SEPTEMBER 6 THERES A SIGN on Congressional Avenue in Manila which says: Parking for Costumers Only. This may be a mis-spelling of customer. But that stimulating city is so full of theatrical, brightly clothed individuals that I prefer to think that it may actually mean what it says.
Today, well take a reading tour of one of the most spirited communities in Asia. The Philippines is full of wordplay. The local accent, in which F and P are interchangeable, is often used very cleverly, such as at the flower shop in Diliman called: Petal Attraction.
Much of the word-play in the Philippines is deliberate, with retailers favouring witty names, often based on Western celebrities and movies. Reader Elgar Esteban found a bread shop called: Anita Bakery; a 24-hour restaurant called: Doris Day and Night; a garment shop called: Elizabeth Tailoring; and a hairdresser called: Felix The Cut.
Smart travellers can decipher initially baffling signs by simply trying out a Taglish (Tagalog-English) accent, such as that used on a sign at a restaurant in Cebu: We Hab Sop-Drink In Can An In Batol. A sewing accessories shop called Beads and Pieces also makes use of the local accent.
Of course, there are also many signs with oddly chosen words, but they are usually so entertaining that it would be a tragedy to correct them. A reader named Antonio Tonyboy Ramon T. Onsiako (now theres a truly Filipino name) found the following:
In a restaurant in Baguio: Wanted: Boy Waitress; on a highway in Pampanga: We Make Modern Antique Furniture; on the window of a photography shop in Cabanatuan: We Shoot You While You Wait; on the glass wall of an eatery in Panay Avenue in Manila: Wanted: Waiter, Cashier, Washier.
Some of the notices one sees are thought-provoking. A shoe store in Pangasinan has a sign saying: We Sell Imported Robber Shoes. Could these be the sneakiest sort of sneakers? On a house in Jaro, Iloilo, one finds a sign saying: House For Rent, Fully Furnaced. Tonyboy commented: Boy, it must be hot in there.
Occasionally, the signs are quite poignant. Reader Gunilla Edlund saw one at a ferry pier outside Davao, Southern Philippines, which said: Adults: 1 USD; Child: 50 cents; Cadavers: subject to negotiation.
But most are purely witty, and display a love of Americana. Reader Robert Harland spotted a bakery named: Bread Pitt; a Makati fast-food place selling maruya (banana fritters) called: Maruya Carey; a water engineering firm called: Christopher Plumbing; a boutique called: The Way We Wear; a video rental shop called: Leon King Video Rental; a restaurant in the Cainta district of Rizal called: Caintacky Fried Chicken; a local burger restaurant called Mang Donald's; a doughnut shop called: MacDonuts; a shop selling lumpia, or meat parcels, in Makati, called: Wrap and Roll; and two butchers, called: Meating Place and Meatropolis.
People in the Philippines also re-design English to be more efficient. The creative confusion between language and culture leads to more than just simple unintentional errors in syntax, but in the adoption of new words, said reader Rob Goodfellow, pointing to a sign he found which said: House Fersallarend. Why use five words (house for sale or rent) when two will do?
Tonyboy Onsiako explained why there was so much wit in the Philippines. We come from a country where you require a sense of humor to survive, he said. We have a 24-hour comedy show here called the government and a huge reserve of comedians made up mostly of politicians and bad actors.