NEW articles daily! Subscribe below to receive daily updates with our new articles!
Filipino Culture of Littering
I love to go for walks in the countryside around the village my wife grew up located in Bohol. I always hope not to encounter the Filipino culture of littering.
The lush green vegetation with the occasional brightly colored tropical flower is beautiful.
When I get to a high place on a hill, I look out over the deep green forest. It has a river running through the mountains to the shimmering sea. In the distance, I can see the green mountains of Cebu Island. The view is breath-taking.
Then I look at my walking companions my wife. I look at my two boys and some members of my wife’s family. I can see great beauty in the Philippines.
Then I look at my tennis shoes. I see rubbish of all kinds everywhere. There is discarded paper, plastic, metal and cloth. Ah, the Filipino culture of littering. I am tempted to walk without looking at the ground. However, if I do that I will surely step in feces left from a dog, cat, goat, bird, cow, etc.
Is my title harsh?
My title, “Filipino Culture of Littering”, may sound a bit harsh.
Some might say, “People litter in every country.” This is, of course, true, but if I were to throw trash on the ground in my country the USA people around me would look at me like a Neanderthal.
There is social shame in littering in the USA. This has not always been the case at least not to my recollection. When I was born in 1965, the way I remember my early years is that trash was strewn about the side of the road almost everywhere in the USA.
At some point, there was an anti-littering campaign led by a crying Native American and Woodsy Owl. As a Cub Scout, I remember being part of a play to raise awareness to the problem and we went out and picked up trash from the side of the road.
Peoples attitudes about littering changed and I think it started with young people. Will the same happen in the Philippines? The USA no longer has a culture similar to the Filipino Culture of Littering.
We had rented a jeepney and driver for a beach trip to Dubay Beach on nearby Panglao Island. The jeepney had been loaded with as much family, food, and friends as possible. We were en route when someone broke open a large bag of pork rinds, deliciously fried pork skins.
The pork rind bag was passed around to all who wanted them. Then it came to my attractive intelligent 18-year old college freshman niece. She ate the last pork rind. Next, she stuck the bag outside the opening of the jeepney and let the plastic bag fall to the shoulder of the road. The jeepney lumbered down the road without a thought.
I saw this and I was shocked that an intelligent young lady as she is would just throw a plastic bag out of a vehicle. She had grown up in the Filipino culture of littering. I wanted to say something to correct her, but no one in the jeepney full of our Filipino family and friends seemed to feel anything wrong had been done. I said nothing.
Food Court Lesson
My 14-year old son and I went for lunch to Jollibee in Alturas Mall, Tagbilaran City, Bohol and it was extremely crowded.
We got our food to go and took the food to the food court at the uppermost level of the mall to eat because we felt there would be an open table there. There weren’t many open tables there, but we found one.
When we were done eating, I decided to throw our trash away. I walked around with our trash for a few minutes and could not find a trash can. I just put our trash on an open table and left. In the Philippines almost, no one throws their trash in the trash can at a restaurant or food court when finished.
Trash cans are scarce. This isn’t littering because there are people whose job is to pick up the trash, but I think this system makes people feel that their trash is not their responsibility. Perhaps this contributes to the Filipino Culture of Littering? I was trying to take responsibility for our trash especially since Jollibee was not part of the food court. I accomplished nothing.
Hope Among the Dead
My wife, her mother and other family members and I visited my wife’s father’s grave in the cemetery near the village where my wife’s mom has lived all her 79 years. We noticed that the graveyard was covered with litter.
On the Sunday following our visit to the parish cemetery, we were in church and near the end of the service during the announcements my wife told me that the priest was talking about cleaning the litter from the cemetery and that he was requesting volunteers join him Wednesday at 3:00 pm to pick up trash in the cemetery.
At first, I thought I might go join in and help out, but then I thought about 3:00 pm is the hottest part of the day. I didn’t think many parishioners would help and I noted that the priest himself was rather rotund and was sweating profusely just performing the Mass at 6:30 am the coolest part of the day.
I don’t remember where I was at 3:00 pm on clean up Wednesday, but I wasn’t at the cemetery helping pick up litter.
On the Saturday morning after the litter pick-up, we visited our dead again at the cemetery and were shocked. All the large trash was gone as was most of the small litter. The priest and many parishioners must have worked hard to clean things up! Was this a possible step away from the Filipino culture of littering? I did nothing.
Espera Oscar de Corti aka Iron Eyes Cody, the Italian-American actor who portrayed the crying Native American in the 1970’s anti-littering campaign died on January 4, 1999. Woodsy Owl has not been seen in years.
I guess if the “Filipino Culture of Littering” changes it will be under the leadership of the good people of the Philippines like the priest and parishioners I included in this article. As good a step as it is for people to go out and pick up litter that others have left the key, in my opinion, is to change the way people think about their trash.
My trash is my responsibility it needs to be properly disposed of by me. The “Keep America Beautiful” of the early 1970’s campaign did this and I think the Philippines needs something similar. Perhaps some of the readers of this article could submit name suggestions for Philippine anti-littering campaign in the comments section below. I felt guilty when I left the Philippines and returned to the “City of Oaks” for not saying, accomplishing or doing anything about littering. So, I wrote something.