The Philippines: Trapped In The Past

It hasn’t been long but my friends and I just recently saw the film Land of the Lost, the one with Will Ferrell in it and the infamous scene with the giant mosquito. It’s actually a remake of an old TV series that used to be aired on Channel 5 as well, one that people of my generation might still be able to relate to. Although there are a few deviations from the original TV series, the film centers on the theme of what would happen if you trap modern humans in a prehistoric landscape. I’ve seen a lot of films and read a lot of books that have similar themes such as Michael Crichton’s Timeline (people trapped in the Medieval Age) and Olivia Butler’s Kindred (the Gilded Age of the United States when slavery was both legal and commonplace).

After an ordinate amount of thinking, I’ve come to wonder: Are Filipinos trapped in a similar predicament? Are we trapped in an age not rightfully our own? Or is there something else involved somehow? These are questions that bother me after making a number of observations in our society. However, don’t take my word for it, have a look at what I’m actually talking about:

The Animation Age Ghetto

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Warlords like Andal Ampatuan still rule and terrorise the Philippines' hinterlands like these were still in Europe's Middle Ages.

Warlords like Andal Ampatuan still rule and terrorise the Philippines’ hinterlands like these were still in Europe’s Middle Ages.

Ah, the Animation Age Ghetto. It’s been there since the Americans popularized the idea that all animated features are strictly for kids. A lot of Filipinos still hold on to this idea even though there are an ever-growing number of youths (and even older audiences) who have a better understanding of what they’re watching can tell you that it isn’t just for kids. Unfortunately, those who do know that animated features is as much for adults as it is for children often have to take a backseat to others who think that watching this kind of program is childish. A good example of this was when my Grandma called me and my friends out on still watching “cartoons” even if we’re 25+ adults. What were we watching, you may ask? Hellsing…

Anyway, just so you know, in Japan, animation is an art form all on its own just as they consider manga, their take on comics, as an art form as well. Unlike the Americans of the 50’s and unlike most of us Filipinos, the Japanese make animated shows that are extremely varied in scope and have a wide selection of genres such as shounen (for boys), shoujo (for girls), seinen (for young adults), yaoi (gay-themed) and yuri (lesbian-themed) just to name a few. And even within these named genres, they can be further divided into sub-genres (such as ones with more drama and those that are more action-oriented) and be made to overlap with one another.

Being a fan of anime, I am often very disappointed with how some people automatically attribute animated shows with children and childish people. Of course, I can admit to being childish every now and again, but then do many parents today even watch their children’s favorite programs with them? Do they take the time to understand just what exactly goes into their children’s heads? Sadly, I strongly doubt that many Pinoy parents care if their four-year old is watching a brutal anime brimming with explicit scenes and helpings of gore or if their fifteen-year old is exposed to mind-numbing noon-time show.

I’m not just talking about Japanese anime either. There are a lot of Western animation shows that are not exactly child-friendly either such as Family Guy, The Simpsons and Spawn. I do not know whether a lot of Filipino parents are simply holding onto the animation age ghetto or if they’re just plain irresponsible. Just to share, as a boy of about 8, my mother made me stop watching a cartoon called Inhumanoids when she saw the infamous transformation of Sandra Shore (a heroine among the team of protagonists) into a giant, raving skeleton-vampire-zombie thing.

And yes, I also know about hentai, but I’m already making this section of the article too long so let’s just discuss that some other time…

We Keep Voting For The Same People (As if We Have No Choice)

While eating pizza with a couple of friends, I once lamented over the fact that the Philippines never had a Medieval Age. You know, one with knights whose armor shone in the light of the sun or maybe ninja moving along castle walls in the night, unseen and deadly. Then, my friend said that if I wanted a Medieval Age, then I shouldn’t be disappointed because the Philippines does have a Medieval Age of sorts.

After a long moment of musing, I realized that many Filipinos still live in a Medieval/Feudal Age despite it being in the “New Tens” of the 21st Century. It’s apparent in the way that we continue to vote for people who have wronged us in the past. From the charlatans who steal from funds that are supposed to benefit the poor and unfortunate, the pretentious scoundrels who have been caught selling or distributing illegal drugs to the youth to the murderous scum who mercilessly kill their political opponents, no one seems to care what they do as long as they are in some kind of “position”. As long as a person is a politician, has a history of being a politician or has relatives who are politicians, we never seem to care about their past deeds and crimes against the people.

In the olden days, a peasant (who we can more or less equate with the common people today, especially when it comes to Filipinos) had no right whatsoever to make a stand against his lord. In those days, to even raise your voice against your lord was considered a grave act of disrespect and is even considered a form of treachery. Also, note that the upper class of society, from whom these lords and ladies were drawn, are called “nobles” or “nobility” which denotes some degree of honor just as we like to attach titles like “honorable” and “excellency” to the names of politicians despite them being thieving knaves.

As a side note and further confirmation of this point, please read these “Game of Thones” articles by Gogs and Ilda, respectively.

