Survival Mentality makes Philippine Society Nasty

Recent articles, such as that of our webmaster Benign0, have reminded us how the murders we’ve seen lately have long been part of Philippine society. We have warlords, killings and Filipinos who hate each other just for having different ideas. Philippine society can indeed be nasty, and it has been for a long time. But why it is so?


My original introduction to this article was the question of why Filipinos seem to have an inferiority complex, so I will connect it. Filipinos project Pride Pride loudly as an overcompensation for how ashamed they feel about themselves. Why do Filipinos feel this inferiority? Some have opined that it is due to colonial mentality, having been indoctrinated that we are inferior to our colonizers and we still carry the indoctrination today. However, I disagree, since I doubt this supposed indoctrination can last that long in the psyche, and other countries who were colonized did not seem to be hampered by a feeling of inferiority. I propose another reason for it.

I remember that John and Marsha movie where they were invited to a baptismal party. Guests were expected to give expensive money gifts, such as P100 (huge money at the time). The Puruntongs, being poor, could only afford a measly P10. After the hosts found what the Puruntongs gave, they went on to insult and publicly embarrass the poorer couple. This led to John Puruntong bursting out in anger as a result and storming out. This scene was a social commentary on common Filipino attitudes at the time. But it is still relevant today.

I’m sure some people have heard this piece of advice: “you have to project your pride, because if you don’t, others will put you down.” Filipinos are likely to assume ‘others’ refers to foreigners. But no; this advice was given from a Filipino, to a Filipino, in the context of Filipino society. The ‘others’ were Filipinos. This implies that Filipinos seem to have a natural tendency to put others down.

Perhaps older people (those who were the youngsters of the 1950s and 1960s) can recall stories back then of how they seemed to be in a race for being ahead in “class” or being rich and something like that. How gossip (tsismis) was often used to ruin someone else’s reputation, often with false reports (and naturally undiscerning Filipinos lap these tales up easily). Notice Filipino popular humor: much of it is based on putting someone down or shaming them (which is what Vice Ganda and other comedy bars thrive on). Could this be what Filipinos are really like underneath? Is this their true nasty, shadowy self hidden beneath the layers of “positivity” and smiles?

Are Filipinos Naturally Nasty?

Thus, the explanation why Filipinos feel inferior or intrinsically ashamed of themselves is because they are the first to make others feel inferior. Filipinos are eager to gain the upper hand, even if there is no contest happening. But if they like doing this to someone, there is the logical consequence that others will do the same as revenge. Someone will prevail and make the other feel inferior, and the “loser” harbors the feeling of inferiority of anger along with some hatred. They may even direct outbursts at other people, probably to blow steam, or as substitutes for the enemy who “defeated” them. Thus, the Filipino turns out as a self-imposed hater of the world around them, making them want to beat it. This a self-inflicted condition, all brought upon them by the compunction to “assert class dominance over the other.” It’s similar to this Internet meme:


To finally answer why Filipinos are like this, it is that Filipinos are mostly still in survival mode. They still see other Filipinos (especially those not of their ethnic group) as their competitors for important survival resources. And apparently they see themselves as competitors not only over physical resources, but even intangible ones such as happiness and pride! They believe if one is up, another must be down. If I have something, another must not have it; if they have it, I must take it from them. Let me do wrong to them, but they can’t do it to me. It could ultimately denigrate to this primitive state of mind: if I must survive, another must not. They would reject the modern thinking that leads to the Win-Win Mentality Stephen Covey promotes in his famous Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. This would lead to the low regard for human life Benign0 described in recent article.

To define survival mentality, I once again go back to my example of the well in the desert contested by two thirsty travelers. Under this mentality, the desire would be to either kill the competitor or to dominate them to control the well. Sharing would be out of the question, as they feel that the well isn’t big enough for the both of them. Where killing is avoided, domination would be the dynamic. And with domination, there would be putting down of other people – still a low regard for the lives of others.

Apply this to Nick Joaquin’s saying: the need for face comes from a lack of confidence. That lack of confidence is because Filipinos remain at a primitive level on social needs. If we apply Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy, they are still meeting the survival needs, namely physiological and safety need levels.

Extended version of Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs
Extended version of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

Some might say Filipinos who are at survival level are the poor. You think only poor people are desperate for money that they may turn to drug dealing? Not so. It applies even to the the supposedly “educated” among Filipinos. These would be concerned with things like “Pinoy Pride,” which at first glance is an issue at the esteem level of Maslow’s hierarchy. However, it seems to me that Filipinos likely treating their esteem needs with the same approach applied to the physiological and safety levels. Meaning, they’re treating esteem issues with survival mentality. They apply to themselves the mentality of someone in poverty, even if they are not actually in poverty (which has been referred to as squatter mentality in this blog). Thus, they fail to have real and meaningful self-esteem.

The common notion Filipinos have about pride is dominance-based, has an aspect of insecurity and fear of being “lower,” and has the further notion of zero-sum (if I must live, another must die, as described above). Even Filipinos who are well-to-do lament “even survival is so difficult these days.” This likely explains why the Filipino’s usually main motivation is to avoid shame, or to shame others they feel are competitors to their happiness.

How Primitive Survival Instinct holds us down

My view will probably rile the humanists, such as those who believe humans are naturally good. In an earlier article, I posited that humans can never be naturally good or evil, and it is decision that make them good or evil. However, some other ruminations lead me to believe that it is easier to be naturally evil – or better yet, that evil is easier to learn, based on the survival instinct I described. My example of the well in the desert implies that scarcity can bring out the worst in people as well as the best. So let me say it this way: hate in the world is a product of man’s survival instinct.

