What’s Your (Filipino) Problem?​

Guest Article

by Cha Coronel Datu

I found out about this tweeter page called “Filipino Problems” from my daughter who couldn’t stop laughing while reading it on her laptop one day.
It may have actually been inspired by its precursor, a blog called First World Problems, which catalogues the many frustrations and complaints of people living in wealthy countries. Also sometimes referred to as white whine, these complaints include such “challenging” conundrums like what to do with one’s iPhone4 after upgrading to iPhone5, how to fit the oversized pizza box in the fridge, or what to do when your book runs out of battery.
The tweeter page Filipino Problems, on the other hand, presents the day-to-day challenges faced by two young Filipino-Canadians and their friends, all growing up in Filipino families in their adoptive country of Canada.
It cracked me up when I went and checked out what those guys’ problems were. Their issues were jumping off my desktop monitor like photos from the scrapbooks of my own younger days. In short, the old hag has had the same problems (or some other version of them) way back when. It’s funny how some of the old ways have also trickled down to the lives of our now technologically savvy and more worldly wise sons and daughters.
Here’s a sampling of the teenage angst provoking Filipino Problems of the current generation:
1. Relationship Status?
__ Single
__ Taken
X Not allowed to have a boypren/ girlpren
2. The titos and titas always asking if you have boypren/ girlpren
3. When you tell your grandma you’re already full, she tells you to eat some more.
4. When you have no clue if your parents are talking about the iPod or the iPad.
5. After a long day doing your homework, you finally got some time to chill and then your mom says:
“Anaaaaak, why don’t you do your homework?”
6. Your parents pretty much disown you when you get 75% in anything – including Karaoke scores.
7. When you were little, your parents always bought you shoes that were 1 or 2 sizes bigger, and
they called it “allowance”.
8. Running out of ketchup? Add some water.
9. Not sure if “Auntie Joy” is really your aunt.
10. When your mom has a few of her friends over, you can still hear them talking from inside
your room. With the door closed.
11. Pasko and New Year – you’ll eat left-overs till March.
12. Your party guests running on Filipino Time.
13. Magic Sing broken. Party cancelled.
If you cannot claim to have suffered through at least half of the tortuous circumstances outlined in this list; let me now offer you my commiserations. You probably are not Filipino (or have not been around Filipinos enough). Alas! You will never know the sweet absolute joy and sense of calm that embraces one’s being when the karaoke singing finally stops.
But are our Filipino Problems really all that unique?
One of the benefits of living in a multi-cultural country like Australia for us has been the diversity of racial and cultural backgrounds that our children have grown up with. From this, they have learned to become tolerant and respectful of other cultures, as well as their own.
For no matter how much they may want to resent some of our Filipino ways and cultural idiosyncrasies, there always seems to be someone else worse off than they are.
Case in point : My daughter’s 10:30 curfew before she turned 16; while she wasn’t happy about this, she couldn’t really complain. Her best friend, whose mom is a second generation migrant from Malta, would have been lucky to even be allowed out at all.
Our kids may wince at mom and dad’s attempts to scrimp and save every once in a while but that’s about all the protesting they are wont to do. Why? Because most Aussie kids start looking for part-time jobs when they turn 14; after which they barely ever ask their parents for any money. My son’s Aussie friend got a ribbing from their peers for wearing his school shoes with his suit, instead of proper leather shoes, to the prom. He said he didn’t want to spend his hard earned money on a $100 pair of shoes that he may not even wear again. Neither did he want to ask his mom to pay for them. (I should adopt that kid.)
They may think a lot of Filipinos speak funny but heller, their Aussie friends say “Nawr, thank you” and ask for Peetah when they’re looking for Peter. And then there are the Kiwis (New Zealanders) who say they will ride an earplane to go to Milburn, Australia and ask for sex when they want one less than seeveen.
And were they ever afraid Dad might bring out the Karaoke at their party? Not anymore. My son has seen the look in his friend’s eyes when the latter’s Croatian born mom brought out her surprise for his 18th birthday. A stripper! Yippee! Just what he needs to impress the girls he invited; their classmates at a local Catholic school.
We may have Filipino Time but their Indian friends have also told them about Indian Standard Time.
The more we learn about other people, the more we realise we are all not so different from each other after all.
The specifics may be different from one culture to another but overprotective, overreaching, overzealous parents can be found everywhere. And so are embarrassing, annoying and obnoxious relatives with some irritating, cringe worthy habits and ways.
If only that were all a teenager in the Philippines also need worry about!
One would hope that there will come a time, in the not so distant future, when the Filipino Problems of teenagers in the Philippines can be no more different from those of their counterparts in countries like Canada, America, and Australia.
Yes, every young person deserves at least one overzealous, overprotective adult in their life; someone that’s got their back no matter what.
And yes too, young people should be nagged to do their homework. They should be kept in school to learn how to read, write, add and subtract. They should not be foraging for food in garbage dumps or begging for money on street corners instead.
They should be sent to their room or grounded for doing “silly little things” like not cleaning up after themselves or breaking their curfew. They really shouldn’t be getting into trouble for breaking the law, instead. Stealing cell phones and wallets and breaking into other people’s homes.
The adults around them should serve as their mentors and role models, teach them right from wrong and enable them to make the right choices in life.
The grown-ups should be teaching them good manners and proper decorum. Not dragging them along to ransack a government facility and cart away relief goods meant for victims of a natural calamity. Or inciting them to attack and vandalise police cars, or the offices of oil companies and foreign embassies. Dios mio!
The grown-ups should be encouraging them to study and work hard to achieve their goals in life. Not ask them to vote into office their sons and daughters who have no accomplishments of their own to speak of. “Anaaaak, why don’t you run for Senator? You are qualified naman because you are my daughter.”
The grown-ups should be showing them how to settle their differences with others sensibly and intelligently. Not how to condemn and demonize the opposing side by labelling them immoral, murderers and sinners. A.K.A.”Team Patay”.
Unfortunately for the young people of the Philippines at the moment, their Filipino Problems include an oversupply of problem Filipinos. Grown men and women with the mental faculties of a prawn. People of influence and power whose credibility and integrity are just about as evident as a mongo bean on the ground, on a dark night.
The Department of Education has set for itself a pretty important and lofty goal (and rightly so) in its Mission Statement: To provide quality basic education that is equitably accessible to all and lay the foundation for life-long learning and service for the common good.
Well, good luck with laying “the foundation for life-long learning and service for the common good”. For as long as we are not able to dissociate ourselves from the notion that our children’s education begins and ends in the classroom, that will most likely be one tottery and unsteady foundation.
Because children learn what they live.
DepEd should develop and articulate a policy of partnership between the schools and parents in supporting the learning that takes place in the classroom; provide a structure and appropriate support programs. It should collaborate with the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), non-profit organisations, and mass media in structuring and implementing parent education and information programs to ensure that the values children are taught in the schools are supported and reinforced at home and by what is fed them by mass media.
And those of us who know better, we really ought to be doing better. We should be setting a good example for our kids and for each other.
And what to do with our problem Filipinos? Like, how do we solve a problem like Jesus, Joseph and Maria? How about we don’t let him become the President?
24 Responses to “What’s Your (Filipino) Problem?​”
  1. Edgar Lores says:

