Warning: Contents may offend and for that as early as these first few lines, readers are requested to take things lightly and read with an open mind.

I take the bus every morning to get to work. That’s normal young professional’s life here in the Philippines for you [if you live somewhere else in the globe]. You either take a jeepney or a FX or a bus ride depending on the distance of your workplace from your home. (I’m not very fortunate.) Cabs are costly. You normally only take them in either of these three cases: you’re in a hurry, you’re not sure how to get to the place you plan to go to, or the place only allow select vehicles to get in.

Anyway I was running late this morning; my sister’s new puppy gave us trouble sleeping last night with its yelps. For that I decided to take the first bus I saw in the station. The conductor said there was still one seat left and that made me glad. So I won’t have to stand during the trip after all, I thought. But then I was puzzled when I saw someone standing at the far side of the bus. I just thought that the conductor must have lost count of the passengers and quickly let it go. I was okay standing anyway. But just as I was about to grab on the metal handrail, I spotted an empty seat not very far from where I was. The woman apparently of foreign nationality occupying the seat beside it obligingly moved to offer the seat. I smiled and took it.

Pinoy Hospitality Rule #1: Smile.

Filipinos or Pinoys are known all over the world to be hospitable to foreigners. Some find it foolish and take advantage of it. But in case some people forget, Pinoys are basically human beings as well. We possess brains that are pretty much as functional as the brains given to people of other nationalities. Needless to say, we know when other people are taking advantage of the things we offer. We simply choose to be as lenient as we can. Kindness is repaid with a lot of good things. To add, what’s so wrong about it?

And so I smiled and took the seat happy to have been given the last available seat in the bus. Then I noticed something. Something reeked or perhaps more appropriately, somebody reeked. And I was pretty sure it was the person who offered me the seat. I turned my head away searching for the right angle to avoid the smell without catching too much attention. Right then I knew why the man I saw earlier chose to stand than seat beside the woman.

Fact About Pinoys: We are generally very hygienic.

For Pinoys, unpleasant body odor can be a serious matter. It can spell numerous awkward encounters in closed spaces. That’s because we are generally not confrontational with things and almost always choose to bear with them as much as we can especially when confrontations could get somebody’s feelings hurt.

I may be generalizing a lot but Pinoys being inhabitants of a tropical (and therefore hot) country take a bath up to twice a day. And by bath we mean rather lengthy showering that involves scrubbing grime both real and imagined with soaps that promise cleaning of skin more than making it smell good. Those who don’t/can’t take night baths normally get a quick shower or in an unfortunate case wash themselves with wet towels. Needless to say, loss of water supply could mean discomfort and disaster.

Pinoy Hospitality Rule #2: Be lenient. Be very lenient.

Luckily I was at the edge of the seat and had the freedom to move and turn my back on the woman. That I did while trying my best not to breathe too much. There were moments when I was not breathing at all that I was convinced I was able to bring down my respiratory rate to a quarter of what’s normal and I have mutated into a much simpler organism. I’m kidding of course. But that’s what I did when I could have just stood up and gone somewhere else in the bus far from that seat. The thing is, I thought that the woman might get offended if somebody left the seat for the second time. Like a typical Pinoy, I chose to appear nice to a foreigner and ignored everything. I would probably not see her again after all. Also, she tried to be nice and deserved to be treated nicely as well. She was different from those two men (that I should mention) of another race who hooted at and almost hit us with their motorcycle while I and my friends were crossing the pedestrian lane not so long ago.

There are mixed opinions about Filipinos globally. While some admire our race others find it despicable and scornful. Some Filipinos even hate being Filipinos and try to be different despite the fact there’s nothing more they can do about it. But everybody got their own reason for things and that’s something to be respected. As of me, I admit that there are ugly things about the Pinoy culture. We got dirty politics and the learned ones always try to manipulate the masses for their own benefits. But veer away from those and walk along the common people with their lovely characters and there will surely be a lot of reasons to appreciate this humble race. Yes, I’m proudly Pinoy. -aB


5 thoughts on “Something Reeks: Bits of Filipino Culture Captured in an Anecdote

    1. I did not mention her race for a good purpose. Let’s leave it at that as respect to them. Have you asked this in person, I would not mind telling it to you right away. I cannot say it here but thanks for reading and commenting. (:

    1. You’re the second one to comment that so I think Jessica Zafra is right. We are indeed people generally happy for being what we are (pertaining to race). Thanks for reading!

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