Being Filipino: An Honor or Something to be Ashamed About?

I just found these definitions of “Filipino” at the Urban Dictionary:

http://filipino.urbanup.com/2315108
http://filipino.urbanup.com/1397824

I find these definitions to be hilarious. These also got me into thinking again of what really is a Filipino. Is it a state of being that I have to be proud about like many Pinoys would be? In a lot of ways I would not be. The damaged retrogressive culture that permeates into mind and soul of the typical Juan is something that I do not desire for myself.

Having vicariously (I say vicariously as I have never traveled outside of the Philippines) seen and experienced other Asian cultures, I would have to agree that Filipinos have little to do with being Asian. F. Sionil Jose even goes to proclaiming that the Filipino is not Asian. Culturally speaking, Filipinos have so much more in common with Latin Americans and the Spanish than with the Japanese, Koreans or even Thais. The sad fact is that Filipinos seem to have inherited everything negative about Spanish culture that keeps Filipino society from moving towards progress. Things like Mañana habit (procrastination), ningas cogon (the inability to finish what was enthusiastically started), advancement through connections rather than skill (Padrino system); the “pwede na yan” (that’ll do) mentality of mediocrity; the abuse of amor propio, delicadeza,and utang na loob (indebtedness); and the grip of Roman Catholicism all get in the way of progress of the Filipino society. Such culture has given way into the chaotic state that the Philippines is. Seems like the Pinoy is a creature and lover of chaos that is easily entertained and driven by emotion rather than the intellect.

If you go study the history of the Philippine Islands closely, you might arrive at the conclusion that the concept of being a Filipino originated from Creoles i.e. people of Spanish descent who were born in the Philippines. There are claims that these Creoles co-mingled with the dominant Tagalog tribe (and perhaps with some wealthy businessmen of Chinese descent), established their own government in defiance of Spain (getting inspiration from the French and American Revolutions), and placed their seat of power in Manila. Other tribes of the island could care less. There is one site in particular that goes to a great depth about this topic called “The Nation of Don Rafael Ibarra” if you’d like to read more about it.

It really appears that three centuries of Spanish rule have made Filipinos dumb to the point that there are claims of the Philippines having a collective IQ of only 87. It doesn’t really surprise me given the fact that during the last presidential elections, the Philippines elected a president based on sentiment rather than competence.

The lack of collective achievement as a people is bothersome. Apparently, this is due to having too much freedom with too little discipline, something that former Singaporean prime minister Lee Kuan Yew had said before. Having too little discipline is readily observable in the Philippines; just try driving at EDSA and the streets of Manila and you’ll know what I mean.

One aspect of Filipinos that continues to drive me crazy in this information age is the fact while Filipinos have admirable work ethic as a hardworking people, they do not appear to be smart about it. I am a freelance worker who’s registered at oDesk, and it appears to me that the trend amongst Filipinos is to drive prices down. It is what I call “nagtratrabaho ng palugi” (working at a loss). Granted that labor is supposed to be cheaper in the Philippines, should that mean that the Filipino’s way of competing with the rest of the world is just through low prices rather than competence? I believe that despite our flaws as a society, the Filipino in this global society are worth much more.

Allow me to give an example. I currently work freelance taking on music and audio jobs. Whenever I apply for a job, I occasionally look into profiles of other contractors. I have noticed that some of these other Filipino contractors price themselves at miserably low rates. I see Filipino freelance musicians at oDesk charging as low as $1.00 an hour for composing music or writing a jingle. This is lower than Philippine minimum wage! (around $1.50/hour) A service like writing music should cost much more than that given how taxing and mentally challenging the process is in the first place (plus the potential value of a jingle as intellectual property). How I thought that Filipinos are very proud of the fact that they are musically inclined! Shouldn’t they ask for more given the fact that they’ve got musical and audio production skills that can compete at the international level? Although it’s virtually unavoidable to take cheap jobs in order to gain higher feedback ratings (and higher rates eventually), why should such workers remain at such a miserable hourly rate? I’d assume that they don’t families to support and they’re still living off their parents. If you look into the salary trends in the medical/general transcription sector in oDesk, the rates are even more miserable.

Going back to those Urban Dictionary definitions, I would have to agree with one post that says “A hard working, industrious, and very strong family oriented people, but notoriously useless at organizing anything beyond chaos as a nation of people.” It hits the point right at home. As an example of that, take a look into Filipino fiestas. Many Filipinos would rather incur enormous debt just to host a party and look good in the community during feast days for pagan gods and goddesses, all of which have been draped with a “Christian” veneer as Santo this and that by the Roman Catholic Church. They’d rather keep on having sex and have as many as 10 children just right after hitting middle age despite lacking the financial resources to properly raise such offspring. No wonder that the Philippines has a collective IQ of 87. Is acting stupid a thing to be proud of? Apparently, many proponents of “Filipino pride” think so.

