Being Tall in a World of Small

As a girl from a family of long-legged folks, I’ve often felt too tall or big for many regular situations in life. My knees find the back of plane and bus seats easier than others, my toes dangle off the ends of beds, and I can’t wear heels without feeling like a giant dangerously close to stomping on the smallfolk that I love. And then, I moved to the Philippines—the second shortest nation in Asia—and my fears of giantdom came true…

pinoy height

The height of the average Filipino adult male is a 5’3.7” whereas the average Filipino adult female is 4’11”. I happen to be just shy of 5’9” (the average height of an adult American males – females average 5’4”) and in the Philippines, well, that makes me really rather tall. On a daily basis there is a lot of folding, bending, tucking, squishing and squeezing as I maneuver my way through life in the ‘Pines. Trikes and jeepneys were not made for people like me, I’ve mastered the awkward duck squat walk through the aisle of a crowded jeepney, a skill worthy almost worthy of a resume, I would say. And in the past 8 months I’ve banged my head more times than my 26 years prior – doors, fences, gates, awnings, umbrellas often only go as high as my nose. Nor can I remember the last time I’ve seen above my chin in a mirror! Often when I meet new people, on top of being asked about my family, my age, my job, my religion and if I’m married, I’m asked how tall I am. And sometimes people just shout at me ‘taas, taas’ – tall, tall – and I think to myself, yeah, I am! But instead of seeing my height as a nuisance, for once, I am quite enjoying the novelty of my height.


My site mate and I at Sinulog festival – a head above the rest.

My work mates chuckled and screamed with glee the first time I turned the air conditioner off at the end of the day: I’m the only one in the office who doesn’t need to stand on a chair to do so. The fishermen are always impressed that I don’t need a hand stepping up onto the boats from the shore or making a leap to the dock when we land (don’t worry, folks, it’s a small leap). And I enjoy helping strangers on buses put their bags on overhead luggage racks or helping shop keepers reach merchandise from higher shelves. I’ve never been in a position where the mere centimeters of my body have been of use to anyone, or of particular amusement, and yet here I am, relishing in the length of myself. So despite all the squeezing, squishing, tucking, bending and folding; the cramped legs; the Charley horses and numb butt cheeks; I owe it to the Philippines, for teaching me to love a part of myself – a big part of myself – just a little bit more.

Anyway, that’s it for today. Thanks as always for reading and come fold yourself into my world sometime,



My lovely host family from training, just for a bit of comparison!


9 thoughts on “Being Tall in a World of Small

  1. I *know* how you feel. I’m tall for a Filipino woman – 5’7″ – and sometimes it seems like I don’t fit in, literally and figuratively! But like you said, there’s a lot to love about being tall, so I decided a long time ago to quit feeling bad about my height and just enjoy the advantages it gives me 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ha! Thanks for sharing, there are occasionally tall Filipinos/as around and I feel like we have a silent understanding of how hard it is to travel around here 😀


  2. well in your case it is normal that you’re tall since you are foreigner.but how about a filipina standing 5’10..gosh feels likes im not belong here..nevertheless..thats how odd life is..hehe


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