I guess I shouldn’t be shocked that discrimination and condescension still exist at the most unlikely places in the United States.
There are two Philippines.
There exists a Philippines where the biggest problems are inconveniences. The Filipinos who live there are, at times, inconvenienced by slow internet speeds, traffic jams, and long queues at government offices. These people can, of course, afford to avail of more expensive high-speed internet, purchase or rent a condominium to live closer to work or school, and, of course, spare a day to go through mandated government procedures. There isn’t much uncertainty to worry about in their futures. They worry about which European country they will go to next for the Holidays or which beach to visit for summer. They (or their) children worry about which school to go to for graduate studies. In this Philippines, the aspirations for a middle-income country are tantalizingly close to reality.
There exists another Philippines – where the majority of Filipinos live. In this Philippines people live from day to day moving from one worry to another. How long will my next contract be? How much do I have to set aside to pay my monthly bills? Could I work extra hours? Could I afford to get sick. The lives of these people are marked with uncertainty. Uncertainty about where to get income, uncertainty as to how best to provide for themselves and their families, and uncertainty about their future.
These people are not merely inconvenienced by traffic jams. They suffer through it day in and day out. People commute for six to eight hours daily to get minimum wage on 4-5 month contracts. They spend two thirds of their day working or commuting just to eke out a living. They can’t afford to take vacations because if they don’t work they don’t eat.
Oftentimes they can’t afford to send their children to school because their minimum wage is nowhere near enough to provide adequately for their needs – despite pronouncements that a minimum wage allows people to live above the poverty threshold. They struggle to keep afloat.
These Filipinos – in this Philippines, do not live in gated communities. They are not protected day and night by security guards – some of them, in fact, are the security guards. They are exposed. They are vulnerable to crime. They live in fear.
These people have been slaving away for years and yet no hope could be seen on their horizon. All that hard work is just to keep them alive. In this Philippines opportunities for economic advancement are painfully scant. Unlike the Filipinos in the other Philippines, they were not born and raised to get ahead in life – but rather to try their damnedest to try to survive. Inequality is real – and it is worsening.
These are the people who cannot wait for the supposed economic gains to trickle down. These are the people who, despite all their efforts, cannot get ahead. The opportunities of the wealthy are vastly different from the “opportunities” of the poor.
Who are you to tell them what they need? Who are you to tell them what is good for them? You who have never felt poverty, you who have never felt the crippling fear of uncertainty. Poverty is something you’ve read about in books and journals – not something you’ve lived, not something that you’ve survived.
Who are you to tell them to wait for growth to trickle down? They are struggling NOW. They are starving NOW. They are suffering NOW. And you ask them to wait. Unlike you they do not have the luxury to wait. Unlike you they were not winners in the lottery of life.
You tell them to work hard. You tell them to work harder. The opportunities will come. You don’t realize that they already work harder than you. They work longer hours for smaller pay and yet you tell them that they will succeed through hard work and perseverance. You insult them with your platitudes. You insult them with your painfully condescending platitudes.
And you wonder why they cannot accept your candidate. And you wonder why they cannot accept Daang Matuwid.
And you wonder why they are hungry, starving, desperate for change.
Repost with permission from the original author
Although this was written three years ago, I find it still relevant and applicable to the current political and election situation the Philippines is currently in.
I guess some things never change.
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.
Pinoys don’t like complexity. When problems aren’t solved quickly, or if certain things need more than just ordinary effort to be obtained or be understood, Pinoys will indeed give up somewhere halfway through the undertaking. If things require Pinoys to think differently from the way they are used to, they will complain about things being too hard or they will lose enthusiasm for it. Another way they show they don’t like complexity is that certain Filipinos would rather be told what to do and execute it, rather than learn processes themselves and understand the logic behind things.
Kumbaga, gusto nila iba mag-iisip, sila na lang gagawa. (They want others to think, they want to just execute.)
On the other hand, Pinoys have a tendency to make things more complex than they need to be. Like, for example, dealing with rule of the law. Eh kasi ganito, eh kasi ganyan. Ang dami pang palusot. (Whether it’s this reason or that, the excuses are endless.) They tend to look for any possible excuse to explain why they can’t do something, instead of looking for ways to stay within regulations, or solve issues by themselves.
It boils down to what can be readily observed as laziness. Intellectual, definitely, and in certain cases, physical as well. That the word tamad (lazy) runs deep in the Pinoy psyche says a lot about us as a people.
O, bakit ka nag-iisa? (Why are you all by your lonesome?)
Solo flight ka ata ngayon. (You seem to be on solo flight today.)
If you’ve ever gone on break by yourself in the office or school, most likely you will get the above remarks from your co-workers or schoolmates, respectively. On the surface, it seems like a (pseudo-)show of concern, but you can’t help but wonder what the thinking is behind it.
Bakit wala ka pang boyfriend/girlfriend/asawa? (Why don’t you have a boyfriend/girlfriend/spouse yet?)
Anybody who is single, especially when reunions and homecoming parties are involved, has had to hear this question from relatives or colleagues. Again, it seems like a (pseudo-) show of concern, but you can’t help but wonder what the thinking is behind it.
Kawawa ka naman, walang nagtetext sa iyo. (A pity you don’t have a textmate.)
