Filipinos need to uphold a Deliver-Or-Die ethic like the Japanese


The deadline for the completion of the LRT (Light Rail Transit) Line 1 project (Baclaran to Bacoor) by the end of 2015 has passed and the promise issued by President Benigno Simeon ‘BS’ Aquino III that he and Department of Transportation and Communication (DOTC) Secretary Jun Abaya back in 2013 will throw themselves under a train if this deadline is not met remains broken. What are Filipinos gonna do about this outrage?

Well, nothing of course.

This, after all, is the sort of response expected of a people long broken by a tradition of being lied to by their leaders that has been made banal by its sheer decades-long consistency. Indeed, nothing encapsulates the promise of better public transport more than the continued ubiquity of the jeepney and a bus system operated by homicidal drivers many of who reportedly ply their trade in a drugged stupor. These stand as monuments to broken promises at a national scale that is the Philippines.

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In most normal societies, such a situation would have called for no less than a riot. In the Philippines, blatant leadership incompetence is usually met with no more than a collective shrug of the shoulders. Worse, Filipino voters are set to troop to the polls and vote the same sorts of idiotic politicians again. All of these politicians come from the same clique of oligarchs and feudal clans that ran the country to the ground and seek to keep the country that way.

Why is it that Filipinos are such gluttons for punishment?

Simple. Because there are no consequences levied upon failed leaders. After the country’s top netizens and the commentators surrounding them raised monumental awareness around President BS Aquino’s promise to deliver or die, it will be interesting to note what happens next now that the deadline to make good on that commitment has come to pass. Then again, maybe not. It’s really an exercise in futility waiting for nothing when it’s been so clearly made evident for so many decades that Filipinos expect very little of their society’s leaders.

In Japan (where there are very few lawyers and the laws are largely unwritten because Japanese society is one where everything is excellent), men of honour kill themselves (or, at least, suffer grave depression) when they fail to do what they said they would do. Everybody loves Japan and its culture because of that simple underlying ethic of honour and commitment. It is this ethic that created bullet trains that run on schedules that you could set your watches by, implemented vast supply chains that deliver wondrous manufactured goods at a quality and reliability unmatched over the rest of the planet, and created an entire cultural ecosystem much admired by most of humanity but virtually impenetrable to people not born into it.

Why bring up Japan? Because Japan represents the other extreme of a spectrum the other end of which the Philippines occupies.

code_of_bushidoJapan is at the winning end of this spectrum of social beauty. At the losing end is the Philippines — a society where nobody trusts nobody, and where one’s Word is an artefact of shame rather than of pride and honour. And this is why the Philippines fails on all measures of success. The whole point in Filipinos getting together to be a nation seems to have been missed by many miles. None of the character traits that bind people and meld them into a cohesive collective exists in Philippine society. There is none of the glue of social trust that enables Filipinos to make straightforward deals with one another. There is no common direction that builds the sort of historical momentum that could move the nation forward. There is hardly any defining meaning in being “Filipino” that Filipinos can hold themselves to to define their identity. And where substance should have been in the country’s cultural infrastructure, we only see a vast cavernous void the effort of which to fill Filipinos have foolishly delegated to their entertainment industry.

It is no wonder that promises to build critical rail lines to link key population centres all over Metro Manila remain broken, or that grand theft of taxpayers’ funds continues to be a rule rather than the exception in Philippine governance, or that Filipino presidential candidates are a source of cringe rather than inspiration.

Filipinos, quite simply, cannot seem to get together and be a nation. It just does not seem to be something that is likely to happen in the foreseeable future. That Filipinos seem to be big achievers (or so we are told) in other countries only further highlights the sad reality that is the Philippines’ aspirations to true nationhood — that Filipinos are better apart than together.

And this is where the challenge ahead lies — Filipinos need to come up with a compelling enough reason to be together, as a nation, as a people, and as a collective. Happy New Year!

[Photo courtesy International Policy Digest.]

26 Replies to “Filipinos need to uphold a Deliver-Or-Die ethic like the Japanese”

  1. I really like this article. It’s true we are quite the opposite of Japan. They have a very strict society where is our’s are much loose. And yes there is nothing that holds our people together as a nation. People are still attached to their provinces rather than the whole nation itself. They seem not to care much as long as they don’t see any direct effect on their respective province.

