Can you learn something from a dustpan?

Over my years of living here, I have experienced a fair amount of learning.  I have learned things that have helped me live a happier life.  I have learned that sometimes pride can get in our way of being happier, and even being smarter.  One thing that I feel I have really learned is that we are not always as smart as we think we are.

One thing that I have learned is that us Americans, and probably other foreigners too, sometimes feel like the way we do things is superior to the way that Filipinos do things.  I have actually written about this topic many times over the years, but I came across something the other day that clarified the way I think about this, and I wanted to share it here on LiP.

Over the years I have heard so many fellow Americans tell me how stupid the people do things here.  I have heard about how superior our American ways are.  Truth is, I got over that way of thinking many years ago.

A few days ago, it was quite early in the morning, about 5:30 am.  I get up early on most days, sometimes as early as 3:00 am or 4:00 am.  I am rarely still in bed at 5:00 am.  So, I was sitting out on the porch this one morning, just enjoying the crisp cool morning breeze and thinking about different things.  Our maid likes to go outside and do a bit of yard work early in the morning, before we have our family breakfast.  So, as I was sitting on the porch daydreaming, she was sweeping leaves in our driveway.

I sat there watching her sweep, not really thinking about it much until something struck me.  Something I had seen thousands of times over my years of living here, but two and two finally added up, and I realized that what I was seeing was equivalent to four!

In the picture below, I had our daughter pose for the picture of what I was seeing while the maid was sweeping.

Jean helping the maid with sweeping the driveway
Jean helping the maid with sweeping the driveway

Do you notice anything? There is something in this picture which I realized was far superior to what we have in the United States.  Can you see what I am talking about?

Well, it was at that point that I realized that the dust pans here are superior to what we have in the States.  Most household dust pans in the States just have a little short handle, and you bend down to the floor with the dustpan then sweep the dirt (or leaves in this case) into the dustpan.  Imagine, bending down every time you want to pick up the dirt that you have swept up?  The dustpans here have a longer handle, and there is no need to bend down in order to sweep up and dispose of your trash.  Now, I do admit that there are a few applications where they have long handled dustpans, things like people working in parks and industrial type applications.  But, for the average housewife working in her home, she has a dustpan with a short handle and must bend over each time she wants to collect her sweepings.

Now, I readily admit that this is a very simple thing, and a simple topic.  I don’t usually write about things like dustpans here on this site.  And, do you know what?  I am not writing about dustpans today either.  I am writing about how not everything in the USA, or elsewhere in the West is better than what is in the Philippines.  I am only using a dustpan to drive home and demonstrate the point that I am making in this article.

Can you think of other things that the Philippines has engineered and that the Philippine in the Philippines use on a daily basis that is better than the way it is done in the USA or wherever you are from?  I can think of other examples too, but I want to see what our readers can come up with!

It’s a good idea to get out of the thought process that the way you do things is better than the way others do things.  Just consider that the way we do things is simple different, and each different way may have it’s own advantages… and disadvantages as well.

Post Author: MindanaoBob (1354 Posts)

Bob Martin is the Publisher & Editor in Chief of the Live in the Philippines Web Magazine. Bob is an Internet Entrepreneur who is based in Davao. Bob is an American who has lived permanently in Mindanao since May 2000. Here in Mindanao, Bob has resided in General Santos City, and now in Davao City. Bob is the owner of this website and many others.

How to Move to the Philippines Manual


    • says

      The dustpan with the long handle is different than we usually use, so it probably feels a bit strange, and takes some getting used to. It is a much better idea than what we use, though. 😉

    • Rex Davao says

      Maam Dako og Ngipon,

      You got a cute name there! hehehe..
      Have a nice day,


      I learned that your part of the SunStar Davao, so i tried look for your article in the current newspaper but I cant find you there.. I searched for it and luckily i found 5 of your article in the Sunstar website. As usual nice article i like most the article about addressing Traffic problem to the newly Mayor at the time of your article written (Mayor Inday) and about young Country Boy name “DJ”.

      anyway, Have a nice day.


  1. Boss says

    I am not sure if this is what you mean but when they used to ( now no longer ) service Australian Jumbo Jets in the Philippines they once used chewing gum and gaffa tape on hydraulic hoses to fix them. Same thing with water hoses here in the province, they use rubber tubing to connect and waterproof hoses, pretty innovative. That works as good as stainless steel hose clamps.

  2. John Weeks says

    Hi Bob,

    I just moved to Angeles City with my family and have been enjoying the blog and all the comments (half the fun is finding all the Corey pseudonyms among them!!). Thanks for the informative reading and for your insights – really.

