What do basketball, karaoke, and democracy, all have in common in the Philippines?

Basketball, karaoke, and democracy, are favorite pastimes in the Philippines. All three are things Filipinos like to associate with being Filipino.

We like to think of ourselves – and are proud of it – as the most basketball-crazy country in the region.

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When it comes to social gatherings, and Filipinos are involved, everyone is expected to know how to sing. Even if you can’t, don’t, or don’t like to, a microphone will be shoved in your face, and peer pressure will be applied on you. Generally, though, we actually aren’t shy about reaching for the mike!

We carry with pride the title of “oldest democracy in Southeast Asia”, and we seemingly look forward to going through the motions of election cycles – local and senatorial ones every three (3) years, and national ones every six (6).

There’s just one small hitch:

Just because you like to do something, doesn’t necessarily mean you’re good – or will get any better – at it. And step back, look at the bigger picture, one will realize that, compared to the rest of the world, we suck.

Basketball is, at its core, a tall man’s game. Assuming comparable levels of skills and, ok fine, “heart”, neither of these – not even combined – can ever truly and fully compensate for the height factor that Filipinos lack. ”Dedication” does not necessarily mean wins. Height is something we, unfortunately, will never achieve to the extent that Caucasians do, even if we interbreed and mingle.

The problem with certain Filipinos and singing is that they think singing by “making birit (belting out)” the song compensates for singing it out of tune. If you think about it, you can sense a perception that audacity (kapal ng mukha) can mask the lack of accuracy in hitting notes.

Democracy – it is no secret among Filipinos, and most likely a big portion of the outside world, that despite “practicing democracy” for a long time, there is no sign that the Filipino people have finally learned what it takes, not only to consistently select truly capable leaders, but to engage them, stop revering their officials as infallible, and hold them accountable.

Basketball, karaoke, and democracy may be favorite pastimes in the Philippines, but they are also the most quintessential examples of Filipino mediocrity.

A relative of mine once described Filipino-style basketball as, “a bunch of headless chickens let loose on a court.” If there’s anything to be said about that, it’s that while I don’t disagree, it’s not something relegated to basketball alone. Filipinos are known for a me-first and to-each-his-own (kanya-kanya) mentality. Very few think of the greater good, the bigger whole, and sacrificing for it. Everyone wants to be the star. Filipinos put themselves and what only they want above all else, damn the consequences on others.

The generally accepted Filipino principle in decision-making: “Eh ito gusto ko eh!” (This is what I want, screw everything else.)

There is a real and perceptible sense of a comfort zone in Philippine society – that’ll do (pwede-na-iyan). But why bother doing, and to keep doing something, if you don’t plan to get better at it?

Getting better at something takes a lot of work. It requires a lot of self-reflection. An essential component to it is acceptance of one’s limitations and shortcomings, and carefully analyzing how to work around them. Getting better at something requires a systematic, thorough, and adaptable process and way of thinking. And of course you seek advice from those who have experience, or are already very good, at what you plan to improve at.

Unfortunately, with Filipinos, the previous paragraph will fall on deaf ears.

Because, you know, comfort zone.

And yes, I know, there are other things that Filipinos like to do, but suck at, no matter how often they do it. Leave a comment if you think of any of them.

30 Replies to “What do basketball, karaoke, and democracy, all have in common in the Philippines?”

  1. … and still nothing on China’s brazen encroachment and Duterte’s silence, GRP. Of course you support the drug war and the anti-not-Sinicist foreign policy, but come on, what’s happening in our fringes is kind of very extremely important.

    Have benign0 and the others decided they wanna watch Xi and Duterte (and Putin and Trump) getting it on, with the ASEAN cheering them on?

    1. Amazing!!!! #1. How much did you pay to get in? #2. People in GRP write what they want to write. #3. You can mock or cheer based on what is there and yet you feel entitled to dictate what every blog entry should be about. How pinoy of you. You want GRP to be in your comfort zone. To address your values. You decided what GRP should say.So by going off topic to what this is about you are proving FA’s point right by not sticking to the applicable framework yet thinking you are superior to GRP. if you really were then you will tear down each piece based on its lack of merit instead of wishing for a different piece all together.

      1. 1. None.

        2. They are free to write interminable essays about Noynoy, the Liberal Party, and the defects on the Pinoy character, but they aren’t free to write about actual things happening right now. Top kek, yes?

        3. “Dictate”? Dear Gogs, this site’s been on the top of the news regarding Leni, yet it can’t be arsed to give a tit about the Chinese military’s activities and Duterte’s de facto acknowledgment of Chinese sovereignty in our western waters. Shit, man, I can’t be arsed to dictate — these are things that should bother you, that you’ve commented on while Noynoy was still in power, yet for the love of God for some God knows what reason aren’t. I know this site has been partisan in who to lay praise or pile hate to, but come the fuck on.

