Repeat after me: I am the Philippines and I am home to a dysfunctional society

I realised the whole problem with the prevailing discourse within the social media space I inhabit: there is too much discussion about politics and not enough about the underlying issue with Philippine society that I have long highlighted is the real deal here — Filipino culture. Fact is, the Philippines is beset by a really profound problem. Criminality is deeply ingrained in the very fabric of its society. Philippine government institutions are populated by some of the vilest criminals in the land — officials who were elected by the popular vote; that long-trumpeted construct associated with that supposed “power” Filipinos wield against the forces of evil. We may aspire to be led by the most honest, the smartest, the most prayerful, and even the prettiest politician the Filipino gene pool has to offer. But for some reason, we only get the most deceitful, two-faced, uninspiring, crooked, and insubstantial of the lot. A consistently baffling outcome in a nation of 100 million unique DNA sequences.

philippines_dysfunctional_societyWith every election that passes, it becomes more and more evident that Filipinos are wielding this power to “vote” the way a two-year old armed with a blowtorch would redecorate her house. With every “promising” president comes with him or her a cadre of opportunistic clansmen: former classmates and hangout-mates, cousins, brothers, mothers, fathers, half-siblings, mistresses, shooting buddies, canoeing buddies, frat “brods”, sorority “sistahs”, family drivers, etc. who somehow get “appointed” to sensitive government positions within a few weeks of being sworn into that lucrative office in Malacanang. And the pattern repeats itself. The campaign promises morph into excuses, and the voters turn into mere spectators sporting silly canine grins.

In no other time has the underbelly of this lethal political cycle been more obvious than under the administration of President Benigno Simeon “BS” Aquino III. Under the watch of President BS Aquino, the national lament has become walang masumbungan. There is no one in the Establishment to whom escalating important issues will yield sympathetic action, much more clear resolution. Even the nation’s activist scene has become a vast wasteland of inconsequential debates and half-witted hashtag-branded “movements”. The last elections which saw candidates viciously maligned by social media “activists” topping the polls was an indictment of the hollow catchphrases and slogans tweeted by the nation’s top self-described “social media practitioners”. More important than that, the three pillars of check-and-balance, the Executive, Legislative, and Judicial branches have all been tainted with corruption scandals. The office of the President, the very source of the funds whose pilfering is a deeply-institutionalised tradition in Philippine government and politics, is in the midst of an unprecedented excuse engineering exercise while the whole effort to hang perpetrators of that thievery in Congress is imprisoned by a pointless “Blue Ribbon Committee” “probe”.

Many would think the Philippines is a “lost cause”. It isn’t. It only seems like it because the popular discourse revolves around politics rather than around the underlying issue that we have long insisted is the real deal: Filipino Culture. Philippine politics and the bozos who populate it are mere reflections of the character of the society they infest, much the same way that rats infest an unsanitary building or home. Killing the rats does not cure the underlying malaise. You need to clean up the rot and deodorise the stink so that the rats don’t come back.

Until then, the powers-that-be will protect the status quo. With deadly force if necessary. That is why pork barrel scam “whistleblowers” are dressed in flak jackets whenever they are paraded before the public. It is widely-accepted that they are not safe even within the confines of a Philippine government building. That’s fair enough. When was the last time you felt safe in the custody of the Philippine police? That says something about the Philippines. It is an inherently unjust society. Changing this status quo cannot be done by simply showing that “lots of people” agree that it should be changed. That change may have to be won by the sword if necessary — because the people who profit mightily from the status quo will not be moved by pakiusap.

Look no further than the next headline. Do we really seriously think any of the people of consequence embroiled in this pork barrel corruption scandal will end up behind bars? I wouldn’t bet good money on it. As much as our hope of one day electing an “honest” and “smart” president is like betting on being dealt a royal flush in a game of poker, the prospect of seeing alleged perpetrators Jinggoy Estrada, Bong Revilla, and Johnny Enrile behind bars is a full house at best. President BS Aquino being held accountable for the criminal farce that was the impeachment “trial” of former Chief Justice Renato Corona and his continued sorry efforts to defend the virtually un-auditable Disbursement Acceleration Program funds is a pipedream. He will likely simply go on and run for Vice President in 2016. There are no consequences in the Philippines — only new slogans.

So, “hope” in a better Philippines? Dude, buying a lottery ticket is not an investment strategy. The real effort here is to give substance to this hope. We will not find that substance in the colourful media whoring of our “social media practitioners”, nor will we find it in “non-traditional” politicians. You just need to recall that bozos like Risa Hontiveros, Teddy Casino, and the rest of their commie comrades were once bandied around as the “hope” of rotten Philippine politics. Well, look around us now. They are now anything but. They are hopelessly inconsistent, discuss people more and ideas less, and are reduced to arguing on Twitter with disembodied avatars.

Walang masumbungan. Kahit si Tulfo kelangan isumbong.

You cannot pull substance out of social-climbing airheads who parrot the latest popular slogan ad nauseum, retweet the latest “trending” topic, and insist that debates be carried out over a series of 140-character one-liners. Neither will we find that much-needed substance in “thought leaders” who are hand-tied by media organisations owned by Indonesian taipans or held to returns-on-owners’-equity ratios. And certainly we will not find that substance in politicians who are members of political “parties” that lack any sort of ideological or philosophical underpinning.

Filipinos need to learn to think. Yes, the Philippines is a renowned non-thinking society. But just because it is so does not mean that national character flaw cannot be changed. We just need to recognise — by overcoming our instinctive inclination to get butthurt by The Truth — that our society and culture needs not just a major makeover, but a brain transplant.

