Free flailing in the Philippines


Surreal done by Filipino artist Michael Vincent Manalo

This is not an anti-blog. I am not against the Philippines or interested in making disparaging remarks about the nation that is my chosen homeland. But I would like to try to define the special quality of the Philippines that too often seems to have a lot of people operating out of touch with sense.

(For new readers picked up in the wake of Andrew Lim’s fine, viral post, please be aware that JoeAm may from time to time use generalizations or literary exaggeration to embellish a point. ed)

The Philippines functions in some kind of weird delusional space where emotions and thinking are removed from logic and progress, removed from proper interrelationships, or time, or forthright productivity — out of touch with the truth of things.

If people do see what is going on, they insist on being oblivious to its significance or incapable of doing anything about it or rationalize it away with blames and excuses.

Living here is like flying untethered in a hot air balloon, un-grounded, adrift on currents of surrealism, illusion and mirage. It’s like walking around with a TV for a head.

Frankly, this is the most oddly dysfunctional country I have ever had the privilege of witnessing. There are days when I sit simply stunned by the awesomeness of it all.

  • The most delusional in the crowd are those 1950’s ideologically bound leftists who see a dastardly scheme in every legitimate government act. Yet they have never ever, themselves, accomplished anything but destabilization and destruction. Their chosen illusion is to believe that they are always right and others are always wrong, and they adhere to this illusion persistently and loudly. Leftists represent the most striking case of a nation-wide infestation of the 100 percenter, the person who does not care whether or not his view makes sense, only that it be defended.
  • The second most delusional are the journalists who take ordinary events and paste over them with emotions aimed at getting people riled up, all to sell more ad space. They selectively take deeds and inflate them with sensationalism and people think “this aberration is common”, and most days it seems that the whole world is becoming unhinged. The reality is that most of us are doing reasonably decent, mundane, constructive things every day, all day. And at night we calmly sleep or have sex.
  • The third most delusional are the voters who can’t connect their own circumstance to the capabilities – or lack thereof – of the people they elect. So they elect thieves, dictator’s wives, boxers, actors and nut cases to the legislature, and sometimes the presidency. Then they fail to grasp why they are poor. It is always someone else’s fault, and when you think about it, it is a pretty bizarre world when no one is in any way responsible for anything at all, anyplace, ever.
  • The fourth most delusional are the children who are constrained from gathering conceptual learning in favor of spitting back memorized data, and thus are not taught how to think critically or creatively or to grasp the concept of integrity. Two primary concepts that young Filipinos latch onto are ridicule and scapegoating, and the ultimate in ridicule is called fraternity hazing. There is a big hole where rational problem-solving should be or where bonding in love and caring, rather than ridicule, ought to be.
  • The fifth most delusional are the crooks who remove themselves from the pain of other people, the people they hurt by their thieving and murderous ways. The black hole of the Filipino soul seems too often to be conscience. It has collapsed under some unseen social-gravitational weight to become the size of a pinhead.
  • The sixth most delusional are those who run their lives according to superstition or religion unfettered by common sense, the distinction twixt superstition and religion oft escaping me. The head men – never the women, which itself suggests a certain detachment from sense – come up with a rigid vision, from that build some artificial rules, often limiting and destructive, and then work incessantly to impose them on the rest of us as a proper way to behave.

So put it all together and what do you have?

  • Instability as the main theme
  • Destructive tendencies
  • Overly emotional reactions to things
  • No accountability at all, any where, any time
  • Very poor problem-solving fundamentals
  • A preference for ridicule over caring
  • A great void where conscience ought to reside
  • Loony, intolerant rules forming the essence of morality

So you see, the whole composite lifestyle of the nation is based on air, on error of comprehension. Social media compound the problem. We live by incomprehensible text abbreviations and tweets mistaken as deep discussion and some bizarre notion that Facebook is something other than a vain misrepresentation of each person who posts there.

I dunno.

Perhaps this is nothing new. If we look back at history, certainly a lot of delusional water has passed under the global bridges. Wars fought when they need not be. Occupations based on false assumptions, and the ever-present denigrations of racial or religious discrimination. I mean, look at China or Russia if you want to see unkind lunacy at work, real time, with cruel manipulations of decent people and use of innocents as pawns, as commodities, for the best interests of the ruling clique.

And yet, I expect the good nation Philippines to somehow be more than this. The people are bright, unendingly charming, and good of heart. The democratic, capitalistic, freedom-rich socio-economic foundation offers abundant opportunity to generate wealth and health if managed right.

What’s the matter here?

It is perplexing, so overwhelming. It seems impossible to bring this surreal blimp back to earth.

