Filipinos cannot progress if they cannot follow even simple guidelines

A noted blog commentator once made an assertion that the Philippines will never be a great nation unless Filipinos learn to live by the principle of the “rule of law”. Indeed, some people even insist that none of the calls by certain sectors of Philippine society for a system change like a shift from a Presidential to a Parliamentary system or even constitutional amendments will work to uplift the status of the nation because most Filipinos simply cannot follow the “rule of law.”

Earthquake discipline: Japanese orderliness even in time of stress

It is quite certain that the success of any nation depends on the character of the head of state and the character of the people in general. A strong leader will put the interest of the nation first before anything else. A strong leader supported by strong institutions can work towards achieving social and economic stability for the people.

However, a weak leader in a country like the Philippines, which has weak institutions will tend to succumb to the world-renowned Filipino “padrino” system — a system that trumps any other system in place. Worse, such a leader will mask his weakness or understanding of the law by acting like he is above the law.

A weak leader, whether he is leading a country or a small community tends to let praises or expressions of adoration from the public get to his head. Because he is easily impressed by such accolades, he also tends to become arrogant and will see criticism of him as a mere non-constructive annoyance. Such a leader will not work towards unity and harmony in Philippine society. Unfortunately, weak systems tend to harbor weak leaders.

What is with Filipinos and following the rule of law?

There is very little evidence that Filipinos are capable of living by the “rule of law”. The society is quite extraordinary in the sense that simple rules and regulations whether on the road or in the work place are for the most part ignored. This is because each individual has this baseless sense of being more important than everybody else. It is why you see people cutting you off on highway lanes on the road or pushing their way in lines ahead of the rest in a queue. In other words, Filipinos in general tend to put their own interest first before other people.

As a blogger, I quite often come across commentators who cannot even follow simple commenting guidelines. There are some participants in the blogosphere who constantly violate the guidelines by consistently writing obscenities and foul language on forums just to give the impression that they are above the guidelines. The funny thing is, being moderated does not even stop them from misbehaving. They even cry foul for being moderated instead of conforming to the guidelines.

This brings us to another world-renowned Filipino mentality — the “victim” mentality. Filipinos are good at playing the “victim card” because they are very sensitive and emotional people. They play the victim card in front of the public to get as much attention as possible. Filipinos always try to get around following any rules and regulations or even simple guidelines by appealing to emotion.

Filipino victim mentality was quite evident in the case of a group of nurses in the US who reportedly filed a discrimination complaint when their employer called their attention for speaking too much in their native Tagalog at work. Victim mentality was also quite evident in the way the Philippine government tried to intervene and stop the execution of three drug mules that were sentenced to death in China for violating their anti-drug rule. Likewise, victim mentality is definitely evident in the way the incumbent President, Noynoy Aquino (PNoy) cries foul whenever he is criticized for decisions that were obviously not thought through very well.

It is quite interesting to note that some Filipinos would rather act like idiots than follow the rules. They always want to find an easy way out of a situation. They want to make uncomplicated things complicated. This brings us to another world-renowned Filipino trait: “lack of discipline.”

Filipinos in general are incapable of any form of discipline because they focus more on form rather than substance. In short, they want to stand out. They lack the discipline to engage in discussions in a civilized way and lack the discipline to not turn a public forum into a circus. This is why issues do not get resolved. This is a consistent observation — from every Senate inquiry being broadcast to the Filipino public down to the most benign discussions in the blogosphere, Filipinos love honking their horns.

Worse, Filipinos in general feel a strong sense of entitlement to relax or “chill-out” even when there is still so much to do to move the country forward. Instead of discussing solutions seriously and in detail during their spare time, Filipinos would rather spend it fooling around — never mind that societies from great nations like China, Japan and South Korea have historically shown that being more serious and devoting more of their time to solving problems yields better results in the long term.

From the top guys and gals sitting behind desks at the Presidential office down to the tricycle driver down the road, everyone just wants to have “fun” in the Philippines first before tackling the problems of the land in a more serious manner. You can be forgiven for thinking that one hit wonder Wang Chung probably wrote the song “Everybody have fun tonight” for Filipinos. It can absolutely boggle the mind to wonder why Filipinos cannot limit switching to party mode when they are at an actual party.

