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Common Misconceptions: Philippines

Common misconceptions -image of a carabaoCommon misconceptions. They’re out there, everywhere.

Back in the early 1980’s, I went to the Catch A Rising Star comedy club in New York City with three of my friends. We parked in a parking garage that my friend was familiar with and took a taxi to the club.

During the ride to the club, the driver found out that we were all from New Jersey, which is just across the river from NYC. He seemed fascinated by this and kept asking us questions like, “It’s really quiet over there, isn’t it?”, and, “There’s a lot of grass and trees, huh?”

Well, sure. New Jersey is a state, we explained. Parts of it are city, parts are suburban and parts of it are farmlands and forests. The driver was probably born and raised in the city and never had a reason to leave it, even to visit New Jersey. So New Jersey, to him, was like a different country.

The Philippines is a different country, though. And there are a bunch of common misconceptions about it that come up again and again.

Common misconceptions that are funny

There are some common misconceptions about the Philippines that bring a smile.

“Did you ride those water buffalo?”

That was a question that a Filipino co-worker and recent immigrant told me years ago that Americans sometimes asked him. He said that they usually seemed disappointed or unbelieving when he told them that he had grown up in Manila and had never even seen a live carabao (the Filipino water buffalo in the photo above) up close.

A few years ago, when my wife Menchu and I visited my mother in North Carolina for the first time, she asked Menchu, in all seriousness,  if the Philippines had toilets like in America. She wasn’t being smug or mean, she simply had the impression that modern sanitation hadn’t reached the Philippines yet. Of course Menchu told her that the Philippines had flush toilets.

The thing is, just like New Jersey, not all of the Philippines is the same. There are people who do ride carabao. There are places where there are no flush toilets. It’s just a misconception that things are this way throughout the entire country.

Common misconceptions that are NOT funny

Some misconceptions about the Philippines just make me, and Filipinos, mad.

Some people think that Filipinos hate their own country and that they hate it so much that thousands of them leave it to work in other countries. That’s not true. Many Filipinos are patriotic and love their country deeply. The reason Filipinos leave their country to work abroad isn’t because they hate their country, but because they love their families. They are willing to leave their homes and work for years under contract in a foreign land just to be able to provide financial comfort to their family back home.

Another common misconception that bothers me is that Filipino food is not tasty. A couple of years ago, some blogger made huge waves here in the Philippines when she posted that she’d rather go hungry than eat Filipino food again.

I can’t understand it. I’ve been married for almost six years to a woman who cooked daily for five of them and now that we’re here in the Philippines, her mother is doing the bulk of the daily cooking. I’ve eaten Filipino food at Filipino “restos” both here and in the U.S. more times than I can count. I’ve only had truly awful Filipino food once. Where are the people who dislike Filipino food eating? Are they eating things that they found on the roadside?

I’d be interested to hear of more common misconceptions people out there have about the Philippines. If you know some or if you have a legitimate question about things here, make a post in the comments section!

photo credit: Carabao Portrait via photopin (license)

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2 Responses to Common Misconceptions: Philippines

  1. Jason Cook January 19, 2016 at 6:50 PM #

    Did you see this Menchu?

  2. Menchu Esma Cook January 19, 2016 at 7:37 PM #


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