Spanish Writer Draws Fire for Exposing “Filipino Mindset”

In a classic moment of anger after being told “you have a pimple on your face,” Filipinos again cried foul against an article of a Spanish researcher living in the Philippines. Jorge Mojarro, whose article was published in Interaksyon (his being called “spaniard” in the article seems to reflect the antiquated thinking in our society) drew flak after he blamed the problems of the country on the “Filipino mindset.” He described the problems of improperly occupied sidewalks, traffic jams, lack of city planning and rampant commercialization (malls, etc.) as a result of this mindset. Of course, the butthurts would claim he’s insulting and wrong.


However, his summary sentence, “Filipinos do not show any sense of shared responsibility for public space,” is a very accurate explanation about how Filipino attitudes cause dysfunction in our society. It can be summed up in one acronym: KKK (Kamag-anak, Kaibigan, Kaklase or it can be changed into Kamag-anak, Kakilala, Ka-Close). I will define it this way: If you know someone, you tend to respect them. If you don’t know someone you tend to disrespect or even try to scam them. In Mojarro’s own explanation:

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The private sphere belongs to the kin and friends, and utang na loob obliges one to reciprocate help, support, favors, and even money. The public sphere, on the other hand, becomes the jungle where anything is valid in order to bring commodities to the private sphere.

Unfortunately for the butthurts, this is true about Filipinos. Just think of our politicians: they give positions and pork barrel to their kin, friends and people they have utang na loob to. That’s their private sphere. The public sphere, they rob to get money for their private sphere!

As Benign0 sometimes quotes from Jaime Licauco, “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.”

A true humane, civilized and advanced society that is truly worth being proud of is one where respect is given to even those we don’t know. If some will retort that people in other countries are also like that, that is not true in a significant way. Think of the observation that when Filipinos go abroad, they follow rules and become more productive than in their home country. Part of the reason is the that the Filipinos have been taught to respect people that they don’t know. In other words, the “value” of KKK was been replaced with a true civic-minded, law-abiding citizen mindset. This is what we lack to a great extent in the Philippines.

Some may rail, “hey, KKK is not a value!” Let me explain that I mention it as a value that we actually practice. I apply the word value, because it reflects what we actually value: our kakilalas, our little world.

Others may rail at Mojarro with an ad hominem: “he’s Spanish, his society ruined our country!” But that is a stupid retort, since Mojarro is modern Spanish, not part of the older society that had already faded. He like James Fallows (an American) get slammed for being astute and observant, seeing the problem for what it is and giving solutions. Another is objection to his suggestion that parks are better than malls to be in, citing air conditioning and all that. But aren’t there some Filipinos who recall a better, more habitable Manila of old where there were many parks and fresh air aplenty?

Lack of respect for public space makes the Philippines chaotic

Lack of respect for public space makes the Philippines chaotic

This is not to say every Filipino is a KKK practitioner. I am happy to see many Filipinos act respectfully towards people they don’t know and extend a helping hand. But the KKK attitude is sadly prevalent as well. The Aquino administration is the standard bearer of it and is perhaps the object of whatever snipes Mojarro had in his article. But let’s get to the point: unless Filipinos learn to respect even those they don’t know to a greater scale, and thus have greater respect and concern for the public space, we will continue to experience terrible traffic, high crime, high corruption and other problems that annoy us and even threaten our lives in this country.

37 Replies to “Spanish Writer Draws Fire for Exposing “Filipino Mindset””

  1. The article sums up from my viewpoint of our society. There is a disjointed sense of value amongst our fellow countrymen that they cherish their KKK more than a random passerby or fellow commuter.

    IMO, the way society behaves is based on how one person behaves towards another and it shows. It is KKK on a grand scale and with a population of 100M and counting, it has become ‘hell’ or maybe even the apocalypse (I don’t wish for it) our country has become.

    Do I find it ironic that we a KKK mentality when we are taught by our religion to ‘love our neighbor’ included? If the Pope ever hears about this, he would be devastated to know that we as a religious nation fail to follow even the basic law taught by Jesus?

  2. I think this is true in Metro Manila, and even Metro Cebu. The over-populated areas (especially those that are badly managed and where utterly stupid, useless politicians rule), do tend to make people feel insignificant and without a sense of community. They tend to think, who the fuck cares for me or this place? In other words, its not inherent in many of us, but it’s a sad consequence of living in a country whose leaders are all fucked up beyond recognition.

    But there are a few who care, but far too few.

  3. That’s the irony of our country isn’t it?

    We claim to be friendly to all, yet once a foreigner (especially Caucasians) arrives, we try to undercut them and extort money.

