It may be the case, although if it is you can still show errors by directory. As you suggest, the way to do this is by placing an .htaccess file in the directory with your php pages.
Your .htaccess should look like this:
php_flag display_errors on
php_value error_reporting 7
The number 7 is the error reporting integer which will mean that normal errors, normal warnings and parser errors will be shown. It's a bit value made up of normal errors(1) normal warnings (2) and parser errors (4)
Does that help?