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Some observations and reflections from the Philippines

Today we wanted to offer some observations and reflections from the Philippines. We've talked about beaches, snorkelling, fishing, restaurants and things like that, but now we thought we'd talk about some more everyday things that we come across and reflect on.

Some observations from our trip in the Philippines

When travelling, it is interesting to experience nature, sights, food and tourist attractions, but it is often just as exciting to learn about the local culture - and sometimes compare and reflect on your own life at home.

Here we list some things that we find different from Sweden and Europe. Please note that these are our personal experiences and observations, mostly from the island. Malapascua. Some things may be different in other parts of the Philippines, or experienced differently by other people.

1. everything is sold in small portion bags

One interesting thing we noticed in the Philippines is that "everything" is sold in small portion bags. We have heard that Americans find it funny that we in Sweden sell food (caviar, soft cheese, mustard, mayonnaise, tomato paste and so on) in tubes. Here in the Philippines it is our turn to react to the fact that a lot of food is sold in small portion bags.

It doesn't matter whether we are looking for shampoo, detergent, toothpaste, coffee, iced tea, hot chocolate, soups, broth or sweets. Most things are for sale in small portion bags, which hang in long rows so you can tear off as many bags as you want.

2. Everything can be bought individually

Are you used to buying a whole box of Advil or a whole packet of cigarettes (if you are a smoker, of course)? Here, as in many other countries in the world, it is common to purchase and a headache tablet, or and cigarette. You simply buy what you need, just when you need it. There are signs outside the shops indicating the price of a cigarette, and when you want medicine, they open the packet and ask you how many tablets you want to buy.

In Sweden, we tend to think that people who are financially strapped want to buy cheap big packs and the like, but this is only possible if you have enough money to plan far ahead. If finances are even more limited, it may be easier to buy a cigarette or an alvedon.

3. Many people live simply - and socialise outdoors

By Swedish standards, many people live simply here on the island of Malapascua. Many small houses have corrugated iron walls and toilets are sometimes flushed by scooping water from a bucket. At the same time, people here mainly live outdoors, working and socialising together, so they don't spend time indoors like we do in Europe.

When we visit the local villages, the atmosphere is usually good and people greet each other cheerfully - especially the children who are keen to practise their English. However, we can imagine that the terrible typhoons that pass by can sometimes be frightening, and we've heard that some people wait out the worst storms with helmets on their heads.


In many other ways, people here live in ways that resemble our Western way of life. Most people seem to have smartphones - often modern ones - and social media is widely used.

As a temporary visitor, it is of course difficult to familiarise yourself with all aspects of life for the local population and the challenges they face. At the same time, you can't help but reflect on whether we in the West have perhaps gone a little too far in the other direction. Do we really need everything we imagine we need?

4. philippines love reef

In the Philippines love you eat rice. They like to eat rice in the morning, at lunch and at dinner. Often, Filipino families will put on a large pot of rice in the morning, so that they then have rice all day. Of course, rice is affordable and filling, but the Filipinos also seem to genuinely love their rice.

For example, it is not uncommon to want rice with your noodles. There are also restaurants that offer 'unlimited rice', which means you can add as much rice as you like with your chicken or pork, and these restaurants are extremely popular.

5. Shower hose by the toilet helps save paper

In some contexts we imagine that we in the West are better at working for the environment and sustainability, but in other contexts Asia is definitely better. The shower hose at the toilet is both hygienic and helps to save paper.

In 'intermediate' sites, there is a shower hose but no paper. In the most basic sites, there is only a bucket of water and a scoop. In the better standard sites, there is both a shower hose and toilet paper.

6. you are good at reusing products

We do not know much about how waste management and recycling work here, but we can see that many products are reused instead of being thrown away. There is of course an economic aspect to this, but it also means that less is thrown away. For example, it is common for plastic cans to be used as bases for parasols or as flower pots.

Another image I'd like to share in this context is a painting from the wall here in Malapascua, showing how turtles can mistake plastic bags for jellyfish, which are part of their diet. A sad but important image, reminding us all that plastic has no place in nature!

7. In the countryside there is a constant cacophony of dogs, roosters and geckos.

It may be different in the big cities, but here on a small island you can hear the sound of a constant cacophony of dogs barking and roosters crowing. Every now and then a gecko joins in with its high-pitched "ge-ko" sound (yes, that's where the lizard gets its name).

Every time you eat in a restaurant, you get 1-4 dog friends.
The roosters each sit on a stick and do their best to drown each other out!

8. Karaoke is immensely popular.

It's not just dogs and roosters that are heard. More often than not, both of these animals are drowned out by loud karaoke blaring from every other bar. The Philippines loves karaoke and there are big karaoke machines everywhere. You can even find them in the most humble of homes. It seems that a karaoke machine is high on many people's list of priorities.

What times does the karaoke song resound across the countryside? We would say exactly all times. Sometimes we are woken up at 7 o'clock in the morning by someone singing karaoke at full volume (although by then the roosters have been crowing since 5 o'clock).

9. Wounds heal slowly - and you can look for medicine in nature

One thing we learnt "the hard way" is that wounds heal slowly in this climate. Both Peter and Micke had small wounds on their feet at the beginning of their stay, which only got bigger and worse every day, requiring lots of washing, plastering and care to finally get better.

We have bought wound wash and other things in the pharmacies here, but if you ask the locals, you can also get tips on nature's pharmacies. For example, aloe vera and a plant called hagonoy, which is believed to have wound healing properties, grow here.

Do you also make observations and reflections while travelling?

Do you also make observations and reflections when travelling in other countries and cultures? Have your travelling experiences influenced how you view life at home?

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