08 Jul2007

Pulis Oyster ?!?

by Marketman

Anyone driving around the metropolis must have noticed this incredibly large “army” of dark blue shirted street cleaners with a big “PULIS OYSTER” printed on their shirts. For weeks I have wondered what the heck “PULIS OYSTER” meant. I even wondered if it was related to say a rotting oyster which has a foul smell. Not confident with my Tagalog skills and worse, Pinoy slang words (I use as an excuse that I was born in the Republic of Cebu), I figured I would ask around. After asking at least 6 different people, all of whom shrugged and said “ehwan…?” (no idea) or if you asked a transplanted Visayan the same thing, they answered “ambot…ah?!” (haven’t the foggiest clue), I started to get really perturbed. I would wager a plate of raw oysters that at least 30% of the people wearing the shirts have no idea what it stands for either. And worse, it seems they are multiplying like rabbits…pulis oysters here, pulis oysters there, pulis oysters everywhere…and no one I knew or asked seemed to bloody know what it stood for! I concluded that this must be the turn of the century equivalent to Imelda Marcos Metro-Aides in yellow long sleeve shirts from the 1970’s, but what the heck is Pulis Oyster (notice there are no more yellow shirted Aides…)?

Duhh, Marketman…just google it, ding dong. Pulis OYSTER – stands for Out of School Youth Serving Toward Economic Recovery. Egads!!!!! Doesn’t that just want to make you tear your kili-kili (armpit) hairs out one by one with excitement?!? Am I just in a foul mood? Hahaha. Actually, I am totally amused and outraged at the same time. A little more googling suggests the name was first linked to a bunch of youths in Manila that were deployed by a Police Chief to clean up the mess after New Years revelry on January 1, 2006. Wow, that was rather smart and useful, if you ask me (and I am serious). But then some brilliant mind decided to lift the idea, splatter it all over thousands of shirts, and deploy an entire army of street cleaners in Metro Manila under this moniker, acronym, catchy, bizarre phrase.

First of all, how the heck can out of school youth cleaning up trash be serving towards economic recovery??? Shouldn’t they simply go back to school? And what, pray tell, will the contribution to GDP be by sweeping up muck? Are they paid for their services? So this is merely an employment creation plan? Do they get paid enough to pay taxes that will help reduce our deficit? Do you see where I am going with this? But step away from that and take a good look at the “Oysters” running around Makati, or Mandaluyong, or elsewhere in the metropolis… most of them have wrinkles, for goodness sakes!!! Forgive me for being irreverent, but these are not spring chickens for the most part… Their average age appears to be 40 or 50 years old? When did they leave school, in 1980?!? Good Grief, if we are going to use a catchy ACRONYM, at least make it more accurate. Pulis OWOFONE – Out of Work Older Folks Needing Employment, or Pulis MONUMACS – Moronic Numbnuts Making up Acronyms, or Pulis ADOBO – Ay, Dehins Overtime, iBoto Opposition, or Pulis BASURA – Bigyan mo Ako Sueldo, Uunlad Rin Ako…

Frankly, the timing of all this, prior to elections is questionable in and of itself. Add that to the highly visible highway cleaners across the ENTIRE archipelago from Bohol to Cebu to Bicol to Palawan to Pagudpud with shirts as well and a sign everywhere they move, that announces the highway cleaning program is a pet project of the government… But what really riles me is that it does not, in many ways pay any REAL RESPECT to the folks who are doing the job. And they have a BIG JOB to do because the rest of us seem to consider litering a national sport. Why call them Oysters when they are not? Why make up fancy ACRONYMS to describe a straightforward job. Oddly, I have to agree with Imelda more on this, Metro-Aides were a far more accurate and honorable name; and yellow a cooler color (literally) and a bigger deterrent to running someone over rather than the dark blue shirts de rigeur today. Ah, but I digress…. back to food programming. Now don’t get me started on the “Metro Gwapo” phrase sweeping the city, or pink toilets…

If I were benevolent dictator, I would go further and simply make anyone who litters out of their bus or car window or as a pedestrian, serve 10 days on EDSA sweeping in their underwear… Maybe then we would have NO MORE need for paid Pulis Oysters… Oh, and I have one more brilliant idea, maybe we should get corporate sponsorships from Nivea whitening cream, or those Pond’s products constantly on t.v.; this should be a great group of subjects to see if the whitening creams do indeed work… tsk, tsk, I jest of course… remember, retain your sense of humor on this post… do not get hot and bothered on a Sunday… Marketman is only being half serious!

