Monday, November 10, 2008


I live in what-could-be one of the nosiest neighborhoods in the Philippines. For the most part, the street in front of our house is to be blamed. Jeepneys and tricycles varoom and honk any time of the day, regardless if a resident in one of the houses they pass by is in badly need of peace and quiet. Then at night, heartless motorbike riders go speed-happy and rip the street with their machine’s thunder, a sound which I absolutely hate. Our wooden walls and jalousie windows do so little in insulating our home from unwanted noise. I can only thank God that I only have to deal with a one-way street; otherwise I’d be living in worse auditory hell.

A house or two away from us is a chapel with a sound system which produces excellently amplified sounds. So every time they hold a mass, we don’t have to step outside to hear the priest’s sermon. We just have to sit on the couch and listen. We can actually do away with Sunday TV mass if only there’s a Eucharistic celebration here every Sunday.

I have no problem with Church songs—I honestly like them. I sometimes catch myself unconsciously singing along with the churchgoers. The problem is when a musically challenged priest starts desecrating the notes. Suddenly the songs turn into noise.

I sometimes think that it is not all right for the chapel people to extend the sound they make way beyond the confines of their walls because, they will be risking bothering non-Catholics, let alone non-Christians, living nearby. I mean, hey, I’m just trying to think objectively. What we think of as holy will be rubbish to non-believers so we should spare them.

At the other direction, probably two to three houses away from us, is a videoke bar which stays open, I think, until 11pm, if not later. Their speakers are not as powerful as the chapel but the sound they make is more than felt. At one point I got sick of the most sang song in their playlist, Ella Mae Saison’s “Til My Heart Aches End.” I was tempted to get myself some earplugs. Now don’t get me started on the singing voice or lack thereof of their frustrated customers. I choose to ignore that.

Of course this piece would not be complete if I don’t mention the neighbors from hell who live in a flowery our-o-centric universe. They make noise day and night, night and day; and they don’t care if they bother the neighbors, as if the universe only revolved around them. You will cease to think that children make the sweetest noise when you hear “their” children wailing for hours. Sometimes, I can only mutter, “there goes the demon child again!” (After which I imagine the kid being exorcized.) When the children are not crying they make too much noise just by being excited and all which I can bear—to a certain extend, especially if nothing good is on TV.

The unforgivable part is the adults making the noise. A woman, who, I think, looks after the children, aggravates the kids’ noise by yelling at the kids which irritates me more than the “demon” children going nuts. (I don’t know who the woman is exactly because I rarely go outside and I, more often than not, don’t stare at our neighbors.) The younger members of their household sometimes play songs a little too loudly. I can let it pass but then, the songs border on being OK to being too juvenile, I can only wonder how old they are. Other times, I’d hear loud thumps, cars careening, gun shots, etc. because apparently they are watching a movie and they like to let the whole world know about it.

Brighter side: there are no real guns to worry about. The neighbor with real guns already moved years ago. No kidding.

Going back to the neighbors from hell, who are guilty of keeping us up and then waking us at around 2AM a few months ago, they must have thought, “oh, we’re not noisy enough, let’s push the thing we do best to the limit!” They are now keeping chicks that tweet beyond anyone’s control. I fear the day when those chicks grow up to be chickens or rooster who’d cock and crow as crazily as their masters . Until then, God help me!

In 1999, Matthew McConaughey was charged with a US$50 fine for violating Austin, Texas’ noise ordinance when he got carried away playing his bongos naked inside his home at a little past midnight. If we have that same ordinance in our place, the neighbors from hell will surely be bankrupt by now. That’ll teach them a lesson.

I would hate to sound like the grumpy neighbor because I’m not. I keep quite for as long as I can. But the thing is, I can only tolerate so much. Actually the chicks are the last straw. I honestly don’t know what to do when they start waking me up even before my alarm clock goes off.

As it is, I am having a hard time focusing on things because of the noise around me. I can literally barely hear my thoughts with all the sounds I have strain on a daily basis. And I can see it affects my family, too. We always have to up our TV’s volume to 20 if the show’s good or 25-30 if the show’s truly interesting. We can barely hear each other. We either have to ask the one talking to repeat what he just said or just nod and act like we heard something. And we cannot hear our callers, too. Imagine that! (Or then again, there's a probability that all of us are going deaf.)

One time, I called a friend on the phone. I had to ask her to repeat what she was saying several times before I’d get her message. The jeepneys and tricycles have their way of varooming at the most inopportune time, thereby blocking what could have been an intelligible sound at the other end of the line. Finally my friend asked me where I was. I knew she thought I was in a payphone in a sari-sari store at some street corner; whereas I was seated all by myself inside a room of the house which can be found at what-may-be one of the noisiest neighborhood in the Philippines.


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