Discipline, respect, and selflessness: Abstractions that the Philippines needs to put into action

I try as hard as possible to play by the rules once I’m out of the house. I get in line, use the pedestrian lane, the overpass, use the proper loading and unloading zones, keep right in the escalator and sidewalks to make way for those people behind who may be in a hurry, always mindful of how my movement might affect and indirectly inconvenience others.

And because of that I always get stressed out and my day has not even begun.

There’s something about being part of a society that’s always in survivor mode 24/7 and does not care much for rules when said things impede one’s personal agenda. Suddenly you find yourself unconsciously playing the same despicable game just to avoid being a victim of the many others who feel the rules don’t apply to them.

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The only orderly queue in the Philippines is the one where politicians wait for their turn to steal Filipinos blind.

The only orderly queue in the Philippines is the one where politicians wait for their turn to steal Filipinos blind.

It reminded me of a video I saw where Singapore statesman Lee Kuan Yew stressed discipline in the individual level as a vital component of a strong nation. And I was thinking about applying that principle to the Philippines and figured it would take nothing less than a miracle to reverse this type of thinking that has apparently become a big part of the culture that seem to foster and encourage exceptions into becoming rules.

Just this morning I almost called out a teenager in 7-11 who couldn’t be bothered with falling in line despite the very obvious queue comprised of me and five more people. At least the cashier possessed enough good sense to call her off and told her to act accordingly. Most store crews don’t even do that.

In a business trip with a colleague to Australia a while ago, our hosts decided to bring us to one of those eat-all-you-can buffets in the suburbs of Sydney. Apparently the sushi bar was a popular part of that restaurant and people were understandably lining up to it. Our hosts, fellow Pinoys who migrated there, called me and my colleague’s attention towards the end of the queue as we sat down to eat our meal.

Near the end of the line where the customers were served, hovered two Asian-looking young women. Obviously trying to snatch a few choice morsels from the bar that operated in a first in first out basis. The two were moving in a way that was similar to ATM users who use multiple cards in one transaction. It was an obvious wholesale snatching for other members of their group.

That they were getting glares from people in line were useless. And we were wondering what country these people came from; and I was a bit relieved to know that this type of thick-faced activity was not exclusive to us Pinoys or in the Philippines. I thought and even made up my mind that they were either immigrant/tourist Cambodians, Indonesians, or Thai. Until a man—presumably their father—from afar told them: “Dalawa pa.” (Two more.)

I found that embarrassment for the actions of fellow countrymen takes a whole new dimension when you’re in a foreign land. Our hosts just gave a resigned shake of their heads. And to think I confidently accused other nationalities first.

I used to be one of those over-sensitive sorts who react with hostility whenever foreigners make generalizations and criticisms about us. But one can hardly blame that sort of perspective especially when examples to the contrary are being supplied effortlessly by the majority of the citizens on a daily basis. One popular saying among companies about good and bad publicity is that no one cares about good work because that’s already expected. Incompetence, bad service, and overall annoyance are the sorts that stick better to memory.

And it’s not even an isolated, occasional incident abroad. And that’s just the simple issue of falling in line. Spend a considerable amount of time using the EDSA MRT and you’ll see how that simple concept, even aided by clear signs instructing people to form only two queues on the platform, become an almost-impossible endeavor to the average passenger.

The same with PUVs. I have always wondered why these drivers almost always load and unload in the most outlandish places where possible accidents can happen as well as cause major inconveniences to other motorists. You can argue that they are just being true to form in being the reigning douchebags of the highways. Or that the commuters/passengers actually dictate where they should be so they can make money. And knowing most commuters—being one myself—they actually insist on disembarking in any convenient spot for them short of their own doorway.

Or waiting in the wrong loading area simply because using the proper facilities require too much effort and work. Waiting in the proper loading zones in most places in Metro Manila guarantees a lifetime of waiting for non-jampacked vehicles because of overeager commuters who can’t be bothered with being inconvenienced with short walks to the proper zones. Where life and limb is risked simply because using the overpass requires too much effort, and because anyone can get away with it.

In an analysis and observation towards this type of jagged individualism, GRP webmaster benign0 wrote:

“Our ability as a people to behave as a collective will not come from political solutions. It will not come from new systems of governance, nor will it come from any new “leaders” or even “heroes” stepping up to the plate. Our ability to behave as a collective — as a UNIT — will come only from deep within the fabric of our character as a people and from a shared sense of what it means to be an individual that belongs.”

Indeed, shared sense of belonging seems to be one of the many integral aspects needed in building a strong society that we desperately lack as a people. As long as each member marches to the beat of his own drum ignoring and refusing to recognize the responsibility that comes with it, we will be in a perpetual blind-leading-the blind situation with no clear directions to propel us forward.

[Image courtesy Creative Bloq.]

25 Replies to “Discipline, respect, and selflessness: Abstractions that the Philippines needs to put into action”

  1. I remember one of my co-employee who said that they “maximize” their Lola’s (grandmother’s) senior citizen card by going to different stores to buy various items at a discount, while making it appear their Lola is the one who’s purchasing them.

