Filipinos should stop believing in Magic


What a word: magic. In Grimwald’s article about the subject of positive thinking, esteemed commenter Sea Bee dropped this little gem of a thought:

…despite 500 years of colonization, Filipinos still believe in the aboriginal concept of magic. There is widespread belief in fairies and encantos. Telenovelas who subject is the fairy world are wildly popular. The Christianity of the Spanish and the rationality of the Americans is just so much Filipino window dressing.

Our local telenovelas show a lot of magical things aside from the encantos. For example, the protagonist finds themselves the “secret child” of someone rich, so they have to reclaim that “heritage” (which again points to the wish of Filipinos to be comfortable upon birth, without work). A benefactor (fairy godmother again) comes in and helps them up, implying that they could not do it on their own (and encouraging Filipinos to be moochers). And of course, we have some dollops of “wisdom” in these telenovelas, such as follow your feelings (with little or no rational thought), that all one needs is wish, and dreams will come true… by themselves. How magic dumbens us. Perhaps that can be proven in the Cream Silk TV commercial before: “It’s like a magic!”

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Some misconceptions about “positive thinking” like The Secret are based on magic. Its premise is, just think of what you want, and your thought waves will alter the universe to give it to you. Obviously, that’s magic. It gives the illusion that people can control reality. One term for this was magical voluntarism. Perhaps even Filipinos have this concept as well; that somehow, somewhere, their lives will get better by just believing in “magic.”

That hit me: why do Pinoys act so dumb and stubborn at times? Why do we have a moocher/palamunin and slave mentality? Why do we worship celebrities like gods? Our entertainment media had it all along: Filipinos believe in magic.

The word “magic” could be applied to what Filipinos expect from politicians. For example, they vote a candidate, then they don’t do any follow-up on whether the candidate will perform according to the platform or whether they will perform properly. They believe their politician will “work his magic.” That’s the mistake.

Politicians almost never work like magic – anywhere, not just in the Philippines (unless making loads of money disappear is something you could call magic). This is why constituents should check up on the elected officials. Unfortunately, Filipinos mostly have peasant mentality, where they treat politicians as celebrities. They bootlick their politicians, and are concerned only with personality and even appearance rather than what they do. Thus, they always vote the same kind of people over and over again and get screwed over repeatedly.

This meme that got passed around just before the election in effect tells us to stop believing in magic

This meme that got passed around just before the election in effect tells us to stop believing in magic

But this also reveals the cultural character of Filipinos as a whole, the one represented by our logo mascot, Juan Tamad. Perhaps the oft-reported laziness habit of Filipinos is connected to their wanting magic stuff to happen. For example, getting rich and famous after winning or just participating in a singing contest. The wish of having a breadwinner who will not only see to their needs, but wants as well, and even be a willing peon they can order around. The expectation of being praised or honored just because they are Filipino, because being Filipino is supposed to be special. Simply hoping to have a life with all the luxuries without lifting a finger, like those who were born into it. And even impunity: Filipinos want magical stuff to happen so they can avoid responsibility and accountability. These and more are the magical wishes of many Filipinos that seem to form the core of our cultural psyche.

One recent thought is this: in the recent Christian Bale Batman films, the title character’s famous line is, you are defined by what you do than what you are. I added another idea; you are more defined by how you handle things you cannot control, rather than things you can control. Certainly you do show something in what you can control, such as how you deal with money or being in a position of power. However, dealing with things you cannot control, such as an accident or just seeing things not going your way, can bring up other things about you that were never seen before – and these things reveal what you really are. The latter seems to be the case with the Filipinos who want “magic.” When things get out of control, they hope magic will fix it. If it doesn’t, they go on tililing rampages or other kinds of tantrums, claim “we are oppressed” or something like that.

As a rationale for why Filipinos seem to behave like this, I go back to FallenAngel’s article that says Filipinos are unwilling to accept reality. People will get angry when reality does not follow their wishes. They have to realize, reality is not our pansy. Yet, some people insist that it is, and they cause problems for themselves and others because of it.

Perhaps another word from the religious upbringing we have is the “miracle.” Yes, people seem to expect miracles in life. Such as suddenly winning the lottery or meeting someone rich who’ll become their sugar mommy or daddy. Or, something like the meme below.


But when one understands the teaching more correctly, we should not expect miracles. They are not for us to demand. Even Christian teaching exhorts followers to remain grounded on reality.

Thus, as a solution, Filipinos have got to stop believing in this notion of magic. Sure, you can use the word to refer to some amazing things that happen in real life, things that you don’t expect that are delightful. But the context is not the same as the magic I described above. We can’t expect that kind of magic in real life. If we want something, we have to stay grounded on reality and work for it.

It’s time the Filipinos drop the wish for magic and work on reality. As the title character of Merlin portrayed by Sam Neill in the TV mini-series said, “no more magic.”

12 Replies to “Filipinos should stop believing in Magic”

  1. Maybe to be more philosophically inclusive, Filipinos should stop making other people conjure magic for them.

    Filipinos should be able to make their own magic.

