Is the solution to Filipino Dysfunction being more “UnFilipino”?

One of my theses about the Filipino Condition is that bad practices have been ingrained as part of Filipino culture, and thus have been identified with our nationality. For example, many Filipino became shoplifters in Hong Kong many years before that caused a store to ban Filipinos from entering. Because there were many enough cases to make such an impression, the store owner believed that the risk too high to let any Filipino in. This may be true in the U.S. too, were beside a “Shoplifting is a crime” sign reportedly is the Tagalog version: “Krimen ang Pagnanakaw.” No other language. Filipinos are also observed to be noisy during occasions, especially during videoke singing, because they don’t care about their neighbors’ comfort. There is also our being onion-skinned when we are criticized by other countries, and our arrogant form of the Pinoy Pride habit. Some observe that we may be the only nation that brings home big “Balikbayan” boxes full of consumer goods, which hints to a harmful level of consumerism in our country.


I feel that the association of such habits with our countrymen’s “ugali” or routine behavior and culture has reached a point that, tragically, trying to dissociate being Filipino from them is difficult, no matter how few the cases actually are compared to the majority. And another tragedy is that some Filipinos choose to embrace these flaws without thinking of the harm they cause. Thus, it has led me to consider that solutions to Filipino dysfunctions involve applying and practicing values that might be considered “UnFilipino.”

Other examples: drinking (and getting drunk) every weekend at the kanto is considered very Filipino. If you are more of a teetotaler, or someone who avoid alcohol, you’ll be seen as a “killjoy” or walang pakisama. Which is actually far from the truth, but Filipino attitudes often state it this way.

One of the more common practices is to bring in friends and relatives at work, the classic nepotism problem. We citizens complain of politicians bringing in their friends and relatives at work. Yet these politicians may safely say, isn’t that what you ordinary people do too? If we do want to remove or control this practice of referring relatives and friends to work, wouldn’t we be affecting a very “Filipino” practice?

The entrenchment of some practices may have reached a point wherein, if you don’t practice these, even if you are doing wrong, you are considered “not Filipino.” Of course, this would be erroneous, not everything that is flawed about us should be considered Filipino. Unfortunately, the association of such habits with our nationality is strongly held by many people, especially those in other countries, because of the many incidents involving them, and perhaps because of misrepresentation by the mass media.

We certainly have positive Filipino values too, such as caring for family to a point, and we have a tendency to befriend and extend ourselves to other people in a personal manner. For example, we try to befriend people in our workplaces, rather than just have them as workmates. The value of humility as opposed to pride is the right application of the principle of “hiya.” It is also a core Filipino value to treat others to treat ourselves, according to a slide show I found on the Net.

But there is another study that says Filipino values are not really indigenous. There are a lot of influences even from other countries from older times. Like any country’s culture, there are always foreign influences that we must be conscious of. So it makes more sense to consciously take control of these influences and use them to improve our behavior and societal conduct rather than excise them. I believe we need to look at influences outside of our normal concept of “the Filipino zone” because our own traditional values seem inadequate and somewhat flawed.

Today, there are a lot of helpful sources we can derive from. One example is Stephen Covey’s Habits of Highly Effective People, which has a basis on values. Another is the Protestant work ethic, wherein hard work as a duty and not as a means to an end or reward is highlighted. There is a manual called Ethical Reasoning, by Richard Paul and Linda Elder which contains an excellent discussion of ethics, which argues for a universal acceptance of ethical principles. I believe it is important for Filipinos to study this. A lot of Filipinos repeat the principles contained in these and other sources, among them Francis Kong.

My focus on foreign examples is because of my impression that most modern ideas and ideas about ethics and philosophy that would benefit us will come from other shores. Perhaps that is why fate brought many OFWs around the world; to learn the values of other countries. I also believe our own traditional local values need reform. Thus, not only do we review our values, but we also pick from other cultures to accept principles that will help us improve our views and behavior as a people.