    1. Yes, I’m afraid so – I’m a Filipino.2. But not by that much. I’m never late. I don’t point with my lips. And I couldn’t belt out “My Way” if my life depended on it.3. But, yes, I’m short. Like bagoong with my kare-kare. And I do say, “Open/close the lights”.4. The point that we are the same in spite of our differences is powerful. Behind the physical and cultural facades, there beats the same heart, the same wishes, and the same dreams.5. So, too, the point that children learn from what they see. This is perhaps the hardest obstacle to overcome in teaching. It is almost impossible to unsee what has been seen, or to frame what has been seen as improper.6. But, yes, I would have to admit we Filipinos are unique. We are the children of East and West and so we are able to offer our skills in all corners of the world and bring forth the traits of warm-heartedness, friendliness and “beautiful eyes”. 😉

  2. 4. Those are both genetic qualities. My four-year old son says "open the lights". He can memorize 36 bible verses for school, but he can't say "turn on the lights". Drives me nuts . . .ahahahah he's not short, however, he's "conflicted". His father is 6' 4" and his mother is 4' 9".6. Indeed, there is NO place quite like the Philippines, Spanish Asia, personality oozing from every pore.

  3. Cha says:

    Psssst Edgar!Just so you know, you play a better melody with them words you weave together in that keyboard of yours than most of my karaoke singing friends actually do. So there's your free pass on that other Filipino national anthem (My Way). On no.5: Yes, unlearning can be a daunting task, for children and adults alike. Actually, more so for the latter. But it gets easier when someone leads the way. Like President Aquino and "no more wangwang". "Only the hand that erases can write the true thing."

