The Filipino ‘pakiusap’ mentality needs to eradicated!

Pakiusap is a very Filipino term. At best, it is (1) an appeal for consideration taking into account unforeseen circumstances. At worst, it is (2) a request that rules be worked around presumably for a greater good.


In the Filipino setting, both cases are usually premised by flawed thinking. Take the earlier case, an appeal taking into account “unforeseen circumstances”. The problem with that notion is that, in the Philippines, unforeseen circumstances have become more the rule than the exception. And so, Filipinos are in perpetual ‘pakiusap’ mode when dealing with that quintessentially “urgent” national unforeseen circumstance: poverty. Nobody wants to be poor. But, as previously pointed out, poverty is a habitual entering into commitments one is inherently incapable of honouring.

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Note the emphasis on the word “habitual”. Most people start out poor. Indeed, everyone is born with nothing, essentially. But for a people to habitually do things that keep them poor says something powerful. In the specific case of the Philippines, it should be now quite evident to most that poverty can no longer be regarded as an ‘unforeseen’ circumstance. Filipinos should be experts on poverty by now, having been an impoverished nation for pretty much all of its history as an “independent” nation.

Now take the latter case; pakiusap regarded as “a request that rules be worked around presumably for a greater good”. To the dyed-in-the-wool typical Filipino, this is as homey a concept as apple pie is to Americans. It’s the Pinoy Way elegantly encapsulated. We see this sort of thinking underlying many (if not all) of the aspects of the national “debate” today.

One big example is the whole Grace Poe disqualification issue gripping the nation as it barrels down the road to the 2016 presidential elections. Poe’s entire appeal to the people and the powers-that-be to allow her to continue her run for President of the Philippines is based on this kind of pakiusap. “Let the people decide”, her supporters say. Never mind that the law is quite clear on the matter. It is no wonder that Filipinos are free to decide when and where in public spaces to piss and spit. It is no wonder Filipino motorists feel they are at complete liberty to change lanes and cross intersections whenever and wherever they choose. It is no wonder that presidents and senators feel like they can decide how much of taxpayers’ money they could withdraw from the national treasury unilaterally for whatever pet “project” that captures their fancy.

Pakiusap lang naman po.

The really annoying aspect of this national condition is that Filipinos are perennially on the pakiusap side of the equation. Filipinos, in short, are almost never in a position to negotiate hard — because they never have a strong position on any matter to begin with. Our appeals to the world as a people are always on ‘humanitarian’ bases that, in constant exercises in futility, we try to package into powerful-looking value propositions. It is no wonder that the global community look to the plight of Third World countries like the Philippines with mere bemusement at best, to be responded to with no more than quaint token gestures.

Perhaps, then, this is why pakiusap mentality has taken its place as a key pillar of Filipino culture. Argumentum ad pakiusap is now the Filipino’s favourite style of debate. It is because Filipinos have forgotten how to win competitively and have settled for this pathetic style of winning by default.

14 Replies to “The Filipino ‘pakiusap’ mentality needs to eradicated!”

  1. The mere fact that Pinoys always find themselves in precariously and awkwardly dumb situations to begin with point to the deeper issue of their inability to strategically plan with foresight.

    There would have been no need to circumvent solid logic and resort to these paawa-effect fallacies (Appeal to Pity / Argumentum ad Misericordiam) had people used their coconuts at the onset.

    I see no reason for PH to be appealing for one of its guilty citizens about to be sent to the gallows for crimes done abroad. The government should simply say “Yes, please. Go ahead with it and do our countries a favor.”

    Awa over logic. Maka-mama kasi mga Pinoy. Intawun! Pagbigyan mo na…

    Teach Pinoys the lesson the hard way by not giving into these subtle appeals and they will remember it for life. Toughen these citizens up a bit – this country has been too softened up by BAKLAs that have overrun the entire society/media.

    We need tough men/women: iron-class, for a change.

  2. Appeal to the heart-Most Filipinos’ favorite weapon in arguments or transactions. Somehow, they learned how to use it effectively over the years. Even heads of state have fallen victims to this style.

    Filipinos have always relied on others’ conscience whenever things are not going their way instead of meeting a situation squarely. The problem is that Filipinos have been wearing that sheep’s cloth long enough that other countries already built an impression that they are like infants that needs to be cuddled and cared for, always. And yet, Filipinos demand similar respect given to a first world country backing it achievements of Pacquiao, Wurtzbach and The Voice whatever country contestants.

    As far as I have heard, the Philippines is leading in its case against China in UNCLOS. However, winning the case is one thing. Implementing the decision is another. Who’s going to make China abide by the decision? Makikiusap tayo sa US? (Sigh) When is it going to be us? It’s our case in the first place!

    In Grace Poe’s case, her supporters might argue that she could be a good president so she should be allowed to run despite what the law says. But what about the possibility that she could also be a worse leader? How will it look like if that happens knowing that we bent the rules so she can be elected?

