Ours is not ‘a beautiful mind’

Note: The following is from CTALK, Cito Beltran’s column for the Philippine Star. Cito Beltran has provided advice and options to private clients as a consultant in the area of Crisis Management, Corporate Culture Change, Conflict Resolution, Media Training and Government Relations. In addition, he is engaged in developing advertising and promotional campaigns for consumer products.  Cito Beltran is also an established media practitioner. Between 1999 and 2006 he hosted several talk shows on ABS-CBN/ANC. He is the son of the late broadcast journalist and newspaper columnist Louie Beltran.


beautiful_mindI am not surprised that a hundred to a thousand men were crazy enough to think they could get on ferry boats and simply “reclaim” the island of Sabah as theirs.

To understand why they think that way, all you really need to do is drive around Metro Manila and you will find proof enough that Filipinos regardless of what tribe, religion, province or economic status they come from, have such a sense of entitlement that they think they own the road. They think and act like they directly employ civil servants and therefore have every right to treat them the same way they treat their domestic helpers. Rich or poor, we detest or look down upon security guards, garbage collectors, beggars and squatters.

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In fact one word of advice given to people choosing a future spouse is to watch how their would-be partners treat their parents, waiters, drivers and maids.

Sorry but we are ALL guilty of this cultural disease in one form or another. Some call it arrogance, some call it bad attitude, but it could also pass as being “Filipino”. I’m sure this will piss off some of you, but my intention is just that: to piss off enough people into facing the issue and at least admit to ourselves that we all share this “negative cultural gene.”

We all want to talk about how warm, generous, courteous, religious, etc. we are as a people. If we ever talk about the bad things, it is in the context of criticizing our government, our leaders, our neighbors and other Filipinos, but never about ourselves.

If a group of wise men and women went through the chain of events and process to define and understand our problems in this country, I have no doubt that somewhere along the chain we will find a person or people who think they have the right to do whatever it is they do in spite of the fact that they are causing or creating big problems for the rest of us.

Our roads are blocked because drivers believe they have the right to make a living any which way because of their poverty. Screw everyone else behind me as long as I’m ahead of the line. The maniac on a scooter doesn’t care if he cuts in front of you and nearly gives you a heart attack. He has a small vehicle and he’s in front of you so it’s your look out!

Most of us have to walk on the street because this is the only country I know where there is the official term: Sidewalk Vendor. City halls and malls can blatantly disregard formal tenants and taxpaying store owner’s interests and allow transient vendors to block and obscure stores because malls, by virtue of ownership, have the right to maximize their profits, while City Halls want to generate jobs and additional income.

Some people will most likely blame Magellan and the conquistadors, others will blame the American colonizers etc., etc. I personally blame it first on our system of having “helpers” that we call maids or houseboys. Second, our culture of impunity where the law is not enforced as much as it should be. In effect, because we are the “boss” as P-Noy put it, we can’t be wrong and should not be punished for doing what we believe is in our best interest. Unfortunately, there is a third component that causes our aberrant behavior and this is our “Awa” based sense of justice.

Call it a feudalistic remnant, or a different shade of slavery, but when you are born into a setting where maids and houseboys do your every bidding, it does not take rocket science to recognize its effects.

If you happen to be in a racially mixed marriage, the foreign spouse will most likely pick-up on the effects. For instance, an expat lady I know commented on how her pinoy husband suddenly changed tone and character when talking to household helpers. In the early years of our marriage, my wife Karen noticed how I always had an “alalay” or had someone hovering or assisting me when working around the house.

The problem with the household helper system is that it ultimately creates a multitude of “Bosses” who go through life carrying this subconscious false sense of power and entitlement. We don’t have to target the modern day villains demonized on Youtube like Carabuena and “Amalayer”, we just have to catch ourselves as I often do, displaying some form of arrogance we eventually regret and confess in our private prayers. In my case, it is not as much entitlement as it is being self-righteous. Unfortunately, even when I’m in the right, my behavior or attitude quickly puts me in the wrong.

Ultimately, accountability and consequence help us sort things out on an individual basis, but in terms of our national state of mind, the Sabah stand-off is evidence of how most Filipinos are rich in opinion but poor on consequence. It was an opinion that convinced a hundred or a thousand to do a flash mob and “Occupy Sabah.” The cold consequence is some 68 people are now dead on both sides.

