The Philippines: A Culture of Criticism

Ang kiukok - Dog Fight komsais picasa

By Ang Kiukok from thejoeyherrera.blogspot.com, featuring Filipino artists

Now you may judge from the title of this blog that I am going to take some cheap foreign shots at Filipinos and the culture in which they swim. That is easy to do for us of impeccable vision and grace, Americano Screwus Whitus. But that is not for today. Today I simply want to reach for understanding, allowing you the opportunity to point out where I am naive, biased, off base, out to lunch, lunatic, or wrong.

Where I’m coming from:

  • “It struck me . . . that many people expect President Aquino to deny his Filipino heritage and culture and become Americanized or zombied, or whatever he is not. That is, he should NOT try to use power to influence, and he should NOT be loyal to those who are loyal to him and he should NOT be determined to the point of stubbornness and he should NOT be sensitive to the rudeness of criticisms. As for me, I think he should stick with being Filipino, and Filipinos should admire him for being true to his people’s style. It is a genuine, legitimate, worthy style.” JoeAm tweet blog, 1/23/14.

First, let’s review the main components of the Filipino culture of criticism.

Media

The media sell advertising and can raise the most money if they get the biggest readership or audience. What sells in the Philippines? Flash sells, as in stylish or sexy stars, their wins and love-life, their breakups and Baby James. Boxers sell, especially if they are relentlessly pulverizing Mexicans. Gore sells, dead bodies in the news reels or kids being peddled on boats in the middle of the night. The grand political battles sell, of Presidents under attack and senators in a cat fight, or China on the move or polls collapsing or whistle-blowers blowing, pipers piping, and a partridge in a pear tree.

The culture is one of flash and trash, superficiality and attack.

The only thing missing is the beef, the substance, the wholesome projection of the Philippines as a place with its act together, its people unified, and its values on straight.

I suppose I am reminded of the way Philippine media SHAPE the news, and the culture, rather than report on, it when I reflect that Rappler so incessantly wanted to attack the good-guys (President Aquino on site, at the helm) in Zamboanga for failing to receive the release of a large group of hostages. Nevermind that the good-guys had formulated a plan of no forgiveness, no deals. A plan that is recognized far and wide as the best way to deal with hostage-takers.

Rappler took the position of the hostages over the nation. And milked that baby ’til the cows came home.

That is the kind of criticism I am talking about. One that puts the well-being of the nation last, and the well-being of certain individuals or institutions first. And distorts the primary professional rule that news organizations report the news, they don’t make it.

Philippine media make the news. They set the standard of superficial as the way we live, and conflict as the way we relate. They feed it and nurture it. They sell it.

A Matter of Face

Philippine and Japanese cultures both are “face-saving” cultures. In both nations it is important for people to protect their personal reputations.

But the way of protecting face, or self esteem, is very different. In Japan, it is concessionary, almost defensive, with an abundance of courtesy and two-faced politeness. Never say no. Never fire an employee. Always bow. If you are humiliated, kill yourself.

In the Philippines, we have the notion of delicadeza (Spanish derivation: “beautiful and delicate in appearance”) which is generally exhibited as deference to others, but it is only half the story. The other half is attack. Aggressive, venomous, Enrile-spittle attack. The Philippines does not have bull rings, it has a Senate Chamber. Envy is rife. Anger is obsessive. Vengeance is mine and yours and everyone else’s.

And if you  are humiliated, kill someone.

The ultimate criticism.

Win the Argument

The foundation of the culture of criticism is the 100% need to win the argument. Debate is a rigid place of no bend, no flexibility, no concession, all speak, no listen. And if acts work out wrong, there is always a culprit. He or she is “over there”, never here. Never me.

Pragmatic does not find its way into the discussion, or compromise. Deeds are not separate from people. People are personally immersed in every act, every decision. There is no cold and rational intellectual view. There is an emotional view, a mirror that people carry about that reflects always back at “me”.

America is full of egos, too, and arrogance, and criticism, and whiners. But there is one fundamental difference. For most professional people, a mistake is simply one result of risk-taking, of decision-making. Of taking a chance, or simply misjudging the situation. It is a cost of doing business, a learning opportunity. A mistake is nothing to be ashamed of unless it is of incredible stupidity or harm.

I’ve been in the Philippines for 8 years now and I’m still waiting for someone – ANYONE – to admit a mistake.

And of course, the blames and excuses inevitably point the finger – critically – at someone else.

It is exhausting to read and hear the ingenuity of excuse hereabouts. The intensity of blames. It is like a typhoon except there is no wind, only scapegoating.

Now if we could just get a little of that ingenuity and energy aimed at problem-solving and productivity  . . .

It All Adds Up

The overriding spirit of the Philippines is mistrust, wariness, suspicion. And rampant denigration of one’s own people.

I was struggling with how to express this when reader Maan came to the rescue with this insightful statement:

  • Blame the Filipino people for the failure of the Philippines to rise up from the culture of criticism. Filipinos never seem to be completely satisfied. Why doesn’t the common Juan (who always has something bad to say) run for president – and I hope he wins – so that one day he will inevitably eat his words on how the President is always a failure and has never done anything right. We don’t have to like the president, but he sure does deserve our respect. We want to change, we start by giving due respect to the people leading this country. Thanks for this blog. It’s a great reflection of how our lack of self-respect is reflected on how we treat our leaders.

Respect: Conceding honor to others.

