Different Viewpoints About Cleanliness in a Filipino-Western Intimate Relationship

One of the things that caught my attention while in the Philippines was that, although in my wife’s hometown there are nice homes and even mansions, most homes have no palitada or plaster on the walls.

Homes are mainly built by utilising hollow blocks of cement but, in most cases, the owners don’t put plaster on the external parts of the walls, they only plaster the inside.

Most homes I have seen in the Philippines look clean inside but on the outside there are open-air sewerage canals and garbage is amassed in the courtyards and, once in a while they burn it up.

So, it appears to me that, when it comes to private cleanliness, Filipinos have great care of it. I remember my mother in law always holding a tambo (the typical Filipino broom) and constantly sweeping the floor and most homes I have visited were definitely very clean inside. I also remember everyone in the house taking a shower several times during the day.

But I noticed a sharp contrast between the inside of the homes and the outside and the public streets that definitely looked “a little” neglected.

The canals or sewerage systems that meandered through the various compounds gave off an unbeareable “aroma” so did the nearby river that flows a few hundred meters away from my wife’s home.

So my impression was that, when it comes to personal and private cleanliness and personal beauty and appearance, Filipinos take great care of it. A lot of Filipinas whom I know, for example, are involved in various forms of online business and sell beauty products and the like, the giant karatula (billboards) advertise all kinds of products for the skin, for weight loss etc., I’ve also noticed that on TV beauty contests steal the show.

However when it comes to taking care of anything that belongs to the community, the insistence on beauty and cleanliness definitely fades away.

Even expatriate Filipinos seem to be very clean on a personal basis while neglecting the outside.

They keep their homes very clean, after all most of them are professional cleaners and are very requested here in Italy as domestic helpers. Even those who share an apartment with another family have a “general cleaning” schedule and take turns in thoroughly cleaning the house on a weekly basis.

They have very well equipped beauty cases and buy expensive perfumes. They often have very nice cars and spend a big chunk of their free time cleaning them and equipping them with fancy spoilers, bumper stickers and stereo equipments.

When it comes to public cleanliness, though, they need to be constantly reminded that in most parts of Italy you can’t heap all of your trash in one bag and throw it in the garbage can. You need to separate plastic, paper, food waste etc. (although in Rome or in other big cities of Southern Italy, even Italian residents don’t take this aspect very seriously, in Northern Italy and in most smaller towns and villages of Southern Italy this is law).

I remember being in a Western-Filipino convention in Novara, a small town near Turin, in Northern Italy, where well-meaning Italian ushers were frantically digging into the garbage bins separating garbage that crowds of Filipinos had casually heaped together and were constantly reminding them of the regulations but to little avail.

So, another aspect you need to keep in mind if you marry a Filipina, is that, if you live in an area where public cleanliness is subject to very strict regulations, it might take you a while to get your Filipino Spouse to get used to it. On the other hand you have to take great care of even the smallest details of your personal appearance as Filipino women are extremely demanding under this aspect.

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