How Not to Be a Filipino Block Head

Sacrifice of self is different in America than in the Philippines. The Golden Rule rules American values, the idea that courtesy is nice, the idea of contributing good behavior to the well-being of the nation. Self service rules Filipino values, and I don’t mean pumping your own gas. Taking care of Number 1 is a Philippine passion. Laws are guidelines to be avoided if convenient. And when there are problems no one is ever to blame. Never. Ever. It is a land of problems and no solutions. There are no solutions because no one ever takes any responsibility for the things that need to be corrected.
Now, we all know JoeAm is often a puffed up, arrogant, overbearing opinion monger. Admit it. You’ve thought that on occasion when I’m dredging up personal experiences or wildly concocting opinions and ramming them down your throat. I confess. My father was an incredibly overbearing, opinionated man, German from the getgo, and maybe it’s in the genes. Of course he was also right about 98% of the time. He disliked George Bush from the time the Texan walked into the Oval Office, even though Pop was an ardent Republican. “He’s stupid” my father would exclaim with every decision Mr. Bush would make, or every time he would open his mouth.
Well, yes, Dad. He did fund two wars off budget and CUT taxes to raise the revenue to support them, which indeed is something a third grader could figure out would not add up right. And he passed the gigantic debt to his successor along with a global economic collapse.
But you know what else I do well, and what my father did well? I LISTEN. And I READ. I open my mind to a flow of fresh information. If it is in print, I read it, from Cosmopolitan which I glean for its intellectual substance in an average of 39 seconds, to Playboy which takes three hours and eight minutes to thoroughly review the articles, to the Wall Street Journalwhich depends a lot on what’s in column one, to a huge historical novel or tense lawyering tale by John Grisham,  to Google’s scan of the daily news which freshens continuously and is unending as to topics covered. Politics, world news, technology, science, entertainment. Philippine news. I suck it all up like an industrial sized vacuum cleaner prying nails from wood.
Still, I don’t try to memorize anything. I gave up memorizing when I crammed for my very last college examination a few (dozen) years ago. But somehow the important stuff settles in like a blanket of perspective on a brain piled high with prior readings. And I grab the few facts that are necessary for a good conversational moment.
Now, generally speaking (ride with me GabbyD; I know you are an exception) Filipinos neither read nor listen.
Frankly, it is the most amazing thing I’ve ever seen. So many Filipinos are so full of themselves but I don’t know how they got full. They never replenish their ideas. Never grab new information. What percentage of homes do you figure have zero books? Where did their unbound self-confidence and certainty come from? From TV Patrol on ABS-CBN? From Showtime? From the tuba intellectual round table?
How did they get so absolutely certain they are right? No way is anybody going to convince a Filipino he is not right. These are minds protected with M-70 tank armor, like a robotic protecto-shield that slides up with every perceived criticism and allows no informational projectile to pass through. Suggestions, arguments and new information flow off like . . . well, like water off a duck’s behind.
By the way, are there cormorants in the Philippines? They are in the U.S. and Australia. Big birds. They live near water and eat fish. They sit on a log and look like a bowling pin because their legs are attached to their butt instead of their belly like a duck’s. And their bill rises naturally skyward, for in the water, they propel themselves beneath the surface like a torpedo, the legs being the propeller and the beak the homing device that goes for the fish. Their feathers are not waterproof like a duck’s, giving them a sleeker underwater ride. But when they try to fly afterwards, they are so sogged with water they are lucky to get six inches into the air. You’ll often see them on the shore, wings outstretched, drying the feathers so they CAN fly.
God did a fine job giving all his creatures the qualities they need to survive.
What happened to the Filipino ability to listen, to reflect, to adapt, to grow?
Maybe God was napping that day.
Here are words that do not exist in any of the 114 Philippine dialects as far as I can tell:
  • Aspiration
  • Humility
  • Flexibility
  • Apology
  • Responsibility
  • Courtesy
  • Charity
Well, certainly I could be wrong. With 92 million people already here and 1.7 million new mouths being added per year, there is a good statistical probability that there will be a lot of exceptions, kind and humble people who want to fill up on knowledge rather than block it.
Word association.
“Block it”
“Block head”
Do you want to be absolutely sure you are not a block head? I’ve got some tips for you. Actually, only two tips and I’m betting they can actually change a person’s character (if necessary) from block head to a veritable vacuum cleaner of knowledge and insight and . . . yes, diplomacy, too. That is, if  courtesy is considered a good thing  . . .
  • Number one, the hard one. Set a goal to read books. Fiction preferably. Start with one book a month then move to one every two weeks. It doesn’t matter much what you read. Mysteries. Sci-fi. Movie themes. Whatever you enjoy. Why? To limber up your mind to new visions, those of the author. It is like physical exercise, once you start, it is in your blood. Or mind. It is like stretching. You’ll soon crave the next book. And when your mind gets used to all the new thinking, the drama, the language, the culture, guessing as to what will happen next, it opens you up to anything. Opens your mind wide. To anything. It becomes natural to receive ideas and information, to welcome them. Not deflect them. Reading is the worm hole to a new universe.
  • Number two, the easy one, but tricky. Whenever you read or hear something you disagree with, ask yourself “why does this person believe this?” Not “I must tell him how wrong he is and thereby prove my intellectual superiority”. It is not a battleground, the mind. It is an open field for enlightenment. Instead of telling the other person why his thinking is wrong, explore for yourself why he thinks it is right. Try really hard to get into his cranium. Usually there is a legitimate reason. His cultural background is different, he worked in a different field, he had some experience that shaped his view. Discover it. Then watch in amazement as you grasp a new “understanding” rather than protect yourself from it.
Piece of cake . . . easy as pie . . .
By the way, do y’all have buzzards in the Philippines?
15 Responses to “How Not to Be a Filipino Block Head”
  1. brianitus says:

