Deus ex machina: The Filipino’s Simplistic Mindset

Looking back to the events that transpired in the course of Chief Justice Renato Corona’s impeachment trial, it could be said that major highlights concerned envelopes. First, we had witnessed the amusing incident involving a certain “small lady” who, according to prosecutor Reynaldo Umali’s story, gave him an envelope which contained Corona’s bank records, and are allegedly incriminating. Many were then convinced that this was it for Corona. And then the records were falsified.

Envelope. The answer to the ultimate question of life, the universe and everything.

Now, we have another envelope which can allegedly incriminate the respondent, for this envelope supposedly verifies the claim that Corona has dubious wealth hidden somewhere that amounts to $10-M. The object of Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales’s searching eyes, the thing that made Harvey Keh the talk of the town; all eyes are now focused on this envelope that might catalyze the ending of this legal saga. Again, many people are convinced that this is the final nail in Corona’s coffin. Meanwhile, suspicions are rising as to the credibility of this evidence.

Obviously, this is yet another dirty play by the yellows — to make the Chief Justice look guilty and get the senators to convict him. Why else provide the Senate President a bogus document? He, Walden Bello and Riza Hontiveros now claim that they have no personal knowlege of the dollar deposits of the Corona. Hello. Why file complaints then?

Similarly, Noynoy’s Ombudsman, Conchita Carpio-Morales, while claiming she will testify and tell all, now also admits that her order for the Chief Justice to explain his alleged foreign currency deposits amounting to $10 million was based on media report.

(Source: Link)

Magical envelopes are not restricted to Corona’s case. In fact, the impeachment trial of former President Joseph Estrada became controversial because of an envelope, the contents of which could have incriminated Estrada for good. However, the jury decided not to open it, leading to the walkout of the prosecution and sheer outrage from the masses. But then as it turned out, the said envelope contained nothing incriminating.

It seems our national politics has an envelope-y nature. We Filipinos sure love envelopes, no? Not really, but we do love overrated plot devices.

Deus ex machina, a Latin phrase which roughly translates to “god out of the machine,” is:

“a person or thing (as in fiction or drama) that appears or is introduced suddenly and unexpectedly and provides a contrived solution to an apparently insoluble difficulty”

(Source: Link)

Basically, a deus ex machina is a person or a thing that appears out of nowhere and solves the problem in an instant (let’s, for a moment, drop the fiction/drama part). And, observing today’s society, our culture is rich with things that are perceived as such.

'Chill bro. I got this.'

In my previous article, I have explained PNoy’s distinct image as a hero to the Filipino masses; a hero who, just in the nick of time… just when all hope seemed lost, jumped into the political fray to shed hope to the Filipino people. This is a perfect illustration of a deus ex machina. We are fond of seeing personalities who will, quite suddenly, appear before our midst and lead us to a land of milk and honey.

The envelopes were dei ex machina in our little political drama. Just when the prosecution seemed defeated, just when all hope seemed lost and the villain Corona is about to get acquitted, suddenly, a bunch of envelopes appear, quite literally, out of nowhere to save the day. There is hope once again; people are once again fired up to persecute the respondent, confident that he’ll finally get the guilty verdict he deserves.

It seems that subconsciously, the concept of a miraculous person or object—a deus ex machina—as the solution to a problem has been ingrained in the Filipino mindset that it manifests itself from time to time.

Perhaps it stemmed from the iconic revolutions in our history. Perhaps it stemmed from the religion-centric culture the Spanish era has given us. In the end, a lingering longing for a single-package solution in our problems constitute the Filipino psyche.

Why do many Filipinos go to church, praying for God’s guidance, and then go bet on the lotto or at the nearest sweepstakes office? Why is there a prevailing “gameshow culture” in the Philippines, where countless Filipinos flock in the studios in hopes of getting their hands on the prizes these shows can offer? Why are many Filipinos more dependent on the government than on themselves? Why do we buy into the politicians’ simplistic campaign commercials?

All of these things share a common trait; they all offer an easy way out. They offer you the best of things for minimal effort, and many Filipinos fall for that. Many Filipinos fall for the world’s dei ex machina.

But reality will slap us back to her one way or another. Just like how deus ex machina is viewed as a mediocre plot device in literature, we Filipinos will realize that reality just isn’t compatible with single-package solutions. Just like how most lotto winners end up bankrupt in just a few years, just like how Filipinos waste their time watching game-shows for a slim chance of winning the jackpot, just like how the government cannot solve all of your problems, and just like how most campaign commercials mean jack squat, we should know that real success do not come in envelopes and similar stuff. We Filipinos should realize that we have to work hard to earn real success, because we learn through the process. A deus ex machina can’t teach you anything; experience does, and it will give you the knowledge to keep your hard-earned wealth.

We Filipinos should also realize that we have to practice critical thinking to arrive at the truth. We should weigh the facts and obtain rational conclusions, rather than just go with the flow and anchor our hopes to envelopes and small ladies who find their way to court. When we open our lives’ envelopes that contain success or truth, we don’t find this:

The answer to the ultimate question of life, the universe and everything.

Instead, we find this:

Thousands of it.

