When the lethargic heat of summer set in, the residents of Binalonan, a small town in the Philippines, used togather under the trees and share stories about their neighbours, swapping titbits about rumoured scandals, affairs, bankruptcies and divorces. But no longer. In local law imposed on the town, which is north of the capital Manila, such gossip, or “chismis’” as it is known in the Philippines, is now illegal.
The anti-gossip ordinance was passed by the Binalonan mayor, Ramon Guico III, after several disputes fuelled by gossip had got “so severe”, with multiple parties involved, that the local council had to intervene. “There are many types of gossip, but most gossip cases here is about conflict around property, money, relationships and the like,” Guico told the Guardian. “This ordinance is to remind people that everything that we say is our responsibility as individuals and as residents of this municipality. We want to show other towns that Binalonan has good people; it is a good and safe place to stay.”