It can’t be helped. It’s seemingly second nature to contrast other people’s customs with one’s own especially when one is visiting or living in another country. One reason for the almost-automatic evaluation is one wants to know how different or similar certain rituals are. Another reason is to trace the origins of a particular custom or ritual, even a word. After all, for example, countries like the Philippines, Indonesia and Malaysia are historically linked to one another hence the similarities in their way of life, from religiosity, festivals to family life.

But it’s the quirks of the Filipinos and Indonesians that have caught my attention, which have raised my eyebrow at several occasions or had me bursting out into laughter at other times. On hindsight, it’s these idiosyncratic tendencies that delineate a Filipino from an Indonesian and vice versa.

Eskimo Fashion

Indonesia and the Philippines are obviously tropical countries so there’s no winter and autumn, which characterize Europe and parts of United States of America. The climate of the two Southeast Asian countries is distinguished by two seasons, wet and dry. Given this glaring truth, it really is eyebrow-raising to see youngsters in Bekasi, Indonesia, wearing thick, heavy jackets, pullovers and hoodies in and out of school. I fully understand if they wear such apparel in class because the temperature inside the room resembles Vancouver’s five degree-temperature. You’d expect frost to form slowly on their noses! But it’s ludicrous to see such clothing worn while they’re riding the angkot or simply out of the classroom. Similarly, in the Philippines, if memory serves me right, some Filipinos have a penchant for wearing leather jackets under the blazing sun. Someone told it has something to do with being cool and looking macho like the Filipino actor/action star Robin Padilla. *rolls eyes*

December is considered a “cold” month so a light cardigan or shawl is expected but most certainly not winter clothing. Imagine macho-looking and stinking to high heavens! Que horror!

Scent of a Gay

Speaking of scent, Filipinos are quick to chastise people reeking of body odor. One can be forgiven for looking like they crawled out of the garbage bin but it’s sacrilegious to smell like sour milk or petrified socks. And this is why deodorants are a must for both men and women. Others go for the more natural chemical-free deodorant such as tawas, which are crystals of purified potassium alum. I expected that to be a must in Indonesia but the scuttlebutt is that it’s not. A friend of mine was told by his colleague that men using deodorant is not common in Indonesia upon learning that he – my friend – used deodorant regularly. He, being a Filipino, was flabbergasted.

“How come?” he queried, intrigued at the phenomenon.

“It’s not manly. Only gays use deodorant,” his colleague said matter-of-factly.

He stared at his colleague, incredulity written all over his face.

I’d rather be branded gay and smelling good than be manly and smelly, he thought to himself.



3 responses to this post.

  1. Deodorants make you gay = Hee hee


  2. Posted by i_am_aoisoba on December 11, 2009 at 12:22 pm

    oooohhh very insightful on the deodorant


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