We’ll find blueprints; blueprints of every permutation, detailing the things that need to be done to bring us closer and closer to our goals. Nothing in experience tells us that a single person or object is the key to our success; heck, it turns out that experience itself is the key to our success, coupled of course with rational thinking.

Just like how stories become colorful and interesting with functional characters, our lives become more and more productive as we tackle our problems not with blind faith in dei ex machina, but with our personal abilities. We truly succeed because we work hard, and we arrive at the truth because we think, not because of some iconic president-hero or an omniscient envelope or a lotto win.

It’s high time that we look into ourselves and start abandoning our miracle-based culture; a deus ex machina-based culture, so that we may transcend our simplistic mindset. This, to me, is a crucial step to turn our story from a clichéd, badly written gibberish into a bestseller novel.


About Arche

I'm just throwing ideas around. I also love coffee.

Post Author: Arche

I'm just throwing ideas around. I also love coffee.

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48 Comments on "Deus ex machina: The Filipino’s Simplistic Mindset"

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Playwrights of olden times resort to dei ex machina to easily resolve a difficulty in the realization of a plot.

Much like certified brats or retards, a lot of Pinoys would rather rely on some higher power (e.g. God, an OFW relative, some lonely old fart from a first world country they could milk, etc) to bail them out of their misery instead of simply following proper procedure methodically (e.g. due process, rule of law, etc)

Bill Steffen

I want my friends in America to read this cause it means them also! Americans have the same mindset and it has to change! Sadly this is exactly what Obama wants for The United States


In Da Pinoy family unit, the deus ex machina is the ofw. The answer to the batugans’ prayers.


I thought Bello and Hontiveros filed a different complaint not related to the supposed dollar account(s)

nelson ongpauco

mga bloger hindi lahat ng mga tao na hindi na ayun sa inyo ay makapinoy baka kayo banatan kayo ng banatan dahil parepareho kayong bayaran ng mga politikong magnanakaw .bakit ko magugustuhan si pinoy ay komunista ito na kaya ang mga npa ay ay nasa maynila na daahil piunababa ng ina niya si arroyo masmaraami pa ang pinapatay kaysa ke marcos at masmalaki pa ang kurakot na si estrada ay inakusahan ng juweteng eh dahil maliit ang parte ni singson kaya pinagtulungan nila si joseph ..

Arche, Great article. When I was still a new employee, my boss always told me about the Five Ps — Proper Preparation Prevents Poor Performance. A lot of people know that success doesn’t come to you the moment you step out of your door. It doesn’t happen like a miracle. In the Philippine case, isn’t it like a vicious sustaining cyclical pattern for desperation? More people getting pushed to the brink of desperation — abandoning rational behavior in the process — which forces them wish for miracles more than actually plan to do something about their situation. Sometimes even if… Read more »
Hyden Toro
When will we learn that, these people involved in the Corona impeachment show are: Liars and Manipulators. They are beholden to the Aquino and the Cojuangco families, to confuse people; and keep the Hacienda Luisita. These are vicious people, and vicious politicians. There is a stand-off brewing already on the Scarborough Shoul, with China. Noynoy Aquino seems to be hiding under the table. Like he did, during the Luneta Hostage situation, that killed Chinese tourists. The Chinese are telling him: he cannot just kill Chinese, and get away with it. Like the way, he murdered his Hacienda Luisita Farmers/Tenant-serfs…Deux-Ex -Machina… Read more »
nelson ongpauco
hoy anak ng japayuki ako ay nandito sa america at meron akong pera sa stock market at meron din akong namana na taniman ng niyog at apartment sa pinas .meron din akong property sa florida at 40 acre sa arizona 4 ang kotse ko dito meron akong mercedez ,pick-truck na 4 door at mini van at dodge van na may-upuan na nagiging kama .ikaw ano ang property mo mayaman ka na siguro dahil malaki ang bayad sa iyo ni corona at arroyo …ano ang sinasabi mo squatter metality racist ka ..yung perang sinasabi mo ninikaw ni arroyo sa aking ay… Read more »
nelson ongpauco

hoy anak ng japayuki ang bahay na nabili ko ay may hotspring na swimming pool at binayaran ko ng cash ikaw nakabili kanaba ng bahay binayaran mo ba ng cash …siguro si arroyo o si corona ang nagdown payment ng bahay mo..mabubulag karin u—-lol


Arche, The deus ex machina device is used rather well in Pinoy society, don’t you think? There are at least two other (2) obvious reasons why Pinoys do so:

1) Palusot – to make excuses
2) To deflect the responsibility away from person in question

“Why do Filipinos buy into Why are many Filipinos more dependent on the government than on themselves? Why do we buy into the politicians’ simplistic campaign commercials?”

I’m just curious, what were you planning to write at part where it was cut off (placed in underline)?

Winter is Coming

Well said! Also reflecting this reliance on dei ex machina are:
(1) Expecting the US to help us at Scarborough, and then feeling let down when they prioritize their big picture foreign policy over the Mutual Defense Treaty
(2) Thinking of CCTs as some sort of mana from heaven being and being disappointed that the amount is quite small and comes with conditions
(3) Having lots of children and explaining it by saying “Malay mo ang isa diyan ang mag-aahon sa amin sa kahirapan”
(4) Falling for those stupid miracle cures