This survival mentality would lead to the issues we see in Philippine society. Parents willing to pimp out their children for money. Filipinos raging against opposing teams from other countries who win against their team. Filipino tribes actually being hostile to each other and seeking to not be part of the same society. Filipino “intellectuals” and “advocates” insulting and bullying people who disagree with their ideas.

If you remember the free softdrink refill in Burger King many years ago, some people would abuse it by bringing Coleman jugs and hog all the softdrink they could. Note, squatters are likely not able to go inside these; “educated” people were doing this. “Educated” Filipinos who are in the drug trade would be doing them to keep having the latest fashions, latest gadgets and flashy cars to be ahead of everybody else – dominance as usual.

Lately we’ve seen the road rage case wherein a man driving a minicar shot dead a bicycle rider he had a fistfight with. In the fight, it seemed the biker had the upper hand. The killer’s pride was likely dented because of this, so he took revenge by killing the other. See how a self-esteem issue applied with survival mode-mentality led to a wrong act. That man with the car is also not poor; that he has a car shows he is can-afford.

On another note, it’s no wonder some Filipinos these days seem open to a return to Martial Law. I’m sure they aren’t ignorant of Martial Law abuses; they know – and they favor it. They likely don’t believe nasty Filipinos can be reasoned with, and must be scared into good behavior. And for them, the iron hand of the governing authority is the best thing to use for this.

If the idea itself scares you, it scares me too. This shows how much distrust Filipinos have of each other. It’s the distrust that leads to a system with so many checks and balances that nothing gets done in the process. It’s a distrust that needs to be addressed. I agree with the more reasonable way of doing so – have Filipinos become more educated and reasonable, and they stop becoming nasty. Some people will be quick to say more education is needed; however ‘education’ needs to be redefined, which I’ll talk about in another article.

Enlightenment Beyond Survival

As our esteemed webmaster Benign0, in his article calling for us to stop blaming colonizers for our problems, said great nations came from societies that stopped being transfixed on survival and went for higher levels of living. They went out to explore. Survival was no longer a major issue for them. Expanding their wealth and knowledge was. It is through being enlightened and having expanded knowledge that the feeling of inferiority was conquered.

Filipinos, even those out of the country like OFWs, rarely explore. They are there for survival – of themselves and their families. Stuck in survival, most Filipinos are unable to appreciate the value of exploring. They are unable to extract the most useful parts from the cultures they are in contact with and apply it to their homeland. Instead, they are used as a milking cow for the captive market at home.

Filipinos, especially the educated classes, need to accept that what seems “natural” to them could actually be the cause of wrongdoing. If survival mentality seems “natural,” then the call for civilized people is to rise above it. They need to reject what seems “natural” to them and realize that they have intellectual faculties help them overcome their nature. They should stop treating of self-esteem issues with survival mentality and, framing it on Maslow’s model, self-actualize and transcend their primivity by being more responsible towards the greater society. Filipinos don’t like the bigger picture when they are more focused on sustaining themselves only. But when they are willing to see the bigger picture, then they are more likely to know the right thing to do.

Addendum: I found this as part of a slide show while looking up something about Filipino workers. The likely Filipino list of priorities using Maslow’s framing.



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.

Leave a Reply

32 Comments on "Survival Mentality makes Philippine Society Nasty"

newest oldest most voted
Notify of
Robert Haighton

“That man with the car is also not poor; that he has a car shows he is can-afford.”

Maybe the guy stole the car; maybe the guy borrowed the car from a ‘rich’ friend (to show off).

In short: driving a car doesnt say anything about who the legal and actual owner is.

No one can make you inferior, except yourself. I live and work in the U.S. We minorities and colored people, have to contend with racial issues, in every facet of our lives. However, if I walk into a room, full of people, who are racially biased. It is their problem in their thinking…not mine ! Education, and traveling around the world, if you can afford it, helps you understand other people, and other countries. Every country has a unique culture…a unique history; and a unique contribution to our humanity. I do not believe in the “Superior Race” mindset. I do… Read more »

Most Failipinos in the Failippines tend to throw your love to the dogs when you become totally submissive to them, but when you want to get out of the heat, they pull you back into the kitchen.

They apply to themselves the mentality of someone in poverty, even if they are not actually in poverty. ChinoF, I know your article wasn’t about this, but I think this is a critical observation. Poverty, in my experience, is 80% in your head. Of course it’s physically possible, at any given time, to be short of money: but to maintain yourself in that state, forever, and pass it on to your children, takes consistent mental effort and a lifetime of incorrect decisions. Filipinos are endlessly insisting that they are “poor”, or that their society is “poor”, and that all their… Read more »
Good article. I think the self-esteem point is important, because low self-esteemed individuals often need to live vicariously through the achievements of others. An example is the whole country of the Philippines coming to a stop when Manny Pacquiao fights. It’s as if people are rooting for him because they think if he wins, they win. The Philippines, unfortunately, has little going for it. Part of the collective national low self-esteem is, in my opinion, from this. The country does not achieve much so some Filipinos feel low because of this. It’s as if their self-worth is based on their… Read more »

Good artcle chinof


After looking at the hierarchy of needs, I’ve been wondering. Why does a nation need pride instead of worrying about what is on the table and roof on top of the heads of one’s family?