How an MRT ride home inspired me to write about self-assurance, and its relevance to the 2013 mid-term elections

Queson City, Philippines - A lightly loaded rail car is about to get so crammed I can't even lift the camera over my head in metro Manila's MRT transit system.If you ride the Metro Rail Transit (MRT) system in the Philippines, especially during rush hour, chances are you will not find anything to pleasant to say about it. The experience is harrowing, to say the least. The minute you line up at the platform, you will find the queues disorderly. Instead of sticking to one or two lines you are most likely to see each passenger making his/her own. Everyone wants to get in the train first. When the train does finally arrive, passengers waiting to get in do not even have the decency to let exiting passengers go out of the train first. They immediately push their way in as soon as the doors open; if you are not able to get out, pasensiyahan na lang, next station na lang po. You will feel firsthand the inclination of the Filipino to fill up any and all available space.

The underlying principle at work, it seems, is to get on the train as soon as possible. Assert yourself physically into the train, otherwise you will never get home.

Given the scenario I just described above, one will probably wonder how in the world can you find anything good to write about a ride on the MRT? It is but the quintessential example of Filipinos failing to follow simple rules, regulations, and guidelines of decent and appropriate behavior.

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That’s how it is for us locals here in the Philippines, survival of the fittest.

But that’s not the part of the ride home where I think about the topic of self-assurance.

The guy in front of me was talking to his companion beside him, nonstop. He talked about things he had done, how he vented frustrations at work, how he was able to go places on a tight budget, how to him calling out people for errant behavior comes naturally, etc.

The natural Filipino reaction to this kind of person can be summarized in one word, in the vernacular:


It translates, roughly to “How arrogant!”

If you step back, and think unconventionally (relative to the Pinoy psyche), you will find yourself looking at the other side of the coin:


So what exactly is the definition of self-assuredness/self-assurance?

Having or showing confidence and poise.

Great faith in oneself or one’s abilities

Did you notice that I used a native Filipino word for arrogance, but an English word for self-assuredness? It tells you something, doesn’t it?

The closest Filipino equivalent of self-assuredness is may tiwala sa sarili, literally believes in oneself, but even then this can get mistranslated into English as cocky.

The lack of a direct equivalent of self-assuredness in Filipino tells us that it has not been highly-valued in Filipino society.

Filipino society is one that values humility and modesty, but the native equivalent of such – pagpapakumbaba – literally indicates that one needs to prostrate, to lower one’s self in front of others.

In Filipino the fine line between arrogance and self-assurance is easily blurred, and Filipinos, more often than not, are inclined to interpret such behavior towards the former.

Filipino society is also one that is notorious for focusing on form, rather than substance. The natural inclination of Filipinos is to be offended by a message delivered rudely, yet has a very valid point. In order for Filipinos to listen to what you have to say, they have to think you’re being respectful first, never mind that being such may dilute or water down what the essence of your message is.

This is why you will often find Filipinos complaining about brutally frank Westerners when they say something, especially when they criticize something about Filipinos. The renowned hypersensitivity of the Filipinos only manages to exacerbate such feelings of being offended.

This is also why you will find many who read Get Real Philippines who think that this website is negative, arrogant, disrespectful, “racist to Filipinos”, etc. Filipinos are not yet ready, apparently, for people who can tell others about Filipino culture for what it is – dysfunctional at its very core.


Speaking of self-assuredness and the upcoming elections, one candidate in particular embodies this very concept, none other than Richard Gordon.

In the last elections in 2010, he was not afraid to tell it like it is.

He constantly pointed to his performance as chairman of the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) to highlight how under his brutally frank style of leadership, he was able to transform it into the tourist destination that it remains to be today. His performance as both a senator and head of the Philippine Red Cross are indications of what kind of leader he is; he gets things done.

Filipinos need fixing; they need to work and they need to pull their own weight to make things happen. The surveys are crooked, they are not believable. Richard Gordon was not afraid to tell the people, the voters that they themselves need to shape up.

And for that they branded him arrogant.

In 2013, he has shown no sign of changing this behavior of his which defines his effective leadership style as he once again runs for Senator.

Let’s face it, the maturity of the Philippine electorate is downright pathetic because they can’t differentiate between arrogance and self-assuredness.

What did they do last elections when they allowed to win a man claiming to be humble and a “non-thief” but incessantly took cheap shots at his political enemies and people who did not agree with him?

They sealed their fate for another six years of mediocrity, and the status quo. Half that period is over, and though more and more people are showing their discontent with the presidency of Benigno Simeon “BS” Aquino III, it’s too little too late.

