The debates on the problems of Filipino society go in many directions, but for Get Real Philippines, one remains the center of them all: unnecessary dependence. All of our writings hinge on this point, that the cause is the Filipino’s mendicant attitude, noticed by American writer James Fallows and by the inspiration of our webmaster’s monicker, Teodoro Benigno. The latter’s classic article, “Culture: The Real Culprit,” identified the Philippines’ mendicant culture as the culprit behind corruption, patronage, laziness, incompetence and other problems of Philippine society. To coin a term, if there is a breadwinner, the problem is the breadloser.
These days, I believe one real test of a person’s character is whether they agree with this principle: you don’t deserve what you did not work for. If a person believes in this, they are more likely to have true decency and respect for others. When they believe that they deserve something they did not work for, that means they likely don’t respect other people and think nothing of conducting deceit, trickery and taking from others.
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In many other cultures (likely the cultures we hate), insisting on dependence when you are a person capable of supporting yourself is considered anathema. You would be looked down upon because all you want to do is take without contributing anything. Chronic one-sided dependence is seen as equivalent to stealing.
The rich and middle-class kids who are so spoiled and got used to having things done by servants are an effect of this. I also see this in parents who want to milk our tradition of making children care for their parents. Some parents make as many children as they can with the hope that these become their future ATMs, to the point that once a child has just started working, they will immediately resign from work and depend on this child. But this is selfishness, not parental love.
Even corruption can be traced to that attitude. Of course, you’d steal if you believed you deserve what you never worked for. People borrow money or things, then they refuse to pay or return. Disregard for traffic rules, having no discipline, and wanting to get away with cheating are part of this, too. Same with people who ask for something from others and if they are refused, they bark like raging dogs against the refusers, such as a child beggar who, after getting nothing from a jeep’s passengers, shouted expletives at them. Some even go as far as to try to ruin that refuser’s reputation, or want to “punish” what they will portray as a stingy non-giver. All of this is a result of nasty Filipino sense of entitlement and mendicancy.
Ohhh, Those Foreigners
Another area where I believe Filipino mendicant attitudes manifest is the self-contradictory love-hate attitude towards foreigners. There expats in the group who post criticisms about Filipinos that other Filipinos complained about. They say foreigners have no right to criticize Filipinos, but perhaps they say so because the foreigners only point out the truth, and truth hurts. While there are foreigners who have been abusive and foul, there are still others whose words hit home, including our own guest foreign bloggers.
I also have always believed, as I said in a previous article, that so-called colonial mentality is not a problem, but is a decoy. A more real source of the problem is our native tribal attitudes. Yes, that’s sure to ruffle our feathers. As observed by Spanish explorer Miguel Lopez de Legazpi, native Filipinos were quarrelsome, selfish, deceptive and violent. This is the kind of attitude that carried on throughout time, through squabbles among the “heroes” of the revolution, among guerrillas in World War 2, to today’s wild wild west country of warlords. Perhaps what colonizers added to this was simply the organizational framework that allowed all these defects of Filipino attitudes to spread to a national level. And thus, Filipino society is primitive tribal dysfunction multiplied by national institutions (which include companies and media organizations as well as government).
I argue that the breadloser mentality has become part of our national identity. For example, Filipinos cry that they are “oppressed” by other countries, then insist on receiving hand-outs or “assistance” from these same countries (ahem, like a certain “media company” now in hot water for being funded by a similar thing, ahem). Some might support this as “payback” against former colonial masters. But the US already gave us hand-outs through its Marshall Plan. That’s the reason for seeming prosperity that made us “second to Japan.” But it also highlights that any “greatness” we have is based on dependence on other countries. The breadloser mentality is not only on the individual and family levels, but also on the national level.
On the other hand, there are some good things we can borrow from foreign influences, such as science and good cultural practices. Some “patriotic” Filipinos even believe in excising any foreign influence, especially western ones. But they should realize that these are where we got our concept of human rights and democracy, and well as modern technology and governance systems. So we risk rejecting these important contributions if we want to remove everything so-called foreign invaders “shoved” onto us.
This attitude is present in Filipinos’ anti-English or anti-foreign sentiments, where they insist that we should just speak “Filipino.” This is also a manifestation of the freeloading attitude, because Filipinos see learning another language just as a barrier to getting what they want. Such Filipinos wish that they could get whatever they want without acting or even thinking. That will only make sure that we fail to understand things that keep us from going back to the stone age, such as science (but it seems Filipinos DO want to go back to the stone age). Local languages are already ingrained in culture, so learning foreign languages (and ideas) expands our horizons.
