Carlo's Think Pieces

Reflections of a Filipino in the Netherlands

Philippine “Myths”

Posted by butalidnl on 31 March 2010

No, this post is not about Philippine mythology, in the strict sense. It is about the various  “fables” or false claims to fame of the Philippines. Here are some of them.

Davao is the biggest city in the world in land area
This is definitely not the case. Davao, with its total land area of 2444 square kilometers, is a midget when compared to the really BIG cities. The real biggest city in land area in the world is: Hulunbuir, Inner Mongolia,  China. It’s total land area is 263, 953 square kilometers (or about 100 times that of Davao). Okay, the city is rather obscure, so I guess that it really has a lot of land area that doesn’t belong anywhere else, so this becomes part of the city by default. Let’s take then the No. 4 in the list: Chongqing, China. This is not obscure at all (having been the country’s capital during the Second World War), and its land area is 82,400 square kilometers. Or Anchorage, Alaska, (No, 4 in the US) which is 4396 square kilometers in size.

The Philippines is the only Catholic Country in Southeast Asia
Well, this is easy- it isn’t; East Timor is the OTHER Catholic country in Southeast Asia.  East Timor is Catholic, and 97% of the people profess to be Catholic there, in comparison with the Philippines where only 80% are Catholics (and 10% of other Christian denominations). East Timor became independent (from Indonesia) only in 2002, so I guess we could forgive the books for not being so updated.

The Banaue Rice Terraces is the Eighth Wonder of the World
There are only seven wonders, really; and the list of the Seven Wonders of the world is that of Antiquity (of which only the Pyramids of Giza remain standing). Now, some people would name special natural or man-made creations as the “Eighth Wonder”, just to emphasize their being special. Thus, here are some of the other things called the “Eighth Wonder of the World”:  the Grand Canyon in the US; the Great Wall of China; Taj Mahal in India; Machu Pichu in Peru; the Terracotta Army of Xian, China; Angkor Wat in Cambodia; and the moai statues of Easter Island, Chile. So, our rice terraces have some interesting company.

In 2007, a project called the “New 7 Wonders of the World” attempted to make a list of 7 man-made wonders. The list included: the Pyramids at Giza, Egypt; Chichen Itza in Mexico; Colosseum in Rome, Italy; Great Wall of China; Machu Pichu in Peru; Petra in Jordan; and the Taj Mahal in India.  Still, no Banaue rice terraces.

Talking about rice terraces, the ones that we have may not be that special or unique after all. Take a look at some other rice terraces .

The Barong Tagalog
The barong tagalog is the national dress in the Philippines. But it is anything but unique. In fact, many former Spanish colonies have similar men’s wear – the Guayabera. The guayabera is similar to the barong tagalog except that it has 4 pockets in front; it is also transparent and comes in pastel colors, and is not tucked into the pants.
Some people say that the guayabera actually comes from the barong tagalog, but this is not sure at all. Anyway, don’t be surprised when you go to Latin America, try to buy a traditional shirt and find what would look to you like a barong tagalog.

a songtaew
Well, it is almost unique. So far, I was only able to find one other country with a jeepney. In Thailand, they have the Songtaew, which is a converted pickup. It has seats like a jeepney, and is used just like a jeepney, i.e. for intra-city transportation. The only difference I guess is that Songtaews are generally red in color. Otherwise, they would be indistinguishable from our jeepneys.

And there are things like the balut (the Vietnamese have this too), or even self-flagellation in the name of religion (note: even Iran has this too) that are not uniquely Filipino.

So much for Filipino “myths”…


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