noise pollution in the Philippines

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noise-textsThis post is about my observations about noise, sounds and music in the Philippines.

  • Have you ever wondered why Filipinos in general speak in loud voices?
  • And why they all speak at the same time?
  • Have you ever attended a real Filipino party where many Filipinos are?
  • Did you notice that TV and radio are always very loud?

For sure you have noticed all of the above and if not you might be:
* A Filipino yourself
* or Deaf

A few examples:
noise-pollutionHave you ever seen one of the Filipino TV shows like Happy Yippee, Yehee or any other TV show? Have you noticed that there are often multiple hosts and that they all like to talk the same time? And that they almost shout to be understood even if they have a microphone?
And on Filipino (Birthday) parties, where all guests like to say something the same time and do that in a loud voice? { I often jokingly refer such gatherings as being in a hen-house: all the talk, talk, talk, tok, tok, tok…. ;-) }
loud-noiseAlmost all Filipinos walking in the street have earphones connected to a cell phone or mp3 player, but all playing music, loud music, very loud music ….

When I am observing something in the Philippines I always try to find a reason for that specific behaviour.

Have you ever been in a mall in the Philippines? In a weekend? And have you noticed that there is so much noise coming from:

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  • general sound system, playing music and interrupted by many kinds of announcements
  • every store has its own music system, often with very loud music (or noise what they like to call music)
  • stores where they sell sound systems and TV’s have different music or sounds coming from every single working apparatus
  • the sound from those music systems have heavy low tones, trembling everything, which makes your stomach uncomfortable
  • and if you are lucky (or unlucky if you like) there is something going on on the central stage of the mall with even louder music
  • shops selling karaoke machines have such machine installed where employees try to sing their favorite songs
  • shops with gambling and playing machines, where a true cacophony of sounds comes into the passage way
  • children playgrounds with lots of sounds and shouting children

To me it looks like the music, played in stores, is not to amuse the customers but to please the most young employees. In SM malls and SM supermarkets from time to time interrupted by a lady speaker wishing all customers ‘happy shopping’ and at the same time all employees have to drop everything to clap their hands yelling: ‘at your service’ (but when you ask them something they often have to ask someone else….or they do not know, and the easiest answer is: ‘out of stock, sir!’).
Some malls and also large shops and supermarkets suddenly start prayers at 12 noon through their sound system, but loud music or sound doesn’t stop. And mostly in weekends a catholic mass is celebrated in a public area in the mall where the priest makes his sermon through a sound system very loud, because the nearby music systems of shops do not lower their music for a short while…

sound-picSo when you are visiting a mall sometimes you are forced to listen to more than 10 different LOUD sounds and songs and music at the same time. And not only you, also the Filipino people.
When you use public transport like jeepney there is a lot of noise as well: not only the traffic in the street, but also the loud belching engine of the jeepney and often a very loud sound system with heavy basses in the jeepney itself.
Karaoke or Videoke singing is one of the favorite things Filipinos do when they are at home. Of course the sound should be loud, low tones extra loud so whole neighborhood can (= has to) enjoy / dislike. If you have such neighbors: I wish you strength.

stop-noiseAs a person who can easily live without music, radio, TV or other mechanical sounds I need my ears only to listen to silence, sounds of nature or to spoken words. Personally I do not need sound systems, radio, TV and the like. I am happy that I have a choice if I like to go to a mall or not and that we live in a house in a very quiet neighborhood with few neighbors and only once or twice a year a karaoke party.

In and around our house I can still enjoy the sound of birds, or during the evening the call from one botiki to the other, or some crickets outside in the trees. I realize that this is rare in a city, but it is true where we live.

Conclusion: Due to the heavy load of sounds, in their houses, in the streets, malls and almost everywhere Filipinos have to speak with a loud voice and have to put their sound system louder because they might have hearing problems…?????

Leave a Reply or Comment

  1. Hello Jan,

    I was browsing the net to look for a blog to read and luckily I found yours. I’m definitely not an expat, I’m a Filipina married to a Filipino. Your site is interesting to read. This will definitely be added on my favorites.

    • probably ;-)
      and when they are on the telephone they shout if there is no phone at all …. but want the caller to hear them anyway…

  2. A very good observation regarding attitude specially in the lowlands…sometimes it still hits me..wondering why my parents discourage us so much to play loud music as is the common practice here in the cordilleras specially with the different ethnic tribes..when in my parents hometown, the old folks gather us around the “Dap-ay” and teach us about indigenous practices and tradition, this of course requires the younger to learn how to LISTEN carefully before saying anything since beliefs and traditional practices are passed through this system (though with the onset of internet and advance technology, one can find written articles and videos regarding the traditional practices in the cordilleras nowadays). Music on the other hand can be a very powerful vehicle in expressing emotion but when played in extreme volume by a neighbor then it becomes totally annoying.

    • Miles,
      Good that the older people are trying to teach the younger ones the ‘old’ customs and values. This traditional way of living may not disappear.

  3. If only the government gives more focus on the grassroots level in order to cultivate and improve practices that are truly filipino, then maybe Filipino Culture which has always been criticized as a rehash of spanish culture due the 336years of colonization from the spaniards, then maybe all western influences will, perhaps, be controlled. Trends will get it’s influence from indigenous roots. It still frustrates me to see a poor family living in a bahay kubo but with the latest model of TV and component system in their sala playing at full blast, not minding if a neighbour got home late from work and needs enough rest.

  4. Hello Jan! I’m Nel, my real name is very lengthy, I’m a filipina who has a british boyfriend named, Douglas.

    I have stumbled upon your website whilst I was in search of information in the past regarding inter-racial marriage, given my situation. And I find your website very helpful and informative. Thank you for your effort in putting up this website.

    I’m 44 years old and my boyfriend is 53, we met in 2009 but started our relationship in 2010. We talk almost everyday since then (except when we have lovers’ quarrel or LQs that last for 3 days [being the shortest] or until 3 weeks [the longest]. I would say I’m very happy with him but of course would be happiest if we finally meet together this September 2012. We have not met personally since we went steady and this is bec I have my obligation to my family, being the sole breadwinner. I have explained this to him at the onset and he agreed to wait for the time I am ready, for which I am very thankful for his understanding.

    Sorry, I won’t bother you anymore with my lengthy exposition, you could have been bored at this point.

    In the future, could I ask for your advice regarding anything that has to do with interracial marriage/relationships? You seem to be the right person to approach given your experience with your filipina wife and your being european. I wish you and your loved ones, good life and good health!


  5. Hi, I lived in the Cebu area for a total of about 3 1/2 years and loved it. I am 44 plan on heading back to the Philippines at the end of this year. This time I will likely live in Lipa City. I was asking for suggestions of best places to live and someone mentioned Lipa City. I’ve done a lot of research, and it sounds perfect. Google Earth has a beautiful overview of the area and some of the associated photos are breathtaking.

    Anyway…I’d like to add to this discussion. Filipinos are able to sleep soundly in almost any conditions…loud noise, broad daylight, etc. My Filipino neighbors sometimes blasted their music at 3 a.m. on a weekday. I wasn’t “happy,” but I’m much more patient when I’m in the Philippines. (If you don’t have patience or cannot develop it, DON’T move to the Philippines!)

    The town’s food strip also had several karaoke machines all packed together and blasting loudly. You often couldn’t distinguish your voice and music from neighboring stalls.

    It’s funny to go into a mall and hear music with lots of profanity in it. They know the bad words, but don’t think anything of it. If it doesn’t bother them, it doesn’t bother me, either.