Honor is not a strong part of Filipino tradition

You don’t need to look far. The current political tele-dramas that have rivetted Filipinos lately point to it. Thievery on such an unprecedented vast scale perpetrated by the elected officials of a society are proof in itself. Many of them were not elected once but twice — and their offspring and kin elected despite all that. When a mistake is made once, we can let it slide. Twice mistaken, stupidity becomes a possibility. More than that constitutes a criminal abuse of the Vote.

Many concepts of honor are completely alien to the Filipino mind.

Many concepts of honor are completely alien to the Filipino mind.

Champions of Philippine democracy have long asserted that the Vote constitutes the “voice of the people”. Consider then that Philippine Congress is now widely considered to be the country’s biggest criminal syndicate we can conclude from there that this is a reflection of the character of the society that elected its members.

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You can’t blame Filipinos if they suffer from collective trust issues. Jaime Licauco in an Inquirer article dated 22 May 2001 went as far as saying that: “A nation whose policies and rules are based on the assumption that everybody is a cheat and liar unless proven otherwise cannot long endure. Take a close look at our bureaucracy and its rules. It is burdened by elaborate and often unnecessary checks and balances so that nothing ever gets done in the process.”

Why can’t things be simplified in the Philippines? Because Filipinos cannot be trusted to be honourable enough to do the right thing on their own volition. And so whereas a standard process will require, say, one approval and one validation, those Filipinos are subject to in their country require double or even triple that. It is easy to see this dynamic at work in one’s routine commute to and from work. There are steel and concrete barriers littered all over Manila’s roads that are meant to physically control traffic flow. Compare this to other cities in the world where mere concepts painted on the road largely suffice.

In such societies, people trust one another to follow the rules. Indeed, the whole system works on the basis of each individual adhering to these rules. There is mutual trust on a vast scale and, as such, prosperity is at a scale that matches the extent and depth of this social trust. In short, there is honour amongst the participants of the well-oiled systems of interaction in prosperous societies, and that honour is well-rewarded at a macro level.

Compare this to the Philippines where everything is snarled by Filipinos’ blanket mistrust of one another. Nowhere is this profound mutual distrust Filipinos feel for one another more evident than in the way Filipinos build their homes. Where such perks could be afforded, Filipino residential communities are walled fortresses patrolled by armed guards. And within these fortified enclaves, individual homes are walled up as well.

Suffice to say, the Philippines remains a feudal society in more ways than one, even in the 21st Century. It is true, however, that the northern societies that dominate the planet today were all forged in the horrors of medieval feudalism that lasted for centuries. The evolution from that state of affairs into the prosperous, cohesive, and largely egalitarian societies that these great countries are today was long and bloody. One would argue that it is unfair to compare a young country such as the Philippines to these comparatively ancient societies. But history only matters when lessons can be learnt from it. Singapore, for example, did exactly that; pulling itself together against the odds and prospering mightily against the pressures presented by its fragmented ethnic striven social fabric, its small size and military weakness, and its being abandoned by its former colonial masters. It achieved in a few decades what many societies took centuries to achieve.

The story of how Singapore went from Third World to First World within less than half a century debunks any excuse that the Philippines remains a chronic failure because it lacks Europe’s and northeastern Asia’s history and the strong social harmony that took centuries to establish in those parts. For that matter, there is no point in making excuses for failure. Twenty First Century technology offers unprecedented access to humanity’s vast knowledgebase. Filipinos simply need to use the Net to learn how to build stuff instead of using it to take selfies and download porn.

Thus the bigger challenge we face is in finding evidence of honour that transcends family and religious ties — as what we can see in truly modern societies where all ethnic and religious groups and minorities are treated fairly and respected unconditionally. And if we cannot find any beyond quaint examples of “honour” at small community and clan levels that comes easy due to family, religious, or ethinic ties, then we need to reflect on what needs to be done to build that social honour to a scale that befits a 21st Century nation. The alternative will be to remain a poor sorry excuse for a country forever lamenting the poor hand history has dealt it.

[Photo courtesy MomFilter.com.]

42 Replies to “Honor is not a strong part of Filipino tradition”

  1. Honestly I have no hope for the Philippines anymore. It would be better for it to break apart into separate feudal states (it’s more honest than the so-called unified democracy the country shows to the world).

    1. I completely agree with this. Lack of discipline, heralding of mediocrity, and constant dumbing down of everything from politics to media is making the Filipino so left behind from its counterparts. Education in the Philippines is sub-par; it’s as if we are being trained to just become mere laborers or followers. Entertainment is Anne-Curtis-singing, pabebe, rock-and-roll-to-the-world level. There is no fear nor respect for authority. Democracy is not for the Philippines, because not everyone here in this country deserves to be heard because of the glaring fact that they don’t know what’s really best for the country. I also secretly wish that this country will break apart or just be colonizes altogether. We don’t deserve our independence. The truth hurts — medyo nakakahiya tayo.