To this day, I see this practice of electing the same officials still being prevalent today even if said official is quite obviously a criminal. People still choose these scum to run the country despite their transgressions because of the belief that since they have experience, they are the only ones worthy of the position. It never occurs to many of the common Filipino that anyone else, or they themselves for that matter, are capable of efficiently running a country.

The Continued Union of Church and State

When the United States was founded, it was decided by its leaders (whom they rightfully call the Founding Fathers) that the state be separated from the Church. There is a bit of wisdom in this as it prevents any one person from controlling everything or having too much power as they did in Europe. Unfortunately, here in the Philippines, the Church and State are so much like the young couple in many of our teleseryes, who sneak off into the night to have totally wholesome, non-explicit scenes together.

To this day, no one can deny that the Church is still firmly attached to the state like a clingy jealous lover. Overpopulation can be attributed to the fact that many religious people still openly condemn the use of contraceptives despite them being necessary to control the ever-growing size of our population, preventing the spread of STD’s and somehow minimizing the number of teen pregnancies. Homophobia, as I’ve already stated to be a problem in another article, is another popular issue that is not at all helped by the way ultra-religious people tend to view homosexuals, bisexuals and other people of different orientation.

On FB, I also commented about the Black Nazarene festival which (to me at least) just screams “Satanic cult activity” because of the number of people who have died in these so-called festivals. Unfortunately, the number of deaths which sometimes even includes children, has done nothing to stop this practice. It’s as if people think that rushing a wooden idol will actually please God even though he made it quite clear to people not to make idols and to value their lives (especially the lives of children) over material things (like wooden idols).

Now, I support the idea of freedom of religion and that people have a right to worship a deity of their choosing, but I would like to take the time to call out the practice of bloc voting. Yes, I know that you people probably have your reasons, but please think about what you’re doing. Are you really going to vote for someone against your will or against your better judgement? I think one of the reasons for separation of Church and state is to discourage this kind of practice because it spits on the very meaning of democracy.

Please, to my time-travelling fellow Filipinos, let us return to the present before we are devoured by a Spinosaurus, attacked by a Deinonychus or harassed by Barney…

24 Replies to “The Philippines: Trapped In The Past”

  1. I think you are wrong when you wrote: “To this day, I see this practice of electing the same officials still being prevalent today even if said official is quite obviously a criminal. People still choose these scum to run the country despite their transgressions because of the belief that since they have experience, they are the only ones worthy of the position. It never occurs to many of the common Filipino that anyone else, or they themselves for that matter, are capable of efficiently running a country.” — They keep voting for these guys because, being stuck in medieval/feudal mindset, they think that these very criminals are the ones with the god-given RIGHT to rule. This fundamentally stems from the very fact the Filipinos don’t understand democracy. They treat politicians as though they were kings and without realizing that these guys are in power because they voted for them. It is not the people to respect them, but the other way around.

    [Quick note: Again, there is no such thing as real mutual respect in this country, as benign0 writes. Indeed the much-vaunted Filipino hospitality is just an extension of “hiya” – which is ultimately just a manifestation of pride.]

    1. Thank you for making that point clearer Dick. That’s probably what I meant to say but didn’t think of at the time. Anyway, I agree with your sentiments 100%. There is no denying the fact that while majority of us dress like modern people, a lot of us still think like peasants of the Dung Ages…

    2. Well, to be fair, “experience” is one of the usual justification a pinoy voter gives for voting for a known corrupt official. But methinks its just a way of coping with voter’s remorse.

      I think something about Filipino voters needs to be pointed out. They seem to think that “masasayang lang ang boto nila” if they happened to vote for the losing candidate. So they end up voting for those he thinks will win. This concept must be very alien to, say, an American.

  2. We are still living in the “Dark Age”…Feudalism is still here; serfs , vassals, lords are still here. Religion is ingrained in the Filipino mind…as a hope for better future; and as a panacea of their poor existence…

    Political warlords abounds; family political dynasties rules; and political patronage is the prevalent way , to become rich, or to get a good position in the government.

    This are the reasons our government is corrupt. Government officials are thieves. and, people

    1. And the people are that dumb and stupid. Aquino is the biggest Feudal Oligarch…the political leaders are mostly Feudal Oligarchs…

      We cannot get away from this situation; unless , we are willing to do something about it…

  3. I fully agree, on everything that have been written here,, kudos.. to author,,How I wish, to spill all my angst,( through writing only, though.)towards my countrymen> Philippines..How to tell, them, that,Our way out from the present Hell hole is Education…! and STOP living in the you guys just said…bye..

  4. Yup, Philippine society always seeks the past. That’s why it can’t move forward.

    What other signs are there of being trapped in the past. “Reminiscing” Philippines being the “best” country in Southeast Asia during the Post World War 2 era (which was really because of US aid), and saying pre-colonial Philippines was better (when it was all full of slave-trading monarchs and backward tribes). Really, all this backward viewing is helping keep the country backward in progress.

  5. The things said about how people vote gets to be confusing because although most of them are correct some are not really exactly what they appear to be. Let me just focus on the other angle of the issue which is seldom talked about nor given more exposure so that we can widen the coverage of the discussion.

