Filipino Misconceptions of Sacrifice

It’s timely that Benign0 had come out with an article that discusses the twisting of the concept of sacrifice by Filipino culture. Indeed, it is twisted when one says they have made a “sacrifice,” when it is actually anything but that.


I remember a commenter named Palebluedot once said:

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“I still blame the Catholic Church for the ineffectiveness of the filipino through their propagation of the concept of sacrifice – carrying one’s cross – as a way of life. Those who carry their crosses will be rewarded in heaven, while those who just sits in front of the computer creating blueprints for solutions to ease the existing redundant systems are servants of the devil… they are lazy & their work aims to remove manual labor, thereby, decreasing available jobs for the poor. ‘we should pray for the salvation of their souls. amen!”
(Compare to part below about “discomfort”)

Sacrifice is a popular word in the Filipino vocabulary. And it goes well beyond the Catholic Church’s concept of it. The wang-wang ban earlier in President BS Aquino’s term was probably an attempt at a “sacrifice” for show, only that it proved to be more of a hindrance rather than a “sacrifice.” Some people like to flaunt some “sacrifice” they’ve made; for example, like voting for someone they didn’t like, or giving in to pressure and doing something that is against their principles. And they imply that they’ve done a special sacrifice for their country.

Is it really that great a sacrifice? Or is it sacrifice at all?

One of my theses on why our country is failing to solve its problems is because our culture adheres to the wrong values. Popular concepts of sacrifice are among these values. They are being perpetuated not just by the media, but by continued practice in Filipino culture. Let us discuss some of them.

Doing Right: A Sacrifice?

One such misconception is this: To do right is a big sacrifice. Sacrifice is usually something that is out of the ordinary realm of action. It is expected to be done rarely. If being right is considered a sacrifice, then it implies that doing wrong is something normal!

The stories about taxi drivers who returned objects left in their cars seem dime a dozen already. If they say, “it was a sacrifice I made for my profession,” it’s hogwash. Returning something lost or borrowed should be expected. It’s nothing special. Being poor is no excuse, they should never take something that isn’t theirs. But it reveals a sad fact; so few do right, because we’re in a land where doing wrong seems to be OK.

Simple wisdom that is sadly rejected by pride-seeking, attention-starved Filipinos

Simple wisdom that is sadly rejected by pride-seeking, attention-starved Filipinos

This idea of doing right as a sacrifice can help propagate acceptance of wrong actions in Filipino culture, leading to moral bankruptcy. It also keeps people from the proper steps to solving their problems. Some Filipinos claim that doing wrong should be excused (culture of impunity) because they are poor. Again, hogwash. Poverty is no excuse for wrongdoing, or for skipping “rightdoing.”

Discomfort as “Sacrifice”

Another misconception is that undergoing discomfort and inconveniencing oneself intentionally is sacrifice and thus makes one noble. That’s the myth propagated through the “wang-wang” ban. This misconception is well represented in a popular parable about smart versus hard work. Two friends used contrasting methods to bring water from a mountain spring to a village. In this tale, Bruno is the one who goes up to the village mountain spring the hard way, carrying water on his back in the crude, mountain-man fashion – a way that some will claim has more sacrifice.

Pablo comes up with the innovative idea of a water delivery machine, one that leads to better results while needing less labor and hardship. Pablo’s method has less discomfort. Thus, Bruno hits Pablo’s “laziness.” He will most likely say, “Pablo does not know how to sacrifice! My pain in carrying the water makes me better than him!” But clearly, Bruno’s way, is backward, produces poor results, and is not really a sacrifice. Pablo’s way needed work as well, but the smart kind of work. One that fulfills the concept of efficiency.

Being poor is a Sacrifice

Perhaps one of the greatest misconceptions about sacrifice is that being poor is sacrifice. Bad religion may have played a part: they’ve misread the beatitude as, “blessed are the poor, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” So they think being poor means having moral high ground. But they should complete the verse: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” A misread verse leads to a mistaken belief.

But even if the reading is “blessed are the poor,” being blessed doesn’t mean having moral high ground or holiness. It means there should be some special consideration for them considering their disadvantaged position – though it does not necessarily mean dole-outs. This would be an abuse if “poor” meant dole-outs. That after all in the purpose of poverty porn.