It’s sad that the Filipinos have to learn their lesson the hard way. They just had to get burned by a mediocre and incompetent government yet again just to figure out what it is they don’t like. Yet even more tragic than this is that the Filipino doesn’t know what he wants in his leader, either.

No matter how we keep urging the Filipinos to look at platforms instead of personalities, it’s useless if this behavior is embedded at the very core of their culture, as benign0 has pointed out here:

That’s the Filipino for you. To consider the Filipino voter’s predisposition to vote morons into Congress on the basis of bright-coloured posters and idiotic slogans as the problem to end all reveals an incomplete understanding of the deeper, more fundamental flaw in the typical Pinoy’s thinking faculties.

Fact is, for the average Filipino, making the right choices with how they spend their money has a more profound and direct impact on their personal wellbeing than choosing the right bozo on which to hang the title of “Senator”. As such, our renowned “social media practitioners” fail when it comes to “educating” their followers where it is most relevant.

A change in mindset in this regard therefore cannot be domain-specific. The cancer of dysfunctional thinking that Pinoys are world-renowned for cannot be addressed within a narrow field of endeavour. It should be addressed at the deepest cultural level. Thinking when buying stuff mirrors thinking when voting for leaders. Different domains, same dysfunctional brain. The solutions are obvious.

Filipinos truly deserve their wretched society, and the politicians they elect into office.

[Photo courtesy: Craig Pulsifer]

79 Replies to “How an MRT ride home inspired me to write about self-assurance, and its relevance to the 2013 mid-term elections”

  1. Things have improved at the LTO branch, Bureau of Immigration, that’s about as far as I can go because I haven’t dealt with any other branches, gambling now is legal so the wetting zombies prey daily in numbers and I can’t control the wife’s habit this must hurt many here along with the low price of alcohol and cigarettes, I don’t see much change there because now they can drink lambanog.

    1. thank you for your inane and irrelevant comment.
      please contextualise the hot money within the philippines stock market and how this relates to inclusive growth.
      do you recommend buy options on philippine stocks or is the market overheating.
      pleased to hear from someone who is such an expert – on everything.

    2. It’s too late for that yellowtard. No amount of yellow propaganda can hide the fact that most of the filipino people are getting disappointed in your president.

      The clock is ticking for your president, you better prepare yourself.

    3. @eduardo
      Sorry, only idiots use rappler as their source.
      You fail again,malacanang troll.

      Buti pa magresign ka na. Wala ka namang kwentang mag troll dito. Kasing tanga mo lang si sendonggirl at pangulo mo.

    4. Hey dumbass, the stock market has nothing to do with the underlying economy. The Dow Jones has set three all-time records in the last week, in the budget-sequestered US where between 800,000 and a million people can expect to lose their jobs before September.

  2. Let us all have faith that the Filipino electorate would vote leaders that are dependable and can move this country forward.

    1. 1998 Erap, – former MENSA chairman
      2004 FPJ – Assistant chair in MENSA. He either won or at worse got a lot of votes
      2010- Noynoy- a guy with a resume smaller than a porn star’s bikini.
      2013- Bam – rocketing up the charts with a bullet just because he is a contestant in the Ninoy lookalike contest
      Alvin Lazada. Please tell me where is this faith in the pinoy electorate supposed to come from?

      1. UH, WHAT FAITH? u mean the FAITH that the elections will be rigged? only wealthy ‘contestatnts’ need apply? Oh, it will happen alright, bet on it!

        1. I have absolute faith that the electorate will remain as dumb as they were 2010 when it is their turn again to vote this year and in 2016.

  3. > Eduardo
    Inuulol mo nanaman mga tao! Ang pera ng mga elito mo ay wala d’yan, nasa labas. Yang sinasabi mo numero lang yan. PSE=60/40 es
    da bes abracadaver en de tawn.

    1. Tunay ngang walang kaalam-alam ang engot tungkol sa economic policy ng Pilipinas.

      Super tanga. Kasing tanga ng kasalukuyang Pangulo. 😛

  4. I think the author is campaigning for Gordon for Senator. Sorry, I don’t vote for Trapos…I want new faces. In North America and Canada. Filipinos are forced to fall in line , when getting in a bus or any ride. However, there are some other Filipinos….(maybe : “bagong salta or newly arrived); who insert themselves in the line of people , falling in line.
    We have no discipline of ourselves. We want to outdo, everybody. However, we end up at the end of the line doing this…Even in life, we end up as OFW slaves…

    1. agree with you about Gordon

      Winaldas ni Gordon ang pondo ng Philippine Red Cross pambayad sa TV advertisements para sa Fun Run so he can collect as much email addresses and phone numbers and twitter and facebook accounts to blast with his politically charged
      campaign messages. Very self-serving. Very corrupt. Very unFilipino! That money that Gordon wasted for selfish political
      gains were our donations to the Red Cross which were supposedly intended
      to help the poor and marginalized and helpless patients.

