Why being exceptional is a bane in the Philippines

Photo credit: michaelhyatt.com

Being exceptional in the Philippines is not only not rewarded, it is also punished. Often severely.

Being exceptional, in the eyes of Filipinos, means that you are something the rest of them aren’t. You aren’t in solidarity with the rest of them, especially if they’re mediocre. Naging iba ka sa kanila. Di ka nakisama.

Leadership is often associated with exceptional aptitude and excellence, and I think rightly so. Only the best should actually be leading their respective groups.

Filipinos have a distorted view of leadership; they do not see leaders as entities who are merely one part of a mutually beneficial, cooperative relationship, and will guide them towards meeting an objective or goal. Rather, they see leaders as people who will do all the work for them, and who are expected to tell them what to do.

You can often hear this phrase when it comes to leadership in the Philippines: “O, bahala ka na diyan, ha!” (Hey, from here on it’s your show!)

On one hand, Filipino “leaders” will be exempt from criticism because the followers don’t want to be seen as ungrateful. Because these followers wish to take little to no part in meeting the goal, their participation and scrutiny of their leaders are often misinformed or uneducated.

On the other hand, Filipino “leaders” will be blamed for everything simply because, in the eyes of the Filipino follower, they chose to take the responsibility upon themselves. Never mind if they themselves designated a particular person to be their “leader”. Never mind if responsibilities were actually thrust upon the “leaders” because everyone else avoided them.

Therefore, expect the same attitudes that Filipinos take towards “leaders” to be the same attitudes they take towards exceptional people. It is encompassed in the commonly heard line, “kung ang galing galing mo, bakit di ka tumakbo sa gobyerno?!” (If you’re so great, why don’t you run for government office?!)

Exceptional aptitude, excellence, and leadership are simply too hard for Filipinos to grasp, much less work towards.

[Display photo courtesy of peterwatsonconsulting.com]
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About Amir Al Bahr

The sea - you either learn to swim in it, or drown.

23 Comments on “Why being exceptional is a bane in the Philippines”

  1. Leadership is an inborn talent. Exceptional people, thinks differently from the rest of us. The leaders in our government, are mostly not exceptional people. They are mostly scammers; pretending to be exceptional people. When, they are elected in the position. These people become, exceptional: crooks, thieves, incompetent, liars, etc…

    The goal of each of us, should be to be exceptional, from the crowd. Thinking outside the box.. Thinking on your feet. and doing exceptional things. This is the gist of being a successful human being.

    1. >> Leadership is an inborn talent.

      Are you saying Filipinos are born useless?

      On darker days I wonder if that’s true. It’s certainly possible to breed animals to be more or less aggressive, more or less intelligent, more or less independent, and so on. Sometimes the difference between one breed of animal and another is so radical that it’s hard to believe they’re actually the same species. Dogs, cats and chickens give some good examples.

      Have Filipinos deliberately applied selection pressure on themselves such that (as the author suggests) successful people are ostracized and mediocre people are rewarded? Have they done it for so long that the entire population has become mediocre?

      The general time period for producing a stable new strain of anything is 7-10 generations. In the lets-all-breed-as-soon-as-we-hit-puberty Philippines, that would be about 200 years. In other words, you only need to maintain a culture of mediocrity that long for it to become ingrained into people’s genome.

      The Spanish documented Filipino dysfunction 400 years ago. Of course they would have been biased, but their writings describe things very familiar to modern observers – stupid feuds, bringing each other down just for the fun of it, inability to organize anything, inability to use any tool without breaking it … the list goes on. It actually makes interesting reading. So maybe you’re right, Hyden, and the only thing that will save this country is a program of eugenics.

      1. @Marius:

        I did not say that Filipinos are inborn useless. I wrote that : “Leadership is inborn.” There are born leaders. There are born followers. Sometimes, leadership came from the family genes. sometimes from the way, people are brought up. Sometimes it is the environment and culture, they had grown up. Many factors involved.

        You can see the environmental and cultural factors, that are affecting the mindsets of Filipinos.

