Filipinos should understand that kindness and compassion should begin at home

Apparently, Filipinos are kind and compassionate to the poor and downtrodden. At least that is what some Filipinos tell themselves. Who would have thought, right? Considering there are so many naked street children begging or sleeping on the streets of Manila and many parts of the country and considering pagpag (leftover food from fast-food restaurants scavenged from garbage sites and dumps) is starting to become an accepted “delicacy” in the country, one would think that the opposite is true – that Filipinos in general are anything but kind and compassionate to the poor and downtrodden.

Thankfully, the Rohingya refugees were eventually accepted by Malaysia and Indonesia.

Thankfully, the Rohingya refugees were eventually accepted by Malaysia and Indonesia.

Recent events left a columnist at a local news site baffled and at the same time touched by what she perceives as Filipino generosity – the willingness to offer aid to the thousands of Rohingya refugees stuck on a rickety boat drifting in Thai waters. It was enough to compel Patricia Evangelista to write about how heartwarming it was to know that Filipinos would readily offer refuge to those in need. It was enough for her to say how proud she is to be Filipino. Her article commending the “kind” gesture of Filipinos likewise touched thousands of readers who appreciated her effort to highlight the “caring” heart of Filipinos.

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The sad saga involving the Rohingya refugees eventually ended with Malaysia and Indonesia accepting them into their shores. Meaning, the Philippines didn’t end up providing the aid they offered after all. But this fact did not stop a lot of Filipinos, including the so-called writer to laud the entire Philippine society and even credit the “happy” ending to Filipinos. Evangelista also believes the Philippines had “some influence in the sudden reversal of positions” of Malaysia and Indonesia’s stand on the refugees. In other words, she thinks we shamed our ASEAN neighbors into becoming more “humanitarian”.

This only highlights the truth about some Filipinos — that those who are desperate for any kind of validation from the outside world magnify little gestures, albeit symbolic in nature, ten times just to prove that we are a compassionate people who are just waiting for our destined greatness. The said article also generated a lot of highly emotional and irrational comments like “Indeed, Filipinos are one of the most loving and generous people on earth. I’m proud to be born a Filipino!”. I could not help but think of the poor and destitute in the Philippines who have not felt the love and generosity that this commenter was talking about.

It was hard not to shake my head in disbelief at how easily some became delusional just by a single event that we had very little participation in. They were quick to lap up and document what they probably thought was an opportunity to shine on the world stage. Evangelista succeeded in doing that by putting Filipinos above other people from other societies. She wrote as if Filipinos were better than our ASEAN neighbors because they initially said that they were unwilling to accept the refugees. To be sure, she was judgmental in her assessment of other countries’ tough policy on human trafficking. It is something the Philippine government should seriously think about if they really care about the condition of the migrants who end up in far worse condition after resorting to paying human traffickers just to jump the immigration queue.

Unmoved by poverty in their own backyard: Filipinos have become desensitized to sights like these.

Unmoved by poverty in their own backyard: Filipinos have become desensitized to sights like these.

The write up and the reaction to it made me realize that some Filipinos would not think twice about putting others down just to feel good about themselves – a kind of self-righteous act which is the opposite of being humble and compassionate.

The truth is, most Filipinos have become so accustomed to the sight of beggars and homeless people in the Philippines to the point that they have become desensitized to the poor’s wretched plight. It is a real mystery why despite the kind and generous image we try to portray to the outside world, we fail to walk the talk when it comes to our own people. Some would say that the situation of the poor in the country has become out of control that it is not easy to “help” them. Some simply blame the corrupt public officials who they say are robbing the people. Never mind that Filipinos routinely vote for corrupt public officials and allow them to abuse their power with impunity while in office.

Whatever the reason, the wretched existence of the poor in the Philippines is a stark reminder that most Filipinos are usually apathetic and indifferent to their predicament. Having said all of the above, I am of the belief that being generous to the poor will not solve poverty in the Philippines in the long term. Charity is good when needed but it doesn’t fix the root cause of the problem. The citizens’ participation in nation building is vital to stop the country’s spiral to degeneracy.