The culture of sacrifice also contributes to the culture of mediocrity. Some Filipinos believe that being intellectual or rich lacks sacrifice, and thus is evil. So they say that being simple-minded is “holy” and is a better way to being happy. Of course, this has been used to demonize intellectuals and true elite. The “sacrifice” concept has also been used to encourage tastelessness. And it helps keep people poor because the things that would have really improved their lives have become demonized.

Getting hurt or debilitated as Pogi Points

The Filipino obsession with sacrifice seems to be done for the purpose of making oneself look good; mere “pogi-points.” In fact, many Filipinos may not mind being poor, debilitated or stupid, as long as they are “pogi” in the eyes (or even just the lips) of others. Sometimes, people do the wrong kind of “sacrifice.” For example, spend all their monthly salary on an iPhone, in order to look good. Di baling nagugutom, basta magandang damit/may borloloy, as they say. Filipinos seem to love hurting or burdening themselves because it makes them look more industrious, and thus more saintly. Instead of sacrifice as a means to a better life, sacrificing is done for showing off… and thus it is no longer sacrifice.

Also, I do not believe that getting rid of something you do not need is a sacrifice. You got rid of luxurious clothes you don’t really use; you disposed of your expensive smartphone for a plain and functional phone; or you sold your Mercedes and got a sub-compact car that saves more gas. These are good, but are not sacrifices. This is merely getting rid of unnecessary things and being more practical. It’s best not to confuse sacrifice with practicality – which more Filipinos ought to have.

Side Effects of Sacrifice Misconceptions

One side effect of the popular misconceptions of sacrifice is that Filipinos can be offended by someone who is comfortable or at least in better condition than themselves. Filipinos might be saying about others suffering less: “If you’re not suffering the way we do, you’re lazy.” As seen in the parable of the two friends, “Brunos” will demonize “Pablos” in our society. A Pablo may have only two children, while Bruno has eight, and yet they will get mad at the “Pablo.” And yet these Brunos may engage in jueteng in their local squatter community or subdivision where shabu is cooked. They may use their eight children as an excuse to ask for alms (likely from the Pablos), but nothing goes to the children.

This misconception may also come from a false sense of egalitarianism. It is the insane insistence that everyone should be the same: “If I’m poor, everyone else should be poor!” Thus, instead of everyone becoming rich or well-off, they believe it is better for everyone to become poor! And it leads to a more dysfunctional society, and it will lead to such people becoming easy victims for manipulative parties (like oligarchs).

The misconceptions of sacrifice have led to the deadly anti-intellectualism of our culture. Finger-pointing happens and misconceptions are propagated. Indeed, the problem with Philippine society is that through its parochial mentality, people believe the other person is always an enemy or competitor, and that for one to be happy in life, the other must be sad or down. Thus, there is loss of respect for public space and for other people, and we thus have a “me-first” society.

There you have the biggest issue with “sacrifice” in the Philippines: some people insist that the other must sacrifice for them. It is something I have touched on in my earlier “culture of sharing” article.

Fixing the Misconceptions

One way to describe the Filipino misconceptions of sacrifice is like my cartoon here: that some they are fond of shooting themselves in the foot, and then boasting to the world that they can still walk in spite of it. For example, Filipinos may insult sports competitors from other countries, claiming to be “nationalistic” or “Filipinistic;” but in the end, it makes them look like thugs.

There are the politicians who love saying, “I made this sacrifice for this nation.” The moment you flaunt or boast this sacrifice, it’s no longer a sacrifice; it’s an asset. Something like banning wang-wang was never a sacrifice; it was a publicity stunt. Also, a commenter at around that time said, “it’s not sacrifice. It’s laziness,” about voting without thinking (or voting on basis of popularity instead of someone with brains).

Since the church was mentioned above, let’s go back to a basic teaching in the Bible that seems to fly over people’s heads: “What I want is mercy, not sacrifice.”

Wrong conceptions of sacrifice have been among the flaws in commonly practiced Filipino values that keep the country backward. It is perhaps time that we put away notions that sacrifice is a “necessary thing” that’s only for show, and instead be more like “Pablos:” working smartly to improve our situations and have better lives for ourselves. That includes having the right goals and aspirations, and having the right views of contentment and happiness.

