One of my theses about the Filipino Condition is that bad practices have been ingrained as part of Filipino culture, and thus have been identified with our nationality. For example, many Filipino became shoplifters in Hong Kong many years before that caused a store to ban Filipinos from entering. Because there were many enough cases to make such an impression, the store owner believed that the risk too high to let any Filipino in. This may be true in the U.S. too, were beside a “Shoplifting is a crime” sign reportedly is the Tagalog version: “Krimen ang Pagnanakaw.” No other language. Filipinos are also observed to be noisy during occasions, especially during videoke singing, because they don’t care about their neighbors’ comfort. There is also our being onion-skinned when we are criticized by other countries, and our arrogant form of the Pinoy Pride habit. Some observe that we may be the only nation that brings home big “Balikbayan” boxes full of consumer goods, which hints to a harmful level of consumerism in our country.
I feel that the association of such habits with our countrymen’s “ugali” or routine behavior and culture has reached a point that, tragically, trying to dissociate being Filipino from them is difficult, no matter how few the cases actually are compared to the majority. And another tragedy is that some Filipinos choose to embrace these flaws without thinking of the harm they cause. Thus, it has led me to consider that solutions to Filipino dysfunctions involve applying and practicing values that might be considered “UnFilipino.”
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Other examples: drinking (and getting drunk) every weekend at the kanto is considered very Filipino. If you are more of a teetotaler, or someone who avoid alcohol, you’ll be seen as a “killjoy” or walang pakisama. Which is actually far from the truth, but Filipino attitudes often state it this way.
One of the more common practices is to bring in friends and relatives at work, the classic nepotism problem. We citizens complain of politicians bringing in their friends and relatives at work. Yet these politicians may safely say, isn’t that what you ordinary people do too? If we do want to remove or control this practice of referring relatives and friends to work, wouldn’t we be affecting a very “Filipino” practice?
The entrenchment of some practices may have reached a point wherein, if you don’t practice these, even if you are doing wrong, you are considered “not Filipino.” Of course, this would be erroneous, not everything that is flawed about us should be considered Filipino. Unfortunately, the association of such habits with our nationality is strongly held by many people, especially those in other countries, because of the many incidents involving them, and perhaps because of misrepresentation by the mass media.
We certainly have positive Filipino values too, such as caring for family to a point, and we have a tendency to befriend and extend ourselves to other people in a personal manner. For example, we try to befriend people in our workplaces, rather than just have them as workmates. The value of humility as opposed to pride is the right application of the principle of “hiya.” It is also a core Filipino value to treat others to treat ourselves, according to a slide show I found on the Net.
But there is another study that says Filipino values are not really indigenous. There are a lot of influences even from other countries from older times. Like any country’s culture, there are always foreign influences that we must be conscious of. So it makes more sense to consciously take control of these influences and use them to improve our behavior and societal conduct rather than excise them. I believe we need to look at influences outside of our normal concept of “the Filipino zone” because our own traditional values seem inadequate and somewhat flawed.
Today, there are a lot of helpful sources we can derive from. One example is Stephen Covey’s Habits of Highly Effective People, which has a basis on values. Another is the Protestant work ethic, wherein hard work as a duty and not as a means to an end or reward is highlighted. There is a manual called Ethical Reasoning, by Richard Paul and Linda Elder which contains an excellent discussion of ethics, which argues for a universal acceptance of ethical principles. I believe it is important for Filipinos to study this. A lot of Filipinos repeat the principles contained in these and other sources, among them Francis Kong.
My focus on foreign examples is because of my impression that most modern ideas and ideas about ethics and philosophy that would benefit us will come from other shores. Perhaps that is why fate brought many OFWs around the world; to learn the values of other countries. I also believe our own traditional local values need reform. Thus, not only do we review our values, but we also pick from other cultures to accept principles that will help us improve our views and behavior as a people.
I do agree that some foreign influences can be bad. For example, my idea about the arrogant brand of Pinoy Pride is that it imitates the way Americans have their nationalism. In America, you could find examples of people who believe “my country, right or wrong,” wherein they are willing to support even unethical acts of their country. That would be the wrong kind of pride and can lead to immoral acts. Thus, we need to have the right kind of pride that does not border on this type of state fanaticism.
But at times, even if the solutions we look for are not anti-Filipino or exclusively foreign, they seem to oppose beliefs many Filipinos today hold, to the point that exploring these solutions certainly carries the risk of being branded “unFilipino” or “anti-Filipino.” For example, when Stephen Covey thought of “win-win,” Filipinos would immediately say that it is stupid. They would say, you can’t be “everybody happy,” if you win, someone has to lose! For example, in gambling, if you win, then the other betters lose money. “That’s how it has to be!” the Filipino may say. Thus, Filipinos insist on the zero-sum game and would rather have someone lose so he may gain.
We need to combat these attitudes among Filipinos. We need to remove from our people these values that encourage false pride, disregard for ethics and apathy towards society, and replace them with better beliefs. There is a need to inculcate renewed values among Filipino so they may conduct their lives properly and remove the bad habits associated with their nationality.
I did say these solutions are not exclusively “unFilipino.” There are merely principles that exist in universal values and ethics. Yet some of them go against the grain of Filipino behavior in society. Even humility is often rejected because Filipinos believe they should project their pride. Criticizing a fellow Filipinio for his wrongs has been slammed as “UnFilipino.” But in spite of this branding, the risk is still worth taking. Challenging popular views is one of the keys to meaningful social change.
How to inculcate these values is admittedly a Herculean task. There are a lot of factors affecting Filipino beliefs and behavior, among them mass media and education. Perhaps going into these media to challenge the prevalent and traditional beliefs could be done (but this is the scope of another article).
By applying the above solution, we can redefine what one means by being Filipino. The key is to dissociate the Filipino identity from the bad practices mentioned above. The more values, principles and behaviors that are more beneficial, like Stephen Covey’s “Win-win” and other Seven Habits, are associated with being Filipino, the more our behavior as a people will improve and so will our situation.
And why look to other shores for ideas in values? It is a given that the Philippines cannot exist in a vacuum. We are only one nation among many. Even if we have our own values, they have to be in sync with those of the rest of the world. Thus, let us make a careful study of such values and pick the right ones.
[Photo courtesy: Dannuel Delizo and Faye Nicole Juania at Slideshare]
I believe, as my cohorts here do, that what Filipinos embrace as their culture is what actually pulls the country down. And those who seem to be anti-dictators, who may also believe themselves to be “heroes,” are the real dictators.