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This article could pertain to almost all places in The Philippines. Although each Island, province, or city has a difference in the culture and beliefs. In general you will find most of the basic principles for The Philippines are pretty much general. When traveling to Mactan Island as a tourist from another country, you are going to see things and conditions that will be a large culture shock to you. If you have traveled to other 3 World Countries, you can use that experience to help you understand what you will most likely face while visiting PI, and Mactan Island.
Mactan Island Introduction -
Mactan Island is a Coral Island located across from Cebu City. The island is connected to Cebu by two major bridges. Mactan holds all of the beach areas and resort area's closest to Cebu City. The island is predominately Catholic, with very small units of Christian and Muslim factoins. Their is no noticeable or active presence of any NPA, Rebels, Abu Saif, or any terrorist or warring faction on Mactan Island. Being a mostly Industrial Island, it holds all of the major Industrial might of Cebu. Things that travelers will want to prepare themselves for while visiting Mactan Island and many other places in The Philippines ::::
Transportation and Traffic / Driving
Although Mactan Island is not near as bad as most of the other larger cities and islands, be prepared for a complete different Culture of Transportation, Driving, and Traffic. When arriving here, you will notice that they are very few stop lights, stop signs, or controlled intersection control. Driving and commutating here is a free for all, who can get there first and fastest. They will be no courtesy, no speed limits, no changing lanes rules, no driving in the middle of the lane rules. Pretty much it will be a real shock. Expect drivers to go very fast, and overtake others in curves, pass each other with only inches to spare, stop anywhere at any time, right in the middle of the road. You will find here that motorcycles, tri cycles, multi cabs, taxi's, and even bi cycles all sharing the same road, at the same time. They will be no uniform, organized method to driving here. You will notice most Filipino walking off the sidewalks, out in the streets, with no regards for right of ways, rules of the road. At certain times you will find a few major intersections, manned by a traffic enforcer. They are no police cars on duty here to pull over offenders. If you are easily scared while driving, or riding, I would suggest preparing yourself to keep your eyes closed most of the time, or just take something to relax yourself. The culture of transportation and driving here will surely make your heart skip a beat..
You shall witness that most all Filipino's take public transportation in the way of buses, multi - cabs, tri cycles, and bi cycles, motor cycles. Very few Filipino have cars of their own. They sometimes will commute for hours, changing rides three or four times just to arrive at their work destination.
Living Conditions / Housing
Upon arriving on Mactan Island you will see many local road side shops, homes, squatter villages on your way to your hotel. Upon seeing these area's you will probably think they are not inhabited by persons. They are,, some of the places, homes and area's you will see will be no more than few pieces of tin roofing, on four bamboo poles, with tarpaulin wrapped around them for the walls. Some areas will be built out of the ocean on bamboo, with homes connected wall to wall with each other. Do not be shocked to see many places with no running water, no electric, or even sanitation.. The largest percentage of the Filipino population lives in these types of homes. Even the working class people home might be only the size of a nice bedroom in your country, with one plug in, one light, and a simple bathroom. Prepare yourselves to witness large piles of garbage on the road sides, and in the countryside. Waist sewage running down through the middle of neighborhoods in a small ditch. Chickens, goats, cows wondering the roads freely. Do not be surprised to find chickens tied up and goats feeding right outside your hotel or resort on other property's. To see these places, of course you would have to get out and do some site seeing. You will not notice or see that much of these places by only going to the tourist areas, and guided areas of the Island. You will see from a distance in your travel's some of the places in which is mentioned here. Please, remember that this is a normal way of life here, and even some of the staffing at your hotel, waiters, are the people who occupy these homes. Prepare yourself to see things that will shock you to the core, but are just a normal part of life on Mactan Island and Philippines.
On the other hand, you will also find many nice, modern subdivisions, apartment complexes, resorts, hotels, which are not much different than what your modern country has to offer. The major difference you will find is the size for these type of units are much smaller. Most of your upper middle class people live in this type of housing. They are very nice and well maintained, but just a few steps outside the boundaries of that complex, you can see the living conditions mentioned above. It’s a very diverse and mixed style of living here.
Being White and Tourist on Mactan
Being White and a tourist, or living here, expect to be treated very different from the local population. The culture of the Filipino people are taught if you are white, you are rich.. They are also taught, if you are rich, you should help the poor, and it’s a obligation. Also you will find in the culture, to take or overcharge, or lie or mislead a white ( rich ) person is completely ok and nothing is bad or wrong about that. You find this type of attitude more in the lower class people. You will find that the general feeling of the Filipino is that you are here at this moment, and what can they get from you. They do not look at whether you will return again, or how their actions will affect the future of travelers here. Their culture has taught them, you might never come back here, so get as much as you can, and make as much as possible from this person. So expect this is the way you will be conceived and looked upon while being here and when doing any kind of activity. Do not take offense to this conception, they truly will like and respect you, and do not think they are doing anything against you. On the other hand, the culture has also taught the Filipino to be the most gracious, kind, helpful hostess of anywhere. You will never find a more friendly, hospitable people in all the world as the Filipino.