If you are abroad or in the provinces and haven’t spotted a Pulis Oyster, here is a photo at the MAC USERS GROUP of the Philippines, and if you want to see the original deployment reported in the press, see this link. I would be amused what brilliant acronyms Marketmanila readers can come up with, please leave a comment. I am throwing down the gauntlet for lee, from Bacolod, who always has good one liners… :)



  1. Apicio says:

    For a moment there I thought you were leading a post on the jewel of a delicacy served in the Canadian West called prairie oysters. Famously served too in Spain as criadillas de toro, usually in the vicinities and aftermaths of corridas.

    Your comment about their inapposite age reminded me of an article I read in Time magazine once under the heading The Philipppine Dream Team. Apparently Japanese immigration officials were alerted by the apparent maturity of the members of what was supposed to be a youth ball team entering Japan for some athletic meet being held there. Turned out they were just trying to get in to work illegally.

    Jul 8, 2007 | 10:35 am


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  3. wil-b cariaga says:

    Hilarious. . . haha!

    Jul 8, 2007 | 10:54 am

  4. Marketman says:

    Apicio, if I am not mistaken, I think we even had members of a National Little League baseball finalist team sent to the U.S. stripped of its title or DISQUALIFIED as many members were already shaving and had body hair… perhaps 5-8 years OVER the age limit! :) wil-b, tell me, are the Maldives worth the money for a tourist visiting? I am curious what you think… I also want to find out more about the Seychelles as well…

    Jul 8, 2007 | 11:01 am

  5. TOPING says:

    Malapit na po kasi ang eleksyon… ;-0 Visit your city/municipal hall or provincial capitol and you’re apt to see queues of employment hopefuls trying to cash in on their political affiliation. Guess where most of them end up…

    Jul 8, 2007 | 11:33 am

  6. jb says:

    This post was so hilarious. I agree on all counts – dark blue is dangerous for people working on busy streets and Pulis OYSTER is just straight up WEIRD. One thing that always rubbed me the wrong way in the Philippines was how public figures would always plaster their names everywhere ‘A project of blah blah blah.’ I dunno why… something about it made me feel like it was more self-promotion than public service.

    Jul 8, 2007 | 1:19 pm

  7. RobKSA says:

    So that’s what Pulis Oyster means. During my repat last month in the Philippines, I thought they were police trainees and for a while I was thinking that they are too young for their ages (as I actually saw a bunch of very young oysters and not old oysters :)) We can name them Pulis Kamatis (Kaming mga matiisin.)or something like that.

    Jul 8, 2007 | 2:12 pm

  8. bernadette says:

    I was once involved with the DECS (Department of Education) at a time when its secretary (thank God I forgot his name!) was so engorssed in making up acronyms for all the department’s projects. I felt so squeamish and would roll up my eyes everytime I enter a conference hall or gym in the provinces with a banner screaming the acronym of the DECS program. It was just so funny bordering on screamingly st—d! But I usually console myself with the thought that some business was granted to a printing shop. As to throwing garbage—*^%$#! my husband and I had to take some photo shoot (compile it even into a neat report) just to prove to the mayor that the boondocks are littered with snack wrappers as well as pampers! And it even made one of our foreign guest to say he tried picking up some on his way to the beach…but they were too much :-(.

    Jul 8, 2007 | 2:17 pm

  9. Marketman says:

    What about initials on everything in a municipality so that there is no chance of your forgetting the initials of the incumbent mayor? Think JB on all those horrific lightpost in Bicutan for Jun Bernabe, or the B blatantly on lamposts bus stops in Makati for Binay or “Forward Taguig” all over Fort Bonifacio for Freddie Tinga? Frankly, I think that is a bit much… but then again, I am not into politics…

    Jul 8, 2007 | 2:31 pm

  10. kulasa says:

    Ha ha ha. I’ve seen them dancing in on of those TV shows and wondered what Oyster meant. Boy, I really find out a lot of stuff from you MM.

    Kaya lang bakit English, dapat makabayan – PULIS TALABA.
    Talaba as in – Tao At Lipunan Ating Bantayan Araw-araw?

    Jul 8, 2007 | 4:40 pm

  11. TOPING says:

    Pulis PATOLA: Patently Aged Toilers On Lowly Assignments!

    Jul 8, 2007 | 5:59 pm

  12. TOPING says:

    Pulis OYSTER: Once Youthful Slackers Today Extricating Rubbish!

    Woohoo–some way to spend a lazy Sunday afternoon, mwahaha!

    Jul 8, 2007 | 6:14 pm

  13. TOPING says:

    Pulis BRUTALITY: Blatant Rip-offs Using Torpid Acronyms Likely to Induce Tired Yawns!

    Have.To.Stop.Before.Filters.Mistake.Me.For.A.Spammer. ;-0

    Jul 8, 2007 | 6:33 pm

  14. paolo says:

    I have no comment. I don’t know what you guys are talking about.

