Saturday, November 20, 2010

Bawal Umihi Dito

"Bawal umihi dito" is signage familiar to any resident of the Philippines. Variations include "Bawal umihi D2" and "Bawal umihi," but they all communicate the same: don't pee on me.

As you drive through Manila you will see this request scrawled on the sides of buildings, in corners, and pretty much anywhere there is an opening between the storefronts and carts that line the streets. If you are a male in the Philippines, the world really is your urinal. Unless, of course, you obey the signs.

At first a Western foreigner (with a basic understanding of Tagalog) might find these signs off putting. One might ask,"Do people just urinate everywhere?" The answer is, probably not, for two reasons: 1) there are designated male urinals provided by the MMDA and 2) considering the city's poverty, Manila is clean. For example, the man in the picture below may not be peeing inside the urinal, but at least he's peeing next to it.

From GMAnews.TV

You may be thinking, "How sexist. Where do women ihi?" Don't worry, earlier this year the MMDA announced that it will soon be placing female urinals in Manila. Since the male urinals are pink, the female urinals will be painted green.

Bawal umihi dito signs bring joy to my early morning and late evening commutes to and from yoga teacher training.  I understand it as a metaphor for life, and seriously, how many times have you wanted to say, "Dude, please don't pee here!"

I am not the first person to find these signs significant. If you Google "Bawal umihi dito," you will find links where you can buy T-shirts and baseball caps sporting the phrase. You too can ask the world to take its urine elsewhere.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010


After three months of living and traveling in the Philippines, this past weekend I found myself  overwhelmed once again. Our Cebu hotel room had blankets, clean tap water, and reliable hot water, and even more disorienting, it did not have an odor wafting from the drains nor the little hand bucket found in nearly every Philippine bathroom. I didn't even find a chameleon in my drink glass in the morning.

When we first arrived I was surprised at how little I was impressed by the resort's comparative luxury. I got over it, but my initial reaction helped me see how much my perspective has changed in my time here. In our previous island travels we had been staying in places that, although nice, were rustic, and yet these places make you feel like you really are on a tropical island. Our Cebu hotel, although very nice, reminded me of a Disney resort.

Lonely Planet describes the Mactan island resorts as places that appeal to "fly-in, fly-out tourists from within Asia who pay top dollar to be insulated against the Philippines," and if that's what you're looking for then this is a darn good place to do it. Other than the natural beauty of the water and the coral reefs, the closest a tourist will get to experiencing the Philippines at this resort is the Filipino counter at the breakfast buffet. The hotel makes an effort to remind its guests that they are, in fact, visiting the Philippines by stocking its mini-bars with Pinoy ramen noodles. Available for purchase for P120.

Yet guests seeking insulation still can't avoid the road from the airport. On our night time trip to the resort we stopped at a crossroads in front of a sari-sari store, where two men stood with large, pink pigs on leashes. This was the first time I've seen a large pig on a leash, and while I looked on, one of the pigs began to urinate, creating a flowing river of pig pee in front of the resort's shuttle bus.

This amused me, but blankets in a hotel room? Now that's shocking.