        1. You’re just the stereotypical SJW in a Pinoy skin. If it’s not the “Chinese encroachment,” you’ll find something else to find fault that the writers aren’t addressing. If you’re not happy with what they write, then you’re free to leave. No one is forcing you to read articles you disagree with, at least I hope so.

  2. And yes, I know, there are other things that Filipinos like to do, but suck at, no matter how often they do it.

    You’re asking for a list? 🙂

    Seriously, foreigners often remark on how hard (some) Filipinos work. And it’s true. They do. And they never, ever stop to think: why am I working so hard? Perhaps there’s an easier way to do this?

    Slogging your guts out is not a virtue. It’s a strong indication you’re failing to learn from experience. Personally, I blame the education system. And parents. From an early age, the Pinoy is told to sit down, shut up, and listen to what his elders and betters tell him. And to never, ever think about doing stuff differently.

    Hence: “… but this is how we do it in the Philippines”.

    1. Filipinos working hard?

      Only when they are abroad.

      Here in the Philippines it is a perpetual goof off. Daydreaming and slow motion movement with brains switched off, because no one ever gets fired unless they steal or murder someone.

      1. I was thinking of the neighbours who get up at 5am to sweep dirt from one side of the yard from the other side of the yard. Or farmers who wade around knee-deep in mud behind a carabao in order to (a) destroy the capital value of their land and (b) grow a crop with a market value less than the cost of growing it.

        I know someone who fired an employee for blatant stealing. The Agents of Social Justice (ie., the DOLE) threw them into a world of such legal pain they had to shut the business down. Another victory for economic growth!

        1. This country operates on feelings and emotions, not logic and practicality. Hence why nothing ever gets done or is done in the most half-assed way possible.

  3. Bro, I’m a big fan of GRP. Articles here are intellectually challenging and conceptual.

    However, basketball is a pastime all around the world. Tall, short, rich, poor, educated or numskull, we play it for fun. 🙂

    1. Nobody is arguing that the Philippines is the only country that plays basketball but they are the country in the world where basketball is #1 and yet they are never consistently competitive with the rest of the world when their best athletes win Olympic medals and play soccer, baseball, hockey and NFL football. Pinoys just feel entitled to basketball supremacy yet ignore the scoreboard. Play basketball for fun , just get disillusioned when the rest of the world who are not nearly as devoted as you beat the crap out of you with their leftovers.

    2. i agree. however, we can also level up soccer, baseball, lacrosse, squash, cricket, boxing, wrestling, etc. at least our people should choose a primary sport then basketball as past time. like Mayweather, he’s a boxer but plays basketball as past time sport.

      this should be the statistics: if 3,000 people are into basketball then another 3,000 are into soccer or baseball.

  4. We are not a Democracy. We are Feudal Oligarchy. We are ruled by Oligarchs, who adhere to Feudalism.

    Basketball maybe a game of tall people…however, let us all enjoy the game; if people like it !

    Singing in a “Karaoke”, maybe a good past time. Sing your blues away…some may be out of tune; but at least , they tried and struggled to sing !

    We are a unique people, in this unique world. We do jobs , half finished…and call it finished !

    We subscribe to the “Bahala Na” mentality. God will take care of us ! So, we go on like, Don Quixote(The Man from La Mancha), attacking windmills …

    I think that Organized Religions are the cause of all these Misaligned Mindsets of Filipinos. We trust too much on our religions and these organized religions pick our pockets !

    “Hiya” is also a concept on Filipino mindset. However, it is ironic, because we elect Filipino politicians, who are “Walang Hiya”…

    We have no good paradigm for goodness…


    1. “Hiya” is also a concept on Filipino mindset. However, it is ironic, because we elect Filipino politicians, who are “Walang Hiya”…

      Yeah, that makes me laugh too 🙂

      Anyway, I agree with the general sentiment: the Philippines is not a democracy. Sadly, the great unwashed would rather lie to themselves and ‘sing their blues away’, instead of doing something about it.

  5. And I have always wondered why despite of being obsessed with basketball since time memorial Filipinos cant make it into the NBA.

  6. Only your fans would agree. Do not single out the filipinos. It is not exclusive. Seems democracy is also to blame for “i am better than everybody else” articles. If basketball or singing does not like you, then tell yourself to get real. Or maybe you are just faking your bitterness. Hugot ba
    Then may mag comment na naman ng failipinos/ failipphines.. Tagal nyo na gusto pasikatin yun term, tanggapin nyo na, it is not gonna happen

  7. Storytelling. Granted, it was not always so, but the only thing on TV these days are cheap romance stories ripped off from foreign media. Then, there are those who have the gall to say said shows are somehow “world class”.

  8. I was discouraged to play bball due to the so-called “big shots” in my area ask for money or anything if my team lose and lack of understanding of teamwork and technical skills. If you cross them, they harass and become bigots to you.

