Filipino Mediocrity Starts with the Individual

About two Sundays ago, I went out for a typical family day with my wife and son. We ate out at the mall and bought some stuff like a light bulb and some new clothes for my wife. It is in these instances that I sometimes get to observe the proud Pinoy at his “finest”. Such behavior at centers of commerce prove the fact that the Pinoy really is anti-intellectual, unruly, mediocre and lack any form of discipline.

We were first at the gilded illusion of a first-world city called Makati, particularly it’s central business district (CBD). Filled with tall buildings and malls with a cozy atmosphere of recycled air, the CBD seems like the ideal go-to place, catering to the taste of people from the higher economic brackets. However, as you venture out of the CBD’s boundaries, you’ll see that Makati is no different than the jungles like Manila and Pasay have become with bad roads, nonexistent city planning, reckless drivers, unruly pedestrians, sleazy joints, etc. On our way out of the CBD, we only have a choice of a two-lane service road that’s similar to a lunar surface and an oppressively expensive tollway. We usually choose the latter for practicality (reduced wear and tear on the vehicle we use) and convenience.

Next we went to SM Bicutan, a place that caters more to the masses. Unfortunately, it is in this sort of place that the misery of the Filipino is more evident. The place just reeks of substandard merchandise and shallow entertainment options designed to drug the masses into a zombie-like, brainless state with four-on-the-floor thumping music and local cinema that’s devoid of anything of intellectual interest and creativity. To get good items or better options in such an environment, you’d have to dig deeper, avoid the pestering utterances of squads of salespersons, and exercise common sense and discernment.

In such an environment, you would readily notice the Pinoy’s lack of courtesy and respect for his fellow man. One manifestation of this is at the parking lot where many drivers have no respect for no-entry or one-way signs. There’s supposed to be an organized way by which drivers should navigate the internal pathways of the parking lot, and such a way is labeled by big signs labeled “This Way” and “Wrong Way”. Apparently, many prefer entering the “Wrong Way” just so they can get ahead and pick out the parking spot they like. In this regard, economic class was not a factor as I have seen a lot of these people driving very expensive vehicles. Many moviegoers in its cinemas are just the worst. They’re loud and crude as they do not respect the need for silence in movie theaters. They would let their cell phones ring loudly and chatter away as if they were watching mind-numbing TV at home. Chaos seems to be the norm for the Pinoy, and it’s level would skyrocket whenever SM hosts some local celebrity event.

It really is odd in these malls like SM where there seems to be a 1:3 salesperson to customer ratio. I probably am exaggerating here, but for items that do not require any form of technical expertise it doesn’t make a lot of sense to have an army of salespersons occupying every corner of the store. People should be disciplined enough to go choose and take items for themselves, and put things back in order. As a creature of chaos, the Pinoy will not do that, hence the armies of salespersons on very low salaries. This goes to show that apparently you cannot trust the Pinoy to take the merchandise from the checkout counter himself and has to be treated like a king with his every idiotic whim.

I have become friendly with the staff of Lazer Music in SM Bicutan. They certainly have some good merchandise. However, I’m assuming that the management of the place know that a majority of people who try their hands at music are not musically adventurous at all. How do I know? I’ve asked the place numerous times for a 6-string bass. They don’t have it. These days, you wouldn’t really consider a six-string bass to be an unusual instrument, but in the Philippines it is hard to find one. It just is sad to know that many Filipino musicians aren’t willing to go beyond the standard instruments available. If you try out something new, you could be labeled as “hambog” and “mayabang”. Many Pinoys are afraid of change and do not have an innovative spirit at all, and the music store is a sad reflection of that since the management knows that most aspiring Pinoy musicians do not aspire to do more and will not try out something new. Their only recourse is to sell the standard stuff; unusual instruments are out of the question. It’s the same prevailing attitude when you claim to play progressive music in the Philippines; either you earn respect or you get derided for being flashy and out of the norm. Collectivist mentality at work.

I was genuinely amazed at how very few Filipinos would be fascinated by new ideas. The Lazer Music staff happen to be such folk. They were very interested when I introduced to them things like Mark Wood’s violins, Jordan Rudess’s iPad apps and the GuitarViol. I suppose there’s still some hope as at the very least there’s a few open minds out there willing to check out and explore innovative ideas.

