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Noise in the Philippines

In America and I would guess in most Western countries we enjoy silence to relax and try to keep our noise levels low to respect our neighbors.

Here there is a lot of noise from many different areas. There are the motorcycles especially the ones in the Tricycles. The Tricycles use small 110 CC to 125 CC motors and you hear the loud strain of the motors as they pull the vehicle full of passengers and going up hill. Then there are the cars and trucks honking horns all the time. Many vehicles have different types of horns and even use what we would think of car alarm sounds instead of normal horns. Other vehicle traffic noise is vehicles bumping into pot holes in the road.

I unfortunately live on a main road, and one of the few roads that connect the 2 sides of the area of town. So many trucks, cars and emergency vehicles use this road to get to town or the airport. With this we get a lot of traffic at all hours.

Then there is music. Filipinos love music and love it loud. Cars, Jeepneys and even a bom box on a bicycle is used to share their music preferences where ever they go.

In the homes, TV’s, stereos, karaoke singers can be heard for blocks. Here most love music and love to sing. It is not like in the States where people at karaoke bars sound like professional singers. Here everyone loves to sing, even if they cannot sing on key.

Then there is the Filipino way of calling attention, it is a mixture of a kissing sound to the sound you make like a S with forced air. Whistling is not used much except the old style plastic whistle used by jeepney hawkers and traffic officers.

Then there is Filipino conversation. It is difficult to understand the local language and to a western ear it sounds rough. Then Filipinos talk in what sounds like their in an argument. They talk loudly. I know I will be told to learn the language and someday I hope to do that. Right now I am trying to add a new word or 2 a week and try to use them as often as I am able.

It does not matter what time of the day, if someone is awake and they want to sing or watch TV, they will. They do not think neighbors are sleeping.

If your a light sleeper or enjoy more quiet peace I would recommend living in a gated sub-division. There they do not allow tricycles and there are home owner associations to talk to with complaints.

45 Responses to “Noise in the Philippines”

  1. This is a problem for me. It seems I will never get used to the noise. I live in near the most trafficed street here in my town, but my apartment is quite sound proof. It is built to be able to deal with the noise.

    It is not new to me, and I find most of Asia noisy. It is well worth to mention this, especially to people who are planning to move to the Philippines. Important subject!

    • Bruce says:

      I have always been a private person and a light sleeper. When ever I rented an apartment I would get one on the top floor so I would not hear foot steps from above. I am amazed now, sounds inside the house will wake me but I can turn off outside noise when I sleep. The only proble is watching TV and missing dialog when a noisy tricycle goes by.

  2. Mindanao Bob says:

    I used to live in a gated subdivision. It was not so quiet there either, often very loud. Sure, you could complain if you wanted to. Nothing would be done, though. It’s just part of living in the Philippines.

    • Bruce says:

      Point taken. neighbors is a hard thing to control unless you reach a mutual understanding and friendship. But at least you do not get the tricycles and traffic noise in a subdivision.

  3. mahreez says:

    well i suggest that you go to a quieter village, not the usual areas if you’re not used to all this “noise”

    actually, our area is laguna is a whole lot more peaceful in some areas and i’ve noticed the difference in culture as well. there are some places where their houses our open to the neighbors, and so they tend to gossip more, be a bit noisier.

    but there are exclusive villages as well where they don’t know each other.

    just because you’ve seen one part, doesn’t generally speak of the whole nation. 🙂

  4. ExpatBrazil says:

    Same here in Brazil. Interestingly, in the southern part of the country where it does get cold (cool?) occasionally and more European culturally, it is less noisy. In tropical countries seems the noise comes with the Sun. Friday and Saturday nights can be rough…goes all night. I love the garbage truck…the loudest in South America? ….Sure sounds like it at 2:00 a.m.


  5. *lynne* says:

    Hey Bruce,

    Reading “… Then there is the Filipino way of calling attention, it is a mixture of a kissing sound to the sound you make like a S with forced air…” … I can’t quite imagine the sound as you describe it, but I bet it’s irritatingly similar to what is translated to “making the sound like a mouse” in Malaysia… among other things, it’s the Malaysia cat-call, and omg does it irritate the heck out of me! I hate the sound, and the context in which it’s usually used! :p

    About noise in general: I guess I’m used to a relatively high level of background noise myself, having grown up in Kuala Lumpur, and now in Chicago we’re living in the West Loop area, right next to a hospital and a main thoroughfare, so ambulance, police and fire sirens go off at all hours of the day and night! In fact, when visiting my in-laws a few hours out of Chicago, or my relatives in Switzerland, the silence is sometimes deafening!! LoL!! 😀

    • Bruce says:

      I have heard of people who have lived in a noisy area, being somewhere quiet drives them just as crazy. I have gotten used to it somewhat, but thought it was good information to pass along.