    Among the SO many things I’ve been observing in the past couple of weeks, I have already made note of the dust pans (and their bigger half-can counterparts!). But if I had to add to the list, it would be the simple, modest way in which people here seem to deal with adversity and make a living, while still keeping a smile on their faces. We Americans tend to deal poorly with things when they don’t go our way or fit our idea of “how things should be”. Learning to keep an open mind and a closed mouth is a good start towards a happier existence anywhere new, I think.

    While there are plenty of Filipino attitudes that I take exception to at first glance (e.g. ageism in the labor market), I remind myself that there is a bigger picture to consider – and I’ve only seen a small glimpse so far. I will also continue with my language studies as well!

    So when things get especially frustrating for me, I’ll play a round of golf, get a nice massage, invite family over for a visit or just read a book on the porch and remember how difficult it was back “home” in the States to find the time for any of these activities.

    My personal favorite at the moment: The Ya Ya!!

    • says

      Hi John – Ah, if you have just arrived, you are in for w whole new world of learning! It is a fun journey, but also a difficult one. Changing and opening up to new ideas is not always easy! Hang in there and enjoy the ride.

      • John Weeks says

        Thanks, Bob. This isn’t my first expat experience and we have financially-independent Balikbayan in-laws here to help us adjust and get along. All the same, I trust there will be moments for sure. Appreciate the words of encouragement! So far, it’s been a smooth transition.

  3. says

    I love how resourceful people are here! The government doesn’t have to pay people to recycle tires, plastic containers and so on. I have seen so many ingenious things made from tires: sinks, flower pots, garden furniture, planters and more!
    My husband is very handy. It used to frustrate him that parts for things were not available to repair things. But then he realized that things are repaired anyway! One can have parts made (fabricated) to order! It is amazing what machine shops can do! We westerners are so used to buying exactly what we want, but people here have learned to make things work in many creative and often, inexpensive ways. We can learn from that!

    • says

      Hi AmericanLola – It is truly amazing how things work here as far as repairs and such. They can make almost anything, and like you say, they recycle almost everything. It’s not about keeping the environment pristine, it’s just common sense, and cheaper to re-use what they can.

      • says

        Yes, and this private recycling supports thousands of families with a livelihood. It may not look very nice, but what goes to the dump is reduced by half every day, and sold by families who live on that income.

  4. Dave says

    Along with the dust pans, I would nominate brooms, both the soft grass type for interior use and the stiff outside ones like Jean is using. Cheap, simple, all natural and boy do they pick up what needs to be picked up.

    Another thing done differently here in the Philippines is the ubiquitous tricycle, both the motorized and the pedal style. There are times I even cuss at the noise and smoke when there are too many of them, but one of the reasons you can live cheap here is the fact you can get a ride almost anywhere, any time , often for well under a buck. My wife and I were on Guam recently, and a lot of residential areas resemble the Philippines. We were driving around in an expensive rental car. If we had to live in one of those areas, without a car, what would we do?

    Taxis are very few and far between and tou cna figure at least $10 USD for the shortest ride. There’s nowhere I’ve ever lived where you can get around without a car any cheaper than in the Philippines.

    • says

      Hi Dave – I find the brooms too short for a westerner who is generally a bit taller. I would prefer a longer handle. But, they do have multiple types of brooms to pick up different things. I agree with you on that.

      We rarely see the pedal tricycles any more down here, but almost all of the motorized tricycles are more efficient engines that are not loud and also not belching smoke either.

      On the taxis, it is different here too. I could never remember spending $10US on a taxi ride here. I just went for a quick trip to the bank this morning. Was planning to ride the jeepney, but they were pretty full so I took the taxi. It was less than P70 each way, so less than $2 each way! Not bad!

      Regional differences do prevail here, but all around, they do have some quality ideas. Sometimes the implementation is not perfect, but overall, I enjoy seeing the innovation in the Philippines.

  5. Hudson says

    Hey Bob<
    I must agree with you that having a long-handled dust pan is a superior idea. I just have a hard time with short brooms with no handles.
    When I was there in April We bought a bunch of canned goods to take to my wife's family in the provence. I looked all over for a can opener, and to my suprise, nobody sold one. Now how do all of these Filipino's eat all of these cans of food without a can opener? Well, when I got to the provence, my wifes brother showed me…with a spoon…go figure.

    • says

      I agree that I would prefer to have longer handles on the brooms, Hudson. That would be an improvement in my opinion. Can openers are essential equipment in my opinion! 😉

      • says

        One of the gift items most requested by stateside Filipinos I know is “a real broom”. I do not know a single OFW who likes the western style brooms. It’s the head, more so than the handle. They say that neither the broom straw nor the synthetic heads clean well enough. I have lately seen some Filipino brooms in the palengke with western style handles on them. There are also the ones with really long handles for cleaning high ceilings.