Whether it’s among close friends or feeling close, a peek into the Inbox portion of cellular phones is almost always inevitable – something that I especially hate it because I’m extremely protective of my privacy. When people see that you don’t have too many text messages in your Inbox, or you have a lot of phone credit remaining, you are most likely going to receive the comment mentioned above. And for the third time, it seems like a (pseudo-) show of concern, but you can’t help but wonder what the thinking is behind it.
Is there a stigma associated with being alone in the Philippines?
Anybody who’s even just slightly familiar with Filipino culture will know that Filipinos like to consider themselves part of a community that looks out for each of its members. A female colleague of mine, as an example, was especially touched by the fact that when she travelled overseas alone, multiple messages of concern from her friends back home filled her cellular phone Inbox and e-mail.
Kamusta ka naman diyan? (How are you doing over there?)
Wag mo kalimutan pasalubong ko ha? (Don’t forget my souvenir, ha?)
Well, you get the idea.
Don’t get me wrong, on one hand it is a nice thing. It is but a natural human thing to feel good when someone “remembered you today”.
I did say, however, that there seems to be something beneath all the show of concern. Something…condescending.
Bakit walang gusto sumama sa iyo? (How come nobody wants to go with you?)
Wala ka bang kaibigan? (Don’t you have friends?)
Wala bang nagmamahal sa iyo? (Isn’t there someone who loves you?)
Wala bang gustong kumausap sa iyo? (Isn’t there anyone who wants to talk to you?)
Part of the Filipino culture on groups, it seems, is that certain individual Filipinos have become excessively dependent on the group to define their life or themselves. There is an inordinate obsession with being liked in Filipino society. It involves giving the impression of having at least one other friend, or a group of buddies, a barkada, whom you do things with together.
If you’re seen alone, other Filipinos automatically assume that you don’t have friends. Or worse, that nobody likes or loves you. It’s almost as if being alone makes you a pariah, an undesirable, in Filipino society.
Tara, gimik tayo. (Let’s go out.)
Ayoko, gusto ko lang mag-isa sa bahay ngayon. (No thanks, I just want to be alone in the house)
Napaka-antisocial mo, ang corny mo naman. (You’re so anti-social, how corny can you get.)
You can imagine how introverts in Filipino society have it hard. They don’t mind being alone. Some of them get tired of interacting with others quickly. They generally can find things to do without the need for other people, and for that they are mistaken for anti-social misfits.
I learned something rather telling about Filipino society in Art class in high school. Filipinos have a need to fill any empty available space they see. Whether they fill it with a physical object, sound, or with people, an empty space is an undesirable thing to see in the Philippines. Perhaps this could help in explaining why Filipinos have a certain aversion to being alone.
Silence is deafening. Filipinos are known for being insufferable gossips. When they know something juicy, they can’t help but want to tell it to other people. The flip side is that they would like to avoid being the topic of such gossip; one of the surest ways to become one is to give off the impression of being “alone”.
Nowadays, being physically alone in the Philippines is not advised, especially because it attracts undesirable elements. Muggers, rapists, scammers, stalkers, the drug addicts around the corner, and other types of creepy people – these types of people will see people who aren’t in groups as easy prey if you cross paths with them. Filipino society is just not safe anymore; this reality is magnified when it comes to women and those who are unable to defend themselves. Add to that the fact that you can’t expect any decent help from the police who are any or all of the following: indifferent, incompetent, or worse, in cahoots with those same undesirable elements.
For all the emphasis that Filipinos put on the group, the net result of their society is actually less than the sum of its parts. Ideally, a group setting is supposed to make the individual members feel bigger, safer, and more empowered. Filipino society seems to do the opposite; it makes the members look smaller, more wary, more fearful, stifled, and suppressed.
I generally don’t mind interaction with other Filipinos – namely those whom I don’t really know well or am not fond of, whether they be family or friend – if only I didn’t get the feeling that interacting with them was either trying my patience or resulting in a net loss of brain cells. I’ve been disappointed with my interactions with other Filipinos more times than I can count.
I hate gossip. I like philosophical topics. I like to discuss politics and current events. I don’t care much for the latest pop idol on TV or which neighbor was screwing whom. I don’t like talking to condescending windbags who do nothing but brag. I don’t necessarily need a companion to entertain myself or feel good about myself, or to give my life meaning. I don’t like having to carry the emotional baggage of other people, if I have a choice. I don’t need to see my friends all the time to stay in touch. I don’t have a need to be liked. I don’t care much for social trends and don’t have a need to be seen hanging out in high-end places just to feel “in”.
Filipinos generally like to do and discuss the things I don’t care for above, and avoid the topics and things I take interest in. The former is easy for those who like focusing on personalities and events; the latter is avoided because it has the potential to make people feel uncomfortable. But important issues do need to be discussed among the citizenry because it is an important part of being an educated, responsible member of the community.
There is an inherent danger in emphasizing groups over individuals. Groupthink has a tendency to give rise to popular ideas instead of correct ones; rarely do the two intersect. In emphasizing the group, the individual is suppressed. What if each individual has great ideas that they are unable to share or develop due to the enormous pressure involved with fitting in?
I like being alone because it affords me time to collect thoughts and to think up of stuff I wouldn’t be able to when other people are around. It’s just too much work separating and filtering the noise.
Too bad Filipinos can’t see the value of being “alone”; they can see only the stigma in it. They have a lot to learn.