1. You’ve taken a jeepney ride.
The jeepney, or jeep, as we call it, is the cheapest and most common mode of public transport in the Philippines. A jeep is similar to a pickup truck. The driver and two other passengers are seated in front. The back has no rear door, but it has a roof and two bench seats facing each other on the left and right sides. You say “bayad” as you pass along your fare to the passenger next to you, who then passes it along until it reaches the driver.
You may be the last person in, squeezing yourself between two other passengers. You may be slipping and sliding and holding on for dear life to the handrail above you as the driver races through traffic. You may be dodging awkward stares from the person across from you. Your shoulder may be used as a pillow by the snoring passenger next to you. Whichever passenger you may be, a jeepney ride is always an adventure in itself.
2. You eat with the seasons.
The hot months of March to May will make you crave halo-halo (“mix-mix”). This is a
combination of sago, gulaman, langka (jackfruit), buko (coconut), kidney beans, and basically anything else you can think of. It’s topped with shaved ice and covered with evaporated milk. Leche flan, ube (purple yam), or a scoop of ice cream are sometimes added as final toppings. Mixing is part of the fun as, oddly enough, all these ingredients come together into a sweet and delicious blend.
The rainy months of June to September warrant a bowl of tinola. Chicken, unripe papaya, and sili leaves are cooked in ginger-flavored broth. The heat of the soup and the spicy kick of ginger make this a perfect dish for the rainy season.
3. You agonize over being the last person to get that serving plate.
When you’re the last person to get passed a plate of food, you can take some of what’s on it, but make sure to leave a teeny-tiny bit on the plate. It would be quite embarrassing to be the person who got the last of that delectable lechon without leaving some for anyone else.
4. When getting the check at a restaurant, you signal to the waiter with your thumb and index finger, tracing a rectangle from the center outwards until your thumb and index finger meet.
And we call for the bill, not the check.
5. You point with your lips.
Someone comes up to you asking for directions, and you say, “Ah, doon” (Oh, there). But instead of using your index finger to point them towards the right path, you pucker your lips and move them outward to point. Your eyebrows move up while doing this. Hopefully the person gets it and will head toward where you instructed them to go.
6. You have superstitious beliefs, however mundane they may be.
Your itching palm is a sign money is coming. Dreaming of losing a tooth will mean the death of someone close to you. Don’t clear the table while someone is still eating, or that person will never get married. When someone leaves while you’re eating, turn your plate to avoid anything bad happening to that person. Don’t go straight home after attending a wake — drive around so the spirit of the dead won’t follow you home.
I mean, there’s no harm in believing, right?
7. You love pasalubong.
My mom used to bring home boxes full of pasalubong when she was working abroad. These gifts could be anything from new shoes and clothes for me and my older brother, to canned goods, lotion, soap, and chocolates for my aunts and uncles and cousins.
Relatives and friends will ask for local delicacies or native artifacts as pasalubong from wherever you’re traveling. Filipinos are always be happy that you’ve thought of them, and that in this indirect way, they’ve become part of where you’ve been.
8. You find ways to smile no matter what tragedy hits you.
You may have gone through typhoons, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, and even the dire
consequences of flawed political decisions. However badly this affects you, you still find plenty of reasons to smile. For one thing, you’re still alive. And for Filipinos, that is what matters most.