As discussed in my previous article, Filipinos are proud of being a happy-go-lucky society and make it a point to show the rest of the world that they are coping with smiling faces despite the dire circumstances they face. This mentality shows that Filipinos are satisfied with mediocrity and find striving for excellence too daunting. A few remaining Filipinos who want to engage in a more serious discussions are even labeled “kill-joy” or “librarians.” Aside from their penchant for bullying when others don’t engage in “pakikisama,” Filipinos indeed, have a tendency to discriminate against more sober ways of tackling solutions.

Unfortunately, a 90 year old study by psychologist Dr Leslie Martin and his colleagues in California suggested that “too much of a sense that everything will be fine can be dangerous because it can lead one to be careless about things that are important to long life.” Likewise, the study also showed that those who are always optimistic take more gambles with their health. They were more likely to drink, smoke and eat badly, which is a typical characteristic of a Filipino. While prudent and persistent individuals are more cautious with their health and overall wellbeing – characteristics that are less likely to be found in Filipinos.

Filipinos have so much to learn from the Japanese. Despite the devastation that the people of Japan experienced due to the magnitude 8.9 earthquake that hit country and the killer tsunami that followed immediately after, people around the world admired the stoicism and orderly reaction of the Japanese. People in most societies would have found themselves wailing in misery and chaos after such destruction.

Maia Szalavitz in an article she wrote for TIME magazine aptly described how it works for the Japanese — they follow the belief that “others are at least on par with the self, if not more important.” Here’s an excerpt:

“In restaurants, you never pour your own sake, you have to notice whose glass is empty and you serve them. It’s these little rituals [that have prepared them for this crisis] so that even if you have one bowl of rice, you share it with a stranger.

The wonderful thing about the Japanese is that they are presenting an example of the pro-social power of the group. The group as a whole is saying explicitly or implicitly, this is what we do: no looting, no horn honking even if you’re in a 12 mile traffic jam, no complaining. [CNN’s] Anderson Cooper said he’d never seen such calm in the face of such adversity.”

Not that Filipinos need copy what the Japanese do to a tee, but the most interesting thing to note about societies like Japan is that nobody has the desire to grandstand. Individuals do not want to show that they are more important than everybody else. This is in stark contrast to people in societies like the Philippines where people in general want to be the “star.” And this is the reason why some Filipinos think that they are above the “law” or above even just simple “guidelines.”

Discipline should be inculcated at an early age. If people are not taught how to follow rules and regulations when they are still young, they will be shocked to realize once they enter the “adult” world that they will have a hard time coping with life if they keep deviating from the rules that put order in society. Which is what is happening to most Filipinos now.


Post Author: Ilda

In life, things are not always what they seem.

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810 Comments on "Filipinos cannot progress if they cannot follow even simple guidelines"

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Joe America
Discipline is to be found within a moral framework. The Japanese culture you cite may be polite, but it is hardly transparent. Japanese share shades of meaning that we outsiders are unlikely to grasp, for we are unrefined by Japanese standards. The Philippines cannot become Japan-like nor should that be an aspiration. The Philippine moral framework is based on the push and pull of Ego, capitalized because the Ego framework is specific to the Philippines. This Ego is similar to Japan or China, being pride based, but in the Philippines, the opposite, “loss of face”, does not engender humility. It… Read more »
Filipinos are law abiding. Of course, you have crime, because it is everywhere, part of the human condition. But I have been all over the Philippines, China, Japan, Hong Kong, and I am a native of the USA. My preferred country is the Phils. In all my time in the Phils, I have never experienced a crime. Nor do I live in gated communities or hotels. I stay with family, ride jeepneys and tricycles, as well as the bus and taxicabs. My experience is real I think “the problem” is, too many pinoys/pinays pointing out “the problem” The Philippines is… Read more »
green elephant
I agree with some points of this article. But the observation is totally poor. I lived in the US ten plus yrs now . Are there lazy Americans? yes. I’m sure these traits are present in all walks of life, whether in Japan or China. Been to Thailand and those people are not that disciplined either, but the country came a long way. Maybe Philippines has progressed a lot economically in the last 30 year or so. Can we plot a graph maybe? Success is in the eye of the beholder. We only see the bad and ignore the good.… Read more »
It has to start with the media as well. My wife orders TFC and I don’t know how she can stand to watch that crap. It’s all mostly garbage. You see the ego, the pride, it’s all there and the oh so poor people, because they just can’t see beyond, keep on apraising this kind of things. I just don’t know how the Philippine Media does it, showing the terrible teleserias. I don’t understand tagalog, but I don’t even think you can understand what they are saying period in those shoes. All you here is yelling, crying, gun fire, and… Read more »
I agree with you Sir. Even though I am a Filipino, I can no longer stand teledramas. Yeah, they may say that dramas are patterned after the realities of life, but after that, the realities of life become patterned after dramas. Just like a cycle. I based my observation on the reason why crime rate increase, it is because TV programs air those kind of news. How powerful media is! Now, back to dramas, if we can break that cycle and introduce shows that show moral values and cultural ideals, and value educational endeavors, then I guess it will be… Read more »
Dennis canete and may mendoza
Dennis canete and may mendoza