  4. Cha says:

    JoeAm,You'll just have to teach your son to put his mother on a pedestal, to make up for that difference. 🙂

  5. She is already on one for him, and combined they are about eight feet tall. I'm the little guy around our house.

  6. My extremely fanatically religious wife do not want my son to take summer classes. According to my wife, summer is resting the mind and having fun not for studying.My wife still cannot tell tell the difference between my son's iPod, iPad and iTouch. She says instead, "Big iPod" for iPad. "Small iPod" for the traditional looking ones and "iPod that looks like iPAD", the iTouch.Regardless of bloodlines, everyone are introduced as "aunties". The extremely wrinkled ones are "Lolas". My wife and my son like all Filipinos from Aparri to Jolo do not read product manuals. They ask their electrician neighbors how to plug in a device or just to know whether it is 110v or 220v appliance. Americans always read product manuals.It is fashionable to run late in the Philippines.When they say "family affair" it means FAMILY AFFAIR. They bring all members of families to parties even when they are NOT INVITED.Philippine party is no party without Karaoke and pa-baon and tsismis.A Bachelor and a spinster are subjected to redicule and teasings so are Marriage without Children.A thin wife indicates a UNHAPPY MARRIAGE. Fat wife, HAPPY MARRIAGE.A neighbor not hanging out and not drinking alcohol with neighbors are branded as "OTHERS". "Others" in the Philippines is derogatory meaning "do not want to belong".On Cha's #2, I AM GUILTY. I always ask my son's crushes or girlfriends at school. My son would throw tantrum whenever I ask that question.On #8. GUILTY. I still do put water on an empty catsup bottle and shake it vigorously. Well, it's a bit watery but still taste catsup.Toilet papers in the comfort room is available for VIP guests and on parties. Otherwise, we use Inquirer Newspaper and water.I feel uncomfortable neighbors, relativeds and friends drop by unannounced and uninvited on Christmas and New Year. But, sure I do get a kick bringing my son to his aunnts uncles and Lolas because they always have someting to give and goot food to serve. Calendars are the most prized Christmas giveaways. No calendars, no friends. I do not know why Filpinos collect calendars.On #7, Gosh, I still buy shoes one size larger even though I do not grow anymore. My mother taught me that to grow-proof it.In the Philippines, lazing in the room with door closed means "not feeling well" "ill" "jerking" REALLY!!! SERIOUSLY !!! Till this day, I never close my bedroom door so no one in the household would think otherwise.Filipinos always, without fail, sweep the frontyards and backyards in the morning and in the afternoon. WHY? I do not know but I still do. Force of habit?

  7. Cha, these are Filipino "problems" that I still treasure. I find it funny yet it is nostalgically amusing looking back. I still do have problem with my son throwing his school uniform wherever not in the hamper. I am distrubed why he cannot go to the mall without his mother. Not prepping the dining table for meals. Cannot get water for himself. Leaving it whever he feels like it. Always opening the refrigerator every few minutes hoping something might be something new the next time he opens it. Do not go to the bathroom in the middle of the night without rousing us to accompany him. Where in the world did he get that Black Sabbath vinyl record? Waaaa !!!!!

  8. Risa Honteveros has goot credentials. Only thing, she has not answered these two pestering questions:1. She has not answered by she was in favor of Ces Drilon kidnapping news blackout when Abu Sayaf are publicity hungry like all terrorists around the world. Homeless people all over the world knows better than Risa Honteveros in using the media to advance terrorists ideals2. Outing of rape victim of Nicole, pictures, affidavits and all. Very basic. It is taught in high school how could an Ateneo graduate cannot know this?3. Forensics. Again, very basic. NYPD rookie knows this. Skidrow denizens know this. She should know better that witness accounts are soooooo medieval. Forensics is soooo modern.4. I am not wharton school of economic graduate. I merely graduate of Home Economics SURE I DO KNOW that oil prices are dictated by market forces not by magnanimous charitable PNOC. If I knew, she should know better. Could it be the air I breath in America? Or could it be living in America is more educational than graduate of Ateneo?5. Risa Honteveros should have asked this question long ago when I was in pampers. Why is it that Philippine investigations always end up in admission and confession? Are police investigators use priests? Or, pliers?6. Mrs. Failon wife of TV Anchor Failon. WHY THE HOUSESLAVES SENT TO JAIL? When what they did was doing what they were told to do. Clean the crime scene. Even FBI-trained NBI couldn't even find a trace of crime except that the gun was cleaned of prints and blood and placed it back where they found it.I got plenty more questions that Risa never dared asked questionS . IF they are from the media … I AM DOUBTFUL AND SUSPICIOUS AND SCKEPTICAL. Unless if she pleads "I AM MERELY A FILIPINO" then I will vote for her.