It’s very sad that Filipinos always think of themselves as small, the underdog so to speak that’s incapable of dreaming big. Despite all the negative things about the Filipino culture, I still would like to believe that Filipinos as a people should be capable of achieving greatness. Examples of these are the many Filipinos who have great individual achievements inside and outside of the country, all of which are mostly earned through a disciplined and frugal approach of living. My parents are a good example. Starting from virtually nothing, they worked their way to acquire assets that currently serve as financial security for themselves. I also happen to have an aunt who works two blue collar jobs in Australia, enabling her to invest some of that money into property and enjoy in the Philippines whatever is left over. Former waiter and security guard turned restauranteur Larry Cortez is another. My wife grew up from a below poverty state and is now making great strides up the corporate ladder at the moment. Why is it that such Filipinos are exceptions to the norm rather than the standard?

I would go to say that Juan has to change his way of thinking in order to succeed, to give value to competence and logical thought rather than emotion and mediocrity. I also do hope that some day this statement would true within the Philippines itself rather than just abroad:

“Most Filipinos are upper middle class. Day know how to budget der money and make lots ob sacripices like staying in da Naby por 20 years so day can get a retirement.” (source : http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=Filipino&defid=2315108)

It’s unfortunate that this kind of Filipino is more readily observable in the United States, Australia and anywhere else that has become locations for the Filipino Diaspora. Outside of the gated community where I reside, I usually see Filipinos who are living below the poverty line, incapable of budgeting given the fact that many are in debt, unable to make sacrifices because of the addiction to parties and entertainment, and would eventually retire with a huge debt and a mentality of mendicancy. The Philippines is really home to a fractured culture of people who claim to be Asian yet Hispanic in thinking and afflicted by still existing tribal divisions and a plutocracy that doesn’t care at all.

In a lot of ways I would be ashamed to be a Filipino. I often feel that I lack affinity with what a typical Filipino would want. I’m not a fan of Filipino cuisine, and I have no taste whatsoever for the mainstream OPM scene. I hate Pinoy telenovelas and noontime TV shows simply because they promote stupidity, mediocrity and mendicancy. I don’t watch local TV channels. Call it colonial mentality or whatever but if something is excellent, I have great appreciation for it, and for the most part a lot of things found overseas are leagues away from what is found locally in the Philippines.

However, whenever I see and hear about exemplary individuals such as my wife, my parents, composers Angel Matias Peña and Jose Maceda, restauranteur Larry Cortez and others, I appreciate the fact that Filipinos can be capable of breaking away from the typical Filipino slacker mentality.

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17 responses to “Being Filipino: An Honor or Something to be Ashamed About?

  1. Well your blog is pretty good.. But I must say.. Before you make your own judgments.. Try to leave in the Philippines fir you to really now.. Instead of basing your ideas to what you have read.. Lots of us are in a middle of discrimination.. Not all of us will know until we put ourselves on others’ shoes.. And oh by the way.. If you really are a good writer.. You must learn not to address your subject to everything or as a whole.. We are all different no matter what nationality.. Filipinos are different to each other.. Though they did inherited the things or attitudes that you have said.. But not all Filipinos are like that.. Because those attitudes are also visible to other people around the world.. Not only in that country..

    • Thank you for reading my blog. Are you suggesting that I “leave the” or “live in the” Philippines for me to really know what it’s like? Well, why do I say such opinions about the Philippines? Because I live in the Philippines, I’m a Filipino, and I’m not afraid to state my observations that can be seen regardless of financial or social status. Had you carefully read my piece, you would have noted that I don’t say that all Filipinos have those negative cultural traits. I recognize the fact that there are problems in every country. Every country, even every person has his or her own criticisms and problems to face. I acknowledge that. However, generally speaking we have to accept the fact that Filipino culture is mired with many traits that should be done away with for us Filipinos to have some form of collective achievement like what Korea, Singapore, Japan, et al have done. We can’t go on exclaiming “Pinoy Pride” or “Filipino Pride” based on individual achievement e.g. a Manny Pacquiao win or Charice hitting the international music charts. What have Filipinos done anyway for such individuals to succeed? Not a lot apparently since Filipinos only started embracing them AFTER they made it big with the help and support of non-Filipinos like Freddie Roach and Oprah.

      I hope you have noted too that I still believe that Filipinos are capable of achieving greatness. That would only be possible if we recognize our errors. You can’t say that circumstances have led to such problems because those cultural traits themselves are the cause.

      • I commend you for writing this piece. I really had to think about and question my stance on the matter. However, is it really correct or even fair to think that the root cause of the lack of progress in the Philippines is our cultural habits? Aren’t you looking at this problem on too high an intellectual horse? You give yourself too much credit and the Filipino people to little. You say that as a people and as a culture we lack collective achievement. Have you forgotten whose blood was shed so you could write in english so eloquently? Have you forgotten your history, your heritage? Isn’t it berating the sacrifices of our Filipino ancestors to say that we as a people lack collective achievement? Was it not Filipinos that endured for so long and earned YOUR independence from so many occupiers or is that not collective achievement enough for you? We as a nation could have given up and just be annexed by many other greater nations, but our forefathers, with their bad cultural habits and their collective IQ of 87 had enough foresight to fight for freedom so you can berate their legacy in the future. Isn’t that just being insolent and ungrateful? Besides, no one ever says that it was the Italians that painted the Sistine Chapel. It was Michaelangelo who painted the Sistine Chapel, and he just happened to be Italian. Success of a nation is not built on a singular grand achievement, but on small and often ignored victories, much like the success of your parents.

