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“Wow! You speak English so well!” — this is the reaction Filipinos have become used to when foreigners hear them speak. When tourists visit the country, they’re usually surprised at the fact some Filipinos learn English as their first language. Most other Filipinos learn it alongside Tagalog growing up (or alongside their native language/local dialect — there are nearly 200 in the country), and almost everyone else – with English being taught in school and with the heavy influence of U.S. media – acquires it at least as a second language. Though some Filipinos don a distinctive accent while speaking the language, English-speaking travellers visiting the country will have little or no trouble communicating with its multi-lingual people.
Contrasting the preceding stereotype, this one is usually held by the Spanish and people of their previous colonies, like Latin America. Many are of them are surprised that after over three centuries of being under Spanish rule (and only over 40 years under the Americans), the Philippines has retained the English language and not the Spanish. There are however, still a plethora of words that have been borrowed from the Spanish language. While many of these words also have Tagalog counterparts, Filipinos still use the Spanish words for numbers, time, days of the week, months, and many other verbs and everyday items. Many a time, due to all the country’s borrowed words from Spanish and English, listening to Filipinos speak might sound like they’re communicating in three different languages all at once.
No, they do not sell dog meat alongside pork, beef, and chicken in Filipino supermarkets. Asking anyone off the street about this matter will guarantee horrified looks as eating dog in the Philippines is generally taboo. There are a few localities that do, however, mostly around the northern regions of the country in the mountain province, where indigenous people and their ancestors have long dined on dog meat. But don’t expect to be finding it on restaurant menus elsewhere. Filipinos adore their pups just as much as the next nationality.
Being an archipelago, historically, there was no “Philippines” to speak off. The different groups of islands, being separated by large bodies of water, possessed their own distinct culture, language, and traditions, and hence, were very regionalistic (a characteristic still rather evident today). A movement for a united Philippines didn’t come until the arrival of the Spanish later on. So while the country’s people are known nowadays for being very “proudly Filipino”, with keen observation, some disparities and interestingly unique characteristics can still be noticed among them and their various regions.
Another misconception of first-time Philippine visitors is that all islands in the country are more or less the same, therefore, going to a few is enough to “experience the whole country”. This could not be more wrong. Aside from over 7,000 islands making up the country with their varying languages, cuisines, groups of indigenous peoples, cultures, and traditions, these islands are also stunning in their own ways and they offer varying activities to travellers. Party in Boracay; surf in Siargao; dive in Anilao; snorkel in Palawan — they all have their own gems so a little research before a trip will go a long way.
Overseas Filipino workers are nationally recognized as the country’s “new heroes”. Their hard work and the monthly remittances they send to their families back home are largely responsible for the boom in Philippine economy. But while they toil away in foreign lands to be able to make ends meet for their loved ones back home, many have to stomach being discriminated and seen as fit for only lower-income jobs when many of them, in fact, are qualified professionals in the Philippines who are forced to trade in such titles for bigger pay checks offered abroad.
Many travellers avoid the Philippines due to the idea that it’s one big danger zone. But it should be understood that most things shown on the news are sensationalized. The media always tends to focus on news of tragedy and misfortune. Basically, just like most other countries, basic caution should be practiced to avoid personally experiencing mishaps. Similar to other touristy big cities, for example, people should be more careful in the capital, being especially wary of their belongings and possible tourist traps. There are also some areas in the country that even most Filipinos will avoid traveling to, like the far southern regions of Mindanao, due to recurring terrorist incidents. But otherwise, the country is not nearly as bad as portrayed by foreign media.
Some Filipinos may not like this stereotype, but they won’t tell you it’s completely untrue either. A rather accurate joke among Filipinos is that they run on “Filipino time”, wherein an agreed upon time for a meeting or an event is, more often than not, 10 to 30 minutes earlier than when it will actually take place. This is usually understood among Filipinos so while it’s not the best practice, especially with unknowing foreigners, it’s an unwritten rule many recognize.
This specific stereotype is normally assumed by those who see people of a certain nationality as “lesser”. So even if they may understand that Filipinos go to school and study, they will often still assume these schools are of lesser standard than their country’s. While the educational system in the Philippines can surely be improved, Filipinos are far from uneducated. In addition to the majority of Filipinos’ ability to speak more than one language, many are actually highly educated, well-travelled individuals who will not take being looked down upon.
Foreigners are usually surprised to find so many foreign stores and franchises in the country. The country’s capital of Manila is quite simply a foodie and shopper’s paradise. With among the world’s largest shopping malls studding the metro, it would be quite difficult to fill them out without bringing in names from all over the world. So yes, H&M, Zara, Forever 21, Topshop, and many restaurant favorites, have reached the country’s shores.
Well, yes. Ok, this one’s true.