  • Respect for ourselves, so that we are not dealing from insecurity and can see things objectively.
  • Respect for diversity, so that we can see the richness that comes from different ideas and ways of life.
  • Respect for others, so that when we disagree, we can listen carefully and talk civilly.

So let’s go back to my opening remarks and extend them. When we have these three components of respect, we will not expect President Aquino to be anyone but who he is, and we can discuss points of disagreement with civility. Without going into demeaning slanders. We will not expect our neighbor to be anyone but who he is. We will see Muslims and Christians and atheists as a part of the wonderfully diverse fabric that is the Philippines. We will smile about our crazy divided land scattered across 7,000 islands, and our way of talking, splattered into 114 separate languages. We will thank the OFW’s who have the courage to go to strange lands far from home and sacrifice a piece of their sweat and anxiety for the homeland, and we will thank the rice workers and tricycle peddlers who have the determination to go out and labor each day, rain or shine, to provide for their families and form the large, honest, hard-working backbone of the nation.

Ahahaha, well, mostly honest.

Ah, I don’t know.

I fear that you – you being the broad composite of critical Filipinos – don’t know what you have here. You have character. You have the riches of diversity among your peoples, and the beauty of a land so endowed with treasures that geologists every year find new creatures in the forest or seas. You have a nation whose economy could bust out from lethargy and provide the jobs the nation so dearly needs. If you could just get your divided, divisive, complaining, excuse-making, crabby act together.

If you could just summon up the sacrifice and courage to appreciate those who look, think, talk, believe, or decide differently than you do.

If you could listen for a change, without judging.

If you could stop demanding that others be another you.

Comments
50 Responses to “The Philippines: A Culture of Criticism”
  1. Joseph-Ivo says:

    This is dangerous territory. I live in the Philippines because I love the Philippines, with paradise just around the corner. There is a balance of all values resulting in this easy, comfortable mix, but the balance might be so delicate that tinkering with it might create an unwanted avalanche or mud slide in the Filipino character.

    Also “the Filipino” does not exist. At best you can talk about average characteristics, knowing that the average of ice and fire is also comfortable.

    My guess is that a lot of behavior is the outcome of a monumental Filipino inferiority complex. (The exact opposite of the monumental superiority complex of the American in sando with tattoos all over in a Philippine mall.) Proof? All Filipinos want to park in reverse. While doing so they appreciate a large audience, so they take their time in perfectly aligning their car with the empty spot behind time. If a mall tries to simplify parking by putting the slots in an angle of 30⁰ and paint large arrows indicating the driving direction, Filipinos will still try to park in reverse even if it takes them minutes to do so (the clever ones enter via the exit, counter flow and easily park in reverse at the empty spot). This is overcompensating of an inferiority complex, in parking it can be done more or less anonymously, just as cursing on internet.

    This inferiority complex or feelings of not to be able to measure up to society’s standards is rooted in history and in the children’s strong experience of dependency. It is often subconscious and it drives Filipinos to overcompensate in many situations as indicated in the blog above.

    In history, Spanish and American colonizers with the aid of friars and better weaponry could instil western societal standards and a local belief that it is impossible to achieve the right whiteness of skin, the sophistication of manners or the effective connections with the Gods.

    Children have to bless whenever they meet somebody senior, stronger or wealthier. They just have to repeat the wise words of their teachers and certainly not voice any original idea.

    Accepting or even liking to be the underdog is a result of this complex. (and thus liking Binay, the underdog, the one of us)

    It seems to me that tsinoys with their Chinese heritage don’t carry this burden, nor do the Spanish blooded Filipinos.

    • Joe America says:

      Maan’s comment and yours converge on the point of self-respect, or self-confidence, which is why I highlighted it as the first of three platforms that can get us to total respect. It should not be necessary to show off.

      The whiteness of skin you mention is another aspect of this, and why you and I get favored treatment at banks or the LTO. It should also not be necessary to bow.

      Somewhere between showing off and bowing, there is a middle ground of compassionate consideration and good works.

    • i disagree – these traits are common to human beings and not exclusive on Filipinos alone. I should know i have worked with all kinds of other nationalities for forty years dealing with people as a nurse in the United Kingdom where one meets and encolunters different people all over the world..#

      • Joe America says:

        Well, for sure, the Brits are a piece of work. I labored under their managerial guidance for 10 years. But they also balance the criticism and bickering with a dry sense of humor that cools tempers in a short time. I would point to one fact that illustrates that the Philippines is different: election cycle murders.

      • manuel buencamino says:

        @Erasmo,

        I tend to agree. We have to sift what is truly unique with Filipinos from what is common to all.

    • Paul Lazo says:

      As usual, I will refer to quotes to help clarify my thoughts:

      “The humility of a warrior is not the same humility as that of a servile man. The warrior does not lower his head to anyone, and nor does he allow anyone to bow before him. The servile man, on the other hand, kneels before anyone he believes to be more powerful, and demands that the people under his command behave in a similar fashion before him.”

