Littering – More Fun in the Philippines!

A Simple Complaint.

Yesterday while working on pouring concrete septic tank lids at the back of our property, I took a gander (southern speak for “look”) over our newly constructed back wall and noticed that the neighbor has been conveniently been dumping her garbage over her wall into the mangroves in the tidal pool. Since building the wall across the back of our newly acquired property, the back of neighbor’s property is now obscured from sight from anyone who might be a passerby on the street. I’m sure she is counting on the “out of sight – out of mind” reasoning that she thinks will make her life much easier. Not so fast little miss Daisy!  Since arriving to live in this barangay, I have been an outspoken critic (as softly spoken and diplomatic as I can be without creating disturbances in the force) about the dumping of trash in the ocean. And since first arriving, I am happy to say that my voice has been heard (somewhat) and the barangay has taken a more proactive approach to treating kindly, the very ocean that feeds and supports this village. But this is the Philippines and generally speaking, nobody here likes to enforce the laws, especially if they can justify the very in-humaneness of such an imposition on the poor. So, people will still trash the environment and it will go mostly unpunished.

New Septic Tank

Just as I noticed the new pile of trash that has recently been deposited over the neighbor’s wall, the barangay captain happened to walk by while I was staring at the scene of the crime. While I would have loved to sing him a bar of Alice’s restaurant in five-part harmony while handing him “Twenty-seven 8″x10″ color glossy photographs with circles and arrows and a paragraph on the back of each explaining what each one was to be used as evidence against…” (I seriously doubt if he has even heard of Arlo Guthrie), I simply suggested that I would like to make a complaint about the neighbor’s actions and asked him to take a look over the wall. As he gazed over the wall at the pile of garbage, he seemed to be both amazed and shocked that this local resident would do such a thing, since the barangay now has arranged for regularly scheduled garbage collection pick-ups. After suggesting to me that he would look into the situation, he left and I went back to work on the septic tank lids that we were working on. I learned later on that I should always choose my words more carefully!

Pile of Basura

Pile of Basura (garbage)


Several hours later, after having taken my shower and eating my lunch, my nephew happens over with a folded up piece of paper and a pen, hands it to me and says, “Uncle, this is from the barangay secretary.” As I carefully unfolded the tri-folded letter, is became clear that I was now in possession of some official looking document, fully computer processed and printed in the local Waray dialect… all except for the words “Received by:” and my name typed below that at the bottom of the page, and the large and bold letters openly spaced across the top and bottom of the page which read “S U M M O N S“. Damn if I hadn’t been served! … and by my own nephew. Nowhere else in the world would this happen like this – where the server serves someone and has no idea of what he is even doing. Only in the Philippines! Okay, maybe Cambodia.

So I immediately take the letter (which I cannot even read) and walk it 40 metres down to the barangay hall where there is a barangay meeting in progress. As I entered the building’s meeting room, the conversation that was taking place abruptly ended and all eyes were on me when I realized that I might be intruding. Then I noticed San Miguel and Red Horse was flowing readily and being enjoyed by most of the meeting attendees. This couldn’t be too official I thought, so I proceeded to present myself (they all know who I am anyway). I held up the Summons and asked why is all this formality needed pertaining to a local violation of littering to which the captain explained that we needed to have a meeting to sort out all the details. I was being summoned to an official meeting!  I immediately thought to myself, “Maybe I should place an envelope with a name and address at the bottom of the pile!” and then exclaimed “What details, this person is dumping trash in the ocean, you are the head official in charge, so all you need to do is knock on her door, tell her she is in violation of the law and ask her to pick up the garbage!”  I calmfully explained that this is not a complicated issue, nor does it need to be a complex process. I also politely suggested that he could delegate his authority and send any barangay official to her door to let her know that her littering gig is up. “So Simple” I explained. “It doesn’t need to go to court! You just warn her, tell her to clean up the mess, and move on. If she defies you, then you can re-address and insert all the formality you need.  At this point, we surely don’t need a formal summons process to all parties.” After my little stump speech, one barangay official immediately lifted up a one liter bottle of Red Horse and invited me to take a chair and participate. I jokingly responded while looking around the room “I don’t believe you have enough beer in here for me” and everybody laughed and began carrying on while sitting on their group “W” bench there (we’ll refer to it in this case where “W” stands for Waray… or Wishey Washey) and the barangay captain then asked “are you okay that we can do it this way?” and I said “Of course!  Why not, you are the man in charge!”  He paused… and everyone paused… then he held out his hand to me and as I grasped and shook his hand, and with a sigh of relief he offered up “Oh thank you Mr. Randy, thank you very much. We will do our best.” I could then hear the words of Arlo Guthrie pass through my mind that he “… fined $50 and had to pick up the garbage.”

After all this went down, I walked back home while thinking – if only this had happened to me say… 51 years ago, I could have written, produced, and performed a harmonious and protracted monologue describing this day, even though it was not on any certain holiday (like Thanksgiving), and it could have possibly made me famous. I mean, all I would need is one signature song, right? I’m living in the wrong half-century I suppose.

Live in the Philippines, Retire in Samar!