I read a few articles from a 26-year-old Canadian named Kyle Jennermann about his adventures around the Philippines. Kyle has been travelling the country on and off since 2013 in the hopes of understanding the country and its people better. His ultimate goal in doing this, he says, is to fulfill his dream of becoming a Filipino himself. Kyle claims to have fallen in love with the Philippines and Filipinos after his initial two-month stay in Cebu and Cagayan de Oro.
Kyle’s blogsite called Becoming Filipino where he documents his adventures during his travels has a strong following among Filipinos. Admittedly, his enthusiasm in trying anything Filipino is infectious and even makes some Filipinos feel ashamed for not appreciating the Philippines as much as a foreigner like Kyle does. He makes me want to see Cagayan de Oro myself. I’m surprised the Department of Tourism hasn’t hired him to be an ambassador yet considering he is very popular and has mostly positive things to say about the country.
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While Kyle is full of praises for the Philippines, it is interesting to note however, that Kyle has been seeing more of the countryside (he says he’s been to 24 provinces so far) than the capital city Manila. His first trip to the Philippines was via the Cebu airport. Obviously, his first impression was not marred by one of the world’s worst airports – the Ninoy Aquino International Airport.
So when Kyle speaks of the beauty of the Philippines, he quite often refers to its natural beauty – the waterfalls, volcanoes, rolling hills and mountains, the beaches, among other things — not necessarily the country’s architecture and infrastructure. One can therefore conclude that from an outsider’s perspective, the Philippines’ natural beauty is what draws foreigners to the country. Of course the “friendly” and “smiley” Filipinos are also part of what makes his experience memorable. Since I haven’t read any entries about Manila, one can conclude he is not fond of the capital city, and when he refers to “Filipinos”, they are likely people from the countryside. Perhaps one can say that Filipinos from Manila are a different story. But I will not elaborate on that today.
Most of Kyle’s entries on his blogsite are, shall we say, politically-correct. I would even go as far as saying unrealistically upbeat. In one of Kyle’s entries though, his tone was a little bit different. He was talking about Davao and how he noticed the difference in the way the people there behave compared to the way people behave in other provinces he has been to. In Davao, he says, people have discipline. He even wrote the word in red to highlight it. It’s as if he could not stress it enough.
I may not have been to Cagayan de Oro but I have been to Davao. Kyle wrote about how people in Davao follow the rules and even police each other when they see someone violating them. When he was there someone reminded him that in Davao, he cannot drive his scooter while wearing his tsinelas or flip-flops. He was even assured that no one is going to snatch his cellphone while he is there, boasting that Davao is a generally safe place to live in.
I guess Kyle was surprised by the way Filipinos from Davao take the rules seriously. Having lived among Filipinos from other provinces for months, he admits that he has gotten used to doing what the locals do, which is to ignore the rules. In his own words, he found himself slowly immersing in this “organized chaos”:
…there is definitely a lack of discipline in a lot of areas. Littering, driving and obeying the laws are definitely a few things I feel a lot of Filipinos can improve on.
Over the course of a year and half I found myself pulling ahead of “stop lines” at lights. Sometimes I would turn on a red light just to make an illegal u-turn back so I didn’t have to wait. “No Parking” signs… well a lot of other people parked… so I would to.
I feel sometimes we get used to “getting away with the little things” in the Philippines and it makes it easy for us to take the “illegal shortcuts”.
It is apparent that even when one wants to obey the rules, when the majority is breaking it, obeying it can be a useless exercise. It would be like pushing against the tide.
In the same entry, Kyle stressed that he may break some rules but there is something that he will not do even when locals do it, which is to litter or throw garbage indiscriminately. I’m sure it is quite baffling for him to see the locals trash their surroundings this way. He’s probably too polite to say something. After all, a lot of Filipinos do not take kindly to criticism especially when it means having to change a behavior they have been used to doing. It is quite disappointing to watch some people leave their trash behind without any regard for the environment. It makes one think that Filipinos in general couldn’t be bothered cleaning up after themselves or maintaining the beautiful natural environment.
I don’t even think that it is a result of a lack of education because Filipinos are very particular about having a clean and orderly household. They just need to extend that mentality to public places. This reminds me of something I read somewhere about India:
India. This is the country where, as Mark Twain observed, every life is sacred, except human life. Indians may care deeply about their families and circle of friends, but they don’t even notice anyone outside that circle. That’s why Indian homes are spotless, while just a few feet outside the front door the trash is piled high. It’s outside the circle.
It seems, Filipinos and Indians have something in common with the way they treat the environment outside of their comfort zones. But Filipinos do not have to see this as a tradition we have to uphold. As a society, we need to constantly evolve by looking at how we can improve things. After all, we are mere guardians of this place we are living in. We have to keep it in order for the next generation.
In summary, here is what we can take from Kyle’s little adventure in Davao:
1. Rules or laws are there to be obeyed and not to be ignored.
2. Members of law enforcement agencies cannot police everyone. Filipinos need to police themselves and other people who ignore the rules to keep things in order.
3. Just because someone did not see you break the rules, doesn’t mean that it is okay. If you cannot be honest with yourself, you cannot be honest with anyone.
4. Order can be achieved by a society only when its members collectively follow the rules. Individual efforts will only make an impact when others follow the lead.
Filipinos should thank Kyle for sharing his observation and learn from them. Filipinos who follow his simple advice will prove that they genuinely love the Philippines.
In life, things are not always what they seem.