10 quirky things we love about the Philippines

The Philippines was the first country we visited on our trip around the world. Quirky habits abound in every country which is part of the fun of traveling.  Here is a  list of ten Philippines quirks that make the country so endearing.

1.)  They love to sweep – all the time.

You will find brooms made out of spent rice stalks for sale all over the country and notice quickly that people are sweeping pretty much constantly throughout the day.  We joked it should be a national pastime!

2.)  Karaoke and videoke rule here.

You can’t go into a bar without hearing someone singing!  I have to say although we have heard our fair share of “dying ducks” most people seem to carry a tune rather well.  The most popular songs are definitely sappy 80’s hits – think Journey, Whitney Houston, Peter Cetera, etc..

3.) As restaurant industry folks, we notice local customs when it comes to serving.

What is unnerving in this country is that they give you a menu when you sit down and then proceed to stand over you with a pen and paper to take your order without giving you any time to decide.  We thought that maybe everyone always knows what they want?

But sometimes the menus are four or five pages long!  Talk about pressure.  We have ordered drinks and asked them to get the drinks then come back, but usually, we just get a polite nod while they write down the drink order then continue to stare at you.  Lesson?  Learn to just sit there and not be bothered, or learn to order quickly.

4.)  Another restaurant custom that is funny to us is…

…that many times they give you a fork and a spoon when you clearly need a knife – like say when you get half a chicken to eat.  Try eating that with a spoon!  It’s hysterical.  Although prompt with the ordering, there is never a check back after you get your food.  When they drop off the food ask quickly if you see anything you may need – hot sauce, a knife, another beer, etc….

They also don’t clear your plates or bring a check.  It’s not a bad thing, but since I’ve been a server and manager for many years, I get anxiety looking around at all the tables with dirty food and plates on them.  Sometimes they won’t be bussed for a half hour or so!  We have had to hunt someone down to get a check several times, standing at the front by the register while no one is around.  I often wonder how many people just eat and run without paying.

5.)  Filipinos are super polite.

They refer to everyone as “sir” and “ma’am”.  We even introduced ourselves to hotel staff hoping they would refer to us by our names, but it usually didn’t result in anything.  Although sometimes they would say “Sir Todd” which made me giggle.

6.)  Next, onto transportation quirks.

Get used to kissing noises when riding the public transit.  Making little kissing or smooching noises is akin to yelling for them, so when the jeepneys pull over they will make these sounds to ask if anyone needs a ride.

In some places, they also whistled, but the kissing was much more common, especially in the big cities.  And it seems to work just fine!  On my first ride, I was thinking what is going on?  Then I looked it up – it’s legit!

7.)  Since I’m on the topic of traffic…

…it is impressive to me how the flow of traffic seems to go considering there are no stoplights or stop signs.  We saw a total of 3 traffic lights in downtown Manila, but haven’t spotted any others anywhere.  If you want to cross an intersection you literally just drive into it and hope that people stop for you.  Honking the horn is huge here – you honk to pass people, honk to turn into an intersection, honk for the fun of it.  It seems like there is endless honking in the cities!

8.)  Crossing the street is quite the event.

It’s like real life Frogger.  You run and hope to hell that no one hits you.

9.)  Asking for directions is always entertaining.

Filipinos are fond of a wave of the hand and saying “It’s just over there”.  That could mean next door or it could mean a mile away with five turns and different streets involved.  You never know.  We would sometimes ask four or five different people and get the same response.

The maps.me App has been a lifesaver for us, as it works offline once you use wifi to download a map of the area.  You can use it to route yourself anywhere via car or walking.  Don’t ever hesitate to ask a Filipino for help – they are extremely friendly and helpful especially for suggestions on what to do, where to eat, or how to pronounce something.  They are just really vague at directions.

10.)  Finally, we love how many people they will cram onto anything drive-able.

We have seen families of six on motorbikes, and I once spotted nine people on a trike! Todd and I barely fit into one just the two of us. The jeepneys become like clown cars when they are full and locals climb onto the tops and the sides.

We were on a local bus once that easily had twice the occupants it was supposed to carry.  But hey, we were just glad they picked us up!  The previous bus had passed us by and we were on a tight schedule to make a flight.  So, you know, when in Rome…

And there you have it, ten quirks that defined our travels in the Philippines. Can you think of any more?  Let us know in the comments!!


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