      ― Paulo Coelho, Warrior of the Light

      As pointed out by Joseph Ivo, we have been a subjugated people (maybe too long) and seem to see the world through such eyes. We talk about win-win, which is a concept most Filipinos understand; but, what many Filipinos do not understand is that in a win-win situation, no one looses either. We do not want to save ourselves instead we expect our masters to save us. I have had the good fortune of experiencing three different cultures Italian, American and Filipino, which is the last culture I experienced. Our criticism is sharp, yes; but it is also common among the cultures I experienced to say “Good Morning” to your boss and “hey @#%&” to your close friend. Americans culture is sarcastic. When giving nicknames, the bald guy they call “curly”, the fat guy the call “Slim” and the guy as big as a mountain they call “Tiny.” The Filipino culture tends to use your worst possible characteristic as your nickname; the bald guy they call “sago”, the dark skinned guy they call “negro” and the fat guy they call “baboy.” The Italians are closer to the Filipinos when giving nicknames. One thing I find that Americans are, is they are insular in their thinking – I feel Americans are bunch of cowboys, Joe I’m sure you know what the pejorative version of cowboy is. While we tend to bash our government, Americans tend to not trust their gov’t (there is always some kind of hidden agenda or conspiracy theory behind the actions the government takes). In the end, as Joe so pointed out, the Philippines is a diverse culture and it should be enjoyed and appreciated. I would like to extend this thought to mankind as a whole and the differences each culture bring to the table. It the differences that make humanity what it is and should be enjoyed, appreciated and respected.

      • Joe America says:

        Ah, given that I grew up as a cowboy, I only take positive readings from that label. My sisters are still riding the ranges of northern Colorado.

        And I take the “Hey, Joe!” comment thrown my direction by young Filipinos as a cheerful greeting. Ha, but I don’t like being called “Daddy” by the young girls.

        Beyond that, I think you are “spot on”, cutting right to the point in your normal profound way. You really should do a guest article for this blog, any topic. I extend the same invitation to Dee and a couple of Davids. Like Joseph-Ivo’s recent article, it would greatly enrich the discussion.

        • Paul Lazo says:

          Thanks for the invite!I have read so many thoughts and bits of advice, some great, some not so great. Here’s a thought. I don’t recall which one of the motivational speakers I have heard said….”Start with the end in mind” Why don’t we do that in this blog. Let’s start by describing the society we would like to see rather than criticize what we have? Before I start I’d like to hear your thoughts.

          • Joe America says:

            I think that is an admirable approach if one considers the practicality, too, otherwise it is academic work of no applied value. I don’t think it is realistic to consider that the Constitution will be redrafted in a material way, or that we would be encouraging a coup to get to the ideal society. To me, the society we want is mainly in our heads, not in government structure. Why it is better to listen than reject and insult. Why it is better to think than recite by rote. Why it is better to be compassionate than rude. Why a judge should FEEL the honor of his position and not take bribes. But how you get those new ideas instilled is beyond me.

    • Buwayah Man says:

      I disagree with the examples you had cited as evidence of the perceived Filipino inferiority complex.

      We Filipinos prefer to park in reverse mainly because it is easier and quicker to exit the slot. It has nothing to do with inferiority complex. In fact, the situation you had mentioned regarding the arrows and drivers “counter-flowing” rarely happens. What is more common is a driver following the arrows, sees two empty slots across each other, and drives through one slot, ending up with the car facing front. We do this mainly because we spend too much time in the area we are in (maybe because we spent too much time shopping or chatting with friends) that we end up hurrying to exit.

      Also, that we root for the underdog is hardly a result of this “inferiority complex.” If I may speak for my fellow Filipinos, we root for the underdog because it makes the “fight” more interesting and more exciting. It also dampens the sting of defeat if the underdog loses. And I don’t think people root for Binay because he is the underdog nor is it because people perceive his as “one of us.” People root political candidates out of name recognition, which was proven when Nancy Binay won primarily because she was Jejomar Binay’s daughter.

      If ever, Filipinos can have a monumental superiority complex. Filipinos argue and criticize because they think they know better. Filipinos want to demonstrate analytical skills, even if they lack such skills.

  2. Hey Joe!

    I’ve been quietly reading your blog, as sometimes I’m not sure what to say. 🙂 Just wanted you to know I’ve added your blog to my RSS feed, so I can check on it daily without much issue.

    Anyway, I remember our coverage of Zamboanga, and the days that followed. Personally, that was a point of much anxiety for me because I saw social media turn very ugly that day.

    I hope you don’t mind, but I’d like to forward this article to my fellows at work. I think it might provide a point of discussion and introspection. 🙂 If they have some points I think are worth raising and they don’t mind my sharing it with you, I’ll reply back here.

    Cheers!
    -Victor

    • Joe America says:

      Always good to have you stop by, Victor. Share away. If it stirs up trouble, at least people are thinking . . .

      • Joe America says:

        By the way, I think the discussion needs to go to making a distinction between advocacy journalism and news reporting. I see Rappler as treading in both columns, mixing them up, and the advocacy can be good or bad depending on the circumstance. Too much advocacy in the news reporting turns the readership skeptical, I think. Or cynical. Or negative.

  3. ella says:

    Mr. Joe, you might have already observed that some Filipinos are racist or whatever you call that kind of mentality wherein … the fairer skin is always better looking.

    Also some Filipinos are insecure, whatever corrections you give them be it an objective criticism or a constructive one some will take it first as an attack on their person so their first reaction instead of introspection is defensive.

    • Joe America says:

      Agree, ella. Although one get’s into a dilemma arguing too hard for change. I like Joseph-Ivo’s opening lines above. Change can create a muddle. Take the US, where psychological counselling is readily available, and a ton of introspective self-help books, and what you get is a huge number of neurotics coming out of the woodwork. Probably a lot of healthier people, too, but a lot of neurotics, too, who can’t DO what the lessons suggest and get anxious about it.