So here’s how I could sum up my ramblings:

1. Makati CBD is like opium, designed to numb people from the problems outside of it.
2. Pinoy consumerism and anti-intellectualism create a vicious cycle: The lack of interest in anything intellectual and innovative leads business owners to sell products that serve to feed only shallow interests. These include entertainment options that gives a quick laugh, thrill, excitement, sexual arousal, etc, but lacking in facility to provoke people into thinking of ideas. Such cheap thrills provide the positive reinforcement to think less and then act like animals on impulse. Just like Mark Mothersbaugh sings about, “Are we not men? We are Devo!” Pinoys are devolving. Such substandard merchandise appeals readily to the Pinoy “Pwede na yan” (that’ll do) mentality.
3. Such brain killing activities and products turn men into monkeys, having lost the ability to follow simple rules like “Do not enter. Wrong way.” Idiots and assholes they have become as they confuse what’s right from wrong.
4. It seems to me that the whole design of these places is to keep people ignorant and stupid, so that they can be controlled and manipulated to benefit the interests of major business owners. No value is added, no wealth is created.
5. If you, the thinking kind, would hope that such ignorant people would be wiped off the planet, you’re dead wrong. They multiply like jackrabbits.
6. We need not despair yet as there is a chance that the problems could be reversed, given the fact that there still are a few who are willing to think and accept new ideas. While it is very difficult for me to find people who would be interested in sensible and meaningful conversation, there still are a few.


  1. And I am genuinely amazed at how anti-Filipino you are, the epitome of all that is perfect.

    • First of all, thank you for reading my piece. Now, the question is whether or not you have read it carefully.

      Second, your condescending and sarcastic tone does not in anyway contribute to a healthy exchange of ideas. Rather, it seems to me a reflection of being “balat-sibuyas” (overtly sensitive). Don’t get me wrong. I love the Philippines and its people. But if you would call somebody anti-Filipino for hating the “pwede-na-yan” (that’ll do) attitude, rudeness, impunity, the “padrino” system, and a bloated-yet-unsubstantiated sense of superiority, then by all means I accept it. I love the Philippines enough not to be deluded by fantasies of “Pinoy pride” that does not in any way contribute to improving the nation and its culture.

  2. yeah, definitely a fine case of being a SPECIAL SNOWFLAKE

    this article reeks of high-brow snobbery . . and like many like it, tend to talk about being trapped inside a concrete box of sort, and the author usually thinks of themselves as being different(subconsciously better) than the normal mediocre citizens that glides through cold concrete city jungles like zombies, and would promote something along the lines of “new ideas”, “innovation”, “open-mindedness”, “change”, “intellectual expression”, etc . .

    with the author usually mentioning about meeting people who would rather prefer intellectual, sensible and meaningful conversations of culture, politics, economy and such, comparing the rest of the population he deems not worthy of his presence to unsophisticated, ignorant and uncultured hill-billies,

    well, on my simple non-medical diagnosis of the article, i could say that the author is probably someone who speaks a lot of English even when not necessary, a bit paranoid but mostly bored of his life, definitely had his inner childhood murdered and mutilated, a typical “f*ck you, i’m better and cultured” kind of guy, is probably a neat freak, and is one of those people who deeply insist that there is a “system” made by the government and the rich families that must be taken down by adopting alternative lifestyles, “opening your mind”, expressing yourself, and other hippy/rebel stuff . . .to simply sum it up, one of those snobs who i really hate meeting, people who think too highly of themselves with illusions about being more creative, more intellectual, more refined, more cultured than the next snob—–in more hip terminology, A SPECIAL SNOWFLAKE

    dude, noone in society is a zombie, noone’s ignorant or stupid(it’s just you who think they are), noone’s being manipulated and controlled, IF you have friends who are actually normal people and not some similar starbucks sipping snobs(oh wait, i forgot starbucks is not anymore a symbol of being refined and cultured, but is now another symbol of gross corporate manipulation—my bad),

    well anyway, if you do know normal people, you’d know people have their own thoughts, their own way of living in this country, they have their own ideas and philosophies, they have their own goals, they have their own way of expressing themselves, they have their own style of taking on the world . . they don’t need lectures from some self-absorbed snob . . . if you look at people like they’re some kind of robots simply following pre-defined paths and routes well you need to take your head out of your a*s and think about the probability that maybe, just maybe, there’s nothing wrong with them, but maybe it’s you who need to change your outlook on life and your surroundings