I am Juan and I am an alcoholic.

Those words represent the single biggest step a wino can take on the road to recovery. The Philippines needs to undertake a similar journey. Only when we recognise our society’s most fundamental problems with eyes wide open can we consider ourselves on our way to real recovery.

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Post Author: benign0

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37 Comments on "Repeat after me: I am the Philippines and I am home to a dysfunctional society"

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Wow. Thank you for writing this.

Excellent. 100% agree ‘I am juan and i am a cultural luddite’ Cultural norms are the embedded reactions to historic stupidity. Change management is well understood in a corporate environment – both in terms of its importance to overall performance, and the mechanics/tools to change/adapt cultural values as organisational needs dictate. Business psychology now also starts to become an allied specialism aimed at ensuring people and processes function in harmony, not conflict. Systems invariably fail not just from design, or planning, but because of the human interface, hence total systems methodology, and total quality management. Social re-engineering at a national… Read more »
Jim DiGriz
I happen to think that the Philippines indeed is a lost cause. The current voting habits of Filipinos will not change for the following reasons: 1. People are getting dumber by the month. You can judge a country by checking what is shown on TV. It reflects the level of intelligence (which is that of a 5 year old). 2. People still take money for their votes. 3. The mob rules and anyone who has half a brain leaves the country. The rich vote with having their wallet on their mind, not the betterment of the country. 4. Filipinos in… Read more »
Thomas Jefferson
Great article Benigno… There is really something very wrong with this yellow influenced improved society under the matuwid na daan which in truth is really ang baliw na daan! Ours is a manipulated society where mass media propaganda, political slogans, promises and manipulated surveys control the minds of the weak, the ignorant and the gullible. The fever of yellow fanaticism is very much alive due to the subtle mind control lies being fed to our people. We have seen the incompetence, stupidity and inaction of a laid back national leadership that cannot produce results to improve the lot of the… Read more »

Philippines is a lost cause for the educated middle class, change will not happen because first, The rich people are pretty happy with the way things are with their businesses (backed by policies of their politician buddies) thriving. Second, the poor people are also contented living in their squatter house surviving even without jobs waiting for the noon time show program to come by and give freebies.

2 thing rise to the top – cream and scum. Culture and its associated values are major factors in determining whether the cream or the scum ( metaphorically and in reality), dominate in politics and society, and which/who become the ‘role-models’. Bad apples exist in any society, but with the right values, better mechanisms are created to identify and dispose of such malignants and retrobates The problem is that if it is the scum, then like the bacteria, over time it infects everything else, and only radical disinfectant will change the situation. “You can think of this self-perpetuating cycle, where… Read more »
There are at least 6 drivers/key areas for cultural change, and each should have their own primary focus/individual initiatives, but work in concert to reinforce each other, and to agreed core values. Education/parenting Entertainment/media Environment/arts Employment/training Entrepreneurship/business External/partnerships There is always a more prescriptive approach at the outset of any cultural change/social re-engineering programme, but that gives way over time to greater freedoms as solid foundations are established, institutional change occurs, and genuine progress is made. Responsibility slowly transfers from a centralised propaganda based state to an informed, opinionated, and empowered society/individual, where democracy rather than elitism flourishes, and where… Read more »

Nice play on the Alcoholics Anonymous code. Admission that one has a problem is always the first step to solving a problem. And refusal to admit the problem means refusal to solve the problem too.

I think that first line will always have this as the ending phrase: I need help. Of course, not dole-outs, but help in thinking straight.

JT Jerzy

OH YEAH, the new slogan for the tourism board should be:


Cristina Meehan

Great article and follow up comments, thanks!

Hyden Toro
The great German Psychologist Carl Jung, called this: “Collective Unconsciousness”…we think on this matter. That is the reason, we are, what we are…In worldly sense: it is called: “Earth Mind Conciousness”. We can only help ourselves; nobody in the whole world will help us. The job of everybody, is to clean house. Remove those political dynasties; which prevent the true leaders to come out. Destroy the Feudal Oligarchy, which the Aquinos and his cahoots have established. Inform people about our true condition. A Chinese proverb says: “A journey to a thousand miles, begins with a Single Step…” It seems impossible,… Read more »

Unfortunately, this article will probably not be read or comprehended by the people who really need to read and comprehend it.


is there a chance for the bloggers on this site to elevate to a higher medium like creating a TV or radio program so you can reach out to ordinary folks thereby awakening them from their ignorance. Topics here are really true to form, if ever granted a slot in a yellow media it will actually transform viewers what life realities we Filipinos have.

Kevin Carpio
If it’s systematic cleansing of rot that’s needed, what’s your opinion of the Marxist argument for a two-pronged attack: One in parliament and one armed wing, both under the communist party? (The one in the Philippines though is a joke. It lost its ideals when it became power for the sake of power) From the soclialist point of view, we are on the verge of another revolution. Weber says that once the legitimacy of the state is questioned due to its inability to deliver its promises to the people who appoint it, the people have the power to take it… Read more »
Bill Kasi

The yellow media are the propaganda machines for indoctrinating the masses. Could the many years effects of brainwashing and indoctrinations be reversed? We really needs drastic measures to counteract their devilish agendas. Perhaps we’ll just take over these yellow media. I’m afraid that is the only solution. These yellow media were illegally acquired anyway.


I’m Filipino, and I don’t sugarcoat the fact that yes I live in a dysfunctional cuntry. 🙂

That said, if a society such as the Philippines considers itself sane, I’d rather be the dysfunctional one.


Very well said. I am still very young but I have learned how hopeless our society is.