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Philippines from A-Z

The teacher in me just couldn’t be supressed. This was bound to come out. I present to you the A to Z of the Philippines!

A – Archipelago

There are more than 7,100 islands—during high tide. On low tide, even more. All these islands belong to one of the three main groups: Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao; in the north, middle, and south, respectively.

Bohol
Bohol

B – Beaches

Philippines’ beaches are renowned for its white sand and clear water. Though there are a few popular but overcrowded beaches (Boracay, Panglao), you can still find many secluded beaches that have not yet been overrun by beach resorts or tourists (for example at Bantayan Island).

Beach at Bantayan Island, Cebu
Beach at Bantayan Island, Cebu

C – Cockfight

Cockfighting is a sport, found in every city, especially in the provinces. Gaffs are attached to the fighter’s talons and they fight to the death. People bet on the rooster they believe to survive.

D – Dogs

Almost every household has at least one dog. They serve as watch dogs and are usually unchained. Dogs run free in neighbourhoods and streets. Some don’t even have owners. And yes, some people do eat dogs here.

Koala

E – Eateries

Eateries are the street food “restaurants” that often come with a few plastic chairs and tables in the back. They offer homemade, traditional food for such a small price. We have our daily lunch in one of our favorite eateries in our town. You have to watch out though, not all eateries are safe (to the stomach that is).

Cafe Tampopo, Bogo City, Cebu
Cafe Tampopo, Bogo City, Cebu

F – Fried Rice

There are so many different ways to prepare rice. Fried rice and garlic rice are my favorites.

Fried rice at Light House Restaurant
Fried rice at Light House Restaurant

G – GMT+8

The time zone in the Philippines.

H – Halo-Halo

A distinctly Filipino dessert. They love it. Halo-halo literally means “mix mix” and that’s what it is: all kinds of ingredients mixed together. Every halo-halo is different, but they usually include: shaved ice, sweet beans, gelo, fruits, evaporated milk, sugar palm fruit, ube ice cream, nata de coco, and many more.

Halo-halo Special from Ice Castle in Cebu
Halo-halo Special from Ice Castle in Cebu

I – Ice Tea

Next to Coca Cola, this is probably the second most popular drink. Often served with lunch meals.

J – Jeepney

One of the most common public transportations in the Philippines. They are “pimped up” World War 2 leftovers of US military jeeps. They ply on main routes and you can stop them anywhere along the street.

Colorful jeepney in Bogo, Cebu
Colorful jeepney in Bogo, Cebu

K – Karaoke

Karaoke is the “national sport” of the Philippines. Our family, our neighbours, the whole country sings karaoke day and night. It doesn’t have to be a special event nor there has to be a celebration, singing karaoke during weekdays on a lunch break is totally fine. Almost every home owns a karaoke machine. The louder, the better.

Karaoke machine
A scene from “Back to the Future”? No, it’s just Karaoke machine circa 2014

L – Lizards

It took me a while to get used to them. They are all over the house, in every room, on every wall. I don’t like them, but they fulfil an important purpose: they eat mosquitoes.

There are many different kinds of lizards in the Philippines. This one here like to be on trees.
There are many different kinds of lizards in the Philippines. This one here like to be on trees.

M – Music

Music plays a big part of the lives of people here in the Philippines. You hear music playing everywhere— from stores, to eateries, and even to portable sound systems on scooters and bikes. It seems that before Filipino children learn how to talk, they first learn how to sing. And before they learn how to walk, they first learn how to dance.

Rondalla performers playing traditional and modern songs at Loboc, Bohol
Rondalla performers playing traditional and modern songs at Loboc, Bohol

N – National Anthem

Filipinos are very proud of their nation. The national anthem is sang at many occasions, for example: at flag ceremonies in schools and government offices, at sporting events, at movie theaters’ first and last showing of the day, and many more. All Filipinos are required, by law, to stand up and sing. Everybody needs to stop, including traffic.

O – Ok

“It’s ok!” I keep hearing these words all the time, in every situation. I’m just not sure how much I can always trust in the situation to be really “ok”. I have often been in situations where someone said to me “it’s ok”, but afterwards, it turns out it actually was not ok. Sometimes it seems to me, that some people are uncomfortable about talking about their real feelings or say their honest opinion, so it’s easier to just say: “It’s ok”. I have learned not to take those words seriously.

P – Pumpboat

These boats are used for nearly anything. Fishing, transportation, and also island trips. They have outriggers made of bamboo to maintain balance. The smaller ones are propelled by paddles, while the bigger pumpboats are engine-powered.

Pumpboats and banca
Pumpboats and banca

Q – Quakes

The Philippines lie on the Pacific Ring Of Fire which exposes the archipelago to earthquakes and byproducts of volcanic activities. Luckily, I haven’t experienced any earthquake yet. But knowing that there could be an earthquake any time, I have to admit that that thought is in the back of my mind all the time. Out of more than 50 volcanoes in the country, 23 are active.

R – Religion

Philippines is a country with the world’s third largest number of Catholics (after Brazil and Mexico). The Catholic Church exerts its religious influence everywhere in this country: in its laws, in the government, in schools, in supermarkets, in malls, in every day life. “God” is everywhere in this country. He is mentioned in most conversations (“God bless you”), he seems to be the one in charge of typhoons (“God was angry with us”) and almost every tricycle or jeepneys has his name on the vehicle (“God will look after us”). Religion is unequivocally a big part of the Filipino culture.