You will often hear the word " Joe " used by the Locals. This is another cultural thing they have adopted from many years. Calling all white person's, especially the men, " Joe ". Do not be surprised to hear them calling to you " Hey Joe. " Another phrase you can be prepared to hear is " Hello my friend. " Another popular greeting.
Filipino Culture and Attitudes
Being a traveler here on Mactan Island, things that would be important to know about the Filipino Culture and Attitude are:
* Filipino are a shy. If wanting to have a conversation, always make the first move to speak with them. Being White or Foreign they will consider you as higher than them, and will not have the courage to approach you for conversation. Most also are very selfconous of their English speaking skills. So let them know their English is well ( if of course it is ) and they will feel more comfortable in talking with you.
* Filipino's are very religious, superstitious, and really naive about things. Speaking of relations openly, or body parts, or God or Religion in a negative or even joking way, sometimes will be very offensive to them. You will not even realize you are doing it. If needing to ask such questions or type of things, they will be more than happy to answer and help you. Just ask in private and not out in public. They are much more ok to answer you and feel comfortable with such topics if asked in private. If in public they will protect the image of The Filipino.. Simple things that we might say joking or things that would not upset western culture, will upset a Filipino such as, laughing at their speech, way they look, or for some action they done.
* Most Filipino's have never been outside the Philippines. Some not even outside the City in which they live. Even for most watching television or reading world events and lifestyles in news papers are a big deal for them. So as a traveler we need to remember they have not experienced the world, different places, venues, foods, service, sites, sounds, smells, in which other travelers have. So sometimes when travelers ask for simple things, or items, or services, which are recognized by others as just simple things, Filipino’s have not had the chance or opportunity to really understand or experience about those things. So it’s better to be just a little tolerant for certain things, but yet still expect good service and quality for vacations.
* If invited by a local group to a local venue in order to set around and have some drinks and conversation, remember being foreigner, you will be expected to buy the drinks. The local culture here is that a group will set around and drink and everyone will share. Sharing is a big part of the Filipino Culture. Foods, drinks, Cigarettes, all are openly shared within each other. To sit down within a group that you are a part of, and invited to,, and not to buy drinks or to share foods that you might order or obtain is a disrespect. Or let’s say at least really bad manners, in their opinion. Most to the time if asked, they will say no it’s ok, but in reality, you should be the one to offer and give freely. That is just the culture. Be careful that some groups will take advantage of this. If at any time you feel like you are being taken advantage of, or just do not have the funds to continue, just simply say, sorry,, no more money.. They probably will not believe you, but they will respect that... In the Filipino Culture, if it’s your birthday, you are expected to give foods, drinks to all your friends. If you have a party, you are the one to supply everything...
* Tipping drivers, bell boys, waiters, taxi drivers, and others is not required but expected in the Filipino Culture. Things foreigners would think are really silly and not needed are ways of life here in Mactan and PI. Standing to wave down a taxi, when you can do it yourself, to open a door, when you can do it yourself. Carrying something as small as a camera case for you, is just some of the many small things that Filipino’s will want to do for you.. Most foreigners will look at this as scamming or un needed. Which in all actually is really is un needed and over board actions. Please remember in a Filipino mind, you are foreigner, rich, and from a world of luxury, gold paved streets, and servants and maids at your beckon call. They do not realize or understand, ( again because they have not experienced it, and only know what they have heard or seen on the Television.) So many times, they do it because they think it’s what you expect and they do not want to look like they do not know. So many times when you see this type of activity, it’s really in the mind of the Filipino, that is what your daily life is like where you are from, and they do not want to look like they do not know how to accommodate that. They have no realization that the true facts are, that most foreigners have the same struggles and hardships as them, and no one treated in their own country that way. Maybe not in as a severe way, but still the same. Filipino's, think money flows like rivers in foreign countries. Its taught to them from many years and years. So trying to explain it’s really not that way is just a waste of time. Once they believe something, changing that persona is almost impossible. So you have to learn as a traveler here, to understand it and work with it to the best of your ability. So while some might take advantage of the situations to get a tip, some really do not and just think it’s normal for you. Just have take each on a case by case basis and do what you think is right. Never tip to much...
* Expect as travelers, that the food you will experience at some of the more local places will be nothing like what you will experience in your home country. Food here is much different. The handling, packaging, cooking, is all different than what you would expect. Meats here are almost never packaged in separate containers. If you buy meats here its in open market. They cut it for you. You will find that fats, bones, skins, all are included with the meals. The very proper cleaning of fish, pork, chicken, in which foreigners are accustom to is not done here. When you want fish, that's what you get the whole fish, eyes, head, tail. If you do get part of a fish, it will not be fillet, boneless, it will just be chopped in half, and that’s what you get. When asking for a chicken to be cut up for you, do not expect a neat clean 8 pc of chicken. Expect a chopped up like with a large cleaver, into small pieces, bones and all. Again, they is no controlled method of butchery, or of food preparation, in the local sectors. Its just throw it all together and sort it out as you go... This is their culture, the way they love to eat, and if you want to eat with and at local establishments be prepared to experience this..