…not to mention that teleserye show about a 14-year old girl whose constant outfit makes her breasts want to spill over. DISGUSTING!


i sympathize with you. Believe me im already in the USA and my family still watch that crap. You dont learn anything from it. No wonder the Filipino slice of life there is comical at best. Filipinos in general likes drama. Because their liFe there is full.of drama. The more chaos in life.the more they like it. LIFE THERE IS NOTHING BUT A COMEDY OF ERRORS.

Yzak Vargas

For those who have asked the question: “Why can’t we Filipinos be like the Japanese?” this link may provide you some clues and ideas worth exploring>>>



Enjoy your exploration… Let me know what you find 🙂

Hi Ilda

Sa tingin ko dapat itranslate mo to sa tagalog para mas matulungan mong makarealize ng mga bagay-bagay yung mga Pilipino.


Seconded on that note. It’d be nice if the masses could read and understand this. My family in itself would benefit from the facts/insights presented.

Louben John

The problem is even if you translate it into “Filipino” only a few would dare to read it. I don’t mean to be a “crab” but seeing that most of us are so lazy to even read such a wonderful post as this.

Although more and more Filipinos are changing there ways. I hope it keeps up and truly change our way of thinking.

Indeed, I think someone asked the question a while ago: “How do we address this condition?” For me part of the solution is to embrace the English language, because a lot of information and material that express the concepts and attitudes that we all need to learn and internalise in order to change our ways are written in English. So I respectfully suggest that if we are all serious about building a will to change among Filipinos, the first step is to embrace the medium of expression where the greater bulk of world-class thinking is articulated. 🙂 A good article… Read more »

question: what are your suggestions to address this condition?

How to address it are all there also in the blog… Don’t do what is not right or correct it… do the opposite of the wrong listed. How if you ask again? Self discipline, be conscious of what you say thing or do. “Your beliefs become your thoughts, Your thoughts become your words, Your words become your actions, Your actions become your habits, Your habits become your values, Your values become your destiny.” ― Mahatma Gandhi “Carefully watch your thoughts, for they become your words. Manage and watch your words, for they will become your actions. Consider and judge your… Read more »

Very well written, I couldn’t agree more.


I agree with you when majority of us Filipinos have the victim mentality. It’s frustrating to see Filipinos complain of the punishments they receive when they don’t read and follow guidelines and rules in the first place.

For argument’s sake, I think the reason why the Japanese are able to pick themselves up is because of their culture that has embraced SHINTOISM, a type of religion as it is already made a culture. Part of that is the value of honesty, integrity, and social justice. How I wish we could have the same type of discipline that I see in foreign countries but until the Pinoy moves forward, it is but wishful thinking. In all honesty, though I sometimes become someone as a hypocrite by not following rules, I despise those who would always find the easy… Read more »

Sorry but i believe saying SHINTOISM is why Japan was able to pick itself up is extremely silly. “honesty, integrity and social justice” is part of many if not all world religions including catholicism, protestantism and even the christian cults. let’s try comparing ourselves to other progressive countries other than Japan: South Korea, Singapore, China, India even Vietnam. We suck ass compared to all of them. different countries, different religions yet they are able to progress. it really is a cultural issue.


great insights Ilda! so sad that the mindsets so deeply imbedded in pinoys is really what’s holding us down as a society. i really do wonder if we’ll ever improve. something i observed about pinoys is that it really doesn’t matter to what social class you belong to: rich or poor, “educated” or not, 99% live by padrino, pakikisama, “chill-out”, “victim”, “im more important”. it’s really sad.