      Don’t vote for Gordon.
      Consign him to oblivion
      and banishment from
      Pinas politics. We don’t
      need this kind of man
      and this kind of opportunist.

      1. Very self-seving
        Very corrupt
        Very unFilipino!

        Doesn’t this apply more appropriately to your incompetent president Noynoy the BS?

        Gordon has more results in SBMA than your beloved Noynoy the BS’s entire career as a politician.

      2. “Very self serving” = BS Aquino, protecting his oligiarch friends and cronies is one example.
        “Very Corrupt” = BS Aquino, protecting his corrupt KKK is definitely an example.
        “Very Unfilipino” = Definitely BS Aquino, since his mishandling of the sabah crisis definitely reeks of being unfilipino.
        Biruin mo, he willingly fed the filipinos to the malaysian wolves.
        Nakalagay din sa constitution natin na sa atin ang sabah kaya tama si Gordon.
        Aquino is definitely courting impeachment for his clear betrayal.
        No amount of yellow propaganda can hide that FACT.

      3. Lies. Just keep it yourself because you just want to make fun of everyone here. you’re joking, right? 😛

      4. Lies. Here’s mine since it’s FACT:

        Don’t vote for Bam Aquino.
        Consign him to oblivion
        and banishment from
        Pinas politics. We don’t
        need this kind of man
        and this kind of opportunist.

        BTW, how was cool on being a ZOMBIE? Oh yeah, you can’t answer that since you’re a proud… COWARD. 😛

        1. Eduardo should hide along with his cowardly president in his yellow colored closet, clutching his yellow teddy bear while wearing his yellow pajamas with his yellow underwear(although it was white when he bought them)

  5. As a leader, Gordon’s good, and there’s potential in his ideas and his work ethic.

    As a politician, he’s a failure as he’s isolated himself from the majority of voters by being different.

    Unfortunately, in this country, we as a people, vote for skilled politicians, not good leaders.

        1. Looks like eduardo and Pnoy have two things in common, being no good and good for nothing.

      1. PNoy is good at being a campaign manager but only in the Philippines because there are a lot of starstruck ignorumuses like Eduardo…hehe.

    1. Well, Filipinos supposedly don’t take being lied to too well, but they tolerate bullsh*t and even elect those who peddle it into government positions. BS aqui, no? (BS here, right?)

        1. Lies. Truth is:

          “May taong tanga, may taong matalino. Ngunit dito sa Pilipinas, MARAMING TANGA.”

          I’m sure you would whimper and choke on your tears if I say the truth about the ‘Hello Garci’ escapade:

          Who do you think created the Hello Garci escapade? Worse, who advised GMA, to go on National TV with an “I am sorry”. Who else but Lupita Concio Kashiwahara. GMA never considered the fact that Lupita was playing her. Lupita is an Aquino, sister of Ninoy. Drillon set GMA up pushing GMA to make “mistakes” which of course Abad, Soliman, Purisima, and Deles took advantage of. It was all planned, the singing of “we will hang on together”, the Hyatt 10 episode, the Trillanes affair, the Danny Lim rebellion, The Querubin mutiny…..all these were part of a bigger plan. Don’t forget Ricky Carandang, and Ces Drillon’s seemingly perfect timing for covering attempted coups. Of course they were being used, and as for Carandang, he was very much a part of the plan to destabilize and grab power from GMA. All that didn’t work as we know. However, it will play a big role once the most important element is controlled, THE AUTOMATED ELECTION SYSTEM. With a demonized president, who will suspect the results of an election that is rigged for an LP win, a Mar Roxas presidency.

          So bakit noong nag I am sorry si GMA, marami ang nagalit? Alam mo, ang EMO ng Pilipino. For instance, BOBO.

          I know you wouldn’t respond since you’re chickening out. Or you’re actually an anti-Noynoy supporter that’s because you just want to TROLL and your comments are full of satire and sarcasm. I know who you are. 😀

      1. How to get into the magic 12

        Be self-proclaimed voice of the youth! – 403 twitter followers!
        Social entrepreneur! – have never ever seen a hapinoy store!
        Get president to lobby for award – covers up lack of achievement and no real job
        Be professional bighead – 30+ years of bamality to look forward to!
        Family owns survey firm – aahh, that’s how.