        Never seen a can opened with a spoon. Marlyn’s kin seem to prefer a bolo or a big kitchen knife. The knife works well, as long as you have a good grip and a sturdy old high carbon blade. Several folks have been cut when a cheap, thin blade broke on them. A few years ago we brought them some crank handle can openers. Folks seemed really skeptical when we demonstrated it. On our next trip, we found that they had put them in a drawer and were afraid to use them. Marlyn demonstrated again, and this time made them actually try it. No one has been cut for a while now.

        For myself, being an outdoorsman, I find the Filipino made bolo superior to any other machete style tool.

        Take care,

  6. says

    I like the public transport system, ie, jeepneys. Far superior to anything here.

    Can you verify unconfirmed reports that the mayor died this morning.


    • says

      I agree Nick, I enjoy using the local transport. I regularly ride tricycles and jeepneys! I think it is fun and efficient.

      I have heard nothing about Mayor Duterte being dead. Wherever you hear that, I don’t think it is true.

  7. says

    My point is that they are not widely used. I even said in the article that they are available in the states but only in a limited way. Maybe you did not fully read the article?

  8. says

    I never seen them until I was in the Philippines. They have them here but very few have and use them. We have one, bought if from a Filipino store less expensive and excellent quality.

    • says

      I think most social interactions are superior in the Philippines as compared to the United States. Not just respect for elders, but people seem to be happier and take more delight in each other in the Philippines. As the U.S. continues its decline and things seem to be getting better in the Philippines, who knows what the future will bring.

  9. Russell Clement says

    Hi All ,, I’ve been reading with interest the comments about the dustpans ,,, In Australia those type of dustpans have been around for 20 yrs. or more but with a slight modification ,, instead of the handle being mounted at the back the handle is hinged on each side just forward of centre so when you lift it ,, the body swings back and the waste falls into the back of it ,,, They are usually used in commercial applications such as shopping complex’s because they are much bigger and far to expensive for the average household ..

  10. says

    The Walis Bob Martin, I wouldn’t think of using an American broom anymore. And I’m speaking of both the stiff type and the soft ones used inside the home. Now, a good old fashioned 2 ft wide push broom is hard to beat for big jobs but American brooms whether poly or fiber, always miss stuff on the floors in the home. It’s hard to get anything by a Walis though, especially all that hair my wife drops hehe

  11. says

    Hi Bob – I consider family ties and connection here the edge the Pinoy has. Example – Pinoy friends say “if your cat plays with my dog, then we are family” Lol. They actually create or look for ways to make people family. The boundaries for family are so broad. It is not about money, it is an inner desire the Pinoy has, that many of us from western societies are more void of. They are 10 times superior in family ties and connection,

  12. Bob New York says

    Long handle dust pans have been around in the USA for many years. My grandmother had one, I remember using one in a commercial establishment in the 1960’s for spot cleaning of certain areas. It is possible that some how they just fell out of style here for some reason, I have never given it much thought.

    I have found repair shops in The Philippines quite fascinating. Something we used to have here when I was growing up but most as well as parts suppliers are long gone.

    One item that I have found fascinating in The Philippines are those plastic washing machines. They may or may not have the longevity that some of ours have here but then again look at the difference in the retail price tag too ! I think some of the stores I looked at them in may have thought I was a bit nuts in picking them up off the floor but the light weight of them was iresistable LOL. Put a handle on the side of them and you could call them portable. I think a couple of models have now appeared on USA websites.

  13. Neal in RI/Davao says

    I was ready to throw our broom out with the trash until the gardiner repaired it with a length of rubber bicycle innertube. the Filipino people can fix almost anything with what seems to be nothing at all. Then here comes the delivery man on a motorcycle with 2 cans of petrol strapped to the sides of the bike. Go figure???

  14. Gary says

    I was in a hardware store once and they were selling snow shovels. It had never snowed in that city so how could they sell snow shovels? Sign on the shovel told the story, “Extra large dust pan.” 😛

  15. Joe P says


    Think ya might want to take a trip back to the US. We have had those types of Dustpans here for years. I am now 52 years old and I remember using them when I was in my twenties in fact most of them tilted after picking them up so the contents would not spill. I have two at my house now Just as you pictured that are several years old now.

    Now I will say, the reason many folks probably don’t SEE them is most westerners don’t sweep…they use that Dyson 400 dollar floor sucker or similar contraption LOL!