        It takes a special kind of arrogance to disown and even shame a culture because of “traits” and “habits”. Too many heinous genocides started because of such ideas. What makes it worse is that you are shaming your own. How high has your achievements really been that you could look down on so many? I can’t blame you though, because I think you wrote this piece through an expensive lens in an air conditioned room.You would been more insightful and sympathetic of your own people if you were writing on a small shifting outrigger in the middle of the Pacific on midday trying to catch dinner for your family, who by the way has not eaten all day. Actually, you would not have been able to write such a piece if you were in such a circumstance. You would have been too busy trying to feed your family instead of taking trips to Palawan and writing jingles. Like aslongasitmatters tries to express above, you really don’t understand someone until you walk a mile in their shoes. That is to say, that stating “your observations” is not the same as being trapped in utter and abject poverty. Contrary to the popular belief of the rich, for most people poverty is not a product of choice but of circumstance. There is such a big gap between the rich and the poor in the Philippines that the rich can no longer see the suffering of those whose back they ride on.

        Yes, there is a lot of change to be made in the Filipino mindset, but do we really want progress at the cost of our culture? It is just like loosing our soul.

        Are you asking the right questions? Do you truly understand the circumstances that make a successful country? Do Filipinos really just need to get a better culture? Which one should we take on? the Japanese, Korean, maybe the American culture, they seem to be doing well. I’m not as smart as you, I don’t know the answer to all these questions, but I for one cannot pass judgement on how better off or how much worse one culture is compared to another, especially my own.

        By the way, you should look up the definition of HISPANIC because where I live you can get into some major fist fights if you use that term wrongly. And finally SAPERE AUDE!!!

      • Dear Addy,

        Thank you for reading my post.

        1. “I commend you for writing this piece. I really had to think about and question my stance on the matter.” – Glad to have provoked you into thinking and so have you provoked me as well. I appreciate that.

        2. “However, is it really correct or even fair to think that the root cause of the lack of progress in the Philippines is our cultural habits? Aren’t you looking at this problem on too high an intellectual horse?” – I think it is fair. This is because such root causes exists. No point in denying that what seems to be little things like “ningas cogon ” and “pwede na yan” have become roots of our problems as a society. No point deluding one’s self that it isn’t true. It’s an observation of our culture, albeit negative, and so it’s something that needs to be changed if the Filipino people want to experience the kind of nation they hope to have. Matter of fact, I don’t give myself credit for anything. Another thing is that the point of this piece is to identify what’s wrong so that we can give way to solutions.

        3. “You say that as a people and as a culture we lack collective achievement. Have you forgotten whose blood was shed so you could write in english so eloquently?” Well, we aren’t “Asia’s basket case of wasted democracy” for nothing, right? Another thing, point out something to me other than individual achievement that could count as the contribution of the Philippines to the entire world. Not trying to be a smart ass here but last time I checked, nobody shed blood for me so that I can write in English so eloquently. I think I can credit that to hard work studying the language plus the effort of my parents to educate me. Should I credit the past actions of “heroes” and statesmen for what I am today? What if it was otherwise? How would you know if I would end up the way I am if it weren’t for them. Nobody can say.

        4. “Was it not Filipinos that endured for so long and earned YOUR independence from so many occupiers or is that not collective achievement enough for you?” I would not consider 1898’s declaration of independence an achievement by the Aguinaldo faction collective achievement by the entire nation. Maybe we should review first how the nation called Philippines came to be. Answer this please. Was there already a central power governing all 7,107 islands prior to Spain’s occupation? Didn’t the term “Las Islas Felipinas” come from Spain itself? Isn’t it because of the affluent and powerful tribes inspired by the French and American Revolutions that all of the sudden they thought they could be free from their insular counterparts? Seems to me like after Spain decided to occupy the islands that the concept of nationhood was born. Sad to say, I don’t think it was our precolonial ancestors that decided they’d become a nation of some sort. You’re welcome to correct me if I’m wrong.

        5. “We as a nation could have given up and just be annexed by many other greater nations, but our forefathers, with their bad cultural habits and their collective IQ of 87 had enough foresight to fight for freedom so you can berate their legacy in the future. Isn’t that just being insolent and ungrateful?” Where is it in my piece did I mention our forefathers having a collective IQ of 87? I was talking about the present when I said that. Fight for freedom? In many ways, I appreciate that but tell me this: When I talk about our present situation and the negative things I see about it, am I berating our forefathers? I don’t see how that makes any sense.

