More importantly are your values and personality that determines who you are as a person! So, you shouldn’t be conscious about your skin but rather your personal values in life! :-)

#8 Filipinos eat bizarre food and it’s expensive there

Yes, I know some Filipinos eat the “5th leg” of animals i.e. bull testes and penis, chicken feet, balut (young duck fetus), Kamaru (crickets), Tuslob Buwa (pork brain) and Tamilok (a type of worms). Yea, I know these sound really gruesome. Fortunately, I didn’t see any locals selling these bizarre food. On the other hand, I was really impressed that there are many choices for vegetarians and the things are consider cheap in Boracay, the most famous and commercialized island in the Philippines. You can order a sumptuous meal at less than $5 or stay in a reputable clean hotel in the Philippines for just $40 or less per night. Isn’t that awesome?

Besides, the cost in Manila and Cebu are even cheaper than Boracay! I personally tried a 1.5 hour of good quality massage for only SGD$5! Really good value for money! :-)

#9 Philippines is the same as the rest of South East Asia countries! No?

It is absolutely right to say that the Philippines is part of the South East Asia, however, Filipinos and their culture is heavily influenced by the American culture. This is actually the result from a long history of colonization during American’s rule over the Philippines from 1898 to 1946. I felt the culture was like western society when I was in the Philippines. Put it this way, all countries are different and have their own unique charm. we gotta piece diversity together to achieve peace and harmony! Definitely, Philippines has its similarities with the rest i.e. nice people and beautiful country, but a very multiculturalism society concept, although religion still plays a role in further fractioning the society. :-)

Furthermore, the natural beauty of the islands i.e. El Nido, Coron, Boracay is very different from Phuket, Bali or Redang Island. All are amazing, but uniquely have their own charm and beauty. Sometimes, I felt that I was in the Caribbean, and sometimes I felt I was in Maldives! Never the same. :-)

The friendliness culture are also very different and unique to Asia. The Philippines is considered more open and liberal than most Asian nations. They are not as demure as Thai but they are also warm, genuine and open. They are generally more straight forward but with a calm and peaceful mannerism. I can’t generalize it but this was what I experienced. :-)

#10 Filipinos can’t speak good English and with an accent

Funny as it sounds, regardless of the state of its economy and education system, base on my experience, Filipinos in general can speak VERY good English, as English and Filipino are the main official languages in the country. In my opinion, It’s very rare for travelers to have a problem of communicating with the locals in the cities, or even rural areas. I didn’t have any problem communicating in the Philippines at all. Don’t be surprised, if many Filipinos can speak better English than you! And let’s not dwell much into accent, who speaks without an accent? :-)
When I was traveling in Greece, I met a Filipino friend, Terence Ibanez (from Pio Duran, Albay), and other crew members on board of Louis Cristal Cruise, they sang a beautiful song – We Are The World! Amazing performance and I think Terence should consider be a pop star, cause he really has a talent in singing! Don’t you agree? haha

Accordingly to my limited knowledge of the country, there are in total about 175 languages and dialects in the Philippines, and 171 of these are actively used in the country. So, do not underestimate their language ability and get yourself into trouble. Last thing you wish to happen is that they scold you using their dialects with a smile on their face! haha

Why the stereotype?

Well, people don’t formulate such opinions over night. For this decade, news spread like burning fire via media. I’m not just talking about the traditional media i.e. newspaper or TV but social media as well. Unfortunately, the news we got about the Philippines via traditional media were usually about tropical storms, terrorism or fights in some areas or sometimes on social disputes. In addition, Philippine’s tourism promotion activities are over shadowed by the more popular mainstream countries such as:

South East Asian countries i.e. Thailand, Malaysia, or Vietnam,
European countries. i.e. France, England, Italy, Spain,
American countries i.e. USA, Canada
or the all time Asians’ favourites on East Asian countries i.e Japan, South Korea, China, Taiwan, Hong Kong and etc…

On the contrary, social media seems to help promote and unveil the truth better than traditional media. Social media is a GREAT platform to let people know the real sight of Philippines via travelers’ blog, or vlog. In fact, that’s how I got to know about Boracay Island 4 years ago when I was following the news of Amazing Race Asia Season 2 racers, Marc Nelson (Aussie-Burmese) and Paula Taylor (Thai), who went to Boracay Island together after the race! LOL From then, I discovered more and found out many cool places and facts about the Philippines, and eventually got me hooked by the Philippines travel bug. :-)

After visited the paradise islands of Philippines twice, I decided to help unveil the truth about the amazing country and share my experiences via my stories and the beauty of the country via my photos. I just don’t wanna people miss out the chance of visiting this gem of Asia! :-)

In Conclusion

In my opinion, stereotyping is really bad and annoying, it shuts your mind and blinds your visual. The only way to live life to the fullest, meet many great people and have a trip of a lifetime, is to open your heart when you travel! Only when you open up your frame of mind and accept things wholeheartedly, you will see things differently.

Many people said I am blessed with many great friends around the world. I should say the general formula of meeting great people is – Just open up and let people enter your world. People cannot understand and know you as a person, when your door is shut! You can read up more on my article: 27 Types of Travelers I Have Met When Traveling Around The World and find out more the different types of travelers I met, and great friends I made when I traveled.:-)

Last year November, I followed the news on tropical storm Yolanda aka Haiyan very closely and I was actually praying hard for the Philippines, just before my Christmas visit in December. This heart wrenching disaster made me realised the country has come a long way and had a hard time when such devastating disaster hit them! Despite the difficulties, the Filipinos never gave up and was persistent of surviving with a positive attitude! There are so much to learn from them. Coming from a country with no natural disasters and a low crime rate, sometimes I could take things for granted.

Last but not least, I hope you will like this article – the top 10 misconception about the Philippines, elaborating the most ridiculous and funny stereotypes I heard when I traveled around the world. These are some hard facts to my discovery, some personal experiences and funny things I have heard! haha The moral of this is: Do NOT stereotype, & Don’t be ridiculous! If Philippines is in your mind, just book an air ticket and FLY! You will definitely enjoy it, see their beautiful landscape, amazing people, and have a trip of a lifetime! Who knows, you may fall in love with this stunning Islands of Paradise, just like me! :-)

Travel safe and till next time when I visit this gem of South East Asia again! :-)

“Open your mind before you open your mouth” – Subroto Bagchi

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