    Joe, if you think you've got it bad that you can't talk a Pinoy out of an idea, imagine how life is for us Pinoys. We have to deal with our own stubborn kind every single day. It's a wonder how we ever come to agreement. Maybe your style of arguing a point isn't well suited in this country. Tuba is good for you. It kills the old, slow and dying brain cells and makes you think faster. LOL

  2. andrew lim says:

    Nice post, Joe. At least you point to a direction to address the problem you mentioned. My short response, real poverty also leads to mental poverty. When all you are fed daily are noontime shows, tabloid fodder, teleseryes, then it leads to all the things you mentioned. 🙂 By the way, this just occured to me: Is it possible that the self-loathers and self-bashers in GRP and others victims of racial abuse?Some weeks ago, I had a testy exchange with this commenter on another forum, and after much nonsensical back and forth, I was able to establish that she is a migrant in Hollywood, CA and is so embarassed that Manila is referred to as a "sewer". I was thinking, maybe the writers of Get Real Post are like her, i.e. they have experienced horrendous racism in their adopted countries (Australia for Benign0, US for this girl), that is why they cope with it with their self-loathing and self-bashing. They are simply incapable of defending themselves, because that require digging deep into yourself and finding out what stuff you are made of. What do you think?

  3. Ah, the pain, the pain! My father-in-law sells tuba, so I have absolutely NOTHING against that fine elixir.

  4. "real poverty leads to mental poverty" Nice way to put it.That is also an interesting point, about racism against Filipinos in other countries possibly driving the "self loathing" as you put it. In the US, I know Filipinos band together in huge communities (in California: Fremont, Union City, South San Francisco, Cerritos) so they may be able to temper that. But in an isolated setting, working by yourself, I can imagine it would get wearing and "angry-making" to be culturally different. I can see how someone could get angry at his home country for being left so vulnerable.Interesting doctoral thesis for someone, eh?

  5. brianitus says:

    Another must-try for you is lambanog.

  6. brianitus says:

    @Andrew:Why are you trying to psycho-analyze GRP? There might be some hits and misses but everything they say is just out of being consistent with their position. I'll just put it down as "it is what it is." The thoughts of the columnists are for advancing the idea. Imho, if you're in disagreement with what they're saying, then don't read them. There are other sites that might be pleasing to your senses.

  7. So noted on the trusty "to do" list.

  8. AJ says:

    A sneaky way to suggest an idea to Filipinos is by saying "Ummm, but isn't this idea more effective?" or putting it in the form of a question, which like Inception, makes them think about the idea and question their current stand.I've found that telling us criticism or conflicting ideas bluntly puts up several walls of defense or sometimes in case of the former, a lot of tears and rage.

  9. Ah, good tip, AJ.Yes, being direct is often a sure way to get nowhere.

  10. andrew lim says:

    @brianitus:This is Joe's blog, and he has written extensively here on GRP, that's why I started the discussion with him. If this was the GRP site, then you're probably right, I shouldnt just read it in the first place.Secondly, in other sites where I go, there are trolls who use the same arguments as the GRP writers- like that girl I cited. I figure, it is best to understand them and discuss them with others who given thought about them rather than engage them in conversation.It also piques my interest since their "attack articles" inevitably include themselves, since they are Filipinos. (or have they renounced it?) Add to that the fact that they dont have any recommendations on how to address the problems they raise. It's all whining.

  11. Anonymous says:

    I blame the nuns and priests for every goddamn problem in this country. I'm not kidding. -patrioticflip

  12. It came only recently to me how well the Catholic Church severs itself from any responsibility for anything. Any problem is the fault of we mortals and the devil in our ear. It is astounding to me how an organization that can be so deeply engaged in Philippine society comes out free of any blemish. While the country suffers in sickness and poverty and anger and insecurity.Truly, it is the whitewash job to end all whitewash jobs, and reveals what pathetically stupid, drooling slobs we humans can be. My dog is smarter.

  13. Anonymous says:

    I agree with you on this. I don't care either what their personal lives are- it's showing that malice and mean-spiritedness that's already prevalent in the flood of comments over those blogs. My real beef with GRP is how they partake in supposedly intelligent discussions through antagonism and egotism. -Marnie-

  14. Anonymous says:

    sounds something like what a white anglo-saxon (german?) protestant would say about the Catholic Church in the Philippines… what books on philippine history have you read?

  15. Anon, what's the point, I am inclined to ask. You are referring to my remark about "responsibility" in the comments above? I've never read anything about the Catholic Church saying the Church has something to do with poverty here. Are you saying the Church doesn't have anything to do with it, or they've said it, but I've not read it?

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