        6. “Success of a nation is not built on a singular grand achievement, but on small and often ignored victories, much like the success of your parents.” I agree, but then tell me why is it, despite every individual achievement a small percentage of the population may have had, that we as a nation has barely any semblance of success or global competitiveness? How come they don’t add up? Something’s still wrong, and I don’t think it is bad to recognize that.

        7. “It takes a special kind of arrogance to disown and even shame a culture because of “traits” and “habits”. Too many heinous genocides started because of such ideas. What makes it worse is that you are shaming your own.” Well, if it requires shaming my own to initiate change, I would do so. FYI, do you see any point in my article that I am disowning being a Filipino. Superficially, it seems that way, but did you read until the end of the piece? I still see hope, and that’s why I’d like for things to change, and that starts with acknowledging what the problem is. I don’t disown my heritage as a Filipino, but I would gladly discard cultural traits that get in the way of any progress.

        8. “I can’t blame you though, because I think you wrote this piece through an expensive lens in an air conditioned room.You would been more insightful and sympathetic of your own people if you were writing on a small shifting outrigger in the middle of the Pacific on midday trying to catch dinner for your family, who by the way has not eaten all day. Actually, you would not have been able to write such a piece if you were in such a circumstance. You would have been too busy trying to feed your family instead of taking trips to Palawan and writing jingles.” – I would appreciate it if we stuck to the point of discussing the topic. Is there really any need for you to attack me personally? How much of my life do you know outside of this blog for you to make your pronouncements? Are we that close? Really? Do you have ESP or something for you to say that I’m writing this inside an air-conditioned room through an expensive lens? Funny you had to mention me having the time to write this piece, write jingles, and going for trips to Palawan. You wanna know why I was able to afford to do so? Because I make plans, work my ass off to implement them, and keep myself out of debt, plain and simple! I feel rather insulted when you belittled me writing jingles (and music for that matter). If it were that easy to do, why is it that so many people try yet so few make a living off of music like I do? Can you tell me that it’s circumstance. IT TAKES PERSEVERANCE AND HARD WORK! And really, how dare you judge me as if things were handed down to me for free. I worked hard and sacrificed a lot to be where I am now. Why do you have to stoop so low to insult me just to make your point? There is no need for that.

        9. “Like aslongasitmatters tries to express above, you really don’t understand someone until you walk a mile in their shoes. That is to say, that stating “your observations” is not the same as being trapped in utter and abject poverty. Contrary to the popular belief of the rich, for most people poverty is not a product of choice but of circumstance. There is such a big gap between the rich and the poor in the Philippines that the rich can no longer see the suffering of those whose back they ride on.” Product of circumstance? I don’t think so. I’ve cited examples of people who rose despite their circumstances. It is a product of choice. I’ve seen it many times. Even if you provide opportunities to at least allow them to rise above their circumstances, if their mindsets and attitudes drive them to be poor, they will always be poor. If the circumstance excuse were true, why is it that Larry Cortes is now a successful restauranteur? Why is it that my wife was able to graduate from UP and secure good employment despite abject poverty? You are in no position to tell me that I don’t know because I know first hand. I know how it is to work in a pigsty because I have tended pigs myself. I known how it is to be a professional driver and I know how extras in teleseryes make themselves look stupid to earn a couple hundred pesos because I have experienced those things. Experience is a great teacher hence I can say what I am saying now.

        10. “Are you asking the right questions? Do you truly understand the circumstances that make a successful country? Do Filipinos really just need to get a better culture? Which one should we take on? the Japanese, Korean, maybe the American culture, they seem to be doing well. I’m not as smart as you, I don’t know the answer to all these questions, but I for one cannot pass judgement on how better off or how much worse one culture is compared to another, especially my own.” Again, why do we have to keep on using circumstances as a scapegoat? Japan had the worst kind of circumstance after World War II. Same thing with Korea after the Korean War. How about Singapore? All of these nations were under some of the worst circumstances you could possibly think of during the times when the Philippines was still the much beloved “Pearl of the Orient” rather than “The Basket Case of Wasted Democracy” that it is today. What is it about their people that made them do what they were able to do? Their success is what I would call collective achievement. I did not say we need to assimilate a better culture. My point is we could improve our culture. We can still keep our famous hospitality and friendly disposition while continuing to be disciplined and focused. As for passing judgement on how better or how much worse one culture is compared to another, you can see it in the results that we experience now.

        11. “By the way, you should look up the definition of HISPANIC because where I live you can get into some major fist fights if you use that term wrongly” According to Merriam Webster, Hispanic means “of or relating to the people, speech, or culture of Spain or of Spain and Portugal”, and so therefore, in the context of what I’m writing, I am using it correctly since obviously 300 years of Spanish rule shaped that. Why should that cause me to get into a fistfight? Did I use it as a racial slur as you are warning me I might be committing? Of course not.