    • Billy Escobar says:

      Hey Lynne,

      Good to see another person from Chicago on here. I agree living in any City or Metropolitan area is definitely not an ideal situation for light sleepers. I’ve lived in both suburban and urban areas and I welcome the noise most of the times. I’ve lived in all areas of Chicago but probably the noisiest was when I lived in Chinatown. It didn’t help that Garbage trucks would pass by my window early in the morning or the fact that people tended to have nightly get togethers only 15 feet away from my window.
      Nothing like booming 808 bass and drunk people to keep you from a good nights sleep.
      Bruce my suggestion is get some noise canceling headphones or ear plugs. Its a temporary solution.

      • Bruce says:

        Our house is not to bad with noise in the bedroom, except my snoring. The bad part is the lack of ventilation. Only window to an atrium.
        Next home, I hope will be in better location and better style, but time and money will tell.

        Did you ever live next to the elevated trains? That would be noisy.

  6. julieanne says:

    hi bruce

    Its the same here in our place very noisy .Sometimes early in the morning around 6am neighbor turn on their karaoke machine play some rock music…It really makes me mad because i was awake…This the most common problem here in our place the karaoke machines or videoke machine…Thats why i am planning now to talk with our barangay officials here or i will make signature campaign that there is a schedule time of playing karaoke.

    anyway nice to meet you with elena last week….


    • Bruce says:

      Elena and I both enjoyed meeting you and hopefully the 4 of us (your friend included) can get together for some more social times.
      About the noise, what about the Mayors ordinance about karaoke or videoke in residential areas?

      • julieanne says:


        yes it is residential area…thats why i make argument with our neighbor here i told them its not commercial..If they will not make any action i will call 911 to pick up their karaoke machine..hehehe so far its getting good they control the volume of their machine.

  7. Erick says:

    Hey, Bruce First I would like to welcome you here in Philippines
    Thats very true of what you are saying, I lived in State for 7 years and its very different compare here in the Philippines in the state if your noise is a little bit loud expect a police car that will pull in your front door. But here in the Philippines you can shout your heart out as long as you have the guts to do it though hahaha I enjoy reading your blog thanks

    • Bruce says:

      Thank you for visiting, commenting and enjoying my site.
      Yes I remember in the USA how there was laws about “disturbing the peace”
      A police car will arrive to tell the offending home to lower the noise. It does not work here because there is not many police and not many cars. Also I think the police, if they come, will want to sing too.

  8. wildcat75 says:

    Hi! Bruce,
    Yeah, noise in PI is part of filipino culture and when you’re not used to live in such a place sometimes it’s really frustrating and annnoying i’m pinay and worked in HK for almost half of my life and get used to a very peaceful place so when i take my home leave in the Phils i told my family members to try to minimized their noise and they’re not so happy when i’m home coz they can’t watch tv or hear music, heheheh!! my niece and my nephews complained

    • Bruce says:

      Thanks for visiting and commenting. As I tried to express was how there is noise here. In a lot of was I have gotten used to it and also made my family realize the noise level. One thing I do not like is when watching the news about something I am interested in and a tricycle goes zooming by and drowns out the sound.

  9. louandallen says:

    Hi Bruce, I feel pity for you. I know how you felt. Since you can’t escape that dilemma. Why not make your room sound proof. That way you can have your peace out there. Only your room he he he coz the noise is incurable ha ha ha

  10. Alan says:

    Noise pollution is a problem in this part of the world for sure ( at least for expats ) 🙂 I am technically about half deaf so you would think it would not bother me as much but in reality it does .

    Biggest issue i have is when several people are talking at the same time as my hearing can often not sort out the individual voice and to me it just sounds like , well ” noise ” . 🙂

    • Bruce says:

      I know what you mean, when a lot of people here are talking in bisaya it gets confusing when you try to listen to see if you understand a word. Then when they speak English, many speak more quietly because of the shyness of not being understood.

  11. Really one of the things you have to get used to in PI – noise.. The first time I brought along my husband to meet my family, he thought we were having arguments, but then we were just talking. Filipino dialects does seems rough and loud, and 🙂 we do have a weird way of talking like the other is several meters away, you’d think everyone is half-deaf.

    I feel right at home here in Phnom Penh coz of the noise and it could get even worse when they have weddings and parties, Cambodians usually put up tents on the streets, eat and party with music full blast for 24-48 hours straight.

