Uniquely Palau

A few days ago I chanced upon an old file in a compact disk where I listed things that makes Davao unique from any other city…and the idea came up to make a list of things that will give you a glimpse of things unique in this island. This is not to offend the Palauans or the islanders but here are a few observations I had for the past year:

*Kids’ necks and faces sticking outside of car windows without the fear of any danger is a very common sight. In fact, it looks as natural as if it’s a car accessory.

*Drivers stop their cars in the middle of the road when they see an acquaintance on the street (or another driver from an oncoming vehicle) and chat with each other while other motorists wait patiently behind.

*Stray dogs in the villages (hamlets) come in hordes. I walked in a neighboring street one morning not too long ago. One dog barked at me. In two minutes flat, there seemed to be a hundred dogs of all sizes and colors barking a few inches from me. I walked on air in pure terror. Had one of them took a chance to bite me, nothing but scraps would have been left of me.

*Overtaking is looked upon as a “crime”. Try speeding up more than the recommended speed (considered slower than those in the slowest lane in the Philippines) and expect the wailing siren from a police car to tag you down.

*The weather is so unpredictable. You wake up to a very hot morning and wear light clothes. Five minutes later it is raining sleets. After a few minutes, then the sun comes out and you would never guess it ever rained.

*You can meet the president, senators, congressmen or governors alone on the street without bodyguards.

*Electoral candidates go out by themselves and stand in the street waving placards to vote for them to passing cars.

*The sight of a pair of shoes tied with together dangling from electric wires in the middle of the streets is common. I still wonder at the time and skill used by the pranksters to throw it there.

*You can’t see guns anywhere, even the policemen rarely carry one.

*Food servings are so huge that for me, a serving is enough for three meals.

*It’s common to see groups of men sitting in waiting sheds, coffee shops and other hangouts swapping fishing tales while women tend the taro patch (gabi plantation). The men fish for living, but it’s the women’s job to tend the farm. Women who can’t grow up their own taro patch are looked down.

*Leave your cars on the street for sometime and better bid goodbye to it forever. (Last week, a Pinoy’s car broke down in the bridge and he went to get help. When he came back a few minutes later, help was no longer necessary. His car was already burned. When you leave your car unattended on a street, here’s the scenario: First day- all four tires stabbed flat. 2nd day- all windshields and mirrors smashed. 3rd day- burned to a crisp.

*Obesity in a woman is a status symbol. The fatter the women are, the higher the prestige her husband will have in the community as a good provider, and “bilbil” is not considered as flabs. It called “love handles”.

*It’s hard to hide in Palau. Somebody is always bound to see you wherever you go. Everybody knows everybody, and they know where you are based on your car or slippers!

*The locals are made of sterner stuff. They don’t seem to get sick from common cold, cough and other seasonal epidemic. They are not afraid of the scorching sun (and the sun here IS very painfully hot compared to the Philippines) or of sudden rains. You can’t see them running for shelter when rains come.

Palauans hold countless custom parties like first bath, house parties and others where even the “seniorist citizens” join in till the sun rises. They chew betel nuts regularly. They eat a lot and dance gracefully, even the oldest and the fattest women’s bodies sway gracefully and when they feel the urge to dance, they don’t care where they are. One final observation- Palauans are cheerful, happy people.

Oh-one more observation. There’s no need for you to get numbers at the baggage section in stores. Just leave your packages and it will still be there when you come back. If you left wallets and valuables, it will remain safe —unless a Filipino passes by! (sad thought!)

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