Unfortunately, a feel-good article that highlights our society’s “little successes” is not enough to move most Filipinos to do the right thing. In fact, the notion that we are better compared to others is detrimental to the people’s mental health. It keeps Filipinos in denial that the country is slowly sinking. One day, Filipinos could find themselves fleeing to a safe haven on a rickety boat just like the Rohingya refugees if they do not act sooner.

[Photo of Rohingya courtesy Huffington Post.]

18 Replies to “Filipinos should understand that kindness and compassion should begin at home”

  1. there are many things that I can agree with in the article, esp the part about how beggars on the streets seem to have no effect whatsoever on the rest of us. I can include myself as well, because as sympathetic as I may be to their plight, whenever I go to the mercado and a beggar asks for help and I give them a coin, I get mobbed by their friends, who must think I’m some kind of rich yankee instead of a poor aussie pensioner.
    Pope Francis asked us to be merciful and compassionate to others only 5 months ago, but that seems to have fallen on deaf ears, esp to this woeful administration with their discredited ‘trickle-down’ theories who don’t seem to have as much concern for the poor as for their business mates, eg why the interminable delays over the right ownership of the coco levy fund?

  2. ‘before …..spiral to degeneracy’, oh that is funny. Ilda, young Lady, I am sad to break it to you but that happened decades ago. Way before you were that twinkle in your Dad’s eye !

  3. ” … that being generous to the poor will not solve poverty in the Philippines in the long term. Charity is good when needed but it doesn’t fix the root cause of the problem.”

    Totally agree.

  4. If Patricia Evangelista, would have gone to those Filipinos living around those garbage dumps; and helped them. Or those homeless people living on the streets. I would believed her being “charitable”.

    Writing and Praising oneself as “charitable” is one thing. Doing something to become “charitable”, is another thing.

    She should also go to Aquino’s Hacienda Luisita, to help the serf/tenants of Aquino, who are living below the poverty level of decent human being.

  5. So the Philippines was not, in fact, the port of last resort and none of the Rohingya ended up there? And yet the officials are still patting themselves on the back?

    I’ve had a lot of nasty experiences with ‘professionals’ who have failed to do the job they were paid to do – either by just sitting on their ass making endless excuses or by being utterly incompetent. When I eventually run out of patience and tell them to get lost, they still have the nerve to ask for money because of all the ‘hard work’ they did. I spot something of this syndrome in the official PR.

    >>Some would say that the situation of the poor in the country has become out of control that it is not easy to “help” them.

    This unfortunately is true. I’ve met a lot of poor people. Very few of them actually ARE poor. The vast majority have their own house, their own land (a lot of it) and capable adult children. Don’t have money? Get out there on that land and plant something; then you won’t be poor. Don’t know how to? Go to the internet cafe and do some research? Can’t read? Learn. The Filipino has no understanding of the concept of ‘investment’.

  6. They are so desperate for any kind of validation overseas yet turn their backs on the problems at home. Yup. That’s Pinoy Pride for ya!

  7. The angst in this blog is misplaced. Evangelista did point out the shortcomings in our society. Despite that fact we still offered help to others. That was her point and that was, objectively speaking, true. She may have sensationalized the whole thing and that I do not agree with that esp bringing in Pinoy pride once again. However, I can say the same to you Ilda in this blog at least. You both went overboard with your writing. Too emotional.

    I completely understand and support being critical of our own to improve. But at the same time I am also a supporter of critical thinking. Ilda you have to read Evangelista’s article again. You may have missed some points.

  8. Many that live deserve death. And some that die deserve life. Can you give it to them? Then do not be too eager to deal out death in judgment. For even the very wise cannot see all ends.

