Noise in the Philippines

Stephen Bentley By Stephen Bentley, 12th Aug 2015 | Follow this author | RSS Feed | Short URL
Posted in Wikinut>Travel>Asia>Philippines>The Visayas

Retiring to a foreign country for any westerner needs careful research. However there are things that still come as a culture shock no matter how much research is done. Noise in the Philippines is probably never even though about by most retirees.

Noise - Some Annoying ....

If you have a plan to retire to the Philippines then it makes sense to research your destination as much as possible.

Noise in the Philippines is probably a subject that has never occurred to you. As a citizen of say the UK, USA or indeed Canada or Australia you have lived your working life in countries that have strict laws regulating noise levels.

If you have a low tolerance towards noise then you may wish to reconsider your plans. Noise in the Philippines is never far away. Some of it is annoying, some pleasant and some is actually soothing – well to me anyway!

Here are some points to think about.

The Neighbourhood

If like most expats you decide to rent when you first arrive then check out the neighbourhood. It is likely to be in a sub division. Do your sleuthing in the evening hours when you may be thinking of getting some shut eye. Do your neighbours have dogs? Do they bark and yap excessively? Are there stray dogs that set off the other dogs in a barking frenzy?

Are there roosters? Now roosters I can tolerate. The funny thing is that their ‘cock a doodle doing’ has never bothered me. I don’t know why.

Is there a potential neighbour who likes to fix his car early in the morning? – gunning the engine and playing loud music through open car windows while he works?

It isn’t just Filipino neighbours that can be the source of unwanted noise. I have a Norwegian neighbour. He is a nice guy. I have to say that as he is about 6’7” and 100 kilos. And a former member of the Norwegian Special Forces! No, seriously, he is a nice guy.

I hope he does not read the next bit! He likes his beer and some days he does drink a fair few Red Horse. That is when he gets noisy! His music and his voice become louder. Thankfully I like his taste in music. I am also thankful that he turns in at a reasonable hour.

You may end up with a neighbour who has a home videoke machine. You can look forward to awful tuneless renditions of Frank Sinatra or even Beyoncé.

Check it all out carefully before you sign that lease agreement. Check it out even more so when and if you decide to buy your own home.


Every barangay throughout the country holds a fiesta. They usually last several days. Often a centre stage with a sound system is the focal point. So far so good – what’s the problem?

The problem is that the music often goes on until 4 or 5 in the morning often resuming at 10 am. The decibel levels are off the scale. The bass from the array of speakers makes all the buildings shake within about 150 metres radius. It is as if an earthquake had struck.

My partner and I were living in Villamonte, Bacolod during the last fiesta. Our apartment was just above the centre stage. The noise became so unbearable I checked us in to a down town hotel for two nights until it was all over!

The Roads

Busy areas with a lot of traffic can be very noisy. Honking of horns is a way of life here. Most of the time it is no big deal but when traffic is heavy it can become wearisome. In fact it can become intolerable in certain places. I have in mind outside of SM City in Bacolod.

SM City is a very large mall. The front of it has an area for jeepneys. Jeepney drivers are fond of honking the horn. I no longer sit outside SM City with a coffee as I find the constant honking bothers me too much. I now prefer to take my coffee at one of the coffee shops at the rear of Robinsons Mall, or Cafe Bob’s on Lacson. At least there I can hear myself think!

There are a lot of motorcycles here. Most are 125 cc and under. However many Filipinos like to give the impression that they are riding a Moto GP racing bike. They remove the baffles from the muffler in order to increase the noise levels to that of unacceptable.

Whistles are another common source of noise. Traffic enforcers and security guards will use the whistle to catch the attention of drivers. The shrillness of the whistle splits the air around you.

Fortunately here in Bacolod, we do not have the same problem as say in the UK , with youngsters driving about with beat boxes and powerful amplifiers stowed away in their “rides”. Yes they do exist but not in the same quantities as you see and hear in London.

Filipinos, Family and Fun

They do not need much of an excuse to party. Whether it’s a gathering of friends or family, and Filipino families tend to be large and very extended, then they will often all talk simultaneously or try to outdo each other in volume to hold the center of attention. The babble of noise can be intense.

It is the same on entering the shopping mall. The ears are greeted with the sounds of hundreds of people excitedly babbling and laughing. They are happy people whether merely window shopping or there to eat and have coffee or halo halo.

The Soothing Noises

I love these sounds –

- Rain clattering on the tin roof
- Waves at the beach
- The happy voices of my Filipino family
- Laughter from my young boys
- “Good afternoon sir” “good afternoon ma’am” as you enter a restaurant
- The lilting accent of the local people
- The sound of mass being said as it drifts through the air in my direction from the loudspeakers in the local church
- Street sellers advertising their wares whether fish, crabs or maybe balut – “Balut” Balut” he cries as he pedals his cycle
- The bell that lets you know the ‘dirty’ ice cream man is in the neighbourhood
- The sound of crickets
- The frogs’ chorus after a thunderstorm
- The sound a gecko makes – “GECK-O”

And finally and most importantly, the sound of the electric fan as I doze off at night.

It is a white noise and drowns out any of the objectionable noises!

I love Bacolod! I love the Philippines!


Expatriates, Fiesta, Noise, Philippines, Retirement, Retiring Overseas

Meet the author

author avatar Stephen Bentley
A former barrister, police officer, sales manager, truck driver and motorcycle courier from the UK but now retired and writing in the Philippines. Much of my writing will focus on the Philippines.

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author avatar Sivaramakrishnan A
12th Aug 2015 (#)

Interesting share, Filipinos are friendly and yes boisterous when happy! There is another type of unwelcome sound - that of approaching typhoon! siva

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author avatar Stephen Bentley
13th Aug 2015 (#)

Thank you Siva. Fortunately here in Bacolod, Western Visayas, we have to date not had the terrible typhoon disasters as experienced by others such as in Leyte (Yolanda). I am thankful for that!

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author avatar Nancy Czerwinski
12th Aug 2015 (#)

Thanks for sharing your article. I found it very interesting.

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author avatar Stephen Bentley
13th Aug 2015 (#)

Nancy - thank you. If it was interesting then that makes me happy!

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