Sounds of The Philippines

This morning, I was awoken to a sound one doesn’t often hear in the USA nor  probably any other developed nation.  Its not a very pleasant sound.  A piglet that is screaming for its life, but to no avail as it has already been selected to serve as someone’s lechon.  It doesn’t take long, maybe five minutes at most.  The farmer will cut the jugular and the pig soon bleeds to death.  It sounds more scared than in pain.  Its sad to hear the life drain out of them, but once they get weak they go fast.   Its not a drawn out thing.


Now not everyone in the Philippines is lucky enough to live next to a piggery like me, so don’t’ worry, you’ll probably not have to endure this.

I know its kind of a sad, ghoulish topic but people, most of us, are meat eaters and sometimes I think we don’t really face that.  That’s the Ted Nugent in me coming out though.   If you ever saw that madman’s reality show, you’ll understand that comment.



I once read a blog about a travelers first night here.  The first sentence  on their first blog entry about there trip was “There sure are a lot of roosters in the Philippines.”  I don’t know why but that struck me as very funny.

Yeah, there are a lot of roosters in the Philippines, like sand on the beach and stars in the sky but noisy.   When one crows for attention in the middle of the  night, every rooster in town gets going.  Since I live in a rural town, every other house has a rooster or three.  They do crow back and forth to each other.   As it is quite, one lets loose, then another and you can hear them getting further in the distance.   It is a chain reaction of rooster ego for all the world to hear!

A couple of times, I went down stairs late at night.  It always feels creepy there, like your not alone.  Don’t ask me why, I don’t now why, I just know what it feels like.  One time I heard this strange sound, as my heart started to beat up and the adrenaline began to rush, I realized it was a freaking rooster flapping its wings!  Big tough guy I am, yeah right.

Ice Cream Vendors

Awww, the bubbly sound of the ice cream vendor.  I wish there was a good way to describe this sound.  Its extremely pleasant  (if your the type of person that likes to drive spikes through your eyes) when several of them congregate together.  They like to do this late in the day in Bogo City.  One can often find them down on the wharf.  Either there’s a lot of people on the wharf that want to buy ice cream, or they are just trying to kill off the last  hour of their shift.

In the Philippines, at least in the areas that I’ve been too, the ice cream man comes on a bike, not a truck.  Gotta be a hot hard job.  Most Filipino are extremely hard workers though, don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.   Oh they party hard too, the rest better than any group of people I know, but they do work very hard.  Of course, there are exceptions.  I have seen very few over weight male Filipino.

Depending on the source, the Filipino often call this dirty ice cream.  Its not really dirty but they call it that, I think, because they don’t know who made it.  Its a family operation rather than coming from a chain.  My girlfriend tells me she has a cousin that prefers it.  He always  wants dirty ice cream and not that which comes from a well  known vendor.

Bread Vendor

There are fewer bread vendors, but they make an even lovelier music.  They have a different sound.

Oddly the bread vendors have the same “song” here as they did  100Km away, down in Talisay.  The bread vendors, also have the same “music” that I heard in Cebu City and Talisay.

There is a bakery with awesome smelling bread on every street, or so it seems.  I don’t know why they have to peddle it to  our homes too.

Both the ice cream and bread vendors create their music as they peddle their bikes.  It provides the energy source for their not so beautiful music.  It sounds a lot like a bad midi that one use to encounter on so many websites during the early years of the world wide web.

Church Bells

I once heard a sermon where the pastor included the questions “Why did we take the bells out of the steeple.”  I don’t remember if he had an answer or not but we certainly have bells in the steeples here.   There was a catholic church near my home in Memphis that played music from theirs before they had mass or other events.

In the Philippines, at least where I’m at, the churches have real bells.  They just love to ring them.   They love to ring them around 4am here.   In Bogo, they must have mass of the rooster every day, not just during the Christmas Season.  They are not unpleasant at all, I enjoy them.

One can also hear mass that is pipe through the PA system.   Some times there are cantors too.  Perhaps not quite in the style one might find in a Jewish synagogue.  Not that different though.  A bit more of a spoken word, rather than pure song.