      As in many things, the hope of the Philippines for a moderation of criticism goes hand in hand with development of a larger healthy, educated, “normal” middle class of workers and thinkers. Many of the readers of this blog belong to this class, perhaps.

  4. Dee says:

    I recently read an article written by an American expat by the name of Barth Suretsky. It is titled, “Inferiority Complex: a Filipino Malady.” It can be read in its entirety at:
    http://www.stuartxchange.com/InferiorityComplex.html

    The excerpt below is what stuck in my mind:
    “Maybe it will sound simplistic, but to go back to what I said above, it is my unshakable belief that the fundamental thing wrong with this country is a lack of pride in being Filipino. A friend once remarked to me, laconically: “All Filipinos want to be something else. The poor ones want to be American, and the rich ones all want to be Spaniards. Nobody wants to be Filipino.”

    Are there pure Filipinos anymore except for the tribal people like the Baluga and Ifugao? Everyone I know to be Filipino are of mixed race. They have two or more of the following bloods coursing in their veins: Malay, American, Spanish and Chinese. When asked about their ethnicity, they will tell you that they are Filipinos. They cook Filipino foods, speak Tagalog and other dialects, and do the Balikbayan boxes and vacations. They want more for the Philippines and its people. They are unhappy about some aspects the Philippines but I will not call their constructive criticisms as lack of pride or inferiority complex. Most Filipinos I know want to be something else: a college graduate, a successful entrepreneur, a military officer, a doctor…

    • Joe America says:

      Suretsky’s article is reflective of the soul searching most of us outsiders do in trying to come to grips with attitudes that conflict with our own upbringing. The one area I disagree with him on is pride in history. I find that most college educated Filipinos do understand the significance of Aguinaldo and American occupation and other historical milestones. But I do agree that some attitudes do reflect, not an absence of pride, but pride that is so overwhelmed by bad national performance, that it is overlaid with a huge defensiveness. That defensiveness is what needs to be set aside, and Suretsky does recognize that. I tend to think things goes in cycles, and the Philippines is ready for a positive one that will put the defensiveness behind in its proper place in history. And my nagging about being a “culture of criticism” is aimed at boosting that positive cycle.

      Your last paragraph is a great point of wisdom. The brilliant and passionate and productive Dr. Jose Rizal was ethnically a stewpot, and most Filipinos are indeed of mixed heritage. What conflicted notions, this resistance to foreign involvement here as a threat right along side envy of white skin and a rabid desire to get to the US. It is like “stay away but we want to be like you.”

      • Joe America says:

        I lived in Los Angeles for a time. California is generally ahead of the US in social development, and Los Angeles sets the pace for California. Los Angeles is no longer “white”. It is a masterful mix of black and brown and yellow and white with a tint of red, and a lot of Arabs and Persians in the mix, too. Slavs. Who’s missing? They are there. Manila should accept that it will look that way, too, in time, when the economy is booming and poverty is on the retreat. The only commonality will be living on the land and committing to the well-being of the community, Philippines. Skin differences won’t even be seen.

        What is that, 25 years away? 50?

      • Joseph-Ivo says:

        Personalities are like onions, the outer skin often overcompensating for what the next layer is missing. Being friendly and polite is a good thing, being too friendly and too polite is not, it can indicate an inferiority complex. Being assertive is good, being over-assertive in the wrong place (where there is anonymity) can indicate an inferiority complex

        National pride for Paquiao and beauty queens, yes. But for national hero’s? Magellan and his murderer Lapu-lapu at the same time as confusing as Bush and Binladen at the same time. Their “Washington” shot their “Jefferson”, sold the country for a few dollars he enjoyed in Hongkong, lost a second war of independence and collaborated heavily with the Japanese in later life. Their “Franklin” was a staunch anti-Catholic in his writings and got shot before the party began. No Lincolns, no Roosevelts or Kenedy’s, only Nixons. Nobody knows about the Philippine prominence in the pre-Catholic times as an important trading hub with Hindu gods and Sanskrit in the 10e century and later with the Muslim sultanate of Sulu. Filipinos live on a very short timeline, going from this morning until tomorrow, and who needs history and heroes anyway when there might be lechon coming?

        • Joe America says:

          Nice characterization of how the peels of the onion work. Institutions have a role in that, too, if we consider that the Philippines is ardently faithful and superstitious and corrupt (corruption becomes an institution when “everybody does it”) at the same time, as if not being able to figure out where the TRUTH actually lies, or the real principles to live by. Rather like covering all bases.whilst being committed to none.

          I’d like to see the Philippine nation be one of the top institutions to which Filipinos commit. I think it is a way down the list for many. Or completely invisible. That’s mainly what the urging toward a positive mindset is all about.

      • Dee says:

        What bothers me most aside from the defensiveness is the indirectness: the dropping of hints, the negative context reading/interpretation, the beating around the bush, the suspiciousness, the superficiality. In the right environment, most Filipinos are generous, polite, honest, loving, trustworthy, hardworking, loyal, assertive, passionate and brilliant. I would say that the present environment of the Philippines unleashes the symbolism of the art you have chosen for this article. Much like survival of the fittest.