  9. Those are superb questions. I wish she or a representative would join the discussion and provide answers. I doubt that will happen.And your review of "problems" above is classic, what with the water in the catsup and fine application of the Inquirer. I erupted and splattered coffee on my monitor.

  10. Cha says:

    OMG Mariano, you had me laughing so hard, my daughter finally came out of her bedroom to say "shusssh!".I've almost forgotten about those calendars! My mom especially liked the ones with the saints. We'd have them all over the house. Now, I get magnetic ones and just hang them on the fridge door.I was beginning to wonder how old your son is and then you mention the Black Sabbath vinyl record. Hahaha! I think I just heard my daughter shussh me again.

  11. Anonymous says:

    This post is all about Filipinos living in rich overseas countries, not at all relevant in todays Philippines. Australia has approximately 20 million rich inhabitants, far fewer than the approximately 70 million poor (out of around 100 million) Filipinos. There is really no comparison.Being a sexy dancer at 14 is a full-time job, not part-time.“They should not be foraging for food in garbage dumps or begging for money on street corners instead”. But how else could they eat for the day?Or,“You’re grounded, girl. Go up to your room”. “But Mom, our barong-barong has only ONE room”. The Philippines is poor. Period. Accept it. Acknowledge it. And I weep every time I hear/read about comparisons from Filipinos residing abroad and advocating changes in the Philippines, along the lines of “if they can do it in their rich country, surely it can be done in the Philippines”. I know they mean well and I know too that they’re only trying to help. But the Philippine situation is different – that these Filipinos have chosen to live in more affluent countries, attests to that fact. And one should avoid any comparison between what they have in more developed societies and what the Philippines lack. True, an internet connection is desirable for every Philippine classroom, as in other countries. But Filipinos residing abroad should also be aware that there might not even be a classroom or, if there is, there might not even be electricity or computers and for sure there are no books as well! So, we have to take small steps. We are still in the stage of partially feeding the school children, but perhaps someday we hope we can attend to their other needs as soon as the honorable congressmen and senators have some leftovers from their Christmas presents and a government department has finished airing will-you-marry-me commercials. The invitation to a former pope to retire in the Philippines, hopefully, will not involve any more cash outlay.Please do not get down from your high horses, overseas Filipinos, your high vantage point might afford you to see the disparities between how poor we are, and how rich you are! We, Filipinos in the Philippines, painfully know the difference, and we can only that hope you do, too.joedelacruise….

  12. Anonymous says:

    typo last sentence…. "and we can only hope that you do to."joedelacruise….

  13. My nephews and neices couldn't even believe when I showed them where we lived once before. 10 of us !!! "Uncle? You live in that house? Seriously? No kidding?" YES! YES! YES! We lived in that house. It is bigger than our neighbors and we fit in there. Boys sleeps with Papa. Girls with Mama. Adolescent brothers and sisters got their own bed and room. WHENEVER I come home I feel humbled. It rips my heart to pieces. My teenage watering holes are still there. Peanut vending children swarms with their usual smiles. I offered them batchoy but they prefer money. They said they want to bring it home to their single lavandera mother. TOTALLY, CANNOT BELIEVE IT. It is depressing.My extremely religious brother told me, "YOU CANNOT HELP THEM ALL. JUST HELP THEM WITH WHATEVER LITTLE THERE IS". Let us not worry joedelacruise, we are getting there. It appears the OFW Philippine economy is "booming" providing that benign0 Aquino do not squander it on useless military arsenals. USSR lost out to arm race with the U.S. Due to wars in Afghanistan, Middle EAst and meddling on other countries the U.S. is now in sequester with billions and billions of across the board cut. AND HERE WE ARE IN THE PHILIPPINES arms-racing against Behemoth China.

  14. China defends massive growth in military spending – Yahoo News!http://news.yahoo.com/china-defends-massive-growth-military-spending-040444417.html12% of working-age Filipinos are OFWing. More will be sent to POEA slave trading floors to support Philippine massive military build up against China and Malaysia and of course, that pesky U.S. coralsweeping minesweeping.Arms Race is on !!!!

  15. Cha says:

    It seems that you have missed the whole point of the article. I don't understand how placing the responsibility of caring and feeding of the young, as well as their proper upbringing, on the shoulders of the adult population could not be relevant to the Philippines. Is there any special reason why the men and women in the Philippines should be exempt from this obligation to society?And why should it matter where an idea is coming from to make it acceptable? I could be living in the Philippines right now and still be disturbed that children are foraging for food from garbage dumps. I can be living in the Philippines right now and still not be willing to simply accept that the Philippines is poor. Period. Why should there be a period in that? Why couldn't we aspire for better? I can be living in the Philippines right now and still want to do something for my country. Why does that seem to bother you?

