Well, to be more specific, they are reluctant to call out, on the spot, wrongdoing with strangers, and especially with persons of higher social rank, and persons of authority. When it comes to a person of lower social rank – perceived or real – than themselves, quite a few Filipinos won’t hesitate to give a piece of their mind. Whether they can spare it is another question.
We must define however, that calling wrongdoing out properly is wildly different from the sort of passive-aggressive complaining that Filipinos are known for. Calling wrongdoing out on the spot requires something Filipinos are uncomfortable with – direct confrontation.
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As a colleague has observed, this is a likely reason that Filipino society continues to be backward. Can’t help but agree with him; few people are willing to do the right thing due to this peculiar Pinoy thing called “hiya”.
Filipino society, as it is today, is founded on a sort of “harmony”. Yet this harmony does necessarily entail building good relations with the bigger community, nor does it promote strict adherence to a body of laws. It is a type of “harmony” which is founded on very precarious premises:
Don’t rock the boat.
Don’t upset the “natural order” of things.
Respect the “caste structure.”
Know your place.
It’s embarrassing to stir up a fuss.
That person can cost you your job or life.
“Do you know who I am?”
In other words, leave things as they are. Hayaan mo na lang ang mga bagay-bagay. Filipinos are so used to thinking that things “will fix themselves”, and that wrongdoers will “get their karma”, but of course this doesn’t happen. Impunity grants the subject increasing levels of boldness with each repetition.
More on this thing called “hiya”.
As mentioned above, Filipinos are generally reluctant to cause commotions because it will inconvenience themselves and others. They also fear being publicly embarrassed and being gossiped about – a powerful motivator in a society where one’s self-worth is insistently defined by how others perceive him/her.
Perhaps, discreetly, Filipinos don’t generally call out wrongdoing on the spot, because they’ve been conditioned to mind their own business. Or maybe, they would do the same sort of breach too, had they been in the position of the violator.
Even if we’re not talking about Filipinos calling out each other’s mistakes on the spot, what’s absent from the Filipino psyche are self-regulation and appreciation for the rule of law. I never tire of saying that quite a few Filipinos are not fond of a system wherein they have to be equal with others they don’t think too highly of. In other words, one where they don’t have an advantage, such as exemption from rules.
A society that doesn’t regulate itself will go in all directions, but at the same time go nowhere. Life goes on in the Philippines, undisturbed. Systems don’t work, people are in it only for their selfish interests, and no one recognizes the need for discipline and sticking up for “the right thing to do”.
Change will eventually stop coming. Perhaps Filipinos do deserve their society.
Image courtesy: Ainslie Macleod
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