Why Filipinos Fail to Detect Satire

Many Filipinos fall victim to satire sites. I myself admittedly had been taken by a few, being unfamiliar with them. One recent article tries to analyze why most Filipinos are unable to understand or detect satire. The reason given is the lack of intellectualism that allows one to understand it. I agree this is one of the elements, and anti-intellectualism is a problem that helps keep Filipino society backward. After all, former senator Richard Gordon observed, “the problem with Filipinos is we do not think…. we just react.”

Most Filipinos are loathe to do this even if it can be healthy.

Most Filipinos are loathe to do this even if it can be healthy.

However, I believe there is more. It is even possible for people with high intellectual levels to miss satire as well. There is another reason, one I push to be the greater reason.

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This is the tendency to take oneself too seriously and the inability to laugh at oneself. This is explained by Filipinos having such a high level of pride that they are unable to accept being the butt of jokes. Yes, this is true for people of other ethnic and national backgrounds, not just Filipinos. But I believe this attitude is particularly strong within Filipino culture. I consider it bad because it’s connected to another flaw: the unwillingness to accept criticism.

We’ve seen this at work when Adam Carolla criticized rabid Pacquiao fans. We’ve seen this at work when Katherine Ryan used Filipino kids as an object in her joke. We’ve seen this when a Filipino in Australia complained about another person named Kiki (who wasn’t even doing anything to harm the Filipino, ever). And we saw it recently when Filipinos reacted to Agness Walewinder’s blog post about food. And again, they reacted to a returning Filipino’s honest observations after coming home from Singapore. Filipinos react violently when they are the subject of a joke or criticism. The high pride, sometimes referred as Spanish pride, prevents us from accepting things that should be accepted, acknowledging our problems and doing the right things to solve. Or even ignore things that are better ignored.

As F. Sionil Jose wrote, we are mayabang. As Cito Beltran wrote, ours is not a beautiful mind. And as fellow blogger Gogs consistently writes, pride continues to be a burden that helps us keep our problems unsolved. It’s as if Filipinos always want to be on top of others, with impunity, and do not care if others suffer because of them – or do not care if they suffer from their own pride. And if we react before we think… pride is one of the reasons. We’re just too proud to think.

Of course, we did have satires, like Sick O’Clock News and Mongolian Barbecue of the older days. However, most Filipino satires are confined to the TV set. The Internet is a whole new medium. It would seem that most Filipinos are still unfamiliar with it, and are less able to practice discernment with it as with other media. Or, over the course of time, satires have been less used and fewer people are exposed to them, and thus, they are unable to tell.

I’m more familiar now with online satires when I see them. I knew it when some site suggested Piolo Pascual to be a national heartthrob. But sadly, many Filipinos are unable to tell, because they would become too proud of Pascual being a national something. And they ride on it.

21 Replies to “Why Filipinos Fail to Detect Satire”

  1. Political satire in the UK is humorous, biting, popular and most importantly keeps people/personalities/politicians in their place and makes a contribution to both homour and awareness.
    Award winning shows like Spitting Image – ( checkout youtube), magazines such as Private Eye, and even the more conservative tv programme Yes Minister could never exist in the philippines – partly because of a rigidly controlled media/tv mafia, but also because of the lack of original talent/creativity.
    Filipinos still think talent is copying someone else’s song, and singing it badly! – that is karaoke.

    Satire is not dead – it lives in malacanan.

    1. Don’t forget the likes of ‘Brass Eye’ and ‘The Thick of It’ (currently remade for US TV as Veep). The writers of the latter even had to rewrite scripts when some of their exaggerated political scenarios actually took place in the real world.

  2. To be fair, they kinda into satire to some extent. They love making fun of the rich and privileged whenever they can portraying them as snobby caricatures in their dramas. But when it comes time to poke fun at the “little guy” then all hell breaks lose.

  3. We Filipinos have high ego and are extremely balat-sibuyas. Satire will kill us.

    Heck! If you wrote this in tagalog, i think, you’d be fcked right now.

  4. A tribute to Private Eye – Over 50 years old and still taking the satirical p!ss out of royals, politicians, judges, presidents, religious leaders, Eastern potentates, pretentious celebrities, Europhiles, criminals, left-wingers, right-wingers, double swingers, whingers, and media parasites who have warily approached the news-stands every fortnight, praying that their transgressions and hypocrisies do not feature in the satirical scandal-sheet, nor their vapid grins appear on the cover, nailed beyond repair by a killer caption in a rectangular box.

    “The perfect Private Eye cover makes you gasp and guffaw at the same time. In March this year, after stories appeared in the press about the Duchess of York’s financial troubles and Prince Andrew’s
    friendship with a convicted paedophile called Jeffrey Epstein, the magazine displayed the Yorks on the cover in their party finery. A speech bubble had Andrew
    saying, “Epstein is prepared to give you £15,000,” and Fergie replying, “Is that for Eugenie, or for both of them?”. ( their daughters)

    Jonathan Swift, in full “A Modest Proposal” mode, would have approved of that joke. It’s shocking, disgracefully unfair, clearly actionable and it skewers the chronically troubled Yorks with admirable economy.”
    The Independent

    Oh that the philippines had the wit to create satire, and the intellect to appreciate it.

  5. I’m not sure about “Abangan Ang Susunod Na Kabanata”, is it a satire too? I was too young to remember that series.

    I’m also not sure about some Pinoy writers that writes satire: are they doing it because they know that Pinoys are gullible enough to troll? Or that was the whole intention of satire?