        So, in conclusion, I appreciated your attempt at a level-headed argument except when you started leveling personal attacks against me. I do hope that we can continue to have healthy discussions and arguments in the future.

        SAPERE AUDE!

      • First I have to apologize for being a prick with my statement about you looking at the Filipino experience through an expensive lens in an air conditioned room. No I do not have ESP, I merely deduced that no man in the throes of poverty would make such absurd and ludicrous statements (It’s all elementary my dear Watson. hehehe). I did not mean to judge you, your lifestyle or your music, I was merely “stating my observations” (as you well put it). I was merely trying to make a point. It’s not so easy and fair after all to be judged so absolutely based on what little I know of you. Such broad statements like Filipinos are resigned to “mediocrity and mendicancy” borders on bigotry.

        My main point of contention is your statement the Filipinos lack collective achievement. How do you measure achievement and success? personally and as a culture? My father lived, i don’t mean grew up, I mean LIVED IN A BOX! on the streets of Cebu but through it all he became a nurse. In my eyes he has won the nobel peace prize the world over, but you put him in a room full of doctors, all of a sudden he is JUST another nurse and his success pales in comparison to their title. Then, what really is the standard of success? In my childhood, I had friends that had to walk 10km downhill going to school and 10km uphill to try to make it home before dark on 2 year old flipflops with their book and two inch pencil inside a 6 month old plastic bag their mother happened to pick up off the streets so long ago. Their ONLY and greatest achievement is to finish high school because the high school was 40km round trip, and all they had were their feet, no shoes, no motorcycle, no anything. College was not even on their horizon because college was on a whole another island. As it is, they had barely enough to eat. What then is the measure of success?They should have just worked harder like you and your wife and your parents, right? My father should have just worked that much harder to get into UP, right? How do you think such lowly bumpkins as myself take your statement that me as a Filipino is given to laziness and lack of discipline? If your only standard of success is a fat bank account, advanced degrees from UP, and successful businesses, then I was wrong in my estimation of you. You don’t just see the world through an expensive lens in an air conditioned room. You see the world through an expensive lens perched to see through a narrow gap on the wall of your air conditioned room. Success is relative my friend. Don’t put too high a price on your achievements and those of your of wife and your family because in the entirety of the human experience they are meaningless. Have some humility, read a lot more, expand your horizons, then maybe that narrow gap from which you peer through will broaden and you may not even need that expensive lens you’ve worked so hard to earn. I don’t mean to be insulting, I only mean to challenge you to look further and to look deeper with more sympathy and understanding on the Filipino experience. I challenge you to come down from your lofty perch and see the world with us lazy and mendicant ants down here under your feet. You’ll be surprised with how wide the skies are from down here.

        You ask why we as a nation lack global competitiveness. I ask you, how can we as a nation hope for global competitiveness when we can’t even feed our own people? You’re a man of music, where has the greatest compositions come from? Why does it not come from Philippines or Vietnam or Nigeria? Why did a genius like Mozart flourished in Austria and not in Sri Lanka? Where in the world are the greatest works of arts produced? Where in the world are the best scientific theories devised? The best music, the greatest art and wondrous science are all created and discovered in cultures where their population is well fed. Juan is too busy to struggling to merely survive. This was not our choice as a people, but something that we have inherited. Our history and the corruption that plagues our nation has played a big part in our demise, but that is for another topic. I think we as a nation put too much stock on higher education that drives our population to be more urbanized. We put doctors, lawyers, nurses, accountants, musicians etc on such high pedestals. Hell, people would rather be a driver or a maid just as long as they’re not a farmer or a fisherman. In fact we stigmatize a farmer or a fisherman as the lowest in our society. You yourself think you’re better off because you have gotten out of having to clean pig sties (but you know cleaning pig sties isn’t so bad). Have you ever wondered what drives the rise and fall of a civilization? The Romans, the Greeks, the British, the Spaniards, the Americans; their success is part and parcel to the fact that they can feed their population and not only feed them but in excess. They had more than enough that they could make war and fuel innovation. Did Bach compose his symphonies while plowing the fields? Did Einstein come up with the theory of relativity while fishing for his dinner? We don’t need to change our culture and loose our soul to get the global competitive edge, we just need to feed our people. Compositions, inventions and discoveries will follow once our population has time enough to sit down and think instead of scour the earth for food.

