Saturday, July 29, 2006

Observations After a Year I

I have been here in the Philippines just on a year now and it seems appropriate to reflect upon and offer some very presonal observations about how I am finding living in this country.

The most noticeable is the low level of anarchy that permeates daily life here. From the jumble of overhead cables supplying electricity and various forms of communication through jeepneys and buses that start and stop on the whim of their passengers to the short term take over of the street when the house is too small for the assembled throng.

This level of personal freedom is achieved through the Filipinos’ tolerance for and of their neighbours. In Australia, the land of my birth, there is a paternal ethos at work that ensures there are myriad of building codes that must be adhered to for the simplest construction. Buses (there are no jeepneys) will stop only at certain places which are predetermined by faceless bureaucrats and although a party in the street is possible, it will require 3 months of planning and a fist full of government permits.

There is a price for this freedom. Things in the Philippines are often chaotic, especially the traffic, although the evidence of road trauma is a lot less than in Oz. There, in the City of Perth, which has a population one twentieth that of Manila, it is a rare week not to see a couple of seriously bent cars as one moves about that town. Here in the Philippines I have seen perhaps 4 or 5 in 12 months.

There also seems to be less examples of road rage, a phenomenon that is exploding in first world countries. The tolerance exhibited by Filipinos accepts that the other road users have a right to be on the same piece of tarmac and consequently impede ones progress. Although they will go for the open space with gusto when one presents itself.

This turn the other cheek attitude doesn’t mean that the Filipinos are meek and mild. They have an agenda that they will peruse with vigor it is just accepted that those around them have the same and it is respected if not agreed with. When agreement is reached, they can move mountains as the 2 People Power revolutions ably demonstrate.

For me coming from a highly regulated first world country this is a breath of fresh air. This level of personal freedom is envigourating although learning to accord the same to my neighbours does take some doing.


Anonymous said...

I just came back from the Phils. I have not been home for 8 years and when i do im priveleged to be driven to and fro by my brothers or sisters car. One thing that scares me most is these people whose crossing the road as if their life is not worth anything. How on earth the filipinos love to lived in a chaotic life and still look happy about it. I dont know!

Henry Bateman said...

It is a necessity, taking ones chances with the traffic to cross the road. For me it is a daily occurance to cross Shaw Boulevard on the way home from work. There is no under/over pass where I need to cross so into the traffic I dive. Fortunately drivers seem to be aware of pedestrians and to date, touch wood, no near misses for me.
I suspect that the human animal revels in a level of chaos, if it doesnt exist we will create it, it keeps life interesting. At times it often becomes lethal eg The Middle East, the carnage on Australian roads. At least, in the main, the chaos here isnt as lethal as a lot of others.

Anonymous said...

yep. we're a people who thrive on chaotic freedom ;p

glad you're enjoying your stay, Henry.

Henry Bateman said...

Enjoying must be the understatement of the day Dude.