Appreciating the Silence: A Lost Art in the Philippines

I was never a big fan of Holy Week and its festivities. Being raised Christian, I was always told by my mother to learn to appreciate the silence during Good Friday and Black Saturday. When I grew up, I called bullshit on the idea and decided that it was probably just my mom finding a reason for me to shut up during Holy Week. Now, almost three years after her death and after careful observation of my country and its people, I’ve come to realize that there was something else that my mom was trying to tell me. I don’t want to make this article too personal, but I can say that my mom, despite her rather backwater beginnings in a province in Ilocos, grew up to be quite a wise woman. When I look back on her call for silence during Holy Week, I think that she was doing more than just catering to old, outdated traditions of typical Pinoys.

Wait, I know Holy Week is over and most of us here have gone back to the normal drone and drudgery of everyday life. However, looking back on my mother’s life, where she grew up and the generation she grew up with, I noted that there was something quite different about them compared to the Filipino generation of the New 10’s. Now wait, if you think this is going to be a “Holy Week Rant”, don’t worry because it isn’t. Also this isn’t just relevant for only Christians either, but I think this issue is something that all of us should know about and understand if we want to improve as a nation.

Colors of SilenceAnyway, I have recently read a comment from GRP shorts that the Philippines is also well known for noise pollution. Bad enough that people litter everywhere, it’s also true that we aren’t the most astute of people when it comes to keeping things down. Filipinos, as I have come to see with great dismay, are a loud people, both literally and metaphorically and not in a good way either. You can see it in the way we like to throw extravagant parties and fiestas that lasts for days or even weeks even though some of our less fortunate fellows can barely afford daily meals. You can see it in the way we like to post pictures of just about everywhere we go, flooding our FB accounts with around a dozen or so pictures of ourselves in the same spot without changing anything but our facial expressions. You can see it in the way we like to stand out in crowds and make ourselves look “different” even if we just end up looking silly. Look, there’s nothing wrong with throwing a party as long as you can afford it, there’s nothing wrong with taking selfies when you travel as long as you keep it within the bounds of practicality and there’s nothing wrong with trying a new look. But it’s a completely different issue when you try to turn these things into some kind of bizarre competition.

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Have you ever been in a room where everyone is trying to talk at the same time? This is exactly what I think the Philippines is turning into over the years if it hasn’t already become exactly that. Technology has certainly done humanity a lot of good over the centuries but most Pinoys here in the Philippines only abuse it. This can be seen in the way some of our fellows like to sing at a videoke at night, preventing their neighbors from getting a good sleep. This can also be seen in some of the youths who like to diddle with their gadgets, either by taking dozens upon dozens of selfies in public places where they eventually become nuisances or playing loud obnoxious pop or rap music (whose themes are mostly about idealistic romance or lewd sex) to the dismay of the people around them.

All in all, it seems that a lot of Pinoys adhere to the idea of: “DON’T STOP THE PARTY!”

Unfortunately though, as a lot of you probably know, the party can’t last forever. Parties have to come to an end sooner or later like when the sun finally rises to greet the hungover people struggling to get up or when the police finally come around to pick up the people who’ve been causing such a big disturbance. While I don’t really mind parties and enjoy them as much as the next guy, I will still point out that the party has to end some time or we won’t be able to back to our lives and become productive members of our community. Of course, I know that some people are aware of this fact but I strongly doubt that the stoned gentlemen in front of Aling Mording’s sari-sari store, the giggling almost-naked teenagers talking boisterously and taking selfies beside the stoned gentlemen and Aling Mording who is watching another episode of a teleserye involving a love triangle are even aware of that fact.

Silence, as one of our commenters here state, allows for introspection and reflection of one’s choices and actions in life. I think what my mom was trying to teach me was that I would only better understand myself and others if I kept quiet. Unfortunately, the value of silence has been lost to Filipinos in today’s new generation of airheads and I think I know why.

You see, when the party finally stops and someone turns on the lights, we will finally be able to see what we really look like. When the haze of alcohol and narcotics has finally faded, we will be able to see our reflections and fully understand what we’ve become. The girl who thinks she’s firecrackers will realize that she’s nothing more than a dried-up whore, the dude who thinks he’s a million bucks will realize that the money he has was just borrowed and that he is now living on borrowed time and the guy who owns the place will realize that he has a big mess to clean up.