        You know being Filipino isn’t such a bad thing. Our reputation of loyalty, perseverance, diligence, friendliness, politeness and of course Manny Pacquiao precedes us wherever we go in the world. I used to think along the same lines as you do, well, just yesterday. I used to wonder why every time i get into a taxi the same music from the 80s and 90s is still playing. Or complain why every year the tv shows is just a remake of another from 10 years ago. We should have drowned Dyesebel a long time ago!! But I look back to my childhood, in a tiny village where there was no electricity and every night the only thing everyone in village looked forward to was to listen to poorly produced dramas on the radio. When someone finally bought a TV, every night 40 people gathered around a 17 inch screen to watch a movie. They didn’t even care if they heard any of the conversation, with the generator in the background humming along and all. Fast forward to today. Can you really blame a farmer or a fisherman coming out of the hot sun for enjoying a sight of beautiful women (except maybe Ai Ai) floundering around in the “ocean”? That is their only break from their reality. When you have so little, you appreciate even more the little things that life gives you. The beauty of democracy is that majority wins. Ridiculously portrayed mermaids in metal suits that don’t seem to rust, revivals of song from the 80s, poorly composed OPM songs, sadly that is what the people want and like, too bad you and me are not in the majority. But that does not give us merit to say that they are wrong, that they are mediocre, that is just something that we have to accept as a matter of fact. That also does not mean the Filipinos have resigned to the mediocrity of remakes and copies. I can’t pretend to know the answer as to why Filipinos like their music remade and old or their TV shows rewinded just with different actors, all I can say is that correlation does not establish causation.

        I scroll up and i have three paragraphs. I’m sorry you have to endure my palaver. I can’t claim by any stretch of the imagination that I have it all figured out and that I know enough to judge anyone. I apologize if i come across at times to be an ass. I have learned a lot about myself in thinking about all this, and i hope you do to. Take up the challenge!!

        see the world sub specie aeternitatis.

      • Hello Addy,

        Apology accepted. You make very good points. I admire that about you. I would be first to admit that I have tunnel vision, I haven’t seen everything and I am not omniscient, but I make it a point to widen my perspective, and it’s thanks to people like you. However, I try to be objective as much as possible and can’t help but notice things that could be improved. Why is it that in a place like Australia farmers and blue-collar workers enjoy quality of lives that are very good? Why do we have to lose our soul as a Filipino people when we dream of bigger things? I don’t think we have to. Isn’t the lack of the capacity to dream big getting in the way of progress? Is getting hungry or living in a box an excuse for people to be content? You say your father lived in the box on the streets of Cebu but was able to become a nurse. Isn’t that a testament of great achievement? I know of stories (and I’m sure you do to) of street hawkers like taho and peanut vendors who were able to send off their children to college. I would think so, and more than that it’s also a testimony that people are capable of dreaming big despite circumstance.

        If we talk about collective achievement, in my mind collective achievement signifies that a society is able to provide the best quality of life for all its members. My point is that if individuals can manage to achieve that such a quality of life (I assume that you are part of this with the kind of success you already have), why can’t our entire society do it? Is it because of circumstance that you claim? See, I understand that everybody, at one point in time, are subjected to poor circumstances. You said that “Have you ever wondered what drives the rise and fall of a civilization? The Romans, the Greeks, the British, the Spaniards, the Americans; their success is part and parcel to the fact that they can feed their population and not only feed them but in excess,” so how is it that they were able to feed themselves well? Is it fertile land, access to resources? The Philippines is very rich in resources, something that you cannot say about places like Singapore, South Korea, or dare I say Australia, yet why is it that they have fared better than us. Did these civilizations, as you have described, really flourished in a paradise where the can easily have fed their people? Then why is it that they sought to cross oceans and explore more fertile places. Now, is it really true that the greatest works of art were realized because the society is well fed? Why is it then that Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 and Mozart’s “Requiem” were all products of the times when these composers were at their worst circumstances with Beethoven becoming deaf and Mozart being virtually penniless? I’m sorry, but I still can’t buy circumstance as an excuse for not achieving anything.

        Or perhaps, we can look at modern examples like South Korea. They don’t seem to be a nation with imperalistic tendencies like China but they have implemented ways and means as a society to ensure their people enjoy a high standard of living. I’m very sure you are aware that in developed nations, people can enjoy a good quality of life regardless of their occupation, educational achievement, etc. I have relatives in Australia working blue-collar jobs yet they enjoy compensation that you can never get here in the Philippines performing the same kind of work. There isn’t any difference between the kind of work they do there and the kind of blue-collar work here except for their compensation and additional opportunities. Why is it that such societies are able to provide such very good compensation for work that is typically stigmatized here in the Philippines? Do we, Filipinos, have to keep on remaining to be cheap when we all have the potential to excel? And as you said regarding me looking through a crack in the wall, can’t we Filipinos get rid of that tunnel vision and look through a wider perspective? Should we settle for miserable living conditions and keep on blaming everything around us instead of doing something? There is evidence that it can be done. You certainly have done it for yourself (if you weren’t able to do so, you wouldn’t be replying to my posts anyway). Why can’t our entire society do it? Why do we have to keep on driving our best talents to foreign lands instead of keeping them here? Why don’t we allow these foreign investors to come to us? Is it out of “nationalistic” pride? Has that “nationalistic” pride brought food to the table? I’m still not convinced about circumstances being a cause. If anything, it should even drive people to aspire for something better instead of just staying in the rut. Such a thing is not confined to the majority who are poor and destitute. Unfortunately, many people are like that. Hard pill to swallow but it is what I see.

        Like you, I haven’t gotten it all figured out too, but I suppose trying something is better than just using circumstance as an excuse.