    • Really? You consider someone who thinks and makes observations a high-brow snob? Okay, then I challenge you to disprove my points in an informed manner rather than making personal attacks or calling me labels like “a special snowflake”. I make general observations about how messed up our society is so prove to me that it isn’t. Maybe I’ll listen to you once you decide to become level headed and actually make a point.

      You say that, “noone’s ignorant or stupid,” and “noone’s being manipulated or controlled.” Wow! This just shows how ignorant you really are. Just take a look at the people who get voted into public office. Don’t you wonder why vote buying or being a showbiz personality is one way of winning an election? If people are so level-headed as they claim would be, they will elect competent leaders rather than be swayed by emotion or be bought off. The funny thing is that you say that Starbucks is “another symbol of gross corporate manipulation,” yet you say that “noone’s being manipulated or controlled.” What is it really?

      Are so blind that you don’t see being an inconsiderate jerk is so culturally ingrained into Pinoy society? It only takes about 15 minutes for you to drive through EDSA to realize that. Haven’t you observed how many assholes are out there with their fancy cars yet they don’t want to park their cars properly or follow simple signs? Have you seen how inhumane those government-built bunkhouses in Tacloban look like? Have you seen what your utility bills look like? We have the highest power rates in Asia and it is about to go higher with the reported plan of an 8-Peso-per-kWh hike thanks to your government’s incompetence.

      Perhaps this is an even harder pill to swallow. You recognize that people have their own thoughts and ideas and some semblance of reason. Then therefore, based on your claims, I can say that many people exercise willful ignorance. Rules and laws are in place yet they don’t follow it. If you say that people are so knowledgeable as you claim they are, then there is no excuse for them other than being willfully ignorant. Why are they being willfully ignorant? Simply because they are being selfish, and if it’s that kind of reality you wish to accept then I pity you. If you choose to ignore that reality, then I leave you to wallow in your own brand of ignorant bliss.

      Lastly, who the hell are you to judge me with your “non-medical” diagnosis? Have you noticed how bigoted you sound like and how high and mighty you think you are? I could level upon you a similar accusation that you are exhibiting some form of snobbery as well. You don’t even know me as you go hide behind your pseudonym “Juan”. I could as easily say that you are projecting your own insecurities upon me. If you are interested in creating a meaningful dialogue, I suggest you make your points valid rather than trying to disprove my opinions with your abusive language and ad hominem attacks, which is so typical of a lot of people who can’t make valid arguments. Otherwise, rather than accuse me of things imagined or impose upon me your oh-so-accurate “non-medical diagnosis” stay away from this site because you will not like what you read here.

      I do think, however, there’s one thing we can agree upon. I wouldn’t be too excited to meet you either. Oh wait. I should probably use your terminology too. You’d be the kind of person I’d hate to meet too, dude, given how you cowardly hide behind the name “Juan” and talk in an abusive tone rather than really think about your reply and validate it.

  3. mawalang galang na po at makasabad ako sa usapan: Pagtatalunan ba ang krisis ng Pinoy? Nasa septic tank ang kulturang Pinoy, matutuliro kahit sinong cultural psychologist ang magsuri kung ano ang sagot sa kabakit-bakitan ng kasawiang pambansa. ang nasa isip kong dahilan ay resulta at biktima tayo ng kolonisasyong kristiano, hindi na tayo makababalik sa nakaraan para baguhin ang pangyayari. Ang kulang na kulang (o talagang sero) wala tayong kamalayan sa kahalagahan ng Agham sa buhay ng tao. Mag invest kaya tayo sa science para sa ating kabataan, isang kulturang maka agham, maka-tao at maka-buhay… okey lang ang dibate basta ilagay ang pride sa lugar, tama na ang sisihan… wag na nating sisihin ang pinakamabigat na pasaning krus sa ating buhay – kusang mawawala ang lahat ng klaseng relihiyon kapag meron nang scientific culture ang mga Pinoy. Naniniwala akong bago maupos ang liwanag ng araw (3.5 bilyong taon) wala nang black nazarene sa qiapo, wala na ang el shaddie, wala na ang jesus is lord, iglesia ni kristo o cristo, wala nang abbusayyaf, at sana makasama ang mga apo nating pinoy sa ebolusyon ng tao sa paglipat sa iba uniberso. Me pag-asa pa ang Pinoy maniwala kayo, pramis.