    1. In a way this should be OK as long as the grey area allows it. The fault lies within the system and it’s implementation. If they would allow someone else other than the senior person to purchase using the card then it is fair game out there.

  2. The solution proposed by government for people not following simple rules is to PROPOSE MORE RULES! Behold, the anti-pasaway law! Link: http://www.philstar.com/headlines/2014/03/25/1304772/anti-pasaway-fall-line-or-go-jail

    Honestly, people claim that we are such a hospitable people, but I will withhold my assent to this statement so long as we fail to give due respect to our fellows in matters as simple as falling in line, traffic rules, garbage dumping, spitting, public smoking, pissing, drunkenness etc.

    1. Rules/Laws don’t work in this society.

      For example, several anti-smoking ordinances have been passed in Pasig City. These have come and gone and people still smoke in front of areas designated with “No Smoking” signs. The problem is such rules are never sustainably enforced, both by authority and by the very people whose welfares these rules are meant to protect.

      Once, while falling in line in the MRT, my line got cut by a Filipino Male. I politely asked him to fall in line properly. He glared at me like i touched his manhood or something.

      In this country, being on the right side of the rules/law don’t count shit. Ikaw na nga yung may katuwiran ikaw pa ang mali.

      I can’t comprehend why discipline being considerate to others is such an incompatible concept to the filipino mind.

      No wonder there is no foreign word that comes close to being synonymous to the words “Pasaway” and “Kupal”.

      1. regarding enforcement, one factor that i can think of is complacency. ung parang, “sige lang hayaan mo lang sila . .” attitude by our policemen/guard. another problem is that most civilians look down on this people hence, they (policemen) thought they are lower than civilians. they don’t see the sense of their jobs. remember the case of “amalayer”? how she treated the “ate guard”? she has no respect. that’s how most civilian see our guards/policemen. this stigma needs to change. kaya tama sinabi ni mayor duterte, if he becomes president he’ll focus on our policement/soldiers. makaktikim ng mura ang mga tamad na police.

        another problem is the ratio of law enforcers to the population. kung baga 1:10 ang ratio. 1 policeman against 10 jaywalking violators. medyo mahirap huliin pag isa lang siya.

        the problem is enforcement of the law. a simple sign of “no smoking” is not enough. kelangan may punishment if caught. probably latigo mas ok kesa monetary. hehe.

  3. “we fail to give due respect to our fellows in matters as simple as falling in line, traffic rules, garbage dumping, spitting, public smoking, pissing, drunkenness etc.”

    Those are already normal qualities of Pinoys the very reason why such law has to be enacted only… One bill for every misdeed of “pasaway”? That would take forever for every foul acts to be dealt with. And also how can they make huli and penalized every “pasaway” is a real concern here since Pinoys can easily get away with their misdeeds. A law is useless if it can’t be enforced.

    1. I was of course being condescending and sarcastic about those proposed rules. Its plain idiotic, the fact that we have to legislate “progressive behavior” is s2Pid.

  4. “Ako Muna!!!” is the “mantra” of most Filipinos . They have to be the first, everybody , go to the rear.

    This is reflected in our politics. Look at the Family Political Dynasties, that have sprouted like mushrooms. Look at the corrupt politicians, who have grown rich and richer, at our expense. Look at how they display their ill gotten wealths…

    Discipline begins at the top. Where the Leaders go; the people will follow.

  5. “Fuck you, me first.” is definitely the M.O of most Filipinos residing in their own island nation. And unfortunately, acting any other way will end up with people walking all over you.

    Sad, but that is the reality of most Filipinos.

  6. If you want our country to become Singapore 2.0 then why don’t you vote & support Davao City Mayor Rody Duterte on the upcoming 2016 election?

    1. I think you misunderstood the entire point of the article if you’re still looking to an authority figure to fix the country’s self-made problems. Besides, Duterte claims he doesn’t have the money for a campaign.

      1. No need for that money to spend more on campaign but the problem here in the Philippines is that many corrupt candidates are using the “money” to sell their voters in order to win it and after the election period, business as usual for them. They gonna steal more taxpayers money when they’re on power. This is NOT what Duterte wants in our country, corruption & political patronages. And if he’ll become our next president surely he’ll get rid of that literally.

        1. Read about what he did. Duarte operates like a cowboy cop. Basically taking the law into his own hands and putting a bullet in the head of any lawbreaker.

          I hate to say this, but it seems extreme measures are required to get anything done in the Philippines.

    2. Philippines becoming singpore 2.0? i doubt it will happen. your perspective may be different from mine but i think singapore has the size of metro manila only with less people. think about NCR or even just the chunk of the region.

      Philippines is big with different tribes/ethincity/culture (tagalog, ilocano, etc.) separated by regions. so our country will not become like singapore. unless us, tagalogs in NCR would separate ourselves from the philippines and create our own sovereignty with a strict and smart president/prime minister similar to LKY then we can be like SG. less population with one tribe/culture means more control and laws will be upholded easier.