    How do you predict a sports player’s performance? Isn’t it based on the statistics of his previous performances? Using that view, would you still approve Poe’s candidacy knowing that she seemed to have lied about her previous candidacy and her easy switching of citizenship? Yeah, sure pakiusap all you can for now but I hope Filipinos will soon learn the term dura lex sed lex.

    1. The short of it is that Filipinos are not a very sportsmanlike people. Our concept of winning does not involve the truly satisfying sort of victory real sportsmen relish.

  3. Mr. BenignO’s perspective of the filipino value of “Pakiusap”, taken in its applied context here below, is not only acceptable but also laudable:

    “The really annoying aspect of this national condition is that Filipinos are perennially on the pakiusap side of the equation. Filipinos, in short, are almost never in a position to negotiate hard — because they never have a strong position on any matter to begin with. Our appeals to the world as a people are always on ‘humanitarian’ bases that, in constant exercises in futility, we try to package into powerful-looking value propositions.”

    But as suggested, is there a need to eradicate a Filipino value, in this case, the “pakiusap” mentality?

    Are filipino values bad or not good? In Science classes kids are asked: Is fire a friend or a foe? Well, just like fire our filipino values are potentially good and potentially evil. They can be a help or hindrance to us personally and to the filipino people collectively. Depending on the context in which we apply them to our daily lives or to us as a people and to the nation, these pinoy values will have their aspects of the positive and negative: Pakiusap para sa Kaunlaran o Pakiusap para sa Kalokohan.

    I guess, Filipino values are in place to make sure that not everyone of us filipinos go the way of being BALASUBAS or become a nation of BALAHURA!

    1. Thanks. I do recognise the risk of throwing the baby our with the bath water in the title I used. Perhaps, though, there really need not be much cause for worry as even if we did try hard, getting rid of a deeply-ingrained cultural trait is likely to be next to impossible without heavy state intervention (the way LKY did in Singapore).

      The challenge is in striking a balance and putting more thought in the way we conduct ourselves. It begins by recognising that much of what makes societies ‘successful’ in the current world order has to do with Western ways of doing things. So it comes down to how Filipinos choose to define “success” for themselves. Is it success according to Western standards? If so, then it is in that context that we need to reevaluate our current cultural traditions and ways of thinking.

  4. The main loop reason for the Filipino’s Pakiusap Mentality is the wrong notion of being humble and mabait. Sobrang bait ng mg Pinoy it already borders being submissive towards almost everyone.

  5. “Pakiusap” or “Nakikisuyo po” is in our “cultural vocabulary”. Things that cannot happen; people can make it happen. The recipient of the “Pakiusap” is indebted to the one who made it happen.

    This is the reason, we have patronage politics…this is in our culture and mindset…it may take many years to remove it…

  6. My sis has committed several days’ absences and was notified that she went beyond her leave credit balance and therefore would be subject to salary deduction, because she is taking good care of our rather sickly mother and it’s hard to find a good/trustworthy helper down here in our province. She was sent notification and was informed that should she want that her deduction be staggered, she go and see the local chief executive and negotiate with him about it. Instead, she negotiated with the accountant and told her to please deduct all of her absences without leave at one time only, so she went without salary for a month and a half. She didn’t want to make concessions with crooks (as the LCE is notably corrupt), she said.

  7. Intensely selfish people are always very decided as to what they wish. They do not waste their energies in considering the good of others.

  8. “Pakiusap” and many other Filipino cultural baggage should best be forgotten. To mention these ‘hung-ups’ could just ignite endless debate, so.. let’s leave it at that. The reverse side of these cultural baggage are commendable traits.. usually associated only with Filipinos.. that are fast vanishing, if not totally gone. Among these are ‘Bayanihan’, ‘Kusang Loob’, ‘Malasakit’, ‘Panindigan’ and some other noble traditions which escape me at the moment; not too many really, because even just these four, would make an honorable Filipino. It is ‘due-time’ that our schools reinforce and stress ‘Philippine History’, ‘Philippine Civics’ and ‘Social Studies’ at all levels of our ‘Educational System’. This is the only way, (and the least expensive way) to restore the Filipino ‘value system’ and ‘Real Philippine Culture’.

  9. Gone were the days when a dispute can be easily resolved by a Bolo fight.

    1. Land dispute? Bolo fight.
    2. Right of way dispute? Bolo fight.
    3. Family Rivalries? Bolo fight.

    Sigh! I wish those days were back..

  10. To vagoneto rieles: you should know that the subjects you are suggesting that be offered/become a must offering in the school’s curriculum are totally taken out from the planned K-12. Instead, they have these Asian History & Culture, etc…..They want our children to be citizens of the “world” kuno….international citizens without us having really and fully establishing our Filipino identity yet. Many young children don’t even know who Lapu-lapu is or where the islands of Limasawa & Mactan are, or when was the Phil. discovered……. common stuff among us Pinoy kids in our elementary days….Now they sing Korean songs and all the other Asian songs…we used to sing Bahay Kubo and Leron-leron Sinta……

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