        I’d like to end my reply thanking you once more, because I’ve learned something more about myself and other things because of your openness to discuss these things. I’d very much like to see more of the world as you say. Be well and God bless.

      • That Mark is the question that begs the greatest answer…why?why is the distribution of wealth in the world the way that it is today?why was it that it was the Europeans that invaded south america and not the other way around?Why did Korea get so rich and not us? why? why? why indeed…A man named Jared Diamond attempted to answer such questions. You should find his book, Guns, Germs and Steel or maybe watch the documentary. I found it insightful.

        I wish the world was as black and white as our life being governed solely by either choice or circumstance. As my wife puts it, it was not your choice to be born poor, but it is your choice to die poor. But i just refuse to believe that 107 million people had just given up on dreaming. That they have just resolved on laziness and sloth. I don’t think that people choose to go hungry or raise their children in such dire circumstances. Everyone dreams to be something more. Even a caged animal looks forward daily to the day that he is set free. Anything is better than being trapped in abject poverty. In my mind, no one ever chooses to be poor. I think Filipinos are better than caged animals. Is it delusional to think that at least on average people do the best they can with whatever life has given them the best way they know how? Gigantic dreams are aplenty in the Philippines, but sadly Filipinos have to carry their dreams while swimming upstream in a river on a sloping mountain. Every stroke just drains every ounce of energy out of them.

        As i have said, the greatness of success is relative. For my father being a nurse was his greatest achievement. Whose to say that my father has achieved any less than a doctor or an attorney? Small achievements such as these constitutes the collective success of our country and our nation. Compare the relative peace of Philippines to other budding “democracies” and governments around the world. I personally would rather live in Philippines that live in Syria at the moment, or in Egypt or Ukraine or Mexico for that matter. Granted that we still have a long way to go to be even comparable to Singapore or whatever else other country, but on the same token we are better off as a nation, as a culture and as a country compared to so many others in the world. Relatively speaking, it is an achievement in itself that we have thrived as a people despite what history and mother nature has thrown at us. We can’t compare our country to Australia, the USA, we are too young a nation to be on the same level. Rome after all was not built in a day. The USA had to go through a civil war before they could truly start building a great nation. We are still going through the growing pains of a nation. I can see it already in the eyes of our contemporaries, the fire that is waiting to be lit. We see and we know what needs to be changed. I believe that in our lifetime there will be a paradigm shift in thinking and politics in the Philippines, but there is no hurrying it. It will come in its time Mark, much like the Arab spring. There is hope yet for the our little “pearl of the orient”, we just have to be patient and wait for it to bud.

        You know I have met students from China, Korea, Italy, the Philippines, Japan, Peru, Taiwan, Brazil, Thailand, Vietnam (and many more). Everyone of them I asked what they were going to do after completing their studies. Every single one of them except for the Filipinos say that they are going back to their country to use what they have learned. That is why the Philippines is loosing her greatest minds to the world. We are in fact ashamed of being Filipino. In all the countries I’ve been to, every Filipino I’ve met have denied to some degree or another that they are Filipino. That’s a shame!! If we can’t even admit our decent, how can we hope to inspire people to work to improve our nation?

        As you may imagine, I keep rambling about all this to my wife and one day she asked me: How do you hope to change the minds and the hearts of so many people? of a whole country? I was stumped. I am but singular. The only quote that came to mind was “be the change you want to see in the world”. And I think I’m going to leave you with that.

        “BE THE CHANGE YOU WANT TO SEE IN THE WORLD”

      • I’ll look for that book, “Guns, Germs, and Steel” by Jared Diamond. Thank you for recommending it to me. I appreciate your optimism and I do wish that what you think the future holds for us would become reality. It’s really at the opposite end of pessimism I usually encounter these days.

        “BE THE CHANGE YOU WANT TO SEE IN THIS WORLD” – That is what I’m working on. No use rambling about something I couldn’t put into practice, right? Glad to hear we’re on the same page regarding that matter.

    • http://www.correctphilippines.org

      We always would like to change this country for the better and we understand that culture change can only be achieved when there’s system change. The number one problem why a lot of Pinoys are anti-intellectual is because there are so many people who are poor due to them not having jobs. A lot of the intellectuals go to other countries to work and it promotes brain drain leaving our country to the hands of the mostly anti-intellectual. Changing the constitution to open our economy, federalize and having a parliamentary government is a great start to move the direction of our country in the right path.

  2. Great post. You’ve hit the nail on the head.

    I was born and raised in Sydney but both parents are Filipino. I can see a lot of the traits you mentioned above in some of our family friends and completely agree.

    Mediocrity and the willingness to settle for less-than-okay circumstances also a common theme and one that frustrates me to the worlds end.

    I hope for the sake of the beautiful culture and nationality that Filipinos evolve to be smarter and more logical.

    • Hello Genevieve,

      Thanks for reading my post. You said that,

      “I hope for the sake of the beautiful culture and nationality that Filipinos evolve to be smarter and more logical.”