    1. SK is different and economy has nothing to do with honor and upbringing. Like the title of this article mentioned “Honor is not a strong part of Filipino tradition”. SK tries hard to be honorable and such upbringing can be seen even in their movies.

      I grew up with Filipinos and Filipinas and I see one thing in common with most of them. The male was more concerned with drinking, partying, smoking up and sleeping around while most of us were busy trying to get a better grade in high school. Most of the Filipinas I knew were pregnant before graduating high school.

      I am not trying to put anyone down but more often than not when a Filipino asked to borrow money it’s almost a guaranteed lost.

      You can’t compare Phillipine to SK, China or Japan. The culture is just too far apart. In fact, in South Asia I find the Vietnamese can be very big in honor especially once they consider you a close friend. With the Filipinos I am not comfortable in turning my back.

      1. Having lived in the country most of my life and I am glad to be out of there, no matter which part of the social-strata they belong to…


        1. you are absolutly correct Jay, i’m an american living in the Philippines, i had a Filipina wife, no kids but she had 2 from Filipino men, I raised them, paid their school, feed them well, and now i’m going home cause the Filipina wife has a Filipino boyfriend, after all i did to give her a good life, and money, it’s all gone, yes they’re back stabbers, liars, cheaters, scammers, i’m going home on Nov 2017 never to return to this country

        2. Ugh. So sorry to hear that.

          I’m Filipino but I just about had it with some of my countrymen. Just had a party for my daughter and the person I hired ran away with some cash. A high school acquaintance!

          It’s like these people see money and they become evil conniving sycophantic nasties. Smiling all the while and stealing petty cash! They don’t think about the Long term at all!

          That said, I have to struggle with this misconception. People think I’m like this too! I had a European ex and he didn’t trust me! He thought I was after his money, his citizenship, etc. Notwithstanding the fact I’m a doctor and I never asked him for anything. These trust issues were too much to overcome. I’m happily married now, so there are no regrets. (My current Husband also had to deal with trust issues, having Filipina friends who are cheaters and keep asking for money. Ugh.) This ugly image is just too prevalent to shake off. It’s a daily struggle shrugging off these misconceptions. At the same time I can’t deny that most Pinoys are like this. Don’t trust everyone!

        3. Nah. I come from an honourable family. My grandparents were landed, but my parents chose not to ask for help and were self sufficient. My father was a professor who, when he was promoted to head of an institution, never used the company car for personal uses.
          However, if you’re honourable in the Philippines, you’ll not be in favour with those who want to rise to the top. You’ll be bullied and pressured until you are shoved to the sidelines. This happened to my dad.
          It also happened to a priest who was elected governor of a province. He didn’t play the game, so he was ousted.
          It doesn’t pay to be honourable in the Philippines. Still, this was how we were raised. I maintain my own integrity. And though it doesn’t get me ahead in Philippine society, I don’t mind.
          There are Filipinos like us, but we tend not to get noticed.

  2. As I explained in the GRP Facebook group, Filipinos seem to see honor as Delicacy of honor, which has more to do with onion-skinnedness (balat-sibuyas) than real honor. Real honor is being true to oneself and to others, not using lies or deception. Given that explanation, it would seem that many Filipinos don’t have much of real honor indeed.

  3. “There is Honor, among Thieves”, they usually say. When you are dishonest, not trustworthy, incompetent, a thief, etc…and you are elected and re-elected , again and again. Something is wrong with the people; and the country, as a whole.

    “Doing the same thing, over and over; expecting different results is INSANITY”, from the famed Physicist Albert Einstein…are the people insane? We know that Aquino’s sanity is in question. However, we hope, we are not all insane…

  4. If there’s no hope then everything said in this site is just a waste. There must be a way to save our country. Isn’t the purpose of this blog is to enlighten the Filipinos? Perhaps solutions to the growing problems and not just the problems itself should be addressed more. And I’m still seeking for the so called “insightful ideas.”

    1. @ ThereIsHope:

      There is a way and hope. Remove the “Bobo” President Aquino. Give his land, Hacienda Luisita to the real owners, his tenants. Remove the Oligarchs, who are pulling the strings, behind Aquino, and controling the economy ; monopolizing the government contracts. Win the war against the NPA Mafia. Jail those Aquino cahoots politicians for their thieveries…Give the common people, like us a break also.

  5. yes I can see this mistrust at the bank towards their employees. Every time I go in there to make a withdrawl, I have to take the extra step of going to the manager to have my signature approved on their system. Instead of me just finishing this up with teller, because she sees the same signature on line, I have to take the extra step. And, then before I get the money she still needs to ask for an override from the manager. It doesn’t make any sense. Many mornings when I went in the branch and I was the first one in the morning, they didn’t have any cash available, and I had to wait 20 minutes. Very non-customer oriented. They treat you sometimes like you are getting money out of Fort Knox!