    Jul 8, 2007 | 6:35 pm

  15. perkycinderella says:

    At least the government found work for old out of school youth that wants to be productive! Hooray!

    Jul 8, 2007 | 6:46 pm

  16. Rowena Lyle says:

    that was very interesting and funny……

    Jul 8, 2007 | 10:34 pm

  17. Katrina says:

    HAHAHA!!! Don’t you just love (inject sarcasm here) the Pinoys’ penchant for acronyms?! I had a conversation recently with a foreigner who was very much bemused by this. I told him that, often, the acronym comes first. I was annoyed with myself for not being able to remember any examples of this (proof that acronyms don’t always equal recall). And now I can’t remember who it was I had this conversation with, so I can’t tell him about Pulis OYSTER! Sigh…age… :-/

    The most grating thing about OYSTER for me is that it has no connection whatsoever to the police, out-of-school youths, or cleanliness. Which is why my favorite suggestion is BASURA – Bigyan Ako’ng Sueldo, Uunlad Rin Ako! It’s perfect — says it all! Especially with the word “pulis” in front of it! Hehehe! ;-)

    Jul 9, 2007 | 12:20 am

  18. mgr says:

    Yes, there were the Little Leaguers that was stripped off their titles for being overaged. But I can guarantee that they were the ones that got caught because another Pinoy (from Inquirer)squeeled on them…Usual Pinoy crab mentality stuff. I’m almost sure that the Taiwanese team which won by default, are not as innocent as they seem…and have been doing this for years.

    Jul 9, 2007 | 12:53 am

  19. semikewl says:

    They’re OYSTERS because they each have the potential to make a pearl (of the orient????) even if it takes forevah………my dos centimos……

    Jul 9, 2007 | 7:50 am

  20. Kongkong622 says:

    Finally!! We’ve been wondering what that meant for the longest time. I thought it had something to do with the murky waters of Manila Bay!!

    Jul 9, 2007 | 9:10 am

  21. Kongkong622 says:

    Forgot to mention…some of them “oysters” are kinda near senior citizenship. How in heaven’s name can they still be considered “youth” material? Too bad I don’t have any kili-kili hair to pull out thanks to waxing. Otherwise, I can share the same sentiments with Mr. Marketman. Hehehe.

    Jul 9, 2007 | 9:15 am

  22. CecileJ says:

    Toping, ang galing mo! Nawala all my Monday blues when I read you comments! (Fave ko din ung PULIS KAMATIS ni RobKSA!)

    But seriously, I think they supposedly contribute to economic recovery because they are employed (yes, i think they are paid.) with the end in view that they will use their salaries for school tuition. Wishful thinking or clever camapign ploy on the part of their employers…

    Jul 9, 2007 | 9:41 am

  23. lee says:

    This is another brilliant post by the MarketMan. Near the end of the blog is a challenge for me, one-liner… huh, me? kulasa and toping are the new one liner idols for their brilliant acronyms.

    PULIS OYSTER: Police Undertake Littering In Streets. Old Yaya Sweeps Through Eternal Rubbish.

    Jul 9, 2007 | 9:42 am

  24. Crissy says:

    I see those shirts almost everyday and I had no clue on what that meant until I saw your post.

    Jul 9, 2007 | 10:10 am

  25. lee says:

    Acronym quiz for all. Without googling, what’s the meaning of PAGIBIG in the Pagibig Fund?

    Jul 9, 2007 | 12:27 pm

  26. TOPING says:

    lee, you got me there, hehe… I had absolutely no idea (HAD, ’cause I couldn’t resist the urge to google)!

    Jul 9, 2007 | 12:46 pm

  27. ENYA says:

    The funnier thing is, sila din mismong mga nakasuot ng PULIS OYSTER dark blue shirts, hindi nila alam ang meaning ng mga letra na nakatatak sa t-shirts nila.

    I’ve asked at least five of these street sweepers what PULIS OYSTER mean. And they all give me a blank stare or a shrug of the shoulder.

    Jul 9, 2007 | 2:22 pm

  28. Raneli says:

    A 16 year old-relative of mine lost the motivation to finish high school. Everytime I see him,I remind him to try to get a high school diploma and continue his education or else face the fact that he could end up being a jeepney driver or “egad”… one of those PULIS OYSTERS!Yes MM,most of these oldies amongst the urban poor have never even finished high school or worst even grade school. I suspect then ,the proliferation of the oldies competing with the out of school youths for the Oyster Job. Found out the even to be a bagger boy for a supermarket here in Manila, one must be a high school graduate to begin with. Grabe then pala ang competition sa mga urban poor kapag naghahanap sila ng trabaho. Thats why it get my goat to see that relative of mine slacking off, considering that his family are not destitute.