  • How do we develop respect for opposing positions rather than convert disagreement to a mission to destroy?
  • How do we build our nation up instead of tear it down?
  • How do we make millions of ignorant voters wise?
  • How do we inject conscience and caring into a battle-hardened people always pushing and shoving for self-gain?
  • How do we teach our kids to be genuinely smart inside, rather than smart for show?
  • How do we adopt the golden rule across the nation, rather than the rule that God forgives us of our sins, so sin away?

You tell me, because I have no idea. I am just watching awestruck.

The entire nation functions on illusion, on thinking detached from sense, detached from kindness, and detached from the understanding that cause has effect. Simple groundings are missing. Missing is the idea that it is better to be positive than negative. That diversity should be embraced, not used as a reason to insult others and defend one’s own ignorance. That rational thinking and calm, sensitive demeanor are better than emotionalism attached to illusion.

We need an anchor.

We need a way to live with kind hearts and disciplined, forthright achievement.


52 Responses to “Free flailing in the Philippines”
  1. pussyfooter says:

    ❤ Totally going to sound like a fangirl here, but I hear you and admire you for coming right out and saying this. Sanity in a society like this will look a lot like insanity at times, and be punished accordingly too.

    As someone who entirely sympathizes, I've always believed that good-quality education would correct most or all of this craziness in at least a generation's time. Now when that sort of education will ever come about is beyond me. You already know why; you've elaborated on it pretty well here.

    Personally sometimes I think this is our Dark/Middle Ages, and for those of us sentient enough to notice we might as well just shrug our shoulders and enjoy the next fiesta. For all our best efforts and mightiest optimism, it's going to be at least another 200 years til some terrible plague kills off enough millions to reboot the program. Usually people cope by simply doing what they can and what they like to do in what circles they have. Drop in the bucket maybe, but at least it's THEIR drop, and losing one's sanity or faith in view of the enormity of the senselessness just isn't worthwhile. (Then again, maybe good citizenship essentially consists of nothing BUT taking care of one's drop in the bucket. Imvho good citizenship is so rare here that every little bit counts, as much symbolically as practically 🙂

    • Joe America says:

      To the fiesta it is then, fangirl. ‘Cause I suspect you characterize it accurately, a 200 year period of Dark Middle Ages. But I’ll root for getting most of the work done in 20 . . . like developing a real middle class for starters.

    • parengtony says:

      very well said. cheers to more fangirl comments.

  2. chit navarro says:

    How do we build our nation up instead of tear it down?
    How do we make millions of ignorant voters wise?
    How do we inject conscience and caring into a battle-hardened people always pushing and shoving for self-gain?

    To all these questions and to the rest of your list, my first stop would be the MEDIA.

    Let us have a media (TV, radio, newspaper) that will accentuate the POSITIVE, not the NEGATIVE. Tell the news as is and not interject their “personal” opinions.

    Have a media that will educate us objectively and intelligently – not a media that sensationalizes news and sells its soul to the highest bidder.

    A media that talks of performance and accomplishments; NOT of what-would-have beens of what-ifs.

    A media that will help in nation building and in projecting our country’s positive performances to the outside world.


    Bashing the President and his economic team or IMPEACH – IMPEACH , etc. SELLS.

    • Joe America says:

      Yes, I agree with that, and was indeed noodling on the start of a blog yesterday to deal with Philippine media.

    • Mariano Renato Pacifico says:

      Philippine Press employs graduates from so-called and self-described “ivy-school” of University of the Philippines. They foment ignorance. Inculcate witness accounts over evidences. Promote stupidity.

      If these ivy-school University of the Philippines failed and failed miserably just imagine the brains of Filipinos who have not studied in the University of the Philippines.

      Philippine Press inform Filipinos who to vote. They sway Filipinos votes. Filipinos can only know their candidates thru Philippine Press. Something is wrong with the Philippine Press. Well, Philippine Press is the reflection of the Filipino people.

      So, where do we really start in changing the Filipinos?

    • Maxie says:

      Media has the immense power to sway hearts and minds and is a key factor to making positive/negative changes. At the height of the Erap Impeachment trial I approached two friends who were in the entertainment industry. I thought that maybe together they could host a show a lá Oprah that would help uplift and inspire the viewers. What they both said about tv networks and ratings was disheartening. That goes for radio and print media too. Bottom line is $$$.

      • Joe America says:

        Yes, I’d like to focus on media in a special blog. Money is the driver for sure. Media are self regulated so there isn’t much pressure for change.

        Thanks for the inside insight.

