Signs as suggestions

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Friday, December 20, 2013

A NO is still a Yes for many Filipinos.

No smoking signs and smokers think anything of puffing a drag. It’s illegal to smoke in public buildings according to law. But even the male and female restrooms of the Hall of Justice have an ash-tray smell, indicating that people have been smoking there.

The sign “Bawal Mangihi Diri” on a wall has the most ammonia-like odor or urine-like, what Negrenses would call mapangsot.

Then there’s the sign in the newly-opened access road leading to the Silay-Bacolod Airport at the Circumferential Road. Last Saturday, we drove there, and saw a sign that says Trucks and Buses Take the Other Road. No Entry.

You bet, the new spanking road has de-kargas with overflowing sugarcane stalks all over. I counted eight. But I’m sure there are more of them in this season of joy but of the milling season.

Joseph Ma, a Hong Kong Chinese-American, implied that Filipinos think of signs not as rules but as mere suggestions.

I would like to tweak that statement. For many Filipinos, they think of signs as the license to do the exact opposite.

We even saw a de-karga cross a red traffic light. Red is Go, and Green is Stop?

To be fair to our law enforcement agencies though, traffic officers flagged down violators last Monday.

That’s for one day, though. Our drivers like to a play a cat-and-mouse game. When the cat’s out, the mice like to play. Like the seat belt and crash helmet laws, drivers obey the rules when traffic officers are visible and doing their job.

Maybe, that’s the problem. Filipinos put on their best behavior when the cat is around. We put on our best behavior when someone is watching us. In my experience with smoking in jeepneys, I make it a point to watch out for smokers. It makes my day to point at the signs that says “No Smoking.” I gave them the look like I mean it.

I like to see these violators squirm, telling them that they will be fined for violating Sections 5 and 6 of Republic Act No. 9211, ranging from P500 to P1,000.

What makes Filipinos think of signages not as rules or law, but as suggestions?

For one, most of the signs are in English. I doubt the de-karga drivers would understand the language.

For another, the absence of big brothers and sisters watching over the population is the time to do things as they please, not bound by rules. If the cat is out, or they ignore the mice, you can bet your boots the rodents will certainly play.

Then, the warning signs fail to tell the consequences. None of these signs say that violators caught will have to pay the appropriate fine.

I told a smoker inside the men’s restroom that if I can take a picture of him smoking, I will file a complaint, and he has to pay the fine. His reply: if I can prove my case. Forthwith, he stopped smoking.

Good enough. I dared the violator to make my day and flout his cigarette smoking. Instead, he stopped smoking and obeyed the rules.


Published in the Sun.Star Bacolod newspaper on December 20, 2013.


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