I don’t really know what laws were violated or what punishment awaits the “Occupy Sabah” group. But now would be a good time to punish not just the 100 or 1000 but everybody else up and down the line. If certain government officials fumbled or lost the ball on this incident, they too should be punished. If there are any conspirators, by all means charge them and jail them. It is high time for Filipinos to learn that it is not enough to take out corruption in government. It is also necessary to remove the corruption in the hearts and minds of Filipinos.

This can only be done by holding sacred all our laws and imposing its full force. To prioritize mercy or awa, is to corrupt not only the law but ourselves. When we, as a people, and our government move heaven and earth to gather tens of millions of pesos to save an OFW, or send high ranking leaders to spare the life of a drug mule who is guilty as charged, we have in fact perverted how we view the law. This is the only way to explain why politicians would raise millions of pesos for “Blood Money” but turn a blind eye to donating one or two million for a kidney or liver transplant of a poor child.

If fear of the law has reduced corruption in government, how much more would our lives be better off when we remove it from our hearts and our minds.

24 Replies to “Ours is not ‘a beautiful mind’”

  1. There you go. Someone told me that Filipinos have a culture of spoiling and pampering. It was interesting to connect it to the recent Sabah incident.

    Sometimes, Filipino are not content with having enough to eat every day and something to do. They want to control other people.

    1. Worse is the tendency of Filipinos to use the excuse of NOT HAVING ENOUGH TO EAT and NOT HAVING GAINFUL EMPLOYMENT as justification for doing whatever they please. Regardless of the consequences.

  2. I also connect this to Pinoy Pride. This kind of Pride for me means believing that you are something special and deserve special respect from everyone else. So this sense of entitlement for some may come from the belief that one is special from others.

    Since Catholicism is the dominant religion here, I believe Filipino Catholics should take a hint from this article before believing in Pinoy Pride:

    Living the Catholic Faith: Proud to be Proud? Is Pride Ever Acceptable for a Christian?

    1. Very appropos. I actually came across Cito Beltran’s opinion piece after reading Gogs’ post “Explosion of Joy or Explosion of Superficiality?” This just seemed to fit in quite nicely.

      1. Ok. Because as I was reading this I did think of the line I used saying I am not sure where this sense of entitlement comes from. Thank you since my motivation to write is to get people’s gears turning. Just as others get my gears turning. I love how when one describes negative behavior and the motivations behind it, the describer is labelled negative.

  3. You dont blame history – every country has history but does not become absorbed in the past or use it as an easy/convenient excuse for inactivity/failure.
    Successful countries move on and adapt rather than consciously clinging to the past and fighting to retain the status quo.

    Change is about leadership, role-models, vision, strategy etc.
    It has to be top down but no chance of that. Too much threat/competition from people far more educated and capable. They prefer to be a corrupt fish in a little pond than take on the big boys

    With more dynasty family members than ever before in 2013 elections the myth of people power is exposed as dynasty power, and the new dynasty generation will ensure that it continues for 20+ years

    The senate is truly becoming representative, but of what.
    Liars, cheats, thieves, money launderers, fugitives, traitors,fraudsters, murderers and we can now add a wife-beater to the list.
    No doubt a paedophile in there somewhere in addition to the well known gay and the has been actors, all of whom are first rate hypocrites with little intetest in the country
    What a sordid lot of criminal trash, and a massacre maestro as president.
    Amazing. No wonder the west sees filipinos as either toilet cleaners or sex slaves.
    Where is the respect/role-models

    the Philippines remained at 114th globally for
    the 5th straight year in the Human Development Index (HDI)
    released by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) on
    Friday, March 15.
    The HDI is a key indicator of citizens’ state of health, education,
    and income, among others.

    The real surveys show no improvement under aquino – 3 wasted years and 3 more to come.

    Why doesnt una even campaign properly. No one seems to have a clue or even really care.

    You get what you deserve

  4. It can be described as arrogant selfishness.seen everywhere from driving to cutting lines in stores and on and on….. but the one I really detest is just fuckin littering anywhere a piece of garbage can be thrown, it is gross and should be stopped.Just cut it out!!!!
    Just like the political dynasties should be done Away with.
    like the Virtual Vigilante says, by any means necessary!

