12 Things That Filipinos May Not Know About Their Country

An Alien's View by Bruce Curran, Senior Consultant Financial Adviser, writer, author, adventurer and Filipinaphile!

(i) As a child, like most children in the west, I fancied myself spinning, tossing and playing with my Yo-yo. It was not till 40 years later that I discovered this toy originates from the Philippines, with its meaning as ‘come-back’ in a local dialect. It was a tribal weapon used to strike an opponent. In the early 20th century it drifted into the western culture via the USA by Americans returning from their Colony of the Philippines.

(ii) Then I became curious about what else the Philippines have contributed to the wider world. I discovered that a certain Roberto de Rosario has the dubious recognition as the original inventor of the Karaoke machine, later highly developed by the Japanese. It is an instrument of torture for many neighbours who often tolerate the stressful tones of drunken bullfrogs who fancy themselves as brilliant crooners, but actually awaken thoughts of cutting electrical wiring or spreading a cloud of pepper in efforts to prevent further punishment to people within hearing distance of kamakazi karaoke activists!Originally Roberto invented a music box, then turned it into a ‘sing-along’ instrument, but never got himself an international patent. He also developed the ‘one-man band’ as an instrument, and used to sell pianos.

(iii) Who knows that the fluorescent light is named after a certain American Filipino scientist, a Mr. Agapito Flores! Originally from Bantayan island in Cebu. However, herin lies controversy since “No scientific report, no valid statement, no rigorous documents can be used to credit Flores for the discovery of the fluorescent lamp. We have tried to correct this misconception, but the media (for one) and our textbooks (for another) keep using the Flores example,” a Filipino scientist wrote in her column at the Philippine Daily Inquirer. Perhaps this is another case of a failure to register a patent, amid other research worldwide.

(iv) In the natural world, the Philippines is home to 165 volcanoes, as part of the oceanic ‘ring of fire’, 27 of which are rated as ‘active’. The best known are Mount Pinatubo in Pampanga, Mount Mayon in Bicol, and close to Manila are the Taal volcano, and Mount Makiling in Laguna. Canlaon in northern Negros is well known in the Visayas, and Mount Bukidnon in Mindanao.

(v) But Palawan is not a volcanic island, and is clearly the jewel in the crown of these 7,107 islands, making up one quarter of all the islands on the archipelago, with 1,780. Palawan has one wondrous statistic in that it is home to only 1% of the total country’s population, which has just passed the 100,000,000 mark. It is home to the one-toed otter in the remoter rivers, the only place on earth that this creature is found.

(vi) Where in these islands do you find the only pod of Irrawaddy dolphins found in the whole country? It is in the Malampaya Sound in the NW of the Palawan main island. Altogether ….types of dolphins live in Philippine waters, and the most exciting to see is the Spinner dolphin leaping and performing aits acrobatic tricks as they swim across the bow of boats.

(vii) Did you know that there are vampire beings in Capiz in Panay Island, but that no-one can prove it? Herein lies yet another tale, since they come out exactly at midnight …but this is to their advantage since they are protected by what is well known as ‘Philippine time’. In these luscious tropical islands time dissolved long ago in a quagmire of endlessness. When the clock strikes midnight no-one will have made it to the spot to witness the vampires, and will only arrive long after the vampires have left to go about their nightly chores! Proof is in the pudding, but time went down the plughole many moons past!

(viii) Did you know that the Filipino driver is obsessed with blowing his horn! In fact the average taxi driver blows his horn 178,000 times in one year. However, herein lies a formula…when entering a taxi tell him you will give a P20 tip, but that every time he blows his horn you will deduct P1 from the tip – the result is always the same…at the end of a trip the taxi driver will always owe YOU money! Actually in reality it is called noise pollution, and if the addiction was stopped the planet would be saved overnight! By the way aliens call it inconsiderate, pointless, aggravating and highly annoying! Have you ever been hunted by a taxi driver, creeping up behind you, blowing his horn to give you a heart attack, all in an effort to get your custom. Does he not realise that you have eyes and ears and arms, and can hail a taxi when required. Oh….of course, I forgot there is no system like in all other countries, where a taxi light on the roof means ‘taxi available’ and when turned off means ‘taxi occupied’. Phew, but that’s called ‘logic’ and ‘abiding by rules’. Silly me, there are no rules in the Philippines only guidelines!

(ix) Oh…and don’t forget that the Philippines has some of the most beautiful women in the world, which makes it a pleasure for us males to travel far and wide throughout these magnificent tropical islands! Mostly unassuming, smiling and mild mannered they have a charm that is unique to these tropical islands.

(x) The fact is the country is full of a people friendly beyond compare. I feel very privileged to live here in the heart of one of the best kept travel secrets in Asia.

(xi) After all, if you stopped at every Philippine island for just 2 days each, it would take you 40 years to see this glorious archipelago. My advice to you is throw away your keys, go travelling around the islands my friend – it is simply the best education.
(xii) Did you know that Americans call these islands ‘awesome’; the British call them ‘absolutely wonderful’; and the Koreans can’t get enough, with 750,000 visiting these islands in 2009….boy, now that really is absolutely awesome!

If you think you have one of your own and we can make it a
BAKER’S DOZEN please email me!
brucecurran@campbellalexander.com