    I also second Dave S on his nomination of the Walis Ting-Ting and Walis Tambo. or as I call the stiffer cousin…the “Harry Potter” broom. I have several here in San Francisco and they work great. I have not owned a corn broom for many years…they are inferior to the Filipino version by far.

    I nominate the Philippine Half Coconut Husk floor scrubber for cleaning Tile, Marble and wood floors…its a way cheap and much Superior method than most western Chemical methods.

    • says

      Hi Joe – Ha ha.. perhaps you overlooked the part of the article where I said that such dustpans are available in the States, but are generally not used for household sweeping. I put that in the article but so many people keep telling me “Bob, they are available in the States!!”. Yes, I know.. that is why I wrote that they are available in the States! Ha ha…

      Sorry, I don’t mean to rant, but I did put that in the article when I wrote it.

  16. Scott Fortune says


    It’s funny you wrote this article. I bought and shipped one almost identical to that one to the Philippines when I packed. I had seen it here, and thought it was awesome. Problem: it broke in the box in transit. :( I guess I can just buy a new one when I get there. :)

  17. jade says

    Long handled dust pans and long handled cobweb ceiling brooms have already been covered and so can’t add anything further other than we have both in our home in Calamba – both work great as well as the indoor and outdoor short and handled ones. Daisy’s relatives in Bicol manufacture the soft indoor ones. It is quite a process gathering the ‘straw’ drying it and weaving it all together.
    When I was a kid I used to sweep an entire bank parking lot using a pushbroom every morning using a standard bend down dustpan… hard work but I was young… Which brings me to my ‘rant’… Leaf Blowers; no dust pan needed low or high… they just blow the dirt around. Don’t recall ever seeing any in RP though and glad of it.
    I once worked at a pizza factory which made packaged pizza mixes. The clean up crew used grated parmesan cheese as sweeping compound. It did a ‘grate’ job… Ha ha.
    My 2 cents.

  18. says

    simple things, dustpan and even minds can really go a long way bob, we just need to see it in a positive and constructive way. really like your writtings and i must add.. you’re an envy to a person like me, seeing things calm and cooool. I’m heading for retirement in the phils too and bet you…most of my friends will be surprise. I will be in the company of more dustpan! keep safe out there and enjoy. Mabuhay!

  19. Richie R. says

    Hi Bob, a long handled dustpan with an adjustable handle that you can adjust according to your height. I found one while living in Scandinavia and sent it over here with the Balikbayan box. I enjoy using it but I haven´t seen any like it here, just the brooms. In my short time I spent the US, I was surprised that they didn´t have handles on the grocery bags you get at the supermarket why is that??

      • Richie R. says

        Ok but I went to Publix in Orlando once and I got a paper bag without a handle…sometimes you see it in movies as well, the characters carrying brown paper bags, one in each hand and have to put one down to get the door key from his pocket….Well, of course there must be stores that has grocery bags with handles but I believe the durable plastic type….just a thought…… cheers!!

        • says

          Hi Richie – OK, you are talking about paper bags. They rarely have handles in the USA, but they are also rarely used anymore. I was talking about plastic bags, which all have handles. Sorry for the misunderstanding.

  20. Ivan says

    Hello LiP! I am Ivan, a student of USC in Cebu.

    Something that amazes me as much as the Filipino dustpan is the ‘kabo.’ I mean, it’s economical and much cleaner than toilet paper (haha).

    Much to my surprise, an American professor of mine who has been living in Cebu for quite a while has recognized this *magnificent* object. He did the numbers and found out that the whole of America can save $3B just by switching from toilet paper to ‘kabo’ for cleaning the hindsides. He even said that he felt even cleaner and much more comfortable after switching to the ‘kabo’ method!

    We Filipinos do have a thing with plastic products, don’t you agree? These ideas are certainly something Filipinos can share to the whole world. We can save your back from stiffing AND your pockets from emptying! 😀

  21. says

    Tabo is correct btw. By choice I spent many months with my in laws before my wife a I where married. I wanted to live with her family so I could really experience the life she lived and be close to her family. I bought toilet paper for myself for the first month but then I realized someone hung a trash bag up to be kind to me so I would have a place for my dirty paper. In the area her family lived people don’t put paper down the drains to prevent clogging. I felt guilty after I saw the trash bag. I took it down and threw it away. Then started my glorious adventure into the world of tabo. Lol I find it to be much cleaner the using paper and yes I wash my hands after each use. The next 7 months I never even thought about paper. And was kinda strange to readjust back in the us. And back to the topic of this blog! I found the love and closeness of the Filipino family to be better then the American home. We sit together as a family every night and talk. That’s rare in America and that has sprang up a love in me that is everlasting to the filipino people.

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