    1. Agreed. I get the urge to stab anyone I see trying to hide their trash under the bushes instead of waiting to reach a trash can only a hundred meters away.

  5. @J Saint

    I have some exchanges of opinion with you and I have familiarized with your style of putting up your argument.

    If you will review the paragraphs of your post, don’t you think your readers will not be confused?

    Almost each paragraph is referring to different things.

    Well, of course, I’m a small minded dude as what benign0 is claiming (and he’s a big minded one heh?).

    It’s just me.

    1. Yah, Cito Beltran tackles a lot of topics in his piece. However the main theme of the essay still ties everything together: Many Filipinos are incredibly self-centered and gripped by an overwhelming sense of entitlement and arrogance. That has led to all sorts of outlandish and self-destructive behavior.

      This isn’t exactly new to GRP. A lot of other posts have discussed this very idea. Beltran’s piece is unique in that it is the first I’ve come across that correlates the Filipino sense of entitlement and our inability to think through the consequences of our actions with the events in Sabah.

      Going further, GRP isn’t the first forum to highlight the Pinoy “social cancer” — the tendency to be swept up in the emotion of the moment, our defects, bad habits and vices. That bit of critical thinking was first broached and articulated over a hundred years ago in a satirical novel entitled “Noli Me Tángere.”

    2. @ Trosp

      You are absolutely right. It is confusing, it is incoherent and headache inducing to say the least. This article fails Journalism 101 from the outset.

      How often do you read an article that overly uses quotation marks? A good writer would use the word angry, instead of piss off. Or would not see the need to translate a very simple english word mercy in the Filipino language?

      Journalism is story telling. This writer failed to establish a strong introduction at the outset. The basic KISS or Keep It Short and Simple or the elements basic in introductory writing which is the five W’s and H. The WHO? WHAT? WHERE? WHEN? WHY? and HOW? Based on this article, this writer and his mentor Cito Beltran would need a refresher course ASAP. As a commenter, your friend Johnny Saint was good enough.

      1. “A good writer would use the word angry, instead of ‘piss off’.”

        You got the message that he wanted to piss you off, yes? So by your own measure the intent was achieved. The use of slang conveyed the message better than the proper English word “angry.” That technique is taught in creative writing courses as well as Journalism 101.

        “Awa” doesn’t easily translate into English the way you make it out.

        It is too simplistic to simply translate “awa” as “mercy.” Filipinos know inherently that “awa” implies so much more and this richness of meaning complicates the way we deal with each other, with employees, with people from different social strata, with non-Filipinos, etc. In explaining “awa” to a non-Filipino we would have to include all its nuances. Apart from “mercy,” “awa” also implies “pity” and “compassion.” To some extent there is also an element of “sympathy.” Each of these aspects are distinct in their own right and play a part in our individual relationships with others.

        As to the other topics Beltran mentions in passing, mark them as by-products of the malaise he points out at the start: the Filipino sense of entitlement that — inculcated in us from birth — tends to supersede attempts at critical thinking.

        1. @ Johnny Saint

          In the food production processing jargon, your article is equivalent to a “filler”. Humburger filled with bread crumbs to make it thicker. It is crap. Filler articles simply takes up space while waiting for GRP’s main course from benignO. LOL!

        2. LA702,

          I’m not surprised by your reaction. I expected nothing less from someone with the intellectual capacity of a paramecium. As per your own admission, you couldn’t even begin to understand the article. You made a feeble attempt to bash the essay, jumping off someone else’s comment with very shallow, inconsequential observations.

          This behavior is a new low. Far beneath the ludicrous, racist assertions you made based on regurgitated conspiracy theories involving the Jews and the Chinese and how they are responsible for your poverty.

      2. This article is Cito Beltran’s, not Johnny Saint’s. I think he established that at the beginning of the page.

        1. @John

          Si LA702 kasi mahilig mang-alaska pero hinde binabasa ng maigi yung article kaya tuloy nag-mumukang tanga.

  6. Filipinos even voted for a retarded person to be their President. No only retarded, but also depressive. We are the basket case of Asia.
    Look at our greedy Politicians. Pigging on the Pork Barrel Funds (your tax money).

    1. Selling out government integrity is always an ugly business. But if you do it with Obama-like panache, the masses will not only praise you for it they’ll even attack anyone — verbally and physically — who points out it’s wrong.

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