        • Joe America says:

          That’s why the “right environment” needs a little push, eh? 🙂

          • Dee says:

            Let’s talk about the “right environment” for Filipinos. I would like to address those who seem to be stuck at the bottom pile of the economic ladder. The coconut climber, the fisherman, the tricycle driver and the sari-sari store owner. The fact that these people started small businesses or engaged in livelihood endeavors tell me that they have the drive to succeed if given the opportunity to do so. What kind of “push” is available for these people to get out of the rut? What is their pathway to upward mobility sans being OFW?

            In my Filipino Dream, I penned this:
            I dream of a banking system that will take the risk of lending money to the coconut tree climber who wants to own his own land and coconut trees, to the housewife who has a successful sari-sari store but has the bigger plan of owning the first community grocery store, to the tricycle driver who dreams of owning a transportation company, and the fisherman who yearns to own a fleet of fishing boats.

            I am not talking of the informal and shadow banking system that are already prevalent there. I think there is a need for a legal establishment that will provide micro-loans for the lower class. What seems to be available for these people in term of seed money is a loan from the 5-6 sharks. Please correct me if I am wrong.

            What is your take on this?

            • Joe America says:

              I think you are right. Interest rates for small denomination loans are obscene. I think there are a number of micro-loan initiatives scattered about, but they are not available comprehensively. A lot of businesses start up and fail because people have little understanding of “markets” and whether their store has enough people to be a realistic customer base. Or little appreciation for good location or good signing. I ponder from time to time setting up a “business incubation center” that would provide both capital and fund research and development of business plans for small business initiatives. I think there ARE markets here to be tapped, but the tapping is not being done.

          • Dee says:

            My idea is to create a sort of Small Business Administration at every Barangay. Give the Barangay officials something meaningful to work on: Giving fishing poles instead of fish. The PDAF/DAP funds could be used to finance it. A lot of education is needed. Feasibility studies need to be done. Lessons in marketing, business planning, accounting, finance, etc. needs to be facilitated. Business mentors, eligibility specialists and various volunteers need to be mobilized. The beauty of this endeavor is, the Barangay officials and people know their area, their needs, their wants and what is good for them. Since the micro-loans need to be paid back at a reasonable APR, everybody wins. The government will get its money back with interest, poor but motivated people have a vehicle for upward mobility, and prideful people will take the offer since it is not charity. Of course there will be problems such as cronyism, non-payment, corruption and the likes but I think the good will outweigh the bad if the venture becomes successful.

            Yes. It could also be a wonderful idea as a private industry with a social conscience. It will be a great way to make a living while helping others raise their standard of living and assisting the country in enlarging its middle class.

            My research turned these figures: As of 2013, according to the National Statistic Board, the Philippines has 1% upper class, 24% middle class and 75% lower class. These numbers tell me that there is a great need to find ways in assisting the lower class in their quest for upward mobility. More taxpayers, less social services funding, more discretionary/disposable income… What is there not to like?

            P.S. There is a little problem with the comment section/ discussion forum queuing. Some of the replies do not propagate a reply button so commenters need to go back to a previous comment to reply.

            • Joe America says:

              Dee, that is a wonderful suggestion. Indeed, that provides the ladder of opportunity that is missing for the great laboring sector of the Philippines. Maybe the Barangay is a little too far to push because there are so many of them, and there are no skills in many (certainly my own would have a hard time fielding someone who could provide much education or advice to others). But at the municipal/city level, I could see a very robust “incubation” function.

              The reply button disappears when discussions get lengthy. That prevents the columns from getting narrow, and I agree that on long discussions (like you’ve had with MB, haha), it gets unwieldy. I’ve changed the “nesting” option from 5 comments deep to 7, so maybe that will help a little. Thanks for bringing this up. See, THAT was constructive criticism. 🙂

              • Dee says:

                I just think Filipinos should shift the culture of criticism to culture of problem solving. One can still talk about issues but not on the superficial level. You see a problem? Brainstorm like mad and find ways to solve it. Sure, nitpick and dissect the problem, not the problem solver. Philippines do not have a lot of messengers because they shoot them (sometimes, literally). 🙂
                Thank you for taking care of the comments section problem. My golly, Mr. Joe, you are a problem solver! 🙂

              • Joe America says:

                Best idea of the year. One of my jobs at the bank I worked for was to solve the odds and ends issues that would arise. Formal brainstorming is a wonderful way to start. The first rule is that anyone can put out any thought whatsoever and NO ONE is allowed to judge or even comment on it. It just goes onto the board. Then when all ideas are out, they are grouped and the best ones kept. Those that aren’t so useful are simply marked out. Nothing personal about it at all.

