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'Some Filipinos do not respect their neighbors'
By Elson T. Elizaga
"Excessive noise seriously harms human health and interferes with people’s daily activities at school, at work, at home and during leisure time. It can disturb sleep, cause cardiovascular and psychophysiological effects, reduce performance and provoke annoyance responses and changes in social behaviour." ~ The World Health Organization (WHO)

Woman annoyed by noise.

Noise pollution is a problem in many densely populated areas in the Philippines. Some schools are dangerously loud when conducting athletics and recreational activities.

I'm a witness to the use of five huge boom boxes -- one marked "MOR" -- in a children's school in Opol. The sound was distractingly audible from 170 meters away. Even after I complained to the principal, the noise continued for four hours, at times playing Linkin Park. [Listen.] But after my wife and I gave an article about noise-induced hearing loss to the guidance counselor and a couple whose children are students of that school, the sound in succeeding gatherings decreased.

Noise pollution in the country is not well discussed and there is no campaign by the Department of Health about this issue, unlike in First World countries like Canada where people make sure their neighbors are not disturbed by their sound system.


Two malls in Etobicoke, Ontario I visited didn't play any music -- except during the Christmas season. It was in Cloverdale when I saw a solitary, gentle, handsome old man in blue singing Christmas carols, pushing a cart with a little karaoke, going around the mall, just him and no other, so that his music dimmed as he moved away from the entrance, and became more audible as he returned.

But in the Philippines, malls are often noisy, as several stores play music simultaneously to attract customers.


Most high-end subdivisions in Cagayan de Oro like Xavier Estates, and even middle-class communities like Villa Ernesto, are relatively quiet. But in subdivisions for the lower-class, noise is a problem -- and much more in squatter areas, where neighbors compete with their karaokes. There is no news that barangay chairmen are concerned about this issue; it is tolerated because the polluters are voters, too.

In Purok 2B, barangay Gusa, a father asked his neighbor to tone down his stereo, but he received an insulting remark: "Why don't you live in the subdivision?"
Many residents, usually the less-educated, do not know that music is personal and what one person likes could be distracting to others, even if played softly.


Ignorance about the danger of loud noise is so widespread that some parents even bring their children and babies to rock concerts. One mother carried her child -- who was sucking a bottle of milk -- to a thunderous concert by Siakol [Listen.] in Pelaez Sports Center. And in Robinson's in July 2010, I saw a baby in a crib just three feet away from a large speaker. The salesmen of the music store said that the baby was put in that spot for many days, made to sleep with the blare of the electronic organ. She was removed later, and never reappeared on that site.


Cagayan de Oro officials seem to be uninformed about noise levels. Former mayor Constantino Jaraula lifted a ban on a restaurant after the management assured the government that it would not play music after 10 pm. In Opol, the limit given by the police is midnight. There is no discussion about decibels. The police has no decibel meter. So, anyone can play as loud as he can before 10 pm or midnight, more or less. The participation of officials in creating noise is evident during elections, when they use cars fitted with speakers, blaring political propaganda even inside subdivisions.

The World Health Organization states that noise pollution makes people sick. They make poor people poorer because the poor have to spend money for medication instead of saving money for other uses. Rich people can afford living in quiet subdivisions.

Therefore, politicians who do nothing to stop noise pollution, but claim to be anti-poverty, are themselves the causes of poverty.

Boom boxes in children's school   MOR boom box1

Of the five boom boxes found by the webmaster in a school for children in August 2007, the biggest had 10 speakers, two others had six speakers each, and two white boxes had four each. These large boxes are owned by My Only Radio (MOR).



The music coming out from several restaurants is partly caused by an environmental factor. Because the Philippines is a hot and humid country, the architecture of several bars and restaurants is open. If a school has no enclosed gym, then sports activities are held on field, usually with a sound system.


Eye-ear-nose-throat (EENT) doctors in Cagayan de Oro have no campaign about loud music. There are no posters on their doors about the subject, although they give ample advice on how to prevent hearing loss.


Loud car alarm systems still proliferate in Cagayan de Oro and Misamis Oriental. And some drivers use car horns as weapons to rudely force other drivers and pedestrians to give way. Motorbikes are loud; most owners don't muffle the exhaust pipes.


Large dogs like German Shepherds, Dalmatians, Rottweilers and Dobermans are used often as status symbols and guards than as family members. Because some owners are afraid they would be stolen or bite strangers, they are usually chained or caged for long periods, and are untrained. They are not made to walk regularly. The native dogs called askal are fortunate; they are usually allowed by their owners to roam freely. But this practice creates another health problem. Free-roaming dogs drop their excrement anywhere.

There is a community of responsible dog owners in Cagayan de Oro, however, and sometimes they hold dog shows. In Villa Ernesto, several landowners walk their dogs in the park, but there are still dogs that are confined in a tight space and rarely sniff the varied, colorful fragrance of the outside world.


Christmas and New Year celebrations in Cagayan de Oro and most parts of the Philippines are characterized by the explosions of firecrackers almost as big as dynamites. There are no designated areas for the explosions. And if this isn't enough, some people throw firecrackers on vehicles. Babies and the sick are not spared from the disturbance of the blasts, as people in subdivisions and even near hospitals also join the "fun."


Cockfighting is a popular sport in the Philippines; roosters are common even in residential subdivisions.

For about three months, our neighbor raised eight roosters and they crowed 10 to 15 times per minute,* from 4 am to 6 pm. Sometimes the noise would extend up to 10 pm. The crows reached 54 to 61 decibels each and interfered with normal conversation. They deprived us of much-needed sleep. The noise also prevented me from effectively helping my kids do their homework. One of them has dyslexia.


I could hear roosters anytime, and they drove me to the point of despair and rage. I couldn't even relax or be entertained when I wanted to. When we watched TV, the kids and I could hear the roosters in the forest of "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs" and even in the outer space of "Gravity." When we made phone calls, the other party could hear the rooster crowing.

Once, I met a German guy living in Golden Glow North subdivision. He said his wife owned a beach resort in Camiguin but they had to close it because of the noise made by the neighbor's 15 fighting cocks. He said, "Sorry but I have to say some Filipinos do not respect their neighbors." He said if the noise from chickens, dogs and pigs are removed, and if waste is segregated, and if a law prohibits house construction on certain hours of the day, like in Germany, the Philippines would be paradise. He asked me what I thought of his opinion. I said, "I feel like I'm talking to myself."

We had a lively conversation. I showed him the noise meter app in my Samsung Tablet. Then he told me, before we left, that I'm the only Filipino he knows who complains about noise. End

UPDATE: 911 is the Philippine emergency hotline, established by the administration of president Rodrigo Duterte. Although its main use is for reporting crime, it also accepts complaints about public disturbance, including excessive noise. The police will respond.

To report poor government agency performance, call 8888.


* Not per day as written earlier.

Published August 12, 2010 in the defunct cagayandeoro.elizaga.net. Revised and republished February 15, 2018. Counter started March 21, 2018. Stock photo added December 8, 2018. Link to TED.com added February 13, 2019. 911 and 8888 links added August 2, 2019. An error corrected on May 16, 2023.

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