I do agree that some foreign influences can be bad. For example, my idea about the arrogant brand of Pinoy Pride is that it imitates the way Americans have their nationalism. In America, you could find examples of people who believe “my country, right or wrong,” wherein they are willing to support even unethical acts of their country. That would be the wrong kind of pride and can lead to immoral acts. Thus, we need to have the right kind of pride that does not border on this type of state fanaticism.

But at times, even if the solutions we look for are not anti-Filipino or exclusively foreign, they seem to oppose beliefs many Filipinos today hold, to the point that exploring these solutions certainly carries the risk of being branded “unFilipino” or “anti-Filipino.” For example, when Stephen Covey thought of “win-win,” Filipinos would immediately say that it is stupid. They would say, you can’t be “everybody happy,” if you win, someone has to lose! For example, in gambling, if you win, then the other betters lose money. “That’s how it has to be!” the Filipino may say. Thus, Filipinos insist on the zero-sum game and would rather have someone lose so he may gain.

We need to combat these attitudes among Filipinos. We need to remove from our people these values that encourage false pride, disregard for ethics and apathy towards society, and replace them with better beliefs. There is a need to inculcate renewed values among Filipino so they may conduct their lives properly and remove the bad habits associated with their nationality.

I did say these solutions are not exclusively “unFilipino.” There are merely principles that exist in universal values and ethics. Yet some of them go against the grain of Filipino behavior in society. Even humility is often rejected because Filipinos believe they should project their pride. Criticizing a fellow Filipinio for his wrongs has been slammed as “UnFilipino.” But in spite of this branding, the risk is still worth taking. Challenging popular views is one of the keys to meaningful social change.

How to inculcate these values is admittedly a Herculean task. There are a lot of factors affecting Filipino beliefs and behavior, among them mass media and education. Perhaps going into these media to challenge the prevalent and traditional beliefs could be done (but this is the scope of another article).

By applying the above solution, we can redefine what one means by being Filipino. The key is to dissociate the Filipino identity from the bad practices mentioned above. The more values, principles and behaviors that are more beneficial, like Stephen Covey’s “Win-win” and other Seven Habits, are associated with being Filipino, the more our behavior as a people will improve and so will our situation.

And why look to other shores for ideas in values? It is a given that the Philippines cannot exist in a vacuum. We are only one nation among many. Even if we have our own values, they have to be in sync with those of the rest of the world. Thus, let us make a careful study of such values and pick the right ones.

[Photo courtesy: Dannuel Delizo and Faye Nicole Juania at Slideshare]


About ChinoF

I stick with this blog because I believe, as my cohorts do, that many things Filipino embrace as part of their culture keep their society backward. And blogging freely to show that in a truly decent society, with true freedom of speech, even nobodies have a voice.

Post Author: ChinoF

I stick with this blog because I believe, as my cohorts do, that many things Filipino embrace as part of their culture keep their society backward. And blogging freely to show that in a truly decent society, with true freedom of speech, even nobodies have a voice.

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131 Comments on "Is the solution to Filipino Dysfunction being more “UnFilipino”?"

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Filipinos are also a mixed people since 400 years old; we were mixed along with Asia and some of Europe.

BTW, the Spaniards instilled a class system and education. They also brought the Catholic religion but Filipinos still find ways to screw it up.

The Americans came to streamline everything in their vision, especially a flawed government the Filipinos took and copied the wrong way. That’s why there is a big difference if we compare American and Filipino politics.