      2. Marius,
        I am not gonna defend anybody here but I really think its hard and difficult to oppose (be against) something in the Philippines. How many PH kids will tell their parents: “hold on, wait a minute, enough is enough”? That by itself is a sign of disrespect (in the Philippines !!!!!). (Parents are not always right). When I was young, my parents and I had many conversations in which all of us laid their views on the table. Also diffferent and opposing views. And my parents encouraged me (and my sisters) to develop different views and look at matters from all sides and from all angles. How often does that happen in PH?
        I think everything starts with being curious and being open (open for other ideas, views and opinions) and then start to think about those other ideas/views/opinions. And then maybe change my own vision about matters. This is – in my humble opinion – how people grow as individuals.
        And those conversations also take place at/in school (in class with the teacher and with co-students/pupils). This is what we know as “debating class”.
        Obviously, those conversations also take place among friends.

        1. Robert: Indeed. My general opinion is that kids are simply taught to be stupid and useless in school. I’ve met enough Filipinos to know that some of them (possibly the ones who skipped school 🙂 do have the smarts and abilities to be good leaders. However:

          1) Smart, able people are never selected as leaders. That’s not what the Filipino wants, because that’s not what he’s been brought up to respect and admire.

          2) This culture DOES act as a genetic-selection pressure, and natural selection will operate as it always does. People who are competent and honest face discrimination as mates, not just in general. They will therefore have fewer opportunities to breed compared to people who are manipulative, erratic, and unemployable (these people seem to have no trouble at all finding mates).

          As I said to Dave, I wasn’t being ENTIRELY serious. But the effect is real. Humans can separate into breeds with distinct characteristics just like any other organism. The Filipino undoubtedly has given himself some genetic disadvantages. How important these are (relative to environmental factors) is a whole different argument.

          I imagine this problem could be reversed quite painlessly by firing every Filipino teacher, burning all the textbooks, and replacing them with proper teachers and textbooks. However, that isn’t going to happen.

      3. @Marius:

        As I had stated: ” Leadership is an inborn talent”…I did not state : “Filipinos are born useless” . Talented people comes in every form, in ever region in our country, and in every facet of life. Our DNA and genes, may have a factor on it. Family upbringing and culture may have something to do with it.

        Racial dysfunctions are present in every race, culture and country. I do not believe in creating a “Master Race”, where the German Nazis , failed to do. They murdered genetically dysfunctional people. They called the Jews, and other racial minorities: “sub human”.

        I am looking forward, for able Filipinos to take leadership in our country. They may come from far away places in the Philippines !

      4. @marius, I always enjoy and appreciate your comments, but this is the closest you’ve come to zaxx-level woo-woo. I’ll chalk it up to heightened Christmas annoyance!

        1. @Dave: the relentless KTV and 1000W PA’s outside supermarkets turns one’s brains to mush.

          I wasn’t being entirely serious. I was just trolling HydenToro (again). The logic runs like this:

          – Leadership is an inborn talent
          – Few Filipinos are effective leaders
          – Few Filipinos are born with leadership abilities
          -> Filipino genes are defective

          In fact I dismiss Hyden’s assertion. Leadership is not an inborn talent (that’s just an excuse Filipinos use for not bothering to learn leadership skills). I was was just following it through to it’s natural conclusion.

      5. @marius does make a plausible point that we cannot dismiss simply because it offends our politically-corrected sensibilities.

        Perhaps there were selection pressures at work that led to the breeding of a vast gene pool that favours mediocrity over excellence. An initiative to validate this hypothesis will likely require a huge amount of resources to mount. But that does not mean the hypothesis is ludicrous as there seems to be a deep well of anecdotal evidence to, at least, keep it in the debate.

        1. @benign0: just to be clear, I’m not suggesting there’s an actual gene for mediocrity. I’m just pointing out that persistent selection pressures at breeding age WILL inevitably modify the population’s genome, sometimes in inscrutable ways.

          The process is very fast – as I said, less than 10 generations to ensure a population will breed true-to-type. Within five generations you’ll get a large proportion of offspring with the ‘desired’ characteristics. The upside of this is that it’s just as quick to reverse. So I would say the more important question is not “how did it happen?”, or “how serious is this?” or even “did it happen?”. What matter is: “how could we give Filipinos a genetic advantage without ACTUALLY resorting to the more unpleasant practices of eugenics?”. As I mentioned above, I think this would be relatively simple and only slightly distasteful. It just demands putting different ideas about mate selection into people’s heads while they are impressionable youngsters, and by getting teachers and other ‘thought leaders’ to subtly promote smart, honest, hardworking people as desirable mates (as opposed to that ‘blessed are the poor’ nonsense).

          The obstacle here is the Catholic Church and the Department of Education, both of which seem hell-bent on teaching children that being useless is what God wants, and/or something to be proud of.

