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CLAYGO where?

I was recently at my kids’ school to pick up some documents from the registrar and one thing I noticed were the numerous CLAYGO signs all over the campus, encouraging students to Clean As You GO.

It was interesting to see schools still trying to instill the habit of CLAYGO among our youth, especially when ironically, most Filipino adults simply aren’t into it, based on the behavior being displayed in fast food restaurants, food courts, groceries and most public places where we seem to be comfortable with just leaving our messes behind for someone else to clean up.

It would seem that despite the attempts of schools to form the habit, CLAYGO hasn’t caught on. If you come to think of it, it remains conspicuously absent in the country’s fast food joints and food courts, where most Filipino diners have historically demonstrated our chronic inability to clean up after ourselves.

It is difficult to imagine the uproar from Pinoy customers if fast food joints and food courts were to suddenly adopt a CLAYGO policy. Would the señoritos and señoritas of the country boycott the establishments? Would they just walk out and leave their trash behind? Would the establishments give in and rehire the service crew whose job it is to clean up after customers?

The lack of CLAYGO manners makes me wonder what came first: was it the lazy Filipino diner, or a food service industry that believes hiring extra service crew just for cleaning up is a solution for unemployment and also good for the economy?

Aside from being unable to practice CLAYGO whilst dining out, we also have the same spoiled attitude when grocery shopping. Our compatriots often leave items they took form the shelf but don’t intend to check out anywhere, expecting magical elves to return those items for them. Shopping carts are left willy-nilly on parking lots and sidewalks by shoppers who couldn’t be bothered to return it properly. We are so spoiled by service personnel hired by business establishments specifically to clean up after our messes that we have taken CLAYGO for granted and instead allowed our transformation into messy trolls.

I have noticed and commented on this ugly habit of ours already in the past, but it became even more noticeable again after experiencing life in a country where CLAYGO is actually part of their culture.

For reasons related to budgeting, most of the eating we did during our trip to Singapore was at hawker centers and food courts. In those places, cleaning up after yourself is expected and failing to do so can even be punishable by a fine.

Eating at a hawker center starts with leaving something, like a packet of tissues, to claim the table while you wander to order your meal. That packet of tissues is also used to give the table a quick wipe, because there was no professional help involved in cleaning the table. After the meal is done, the person/group/family is now expected to wipe their area clean and take their trays, crockery and cutlery to the tray return area or racks. As an added challenge, you also have to put your tray in the correct place, as there are halal and non-halal tray return areas. This is normal and expected from customers in hawker centers, food courts, and even fast food joints. The only place where you don’t clean up after yourself is in a full service restaurant, where the price of the meal is obviously less affordable.

Hawker centers have large common areas for diners but even without janitors or service crew, they are still generally clean because CLAYGO is already ingrained in their culture and lifestyle so everybody cooperates.

In the Philippines, CLAYGO is simply a concept being pushed by schools but not being practiced by adults and society in general. If you come to think of it, it’s just like academic excellence and integrity, which are values that we like to make the youth think is important, only for them to learn when they face the harsh realities in this country, that mediocrity is totally fine because what is important is having the right connections and are willing to bend your principles.

The same is true for CLAYGO, it’s basically unimportant because we spoil ourselves silly by surrounding ourselves with minimum wagers who will pick up the figurative and literal crap we inconsiderately leave behind: after eating, grocery shopping, or even when we shit in public restrooms.

Perhaps it is our inability to CLAYGO that dooms us to be a poor country for eternity. Filipinos need poor people who will deal with our shit for minimum wage, so we try to keep that part of society as poor as possible for as long as possible… because who would do that crap if they were to become educated and equip themselves with the necessary tools to rise out of poverty and not need to do what the rest of us should be doing ourselves.*

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December 2022
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