C’mon guys, the party has to end. We need to go back to reality if we want to solve our problems. Yes, partying might make us forget our issues, at least for a while, but sooner or later, the party stops and we have to go back to our normal lives. Parties are not the solution to our problems people, quick and positive response is.


17 Replies to “Appreciating the Silence: A Lost Art in the Philippines”

  1. To misquote Blaise Pascal, “The sole cause of the Filipino’s unhappiness is that he does not know how to stay quietly in his room”.

  2. Filipinos have this uncanny ability of making a lot of noise without actually saying anything at all.

    Just watch your everyday variety show and listen in to the shallowness of what they’re talking about.

    Just enter an elevator car filled with call center agents. You will hear them yakking about their personal lives and you’ll know what I mean. Just try listening in to these conversations and you’ll just end up getting a headache without fully understanding what the hell they’re talking about.

    No wonder people from other countries such as Singapore and Japan see us as a noisy people.

  3. During the Holy Week festivities, I spotted a bunch of dumb teens trying to take selfies with “penitents”…

    I was honestly made speechless by that moment.

  4. Dear Mr. Grimwald,
    I like this article very much but I miss a few things that are unmentioned by you.
    You know what drives me crazy every time I visit Cebu City? The constant blowing of (car) horns.
    Why do the Filipinos not know to appreciate silence? Because they are totally and utterly unfamilair with the concept of privacy. (Example: how many people will go to their own bedroom and will start reading a book or a magazine just to escape all the noise and all those faces?)
    And because it will be hard to silence all mouths in a family with 6 kids.

    I really hope that what your mom said wasnt meant to be taken literally. One can also be silent all year long and only speak (make noise) when really neccessary. I hope thats what she really meant.

    1. Something ironic about Filipinos regarding privacy: They feel squeamish when they get invited by foreigners to join them in a public bathroom(ofuro/onsen).

    2. I dunno Mr. Haighton. Private vehicles, public vehicles, pedestrians, they honk that horn whenever they want. It’s like they feel that the road is “entitled” to them somehow.

      1. What do you call the thing that puto (rice cake) vendors have? Anyway, if they don’t have horns they just raise their voices.

        Oh well, at least they don’t fart like the demons from Dante’s Divine Comedy. However, if someone starts the trend (like a celebrity somewhere) and people follow suit, I really wouldn’t be surprised.

  5. And also, dont forget that those great people out there saying “thank you” and “congratulations”, using colossal tarpaulins, with their printed angelic faces, are the best.

  6. Living in Northern Camiguin island is just priceless. Eevn during times of celebration its quiet.

    MISSED,it is.

  7. i remember this discussion with my nephew over 20 years ago – he commented that philippine movies are, by some form of cultural extension, noisy. ever since then, ive been observing philippine films – be it independent or studio, “classic” or contemporary – sharing this trait. the background musical score (if at all present) is drowned by noise, usually crying, shouting or in most cases background noise. it paints a pretty accurate picture of philippine culture. if the staple of bollywood films are the dance numbers, ours would be constant noise.

    1. Bollywood movies are pretty damn noisy too. There’s just something about poverty and noise that keep them hand in hand.

  8. without firecrackers, how would we know a new year has begun?
    without kariaoke, how could talent ever bloom?
    without roosters, how could you tell if you ever left the country farm at all?
    without constantly revving up a dirt bike, how could you tell if the throttle and carbie were not up to scratch?
    without constant babbling of prayers, how could you tell if God were not listening?

    1. New Year = By the date.

      Talent = Could be discovered at the right place at the right time. Not in the dead of the night with neighbors wanting to sleep.

      Roosters = They’re not making noise by cocking. That’s just how they are.

      Revving a dirt bike = Is not noise if you do it in the privacy of your garage. If a tune up is what you’re aiming for, that is.

      Ironic, but you’ll feel the presence of a God more by being silent and through introspection. Less from louldy blurting out chants.

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