Balot Vendor

There are various vendors through out  a city.  One can hear them  calling  out.  Reminds me of the area my grand parents lived in in Jackson, Ms. during the late 1960’s.  I would often see a guy pulling his cart, sometimes with his children helping him.

Here, they usually carry a basket with their wares, sometimes balancing their fruits, vegetables or balot on their head.   Balot too is usually delivered via a bicycle though, rather than walking.  There is  usually a basket  on the bike that helps keep the balot warm.  Often wrapped in towels to provide insulation and a cushion.  I usually cannot understand what they are calling out.  Sounds mumbled to me but they stretch it out.  Baaalllloooootttt in a low pitch, almost like they are in pain.  I think it ads to the charming atmosphere of the Philippines.

Barrio Festival

Thump, thump, thump is the sound of the bass from a distant speaker some where in the city pounding out the music for all those in the barrio or neighborhood.   Sometimes though, its not so far away and you get the full effect of the music as if it where blasting from your teenagers room!


In the Philippines, everybody is a singer and they blast it out over their home karaoke.  It doesn’t bother me when I’m out about town.  It usually drives Jessie crazy.  They may think they are singers but they are not good singers.  Every now and then you’ll run across someone that can sing well.  Most Filipino don’t seem to care.   I admire their confidence in singing regardless of the way it sounds.  not only sing but amplify it.

I don’t usually notice it until Jessie points it out, unless I’m at home and a nearby neighbor starts up and doesn’t stop until 4am, kind of hard not to notice that.

Horn Blowing

Driving here brings its own “music.”  If you blew your horn like this in Memphis, someone would get shot.  Here though, people blow their horns to be helpful.  They may give a couple of beeps as they approach an intersection or when overtaking to let the other driver know they are there.  It ends up in a lot more horn blowing.  Of course there is the occassional long, how dare you blowing of the horn, but that’s kind of communication is much more likely in the USA.  I have yet to see the middle finger come up any where in the Philippines.  Can’t talk about sounds of the Philippines and totally leave out the horn blowing.  Try not to live on a busy street.

Its always important to remember when speaking of the Philippines, it is easy to make the mistake of applying local experiences to the entire Philippines.  Doing so will often lead to incorrect conclusions.   It wouldn’t surprise me, if Davao and Makati are quite different.  Makati is a more upscale area near Manila while Davao has laws that most other cities don’t have.  I don’ t know if they have various noise laws.  Perhaps someone can tell us.

Did I forget anything?  Let me hear from you!

Post Author: Rusty Ferguson (42 Posts)

Rusty Ferguson is an American Expat living in Bogo, Cebu.

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  1. BrSpiritus says

    Don’t forget that the horn also doubles as the “automatic” gate opener. My neighbor is a driver and brings his employer’s vehicle home every night. A long blast on the horn and if the maid is not out opening the gate within half a second another long blast on the horn. Here in Davao the balut vendors blow on old style bicycle horns in lieu of calling balut. You did forget to mention dogs, these four footed security systems are likely to go off at any time of the night and like the roosters talk to each other. Honestly I’ve gotten to the point were I just tune it all out. Recently Venice and I spent a night at Pearl Farm Resort on Samal and it was so quiet at night that it was a little creepy.

  2. Paul says

    Hi Rusty – I’ll have to add the rural sounds of carabao and baka (cows). For what seems to be no reason at all, one will start and the symphany takes over. Each animal has its own note to sing and its own time in the score to sing it. Such symphanies last only up to about five minutes, but boy that bass section can really get into it! 😉

  3. says

    Rusty: Interesting post and I smile as I read it. All the sounds you described I will hear except for the church bells. The church is about 10 km from our house, if I stay in the main house all day. If I go to the beach house, I hear almost nothing except the sound of the waves and my heart beat. I guess, I am lucky, I have this choice To BrSpiritus, I have a friend who plans to visit Pearl Farm next year. Is it worth your money. Do they have a web site, I could refer my friend?

  4. tonka says

    i love the sounds of the philippines it takes me back to when i was a kid milk delivered to your home early in the morning the ice cream man later on in the day people on the street talking kids playing like in ( mati ) i love that city. some sounds are not good gun shots, people cuss almost everywhere now, yelling at each other sometimes over nothig ( i guess just to hear there own voice ) but thats the world we live in.

