Funny, I always thought it was national snack chicharon, a renowned tolerance for obvious road killers like jeepneys, the corrosive lead-laced gaseous mix that passes off for air in their capital city, toxic in-laws, and their aversion to exercise that kills the most Fillipinos. All true, perhaps. But the biggest challenge to Filipinos living to a ripe old age (by Third World standards) of 60 is a proliferation of guns.
According to the World Health Rankings website, the following were the Philippines’ leading causes of death in 2010 (cause [ ] no. of deaths [ ] percent mortality):
1 Coronary Heart Disease 57,864 13.73
2 Influenza & Pneumonia 46,900 11.13
3 Stroke 40,245 9.55
4 Tuberculosis 35,867 8.51
5 Hypertension 35,001 8.30
6 Diabetes Mellitus 18,512 4.39
7 Violence 17,152 4.07
8 Lung Disease 13,473 3.20
9 Kidney Disease 12,960 3.07
10 Asthma 10,471 2.48
11 Lung Cancers 8,518 2.02
12 Road Traffic Accidents 8,175 1.94
13 Peptic Ulcer Disease 7,423 1.76
14 Liver Disease 7,232 1.72
15 Diarrhoeal diseases 6,628 1.57
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Violence ranks Number 7 in that list making it one of Filipinos’ top lifestyle-related killers. Violence, after all, is a way of life in the Philippines. Filipinos kill one another for the smallest things — ask any foreigner living in the Philippines and it is likely that their greatest fear will be something involving getting shot in the back over offending the fragile ego of the corner tambay. Look no further than George Anikow. He found out the hard way how much of a broad and profound cultural condition violence is in Philippine society.
This is after all a nation where assassins riding tandem on motorcycles can be hired for a hit for no more than Php10,000 (a little more than USD200). It is quite amazing that the Philippines is not on Uncle Samâ€™s permanent travel ban list. The simplest misunderstanding, misconstrued look, or unintended slight can provoke a massive feudal vendetta that could last generations. It seems to all stem from the world-renowned pipsqueak ego of the Filipino…
Not surprising, considering the Philippines’ top government official is an avid gun enthusiast. No less than Philippine President Benigno Simeon “BS” Aquino III insists on packing a piece despite his being under the constant protection of an elite squad of security men. If I were one of BS Aquino’s security guys, I’d feel really insulted. And insulting a Filipino (much more an armed one) really isn’t such a smart thing to do. You could end up with a bad case of lead poisoning in your back.
Indeed, as the Washington Post observes in the aftermath of that brazen SM Megamall armed robbery, the Philippines is more gun than fun…
The proliferation of firearms â€” police estimate there are up to 1 million unregistered weapons â€” have fueled violence and insurgencies in the country for years despite calls from lawmakers and pressure groups for tighter gun control. A dysfunctional justice system with crowded jails and underpaid prosecutors and judges has produced a massive backlog where a criminal trial can stretch over six years or more.
If there is anything that permeates Philippine society from the bottom-up, it is a culture of crime. In the Philippines, expressedly written statements that limit or prescribe individual actions in the interest of the common good — i.e. laws — from the lowliest traffic ordinances to the highest mitigations against economic plunder are routinely and blatantly flouted by Filipinos of all economic class and social status.
All with nonchalant impunity from the bottom of the pecking order to the top: humble jeepney drivers thumb their noses at traffic ordinances, families build entire houses on public property and other lands they are not entitled to, retailers sell pirated intellectual property at high-end market facilities, entrepeneurs build high walls around their mansions to conceal their illicit warehousing activities, megastars evade taxation with a smile, and we elect our leaders to office fully expecting them to “recover” their campaign investment within their terms of office. People even walk into churches and disrupt religious services in blatant pre-meditated acts aimed to elicit publicity for their latest pet outrage fads.
What is this country coming to? Quite simply, not much.
The biggest irony surrounding this violent country is its utter lack of a strong martial tradition. Filipinos are not known for a proud tradition of victory in the battlefield. They maintain a pipsqueak military force — barely enough to fight even the most unprofessional of armed militias and bandits. For a country that prides itself in having the pound-for-pound greatest boxer in the world as one of its own, it is a mouse where it matters. With millions of able-bodied Filipino men just wiling away their time on street corners drinking beer, the Philippines is a society of people begging for a clear purpose in their lives. It is no wonder that greatness continues to elude the Philippine nation.
Well, consider the national obssessions of the moment â€” we look up to grotesque role models who practice various modern versions of voodoo, are transfixed by the latest political tele-circuses, and bicker amongst ourselves over how to turn precious minerals buried under our land into instant cash.
Where are the results?
Even as the Philippine Government seeks comfort in the flaccid embrace of the United Nations, Chinese warships are frolicking in ever greater numbers in the warm waters of the “West Philippine Sea” unchallenged.
It seems Filipinos like to pack em’ but remain ill-equipped to use em’ like men — face-to-face with honour.
benign0 is the Webmaster of GetRealPhilippines.com.