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(Annoying) sounds of Christmas


It was a few days before Christmasday.

They installed a loud speaker at the elementary school only a few meters away. It was blaring popular Christmas songs all morning long, but they only seemed to have three or four selections. The racket was deafening.

I didn’t know what they were up to, why were they playing the same four songs in a continuous loop? “Jingles Bells,” Mariah Carey’s “All I want for Christmas,” and a couple of others. The repetitiveness of it all was annoying, infuriating.

In the advent of simbang gabi (early morning Mass), the church in town plays what sound like spiritual tunes at 3:30 AM to announce the 4 AM Mass. If anyone doesn’t wake up from the loud sound, it’s either they are dead drunk or dead.

On normal days, the church plays the same tunes to announce the first Mass of the day, usually at 5:30 AM. One wonders if anyone complains. Isn’t that “disturbing the peace”?

One guesses this goes on at Everytown across the land. But sensitive people who can’t stand the noise can’t complain because the “disturbance” comes from the church. Who dares complain against the church? Wonder if the town mayor can complain, or just keeps his or her peace because it’s the church that does the DJ-ing.

We Filipinos are probably among the most inconsiderate people on Earth. People exercise their voice muscles at the karaoke for hours, way into the middle of the night, without caring whether the neighbors appreciate their concertos or not.

Some neighborhoods have instituted time limits on karaoke singing, usually at 10 PM. But still, others don’t follow the rules. Who would dare stop drunken karaoke singers at 2 AM?

And we have the usual neighbors who like to share their listening fare all day by upping their radio volume several decibels. They inflict the punishment on us every day.

People double park, blocking other people’s vehicles, without any worries that that is inconveniencing the affected vehicle owners. The blocked drivers must wait for the offending person’s arrival, who usually doesn’t bother to apologize.

Actually, some things are better now. There was a time in decades past when people didn’t queue up for bus or jeepney arrivals at terminals. People just crowded at bus stops and then scampered to get on the bus without regard for others’ safety. The elderly and women weren’t spared the jostling and pushing.

I guess it’s a sign of progress that these days, people do queue up. But at the LRT and MRT, the jostling scenes continue. It’s a good thing the rail management has set aside rail cars for the elderly, women, and the handicapped.

Not too long ago, my friend Elmer Cato, a one-time journalist who’s now a big shot diplomat, castigated a Filipino who didn’t stand up for the National Anthem at the cinema. I once did the same to a couple who kept chatting as the anthem was played. My brother Joselito, too, berated someone, an army man at that, who kept on bicycling even as our anthem was being played at the elementary school. That’s not only inconsiderate, it’s disrespectful.

Inconsiderateness comes in many forms. Littering is inconsiderate. Spitting in public is, too. Not giving way to motorists who have “right of way” is bad. Do all Filipino drivers even know what “right of way” is?

We like to boast that we Filipinos are “modern,” that we are up to date on everything. Maybe about fads in fashion, music, or social media. But not in basic things like courtesy, considerateness, and respect for others’ rights and privacy. We still have a long way to go.

Observations during the days before and after Christmas. A slice of life in the Philippines.


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