In the USA there are no signs in Tagalog there that say “Krimen ang Pagnanakaw”. Filipino Americans are one of the most affluent ethnic groups in the USA, better off than whites. See: Filipino Americans: Least amount in poverty Second highest median family income Third hightest percentage of homeowners Third lowest in public assistance etc… “Indians had the highest median household income among Asians, at $89,600 in 2010 compared to non-Hispanic whites at $54,000. Filipinos were second highest, followed by Chinese and Japanese” Please verify your facts first before blurting out “information” based merely on the stereotypes you… Read more »
I found that living in the US was very lonely for me (I’m a US citizen) so many rules and touchy neighbors, I could never play my music loud and yet they smoked day and night, I could smell their choking smoking drift into my bedroom from another apartment, I never complained. I do feel Tagalog as a language is doing more harm than good, maybe it’s time to drop it and go to English and then teach Chinese as the second language, sure would open allot more doors, what good is the Tagalog language if it only is spoken… Read more »
Robert Haighton
ChinoF, based on my own personal experiences of being in the Philippines and based on what I read in Phili newspapers and based on what I read on other websites, I just wonder how the “perfect” Filipino society should or must look like? I can compare the Filipino society (as far as I know that society) to the Dutch society and then make lots of comments and how to improve, progress, evolve the Filipino society. But I dont know if the PS (Philippine society) wants to become a copy (cat) of the Dutch society. There are a lot of things… Read more »
Why don’t just pen the article like: “Pinoy Bashing As An Art.” You consider shoplifting as if it is a heinous crimes that infected only the Filipinos. Petty as well as high crimes cross racial barriers. In like manner, you will consider bank holduppers as reprehensible creatures, but not the bank owners who use the banks as their private piggy banks, run with the money and let the government bails it out. You consider petty thefts to address dire hunger/needs of those who probably have no money as signs of Filipino dysfunction but you won’t see that million other Filipinos… Read more »
Idon’t think I’ve ever heard of any Filipino spoke about a perfect society. They either talk about what they’re great at ( Manny and those American idol kids) or what’s wrong or what’s going wrong As for what they want done right… they sometimes talk about stuff. But when I question them on those stuff they don’t understand why they’re asking for them. Some common stuff I heard Death penalty (perfect society??? ) Less protests (peace demostration might be better? ) Less corruption strong economy clean streets Want to be like Singapore and have Lamborghinis on the streets ( never… Read more »
“No man is an island” john donne There is something unique in island cultures which can readily breed insularity, ignorance, and paranoia, resulting in a defensive and protectionist approach to the world outside. Within the philippines this is manifest in numerous ways, which adversely affect the culture and the opportunity to develop economically. The intransigent stance against economic constitutional change is one, allied with the prohibition of foreign professionals working in the country, which is a double whammy since it restricts knowledge transfer/standards improvement, and makes it difficult for foreign companies/investors to gain access to skills/services/personnel they need. The philippines… Read more »
“Another is the Protestant work ethic, wherein hard work as a duty and not as a means to an end or reward is highlighted.” That is the mindset of slavery. Why in the name of sanity would we ever deify work? In the very book itself that promotes that, work (or hard labor) is the CURSE of humanity beginning from its exile from “paradise.” Even in its earlier Persian and Zoroastrian cultural roots, “work with matter” was inherently evil. The entire miseries of earthly human existence is believed to be the byproduct of a defective angel/designer. Jesus himself is aghast… Read more »

Proud pinoys should watch this brilliant vid from Vsauce, especially the last part. As i was watching this, I feel a relation between KSPs and grandstanding pinoys and the kind of “honor” one should have in their life.


[…] one of my earlier articles, “Is the solution to Filipino Dysfunction being more ‘UnFilipino,’” the discussion shifted to Asian Values and whether I was saying Filipino values were inferior […]


You provide way more insight and depth than fishball/ Vicente/ sendonggirl etc.

Phil E. Pino

In the USA, opportunity, world class universities, rule of law, good climate and clean environment are magnets that draw the best and brightest — enhancing our competitiveness productivity and our GENE POOL. The Philippines should better utilize a magnet or two! TWO obvious magnets: 1. Liberalize foreign ownership of land, and other industry classes, and 2. Encourage more well educated western/foreign men with high IQs to marry and reproduce with some of the most attractive 18 to 20 year old girls the planet has to offer…

they are a race of liars cheats & thieves. No matter what you say it wont change. They see money & just cant help themselves. They always put themselves 1st & i find them so stupid in the way they think. Ask a pinoy can you do this & he will say yes. Well yes he probably can do it, not correctly but he can do it, for instance my wife had a pinoy fit our electric shower & i went to use it & it wobbled. I disconnected it & took it off the wall. When he drilled the… Read more »

[…] one important place to start is the family. Perhaps we need to undo some traditions that we’ve long cherished as part of our “Filipino identity,” and replace them with better […]