Philippines First Thoughts

Here is a list of random first thoughts:

  • I’m surprised that there is as much English as there is. Almost all the signage is in English. I was expecting much less and more Tagalog. The Philippines is a big place with a large enough population that they should have a critical mass of speakers so they wouldn’t need much English. Perhaps there are more minor languages in the Philippines than I realize or perhaps it is just being in an urban area. I’ll learn more over the next two weeks.
  • The air is very dirty. I’m also here at the tail end of a typhoon. Maybe the clouds and rain are trapping the smog.
  • There are some absolutely fantastic jinty buses here. They are almost totally covered in chrome and tricked out. I will have to get some photos of some.
  • Manila is cheap. I saw a billboard on the way from the airport for a Big Mac value meal for P99 (about US$2.17). There is also a slew of small street vendors near my hostel.
  • I saw a sign at the airport that said “Stop Child Sex Tourism”.
  • I am now 11 hours away from home.

Something I realized on the flight into Manila. The Philippines is the 12th largest country in the world. I cannot think of a single Filipino movie I’ve seen. I can’t think of a single athlete or musician from the Philippines. I’m sure they exist, but I’ve never eaten in a Filipino restaurant. Almost everything I know about the country is political.

Tomorrow I’ll be off to do the downtown Manila tourist thing. There are several other things in the region I might consider seeing, including Mt. Pinatubo and Subic Bay.

4 thoughts on “Philippines First Thoughts”

  1. The popularity of English is attributable mostly to a single factor — free, universal education.

    Before the Americans showed up there was no universal education. Being good capital-P Progressives, the imperialists introduced universal education which meant American teachers, since there were not enough Filipinos with enough education to staff the schools. The teachers came directly from the U.S. — such as the Thomasites — or were ex-soldiers who chose to remain in the Philippines at the end of their stint fighting the Philippine-American War.

    Add to education, the introduction of mass media, such as radio and movies followed by television, all of which are 20th Century inventions that came after the start of the American Colonial Era.

    Finally consider that there is no single Philippine language that has more than a fraction of Filipino native-speakers — less than 20% at the most — and many less than that.

    This diversity of languages means that there had to be a lingua franca. The introduction of universal education and mass media during the American Era means that English was that universal language. Certainly non-Tagalogs were not going to willingly except the Imperial Manila language — Tagalog. Tagalog only became to dominate with Tagalogization during Martial Law in the 70s.

    (Oh, Marcos DID NOT dominate for most of the post-war period. His dictatorship lasted for 15 years.)

  2. In major commercial areas (downtown, shopping areas and malls), yes. It’s also moving into the suburban areas and in all new housing developments, of which there are many, because lots of Americans retire there – it’s warm and they officially use the US dollar as their currency.

  3. I think the US is clearly the genesis of it. We have military bases in many other countries however.

    I haven’t been to Panama, but are all the signs and media in English?

  4. I would attribute the massive use of English to the long-lasting American military presence and government influence, same as in Panama.

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