Time to de-bugoy the Philippines

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Jemy Gatdula

Being Right

Time to de-bugoy the Philippines

Remember the adage: dress up for the position you aspire and not the position you have? If true, then quite a number of our people are aspiring for the position of village vulgarian.

Perhaps this is something we citizens can all agree on (except, of course, for the Left, which irrationally disagrees with anything rational) and that is to please ban the sando (sleeveless undershirts), shorts (particularly the really short ones), and the tsinelas (flip flops) in public places.

Of course, one has the right to underdress or be shabbily clad in the privacy of one’s home (save a thought though for the proper upbringing and mental health of one’s children) but the public sphere is another matter.

The point of society, from Aristotle onwards, is to better each individual human being. Not drag one another down.

And let’s not deny that dressing appropriately has mental and psychological benefits for the wearer, the same way environmentalists argue that our surroundings affect the psyche. Think of clothes as your portable environment.

We’re not talking of brands and clothes as the fashionistas would have it. For a developing country, that in some ways is obscene.

What is meant is simple proper attire, one reflecting respect for other citizens. If you dress up properly for your boss, girlfriend’s parents, or teacher, then why not for your fellow citizen?

In today’s world of cheaper imports, online shopping, and affordable local products, considering also that almost all our citizens have a cellphone (or two), wearing a simple shirt, pant, shoes in public should not be an imposition.

There was this highly ill advised initiative from the House of Representatives a few years back to allow those who ostensibly cannot afford minimally decent attire to enter government offices or attend House committee hearings.


That was unfortunate.

Government should lift people up, not pander to the lowest denominator.

And one can always find better ways.

In our country, there is no shortage of relatives that can help. And there’s always the barangay. Such is certainly more ennobling than demeaningly requiring dependence on indigent certificates (i.e., to validate exempt status).

Or Congress itself can encourage government offices to have available extra clothes (purchased or donated) to lend (not give) anytime someone truly needs it.

There are better ways.

Incidentally, some of those free clothes can be lent to the congressmen themselves who have taken to attending committee hearings in less than professional attire under the mistaken belief that they are being fashionable.

Anyway, Manila, Marikina, Pasay, San Juan apparently have some form of attire rules. Good for them. There’s also the Sanitation Code. But more must be done by our supposedly cosmopolitan country.

For a start, restaurants and bars should require minimal decent clothing. There’s nothing more irritating than paying lots of your hard-earned money only to sit beside some loud annoying oaf in slippers and sando.

If anyone thinks this has nothing to do with a nation’s character, just look up old photos of Manila immediately after World War II and compare how Filipinos then were dressed amidst the devastation compared to the get-up in today’s obvious relative prosperity.

Another call: to please have quieter cities and communities in the Philippines.

All that noise by jeepneys and tricyles (believe it or not, many of whom bizarrely amp up their exhaust systems to make it even louder) and outdoor stereos can’t be healthy.

And it isn’t. Studies show that noise above 85 decibels is generally harmful. But transit, car, motorcycle, stereo noises are already at least 80-85 decibels. So the point is to control these sounds and not liberally allow everyone to go noisier. Note that the World Health Organization, for health reasons, reportedly recommends that cities have decibel levels of 45-55.

So rigorously impose limits on vehicle exhaust noise. Indeed, some people may be overcompensating for their car or bike’s low horsepower or cc level but that should not be at our expense.

And that bane of sane communities: the karaoke. Where do people get the freakin’ idea that others want to hear their singing, such that their karaoke volumes are cranked way up beyond 11?

Same with some priests that believe their sermons should be heard blocks away?

Or gasoline stations, shop, or malls that think they’d attract more customers by breaking their eardrums?

Indeed, there’s the Civil Code (on nuisances), the Local Government Code, specials laws pertaining to vehicular, environmental, and industrial noise, as well the scattered ordinances by various LGU, but again more must be done.

Our Congress can certainly draft and codify laws, with the Executive Branch vigorously implementing them, to make our communities decent livable places.

Studies show that, rather than just pouring money in, the simple act of making the streets organized, quieter, cleaner actually lowers crime and increases people’s productivity.

Laws also have a teaching element and instilling proper civic courtesy to others is certainly a lawful subject matter.


Jemy Gatdula is a Senior Fellow of the Philippine Council for Foreign Relations and a Philippine Judicial Academy law lecturer for constitutional philosophy and jurisprudence.

Twitter @jemygatdula