So following the enumeration I followed, Filipinos should:

1. Stop seeing doing right as something special, and instead do it because they accept that it should be normal;
2. Be more intellectual and practical, like the Pablo in the parable above, and not be like the emo Bruno;
3. Stop associating being “poor or rich” with being “good or evil;” although being rich is certainly more desirable, it can never be made a measure of personal character;
4. Stop being pretentious by “shooting oneself in the foot” and claiming it is a sacrifice;
5. Stop pursuing “pogi points” in life, since no one is really greater than others and we all end up equally rotting in graves;
6. Have more respect of public space and people outside of one’s social circle, and try to cut down the culture of parochialism.

As Benign0 coined for Get Real Philippines’, it’s simple, really™.

31 Replies to “Filipino Misconceptions of Sacrifice”

  1. Great article, Chino.

    Sacrifice could only be understood in the context of genuine love. That may sound corny, but love by its very concept would eventually entail sacrifice. Sacrificing time, for example, to be able to have quality time with spouse or children is love. Genuine love does not have a string attached. Thus, sacrifice with string attached is hypocrisy. Sacrifice that does not support or advance love is no sacrifice. Corny and cheesy as it may sound, but that is the fact.

    Problem is many now only think of love as something related to lust. So, they do not have a concept of such things as love of country, love of a good idea, love of duty, love of neighbour, love of the common good, etc. So, love is a concept so muddled that sacrifice is totally bastardized — that is why it has no meaning, even repulsive, based on the way the Filipino mentality uses it. Same way the way they bastardize life, liberty and pursuit of happiness.

    1. Thanks, Add. This article was something that had been sleeping since 2010, but I had the time to refine it and finally let it loose.

      I agree with you about sacrifice, it’s all about something you truly want or love. Here’s something from a funny source, but it registers: From the sentai series Gokaiger, the villain Basco has an interesting saying. “If you want something very badly, you must be prepared to sacrifice something of equal value in exchange.” Probably one of those “villain is right” moments. This is probably what makes up a true sacrifice.

  2. Filipinos need to delete the world “sacrifice” from their vocabulary. There is no such thing as sacrifice. One of the common phrase I hear Filipino parents tell their children to make them feel guilty is, “Lahat ng sakripisyo ay ginagawa na namin para sainyo; ngayon ito ang isusukli ninyo sa amin?” (We are already making all these sacrifices for you, and this is what you give us in return?).

    Well, if parents stop and think about it, their kids did not ask to be borne into this world. Parents wanted to have children for one reason or another. It is the same thing when we get married. No one twisted our arms and said we have to marry the person we are with.

    If anything, “sacrifice” that we tends to overused, and abuse, to make someone feel guilty is an actually an ‘investment’ in our future. We marry for companionship, to have children, and to have someone there to help us in life. We have children because we want our own “flesh and blood” to continue our legacy after we are gone, and, hope someone will take care of us someday when we get too old, or too sick, to take care of ourselves.

    So getting married and having children is like any investment or business partnership; it is risky. Some will turn out in our favor, some won’t. So, realistically, everything we do in this world we do ultimately do for ourselves—and the same truth applies to what is going on in the Philippines. No one makes sacrifices for the country and the people. It still boils down to what we can ultimately look forward to of getting in the end, and why we do what we do as Filipinos.

  3. Sorry, but people I know don’t refer to doing the right thing as sacrifice. Also, poor people don’t appreciate their condition, and being poor makes one feel inferior rather than noble. An example is poor person will address, say a bank teller, sir/ma’am despite being aware that he’s the client.

    I think an example of misconception on sacrifice is what Grimwald cited “perverting sacrifice.”

    1. Filipinos have a ‘poor’ misconception of being poor. Compared to other countries where children are literally dying from starvation and illnesses that can easily be prevented, the Filipinos are not poor. I have yet to see masses of people dying from starvation and epidemic diseases in the Philippines. The Filipinos who consider themselves poor, in relation to their fellow Filipinos who are doing well, are only poor by envious comparison.