    We value education. And yet our public education (with our private education following suit) are degrading at a rapid rate.

    We wish for change, yet we refuse to alter our behavior in anyway.

    We pretend to be open to all, yet as soon as we are exposed to something different (Ex. Anything that isn’t love songs) we immediately shut that out.

    When someone speaks the truth, we refuse to listen unless its something we perceive as “nice”.

    It’s sad, but that is the reality of this country.

    1. Here’s another one: Filipinos are beholden to people with titles and degrees–Phds, masters, attorneys, doctors, engineers, architects–but they do not value the learning and education behind this, they only see the “diskarte” that these titles can bring them.

      1. I was born here. Lived for 12 years, then stayed in the states for 8. Went back here and saw a vastly different Philippines compared to when I left it. Currently staying here. 4 years and counting.

        Those things I’ve mentioned above? I’ve experienced it here.

        Another issue Filipinos have is “confirmation bias”. A recurring question Filipinos ask me is if I like this country or the US better. I don’t have the heart to tell them the truth (US is better) because I know they’ll grow to hate me.

        So I tell them what they want to hear.

    1. Yes, go to a squtter’s area and take a deep breath. What’s that smell? Piss and vomit. I remember the fire incident in Makati where one of the squatters said bigyan niyo lang kami ng pera papagandahin namin yung lugar. Asa ka pa.

  4. The place where this article is most evident is in the roads of the major cities in PHL. There are 100m Pinoys, so there are 100m traffic rules. Most know how to operate a vehicle, but have not taken the time to learn how to drive. Pinoys can’t drive their vehicles without using the horn. They get out of a parking space in the worst possible way, seeing to it they create the most traffic. They switch lanes indiscriminately. They don’t respect who has the right of way. Etc. It is Pinoys’ lack of respect for other Pinoys in full display.

  5. Since you quoted James Fallows, let’s see one paragraph of his “A Damaged Culture” which is a very big indictment on Filipino society:

    Japan is strong in large part because its nationalist-racial ethic teaches each Japanese that all other Japanese deserve decent treatment. Non-Japanese fall into a different category. Individual Filipinos are at least as brave, kind, and noble-spirited as individual Japanese, but their culture draws the boundaries of decent treatment much more narrowly. Filipinos pride themselves on their lifelong loyalty to family, schoolmates, compadres, members of the same tribe, residents of the same barangay. The mutual tenderness among the people of Smoky Mountain is enough to break your heart. But when observing Filipino friendships I thought often of the Mafia families portrayed in The Godfather: total devotion to those within the circle, total war on those outside. Because the boundaries of decedent treatment are limited to the family or tribe, they exclude at least 90 percent of the people in the country. And because of this fragmentation–this lack of nationalism–people treat each other worse in the Philippines than in any other Asian country I have seen. [Emphasis mine]

    This is essentially one of the same things that Mojarro touched on. Like you said, as long as Filipinos do not extend their boundaries of decent treatment beyond people they know, then perhaps this country is doomed to forever stay the way it is.

    Of course, butthurt Filipinos will always say comparisons against other societies are not fair; the Philippines is a special place, etc. Invidious as they may seem, the results of each culture speak for themselves, and the results of Filipino culture are unsurprisingly – and seemingly doomed to forever be – dismal.

    Not that the Philippines can really be considered more than a lump of disunited and disjoint tribes living among and in spite of each other anyway.

    1. totally agree with this… another example of this is how Filipinos denigrate each other based on their localities, Visayans are made fun of or Ifugaos or Muslims, or any other traits that are different from their own.

      it is a cultural trait or, i do hope not, a malayan cultural trait, see Malay countries that experienced a lack of strong and ironfisted leaders

      Sadly enough, this was exploited by PH colonizers, Spanish to Japanese, to prevent the citizens from uniting againsy them

  6. Konkin (1975) described the value of “Agorism,” a shared respect for people in the public sphere. It’s curiously a very liberal concept that if I’m not mistaken would have fit the Philippine social system well. To be fair, I see it function now in smaller civic units (e.g., provincial towns, villages).

    The most unfortunate thing here is that agorism hardly exists in larger civic units in the Philippines, such as cities. There is almost no respect for the Other, and the Self often justifies his/her selfish actions by saying “well, everybody does it anyway.”

  7. Filipinos boast for their being Christians, as well being undisciplined, most corrupt, crafty and having a dysfunctional government.

