Discipline, respect, and selflessness: Abstractions that the Philippines needs to put into action

I try as hard as possible to play by the rules once I’m out of the house. I get in line, use the pedestrian lane, the overpass, use the proper loading and unloading zones, keep right in the escalator and sidewalks to make way for those people behind who may be in a hurry, always mindful of how my movement might affect and indirectly inconvenience others.

And because of that I always get stressed out and my day has not even begun.

There’s something about being part of a society that’s always in survivor mode 24/7 and does not care much for rules when said things impede one’s personal agenda. Suddenly you find yourself unconsciously playing the same despicable game just to avoid being a victim of the many others who feel the rules don’t apply to them.

The only orderly queue in the Philippines is the one where politicians wait for their turn to steal Filipinos blind.
The only orderly queue in the Philippines is the one where politicians wait for their turn to steal Filipinos blind.
It reminded me of a video I saw where Singapore statesman Lee Kuan Yew stressed discipline in the individual level as a vital component of a strong nation. And I was thinking about applying that principle to the Philippines and figured it would take nothing less than a miracle to reverse this type of thinking that has apparently become a big part of the culture that seem to foster and encourage exceptions into becoming rules.

Just this morning I almost called out a teenager in 7-11 who couldn’t be bothered with falling in line despite the very obvious queue comprised of me and five more people. At least the cashier possessed enough good sense to call her off and told her to act accordingly. Most store crews don’t even do that.

In a business trip with a colleague to Australia a while ago, our hosts decided to bring us to one of those eat-all-you-can buffets in the suburbs of Sydney. Apparently the sushi bar was a popular part of that restaurant and people were understandably lining up to it. Our hosts, fellow Pinoys who migrated there, called me and my colleague’s attention towards the end of the queue as we sat down to eat our meal.

Near the end of the line where the customers were served, hovered two Asian-looking young women. Obviously trying to snatch a few choice morsels from the bar that operated in a first in first out basis. The two were moving in a way that was similar to ATM users who use multiple cards in one transaction. It was an obvious wholesale snatching for other members of their group.

That they were getting glares from people in line were useless. And we were wondering what country these people came from; and I was a bit relieved to know that this type of thick-faced activity was not exclusive to us Pinoys or in the Philippines. I thought and even made up my mind that they were either immigrant/tourist Cambodians, Indonesians, or Thai. Until a man—presumably their father—from afar told them: “Dalawa pa.” (Two more.)

I found that embarrassment for the actions of fellow countrymen takes a whole new dimension when you’re in a foreign land. Our hosts just gave a resigned shake of their heads. And to think I confidently accused other nationalities first.

I used to be one of those over-sensitive sorts who react with hostility whenever foreigners make generalizations and criticisms about us. But one can hardly blame that sort of perspective especially when examples to the contrary are being supplied effortlessly by the majority of the citizens on a daily basis. One popular saying among companies about good and bad publicity is that no one cares about good work because that’s already expected. Incompetence, bad service, and overall annoyance are the sorts that stick better to memory.

And it’s not even an isolated, occasional incident abroad. And that’s just the simple issue of falling in line. Spend a considerable amount of time using the EDSA MRT and you’ll see how that simple concept, even aided by clear signs instructing people to form only two queues on the platform, become an almost-impossible endeavor to the average passenger.

The same with PUVs. I have always wondered why these drivers almost always load and unload in the most outlandish places where possible accidents can happen as well as cause major inconveniences to other motorists. You can argue that they are just being true to form in being the reigning douchebags of the highways. Or that the commuters/passengers actually dictate where they should be so they can make money. And knowing most commuters—being one myself—they actually insist on disembarking in any convenient spot for them short of their own doorway.

Or waiting in the wrong loading area simply because using the proper facilities require too much effort and work. Waiting in the proper loading zones in most places in Metro Manila guarantees a lifetime of waiting for non-jampacked vehicles because of overeager commuters who can’t be bothered with being inconvenienced with short walks to the proper zones. Where life and limb is risked simply because using the overpass requires too much effort, and because anyone can get away with it.

In an analysis and observation towards this type of jagged individualism, GRP webmaster benign0 wrote:

“Our ability as a people to behave as a collective will not come from political solutions. It will not come from new systems of governance, nor will it come from any new “leaders” or even “heroes” stepping up to the plate. Our ability to behave as a collective — as a UNIT — will come only from deep within the fabric of our character as a people and from a shared sense of what it means to be an individual that belongs.”

Indeed, shared sense of belonging seems to be one of the many integral aspects needed in building a strong society that we desperately lack as a people. As long as each member marches to the beat of his own drum ignoring and refusing to recognize the responsibility that comes with it, we will be in a perpetual blind-leading-the blind situation with no clear directions to propel us forward.

