Ito si Poch Translate to English: "This is Poch"
To fully know how I live here in the Philippines, you would have to come here and meet my friends. The fun part about having local friends is the conversations about their culture, their politics and how they want to make a difference. It’s always nice to know what they think foreigners should know about their country. But because coming here and meeting my friends is not as easily done as said, I will take the time to introduce to you: Poch, the person who helped me understand the Filipino culture and who is always in for a deep conversation about everything.
Who’s that guy?
Poch is an architect, based in Manila. Although he is 27 years old, he only graduated last year. After graduating from International business, he realized his passion was in architecture and started studying again. He has been working as an aspiring architect/contractor for the past year. When you ask Poch what his favorite thing about the Philippines is, he’ll tell you it’s the people, without a doubt.
“I like the people. The Filipinos are my favorite, they’re friendly and smiling all the time. Of course, most are shy and some are mean, some are funny mean, but once you break down their walls they are an amazing people who would share a piece of their life and culture with you easily.”
I met Poch, in a small island north of Cebu, where we both were working on projects for the local community. I was working with the women who weave Banig (a mat woven out of dried plant leaves) while he was working with a team of architects to build an eco-resort on the island. Before the architects arrived on the Island, I had been living there with the locals for three weeks already. So after all these impressions, I had a very good conversation with Poch about the culture and the people. Ever since he has been the friend to go to when struggling to understand things about the culture or to learn from when new political events happen.
Adversity builds character
When talking to Poch, you’ll easily hear he’s not going to tell you the Philippines is a beautiful country with amazing people and everything is going great. He’s realistic and honest about how things are going in the country. When you ask him what foreigners should know about the Philippines he’ll be bluntly honest:
“Geologically, The Philippines gets hit by 27 small to extremely big typhoons every year. It’s located directly on the pacific ring of fire which means it gets hit by earthquakes pretty easily. The UN thinks our government is doing a really bad job. There’s massive corruption everywhere. Industries lose billions of pesos just because of daily-debilitating traffic (it takes an hour to travel 4 miles by car on rush hour). We have dengue fever and to top it all off, Pacquiao – the most famous boxer in the country and everyone’s favorite little Filipino – broadcasts to the world that being gay is a sin. It’s a sin because God said so and animals are better than us because they have no homosexuals.
A little girl schooled him online and posted a list of ALL REAL animals who have homosexuality cases. He apologized of course.
There are a lot of reasons to hate the Philippines, but even though the systems at play are all failing and falling apart, we still have barangay fiestas, where you can celebrate at your neighbors’ house, eat Lechon and move to the next house. We still have Despedida (a goodbye party), always, for friends who leave. We still have facebook. (Filipinos spend hours on social media, it’s hilarious). We still have a dark but beautifully woven history. We still have sisig and leche flan.
The media call it resilience, I call it stupidly and unapologetically happy. The Philippines isn’t known for the economy and sometimes not even for the culture. Most of the time its nature (the beaches and mountains), but the people who actually experienced the Philippines will tell you it should be known for its people. Cheerful, friendly with a whole lot of idiotic and shameless humor. Short, loud and always smiling, that’s the Filipinos. We have a lot of problems. But what place doesn’t have any. We’ll make it better. After all, this is the Philippine mantra… “We’ll be fine.”“
Change is coming
When looking at the skyline of Manila, you would wonder how an architect can make a difference in this country with such congested cities. While Poch isn’t always positive about the current situation in the Philippines, when you ask him how he sees the future, he has hope and is excited:
“As I said before, we Filipinos have always been considered resilient. We’re always happy. We make the most of what we have. I believe that, for us to evolve, we have to share that more: to other people, to the environment. We have to spread resilience and joy and genuine care. In my field of work, I would like to be part of that evolution by designing and creating smart socialized housing, agricultural tourism, green infrastructure and a whole lot more. The major cities of the country are too congested and are facing a very constricted lifestyle. Which is why I want to spread construction and commerce to the outskirts. To the rural grassroots.”
Have a drink, let’s chat
My opinion about the Philippines evolved a lot during the months I spent there. Although I only introduced one of my friends here, I have many more who keep me ‘woke’ and informed and share their different opinions. While going for a drink with them, you’re able to have deep conversations about the current events, without being distracted by the white noise of the media.