    • Hi Tom,

      I hope you don’t mind me replying in English because this blog appeals primarily to an international audience rather than Filipinos alone.

      I’d like to answer to some of the points you expressed:

      1. Pagtatalunan ba ang krisis ng Pinoy? Nasa septic tank ang kulturang Pinoy (Do we need to even debate about the Pinoy cultural crisis? It’s been flushed down the septic tank.) – Well, that is the point of my article, but apparently a lot of Pinoys don’t think so hence my observations. Plus, there is a definite need to discuss these things because it is very important to find solutions for the Filipino’s systemic and cultural problems.

      2. matutuliro kahit sinong cultural psychologist ang magsuri kung ano ang sagot sa kabakit-bakitan ng kasawiang pambansa. ang nasa isip kong dahilan ay resulta at biktima tayo ng kolonisasyong kristiano, – It’s far deeper than that, Tom. I recommend that you read Nick Joaquin’s “Culture and History”. First of all, allow me to clarify some things. It has been always my one of my pet peeves to equate real Christianity with Roman Catholicism. Fundamentally speaking, Roman Catholicism is far off from Bible-based faith in MANY ways. This is a topic of later discussion that is, although contributory, irrelevant at this point. So, we will refer to your “kolonisasyong kristiano” as Roman Catholicism. In this example, there is a BIG problem. We’re using Roman Catholic dogma and practices as a scapegoat for our failed culture even if it has long existed in precolonial times. Tell me, what is so great about our precolonial heritage when our ancestors confined themselves to tribalism, community as a small boat (balangay), wood carvings, etc.? It is what Nick Joaquin called a “heritage of smallness” which is the root of the Pinoy traits of “pwede na yan”, “ningas cogon” etc. Only in the Philippines is the concept of “tingi” a viable economic phenomenon. These are just a few examples of how short-sighted are culture originally was even before Spain came into the picture. Heck, I can even argue that the concept of nationhood emerged AFTER Spain came into the picture. A discussion about this can go on and on, volumes of books even have been dedicated to such study.

      3. “Mag invest kaya tayo sa science para sa ating kabataan, isang kulturang maka agham, maka-tao at maka-buhay” (Let’s invest in science for our youth, a culture that is scientific, humanistic, and pro-life). Some points I will agree with. It is important that the Philippines should heavily invest in education BOTH in the sciences and the arts. These go hand in hand. However, this is not a complete solution. Another thing is that in your writings you come from a Darwinian perspective, something I am not in agreement with. If we were to follow this approach, I could even say that it is in complete opposition to pro-human and pro-life “maka-tao”. One central facet of the theory of evolution is survival of the species, the elimination of the weak to give way to the strong, something that will give rise to unethical practices like the human experimentation projects (eugenics) of Nazi Germany. This is hardly pro-life. I agree with heavy investment in scientific education in terms of empiricism and the unbiased search for answers we are looking for in the material sense alone but to equate science as being in conflict with faith is something I will not agree with.

