Three common misconceptions about popularity that Filipinos have

Filipinos like participating in numbers games. We’re not just talking about gambling, basketball, etc. The democracy that Filipinos are proud of, and like to participate in, is essentially a numbers game. Whoever has the most numbers wins.

Numbers have become almost sort of a credential here in the Philippines. Of course, there is something reassuring about having them on your side, hence the cliché “strength in numbers”. The culture of Filipinos promotes this strength in numbers; one can readily see that in aspects like pakikisama (going with the flow), and the Filipinos’ clannish tendency.

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Unsurprisingly, popularity is also considered a premium here in the Philippines. Filipinos are notorious bandwagon riders. There is tremendous pressure on them to conform to what the rest of the population thinks. Filipinos, in order to get ahead in their society, have little choice but to define themselves by the company they keep, and by the size of their network.

What is the best way to measure popularity? You guessed it, numbers. Whoever has the most numbers is the most popular. The thing with popularity, however, is that it’s fickle; one day you have it, suddenly you don’t. You’re only as good as your last soundbite, or scandal.

Thus, we come to a few common misconceptions about popularity that seemingly still have a strong hold on Filipinos:

1) Popularity is a reliable indicator of validity

There is a tendency to think that, when more and more people agree with you, then you’re necessarily right. Unfortunately, validation of one’s views does not necessarily indicate the correctness of it. Things have happened, like the most unqualified president being elected among a batch of otherwise accomplished candidates, that attest to this. One can also cite the example of people reluctant to question the degree of harmfulness in a certain way of thinking, simply because they think the risks associated with going against the grain are not worth it.

2) Popularity provides a license for impunity

I’ve personally seen it; some people who let their popularity get to their head. They thought that they can shrug off any law-breaking that they make, or any threats to their life, simply because there is a clamor from people “backing them up”. What happened? Their actions ended up hurting themselves and others.

The truth is, it’s easy for people to say they agree with you, and much easier for them to appear to be on your side, in good times. But when shit hits the fan, most everybody will save their asses first. Some will deny that they supported you. Popularity is convenient – until survival becomes the priority.

3) Numbers are the be-all and end-all

Greed and more “market share” are good, or so conventional thinking goes. But getting people to buy into something more or less involves tugging at some emotional trigger within them. Logic and critical thinking are known to take a back seat in these kinds of situations. If the objective is to enlighten everyone, then everyone benefits. If, however, the objective is to have more than anyone else, then it becomes a zero-sum game. To win, someone else has to lose.

A wise man once said, “if too many people are agreeing with you, then perhaps it’s time to step back and ask why.” Once again, at the heart is the issue called personal accountability; far too many people are willing to discard it, simply because it’s more convenient.

I will always remember a quote from a TV program that I once watched before. It was a motto of an Austrian restaurateur:

Wer mit der Herde geht, kann nur den Ärschen folgen.

In English, those who run with the flock, can only follow ass.

10 Replies to “Three common misconceptions about popularity that Filipinos have”

  1. Quite agree with all points. If I may offer another point or side to it: being with the popular side gives a false sense of power. So with all that validity and impunity comes the impression that one should have power by “joining the popular thing,” and what they want from others should be given to them. Having power, along with the other three points above, gives that rush of dopamine (or whatever feel-good brain chemical) that makes Filipinos feel good. In the end, Filipinos are all about dopamine.

  2. You just need to look at our culture of allowing jokes that are considered downright rude and disrespectful in the developed world. It is not uncommon to be called an idiot, a loser, taba (fat), payat (thin), pandak (short), tanga (stupid), ulol (crazy), or a negro in a colloquial conversation for no apparent reason. Hell, even the so-called higher income, educated class are susceptible to implicit or subtle degrading remarks regarding a person. Whenever someone complains or fights back, it is viewed negatively. Worse, the person at the receiving end of these insults are often the ones who get into trouble because they didn’t have a thick skin. Yes, I get that you need to have a thick skin as part of your survivor’s instinct but that does not validate the aforementioned insults as acceptable. Apparently, it is inevitable that the average Filipino will automatically try to find a way to undermine the party in order to satisfy his ego. And yet we are wondering why the inability to take criticism is ingrained in our culture. Simple, how can we, as Filipinos, learn to see the differences among a joke, an insult, and constructive criticism when they come as a complete package in an undermining statement?

    This is what false, popular opinion does to a society… it makes them backwards, hence, a culture of impunity.

  3. Across many cultures popularity is not a good indicator of validity. Going with the flow happens almost everywhere, along with the bandwagon effect. Attendant impunity is something I will have to look for, as there are many officials and people running for office killed here, The clannish part appears to be a solidarity with a group they identify with, and it would be tough to go against that group. My own country is puzzling.

  4. In relation to this article, I just had to ask (honestly, no politics intended!), inspite of then and there eccentric national display tendencies of vagaries and vulgarities (even on primetime involving innocent children as audience) of the President, (Especially if he’s angry according to him. He’s not a special case though, he just happens to hold the highest position in the land representing us as a people), will you give Mr. Duterte a sort of license (or an entitlement of exemption) to go against norm of socially acceptable conduct just because he is so seems popular to a greater number of our people?

  5. The rule by numbers is a tricky one- especially if there is a need to account for every opinion or perception. But maybe we also have to question why the big chunk of society is made up of the “less capable” ones. Is it even the natural order of things? If it is unnatural, then maybe we need a substantial shift in perspective. I remember one teacher saying that there used to be less dumb pupils in a class (in the PH). Just saying…

  6. Popularity is the gauge of the politicians, to get the votes from the “bakya crowd”. This is the reason, we have actors, actresses, show biz personalities, who incapable for governing; who are voted in high government positions.

    The result: we get incompetence; massive graft and corruption; governance breakdown; etc…

    It is the purpose, for us, Bloggers, who care for our fellow Filipinos, to educate and awaken our fellow Filipinos. That our country, is now the , “Basket Case of Asia”…

    We follow the old ways of the old Filipino tradition : “the Illustrados”, who awakened, their fellow Filipinos, to rise up against Spain, for independence.

    Now, it is those amoral and incompetent politicians, political dynasties, political warlords, etc…who are our enemies !

  7. You are right popularity does not mean anything…
    DU30 has the numbers, the popularity and he is the biggest asshole ever to have been elected as president… competing with D. Trump

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