  8. The article is spot on and goes a long way towards explaining why the Philippines is such a chaotic place. Several of the commentators expressed surprise that a Christian country like the Philippines could be so uncaring of others. Religion is supposed to promote brotherhood and compassion. I see no evidence of that. If anything, I see the opposite. The more fundamentalist the believer is, the more intolerant they are of others. The conservative, white Christian community in the USA has a “empathy deficit disorder.” They have nothing but disdain for people different than themselves, especially if they are brown skinned immigrants.

    By contrast, secular humanists with their liberal values of “live and let live” and “we are all in this together,” seem to be the new champions of the attitude: “the greatest good for the greatest number of people.”

    Why are fundamentalist Christians so screwed up? I think it is partially because of the idea of personal salvation with its emphasis on the interior, spiritual world, instead of the exterior world of other people and public places.

    1. I believe it’s more like fundamentalist Christians view themselves as a “special people” to be set apart from other people in the world, so those not like them are sinners or of the devil. Only they can be saved; immigrants and others should not be saved. It’s a tool that’s been used to enforce bigotry in American society. Or if that’s what you meant, yeah.

      1. @ ChinoF, No CF, it is the frikkin Jews that think they are ‘SPECIAL PEOPLE CHOSEN BY GOD'(Hitler chose them for something else as he saw it as The Germans vs. the Jews for control of the World during the 1930’s) and are thus the ‘special people’.The ‘indispensable nation’ line coming out of the USA leaders mouth these days(since 1932+/-) is just the ‘AIPAC’/Israeli lobby in Washington, D.C. telling the idiots what to say.

        1. “American Exceptionalism” is like “Pinoy Pride”; it is baloney based on the old “us against them” fiction. All people are the same; none better or worse.

  9. We, Filipinos cannot discipline ourselves, in our own country. I found out that most Filipinos, who are living in the U.S., are law abiding. They follow rules, like traffic rules.
    Because the U.S.-traffic police will give them traffic tickets and haul them to Court.

    In our country, most of the traffic police, accepts : “lagay”, after you are caught violating a traffic infraction. And, they let you go free, after pocketing the “lagay”…

    What the Leaders do; the people will follow. Our Leaders do not follow, or circumvent the laws , they make. So, people imitate them…

  10. and where did we get our mind set… from more than 300 years of Spanish colonialization… Instead of looking at our bad characteristics, lets be proud to be Filipinos , know what we can be proud of and work on those that needs improving… As long as our people are poor and deprived, then the Filipino mindset will continue to be deprived as well.

    1. @Susan: Your post doesn’t make any sense, at all. How can you work on those that need improving, unless you first look at bad characteristics? What is their to be proud of if you can’t crawl out from underneath the Spanish colonization or the current poverty? National pride is a tool used by the oligarchs to keep the masses distracted so that cannot see who their true oppressors are. Your confused sentiment is typical of what Ricardo Diaz referred to in an earlier comment.

      1. @ Susan: I think what is needed is “civility”; not necessarily “pinoy pride. It is hard to see how flag-waving and racial pride can make people more polite.

    1. ‘Going to the mall’ seems to be the only activity many people can think of doing in this supposedly ‘beautiful’ country.

      You have to hand it to the evil corporations – they’ve succeeded admirably in turning a poor population into addicted consumers by appealing to their emotions and superficiality.

  11. It’s always great to know that people like Jorge Mojarro and James Fallows have made the accurate observations and facts about what is really happening in the Failippines. And to those who are so-always-butt-hurt about the real deal and catch, you can all kiss your fucking asses off your tails.

  12. in fact a very accurate point on what are the problems in our country the Philippines but change don’t happen in an instant it takes time, effort, and sacrifices to improve everything.

    Filipinos are sensitive, ignorant, lack in discipline and happy go lucky. I’m not saying all of us are that but most of us.

  13. attack the guy for being correct…typical flip-tard thinking.

    Filipino’s should get over themselves, they aren’t that important and realize that together they could be so much more than the individuals that are not such big deals.

  14. “Unfortunately, this will not take place because, for one, there are too many people taking economic advantage of the status quo.”


    And it won’t change if we replace the leaders either. The replacements will do the same thing. No one is interested in undoing the wrongs in this country. Everyone who has ambitions is just waiting for his/her turn to profit over the same things.

  15. This is true, so we should learn from it and change. However much of that mindset we owe to Spain, thanks to their 300 year rule of the Filipino people. In the end Mojarro’s harsh criticism is actually about the rotten legacy that his forefathers left in the Filipino psyche.

    1. Yup.

      I found it ironic that this came from a man of the country that actually planted the seeds of our dysfunctional mentality.

      That aside, he’s right. Spain had a chance to change. And so are we.

