Having read Ivy’s section “A Filipina’s
View” of England, I felt it only proper to write a summary from my
point of view, being an English female in the Philippines. I have
now been living here for just over a year, but I had also been a
frequent visitor dating from the time of David and Ivy’s wedding in
April 2001. If you wish to comment on this article, please feel free
to email me direct to firstname.lastname@example.org
I can understand Ivy finding a big
difference in the concept of family. In the UK, the average family
size is 2.4 children, whereas in the Philippines 6 or 7 children
seems to be the norm. Third and fourth cousins here are classed as
family members. I don’t even know the names of any of my third or
fourth cousins! UK families definitely aren’t as close as their
Filipino counterparts. The idea of children living with their
parents until they are married, and in some cases even after
marriage is quite unusual in the British culture. In most cases, as
soon as the offspring start earning money, they want to become fully
independent, thus leaving home at any age from 16 upwards. Children
who remain at home once they have started working will be expected
to pay a portion of their salary as “board” to cover rent, food etc.
The male is traditionally the primary breadwinner in the household,
but this is increasingly changing. Women have the same employment
opportunities as men and househusbands are becoming more common.
There are two main reasons for smaller
families in the UK. The first being financial. Good education is
extremely expensive. The second is that contraception is readily
available. There is a wide diversity of religions in Britain, of
which Protestants and Catholics make up the majority.
Motorbikes play a major role in the
transport system here, especially in the rural areas. I am always
amazed to see whole families and luggage piled onto one 125cc
motorbike. In the UK, motorbikes are for a maximum of 2 people.
Jeepneys also abound and are a cheap way of getting around. Longer
distances can be traveled by bus, either air-con or non air-con. The
other option is an air-con van. To those Brit’s reading this, it’s
the equivalent of our minibus. This is a reasonably comfortable
means of travel and quite inexpensive. The price of a journey from
Cebu City – Malabuyoc [approx 130 km or 81 miles] is 90 Php [or 90p]
In the UK you’d be lucky to get 5 km for that price. Traffic laws
don’t seem to be enforced here, if in fact they exist at all. It
seems to be every man for himself on the roads. To quote a certain
university’s Criminology textbook on Traffic Control and Management
“Not all laws are important.”
If you are buying furniture, the service
here is far superior to that in the UK. I moved house earlier this
year. I moved my possessions in the morning, went shopping for
furniture in the afternoon and everything was delivered by the same
evening. And that was on a Sunday! In the UK, if you buy furniture,
you usually wait a few weeks before it is delivered. Filipino’s love
shopping! I was shocked to find shops not only open, but also packed
on Christmas Day. Shop assistants tend to be helpful and pleasant.
One problem though, Filipinos tend to say what they think you want
to hear. Therefore if you ask where something is in the store,
rather than admit that they don’t know, they’ll send you off to a
numbered aisle where you look around in vain for the thing you’re
This problem also persists in the business
world. I can ask, “will this be finished by Friday”; everyone nods
their head and says, “yes” even though they know that it’s
impossible to meet the deadline. The working week here is 44 hours
whereas in England the standard working week varies from 35 – 40
hours. In the UK, at least 4 weeks paid holiday per year is the
norm. Here it is only 10 days. To make up for this, Filipino’s do
have a lot of national, local and special non-working holidays.
Another difference regarding working practices is sickness pay. I am
allowed 10 days sick leave per year. If I don’t use it all, I can
sell the unused days back to the company for cash. Maybe British
companies should consider adopting this idea. It would cut down on a
lot of lost productivity time, I’m sure.
Filipinos often ask me if we have beggars
in the UK. They are always amazed to discover that the answer is
yes. Yes, we have people who sleep out on the streets in the big
cities, even in the middle of winter, when the temperatures are
freezing. I also get asked if I’m frightened walking around Cebu on
my own. The answer to that one is “no more so than in any city in
England.” In fact I’ve seen no violence here at all, although I’ve
read about it in the press. As in most countries including England,
there is always someone ready to con you out of your money.
Bargaining is commonplace here. This comes hard to most Westerners
as it’s not really a concept we’re familiar with. Street sellers see
a white person and think “daghan kwarta” One of the first phrases I
learned was “gailad kanimo” It helps to take a Filipino with
you if you think bargaining power will be needed.
Luckily for me, most people here speak a
reasonable standard of English. English is taught as a second
language from an early age. The Philippines has a reputation as the
best English speaking country in Asia, which is why their nurses and
caregivers are welcomed and respected abroad. However, there are
rumours that these standards are being allowed to happen. That would
be a real shame. Being an English teacher myself, you probably think
I’m biased when I say that, but the truth is that English is the
language of international communication. What this country needs
most is to attract foreign investment into the Philippines.
Another thing that seems strange to me is
paying to go on a beach. Beaches are free for everyone in the UK.
There are however more amenities at a Philippine beach resort. UK
beach resorts don’t have restaurants and bars actually on the sand.
And of course the British weather ensures that seaside resorts are
only popular for a couple of months each year.
Philippa Wealands Eleptico