        • vernon says:

          Start with something like this: “Why is the Philippine Media Oh So Retarded?” Or something like this: ” Is the Philippine media part of the problem or the problem?”.

          I am not rushing you on this, Joe, but please start the blog. Somebody has to tell these guys to wisen up or be irrelevant. I can’t do it because anger gets the better of me. It still pains me a lot that The Daily Inquirer has morphed into something totally opposite of what it was during Ma’am Eggie Apostol’s days.

          This site gets better every darn day. More power.


        • parengtony says:

          Mercenaries in Philippine media is a reality that is so easy to prove (most of it is in plain sight and most of such type of media practitioners have lifestyles not supported by legit incomes).

  3. josephivo says:

    Strange, 20 years ago when I worked and lived in the US I had similar feelings. On the radio you had all those Clinton bashers, preachers of all kind, people convinced that the UN was conquering the USA, the need for guns, discussions on a 7 cent an hour minimum wage increase while top earners made 10,000$ and hour… I was driving a lot, zapping on my car radio, in hotels a lot, zapping on TV.

    Some differences though, on the 4e of July all Americans came together, enjoying the parade and the fireworks. But was it that different from the unity Filipinos show when Paquioa is on TV? But a lot of the same irrationalities, emotions, moral high grounds, ‘we know it better because we are Americans’…

    Part of the problem abroad is that you miss your instant references. You need more time to make sense of it all. In your home country you know the parties you like, the people you like. You instantly hear where somebody is coming from, his accent, vocabulary, clothing, movements… You can judge straight away, all makes sense. Even after 10 years it takes me effort to understand the ‘logic’ of what is happening here. As Mariano explains so well, the press in not really helping, in the US I had some anchors to keep my sanity, NYT, PBS, Newsweek, Forbes, Scientific American…, here it is limited to a blog or two and a columnist or two.

    And most importantly, in the US I did not feel the need to change it all, I was just an observer, collecting stories for back home.

    • Joe America says:

      The US is a very acrimonious place, for sure, and getting more so as corporate funds go into elections and the big money demands that politicians hold to a straight and narrow line. Partisanship risks ripping the fabric Americana to shreds. In the US, leftists are not the problem, Tea Party right wing extremists are. And they are actually getting elected, so they are more a part of the system than the extreme left in the Philippines, which cannot command any kind of loyalty within the legislature.

      But the US is rich and getting richer, and the Philippines is poor and staying poor. So they are not the same.

      I also accept that one’s homeland is one’s homeland, and there is no need to change it. Unless one WANTS to. So it is fair to take the perspectives in the article and hit the delete button, and think no more about it, if one is all that one wants to be, or one’s nation is all that one wants it to be.

      But US media are regulated and have more journalistic . . . . um, integrity and effort . . . and mandated public service content as a condition of retaining a license (airwaves belong to the public, not the media owners). There are in depth analyses of issues done, multiple views on all sides of any issue, and blood and gore are not run on the telly, during dinner time. It’s different.

      The engine of innovation, universities and private businesses, career tracks . . . much more robust and rich with opportunities for Joe Nobody to rise and be successful. It’s different.

      Laws are followed, except by a small portion of the population. It’s different.

      Introspection, accepting accountability, the Golden Rule . . . dominant themes in the U.S. It’s different.

      I’m afraid I have to disagree with you that it is the same, although the US certainly has its own set of problems (over-consumption, unilateralism on the international stage, partisan bickering). But the government framework, and how schools and citizens work together with the business community, is much more dynamic and oriented to innovation and production, wealth-building and what most would term success.

      People around the world try endlessly to get into the U.S. Not so for the Philippines.

      It’s different. And the main difference is opportunity.

      I’ve tried to identify some ways the Philippines suppresses opportunity in the next blog.

      • sonny says:

        “The engine of innovation, universities and private businesses, career tracks . . . much more robust and rich with opportunities for Joe Nobody to rise and be successful. It’s different.

        Laws are followed, except by a small portion of the population. It’s different.”

        Joe, I agree totally with your observation. Even from my short & limited stint working for a US county government, I saw the dynamic/paradigm that can work for many sectors of the Philippine workplace, public and private. I observed that many interests lay poised to control and manipulate the distribution channels of the common largesse, not unlike situations in the Philippine setting. The single force that was understood by these interests was the operation of law and order. The assured punishment with the full force of the law was enough deterrent to avoid malfeasance. The image of Federal agents, for example, coming into the offices of suspected bureaucrats, that are splashed on the front pages of major newspapers do paint graphic reminders of what is in store for would-be evildoers. I submit that the common tao are in general law-abiding and honest if their virtue can be supported by the exercise of law and order, due process consistently and without exception on the part of the officers of the law. This climate of “law & order is good” must be started both from the top to down and from the bottom to up; baby steps or bigger, end-arounds or long passes, whichever is available to do.

