We Filipinos take for granted the 13th month pay. We probably would go on a witch hunt if we found our company does not give it (let me note that 13th month pay is separate from Christmas bonuses). This pay scheme was mandated by a law introduced by Ferdinand Marcos in 1965, and it continues today. I’m wondering if businesses groan from needing to pay it, and some might say, why pay them extra for no work?
However, recent musings had me wondering whether it symbolizes a dysfunction in our society, and could we do without it. I’ve read that the reason 13th month pay was introduced in the Philippines was to give ordinary people more money for their Christmas traditions. But what are these Christmas traditions that require much money? But I’ll not get into detail about traditions, I’ll just say which of these we practice that are likely detrimental to our financial health.
I’ll go on to Balikbayan boxes since the explanation for Filipino spending here could apply to Christmas traditions. We seem to have this craving for bringing home loads of goods (sometimes useless) in a box from somewhere else. This should have changed since many products that could be found only in other countries are now available here. Things like matcha tea, soy milk, coffee products, luxury brands, fancy gadgets and many others. However, one can sense dissatisfaction by Filipinos with anything available locally, and they still want things coming from other countries.
The notion still remains that having something brought from another country still smacks of class, so it’s another social climbing manifestation or rat racing with “o wala ka nito (you don’t have what I have)” or “my thing is superior to yours” mentality. Or, perhaps it caters to a Freudian inner feeling that likens getting stuff through balikbayan boxes to pilfering another country, as if you successfully raided them. Or that feeling of inferiority or being “poor” that Filipino seek to relieve by having something expensive (but useless). Whatever the reason, it shows that Filipinos are the still among the easiest to chump into unnecessary spending.
Let’s recall fellow blogger Paul Farol’s explanation on why Filipino OFWs often stay poor. They tend to not save, and spend on things for the very reasons I state above. I would add the irresponsible dependence of kin and friends back here in the home country who try to avoid work and continue to seek this blood-sweat-and-tears-of-others-borne “manna from heaven.” And they demand on receiving gifts (pasalubong) from others. As a result, Filipinos are gastadors (overspenders) and wasters. It’s one reason our country remains poor.
13th month pay was perhaps a concession to people’s irresponsible demands. We would be a truly prosperous society once we have no need of it. I see 13th month pay as based on the idea that the normal Filipino situation is treated as an emergency, even if it is not, so assistance is given to alleviate that situation. But instead, it creates more impetus to spend, since the habit of Filipinos is to splurge when they have a large amount of money. It then leads to the spending becoming an addiction, and such Filipinos become depressed if unable to spend so much. It’s a pathological condition that’s enlarged into a cultural defect.
So some Filipinos may retort, “pakialam mo about my happiness (why should you interfere with my happiness)!” Well, all I’m repeating here is wisdom of the ages. So if you get all the goods you want, but still feel empty, well, don’t say I didn’t warn you.
Filipinos need to step back and question their money habits and related traditions. They should also question their own egos, because wasteful habits can be traced to these. Overspending and non-saving, as I explained above, are results of trying to please egos. Indeed, many needless burdens Filipinos create for themselves are found in their ego-tripping, and it’s likely that once we’re rid of this, we’ll have better lives.