  5. tonka says

    rusty the the sounds of memphis ( the blues )nice clubs and the food ( barr b que ) is unbeleiveably mmmmmmmmmmmm good the people are awesome

  6. lenny2000 says

    Just one thing, I do not reply much, But i read here alot and i can tell you that i think your one hell of a cool dude and you really write interesting articles take care

  7. says

    Hi Rusty,

    Some countries only have the chorus of birds to wake them up while we here in the Philippines have a whole range of stuff that stops you sleeping! Maybe thats why all the local population are all early risers!

  8. says

    Include the tricycles/pedicabs. The sound is rather annoying than the balot vendor. I grew up in a small town where only the rooster can bother me early in the morning or the dogs howling in the middle of the night. Now living in Texas, i miss neither of the two lol. Great and fun to read article.

  9. says

    Paul, now that I’ve not heard! I live in a rather rural area but its more of a fishing community and I live in town so I guess I’m just to far in the “big” city to hear that. Would be interesting, for a few minutes.

  10. says

    Niel, funny you mention how sounds can make you homesick. I’m from Memphis, Tn. I’ve been playing this online simulation. It has all kinds of different bars one can visit. I found some blues joints and they made me homesick. First time I’ve felt that in 18 months. I got over it pretty fast though. :)

  11. Jim T says

    Don’t forget the Taho vendor! I thought taho was some really strange stuff until I had my first taste…then I made sure not to miss him in the mornings. And I also ended up buying some for the children always gathered around. Can’t wait to get back over there so I can have my mid-morning snack!

  12. Jack says

    Juramie’s brother lives with her and he just bought a rooster. I’ll invite you over for panihapon for piniritong manok when I visit this November.

  13. John Rodgers says

    Kind of like living near the airport, or train track. After a while they don’t seem to exist. You just push it out of your mind.

    There are several different types of accommodations at Pearl Farm. We stayed up on the hill the first night, and the next two down near the beach. Compared to U.S prices it is very very cheap for what you get………i2f

  14. says

    Jim, what is Taho? I don’t get to explore as much as I would like too. I wish I could go every where on the Island, except SULU and South West Mindanao.

  15. Jay McDowall says

    Our Filipino neighbor used to kill pigs at his house. Nothing like hearing that squeal, of course the lechon and pork was really good. He has passed away, and now I don’t hear it as much. Of course here on Kauai, roosters are everywhere. Alot of Filipinos have them for chicken fights, but most of them are feral. They sure seem to like BK and the mall here. The rest of the stuff was new to me, when I went to see my wife.

  16. bambi says

    Nice blog I like it.Makes me homesick since Im living in Singapore now where everywhere is quiet….I kind of miss the noise. :( i wanna hear neighbors yelling whats for lunch! or something..

  17. says

    Spiritus, Haha on the creepy quite nights and the automatic gate openers. :) No gates here or I’d probably get that one too. Maybe not. When people leave the compound at night on a motorbike they tend to push them out near the road before they start them.

    In the Southern USA, where I am from the dogs tend to get going there too. let a fire engine sound its sirens and doggy heck breaks out.

    Here, the other night, I heard the dogs howling, not just barking and I thought the aswang might be coming for a visit but then I heard the drum beats of the local band and realized that was what they were backing at.

    Yes, one does get use to the sounds and block them out.

  18. says

    Tonka, I don’t get the yelling and cussing here. People are still very respectful of each other at least at the places in Cebu I’ve been too.

    thanks for giving some experiences you’ve had!

  19. says

    Yeah, birds are not plentiful here. We do get some chirps here in Bogo but not like the birds I’m use to hearing. Very few song birds. Not a lot of birds either.

    When I lived in Memphis there were not a lot of birds either, just outside though in the suburbs there were a lot more.

    Takes more than a bird to wake me though, at least more than a song bird.

  20. says

    Don’t know all those words, but I know what manok is, poor rooster. LOL

    Actually, I want one. If living in the Philippines, live like a Flipino, well within reason. I ain’t giving up the aircon.

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