        • Joe America says:

          Agree wholeheartedly, sonny. Obedience to laws keeps an essential fairness in the system, and helps opportunity thrive. There is a premium on competence and accomplishment. Thanks for the validation.

          • PinoyInEurope says:

            I wonder if Filipinos understand what laws and rules are really about – to give some order and as you said fairness and especially predictability to the system. In the Philippines, law is bent to the whim of the powerful and/or the devious, and is hardly understandable to anyone but lawyers – I think that is on purpose, to intimidate those who are powerless. Institutions in the Philippines are hijacked by the powerful and do not serve the people, they screw the people starting from the kotong-kotong cop to the tongressman.

            The USA has had the same Constitution, with a number of well-thought out Amendments since more than 200 years, it is short and easy to understand, while the Philippine 1986 constitution is the third constitution the Philippines has had in a century and is highly convoluted. OK there are also abuses of power in the USA, but people see them as abuses and not as the norm like in the Philippines – that is the big difference.

            Also in the USA people grow up knowing their rights and ready to defend them and people in positions of power acknowledge this – imagine a regular poor or normal guy telling a cop or public official in the Philippines “I know my rights” or “my taxes pay your salary”…

            • Joe America says:

              It is also interesting that the obedience to laws in the U.S. ties the nation together, whereas when laws are a matter for the privileged, the laws fail to bind anyone to the idea that nationhood has a discipline, and “I should have discipline, too”.

        • josephivo says:

          A big difference is that Americans live in THEIR country and they are assertive. Filipinos are always been occupied, they live in somebody else’s country, that of the Spaniards, the Americans, the dynasties but not in THEIR country, they lack assertiveness too. Here it is accepted that cheating the occupier is a virtue, in the US cheating YOUR country is a vice. The President still has a long way to go before his bosses will realize and accept that they are indeed the boss.

          • Attila says:

            I never buy in to this. As a Hungarian I know what it means to be occupied and live in somebody else’s country that of the Muslim Turks, the Habsburgs or the Soviet Union but not our own country. We dont suffer from “colonial post traumatic disorder” like Filipinos. Despite the fact that we had some nasty experiences like the 3 million Hungarians we lost to slavery to the Muslims. I don’t believe the excuses from Filipinos none of this colonial BS I believe. It is just a stupid excuse. Something else is going on here. Someone should dig out the truth!

            • PinoyInEurope says:

              Attila, the Hungarians had a solid culture and a nation of their own BEFORE they were conquered by others. Even to the extent that they were feared by the other European nations, until King Stephan accepted Christianity and the Hungarians settled along the Danube. With your strong sense of pride, your nobles were even able to attain some equality within the Austrian empire which became the Austro-Hungarian empire. Much like the Scots managed to attain some sort of respect from the English. Their kingdom never became part of England, only Great Britain.

              The Filipinos did not have a nation before being conquered by others. Just different tribes which happened to be Spanish territory, some under Spanish control and Christianized, others not and either Muslim oder tribal in religion. Plus the attitude of the Filipino ruling class towards their own people. The Filipino ruling class always sold out its own people, from the rajas of Manila who submitted to Spain under the condition that they were exempted from the forced labor their own people had to endure, or those who sucked up to Spanish, American and Japanese occupiers. Of course there is the common Filipino who accepts such a ruling class, for whatever reason – fear, stupidity, inertia?

              Knowing a lot of people from your neighbouring country Romania, I have found some disturbing similarities in attitude to us Filipinos – in both good and bad ways. Always making excuses for everything and if someone criticizes their country they point out how bad things can also be elsewhere. But at the same time very family-oriented and warm-hearted if you know them well – if you don’t know them well, there is a saying the Romanians know neither gratitude nor mercy – but I stop here because this thread is about Filipinos.

      • sonny says:

        “Introspection, accepting accountability, the Golden Rule . . . dominant themes in the U.S. It’s different.

        I’m afraid I have to disagree with you that it is the same, although the US certainly has its own set of problems (over-consumption, unilateralism on the international stage, partisan bickering). But the government framework, and how schools and citizens work together with the business community, is much more dynamic and oriented to innovation and production, wealth-building and what most would term success.

        People around the world try endlessly to get into the U.S. Not so for the Philippines.

        It’s different. And the main difference is opportunity.”