    • Bruce says:

      I agree, when my nieces and wife are talking I think World War 3 started. Same as here, weddings and funerals are a scial event that never ends.

  12. Steve Baker says:

    I was in Davao a year ago to visit my wifes family. They live in a rather nice home in a very poor barrio. The noise factor included dogs, chickens, loud conversations (I thought they were arguing too!) karaoke and large groups of “family” coming to see the American. We had some parties and generally a great time. I slept with Aircon each night so noise was not a big factor (except the nights the karaoke lasted till 2am). The only exception was the Muslim call to prayer or “Ali-hollerin'” as I called it in the dessert during the Gulf War. I used it as an alarm clock to wake me and it is really quite beautiful to listen to. So, no problems for me. More noise than I’m accustom to, but I’ll adjust.

    • Bruce says:

      It does take some getting used too, especially the chickens and the karaoke.
      The loud talking without understanding can cause headaches so bring lots of Tylenol.

  13. bingkee says:

    Well,that you really have to live with because you can’t do anything about it. I used to live in New York City, although it’s as noisy as the Philippine urban cities like Davao (where I am from), I got by with it because I’m used to it. Although the trains are a little too much to bear, I prefer noise rather than silence. Living here in the suburbs of Connecticut really freaks me out at night—the silence is deafening. I have a similar post that you may find related to this post;
    I’d rather live with noise in my home country.

  14. bingkee says:

    I know…I am also…I gripe , yet I inform. It does not mean when you’re complaining, it’s negative. People are always likely to feel something negative about things they are uncomfortable with , things they find horrible and appalling and things that they are not used to. That’s why my blog evolved.
    All I am saying is “live with it” because that’s your home now just what I do here coz this is my home now.

  15. Al says:

    When I moved in here about 5 years ago I was like “wow, unbeliveable noise”, however, now I’ve adjusted to it and sometimes I keep the balcony door open and man I sleep so good with lots of dreams and the kind of sleep you wake up so rest and energetic 🙂 But it depends on my moods though, sometimes I need “recording studio” type of quiet and I’ve got a pair of noice cancelling headphones and “soundproofed” my windows (as much as you can do on their typical metal frame). I am ok with the noise as long as I know I can put a temporary stop to it which I currently can so it works.

    • Bruce says:

      Where I live, there are three main roads to get from the main airport and trucking road to the other side of town. I am on one of those roads. We get the trucks, buses, ambulances and fire engines at all hours. I would love for some peace and quiet.

  16. ian says:

    Bruce- if you really want some peace with a gentle breeze blowing over you come to Royal Pines tomorrow for coffee! lol

  17. Joseph says:

    I am a Filipino and I don’t like noise. I love silence so much coz it makes me feel good and helps me think better.

    I am already fed up with all the noise my fellow Filipinos are making. I wish that my government would do something to control noise in my homeland.

  18. Joseph says:

    For most of the Filipinos, this is not a Problem. They are not aware of the negative effects of noise on their health.

    I hope you can help me bring this problem to the consciousness of my Filipino leaders.

  19. lilian says:

    hello.. im from Samal Island and connected with the city government here..i was tasked to draft an Implementing Rules and Regulations on the City Ordinance on regulation of operation of videoke/karaoke machine..while researching, i come out with this article.. OMG! lots of u specially foreigners really got irritated by the noise of these machines..all i can say guys, its just a matter of adjusting and adopting the filipino cultures..its a way of life here..want to meet u guys and maybe u can drop by at the city hall and lets have coffee in one of the resorts here and maybe a good conversation about our views and observations of these machine til wee hours as our topic!
    god bless everybody

  20. luvimin says:

    ms lilian pls help us to find a way to have a copy of ordinance regarding loud music that came from videoke machine..i want to have a copy of davao city ordinance for nuissance to help us from hell…bcause i want to file a complain to the owner of the vikeobar that operating in front of my house in a residence area..pls give me some advice if operating their business here is right? pls help us..they operate until 2am in the morning sometimes music is not loud but customer that singing was shouting too loud…i think they dont have any permit from the mayors office to operate..and also their GRO dont have any working health permit.,pls help us..thanks..

  21. george thomson says:

    Well I have the same problem… I have gone to barnagay capt twice… Like you say for 2 or 3 days they shut down then right back at it again… I went to police next same results… Talk to someone else and they suggested I go to the mayor… Thats my next try…. I dont know about your town… I live in Dapitan city and the police are cracking down on the imported loud muffers and doing a great job of getting them off the roads… Think the new president may have a hand in stopping them hope the karakoe is on his list of things to put a stop too…

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