    1. MidwayHaven,

      Filipinos do make their own magic. It’s called make the valid voting ballot boxes disappear and replace them with rigged ones while the country sleeps.


  2. Akala ko pa naman magic ng vote-counting ang pag-uusapan ng article na to di pala. Hehehe.

    “They will not fix your life, you better do it yourself”

    Yes the least I can do is to be a productive citizen of this country and have my own job and earn a living. Which I do.

    But problems like traffic and crime isn’t going to fix themselves. To some, crime is what people think of doing for a better life.

    And traffic is something the government should actually solve. I already wake up and leave early, but I’m not the only one thinking about that so everyone else wakes up and leaves earlier, and so traffic starts 30 mins earlier than before. Which then repeats the cycle of “I must leave much earlier than everyone”.

    There’s a limit on how much one person can do himself. I’m not asking for get-rich-instant magic, but I think it’s fair to ask for better quality of life for services provided by the government and also public utilities like transportation, internet, electricity, and a safer neighborhood.

    But that’s just me and I may be one of the more fortunate. Other guys may actually need help to even start off making themselves better. Farmers who struggle with their crops, fishermen being outclassed by bigger fishing companies, people who do petty crimes to put food on the table. They’re the ones that need help, and need the right president to do so.

  3. >> There’s a limit on how much one person can do himself. I’m not asking for get-rich-instant magic, but I think it’s fair to ask for better quality of life for services provided by the government and also public utilities like transportation, internet, electricity, and a safer neighborhood.

    True, but in theory small groups of people could do this too. Groups of Filipinos could set up local networks for internet access, or off-grid solar power systems, paved roads suitable for motorcycles, etc. These things are not difficult, or particularly expensive. For example:

    – A basic paved road would cost about P300/m in materials, plus 30mins/m labour. 50 working men on an agricultural wage could pay for, and build, a kilometer of road with 1/10th of their annual salary. But they don’t.

    – A solar power system, big enough for 10 families, would cost P100,000. Those ten families would be independent of the power company forever. But they don’t want to be.

    – You can import state-of-the-art electric 4x4s and micro-buses from China for the same price as a hand-crafted tricycle. The BOC would want serious bribes to release them, of course; but five of these could make a huge difference to a rural community.

    – A commercial-grade internet subscription, a few hundred meters of cable, and a bit of networking equipment would cost P15,000 a year, plus P50,000 up front. You could connect at least 20 families, for a per-family cost 50% lower than standard services. Nobody wants to try.

    1. I don’t think the implementations may be as easy as you may imply. At the least it requires Barangay level or Municipal level of authority to start or fund these.

      – For the roads, you can’t just pave the road beyond the few meters of your private lot without permission of the local Barangay or Municipality. And I think there are lots of complications going on asking for those permissions. Just recently we had our street’s roads paved, a few hundred meters in length. Afterwards the community set up a inauguration that even invited the Mayor. I don’t know much, but I may hazard a guess projects like these can’t be done with simply community initiatives.

      – Similar to the roads, you need to buy off the lot where you will build the solar power system, which may cost around 1 million or much more. Barangay elects can coordinate the proceeds, but I’m not sure how far they can go. Plus, two things need to happen before people start working on solar. (1) Education about Solar Power, which is relatively scarce, so communities may be afraid in investing in the project. (2) Communities to actually cooperate with the project. It’s a big starting investment with potential great returns in long-term, but that starting investment may be a problem for some people.

      – I really can’t say much about the new micro-buses, especially with BOC as rotten as they are you can’t do anything large scale.

      – I am confused about this one. You’re saying people can really set up their own private internet provisions without relying on the big ISP kartel PLDT, Smart and Globe? Won’t they be taken down by these big corporations if they actually tried? I haven’t heard anything about this before. It’s always set up so that you NEED to rely on PLDT’s phone lines to connect to the internet.

      I’m all for community initiatives, but I am not aware about the complications it will entail on the country’s law (which is, in some cases, actually antagonistic to the common citizen). Well reading up on it is the easy part, rallying up the community would be the hard one.

      1. You got my point.

        All these things are possible, technically speaking. Easy, even, if you have some moderately skilled people on board.

        However, try to DOthem, and sure as hell someone in charge will stop you.

        Petition that same someone to do something about crime, littering, trespassing, brownouts, lack of connectivity etc etc and they’ll tell you there’s nothing they can do. “No budget po”.

        And on it goes.

        1. That’s true. The real magic, which you and both Midwayhaven mentioned, requires people acting on their own. Don’t we hope more Filipinos get that message.

  4. I believe in Magic. The HOCUS PCOS machines, have just demonstrated “Magic”…they elected candidates that are of Aquino’s and Mar Roxas wishes….

  5. Noynoy made my life better. Because Noynoy made me and many others believe in ourselves. The power of positive thinking works.

    Enjoy your blunder!

    1. Noynoy makes us believe we have a right to be comfortable in life because of blood, and that we can be rich and famous without doing nothing. Oh, praise. Sieg Zeon!

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