It’s time to stop this mentality that other countries are to blame for the Philippines’ problems. We are actually shooting ourselves in the foot. We should stop believing that other countries giving us “aid” or similar things is going to help us. We’ve been receiving that for years and we’re still in the pits.
I have always believed that our tribal and ethnic beliefs account for a large part of our defective society. But of course, tribes in any country think only of themselves, and see any other tribes as the enemy. Traditional customs often have the goal of not only keeping out people from the outside, but also making sure members of the tribes are kept from having independent thinking and initiative to be better. I would encourage the shedding of tribal cultural identities and customs and embracing the modern, tribeless culture.
Family Sharing Traditions and Religion
I have also criticized how the structure of many Filipino families show a chronic cycle of dependence. Aside from what I described above on abusive parents, there are other cases. Some patriots would say, look at Filipino workers, they are industrious, hardworking and intelligent. True enough. Now look at the other side: who are they supporting? Usually five to ten or more relatives, including extended family, who do nothing but laze all day, maybe waste their time looking at social media on their cellphones or watch local TV shows that encourage mendicancy itself. Some might even have affairs, even if their spouse abroad supports them. And because of the Filipino family system and values, they believe they are entitled to this setup, that they are entitled to what someone else slaved for. This is deserves criticism. There should be support for working Filipinos who want to stop this structure of abuse.
Filipinos like to use religion to justify their actions. In the case of dependence, they would cite “ask and you shall receive,” or “the meek shall inherit the earth,” even if current Christian scholarship says that these had nothing to do with justifying freeloading. Such freeloaders would rather ignore the verse that says, “he who refuses to work should not eat.” The chapter where you find that even talks about the dangers of idleness. Christian belief never supported freeloading. In addition to this is that much-vaunted myth that a situation of dependence is love. Nope, there can be dependence situations where one is using the other, or despises the others. A situation of dependence is not love.
Also, there is this foolishness that you should let a person freeload or else they’ll do wrong. Then that is wrong, because it’s like that freeloader is holding you hostage. They are nothing but trouble-makers, and if they were really decent, they would find work on their own.
Yet another thing that came to mind is, why do Filipinos feel inferiority complex? Under breadloser mentality, Filipinos attach their well-being and sanity to their being spoiled. Often, the spoiled people are the loudest boasters. Once they are unspoiled and the freeloading stops, the breadlosers will panic and they begin to feel inferior, because their source of fake superiority is busted. It’s a good explanation for how many Filipinos behave.
Freeloading also isn’t limited to material forms. Pinoy Pride, for one. For example, riding on a Filipino’s achievement abroad, claiming, “I’m like that person, being his countryman, so praise me as well!” This is non-material mooching – credit, recognition of achievement, fame and other things are grabbed by other Filipinos who had nothing to do with the actual achievement. Or another example is a co-worker who notices your achievement, and can have two possible reactions – “Hey man, we’re good, OK, I’m snoozing up to you” or “Stop doing that! You’ll make us look bad! Join us in being incompetent or you have no pakisama!” You could call this “sabit” (hanging on to others), which can also be seen as crab mentality.
Successful societies are made up of people who consider it normal to help oneself, and asking for help usually indicates an emergency. It is the ideal that everyone should be a breadwinner, and no one should really be a breadloser. It is indeed quite idealistic, but is not cruel or unrealistic. It is accompanied by believing that the world owes them nothing. This is a message not just for millennials, but for our society as a whole. While the Philippines seems quite far from being a more self-sufficient society, people’s attitudes seem to be gradually changing as a whole. More people, even among the poorer ones I know, remark that work is necessary for life, and avoiding it is reprehensible. They realize that more breadlosers than breadwinners is pulling our country down, with so much consumption done by people who refuse to bust a sweat even if they were capable of it. Perhaps within the family and grassroots levels the work ethic of Filipinos improves, and hopefully it will quickly work it’s way into the socio-political arena.
I believe, as my cohorts here do, that what Filipinos embrace as their culture is what actually pulls the country down. And those who seem to be anti-dictators, who may also believe themselves to be “heroes,” are the real dictators.