  9. Filipinos should understand that just because their intentions are good on one little thing doesn’t mean they will actually make a difference as a whole. For example, giving a few loose coins to that beggar across the street will neither help the beggar escape poverty nor actually take even the slightest step to solve poverty. It’s something a lot of people just to gain approval to the tune of ‘hey guys look, I just helped a poor old hungry woman by giving her a couple of coins, that means I’m a kind person blah blah’ and then what? Did anything change? Instead of being sincerely kind and compassionate towards our own family, say for example, as a teenager, ‘I will save up and not indulge in unnecessary spending with my friends going out to movies, replace my 2 month old phone because it’s not popular anymore etc etc etc when my parents can barely pay for my education’ – this kind of sensitivity towards what actually helps your family and your future as a whole – is the true kindness and compassion that our country needs. What we have in its place is the superficial form of kindness made just for show and entertainment. I have high school chums used to chastise me for being insensitive and heartless to beggars, but these Sunday churchgoers I know have had two or more boyfriends/girlfriends at a time, steal money from their own parent’s pockets and cheat during exams. The kind of people who pretend to have good intentions but are nothing short of dead weight to society. Nowadays they hop from one job to another, live on a debt-on, debt-off financial policy and never actually get to save anything for their kids’ future much less their own, some of them now have four kids half of which they can’t send to school and are just lucky that their parents are still alive making extra money or have somebody from US who sends balikbayan boxes once every two years. And to think this is what’s happening to a large chunk of our adults nowadays. I feel sad for our country’s future just because a lot of us never get to learn sincere kindness at such a young age.

  10. I used to think dumb political blogs were the norm here but you hit some points squarely on the head with this piece. As I also say on my blog, feel good articles are useless, and just narcotize people into apathy.

    1. Given the absolutely atrocious state of that place, feeling incredibly bad about oneself and one’s land may be imperative if that place is even to improve slightly.

  11. Kindness, charity and compassion were never meant to solve poverty.

    That is the first thing all of us MUST understand.

    You simply show kindness because when you need it you would want it as well. The Confucian Golden Rule: Do unto others what you want them do unto you.

    That is all there is to it.

    If one wants out of poverty, then one MUST take every opportunity he/she can get or had been given to get out.

    Help yourself FIRST.

    1. The golden rule is a dumb rule because we all have different “pain” levels. Maybe it takes and needs a mountain to offend you while for me a hill is already enough. You get my drift?

      In the Dutch language it is called “incasseringsvermogen”. Google translates that with “collection capacity”. I dont know that word.

      1. The golden rule is a dumb rule because we all have different “pain” levels. Maybe it takes and needs a mountain to offend you while for me a hill is already enough. You get my drift?

        The golden rule is not about “pain” levels, you slow old man.

        Here, let me slow it down for you:

        You will need help from time to time.

        The same is true for other people.

        Now, do you WANT to be helped when you need it?

        Hence, the golden rule: Do(Help) unto others what you want others do(help you) to you.

        1. Thanks for your very rapid/fast response. That is 3 days. Now, who is slow here?

          Your golden rule still sucks. If none of my friends can help me fix my computer, I need to go to a repair shop. Yes, they will help me but do you think they will do it for free?

  12. As with other things, it depends on how ion is used or misused. Filipinos tend to be sympathetic, despite the many dysfunctions. We certainly would want others to do just as well. I presume.

  13. Some are not receptive to love or compassion, but we care anyway… even to the point we get ourselves into trouble. Call it what you want but labels can only go so far.

  14. I hate filipinos so much I will not even capitalized filipinos!!. What is the point of filipinos at all? They should only come out on Halloween, their faces are too scary!!. I was out with my granddaughter and an ugly filipino man came up to her smiling, she screamed and ran for her life when she saw his face, she thought he was a monster! I also have some neighbors who are filipino, all they do is try to beg from me. I have grown to hate all filipinos, I hate moochers, I worked hard for everything I have!!. I honestly see them as the rodents of the human race, because they are called humans, but at the same time I don’t see them as human either. To me they are like a blend of ugly, sick, evil, demon, human and an animal. The nerve of this neighbor expecting help from me, I don’t even know them, and all they do is make noise, waking me up on purpose because in their sick mind, as soon as I get up, they think I am going to think of what they need, knock on their door and give it to them, they live in a sick fantasy world!!. I am so sick of them!!. As a bad neighbor they do more, but I will be here till next year if I include those things too!. Wherever these non human rodent things came from they need to go back. I hope all of the politicians who let these horror faced beggars in this country die and end up in a realm full of ugly filipinos who do nothing but beg from them!! You want to let these monsters over here, let them live among YOU in your pricey neighborhoods you stupid politicians!!

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