        In politics, a myth is more powerful than reality, the name more important than the ideology,and a lookalike a reminder of the real thing.

        Bam aquino, law student drop out, and likes to claim credit for the work of others. An arrogant opportunist who will hideaway in the senate and do nothing except vote the way he is told to.

        1. Hapinoy is little more than a formalized five-six business passing itself off as “microcredit”. Bam Aquino = profiting from keeping micro-entrepreneurs in a debt trap. Eff him and the horse he rode in on. Also, he looks like Carl from “Up” more than Ninoy.

        2. Hapinoy – ngo grants, hacienda luisita personnel on the board!, and on the rare occasion bam aquino is ever asked he avoids any real figures/business metrics.
          Mark ruiz ex unilever was the founder and workhorse, copying the idea of nobel prize winner muhammad yunus.
          Clearly not all it seems and if no/few shops in 7 years hardly a success by any stretch of the imagination and not a candidate for an mba case study in entrepreneurship.

        3. Marami na ang natulungan ng Hapinoy. Kung sisiraan nyo lang siya, kayo ang talo kasi unti unti nang nakikilala ng sambayanan si Bam, kita naman sa recent survey.

        1. Ows? Talaga? Eh bakit wala pa siyang ni isang nagagawa kundi gamitin lang ang pangalan ng Aquino? Bakit puro awards lang pero walang TRACK RECORD ang pinagmamalaki mong si BUM aquino?

        1. Tanong ko sa iyo, ang awards ba ng isang tao ay makakabawas ng kahirapan ng bansa?
          Ang awards ba ay makakabawas ng gutom ng mga mahihirap nating kababayan?
          Ang award ba ay makakabigay ng trabaho sa mga kababayan natin?

          The truth is that awards don’t do jack shit, ACTIONS do.

          You failed yet again eduardo, you better put some ice coz you just got BURNED


          Alam ko naman na hindi mo masasagot ang mga tanong ko kaya don’t bother posting a lame response.

    1. Thanks for proving to us that you’re a filthy liar. And I’m sure you would never counter my arguments because they were supported with FACTS.:D Just like this one for the record –

      Bam Aquino is more like an opportunist compared to Gordon. What is Bam’s track record anyway? Just because he’s an Aquino? In fact, Gordon had a better track record if you ask me. Bam is the son of Paul Aquino, who is the CEO and the owner of most geothermal plants in the Phillipines where he stole them through deceptive business methods. The very reason why Bam is running for senator is because his dad wanted to have an influence in politics. Worse, Paul Aquino is Ninoy’s brother.

      Wow, what a pity that you’re a total LAUGHINGSTOCK each and every day. Wanna ask: are you happy on being… DELUSIONAL? Your answer will be YES. 😀

      1. Summa Cum Laude in Management Engineering in Ateneo

        -baka ikaw kahit cum laude hindi mo naabot? Marami siyang awards and achievements.

        1. Hindi educational attainment ang basehan dito. At hindi rin awards at achievements.

          Or maybe you don’t even know what TRACK RECORD is. That’s because POPULARITY=TRACK RECORD. Nice logic you got there. 😀

    2. I think I missed something here. What was Noynoy Aquino good at?
      Troll harder Fishball. You can differenciate yourself from your idol if you actually earn your money.

      1. Hangal ka kasi kaya hindi mo alam ang mga nagawang maganda ng ating presidente.

        Mas umunlad ang ekonomiya sa panunungkulan niya.

        Nagkaroon ng matagumpay na peace talks sa panunungkulan niya.

        Napakulong ang mga corrupt sa panunungkulan niya.

        Tumaas ang tourism rating ng bansa sa panunungkulan niya.

        Muling tumaas ang tiwala ng taumbayan sa gobyerno sa panunungkulan niya.

        1. Lies.

          -Maganda ang economy not because of PNoy but of GMA’s continuous use of Keynesian economics.

          -Peace talks with bribery at the expense of the deaths of own soldiers is a sign of incompetence.

          -Never check on himself and the people around him. Just his political enemies.

          -Tourism ratings are a farce. Source for the record, please.

          -POPULARITY =/= TRUST

          Man, you’re delusional. 😛

      2. I noticed not only is there no substance to your examples Fishball but none of your own examples predates 2010. Again your guy was a nobody whose mother had to die to be a somebody. What a loser. L stands for loser.

        1. No substance, no credibility and most of all, NO BRAINS.
          That’s Fishball/Eduardo in a nutshell folks.

          You should congratulate yourself fishball since at least you have something in common with your idol.