      1. So the Philippines must first become a Somalia to become “poor” by your definition?

        If so, then almost no one in this world would be “poor”, for individuals in material want but who still are experiencing some comfort, even with inadequate food, shelther, and clothing, or those that are recieivng welfare checks and other forms of government assistance, as well as those living below the poverty line in otherwise affluent societies (and by the grace of Our Loud our country very obviously is) — they cannot be as “poor” as you would like them to be.

        If they’re not fucking kites, they’re fucking rich.

        1. Pallacertus,

          I’m beginning to suspect you and OnesimusUnbound are the same person, because you both enjoy taking other people’s accurate description of our Pinoy nature, and try to dispel it as just mere notions.

          I’m telling you that for a people who can eat three or more meals a day (with snacks in-between), hangout in malls and eat at their regular restaurants fairly regularly, and chill out with their friends all the day and night texting each other, the Filipinos are not poor compared to the ‘real poor’ people of other countries.

          Our people just call themselves “poor” because they are “starstruck”-full of envy at watching the “rich and famous” lifestyles of Kris Aquino and other Pinoy celebrities on television, and wish they were that fortunate.


        2. First off: if I really wanted to make a duplicate account here I’d do it just to spite Jerry “Racist Bigot Asshole” Lynch.

          Second: I take issue when you say GRP’s descriptions of the Pinoy psyche are “accurate”. “Accurate”? This is a blog suffused with self-righteous elitists pronouncing their sanctimonious judgments upon a number of browbeaten strawmen. Whatever opinions this blog promotes I take with a mountain of salt given the vantage point it chooses to view Pinoy activities, the high contentiousness of some of the issues it tackles and some of the sides it takes, and its general lack of source citations and the like.

          Lastly: they probably aren’t the “poor” I had in mind (I know some people who are excellent at keeping up appearances, as well as formerly well-off guys who have fallen on hard times who would fit into this category) — but how large a slice of the population fits your description of this “not-poor-enough”? Less, I suspect, than those who can afford some modern luxuries like eating 2-3 bare meals a day, occasional trips to modest malls near their residences to eat at Jollibee or window-shop, and of course ancient or functionally stripped-down cellphones available at discounted prices (I still have a functioning Nokia 3310 I carry whenever I go out of the house), but are otherwise hard up making ends meet, some resorting to usurers and loaning agencies, multiple jobs, and other attempts at economic straitjacketing, and are genuinely distraught at their siblings’ or offsprings’ college prospects.

          And these in turn, I suppose, are fewer compared to those for whom one meal a day suffices for a meal, for whom nearly all the above are beyond their reach, for whom life is a daily straitjacket.

          But I won’t try divining why those you deride call themselves “poor”; it’s generally poor form to paint entire peoples in broad strokes.

        3. Pallacertus,

          You–along with OnesimusUnboud and Mark–makes a lot of suppositions that will look good on a college term paper, but has little-or-nothing to do with the relevance of what’s actually going in the Philippines and its people. You sound like a person who looks for loopholes in every argument, try to open them up as wide as possible, with every theoretical approach–most are probably made up anyway–that you can come up with, just to drag out the conversation, and, perhaps, to show how intelligent you think you are. In short, you’re just “filibustering” to draw attention to your rhetorics with very little to do with reality.


        4. You think that I look for loopholes in every argument. Not quite. What I am looking for above all are alternatives, alternatives to what seems to me to be an almost too-easy pigeonholing and stereotyping on your part, on GRP’s part.

          If trying to block Jerry Lynch and assholes like him, if trying to present the issue at hand on a different light makes me seem smart — please.

          You have no sure handle on accuracy, is what I’m saying. I’m not saying I see things any clearer than you do, or even that I see more than you do — but then at least I admit that caveat, while you go strutting your beliefs on some subject with absolute unquestionable certitude.

          And this being an opinion blog and all.

          I’m not trying to show off — I’m trying to make you look around. How sure are you that what you see does reflect what’s going on? How sure are you that what you see is absolutely irrefutably right?
          And some such.

      2. There is poor, and then there is destitute who is extremely poor.

        Some people eat 3 times a day, yet what they eat lack nutrients to keep them healthy because they can’t afford it. I think that can be considered poor.