    1. Bank transactions are so full of overrides everyday, I notice.

      Another is how department stores like SM treat their employees. I was told that salesladies are not allowed to wear shorts under their uniform, for fear that they may hide stuff in their undies. And they are regularly checked by guards when they go out for breaks. Perhaps it’s not all baseless, but the attitude of distrust is there, for one’s employees rather than shoplifters.

    2. Yep, that pretty much applies accross the board anywhere you go, but the banks rank way up there amongst the worst in customer service. I’m a foreigner who has a multi million peso investment there (broiler contract with Bounty Fresh), when we decided to expand after 3 years of operation we approached our bank for a loan and were rejected by the manager because….wait for it….she had a bad experience with another foreigner. Almost fell off my chair I did, just before I closed all my accounts there.

  6. Distrust is so rampant that I needed to convert my FOUR copies of my son’s hospital “Report of Live Birth” into about 8 or 9 such copies. I also now have at least 5 such copies and 4 copies of his NSO birth certificate. What is the purpose of all these duplicate documents? Why also does it take several days and myriad documents and police inspections (and bribes) just to transfer ownership of a vehicle?

    Speaking of political familes…who got the post of Congressman of Dinagat when Ruben Ecleo Jr. got removed from office after being convicted of murder? Who do I go to in order to tell the authorities that I know where he is and then collect my P4 million reward? I have visited several police departments to tell them I know where he is but they ignore me and nothing is ever done. I DO WANT MY REWARD and I DO KNOW WHERE HE IS!!!

  7. all in all it cost me around 3,500 peso to transfer a motorcycle into my name. The weird and crooked part was where I had to go to the local police station to get a “police clearance” for my motorcycle. I didn’t know an inanimate object needs clearance. They took a piece of carbon paper and stenciled the ID number on the frame and took a picture of the bike. That part of it was around 1,500. Its more fun being blood sucked in the Philippines.

  8. I believe the reason why there is no clear-cut winner to this debate is that there is no clear-cut definition of honor. Filipinos are not really known for being honorable; we are more known for other traits, such as our hospitality, resourcefulness, etc. But then again, this is not to say that we are not honorable people in general. @mark_aquinas

  9. 2 days ago I registered my car, which I have failed to do since 2011. Thank goodness I never had any accidents or reasons for the traffic enforcers to have a feast on me and my bulok car.

    Of course, I was really prepared to pay the fine, it’s my fault anyway. My driver failed to remind me and I thought all was fine. Anyway, I was surprised when the evaluator told me a price, then seconded by an instruction that I give the money to a certain runner (or fixer?) instead to one of the counters. He gave me a figure of 6,700 pesos. I couldn’t find the guy whom I was told to give the money (wearing a read shirt that says LTO). So I went back to counter 8, but no one’s there (he might have gone to work – despite their sign, “NO LUNCH BREAKS”). Good the guy at counter 7 (an old guy) shouted, “Ano ba yan? Dito na lang para matapos na yan.” I didn’t argue, but couldn’t help but wonder, the figure he gave me was 2,400 lower than I was earlier told. Hmmn … what does that tell you?

    1. I was stopped whilst driving my van because it had fog lights fitted. The police officer informed me they were illegal and the fine was 5,000 pesos plus vehicle impounded. I asked him to write out a receipt for the fine, which he refused to do as he did not carry receipts with him. I also informed him that I did not install the fog lights, they came fitted to the vehicle when I purchased it. After a bit more humming and harring, I slipped him a 500 peso note, which he accepted and I was on my way. Corruption is everywhere, from Politicians right down to Barangay captains, yet all over the country you see one familiar sign which reads BE HONEST, EVEN IF OTHERS CANNOT EVEN IF OTHERS WILL NOT EVEN IF OTHERS ARE NOT.I lmao every time I see it.

  10. I’m afraid I have to disagree with the author. Unless I want to go around calling him and everyone else here hypocrites.
    Which isn’t a nice thing to do. Of course if the author considers this article a confession on his own honour.

    Honour will depend very strongly on your family upbringing. If you don’t teach the kids to lie, they’re not going to go around lying. Same goes for corruption.
    Is it the nation or the people? If I remove a pinoy and bring him to the states or maybe Singapore, would his lineage force him into dishonourable actions when he grows up?

  11. During the Spanish Occupation, our country used to be known as, “Las Islas de los Ladrones” (Trans. Islands of Thieves). Perhaps we must look back and start again from there as the possible origin of our mistrust. I truly understand the business community why they need to conduct searches to their employees. Petty theft can affect any establishment in a big way. Yet these “mandurukots” are the most vocal about their rights being violated and air their so called grievances to DOLE. I really pity the innocent who are also searched. So, in order to remove that system of mistrust, then do the Napoles way, report these thieves but make sure you got back up, lots of it, meaning, it’s a collective effort. One or few reporting the incident just won’t cut it.