    So instead I dedicated myself to lift weights and do cardio at the gym, learn other sports like volleyball, flag football, and soccer. I went to study engineering as well to pass time and watch theme-challenging shows like anime, doramas, and US ESPN.

    I tried changing their normal culture by introducing new things but as I expected, they don’t want to evolve by getting out of the comfort zone and their rinse-and-repeat daily cycle.

    In the end, I ended up changing myself and decided I had it so I went to a country not just having a democratic culture, but a meritocratic approach as well. Only those who earn well by continuous training and accumulation of knowledge are well deserve to be put in a better position.

    Now I’m somewhere reaping benefits of my hardwork and will continue to develop and further evolve.

  9. not everyone is watching a US NCAA team called Creighton Bluejays from Omaha, NE. Kobe Paras is a bench player on that team. No loses for his team so far and don’t have a national ranking yet.



  11. Failipinos in the Failippines have to be honest about what they want and take risks rather than lie to themselves and make excuses to stay in their comfort zone.

  12. i lift weights, run, swim. my primary sport is boxing and i would have chosen soccer as my team sport but unfortunately BBallin is the only sport available in my town so i decided to just go for this. so there you go. i do sports to keep myself healthy not because i need to learn basketball since im pinoy. it doesnt matter if its basketball or soccer or tennis or wrestling. but yeah i do agree that our people wont try other sports. its very ironic that our people love sports that require height and size. though NBA has Nate Johnson and Mugsy Bouges our people just dont have that physical ability the african-americans have. i see basketball clinics advertising in FB sayin “start them young.” so i thought to myself, “why not soccer, chess, ping pong, archery, weight lifting, jiujitsu. basketball? come on. our children would just waste their time learning and loving a sport that dont love them back. what im saying is that there are many sports our people can learn which dont require size. they can focus their time and effort learning this at an early age. indeed, our people, the Filipinos, is still lost in translation.

  13. Way I see it, it’s like this:

    1. Guy sucks at basketball, but still wants to be considered a basketball star.
    2. Guy sucks at singing and karaoke, but wants to be told he’s a good singer and has a beautiful voice.
    3. Filipinos want their country to be known as a bastion of democracy, but when you get to warlord politics and the authoritarian tendencies of Filipino families, that democratic image turns out to be nothing more than fluff.

    So basically, all Filipinos want is good feeling from fluff. If someone doesn’t want to go with the ruse from fluff, they’ll bitch against that person. And they don’t want to do something other than basketball and singing because you need something thinking and non-conformity to do so. They just want to do everything that everyone does for that “pakisama” thingy.

  14. I’m going to ignore the part about Karaoke and Democracy.

    Our lack of success in basketball is largely due to the following factors:

    1. Height – You’ve already pointed this out many times so I’m not going to elaborate further. To put it simply, Asia is the worst region in the world to find talent from a NBA scouting perspective. China and Iran, while managing to have home-grown athletes play in the NBA, are still considered minnows compared to the talents in Europe, Oceania, South America and Africa.

    2. System & Development – Our system is a mess. It’s basically a copy cat of the American system without considering the limitations of our physique. It’s basically like this: 6’6 is the tallest player, so he has to emulate the moves of a 7’1 center (e.g. Shaquille O’Neal). There is no regard for the fundamentals whatsoever or any investments in player development. We are too proud of our street-style basketball that we keep on forgetting that individual talent cannot bring a team forward if you lack size. Just look at Kobe Paras, a home-grown player who now plays for Creighton (Div I NCAA). Back in the Philippines, he is forced to play center because of his height but when he started balling in the US, he had to start from the ground up and learn the fundamentals: ball handling, slashing, shooting, etc. That’s what is lacking in the Philippines. The players who meet the physical requirements are not developed into the right role to compete internationally. While Paras seems like a helluva player to ordinary Filipinos, he is actually struggling for playing time in Creighton. He is fighting as hard as he could to reach his NBA dreams. Same with Kiefer Ravena who didn’t bother to play in the PBA given that he is more than qualified.

    3. Politics – The Philippines has a big problem when it comes to commercialization of sports. It overdoes it. Like it literally does in every turn. You want a successful national team? Then all the best talents has to come and play for flag. No excuses. Wait, that’s not all. You need a sound system starting from the youth levels so that the best young players mature early in their game. Too many groups fighting amongst each other. Not releasing players when they are needed. How can you form the best team when there is too much internal strife?

    There are other things but I believe these are the biggest ones. I am a firm believer that we can be competitive if we look at #2 greatly. There are many players who meet the physical requirements of playing basketball. They simply need to be developed the right way and be exposed to top-level competition. Not to put pressure on Kobe but I believe a lot of home-grown talents will look up to him if he succeeds. Right now, I stand with him in his fight for more playing time.

    We need to think positive. The problem with Filipinos is that we love basketball too much that we are blinded by the reality that international basketball is really competitive and countries in the Asian region are at a huge disadvantage. Underdogs, if you will.

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