Delightful Philippines – Pliiing! Texting Mania
They are SMS maniacs. Even when talking would be so much more convenient, Filipinos and -pinas still send a text. Even when communication is obsolete altogether, they still text. Once I dialled a wrong number on my PI cell phone and interrupted after
the first ring tone. Two minutes later my phone did a resolute
and I received a text message:
Who are you? May
I know you pls?
They are text maniacs, because talk is not cheap between Northern Luzon and Southern Mindanao. A minute of mobile talk is charged with 6 pesos. That's roughly 14 US cents per minute of yakk, much more than in Thailand. Ten minutes of speaking would be 60 pesos (after the recent dollar slide, that's 1,36 USD). But waiters and sales people upcountry only earn 120 pesos per day; I heard this figure from various people working in retail and gastronomy. This means, they earn roughly 2,73 USD per day. Ten minutes talk would cost half a day's wage.
Around the Phils, I would ask new local friends to just ring my cell phone number so that I get their number into my phone, just like elsewhere in Asia or Europe. I didn't plan on picking up the call, nobody would have to pay anything; I just needed their "missed call" in my phone to get their number. But mostly Filipinos couldn't give me that call, "because I have no load" (by "load" they mean the credit on their mobile phone account).
No calls possible, but they always have tons of messages available. Maximally, a text costs one peso (that's 1/44 of a US dollar now). More often, text messages are charged even less or nothing. I've seen ads for mobile rates with 100 texts
for 15 pesos or even with 100 free texts. Yes, 100 free texts – per day!
And so they text away. If you see a Filipino guy holding a cell phone and trembling intensely, he is not trembling – he writes a text with unseen speed. They text with two hands and without looking at the display. They text while happily talking to each other and while watching TV and computer screens. Various Pinoys and Pinays proudly informed me that the Phils are considered world champions in texting. No objections.
In Thailand, if five locals meet in a restaurant, three may talk into their cellphones while only two talk to each other or eat. So tame. In the Phils, if five locals meet in a restaurant, most likely four are texting and the last talks into empty space.
They are constantly distracted with their texts, they often walk reading and writing with cellphone in hand, actually it seems like a refuge from reality. They walk the streets and the malls, staring, laughing, frowning at their cell, reading
in mid-walk, typing while steering cars and bikes (no kidding), trapped in their own parallel texting universe.
A western tourist planned a bicycle trip to the picturesque Visayan island of Guimaras. To play it safe, he hired a good bicycle complete with an expensive guide from Iloilo City on nearby Panay island. After arriving on Guimaras, the western tourist was immediately overrun by a Filipino riding a motorcycle and writing a text message on his cell phone. The guide took his severely injured tourist to the Iloilo provincial hospital where, according to the guide, the western was rather unhappy with the state of service. "And that bike was broken too", reported the tour guide.
After many weeks in the Philippine hinterlands, I reached Boracay, the Philippines' very expensive "national beach". At the weekend, lots of rich Filipinos flew in from Manila. At first I couldn't say what I found wrong about them until I realized: They talk into their cell phones. They don't text. Unlike people in Palawan, Siquijor, Guimaras or Iloilo provinces, Manilans on Boracay can afford to talk at six pesos per minute.
I believe that this texting drains the mobile's battery quickly. So while they won't ever call you, even the poorest Filipino carries spare batteries for their phones, for prolonged texting fun. Changing mobile battery is a common sight in eateries
and sari-sari-stores. A dead mobile must be sheer horror. Manila's barebone domestic airport has less than nothing to impress you – but they do sport a free "cell phone battery charging station". (Electricity cost a moderate 6,67
pesos per kWh in one place I stayed, roughly 0,15 USD.) And in remote El Nido, Palawan province, where there's no public electricity in the morning, an entrepreneur
offers "solar cell phone charging" for 20 pesos (0,45 USD).
Young people I met don't just quickly hack their message in. For them, texting is very much a form of self expression, maybe even poetry.
Here's an example from Jeenie, a cute college girl currently texting out of Canapian, Iloilo province:
Are yOu finish
dinnEr? We are
reAdy 2 go but
then, hir comez
da rain.. Lets
just seE if it will
And guess what, they'll try to play SMS pingpong when they get bored.
That's Jeenie again, from campus:
'im xOri f I dztUrb
yOu :-).. Just
have nOthing to
do.. We have nO
cLasS.. How are
The visiting westerner has no choice except texting back. Calling back would be embarrassing, ignoring is not possible. Travel web sites for the Philippines provide hints and links for sending SMSes more conveniently via internet.
Occasionally in the provinces, shy young ladies or their friends asked me if I would like to become their "text mate". Yes, they say "text mate", and after asking back I learnt it means something like "SMS pen pal". Others just decide they will be your "text mate", however full your cell phone's memory may be already. Waitresses, shopkeepers and students may text you a dreamy "'guD mo0nin' hAnz, h0w was da nite…" with no name and a number you don't recognize – just to see if you text or call back… or not.
You can use your texting skills for bonding if you want to. Once, after a text to Jeenie she quickly responded. Well, they always respond quickly, but here she enthusiastically complimented me on my "very nice use of Illongo language". Actually, I hadn't used more than "Mayoong aga" (good morning) plus a bit of hiphop rapper English, but it went down really well and kind of touched her youngster heart.
Then there was Grace in Bacolod, Negros Oriental province. Over greasy grilled pork in a dim riverside carinderia, she told her western companion: "It's so nice you use and understand SMS abbreviations like 'cu', 'u r', 'b4', '4get' or 'I c'. When I text like that to my Korean collegues, they look up the dictionary." Yes, Mary felt more trust and empathy because he could handle all those "cu", "u r", "b4", "4get" or "I c"s.
Once your Filipino contacts have your number, you will receive anonymous prayer and spam texts. And there are those poetical messages which seem to be copy-pasted, but what do I know.
i txt u
i txt Ü
I txt Ü
i wnt a reply
I txt Ü
bcÜz dis is my
"i remmber u"…
I HATE texting. I HATE mobile phones.
As anyone who has tried to contact me knows, my mobile is off 90% of the time. Mobile phone culture is so dreadfully intrusive on people's lives. The only reason I own a mobile is for *my* convenience, not for other people's convenience. The way people expect immediate replies to text messages, the way people call at anti-social times, the way people ring and hang up immediately because they want you to call them back….oh, I could rant and rant and rant about this!
But hey, nice submission!