  12. It is very hard to get a refund on most anything. Here is what was on the bottom of the receipt I received for buying wireless adapter…
    “All claims or correction to the invoice must be made within 5 days after receipt of goods. Parties expressly submit to the Jurisdiction of the courts of Manila on any legal action arising out of this transaction”.
    “Receive the above articles in good order and condition”. Is the above disclaimer about Manila courts suppose to discourage me from trying to get a refund? It is really bizarre. I would have it just put it straight on the receipt…NO REFUNDS!

  13. Spot On! Honor my arse, Filipino or We are so cunning that we can get away with it and not bother about it. “Tawanan nyo ang iyong problema”

  14. Because it’s true. Even i dont trust my neighbors! My friends keep telling me our house looks like a fortress because of all the walls and gates! And yeah, all we do is pretend we are doing well but seriously we are not! Even filipinos in other countries are crab mental! Im not saying we are all bad but most of us are! We can get away with anything if you have a connection or money! Honor isnt in our vocabulary. Period.

  15. I totally agree with this author. My high school thesis was “why our country is not prosperous” and one factor (aside from feudalism, heavy reliance on Church, lack of industrial development) was our values. We do have good ones like pagiging maka diyos, paghalaga ng edukasyon, paggalang sa magulang. Then there are the negative ones that contribute to a decay in morality: pakikisama, bahala na, ningas kogon, pamilya muna values. As I grew older I realized these are the things that really hold us back. Filipinos tend to rationalize petty corruption thinking “life is hard, feed our family first”; “everyone is doing it, why can’t i”. My go to source was Amando Doronila. A lot of his analyses are spot on.

    Still, from the commenters here and the blog author, I know that there are people with integrity. My own father was one. And because of this, I’m not losing hope for our country.

    Filipinos with honor who go to other countries often excel because these countries promote a merit system that rewards integrity. Who knows? They can raise a new generation of honorable kids who will go back and make our country better.

  16. Here’s why I am here reading this article and commenting. I had a male Filipino friend who I consistently butted heads with because he was always playing mind games and deceitful. Not necessarily is an evil way, but in a dishonoring way is how I can best describe it. Then I had the chance to meet a few other Filipinos in my job. Out of 4 Filipino men, 3 were very similar in character. It floored me to see how similar they were. That is why I am here reading this. Seems like the only time they are straight forward is when they are drunk. It’s hilarious.

    1. The only time Failipinos are straightforward with you is when they know someone is watching and there is something to be gained. I am a Failipino and I know the ways of my people very well.

      We do not like nor trust one another, and we will compete and try to outshine each other for foreseeable personal gain that might come from the hands that feed us (sort to speak).

      Our culture and society are disbanded because we all operate on two deep-seated principles: aristocracy (empty pride) and self-servingness (“every man [women] for himself”).

      Thus, we should change our titles to Fucklippines and Fucklipinos.

      1. Wow, you hit the nail on the head. I am not Filipino, but my interactions with 4 Filipino friends and coworkers showed me this very clearly. One good thing I noticed is that many Filipinos know how and where to get good jobs. But they are terrible at building quality relationships and networking because of theme things you aforementioned.

        1. Will,

          Unfortunately for the majority of my people, it has to take a ‘non-Failipino’ to realize what is wrong with our country and all of us. Leave it to to our own device, we will continue to maintain our own innocence and blame one another on why the Failippines is a failed nation, why we cannot get along with one another, and why the rest of the world do not respect us.

          We will even go as far as use other problematic countries as an “scapegoat” example to downplay our own shortcomings.

          These destructive traits are the sad truth about us Failipinos, and we will continue to live in this country-destructive manner until we face the truth that ‘we are all at fault’ (and not just certain ones), and start eating a healthy slice of the proverbial “Humble Pie”as an antidote to the aristocratic and self-serving delusions that we have allowed to poison our culture (and our minds) through the generations.


  17. “Honor is not a strong part of Filipino tradition.”

    The true definition of “Honor” is foreign in the Failipinos’ vernacular…unless it is directed towards them.

  18. Laziness is a strong tradition while cheating on elections all possible done due to a leaders master mind.

  19. Yes.

    To have a honor as strong part, autocracy and/or discipline is necessary for progress and honor despite atrocities, but not democracy of all types (social, liberal, etc., or vice versa).

  20. I have been screwed financially by filipinos more than 10 times in my life and all serious offenses. I no longer trust them period. I’m not racist whatsoever nor am I uneducated, it’s just a fact at this point. This article helps support the reasoning behind it.

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