    When talking about electorate we have to differentiate the classification of voters. We have the masa and the middle class and higher class of the voting public. I’m not saying it’s just the masa that is guilty for they will not be able to vote for those questionable candidates without the help of those who are more educated and influential than them.

    The criminals and the crooks get voted not because they are worthy but because they already established and enjoy advantage in terms of influence, bailwicks, followers and of course capital. For example, Erap, ousted as president for graft and corruption; elected as mayor of Manila. The same with Gloria Arroyo, tarnished by Hello Garci and corruption; electred as congresswoman. They get elected on pubic office because of the factors cited above and the kind of system we have.

    The ‘worthiness’ of a candidate to the masa is not really about experience or education but how such candidate can be of help to them or how can they benefit from voting for such candidate. The same mentality pervades the thinking of majority of the electorate. How, then, can someone be stupid and dumb if he votes based on his interest and expectations? I’m not saying there is no dumb and stupid voters, for there are many. I’m just saying that most voters have their own criteria and biases as basis for selecting candidates.

    The ‘starstruck ignoramuses’ issue is a different case. Of course, voting for popular movies and sport celebrities per se goes against the grain of how voting should be conducted. Right off the bat, those whose only basis to vote was because of the popularity of the candidate is wrong. No question. But let’s put ourselves to the shoes of those who vote for celebrities for other reason. I say that because there are voters across the segment of the electorate who are done with traditional politicians. They have voted for decades and decades for these trapos only to get the same result. And it’s getting worse because it’s not only the trapos who are lining their pockets now but also their families and relatives. Given that scenario the appearance of celebrities in election ballots is a welcome development for these frustrated and disappointed electorate.

    Then there is the nepotism, political dynasty issue, vote-buying and other issues that gives an impression that our electoral system is one that is a non-serious activity.

    For me, I think we have to do something with the system that allows those wrong things to happen. Make our system/laws more strict and penalties more harsh. Strengthen and improve the guidelines in terms of qualification/disqualification of a candidate, among other things. Criticize, insult, ridicule and call names people if you must but so long as there is nothing to prevent them doing what they do it would only be an exercise in futility.

    Having said that, though, I must admit, it won’t be an easy task. 🙂

    1. Another issue is our corrupt COMELEC. Those familiar with COMELEC politics will know that there is vote trading among candidates. Yes, the candidate who appears to be losing will trade some votes to a leading candidate for cash! This is happening as late as 2013. To be fair to the class C, D and E, they aren’t as “starstruck” as they seem as they appear to be aware of the vote trading in their municipality (I heard this speaking with an informal settler). They were just as taken advantage of and just as frustrated as the middle class.

      So what I’m saying is that the bureaucrats(COMELEC) also play a part in the futility of our elections just as much as these “nepotistic” politicians and starstruck electorate.

  6. To quote an expat who landed in the Philippines years ago:

    “Oh fuck me, I’ve landed in a Dystopian Sci-fi Novel.” ~Marius O.

    And from my stay here, I can definitely attest to that. As most people here have an intolerance to anything outside their routine. “Drinking, Smoking, Love songs, Karaoke, getting married and bragging about achievements.”

    1. Now, if it were more like Warhammer 40,000 with its superhuman Space Marines protecting the citizens from aliens, monsters and daemons, things would actually be kinda cool. Unfortunately, we don’t even have those…


    2. No surprise. No love for things outside their routine is exactly that article “The Reprivate of the Philippines” said: no respect for public space, no willingness to recognize anything outside of their immediate circle of family or friends (the much vaunted KKK). It’s a demonstration of Nick Joaquin’s piece we often quote, The Heritage of Smallness.



        FOR THE EMPEROR!!!


      I AM THE END!!!

  7. IMHO, the black nazarene is pretty much a modern golden calf.
    On anime, its sooooooo ironic though the criticism comes from people who still consider themselves “mature” as the teleseryes as they watch. I used to snicker at housemates who watched please be careful with my heart for years when anime as abysmal as rosario+vampire had more character development in the time span of 26 episodes.

    1. Besides, Kurumu is so easy on the eyes…
      She’s like a teen Morrigan Aensland…

      And yes, Moses would be pissed if he saw us Filipinos with our Black Nazarene festival…

    2. You know something is critically wrong with our entertainment industry when an foreign animation that is assumed to be for children delivers more substance and maturity than majority of the films or series that we watch.

  8. I think you hit the nail on the head with the “Satanic cult” comment. Whatever the religion is in the Philippines, it sure as hell isn’t Christianity. My observation is that idol-worship, witchcraft, and suchlike are all alive and well. They’ve just been given a new coat of paint by the CC.

  9. To many Filipinos I ‘ve met

    The word “American” and “white man: are synonymous. The word “Negro” denotes a different nationality from “American”

    America is the richest nation on earth and the Philippines is the poorest.

    Russia is a communist country.

    The most popular song in the US is “Happy Birthday, Sweet 16”. Or “Hello Dolly”

    Not quite the Middle Ages but sure sounds like the 1950ies.

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