We often harp on and on about Filipinos and the things they do and do not do in their own country. We also contrast this to Filipinos abroad, and how strikingly meek, compliant, and law-abiding most of them suddenly become when they live or work in foreign lands.
Somewhere in between these two groups, is the one consisting of Filipinos who have gained the means to travel to other countries as tourists, but do not stay for extended periods of time. I can make an educated guess that although the number of Filipinos who are able to invest in travel for leisure is increasing, it still remains but a faraway objective for many others. I can also surmise that Filipinos are likely to think like this: “if we can travel abroad, why bother coming back?”
[Photo Courtesy Perfectdives.com]
Traveling for leisure is indeed a luxury, but to me it is an investment that is just as valuable or perhaps even more than the latest hi-tech gadgets or the latest line of designer clothes available. While gadgets and clothes are subject to trends such as obsolescence and the changing of consumer preferences and trends, I believe travel is not. Travel has been an enriching experience, as it gives me perspective and insight into other cultures and patterns of thinking different from my own, and it allows me to experience things I would never have seen staying here.
Of course, since Filipino tourists usually return to their own country after visiting others, there probably exists the prevailing thought among them that apart from not littering, not jaywalking, and putting forward one’s best English possible, there is no other adjustment to Filipino traits that has to be made. If you ask me, that’s where potential problems start.
Individual tourists may be smart, but it seems that with Filipino tourist groups, the larger the group gets, the lower its intelligence goes. The two are apparently inversely proportional.
There are certain Filipino traits that are downright annoying, if not detestable. And I aim to present a few of them here, the ones that are most likely to get Filipino tourists and tourist groups bad reputations abroad.
Filipinos have no concept of time
We are all familiar with this. Filipino time can be summarized in four words: no concept of time. Unfortunately other cultures are not so cavalier about rendezvous times and appointments. Some of them, the Japanese as a striking example, are particularly obsessed with it. Anybody who is from or has been to Japan will tell about how trains are accurate and synchronized with the official time, and will apologize for being even one minute late. Filipinos, on the other hand, rarely apologize for being an hour or so late, when it comes to informal gatherings!
There are two ways you can look at time: either as a precious resource or as a general guideline. I will give you one guess as to which one the Filipino naturally glides towards. You may even want to look at these guide questions:
Have Filipinos been naturally good at taking care of resources?
Are Filipinos fond of following simple guidelines?
Are Filipinos known for being considerate of others?
Are Filipinos strict when it comes to schedules or deadlines?
Are Filipinos naturally wasteful?
If your host is particular about time, meeting up with Filipinos is likely to drive him/her nuts. If not, good for both of you. But a good rule of thumb to live by, regardless of your host country’s view of time, is to be at least 5-10 minutes early for your appointment. At the very least, it will show respect.
Filipinos do not do enough homework on their destination
For me, researching on what to do, where to go when you’ve arrived is half the fun in preparing for a tourist trip. Unfortunately, one facet that gets often overlooked not just by Filipino tourists is that there are also societal norms that need to be followed which you may not necessarily agree with. Keep in mind that you are the visitor.
The degree of conservatism of the society, the importance of preserving face against the value of frankness, the particular strictness with time, the approach to group consensus, the stratification between seniors and juniors – these are just a few of the societal norms that one, as a tourist, have to be particularly concerned about. It may seem a daunting task to study all that, but it will make your visit that much more enjoyable.
Some languages are harder than others, and not all of us are born to be polyglots, but learning even the basic phrases will also make your visit a tad easier, especially if you plan to visit a place where the locals aren’t known to speak decent English.
Among Americans there seems to be a joke among themselves, yet the ever-changing ethnic composition of present day America is forcing them to reevaluate how they value both multilingualism and diversity in ethnicity:
What do you call someone who speaks many languages? Multilingual.
What do you call someone who speaks two languages? Bilingual.
What do you call someone who speaks one language? An American!
Perhaps Filipinos should reevaluate the same thing in them too.
One aspect that should already be common sense is the sense of being considerate. Certain Filipino tourist groups aren’t very good at showing it. They block the way needlessly (humaharang sa daan), they’re noisy, and some even act as if you should be grateful that you have Filipinos as visitors.
When in doubt, be conservative, but don’t be afraid to ask your host what is acceptable and what is not before you do it. The presence of the internet and other types of reference materials renders the excuse of “not enough resources” invalid.
Filipinos are judgmental
Perhaps one of the most difficult things to do is to evaluate a foreign place and experience without comparing it to something you are familiar with. Unfortunately, this requires a sort of maturity that many Filipinos don’t seem to have. When we say maturity, we refer to a certain detachment from ethnocentrism and a sense of ethnic superiority that Filipinos can’t help but exhibit. Without fail.
“Parang Rockwell” (just like Rockwell)
“Parang sinigang” (tastes like sinigang, a Filipino tamarind soup dish)
“Mas maganda pa mga ganyan sa atin” (the ones we have back home are much better)
“Ang labo naman ng mga batas nila dito” (the laws in this place are so vague!)
I believe in taking in the experience for what it is, not for how superior or inferior it is relative to what Filipinos have back home.
I remember reading something from a book about Zen: empty your mind of all pre-conceived notions.
Filipinos take photos to excess
As I grew up I grew less and less fond of photos. For me, the purpose of a photo is to seal in the good memories that I experienced during the trip. With the advent of social media, however, it seems that the primary purpose of a photo has changed: to show incontrovertible proof that you went somewhere, and to show off where you’ve been (possibly where others haven’t). What has changed, then? It seems that people’s attitudes have changed such that they feel an urge or need to prove that they’ve been somewhere. KSP, as fellow GRP writer Gogs would like to say.
I don’t travel to show off to others; I travel for myself. If the trip was really memorable one’s dependence on photos wouldn’t be that much; the experience becomes part of you, inseparable.
As I mentioned above, travel, I believe, is one of the best investments one can make for himself/herself and for his/her kids. It is an enriching experience; not just for the sights, sounds, and tastes, but because of the insight one can glean from a culture with differences from what you’re used to. However, there is such a thing as being a good tourist, and though Filipinos are far from being the only annoying tourists in the world, we should never stop asking ourselves how we can improve even in small ways.
The Filipino wants a world-class reputation? He better start showing the world that he has that class!