    We are so diverse to the point that we cannot accept one another as people living in one nation. And it skcs… that’s why our nation scks also

  2. Best thing about japan is that they never needed a “tyrant”/”messiah figure” to “guide” them down the “straight path”. Its really more of personal honor above everything else. Not family, not god, not money. Because (almost) every member of the japanese society follows this principle, they have established one of the most fruitful civilizations this world has seen.

  3. “The whole point in Filipinos getting together to be a nation seems to have been missed by many miles. None of the character traits that bind people and meld them into a cohesive collective exists in Philippine society. There is none of the glue of social trust that enables Filipinos to make straightforward deals with one another. There is no common direction that builds the sort of historical momentum that could move the nation forward. There is hardly any defining meaning in being “Filipino” that Filipinos can hold themselves to to define their identity.”

    The above observation is so glaringly true! The state or condition of the Filipinos and the Philippines can only be described as a perpetually fragmented one. The country geographically is fragmented and the people are regionalistic rather than nationalistic. (And it seems that some more others, those “pa-hip” and “pa-cool” filipinos who embraces a neo-colonial mindset, disguised as progressive, having been educated differently and exposed to foreign cultures, veer away from the rest of us so as to distinguish themselves as a different breed or class.)

    Unlike in the times of Rizal and the Indios Bravos, who banded and led us towards a common goal, then have inspired us, moved us and united us in the 1896 Revolution, we have no new modern day heroes that inspire us today. Recent so-called modern day heroes/progressive thinkers (to some) did not serve to unite us nationally, but instead even duped us, only to gain and control power for the few – political and econmic! Ninoy Aquino resented and fought a perceived political enemy only for his political ambition and the Civil Society Yellow Clique; Joma Sison and Dante Buscayno of the NDF/CPP/NPA for the underground Leftist Movement; and Nur Misuari and Salamat Hashim of MNLF/MILF/ABUSAYYAF for the Muslim Separatist Group. (There are even some leaders who clamor for a United Philippines to go Federal! Though the intention could be noble, but what if things go wrong? What prevents a potential hardcore leader, who has the ambition, and in due time, decides to separate itself from the republic? In other parts of the world, Federalism was an instrument meant towards achieving Unification!)

    On the cultural front, we still look up to others, seemingly, envious even, and we lack appreciation to everything filipino! While the Japanese tries to japanize their description to about every facets of their culture (samurai, geisha, origami, anime, j-pop…), we, on the other hand, couldn’t even come up with a decidingly complete official list of our Pambansang Sagisag ng Pilipinas (Philipine National Icons) up to this time! We are still quarelling over what is an acceptable National Laguage that can unite the whole archipelago! Really, we have no common ground!

    When we try to read about our culture and history in books, our historian, as always, highlights what is spanish influence, american influence, japanese influence, chinese influence and so on…as if we have no culture of our own. What has happened to our culture and history before the Spaniards came to our shores?

    So what is it that will unite us in the achievement of that filipino collective – that “common direction that builds the sort of historical momentum that could move the nation forward”? Is it the National Language? A Charismatic Leader? A Filipino School of Thought in What Exactly?

    I hope Mr. BenignO keeps on going, and so with the rest of Intellectual and Arrogant GRP writers and commenters, that they will live up to their statement of “We beg to differ”!

    1. To play devil’s advocate, Manny Pacqiao is arguably the only person that could qualify as the “modern hero” for the Philippines. Even then, they overblow his capacities to that of a god.

  4. Question, where do all the best and smartest go to work and what do they do after retirement? They graduate go overseas work and do not come back even in retirement. The problem is not the government. The problem is the people. I am going to say a famous saying from America. Answer it truthfully. “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what can you do for your country”. What have you done for the Philippines, today?

  5. I think i developed my discipline when i worked for an electronics company in laguna owned by japanese. Kung puede lang ipagbawal ang paghinga, ginawa na nila….

    1. anyone can practice discipline. Actually it’s just habit. Its a constant repitition and the brain remembers it. Develop good habits.

  6. Japan (and many great nations) paid a great price to achieve the unity that they enjoy today. The people of ancient Japan were scattered and divided very similar to the old tribes of the Philippines. It was only in a series of bloody wars and political upheaval were Japan able to achieve unification.

