Texting at every turn.
Load Na Dito!, a phrase that is screaming from and printed on small and big colourful banners that are posted on almost every Sari-Sari store and other outlets in town. Signs that are advertising exclusive offers for various telephone providers, trying to convince potential customers to load up their pre-paid cell-phones at that particular spot. These many loading stations are selling mobile loads or e-loads like any kind of popular street food, there is no shortage in clientele because plenty of users are carrying their handy gadgets with them at all times. With about 71 million cell phone owners that are sending more than an estimated 200 million text messages a day, more frequently than the annual average of any other country in the world, it is not hard to understand that the Philippines is generally known as the text capital the wireless world.
To send their personal bits and bytes, Filipinos from all walks of life and age are using old phones, new phones, smartphones, iPhones, iPods and, iPads in various colours, shapes and sizes at work, at the beach, in schools, buses, tricycles and Jeepneys, when they shop, drink, drive, walk, talk, meet, eat, watch TV, and in some cases when they sleep. The distinctive sound of a great variety of ring tones is quite common on the streets, in churches, government buildings, restaurants, shopping malls and hotel lobbies. This ubiquitous gimmick seems to be a virtual life line, to avoid any miss calls handsets are carried in belly-, hip- and shoulder-holsters belt- and neck pouches, in pockets, in bags, purses and mini carriers, but many still prefer to hold their dearest accessory in their bare hands, in this way it is easy to reach and a reply can be given straight away. In fact, many are using their cellular contraption almost exclusively for texting, this is usually cheaper than making a voice call and is an effective way of reducing the amount of the monthly cell-phone check. Texting is a perfect way of getting the message through without being overheard by others or any other kind of interference and a very discreet manner of exchanging information. It is really amazing to see that one is being able to create a complete message with 26 characters, including the necessary punctuation with only 10 tiny buttons in a very short time. Typing very skilfully, with rapid-fire key punches using both left and right thumbs, without even looking at the display and keyboard or walking and texting at the same time with the head bowed and not paying any attention what so ever to their immediate surroundings, no matter how crowded that is.
For Filipinos a cell phone is much more than a simple communication device to contact others who are not within talking and touching distance. Many proud owners are personalizing their wireless widget, pimping it with all kind of accessories, like showy covers, decorative add-ons, fancy straps and other dangly things, emphasizing their own preferences and personality. They always try to keep up with the latest fashion and will not think twice to show off their latest purchase in the middle of a crowd when a message is received. People’s first impressions about a person are often based on the kind of cell phone one caries, the person who gets the most messages is the most popular and the latest type from an expensive and trendy brand can bring more benefits in several ways. Especially young people apparently need some grounding in every day’s hustle and bustle; their man made messenger can provide some feeling of security, allowing “anywhere-anytime-for-whatever-reason” access to their close contacts. Many youngsters think they are presenting a more authentic self when they hide behind their addictive appliance, for them it is a step towards independence, a sign of growing up and a status symbol among their friends. Cell phone users in the Philippines have developed their own subculture, etiquette and language for sending their mobile tidings, the vocabulary used is a kind a mixture of English and Tagalog with a unique, abbreviated spelling and creative grammar. Using the same texting slang does create a sense of belonging within a certain group and binds individuals together, regardless their social and financial status. With the latest technology Filipinos are turning their inseparable ringing and trembling toy into an electronic billfold, enabling mobility and conducting their business on the go. Simply by texting, their indispensable icon can be used for paying bills, purchasing goods, services and even to receive their salary.
Text messaging is nowadays hard-wired into the Filipino culture and a common part of daily life; it is most of all an inexpensive and favourite way to keep in touch with family and friends at home and abroad. Despite the soaring bills, swollen thumbs and strain injuries many text happy Filipinos have a long-lasting love affair with their precious portable paraphernalia. Physically and emotionally, they can’t and never will let go of it, wherever they may be or whatever they might do, this digital doodad is always at their side and has become one of the most important items in their life.