  6. Sorry eduardo, it looks like you failed yet again in your useless yellow propaganda. Unfortunately for you, we still won’t believe your baseless and senseless posts.

    Why don’t you just get a REAL job and get a LIFE

  7. Maybe the MRT people can consider these suggestions:
    – tickets can be bought anywhere (like prepaid cards) so lines can be minimized;
    – there should be lines dedicated to entering and exiting passengers. Current arrows marking exit and entry will not solve the queuing and “balyahan” problem (aka lack of discipline). If there is a single file of passengers for every other train door, perhaps this could help.
    – Post in the MRT stations the EXACT arrival and departure times of trains. Part of the reason for not being disciplined is the uncertainty of the arrival/departure of trips thus a passenger cannot plan his/her trips well.
    – Clean up the whole MRT stations. Grime and decay just give you one message: we do not care! And we get the kind of attitude we deserve from passengers we do not care about.

    1. Even if those guidelines are there, nobody would give any regards to it. Nothing to be surprised there.

      This is the Philippines we’re talking about, where apparently rules and regulations are for sissies.

      1. Kayang baguhin yan ng ating pangulo. Naipasa niya nga ang sin tax law na nagtataas ng buwis ng sigarilyo at alak.

        1. And can PNoy offer jobs for those who sell tobacco and liquor?

          Man, you’re DELUSIONAL. 😀

    2. the main problem there would be enforcement. they could implement this one day and you’d capture a glimpse of heaven.. then the next day, people would’ve thrown their brains out the window and well.. you tried 😀

    3. My two cents on your suggestions, point by point:

      -It sounds convenient to by tickets aside from the stations, better if there could be an alternative that can give the card and the change to the passenger as fast as possible, like those disused ticketing machines.

      -Designating train doors in such a way that the ingress and egress are set one door after the other can spare those coming out from the impact of those pushing in way too eagerly. Although, longer lines would be expected for those getting in.

      -Part of the reason why the train comes uncertainly is the passengers themselves. Sometimes the doors won’t shut properly because of people unintentionally blocking the doorway, especially when the train is overcrowding. Perhaps, the station can announce how long before the train will arrive from the previous station.

      -This is already given, emphasis on the restrooms.

      1. @jaime veridune thanks.I’m sure the MRT people have observed how similar trains are run in Japan, SG and HK. And the number of passengers there are way more than what we have in MRT. They should be able to get insights on how to run this. Get the government out of running the MRT. It simply cannot do it well. Let the private companies do it. Will they increase the fees? Of course they should. But we can demand better service.

  8. hell-hole after hell-hole, survive it till one day you just drop! the fail-ippines,where everything, even a subway ride:SUX! doomed to mediocrity, and selfishness!and being a being a HELL-HOLE!

  9. @FallenAngel

    Yeah so Pinoys do deserve the wretched society they’ve built. But what did WE real Filipinos do to deserve this? I voted for Gordon and Bayani when they ran for president and VP! And even after their crushing defeat, I continued to hope for more people like the two to run and win a seat of power. I guess I was naive.

    SO! Do we do as the others have done and evacuate on the diaspora train? ..Sure we would be saved from the burning down Philippine society, but that would only hasten the crumble. With so few a number, do we have a chance of putting out the fire and live through long enough to see the smoke clear? It’s a big question I know, but asking is the first step to finding a solution, right?

    What can we better arm ourselves with other than the traditional societal-firefighting gear? Coz we all know it ain’t cutting it. You, benign0, Ilda, Gogs, and the rest of us here at GRP have been saying that the flaw in the country is deeply embedded in the Pinoy psyche, our culture.. All thanks to the brainwashing media which is secretly run by politicians and their cronies. Sounds rather more like having a new set of politicians, what we need is a new set of media corporations. What ever the more effective and radical new tool is, I pray and hope its not patience. Coz a society that’s been sitting around like this in a pile of their own filth for decades, the last thing it needs is patience.

  10. Dear FallenAngel,

    We are still an Asian culture with deep rooted notions of being lowly or humble much like the Japanese or the Koreans. I think that should be something we have to perpetuate instead of criticize. That is our culture. American culture is what it is. Filipino culture is what it is. And isn’t the saying “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say nothing at all” come from the Western/US culture?

    It’s all about respect and not shoving things in other people’s throats, be it your opinion or how you think people or a country should act.

    Filipinos mostly go about the nicer and roundabout way (much like the Japanese) rather than the direct and brutal way as we perceive Americans to be. It is normal as we have different cultures. Please stop comparing American culture to our culture and find ways to champion our culture and help propagate and improve it instead.

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