    Rizal and his comrades knew this but they were suppressed by the Spanish and misinterpreted by the local revolutionaries. Too bad history did not favor the Pinoys. Now we suffer for our fragmentation. Evil politicians most effective too is to divide and conquer the Pinoys.

    1. thing is they are already united before the portugese explorers reach them. They have their own culture, system of writing, governance. the explorers hence reported baxk to Spain that these people cant be conquered. They instead established trade.

    2. Oh yes indeed, the Portuguese instead established trade with the Japanese…a very large scale systematized slave trade, that is!

      From the Yamato period (3rd Century A.D., c. 250 – c. 710) until the end of the Sengoku period (c. 1467 – c. 1603), Japan had an official slave system. And that’s a total of 1,353 years of slavery by Japan to its own people!

      These slaves were called Seikō (lit. “living mouth”). Japanese slave women were sold en masse as concubines, where some of them, not only ended up being enslaved to Portuguese, but as slaves to other slaves of various nationalities!

      “After the Portuguese first made contact with Japan in 1543, a large scale slave trade developed in which Portuguese purchased Japanese as slaves in Japan and sold them to various locations overseas, including Portugal itself, throughout the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Many documents mention the large slave trade along with protests against the enslavement of Japanese. Japanese slaves are believed to be the first of their nation to end up in Europe, and the Portuguese purchased large numbers of Japanese slave girls to bring to Portugal for sexual purposes…”

  7. The Philippines is maybe 200 years behind Japan in almost every area, mentality, technology, unity/cooperation, discipline/order, military strength, and even language (vocabulary of the vernacular).

    PH should not boast about growth rate so much. It’s like telling the whole world we got 3 steps forward compared with Japan moving only 1 step, when Japan is already miles away ahead of us.

    1. 200? When I’m in the Philippines, I feel like I’m living in the 16th century. Corruption, feudal politics, fanatical religiosity, widespread ignorance and superstition, filth, poverty and human degradation … just like in the history books 🙂

    2. I sensed someone would disagree on “200 years”.

      I guess Pinoys should start dressing like Medieval knights then, or the guys in Mad Max.

      yup – PH would be a good setting for a movie for warhammer; they could hire legions of squatters – give them some employment.

  8. When the Tagalogs stops their insecurities against the Bisaya and other people from the provinces, and when the probinsyanos stops looking up at people from Metro Manila and putting them in pedestals, and when the ordinary people stops listening and trusting in the lies of their political leaders, the Philippines may still have a chance.

  9. Question, did Japan unite together before or after its country and people were almost erased from the face of the earth? Japan has been destroyed many times by the Japanese themselves and by two nuclear bombs that the USA dropped on the country. The country’s pride has cost it dearly to even have to sign an agreement at the end of the World War 2 that gave the country basically to the USA. I believe the Philippines decided that being part of the USA was not a good decision a long time ago. At least the people here had the freedom to decide. Remember this when thinking about some false nation of pride.

    1. Freedom this, Freedom that. It’s because of this that Filipinos justify their loose cannon and reckless behavior over the decades.Take note, that most prosperous nations and cultures had removed a few personal liberties. You can’t have your cake and eat it too.

  10. Aquino and Abaya are lying thru their teeth, when they stated : “they can deliver the railway system by 2015.”

    Both are known liars, and both are incompetents. They don’t even have shame on themselves. Both of these people are thick skinned, like elephants.

  11. The disparity of cultures/mindsets…

    What do Pinoys tell each other before an exam?
    Ans: Good luck.

    What do Japanese tell each other before an exam?
    Ans: Ganbatte kudasai (Do your best!)

    1. PS: I encourage Filipinos/Filipinas to marry Japanese. It’s good for your children (the Jap mindset), plus you’ll help them in their ever dwindling population.

      Looks like their aging population is alarming already – the nation might collapse soon; they badly need foreign blood. S.O.S. – calling all Pinoys – your gift/talent of Multiplication is in high demand!

  12. Let’s compare:

    When a Japanese loses face or dishonored, he takes his own life by committing “harakiri” (suicide by disembowelment with a sharp sword).

    When a Filipino loses face or dishonored, he takes the life of the one(s) who is responsible by committing “salvage” (murdering through hired killers).

    In a sense, both the Japanese and Filipino do have a “deliver-or-die” ethics. The former is just more honorable than the latter.

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