  5. Jon Effemey says:

    Happened on this very intelligent site via Face Book.
    I am a Brit and I have been here now for 18 months and intend to say.
    We are not perfect, cultures and countries are far from perfect. We all of us have our angel and devils.
    As for my home country I am in a state of despair. The “posh boys” have taken over in the UK…half a million are now on food aid…relying on food banks. What you say about us Brits is true…our dry humour. Bu we are brilliant at being two faced this is how we run our Empire.
    The US has many qualities, especially its culture, I worship the Jazz giants…But the meddling in Latin America (they are getting free of this) and the Middle East has got the world no where…I suspect big time too in the Philippines in the past (now?)
    As for the Philippines, yes the county suffers from an inferiority complex…its communal spirit, the strength of the family and the fact pinoys know how to enjoy themselves….Not accepting they are wrong…I have noticed this …and developing a “Quaker” style of working together would be good.
    Yes I agree with your comments about their media…but it does appear open….isn’t the US dominated by Murdoch’s Fox News and the Tea Pot Party. Back in Downton Abbey land the BBC seems to Kow Tow to Cameroon and the Tories.
    There is one issue that does need looking a big time here….contract killings. This seems to be taken as a given. If you have money problems, be it a domestic dispute , a Punjabi lending money, or a Mr Big Person wanting to remove an irritating journalist, find a professional killer, pay them 10000 pesos, and the problem is “removed”. Usually a motor bike rider….If he is caught the person behind the scenes walks free….The India media were livid about this. 500 Punjabi’s were killed in 2011. Nobody here sees this for what it is,,,,the murder rate according to UN statistics was something like 5 per 100000 Philippines, 4 USA and 1 UK, Mexico and Colombia around 20 to 30 and Jamaica 40!
    This does need highlighting…I blog regularly on the Guardian newspaper site …the killing of journalists comes up regularly …and the Philippines was second worst in the world if I remember for this….take thios out of the equation and the murder rate would be negligible I suspect!
    Oh I love the she male culture, the crazy crazy TV shows ….trade that in any day for The Antique Road Show back in the UK.
    A fantastic country. Mr Joe your critique is pretty good. For me the contract killing culture needs exposing..

    Oh and the “families”…a Spanish over hang? Those regions with the greatest “clan control” are the least developed…Aquino says he will do something about this? Bu here is part of this too!

    The RH bill? I see averts for Durex and the pill on GMA TV here …so what is the big deal…?
    Poor families still have 6 children per family. I see young girls with babies all the time. Cant complete their education! I know this is a very devout RC country but should the men in frocks determine the life of women?

    • Joe America says:

      I’m glad you found the site, Jon, and your comment is loaded with fine observations. The US is indeed going through a bit of a bad patch of extreme division, much of it centered on the big money influence of the tea-party backers, who, I must say, have their act very well organized. But they are on a bungee cord and will get yanked back to middle ground, I think, or fail. As far as media go, the US remains diverse and open with Fox balanced by MSNBC and a lot of liberal late night talk show hosts. It has its Wall Street Journal, NY Times, New Yorker, and significant daily papers in major metropolitan areas, plus on-line and CSPAN, a lot of magazines for this or that, so its media is quite diverse. But the big money is behind the Tea Party.

      The contract killing is serious stuff here, and I’m doing a piece on Wednesday that mentions that. The problem being that the police tend to be very good at looking the other way or very bad at crime scene investigation. The resources to identify bad guys are not very sophisticated here, poor registration of motor vehicles, no data base, no NSA mentality, etc. I once had a spiff with a guy when I lived in Mindanao, and a fisherman friend mentioned he could take care of it for exactly the amount you cited, P10,000. I decined, being an upstanding kinda guy with different values.

      But I agree with you, this is a beautiful place. Rich with scenery and warmth and lots of puzzles to figure out. 🙂

      Stop by any time. I’m glad you appreciate the blog.

      • Jon Effemey says:

        Thank you Joe

        Yes I like to address specifics and the contact killing culture here is one of these. The Guardian Newspaper on line here has raised the issue at least 3 times about the high number of journalists killed here, putting the Philippines in with a number of very troubled countries around the world.
        I have blogged at length on this pointing out repeatedly it is contract killing and it is to do with money. They have ignored this. So the next time it arises I will send them out a full blog and try and get them to react. My guess is that the Philippine established will not like negative publicity. They were stung by Dan Brown’s comments about the Philippines being hell. I am not that stupid that I will name specific people. I dont want a visit from a motorcyclist at EDSA . But it does need raising. I hope the major media notice this. So please add your piece. Every week on GMA TV news here there is a shot of a gun cartridge on the road and a smashed car window, As you say there does not seem to be the logistics to deal with crime scenes and to be a bit cynical possibly a blind eye is turned to any of these or the case is simply filed, if a Big Person is some where in the picture.
        I saw some one giving me information on an government ruling here that was an over hang from a previous administration re extra judicial killings still being on the statute book. I dont see Aquino involved. But other politicians? Hence the whistle blower going to the hearings having a bullet proof vest.
        Oh and Kate Hodal, a very good Guardian journalist reported at length at the killings of an indigenous rights activist by a hotel employee in Baracay. this definitely smelt of a contract killing.
        Ignoring the killing of Punjabi Indians both here and seemingly in the West also annoys me.
        There is no awareness of this here, and for both of us foreigners it seems patently obvious!
        Another Pinoy gripe.
        I have sent a lengthy report to the Guardian after they requested it on the Post Orlanda situation.
        There are many good ideas, but already I am picking up stories on “bunk houses” and sub standard buildings. I have sketched out an article on what might happen to Manila if a Super Typhoon shot through there….I have two very authoritative links and the prognosis is very disturbing.
        I really love this country and feel at home here, but as you rightly state, there is a need for more “rigour” here in terms of thinking through problems and finding solutions.
        Re the States, sorry if I over did the Tea pot crazies. I find a number of excellent article from the States. I prefer CNN to BBC World as well (apart from the American football). I find the British coverage too parochial.
        There are two major issues back in the UK. The never ending “We hate the EU” debate. with most Brits seeming to want to leave. I pointed out that the UK is just about on the radar here but would disappear if it left the EU. How would it compete with China? And Scotland leaving the UK, it is becoming steadily more “Scandinavian”. I am in two minds on this.
        Oh….two other major issues….Big money coming from main land China via Macau and Hong Kong for Malls Casinos and Hotel complexes….and is there a tie up between the tourist industry and the sex industry here. Or is a blind eye turned to this, as many tourists (men) are clearly coming here with one thing on their minds.