        A lot of our farmers are poor. They plow fields that they don’t own. They just earn enough to survive each day and send their kids to a nearby community school. They have very little to no savings.

        1. That’s is where you’re misled by government propaganda. Before the country allowed itself to be transformed to a “concrete jungle” of subdivisions, shopping malls, and commercial properties, the country was abundantly rich in agricultural and aquaculture products.

          The people were well-fed even if they didn’t have much money in their pockets, because healthy food were in abundance.

          Today, the people not only have empty pockets but they also have to buy their own food from monopolizing big businesses, who have adulterated this once agricultural/aquaculturally productive country.

        2. @ Aeta

          Again, i have to disagree. The world is evolving in the form of progress and we have to keep up. If we cannot then we start to become poor. And it’s not the government’s fault that the world is evolving, however, it’s their fault if its people cannot keep up. I’m not sure if it’s the intent of our government to let the people be poor so they can thrive, or they just don’t care about us.

          Yes, we used to have rich land and marine products, but these are not enough. We are not self-sufficient in all aspect to progress so we need the resources of other countries and this come with a price literally.

        3. Mark,

          “And it’s not the government’s fault that the world is evolving, however, it’s their fault if its people cannot keep up. I’m not sure if it’s the intent of our government to let the people be poor so they can thrive, or they just don’t care about us.”

          Like I have said earlier, you are sold out on government propaganda.


      1. Just as you think yourselves challengers to standpat wisdoms, I am a barker upside your high-minded perches. Proffering alternatives is my trade or at least my inclination.

        If that makes me a contrarian, then so be it, but it won’t stop me from making a good point every now and then.

        1. Pallecertus,

          Chris is right. Stop making lame excuses for our country and people’s ineptness. Making excuses and scapegoating are the reasons the Philippines is still a screwed up nation.


  4. Population are exploding all over the world, the Philippines notwithstanding. Common sense will tell you that turning this once agricultural/aquacultural country–that fed millions of its inhabitants from its output–into a “concrete jungle” full of subdivisions, shopping malls, and other commercial properties, made life more inhospitable than hospitable for its growing population.

    1. One can also contend the joint issues of population growth, loss of farmland, and the diminishing returns of aquaculture (this one most clearly multi-causal) are best seen as a chicken-or-egg problem.

      1. Even the chicken and eggs are disappearing for the sake of modernity with that typically modern Pinoy attitude. My point, the Philippines was naturally designed to be an agricultural and aquacultural country. Don’t keep turning it into a industrialized nation at the expense of its natural resources, environment, and people. It’s too costly. I have been around long enough to see the degradation of this country in the last 25 years with my own eyes. You obviously haven’t.

        1. To play devil’s advocate, how do you explain China’s growth through industrialization on steroids while experiencing exponential growth? Matters of sustainability aside, there is no doubt the country prospered at the expense of environment.

        2. “There is no doubt the country prospered at the expense of environment.”

          The same thing is happening in the Philippines, and the Filipino people are too shallow-minded to realize it. It’s all about progress and profit for them. Screw the environment and people’ lives.

  5. A sacrifice is giving something up without excepting or getting anything in return. The Filipinos’ definition of sacrifice is giving something up and expecting to get something in return. If they (Filipinos) don’t get what they want, after making their sacrifices, they go ballistic on one another.

    1. Hmm, that sounds like a good definition.

      But I agree with calls to drop the concept of “sacrifice”, which is obviously just for show, and instead call for Filipinos to focus on doing the right thing. Because that what people should do. What Filipinos want is to do the wrong thing and still get what they want from it. And sometimes, they even call it “sacrifice.”

      1. ChinoF,

        This is why I always say the Filipino people’s version of reality is muddled by their own delusions. They will, “itutuwid and baluktot at ibabaluktot ang tuwid para sa sariling kapakanan.” (make wrong right and make right wrong for their own benefit). Well, multiply that warped attitude 100 millions times (the estimated population of the Philippines) and you the definition of a total chaos.


  6. At the word “sacrifice” I remember Harry in the film Armageddon choosing to be the one to detonate the bomb in the extinction-causing asteroid even if it means his death. Making sacrifices for the greater good.

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