      That is what I hope for as well.

  3. Hello Mark, thank you for this article which I stumbled upon today, via Facebook group “Taga UP Diliman ka kung…” and correctphilippines.org. I found your post painful to read dahil isa akong Pilipina who desperately wants to be feel proud of being Filipino but it is hard, as I often encounter fellow Pinoys who exhibit the type of laziness, mediocrity and stupidity you write about. You have put into words my sentiments and feelings of disappointment about us as a nation. I live and work in Australia and I’ve met people of other nationalities who genuinely like Filipinos for their friendliness, sense of humor, being family-oriented, etc.. That is nice…but really as a nation we could be so much more, if only we were truly united and, like you say, are able to think objectively including seeing our own strengths and weaknesses. As it is, the usual reaction of most Filipinos to constructive criticism is anger and defensiveness. To “know thyself” is one of the most difficult things to attempt in life, but I believe it is the wellspring of realizing one’s potential. I admire your intelligence and articulateness. I’m proud of you as a fellow Pinoy.
    ~Maria

    • Hello Maria,

      Thank you for reading my piece. I appreciate it. Yes indeed it hurts to realize the truth but then
      again we must face it in order to initiate improvement. I have relatives in Australia and I hear about how it is so different there largely because of the kind of systems in place and the sort of culture they subscribe to. How I wish it could be like that here in the Philippines as well. Sadly, it’s never gonna happen unless radical changes in thinking and attitude of each individual Filipino is made. Not all is lost, however, as I see hope. This is given the fact that I still meet people with progressive ideas and actions that would start the kind of changes we desire for our nation.

  4. Irrelevant to the article (fantastic article, by the way), what do you think of FIlipinos worshiping the West and attempting to be westernized by following western culture, fashion, language (In the novelas my parents watch, I’ve noticed that they talk in English more than they talk in Tagalog.), and ignoring their Asian neighbors?

    • First off, thank you for reading my piece.

      Hmm, good question. What do I think about “Filipinos worshipping the West and ignoring their Asian neighbors”? Well, I do think they are missing out on a lot of things since there are a lot of great things we can learn from Asian culture.

      I’ve always thought that in assimilating things from various cultures, we should always strive adopting what is positive/constructive and discarding whatever it is that seems useless and negative. For example, I like individualism as a value from the West since it encourages people to better themselves through independent effort and thought plus it facilitates people owning up to their own achievements and mistakes, never putting the blame on anybody or anything else but themselves. This contrasts with collectivist/bandwagon/herd mentality as seen in the Philippines, something that has kept Filipinos from innovating or moving forward. On the other side of the globe, I will always have great appreciation as well for Filipino hospitality and strong family values, which I don’t think has to be at odds with individualistic thought. You can always remain to be independent and innovative while still keeping that trait of friendliness and hospitality that Filipinos have been known for.

  5. Unfortunately, the Philippine culture is part of Ibero-Catholic culture, which is one of the dumbest cultures in the world, and is also progress-resistant, and also has a low cultural capital, according to the book “Why Jews, Confucians, and Protestants?” by Lawrence Harrison. In this book, he explains that the 3 religions in the title have high cultural capital (rational religion, prioritizing education, thinking for the future, and high rule of law), whereas the rest of religions don’t have these. He particularly attacked Catholics and Muslims as religions with low cultural capital (irrational religion, fatalism, thinking only at the present, bashing education, no rule of law). Also, religions with low cultural capital are progress resistant. That’s the main reason why PH mired in poverty while our neighbors experience progress. Ever wonder why Latin Europe (except France) still suffer from European recession until now? And also Latin America (except Chile) never progressed. There’s no need to go there, because we already have the answer. We Filipinos already have the Latin character that make us dumb. The truth hurts. :(

    • I agree with the fact that Ibero-Catholic culture is so resistant to change hence the crapsack environment we have here in the Philippines.Having gone to Roman Catholic schools yet being raised in a Protestant family and community has enabled me to see the vast differences in work ethic and thinking between these two religious groups, and this is why I agree with the statement that Protestant culture has high cultural capital as opposed to the superstitious, fanatic, fatalist, and mystical Roman Catholic culture. One of the generalizations about the difference between cultures (as observed by Jean Jacques Rousseau, etc.) is that Protestants are encouraged to scrutinize what they read and study while Catholics generally blindly believe in what the clergy or the papacy declares as “truth”. However, although we Filipinos are born exposed to that Latin character you say that we already have, I have to remark that Latin character is behavioral and not genetic. It’s true that this undesirable Latin culture envelops us and has a great tendency to shape us, but we are all given the capacity for cognition that will enable us to go against it. And that is why it is important to be educated about the negatives of Filipino culture and the positive traits of progressive cultures so that we Filipinos can change from the level of the individual upwards. Such change can start with embracing a meritocratic mindset, the sense of responsibility for oneself, and following the rule of law we have imposed upon ourselves in the first place.