        I hope this of interest. Thanks for your intelligent replies and this forum.

        • Joe America says:

          I’m not so sure that there is no awareness here. I think there is great awareness of the very real threats that are right next door, everywhere, which is why people keep their heads down and their ears and eyes and mouths closed. The hierarchical culture is built on a good deal of subservience – and acceptance – of the deeds done to those who make waves.

          I also think there is not a blind eye about sex and tourism. But it is a matter of considerable sensitivity to the prideful Philippines. The prior American ambassador got into a great deal of trouble for being too candid about the subject.

          As for Chinese money coming into the casinos . . . that one is new to me and very interesting, and I may research it further. Seems like good blog material to me.

          Good of you to share your thoughts.

  6. edithjoaquin says:

    I was just about to write a blog entry on my site as an insight in answer to a meme I came across on Facebook when I saw a link for this piece and decided to read this first. I thought the points I want to raise in my essay are kinda related with the ones here. Let me write that entry and I will share it later when I’m done (if that’s alright with you…). But before that, I want to say…

    I agree with you on your thoughts, as with many of the comments shared here. Filipinos are anything and anyone but Filipinos. We have this false sense of nationalism that we profess to be proud of our country and all that and yet where are we? What have we been doing? Many of us can’t even be bothered to stand at attention when the National Anthem is played in the cinemas. Many of us can’t even recognize our own heroes let alone speak at length about what they achieved for this country. We raise our children speaking in a foreign tongue because Tagalog (or any local language and dialect) is ‘baduy.’

    Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying I don’t want us patronizing non-Filipino made stuff or that doing so means we don’t love the Philippines. I’m just saying we shouldn’t look down on our being Filipino. And looking down on being Filipino is also not the same as being critical of the wrong we do.

    We can complain and criticize all we want about how the government is lacking in its service to the nation it is supposed to be serving, but again, we, as Filipinos, what do we do to be deserving of service as well? How much do we really love this country?

  7. letlet says:

    I indeed agree that Philippines is enveloped by a culture of criticism, mostly negative rather than positive. I would say this culture of criticism by the Filipinos is one of the luggage they brought with them when they went to work abroad.

    On any sticky issue, some Filipinos can’t take criticism, no matter how constructive it is. They feel it is an affront to their reputation, to their intelligence and to their very prickly ego. No matter how wrong they are, they insist on the correctness of their perspectives / opinions. They would never admit mistakes in any given situations or issues. The loop of negativity is immersing the critic’s perspectives.

    Such beliefs and attitudes are some of the reasons Philippines is having difficulty achieving spectacular economic growth, political retrogression instead of political burgeoning, and low intellectual exchange of ideas instead of healthy intellectual exchange of ideas and perspectives.

    • Joe America says:

      Ha, letlet, I beat around the bush for a whole blog, yammering about this and that, and you come right out and say it like it is. The key thing is in your first sentence “mostly negative rather than positive”, a tear-down approach to building. I suggest we just turn to the building and put most of the ragging aside.

  8. Frank says:

    Sometimes the media could cause problems. The live coverage of the Hong Kong hostage situation not only helped the hostage-taker but it needlessly exacerbated the situation. There would have been a difference in emotional response between reading what happened and seeing it on the television live.

  9. pussyfooter says:

    “You have character. You have the riches of diversity among your peoples, and the beauty of a land so endowed with treasures that geologists every year find new creatures in the forest or seas. You have a nation whose economy could bust out from lethargy and provide the jobs the nation so dearly needs. If you could just get your divided, divisive, complaining, excuse-making, crabby act together.”

    Yet again I do admire your ability to delivery truth with tact–or, here, more accurately, kindness. It’s a skill I think I refuse to develop just yet–or maybe it’s just the “average Pinoy” in me. 😉 I more or less totally agree with your observations here about, effectively (and viewed from only one angle), the self-defeating culture we have.

    And yes, the media here are perfect examples/illustrations. How typical that they are not only obviously products of such a disgusting/depressing culture, but of course work vigorously to perpetuate and even worsen it.

    Haven’t yet read the other comments but I think I glimpsed the bit about “generalizations” in the first, and perhaps–to give the benefit of the doubt–that’s correct. But the generalization is accurate, and I keep wondering if the tail-ends of that bell curve is enough to improve things within our lifetimes. :/

    • pussyfooter says:

      P.S. Ugh, I must apologize for the many grammar errors.
      P.P.S. omg i just acknowledged my mistakes. I do believe there’s hope for me yet 😉

  10. Ating panatilihin ang ating kulturea upang ito ay lumawig at lumago ito ay maaari pa rin na nangyayari sa ating panahon ngayon at ito ay patuloy din na ginaganap sa ibat ibang dako ng aking bansa..

  11. Louie Fernande says:

    Joe America — he who hides behind a pseudonym — while praising Aquino just couldn’t help himself with his insidious and habitual generalizations of Filipinos: “Crab mentality”, “culture of this”, “culture of that”, etc.

    This time, from his suspect high horse, it is “culture of criticism” that he ascribes to Filipinos as if we alone in all humanity had this monopoly on every universal human foibles and frailties, and in particular this, our truly democratic practice of our freedom of speech to criticize.