  16. Anonymous says:

    Your point: “I don't understand how placing the responsibility of caring and feeding of the young, as well as their proper upbringing, on the shoulders of the adult population could not be relevant to the Philippines. Is there any special reason why the men and women in the Philippines should be exempt from this obligation to society?”The father might be a sidewalk vendor and the mother might be a labandera somewhere. On off days, they might go as a family to scrounge for edible morsels from garbage dumps or go begging for alms. In short, they will do anything to feed themselves and their young. Food is their first priority but sometimes they just cry themselves to sleep on empty stomachs. That is the reality of poverty in the Philippines. And majority of the Philippine population is mired in poverty. They are poor and their only need is to exist on a daily basis; they can aspire too for a better find in the garbage dumps tomorrow.And now comes somebody from a rich lucky country telling them of their responsibility for the proper upbringing of their young, and about their obligation to society? Don’t you think they know that? Or are you thinking of another "stolen generation" because they cannot care for their young? But just like everyone else, they have to prioritize their needs.It does not bother me if someone wants to help. I said “I know that they mean well and I know too that they are only trying to help”. But if somebody wants to help, that somebody should also know the problem.joedelacruise….

  17. Attila says:

    Jodelcruise:You mean well and you are thoughtful. However I think that you are way too critical of your fellow overseas Filipinos. What is their sin? Should they apologize for living a better life and think differently? They will not. You try to make them understand that back in the Philippines the poor have much less control over their life than they think. They will not be as forgiven as you like and that is line with what most Americans, Australians and Europeans think. You maybe right but than how responsibility would be shared? Who will make the changes and who will think for them?

  18. Cha says:

    @joedelacruiseYou are still missing the point. I was not simply talking about the responsibility a father and mother to their own child there, I was referring to the collective responsibility of the men and women of a country to the younger generation. If all I was trying to do was lecture some father and mother who couldn't feed their own children, did you really think I would have written the article and expected those people to be able to read it at all? How naive did you think I was?Please do not make presumptions of my or any other overseas based Filipino's understanding of the reality of poverty in the Philippines. You do not know where we've been and what we've seen. Nor what we have done and still do to help. So thanks, but no thanks, I'd rather really get my lectures on the reality of poverty in the Philippines from the people I know and trust who are on the ground and dealing with the problems; people who are big enough and sincere enough in their desire to address the issues to be willing to ask for and receive help from their fellow Filipinos who happen to live in "rich" countries.Sowing division, making this about "US" and "THEM" is not going to help our country. We can do more working with each other than against each other.

  19. Galicano says:

    Why has this been a divisive commentary? I was still laughing my heads off when I read the other replies. This was a breath of fresh air from all the Sabah articles that I have been reading lately. Talking lightly of us, genuinely Filipinos, a mix that is special and perpetually funny. I do remember putting water on a nearly empty ketchup bottle when we were small, and on pointing with my lips, and the oldies teaching the babies, 'close-open' songs. On the otherhand, a person complains about his situation when he thinks others have a 'better' deal, only to realize, that in someone else's eyes, his, is already a 'better' one. How else can we improve on present conditions? One, by choosing better-equipped leaders, that has the heart of the public in their blood; or better yet, doing little things such as outreach, or free training education for the poor, so they will know how to feed themselves. My (simple) Filipino problem? Which telenovela should I stick to during primetime. Hahaha.

  20. Ah, catching up on your reading, I see. I find myself trailing along behind as you read, hahaha. Yes, this thread went a little sideways, but the issue is meaningful, why homebound Filipinos don't wholly buy the authority of overseas Filipinos to critique things Filipino. And, yes, this article by Cha was a delightful change of pace. If you read regularly, you will soon sort out the personalities of the main contributors to the blog. And WE will eventually figure YOU out, too. heh. Welcome.

  21. Anonymous says:

    Joe is right…you choose to leave your country; you have forfeited your rights to care. After all, at then end of the day, we are the one who will tend to our problems. We, the working class who contributes 25 to 35% of our earnings to the government so that those problems that are being pinpointed by outsiders can be addressed.

  22. No, I didn't say that. Indeed, I think it is the homebounds who are limited in their ability to respect those overseas.

  23. Anonymous says:

    my apologies for not being detailed…i was referring to joedelacruise… :)jym

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