      4. “…tama na ang sisihan… wag na nating sisihin ang pinakamabigat na pasaning krus sa ating buhay – kusang mawawala ang lahat ng klaseng relihiyon kapag meron nang scientific culture ang mga Pinoy. Naniniwala akong bago maupos ang liwanag ng araw (3.5 bilyong taon) wala nang black nazarene sa qiapo, wala na ang el shaddie, wala na ang jesus is lord, iglesia ni kristo o cristo, wala nang abbusayyaf, at sana makasama ang mga apo nating pinoy sa ebolusyon ng tao sa paglipat sa iba uniberso.” (Let’s all stop the blame game. Let’s not blame the heaviest cross we have to bear in our lives – all kinds of religion will automatically vanish if the Pinoys have a scientific culture. Before the light of the sun ceases to exist in 3.5 billion years, there will no longer be a Black Nazarene in Quiapo, there will no longer be an El Shaddai, Jesus is Lord, Iglesian ni Cristo, Abu Sayyaf, and I hope that our Pinoy grandchildren will become part of the evolution of man in its migration towards other universes). – I have come to the conclusion that you are now pushing in your atheist/agnostic agenda which is irrelevant in our discussion. Matter of fact is that I can even argue that religion has always played a big deal in shaping secular political and economic policies in some of the most successful nations (the Protestant Ethic practiced in Switzerland, Protestant Germany, South Korea, U.S., etc., Confucian principles in East Asian nations like China, etc.). Again, this is a subject of discussion for another time. No offense, but I can even describe your belief in Darwinianism and Humanism as a religion in itself as you express faith in evolution. Your allegations are something that has no certainty whatsoever but then you have a wholehearted belief that it will happen even if evidence to that is at best a long shot and is still under debate.

      5. “Me pag-asa pa ang Pinoy maniwala kayo, pramis.” (There is still hope for the Pinoy, I promise.) I do think so too. However, practical and concrete steps need to be taken in order see this semblance of hope, and not the kinds of things veering off into broad theological and philosophical arguments that have little to do with proposed solutions.

      I will have to stop here since this discussion is already veering on the topic of religion and faith rather than my observations regarding everyday Filipino culture. There is another avenue for that. I just felt the need to answer some of your replies, but other than that, we have to either stop or go back to the discussion at hand.

  4. mga isip bata na ginagamit ng malahipokrita ang english para bigyan ng agwat ang kulang sa pagkalalakeng marangyang buhay kumpara sa tipikal na mga hampas lupang pilipino na kayang mabuhay ng konteng lamon di tulad ng author na puro sarap sa buhay at lamon

    • Baka ikaw ang may kulang sa pagkalalake kasi nagtatago ka sa alyas mong “eenooteel”.

      Palagay ko bagay na bagay sa iyo ang pangalan mong eenooteel kasi di ka marunong umunawa ng binabasa mo. Kung naunawaan mo ang binasa mo ay makakapagbigay ka sa akin ng matinong sagot, di yang makapag-comment ka lang e wala namang kwenta. Hindi lang ikaw ang tumutuligsa sa mga sinusulat ko at makikita mo na nakikipag-usap ako ng matino sa kung sinomang tumutuligsa sa akin basta’t maayos ang argumento at hindi nambabastos at namemersonal na katulad mo.

      Sige, hinahamon kita. Patunayan mo na tama yang sinasabi mo tungkol sa akin. Ako ba ay kilala mo para makapanghusga ka ng tulad ng ginagawa mo ngayon? Sa palagay mo ba di ako nagpakahirap para maabot ko narating ko sa buhay? Hipokrito? Kelangan ko ba maging tipikal na hampas lupang Pilipino para makapagsulat ng mga sinusulat ko? Kaya nga hindi ako tipikal na hampas lupa kasi, tulad ng mga magulang ko, nagsumikap akong maging edukado para di ako tatanga-tanga. Kung kaya kong makapagpasarap sa buhay e dahil nagsumikap ako na maabot ko yun. Sira pala ang ulo mo kung gusto mong maghanap ng ikasisira mo.

      Hangad ko na ipaalam ang nakikita ko at nalalaman ko para magkaroon ng kahit konting pagbabago. Eto masasabi ko sa iyo: Ayaw kong maging tipikal na hampas lupang Pilipino dahil wala iyong ikauunlad kahit kaunti.

      Kung di mo kayang masikmura ang mga sinusulat ko dito at magbibitaw ka lang ng salita basta-basta dahil balatsibuyas ka, wag ka na lang magbasa at panatiliin mong mabulok yang pag-iisip mo. Panatiliin mo yang tono ng pagsagot mo na yan at hindi mo na makikita.

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