    He ignores, of course, the endless barrage of far, far more vicious and even proudfully and deeply racist attacks on Obama by American Republicans and conservatives.

    As I always say to Joe America— Hey, Joe, people who live in glass houses shouldn’t be throwing stones!

    And to be biblical, quoting Matthew 7:5 — Check out the dos por dos is sticking out of thine own eye, Joe; then you might see well enough to not criticize the mutà in your “little brown brother’s” eye.

    • Joe America says:

      Louie, please the terms of participation say this upfront: The Society aspires toward open and constructive dialogue. This is not a chat site. It is a forum for thoughtful discussion. Contributors who speak in OPPOSITION to Joe America or other authors and contributors are welcome and are allowed to present their views freely as long as the focus is on issue rather than insult, and the intent is to open minds rather than close them.

      Accordingly, your comment, which focuses entirely on my personal character, is blatantly out of bounds. Therefore, I have no choice but to place you in the “moderated” bucket so that your comments can be screened before publication to verify they are issues based.

      I’ve dealt with the issues you raise repeatedly over the years here, and it is clear that you have little understanding of what the blog is about, that it is a discussion blog not a blog selling a political bill of goods. And you have no idea what JoeAm is about. Of course I don’t write about American racism, EXCEPT as it is relevant to Philippine issues, which it rarely is. You can go to the home page here and search for topics that have been covered before, so that the whole community does not have to attend to your ignorance. I’d suggest you search “racism” and maybe “racism embassy” and see what comes up. Please do not operate under the mistaken idea that what is in your head is in any way correct or fair.

    • Joe America says:

      You’ve cut and pasted this comment from elsewhere, so I shall cut and paste my response.

      Louie, please the terms of participation say this upfront: The Society aspires toward open and constructive dialogue. This is not a chat site. It is a forum for thoughtful discussion. Contributors who speak in OPPOSITION to Joe America or other authors and contributors are welcome and are allowed to present their views freely as long as the focus is on issue rather than insult, and the intent is to open minds rather than close them.

      Accordingly, your comment, which focuses entirely on my personal character, is blatantly out of bounds. Therefore, I have no choice but to place you in the “moderated” bucket so that your comments can be screened before publication to verify they are issues based.

      I’ve dealt with the issues you raise repeatedly over the years here, and it is clear that you have little understanding of what the blog is about, that it is a discussion blog not a blog selling a political bill of goods. And you have no idea what JoeAm is about. Of course I don’t write about American racism, EXCEPT as it is relevant to Philippine issues, which it rarely is. You can go to the home page here and search for topics that have been covered before, so that the whole community does not have to attend to your ignorance. I’d suggest you search “racism” and maybe “racism embassy” and see what comes up. Please do not operate under the mistaken idea that what is in your head is in any way correct or fair.

    • Joe America says:

      I see you are also stalking me on Facebook, so I must really be getting under your political skin. Here’s what I responded to your racial taunting:

      “You define yourself more than me, Louie. Nice try. Too many people know who I really am, character-wise. You have no idea and are just pushing a political message in a dirty way, trying to play a racism card that does not even exist.”

  12. Kalq Calaquian says:

    Sharing this on my profile, I hope you don’t mind. 🙂 I think you were able to pinpoint a lot of truths that some people might not be able to stomach yet. (And just because you were pointing this out doesn’t mean you are already overlooking your own country’s weaknesses – which some people tend to assume.) I personally think that a lot of your statements in this article is true – even in the smallest institutions, criticism that is mostly negative govern people’s mindsets (unless they know they could personally gain something from that person… THEN they could overlook the negative.)

    With the upcoming elections for 2016, I think a little introspection would go a long way. I think this mindset blinds a lot of Filipino voters into making decisions that are not fully objective.

  13. Purple Haze says:

    All this intellectual stuff is interesting and possibly full of much truth. But any impact on anything is not going to happen any more than wise USA editorials change much. The average Filipino does not read a major Manila newspaper nor access the internet for social/political issues. Interesting that you end your piece mentioning 2 groups who do not suffer from the maladies you describe in great detail. Why should they. They own everything significant!! (mostly). Its the big elephant in the room that no one dares challenge. It is what I will call “The Brotherhood”. You talk about inferiority complexes. The Brotherhood has little respect for the Pinoy and is often lecturing on their need to learn to be more frugal and save to build empires the way they have. Never mind the colonial USA! Its over, done. The US government and corporate players have very little influence on the Philippine economy. But The Brotherhood owns it, runs it, and is behind most of what the politicians do regarding economic issues. Why think the the P.I. is any different from the U.S.? In the USA the corporations essentially own the politicians from the Federal all the way down to the municipal level. The OFW/Endo system is the key component maintained by The Brotherhood, of the Philippine economy with a rising middle class just enough to support the retail and housing markets while maintaining the predominantly low paid Filipino (avg. family income 13k pp annual). Without the OFW the economy would slowly spiral into the toilet just as it would in Mexico. Nothing will change because The Brotherhood is untouchable. Before Marcos they were not as significant a player. The Philippines wealth gap will continue. Sorry.

    • No need to apologize. Thanks for your views. I’m glad you found the article interesting and provocative enough to inspire your comment. We don’t pronounce truths here, or tie our esteem to winning arguments. So you aren’t hurting anyone’s feelings with your declarations.

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