[Image courtesy Creative Bloq.]


Post Author: rsurtida

Worker in a private sector hive.

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25 Comments on "Discipline, respect, and selflessness: Abstractions that the Philippines needs to put into action"

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I remember one of my co-employee who said that they “maximize” their Lola’s (grandmother’s) senior citizen card by going to different stores to buy various items at a discount, while making it appear their Lola is the one who’s purchasing them.

Dick S. O' Rosary

The solution proposed by government for people not following simple rules is to PROPOSE MORE RULES! Behold, the anti-pasaway law! Link: http://www.philstar.com/headlines/2014/03/25/1304772/anti-pasaway-fall-line-or-go-jail

Honestly, people claim that we are such a hospitable people, but I will withhold my assent to this statement so long as we fail to give due respect to our fellows in matters as simple as falling in line, traffic rules, garbage dumping, spitting, public smoking, pissing, drunkenness etc.

Sick Amore

“we fail to give due respect to our fellows in matters as simple as falling in line, traffic rules, garbage dumping, spitting, public smoking, pissing, drunkenness etc.”

Those are already normal qualities of Pinoys the very reason why such law has to be enacted only… One bill for every misdeed of “pasaway”? That would take forever for every foul acts to be dealt with. And also how can they make huli and penalized every “pasaway” is a real concern here since Pinoys can easily get away with their misdeeds. A law is useless if it can’t be enforced.


“Ako Muna!!!” is the “mantra” of most Filipinos . They have to be the first, everybody , go to the rear.

This is reflected in our politics. Look at the Family Political Dynasties, that have sprouted like mushrooms. Look at the corrupt politicians, who have grown rich and richer, at our expense. Look at how they display their ill gotten wealths…

Discipline begins at the top. Where the Leaders go; the people will follow.


“Fuck you, me first.” is definitely the M.O of most Filipinos residing in their own island nation. And unfortunately, acting any other way will end up with people walking all over you.

Sad, but that is the reality of most Filipinos.


If you want our country to become Singapore 2.0 then why don’t you vote & support Davao City Mayor Rody Duterte on the upcoming 2016 election?


The main concern is how do we change the filipino consciousness at the individual level? Indeed, short of a miracle, what does it take for a nation to change?

Either the filipino individual should be willing to initiate this change.

Impractical Joker

Like the author,I am also doing the same by abiding to simple rules that I encounter everyday. Hell,I can’t even let go of an empty cup of Buko Juice until I find a trash bin where I could pitch it in. Just observe everywhere here in Manila: How many PUJ,PUB,or even private owners break some basic traffic law like slowing down near pedestrian lanes? How many people are killed by motorcycle accidents by simply refusing to wear a helmet? Those are just some examples and I’d say that I’m infuriated by Pinoys who don’t respect the law.


I have a dream where normal people has the freedom to criticise their government. Freedom of expression without insults, mocking and hate speech where is the freedom in that?. These days politicians are the superior people, dictators are hidden and evil government is still existing.

biffa bacon
This is an excellent article and,as someone from the western world,who has visited the Phils.on many occasions over the last 20+ years,and still contemplating retiring there,I am still completely Confounded as to how anything gets accomplished there.There is an awful lot of chaos in all facets of life,and I know that I can be super critical,but please realize that I am only being this way because I am looking at things from my cultural viewpoint,I really care about the Phils.,and want to see the changes that we all write about. You need a strong leader to pull you from the… Read more »
Impractical Joker
About two weeks ago,I rode a jeepney from Poblacion,Muntinlupa going to Alabang when an elderly woman (maybe on her late fifties) and her 10 year old grandson hailed the jeep at an undesignated loading area,where there is really a sign of an actual “NO LOADING/UNLOADING HERE”. The driver did let the woman and kid on to the jeep and then about 30 meters a traffic constable pulled over the jeep due to that violation. The jeepney driver exchanged words with the constable and his voice was actually louder than the constable. Then the woman stepped in stating that she’s in… Read more »

Abstractions can provide stumbling blocks for people of strange intelligence.

Oh yeah, you said it. The Filipino takes his character with him wherever he goes. In the WEST (EU/UK/USA) the Filipino already has the ‘SCAMMER’ label firmly attached to them. I feel the author’s pain when relating the story about the two class-less girls in the buffet in Sydney. UGH, its just despicably class-less and reflects on all Filipino’s.Thye are too stoopid to realize it. Certain Web-sites are now banning Filipina’s because of what they do, and the scamming ways they prescribe to. Having raffles (with no winners) is a familiar scam in the Filippines but it is illegal in… Read more »