  16. Yes, If we look at it, KKK may have originated during the time colonizers ruled our country. Due to the revolution, people tend to trust the people they know and distrust those who are outside their circle. I’m not against the article because I also believe that societies need to change and evolve with the modern times, it’s just that us pinoys are too narrow-minded and lazy to adapt and to keep up with the modern world.

  17. Maybe, the one who wrote something about Pinoys trusting only their kins leads back during the Spanish regime, when one had only to trust the people who were his relatives. 300 years of that mindset and one surely concludes that it is very well entrenched into the Pinoy psyche. But Pinoys now have gone farther more, KKK means all the “substance” that can be taken from the “public” into the KKK private domain is ok, thus, the proliferation of corruption, ad infinitum, ad nauseum. And even “public” domain is to be used privately. Take for example, many times half of the street or the whole street is occupied by a family who is having a celebration or having a dead family member which causes traffic problems, or those who dry their rice beside the street almost occupying the whole street and would get angry if a driver of a vehicle would have no choice but to drive his car into the drying rice to avoid an accident. I tell you, I know of some people in our place who died because of this, trying to avoid driving into the drying rice. These are just but two examples and I can discuss on so many Pinoy undisciplined ways, satisfying their private “needs” at the expense of public safety. I think, it is not only that we start electing good politicians. Pinoy parents should start teaching their children “love of country” right in their homes, right values, respect of others and others’ property, anti-littering behavior, urinating in toilets not in street corners, lining in queues and politely waiting for one’s turn, playing one’s music within hearing only around the house not the whole block, if it is a group – not to talk and laugh loudly in public, avoid vandalizing the neighbor’s walls or govt. property walls,returning a thing that is borrowed or does not belong to you, paying one’s utang on time, paying a person what is due him for his services and not pocketing the money that duly belongs to a neighbor or a friend, and so on and so forth…. They say charity (love) begins at home, so love of country too begins at home, in very small things. Discipline goes a long, long way….even from the cradle to the hallowed walls of Malacañang or the chambers of the Senate and Congress.

  18. Like Ricardo Diaz, I too lived here for several years, emigrated to the US and returned after 25 years away. I returned because I was under the impression that things had gotten better and the climate in this society had improved enough to take a chance, open a business and take a risk. Not quite…

    Things HAVE changed but so much has remained the same – and gotten worse from when I left in the early 80s!

    To me, what I’ve seen since I’ve been back – 4 years and counting – can be described in one word: “ANARCHY” (Those of you who may not be sure what that word means, look it up and I think you will agree with me.)

    It’s anarchy everywhere! On the roads, there is no respect, there is no driving skill and even many traffic enforcers DON’T KNOW THE LAWS THEY WERE HIRED TO ENFORCE!!! I see men urinating against walls and trees everywhere I go almost daily at least once. Pedestrians don’t cross properly, motorcycles are all over the place and the only good police are here for are for blowing their whistles! (A lot of them aren’t even good at directing traffic!)

    You cannot compose a society if laws are not enforced. The reason why foreign countries succeed is because there, (US, Japan, Singapore, etc.) people are held accountable for their actions. Here, people aren’t held to account for their actions and everyone (in positions of power) has a price – can be bought off. Especially those that are supposed to be entrusted with the public “trust!”

    Police are ineffective because they aren’t respected and everyone knows they can be bought. This is why majority of business hire private security guards because local police are just absolutely unreliable! Notice how so many houses have barb wire or spikes surrounding their properties? If the police force had any credibility whatsoever, fewer homes would need those drastic security means. Security guards and metal spikes should tell you enough about the state of law enforcement in the country!

    Some have said that the organizing principle of any society is in it’s ability to police it’s citizens. Too much and you have martial law or worse, too little and you have what you have here today in the Philippines. Until people are compelled to follow the laws, until they do more than talk about enforcing the laws, until law enforcement starting at the street level up to the bosses act with truth and dignity, 25 years from now, this place will be not one ounce better than it is today.

  19. people become powerless when an inefficient government system (through corruption) overruns the lives of its citizens (and then wealthier nations and businessmen enter the scenario to take advantage of this)…there is no world standard estbalished for an efficient government…even wealthy nations contribute most to social inequality, industrial pollution and environment destruction of planet earth…sad…but if only world organizations that supposedly unite wealthy, progressive, and powerful nations could just be the ones to take over inefficient governments and immediately change the systems in government services, education, livelihoods, etc. for a standard that is fair for all (equality of government and businesses with all citizens) while still maintaining the integrity of the people to be self-sufficient (than using such country for businesses and business negotiations)…then perhaps such world organizations would have a better purpose than just running the world for more wealth and power…

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