Guradian angel statue at a cemetery
Guradian angel statue at a cemetery

S – Sinulog

Sinulog is an annual festival in Cebu City honouring and worshipping the Santo Niño (baby Jesus). While Cebu City holds the biggest street dancing festival, which includes a long parade with colourful dancers, and drum and bugle corps, other towns in the province hold their own smaller version of Sinulog too.

Sinulog festival in San Remigio, Cebu
Sinulog festival in San Remigio, Cebu

T – Tropics

The Philippines is a tropical country with high temperature all year round (around 30’C), intense humidity, and heavy rainfalls. The Philippines has generally two seasons: dry season and rainy season, from December to May and June to November, respectively.

Slippers on pouring rain
Slippers on pouring rain

U – Under the sea

The Philippine Sea is a world famous diving and snorkelling site. Divers from all over the world come here to see corals, fish, sharks, whale sharks, and turtles. Many beach resorts include diving schools and equipment rentals.

V – Vests

Life vests on island tours are not only worn on the boat (it’s the law), many Filipinos also use them in the water while swimming. Despite living so close to the sea, there are many Filipinos that don’t know how to swim. I find that interesting, considering that in an archipelago, most people live close to the coast.

Snorkelers wearing life vests at the Small Lagoon in El Nido
Snorkelers wearing life vests at the Small Lagoon in El Nido

W – Walking on low tide

At the west coast here in Northern Cebu, low tide and high tide keep changing daily. We enjoy our walks at sunset along the beach on low tide. The “empty” sea ground is also perfect for going jogging or searching for crabs and shells. When the crabs dig into the sand, they create those funny looking “spaghetti hills” (as I call them), as seen on the picture below.

Low tide in San Remigio
Low tide in San Remigio

X – X-Factor, beauty pageants, and talent competitions

Talent and beauty pageants are very popular in the Philippines. Every town fiestas or festivities seem to include their own beauty pageant competition . Any Filipino who enters an international contest or competition gets the nation’s fervent support.

Y – Yolanda

Yolanda is the Philippines’ name for super typhoon Haiyan of November 2013. Typhoons coming in the Philippines’ area of responsibility get their names changed, even though they might be named differently in the rest of the world. The first typhoon of the year starts with the letter A, the next with the letter B, then C, and so on.

Z – Zubu

Zubu is the old Visayan name for Cebu. It is not used anymore. But the restaurant chain “Zubuchon” has used that name to mix two words Zubu and lechon (whole roast). Anthony Bourdain claims to have eaten “the best pig ever” at Zubuchon. We tried it too. It might be a little overrated, but it tastes nice though. But our favourite is their Cassava Cake.

Zubu Chon's cassava cake wrapped in banan leaves
Zubu Chon’s cassava cake wrapped in banan leaves

9 comments

  1. The lechon they serve on zubuchon is probably not the same pig they served Tony Bourdain. I worship the guy, and he probably wouldn’t have said “best pig ever” if it wasn’t that damn good! However, I have tried zubochon once and it’s good but not that special. I have huge respect for the owner though, and did you know that he has his own blog called Market Manila.

    1. We eat regularly at Zubuchon. Besides their Cassava Cake, we also really like the pumpkin soup. But you’re right, regarding their lechon, we too, have tasted better. It must have been a vey fresh lechon they served to Mr. Bourdain.

  2. “..It seems that before Filipino children learn how to talk, they first learn how to sing. And before they learn how to walk, they first learn how to dance…” I am laughing reading this description but you´re so right..I am missing home already – Finland is nice but there´s no place like home 🙂

  3. “Almost every home owns a karaoke machine. The louder, the better.” I really wonder how is your reaction that the karaoke machine is too loud that it reached the neighborhood considering you are from Finland whose neighborhood are very sensitive to noises.

    1. Haha, yes, you really hit the nail on the head. As you have probably experienced for yourself, Finns like silence. So yes, when it comes to culture shocks, this for sure is one of them. But I’m starting to get used to it. In fact, it entertains me quite a lot. I even mastered the ability to guess who is singing in the room next door or in the neighbourhood simply by their choice of song. Everybody seems to be having their favourite songs on the karaoke list.

  4. Very interesting post about the Philippines. I learned much more about this fascinating country, then what the news report about poverty and natural desasters. This made me interested in adding this country into my upcoming Southeast Asia tour this fall.

    In Y-as in Yolanda, you mention the Haiyan Typhoon. I was wondering if your town was badly affected by it? I hope you friends and family survived!

    Christian

    1. Hi Christian,
      Thanks! News and media always seem to have certain biases. I guess negativity always sells. Too bad though ’cause there is so much to countries like the Philippines and others in Southeast Asia than meets the eye. In your upcoming tour to Southeast Asia, you won’t be disappointed.

      Regarding Typhoon Haiyan, I happen to live in the direct path of that super typhoon. Our neighborhood and entire district was destroyed, but our house survived unscathed by some chance. But more importantly, friends and family were all safe and sound, although we all were badly shaken.

      This video is of the typhoon at its strongest and then immediately its aftermath: http://youtu.be/zOyWcMLwKBA

      These videos are of our relief effort, courtesy of the donations from friends and families around the world: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PvDZn4WkWzE , https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FNfzvZaYnOI

      Cheers,
      Arthur

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