    1. I think Abangan was a satire too. Same in comics, like Pugad Baboy and Ikabod.

      Satire I guess does have that intention to troll. As in, “bato-bato sa langit, ang tamaan, may kasalanan.”

      1. Yes it was. The late Tessie Tomas & Noel Trinidad starrer was a loved, hilarious “bato-bato sa langit…” satirical piece, taking its trademark humor from the political events of the time which was appreciated by many & one of the few tagalog tv programs I actually watched growing up.

  6. We take ourselves very seriously. Maybe because things in our lives; things in our country; things in our families; are not getting right. That, we are easily hurt.
    We know that most of us, are OFW slaves; or servants of the world. So, if foreigners call us: OFW slaves or lowly servants. We get hurt.

    Laugh at yourself; take life by the horn. If criticized; take it with a “grain of sugar”. And improve yourself…then, you will never be the “butt of jokes”…if you take life seriously; you may end up in a mental hospital; and not to where you want to go; or worse , you become a YellowTard…

  7. I *still* see people bringing up that fake TIME cover about Nancy Binay as if it was a real thing.

    It’s probably a mix between a lack of satire tradition and Philippine politics basically being a gratuitous self-parody of the system. It would be very funny if millions of people weren’t getting shat on.

  8. Thanks for the reference. Pinoys really feel self entitled and love to remind a world that does not care. Perfect recipe for butthurt . Which really should be the national dish.

  9. there is nothing wrong of being proud to be a filipino however we tend to idolize little accomplishments of some peole aka..pacquia we forgot that there are more pressing problems within the Filipino mind our understanding of what should be done to solve problems .reason? we are glued to those accomplishments forgetting our backyard lettting it rot because of pride

    1. filipinos idolize but don’t replicate, I believe most of us have a radical self-defeating “hindi ko kaya” mentality

  10. I had the chance to chat with Jaime Fabregas a few years back. Nice guy, who insisted I call him ‘Jimmy’. I mentioned to him how much I enjoyed his Sic O’ Clock news & waited for the now defunct program every time the clock hit 6pm. It was a satire beyond its time, the source of many a guffaw. Oh, how his eyes lit up when I added that while it was obvious it looked like it was strung together on a shoestring budget, (he confirmed it was — the network didn’t give them much) the talent was composed to theatrical actors. Sic O Clock news was brash, bold, side splittingly funny & it was a labor of love from Jimmy, et al.

  11. I am visiting Phils right now.

    Where is the Pride when the population of Philippines is 99% BROWN and 99% of everyone in movies, TV, Media, are fair skin? Proud?

    The OP really touched on so many FACTS I take my hat to you.

    Filipino has to feel on top of someone in order to feel good about themselves. When eating they point they talk shit about someone else that is all they do 24/7 365 days a year. Bring each other down then get online and say how proud they are?

    I am in Phils now and if people in other countries only knew how little regard Filipinos have for them they would never send these people a damn peso, crisis or not. They would never send any to you. NEVER. A Brit here who personally drove his truck to make sure he was helping Filipinos after typhoon was murdered by his own filipino security guard for firing him for coming to work drunk again. 6 times point blank. Then when I saw the story the guard said he was disrespected then all the filipinos on yahoo comments were defending the murderer. Let this country drown in its own bullshit off the face of the planet. The world would be a better place.

    Church loving country? Its pretty ironic when all this entire country does is Drink, Gamble, prostitute, molest, adulter, and scam not to mention all the ladyboys and bi sexuals even ones who are on the low low and are married.

    The more you get to know Phils the more you want to vomit. When they read this they will take not a drop of responsibility for a damn thing..only point the finger someone else.

  12. “Where is the Pride when the population of Philippines is 99% BROWN and 99% of everyone in movies, TV, Media, are fair skin?”

    Filipinos failed to detect INSULT from media that 99% do not have the looks. In other words they are UGLY. How stupid is that.

  13. wound healing is a natural phenomenon to adapt to stresses acute or chronic- coping mechanisms- physical or psychological reactions to defend ones self and keep whole- maladaptation causes pathology healthy response builds resistance- adaptation can have reversible or irreversible consequences- finding humor would be a beneficial coping mechanism if its a good day and you are in a good mood but if you are tired and hungry badly bruised finding jokes funny is difficult if the joke is on you. the philippines is subject to natural disasters- typhoons, volcanic eruptions, earth quakes, land slides, dictators, as well foreign powers raping our rich natural resources and the “lords” that take advatage, discrimination based on the different shades of skin- morena-kayumanggi-mestiza the the educated and uneducated- everyone takes a shit- “pare pareho tayong tumatae” an expression- we all take a shit. being subject to so much hardship we learned to laugh at natural disaster and self inflicted injury- horror is funny -but filipinos exhibit “pikon” we get offended, angry even violent could drive us “amuk” – or be “hurumentado” natives who bound their limbs so they wont bleed to death battling w armored foes. much like battered women who will turn around and kill the abuser- some people just shouldnt be made fun of unless you want to be on the end of their “bolo” and get hacked to death in return,
    the filipinos proud of their own capabilities- very smart resourceful and talented- will serve for nothing but wont take disrespect its dangerous to hurt a filipinos feelings -make fun – dismiss devalue – rob of dignity- it can cause irreversible harm to both joker and joked.

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