    3. That Duterte guy, his whole family, are thugs. They belong in the military or police force, not the seat of government power. Wish that li’l girl would try to punch me in the face in front of TV camera’s, knock that bitch right out !

  7. The main concern is how do we change the filipino consciousness at the individual level? Indeed, short of a miracle, what does it take for a nation to change?

    Either the filipino individual should be willing to initiate this change.

  8. Like the author,I am also doing the same by abiding to simple rules that I encounter everyday. Hell,I can’t even let go of an empty cup of Buko Juice until I find a trash bin where I could pitch it in. Just observe everywhere here in Manila: How many PUJ,PUB,or even private owners break some basic traffic law like slowing down near pedestrian lanes? How many people are killed by motorcycle accidents by simply refusing to wear a helmet? Those are just some examples and I’d say that I’m infuriated by Pinoys who don’t respect the law.

    1. |How many people are killed by motorcycle accidents by simply |refusing to wear a helmet?

      In this case, at least it’s their fault they get killed. I don’t even feel bad about this.

  9. I have a dream where normal people has the freedom to criticise their government. Freedom of expression without insults, mocking and hate speech where is the freedom in that?. These days politicians are the superior people, dictators are hidden and evil government is still existing.

  10. This is an excellent article and,as someone from the western world,who has visited the Phils.on many occasions over the last 20+ years,and still contemplating retiring there,I am still completely Confounded as to how anything gets accomplished there.There is an awful lot of chaos in all facets of life,and I know that I can be super critical,but please realize that I am only being this way because I am looking at things from my cultural viewpoint,I really care about the Phils.,and want to see the changes that we all write about. You need a strong leader to pull you from the quagmire that the Phils has become.I don’t know much about Singapore before LKY,but it seems he was able to make vast improvements thru the power of his vision,commitment and strong personality.Filipinos respond well to authority figures.Use this to your advantage.I can tell you,as ridiculous as this sounds,that as an Kano,I am saluted,catered to,mobbed,looked up to like I was John Wayne riding in on a white horse,and I hate every bit of it.I am a Buddhist,and like to keep a very low profile.My point is,is without a strong authority figure leading the way,all this wishy washy bullshit about the people making the changes themselves ain’t gonna cut it,you are just dreaming.I wish too that you all could collectively pull yourselves up by the bootstraps,that you could reach yourself actualized potential,but the vast majority of filipinos just aren’t conscious enough, it is understandable,because you have been led around by your nose by the catholic church, and other selfish entities,,like a carabao,not allowed to think on your own.Self Discipline is not in your vocabulary,realize this,absorb the full impact of what I’m saying,without getting defensive.A strong selfless leader,who truly cares about the future of this nation,who can instill a sense of duty,personal responsibility,reverence and justice for all is what is necessary today in the Philippines.

  11. About two weeks ago,I rode a jeepney from Poblacion,Muntinlupa going to Alabang when an elderly woman (maybe on her late fifties) and her 10 year old grandson hailed the jeep at an undesignated loading area,where there is really a sign of an actual “NO LOADING/UNLOADING HERE”. The driver did let the woman and kid on to the jeep and then about 30 meters a traffic constable pulled over the jeep due to that violation. The jeepney driver exchanged words with the constable and his voice was actually louder than the constable. Then the woman stepped in stating that she’s in some sort of urgency. After all the banter,the driver sheepishly said to the woman “Nay,hindi ako papadarag diyan sa mga yan!” [Ma’am,I’m not push over]. I was exploding inside that I have played in my imagination that I was smacking both of their heads together. See,most Pinoys have this “Victim Mentality” or “Above The Law Mentality” when time comes they are brushing elbows with the law. I’m sick of it. I almost see and hear it everyday.

    1. in Davao City they don’t target the jeepney driver for violations. they target the owner of the business para ma-disiplina ang mga drivers. hence, professionalism among jeepney/cab drivers were born. they even give exact change.

      Mayor Duterte is smart. hehe. when you visit Davao City you’ll see the civility of the dabawenyos, following traffic rules, no littering, no smoking in public places, etc. planning to go back for a vacation again. 🙂

  12. Oh yeah, you said it. The Filipino takes his character with him wherever he goes. In the WEST (EU/UK/USA) the Filipino already has the ‘SCAMMER’ label firmly attached to them.
    I feel the author’s pain when relating the story about the two class-less girls in the buffet in Sydney. UGH, its just despicably class-less and reflects on all Filipino’s.Thye are too stoopid to realize it.
    Certain Web-sites are now banning Filipina’s because of what they do, and the scamming ways they prescribe to. Having raffles (with no winners) is a familiar scam in the Filippines but it is illegal in the WEST, but that doesn’t stop these scamming bitches.Small potatoes? Sure but it taints the whole bushel.
    Having never taken a ride on the MRT I can only be glad.I will never fly into Manila again, as even though Cebu’s airport is not much better,it has yet to treat me as badly as the detestable immigration officials at NAIA.
    NOW HEAR THIS: GET OUT NOW,IF YOU CAN !!! Leave your old ways behind.

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