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.
benign0 is the Webmaster of GetRealPhilippines.com.