Sunday, January 20, 2008

Philippine Ergonomics (human scale)

When I first landed in the Philippines, my first experience with not quite fitting was walking down the sidewalk in Cebu City. There are many small stores with awnings and canopies. These often are no more than 5’ off the ground. If you are a 6’ tourist you have to watch your head, often these overhangs are made of sheet metal with sharp edges. It can be almost guaranteed, you will bang your head a few times before getting wise to the Lilliputian scale of the Philippines. Good advice is to wear a hat which will soften the first few blows to the forehead.

Filipinos have an average height of 5’ for women and 5’4” for men. In the provincial towns like Dumaguete, almost everything is influenced by this fact. When you hire a tricycle pedicab, the first thing you will realize is that there is not enough head room to sit straight, nor enough room for your legs. It is very much like getting on a kiddy ride at a carnival with your small children. Even the Ceres liners, which are large commercial busses, are cramped for the tall foreigner. The seats are close together with very little leg room for a tourist. Seats are three abreast on one side and two on the other. That’s one more person than on a western style bus. It’s a very good idea to get the aisle seat if you want to stretch your legs from time to time.

In some of the local Dumaguete malls even the stairs are downsized. It takes a little getting used to when you’re used to stepping on stairs with a larger spacing. The other contributing factor is that there is no standardization here. Handle heights, door openings, and stair spacing vary from building to building. The upshot is that one must always pay attention to the little things that are taken for granted in the west.

Another related phenomenon in Dumaguete is the sidewalks are not consistent in width or height. Often there are as much as a 12” drop off as you walk down the street! The widths can vary from 3’ to 1’, often with two levels side by side, very strange and haphazard for one used to consistency. There is no liability here, if you get hurt, it is your fault for not looking. No lawyers ready to take your case, you need to be responsible for your own safety.

The land of Liliput does indeed exist, while not as disparate an example as in the Jonathan Swift novel, there is a real difference in the overall scale of things in Dumaguete. Watch your head!


RTS said...

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grace said...

ha haha... don't forget, ur in an asian country... things are not built according to your race. anyhow, things like these could be compromised.