“Contestant number 1!!!!” *screaming people and loud obnoxious dance music in the background* The noise died down. Seconds later, a singing (screaming) child belted out a really bad rendition of some diva song. While hearing these sounds through my 33rd floor windows, I was stuffing my face full of McDonald’s to calm my angry heart. When in Manila, prepare for noise.
It was stupid of me to think that I will be protected from noise at this towering height, but this is the Philippines, specifically, Manila. This is a city with the highest population density in the world. This is a city filled with Filipinos who equate noise with happiness.
Filipinos and Their Love of Noise
Fiestas happen left and right in the Philippines. It is considered a major form of entertainment in rural areas and an acceptable excuse for having another celebration (not counting birthdays, deaths, baptismals, weddings, religious occasions, etc.). Palm trees and various vegetation cover the land and dampen the sound. Swaths of land are used for farming, leading to low population density and decreasing the chances of having UNLIKE-minded people around.
In a tightly-packed city, fiestas can be considered a nuisance. Various people from different ethnicities and backgrounds rub elbows and live on top of each other. Not everyone considers fiestas enjoyable. Some even get headaches triggered by the noise. Odds are, there’s a student who needs to study for exams living 2 houses down.
I grew up in a house located in a quiet street, away from noisy tricycles and jeepneys. I never really valued silence until it was suddenly ripped away from me, when the empty lot in front of our house was turned into a barangay basketball court. It would have been alright if it was just used for sports in the morning and afternoons, but, at night, it was turned into a venue hall where people hold drunken karaoke parties and beauty pageants. Speakers were cranked all the way up needlessly.
If mass shootings were a thing here, I’m sure hearing a drunken guy “sing” My Way was reason enough to gun down hundreds of people. You can’t sleep; you can’t study; you can’t have peace. And what’s worse? No one asked us if it was okay. No one considered we lived right in front of the goddamn place. No one questioned the intrusion and ruination of our peace.
Fiesta is Life
It’s fairly obvious by now that silence, peace and personal space are important to me. I hold cultures who value consideration of others in high esteem. A true vacation for me isn’t going to the beach, it’s languishing in silence in a Japanese onsen or a Scandinavian hot spring. Unfortunately, the consideration trait was lost in these group of people along the way. And I am not the only one who thinks so.
Deciding to intervene and stop the barrage of intrusive noise, I talked to a Barangay Security to explain that their noise reached all the way up the condominium. He says he can’t do anything because it’s a fiesta. Lower the volume? No, he can’t, because it’s a fiesta. Aren’t you being inconsiderate of others? No, because it’s their barangay and I live across the street in another barangay. Can you then make sure that your noise gets contained within your barangay then? No, because it’s a fiesta. Is this what the church teaches you, to be selfish and inconsiderate of people? Finally, I get a spark in his eyes that can vaguely resemble humanity. (Religion sells here.) But alas, the spark disappeared as fast as it appeared and he said that, you guessed it, it’s a fiesta.
Demanding Consideration but Never Giving It Back
I understand that they don’t have a venue for festivities in the city, simply because they can’t afford one. However, people have to understand that noise travels. It travels even farther when random barriers aren’t present (such as neighboring buildings). What really irks me as a citizen of this country is the constant barrage of noise one was and will be exposed to. There is a fiesta or party every week. It’s not just noise sometimes. Most days you’ll see people sitting in plastic chairs by the ROAD because it’s Aling Beching’s son’s coworker’s birthday. It doesn’t matter if they are causing a huge buildup for commuters, because they never care enough about other people to be considerate.
This lack of consideration is baffling. Jeepneys plying the road constantly hit private cars because they are distracted with other things, such as counting money, getting money, analyzing how many more butts they can cram on the backseats, and checking out potential customers on the side walks. When accidents inevitably happen, they will almost always tell you, “Ay, sorry, mahirap lang ako e. Pasensiya na.”
Translation: Sorry, I’m just poor. Please be considerate of my situation.
It is this mindset that people should be considerate of them that destroys this nation. Somehow, rules never apply to the poor. Middle class citizens would be fined for illegally parking on the street, but jeepney drivers may park their vehicles anywhere. And because rules should never extend to the poor, the rules tend to NOT get enforced to anyone. Rich and poor alike are allowed to do as they please. That way there’s no discrimination, right? Like real policing, self-policing doesn’t exist in this culture.
The Final Act
As the only thing I can do to protest (and exact petty revenge), I honked my car’s horn in front of the area until my horn was reduced to squeaking. It was so worth it. And next time, I will make sure to bring at least 5 megaphones and a collection of metal music if I’m ever back in Manila on May 4.