        2. I like Kate’s writing. I’m not sure why I missed that article, but it’s absolutely on the mark.

          Unfortunately, though, a lot of what people do (not just Filipinos!) is determined by what they’re told to do. So if young girls are told that it’s God’s will to pump out lots of kids with the first idiot male who flirts with her, that’s what she’s going to do.

          Besides, people do tend to mate on their own intellectual level, so the department-store girl who stands around looking vacant all day and then goes home to eat ramen and watch TV will not have anything in common with men who use long words and read books. Or vice-versa. So until schools make it their business to make girls smarter instead of dumber, smart men are still going to have a rather sparse dating pool to play in.

          I imagine people like Kate get called all sorts of names – unpatriotic, elitist, etc.

        3. When selective pressure is working against supposed evolution- that is, the “desirables” are bred out while dysfunctional genes get to multiply, then that tells us we’re missing something else.

        4. Klara, evolution is completely non-judgmental. It has no preferred direction. Selection pressure IS evolution.

          It is perfectly possible, for example, to breed a plant that produces no seeds, or small, infertile seeds. No such thing would ever occur in nature, because a plant with no seeds cannot (obviously) reproduce itself. However, if a human forces the reproduction of a plant that by chance has very few seeds (a ‘sport’) and culls those that have more, then a population of seedless plants can be created.

  2. A lot of Filipinos seem stuck in a cycle of survival mode/instinct, which is understandable in SOME cases. For now they would have to rely on a “leader” or foreign help for problems they can’t afford to solve themselves.

    1. Wew, you’re very off topic around here, fam.

      For me, leadership goes by example. If I lead, people will follow. The most successful leaders always did this principle.

      1. I disagree with you. Only the blind and deaf will follow “you” (see Hitler, Ceaucescu, Trump, Putin and the likes). Why do you think that those – so called – leaders will always kill the smart, intelligent people? Smart, intelligent people do not NEED a leader.

        1. @Robert: it depends what you mean by a “leader”. If you have a team of smart people it’s normal for someone to take charge – it makes life easy for everyone. His job is not to tell people what to do and expect them to blindly follow, but simply to make sure everyone is pulling in the same direction. Occasionally he’ll have to resolve an argument with “I’ve listened to the different points of view and now we’re going to do this”. Only bad leaders are dictators, and only bad team members need bad leaders.

          The problem with the Filipino idea of a “leader” is that nobody wants to do ANYTHING for themselves. The leader’s job, in the Philippines, is mostly to take the blame when everything inevitably goes wrong.

          While a real leader might be able to set the general direction and then let sub-leaders or team members just get on with it, the Filipino expects his leader to tell him what to do in minute detail. If he doesn’t have details, he’ll either do nothing at all, or do something completely ridiculous (deliberately, in my opinion – to punish the leader for failing in his duty).

          Managing a team of Filipinos is a lot like managing robots: if you give them the correct instructions they’ll get the job done super-quickly, but if you get one instruction wrong, they’ll all just rush around smashing into each other.

          Someone else wrote an article about this a couple of weeks ago.

        2. Marius,
          I read the word “leader'(as used by KRC) as in someone like Duterte.

          Within a group of friends, there is always someone who is an expert in banking/finance, another is an expert in nature etc etc. In that case, the others (in that circle of friends) will probably see that person as an expert and trust his/her opinion (as truth and valid).

          Marius,
          I am really surprised that although we are all humans we can screw up so big time, while on any other side of the planet, life goes pretty smooth
          If you tell me that I am fucking up my own life, I will really listen to you and then act accordingly (to your suggestions/advice).
          It either looks like that no one has a clue in PH to give other people advice or it is a big NO NO (to give advice/suggestions, recommendations). I blame this – in part – to the harmony model that everybody seems to strive to (aka sugar coating everything with a big smile).

  3. Exceptional men and women do not hold their experiences to be out of the ordinary or of interest to anyone else. Unlike the trodden fungus-men, they are not so ignorantly and presumptuously self-absorbed. They are nobody and they know it. They shun notice. They are exceedingly rare.

  4. Filipino: “You’re exceptional? Eh di, mayaman ka? You have lots of money to share! So you should support us all our lives! You should also file my toenails! What, you don’t want to share or file my toenails? Putang ina mo! Devil, tuta, gago, selfish, basta putang ina mo!”

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