How Filipinos See And Understand Hard Work

This article is a tribute more or less to one of Vladimir Santos’ latest articles and is just another look at another overused alleged value called “hard work” the same way I deconstructed the Pinoy concept of “humility“…


So let’s start with a story, shall we?

Subscribe to our Substack community GRP Insider to receive by email our in-depth free weekly newsletter. Opt into a paid subscription and you'll get premium insider briefs and insights from us.
Subscribe to our Substack newsletter, GRP Insider!
Learn more

Once upon a time there was a farmer with a son who seemed to be lazy. The farmer’s son would sit at home and seemed to all but rarely come out of his father’s hut all day long while his father tilled the fields with his carabao.

Another farmer, a friend perhaps of the boy’s father would sometimes look into the house and see the young boy diddling with what appeared to be a small motor. The farmer’s friend even shouted at the boy, calling him a slacker and that people like him are the reason why farmers are so poor.

But then one day, the boy came out with a powerful tractor which he quickly put to use and impressed his father by showing to his father that he could till the fields faster with such an impressive machine. The father was overjoyed by this development as the tractor could reduce a hard day’s work just to a few hours.

Later, both the boy and his father discussed selling the idea of the tractor to other farmers so that they could make their own and so that they could all make progress together. The farmer and his son became well-to-do people in their community, thanks to the son’s focus on not just working hard but working smart.

The moral of the story is quite simple my friends, real “hard work” isn’t just about being industrious physically, it is also about being mentally industrious as well. The problem again arises with the typical Pinoy idea of what “hard work” is supposed to be. Most of us simply latch on to what is superficial or obvious and forget that hard work applies to both the body and the mind.

That’s why, if any of you bother to notice at all, a lot of politicians hoping to hoodwink the populace into voting for them often go to various farming communities and pretend to be working with them. Yep, you’ll see them eating with their hands and tilling the fields with the farmers while the camera is on them. What flies way over people’s heads is that these people are only doing this for the sake of PR and nothing more. Besides, a politicians job is not about doing manual labor but actually finding ways to improve manual labor so that their constituents can be more efficient without working so hard.

Tying in with the anti-intellectual aspects of Pinoy society, typical Pinoys do not see thinking as a form of work in its own right. These people fail to realize that sitting down and thinking is one of the things that has allowed for new and impressive designs for buildings to be made, how ideas for even more marvelous machines are created and how astounding works of art are put into being.

Until Filipinos can really understand the importance of thinking something over and see it as just another way of “working hard”, then I doubt we’ll see any real improvement in our society anytime soon…

13 Replies to “How Filipinos See And Understand Hard Work”

  1. Nice article as always grimwald, but your metaphor made me smile. The best way to avoid the manual labour of plowing a field is to NOT PLOW IT. Modern farmers don’t do it anymore. It’s simply not necessary, and in the tropics especially it just makes things worse.

  2. I believe points gleaned from this and Vladmir’s article include:
    1. Filipinos prefer manual labor without much thinking (anti-intellectual attitude) when they work, with high pay…
    2. … if they want to work. They seem to prefer not working at all. Then maybe say “I’m hard-working” as a cover-up.
    3. Even if you’re hard-working, it’s better not to not proclaim it. It’s probably a function of projection or that defense mechanism where one becomes loud to try and make up for an inferiority complex. I like what that one commenter said on my article: the empty can makes the most noise.

  3. If you go to College or University; and burn your Ass , sitting and studying ; and getting a Degree. That is Hard/ Smart Work. If you go to a Graduate School, and get your Masters Degree , and your PhD. It is more Hard/Smart Work.

    If you are lucky; some Fortune 500 company; the best Corporation of the world; will recruit you and offer you a good job/position. Negotiate your pay; along with the benefits and the Perks.

    If you do a good Smart Work. You may climb the Corporate Ladder, They value Smart Workers; not Hard Workers.

    Innovativeness is the Key here. Filipinos are “gaya gaya”. They lack originality and innovativeness.

  4. Agree with this one and I’ll probably write about it soon.

    There’s a BIG difference between being “busy” and being “productive” and there’s also a big difference between “expending effort” and “adding value.”

    You can be very busy working until your fingers break, yet if you work on all the wrong things you’ll get all the wrong results.

    I can’t remember where I heard this one, but “The more you work FROM THE NECK DOWN, the Poorer you will be.”

  5. To be successful, one has to be one of three bees – the queen bee, the hardest working bee, or the bee that does not fit in. One success is inherited, and the the next one is earned. While the last one is self-sought, self-served, and happens on its own terms.

  6. I never thought hard physical work was something you can call bad. What university accepted grease money just to let you guys in?

    1. Hard work is bad if (for example) it is directed at achieving something bad, or achieving nothing at all.

      How is this hard to understand?

      1. Exactly. My favourite example. Not only does it waste a half-hour of everybody’s time every morning, it stinks up the place and impoverishes the soil.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.