Pakisama is so sad…Balikbayan box is so sad…Making Manny Paquio a president is so sad…TFC is so sad….Praising and laughing at gay people on TFC and shows is so sad…Filipinos good at dancing and singing, so sad…Ninoy Aquino, so sad…any good and better news? There should be a new gospel going around in the Philippines…preaching this article.

I’ve went through the same process of introspection as you probably did for this article, seeing that it’s well-articulated, but I may have arrived at a different conclusion than what you wrote. Yes, I’m also sick and tired of the fact that our ‘culture’ seems ‘way off’ the ideal given the conglomeration of factors that you have mentioned. What occurred to me though, is the fact that maybe I’m looking at it at a much different perspective. Let me try to illustrate it with an example. In child psychotherapy, it is nearly not useful to deal with talk therapy as… Read more »

I think the real test here is to make a list of ten convincingly “positive” things about the Philippines, and see if this list will stand up to objectively cold scrutiny and evaluation. That’s the challenge, if anybody is up to it. 😉

Giancarlo Angulo

Great piece.


Thanks you for sharing your insights. I’ve read the whole post and though it is well written, it is derogatory. It sounds like a report on some animal that you’ve been studying for a year. Nevertheless, we share the same sentiments.


wonderful article 🙂

And I was thinking If am that blogger hahaha . . .


Before anything else, we cannot expect the Filipinos to follow the rules and act in a disciplined manner until they learn to love, respect, and identify with the Philippines. It is not until they get to value what it is to be a Filipino that a disciplined society may come about for why will one act in accordance to the laws of a country that they do not value at all.

Jason Rene

Itapon na lang sana lahat ng radiation galing Japan para mamatay na tayo lahat. O kaya ay gawing lider dito si Gaddafi. Para mabawasan ang mga inutil sa mundo.


Negative minded. Although you are right. It’s really negative. You are talking about the people in general. That’s not nice. But nice insights though.


The Truth hurts, but hopefully as human psychi shows, people learn when they have been traumatized….


Negative minded? There will always be an exception but that exception has been overshadowed multiple times already that it feels and looks like a disease spreading.

Funny, when Pinoys are in their homeland, they don’t care about the rules. But when they “migrate” to say, the U.S. or any other places, they suddenly behave like any other people.

George Norte

maybe that’s the reason why most of us decided to go abroad and actually be accustomed with other nation’s discipline.

ren luna

That’s just one of the many reason’s George, mostly because of opportunities for the kids. Pinas just doesn’t offer that much of a stability for our kids future. I have a childhood friend who was a CFO of a very popular company in Makati, and yet he chose to migrate for his kids future. Now, what does that tell you and all our kababayans ?


This is a great post! This is the truth!


I for one am just glad there’s a blog post out there stating simple fact. Now I’m waiting to see if all the misguided “patriots” are going to flood your comments section with “shame on you, you should be proud to be Filipino” and all that petty nonsense Filipinos always resort to when slapped with an uncomfortable truth. Personally I find all this mollycoddling and pandering to our own bullsh*t very irritating.

Bravo on an articulate and insightful post. If only such clarity of thought were more common.




Nice post. However, I’d like to comment on Filipinos being happy-go-lucky. Maybe you’re pertaining to the “bahala na” mentality?

I’ve taken up Sikolohiyang Pilipino and there are some readings available that would explain indigenous concepts such as “bahala na,” “ningas cogon,” and “filipino time” among others. I think Virgilio Enriquez has a published article about this.

It’s really interesting because you’d know why Filipinos act this way. It goes way back in history. Maybe that will help you answer why we behave so differently from other cultures. 🙂

Ed Tadeo

It’s funny coz my wife has an online store where “how to purchase” is all over her website, and still there are people asking how to purchase.

I like this post. Very well said. Tweeted & FB shared.


even on forums and other online resources with deals with what you do with gagdets (celfone, pc and the like), an instruction was given and people will still ask an explanation. Or let me put it this way, pinapatagalog nila.

Not belittling them. But what have we become?