    Jul 9, 2007 | 4:49 pm

  29. leila antonio says:

    yes mr. MM, you’re right. during Martial Law, there’s no need for Pulis Oyster, people are more disciplined kasi takot silang ma-Crame and do community service. Walang dumudura sa kalye, nobody litters, no jaywalkers and everyone falls in line to ride buses. We really need a dictator’s hand.

    And those Pulis Oysters, pangpagulo lang, and some are really bastos!

    Jul 9, 2007 | 6:50 pm

  30. ysa says:

    PAGIBIG means Pagtutulungan Ikaw Bangko Industriya at Gobyerno….. no googling promise. i believe there was a jingle for the pag-ibig during its inception and it stuck in my mind.

    Jul 9, 2007 | 8:46 pm

  31. Maddie says:

    “Egads!!!!! Doesn’t that just want to make you tear your kili-kili (armpit) hairs out one by one with excitement?!?”

    Wahahaha! The best talaga ‘to! Oo nga naman, you’re a guy, armpit hair is so much more exciting!!!

    Jul 10, 2007 | 12:28 am

  32. Maria Clara says:

    Yes, I totally agree with you littering is our national sport. We should have a national awareness program keeping litters off the street starting in our own yard through the neighborhood. Everyone should do their own fair share in keeping our streets and national high ways clean. Everyone should not be a litter bug. Educate the people. Government should do their part too in picking the thrash of its citizens. It is an eyesore to see litters, i.e., papers, cans out on the street especially piling so high. Pulis Oyster age fast than their stated age due to exposure to extreme environment without any protective coverings! But it defeats the purpose of spending the money on a sun block if they work on empty stomach.

    Jul 10, 2007 | 3:39 am

  33. consol says:

    soooo funny, MM! rolling on the aisles like mad … but thank you for solving the enigma that has been plaguing me for weeks. hadn’t thought of googling that acronym. well, like RobKSA, i thought those ‘oysters’ were police trainees, helpers or even traffic aides. kainit ng suot nila, dark colored pa! they could’ve made the pink fluorescent, to make the wearer more visible at night.

    and yes, ’tis weird how most oysters are approaching ‘seniorship’ when they are supposed to be composed of young ‘uns (oh well, out of school youth circa 1940s?!). and while we’re at it, how come nauna yung S sa Y, if we have such a definition as Out of School Youth Serving Toward Economic Recovery? diba dapat OSYTER baga? the person who coined the acronym must be dyslexic or something :-) i rather like OWOFONE and BASURA bwahaha

    on the serious side, yeah littering is a national sport and pastime. many is the time i saw a window of a BMW (or some such luxury car) open and trash (a McDo wrapper and disposable cup) is unceremoniously thrown to the wind. of course, i see ordinary Pedros and Petras dropping wrappers and such any which way, in blissful abandon. haaay naku … well, all this littering translates into real work for those OYSTERS.

    ’nuff said.

    Jul 10, 2007 | 7:34 am

  34. Bea says:

    Gee. I have been wondering about this all this time. I’ve even got my friends wondering about it. I’ll link them to this post.

    Jul 11, 2007 | 9:13 am

  35. Blaise Fortuna says:

    I’ve heard of these Police OYSTERS two years ago, over a TV program, supposedly this congresswoman was using names of these POLICE OYSTERS on her payroll list even of they really don’t exist.. Ever since I’ve wondered why they are actually called OYSTERS.. I didn’t know they were Metro Aide..

    Jul 11, 2007 | 5:30 pm

  36. Miles says:

    really funny acronyms!!! they made my day. my sentiments exactly about the martial law era. i remember feeling safer then. growing up at that time had less hassles and now that i am a parent, i look back a those days and wonder what went wrong that i don’t even want my kids playing outside with their friends and classmates for fear of them getting harmed or abducted.

    Jul 12, 2007 | 10:04 am

  37. April says:


    Jul 15, 2007 | 10:25 pm

  38. buckythetarayslayer says:

    Ye gods! *Slaps forehead* So that’s what it means! That has been bugging me and my hubby for weeks now! Argh….

    Aug 15, 2007 | 3:22 am

  39. hannah says:

    Try to observe the street going to Malacanang (coming from sta mesa). Where 2-3 heads/oysters are assigned to clean the the areas between 3 lamposts.

    Aug 19, 2007 | 4:20 pm

  40. ramirojb says:

    Oy! You’ve answered one of my life’s greatest questions. :)

    Jan 30, 2009 | 6:45 pm

  41. jerrinetherese says:

    I’ve been wondering what on earth OYSTER meant. :) Thank you for this post.

    Jul 4, 2009 | 12:11 pm


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