        Joe, I have to pause and see the takeaways from this statement. (This particular installment of your blog is quite fecund, parsing-wise). So here goes and I know not to where but more to reflect on the socio-politico-economic landscape you have put across.

        As a counterpart of yours (Filipino expat adapting to the American scene), I realize I should not just take in America as a whole but more appropriately, I should single out specific States that are closer in scale to Filipino society. I would pick out the States of Mississippi or Louisiana, keeping in mind still, the elements of New York, California, Texas, the states I would think of immediately when discussing economic opportunity, cultural diversity, mobility, etc. in a word – dynamic, powerhouse stereotypes of America. To this end, I wish I could interact with more Americans from the states of the former category.

        • Joe America says:

          That is quite brilliant, if brilliant can be “quite” as opposed to entirely. Actually, it is entirely brilliant. The Philippines is definitely more Mississippi than California in socio-economic terms. Large base of poverty, ruling elite, economically thin, lots of hardheads.

          The one difference is that there seems to be more promise in the Philippines than in Mississippi. Odd how that is . . .

        • sonny says:

          A person:
          One of our black doormen, by all appearances seems to have settled well and bringing up a healthy family in the city of Chicago. I find out he just submitted his resignation and that he was pulling up stakes to go back to Mississippi where he was born and raised. To settle in Chicago is to submit to an egalitarian city-culture with a more than average share of opportunity in careers, education and leisure. From media and literature and history I would not compare any major city in Mississippi as at par to Chicago and Illinois. I have driven through this state and I felt like I would not like to tarry in the state longer than necessary. Yet afterwards I understood why our doorman left a “good life” in Chicago in favor of his “less than good” resettlement in his birthplace. At the time, I wished I had done likewise and returned to the Philippines.

          A place:
          One year after Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans, I had a chance to visit this historic place. While passing through the areas that were affected the worst, I saw that recovery for the communities affected was not to be expected any time soon. The destruction one can see reminded me of the “typical” aftermath of the places visited by the 20 odd typhoons going through the Philippines every year. New Orleans so reminded me of the Philippines. Both are surrounded by water and are water-logged every year and yet the communities in these two places struggle and try to prepare and prevail in spite of knowing that the rains and winds will come as sure as their sunrises and sunsets. And yet the people in these communities do not abandon these places and instead either do battle with the elements and devise plans that will deliver them from year to year.

          I guess the point for mentioning these two anecdotes is an attempt to see the forest even as we struggle with the trees. We choose to stay or leave certain places and circumstances and to do either is to be attracted or repelled by personal forces that cannot be denied. Hence we flail away or “dance in the rain” as Joe and Sen. Saguisag would say.

          • Joe America says:

            Very touching stories and I am inclined to try to take lessons from them. We are an emotional people, and home is where a lot of emotions are vested. One never really leaves, although one can be physically away. Different people have different character and needs. I get bored in the same place and so I move from time to time, looking for things that don’t always show up, while surprises do show up. I’ve left so many homes behind that it is rather like a trail of debris, and I can’t go back to any of them. But I do think back, and get an emotional kick out of recalling the good days and the wonderment of having gotten through the bad.

            As for storms, we are also an impatient people. Katrina and Yolanda were monsters of the first order. It takes years to rebuild, not a few months. That’s when things go well. After both those storms, some political gameplaying was done and that slowed recovery. Sometimes we are also a stupid people.

  4. manuel buencamino says:

    Those in categories one, two, and five are not delusional. They know exactly what they want and what they are doing. Let’s not conflate them with the other categories; they are the causes and the other categories are the effects.

    The other categories – three, four, and six – can plead insanity thanks to the machinations of categries one, two, and five. They have been rendered incapable of critical thinking the weapon against one, two and five. They have to start using question marks instead of accepting periods and exclamation points from those in categories one, two, and five. 🙂

  5. Paul says:

    Hi Joe, yes I’m back from the dead…I was just kinda busy. To answer your question quickly, the simplest step we can all take is to start believing that this country and our culture is actually worth something. We have to learn to see what is good and workable rather than point out all that is wrong. As you know, I’ve been in this country since 1981 and have lived here my whole professional life. Since the darkness of 1987 until today I still feel and see much progress. Our country is on the verge of turning and the younger generation is more aware of it. One thing I have learned is when you have a bad habit, focusing on ridding yourself of the bad habit is very difficult to almost impossible. What is easier and far more effective is to focus on the exact opposite…this I learned through experience but is now also a proven fact (recent studies of the way our brain processes information – other wise known as neuroscience is proving my experiences correct). While the masses still elude me, my hope lies eternal. 🙂

    • Joe America says:

      Very good to have you back, Paul. And especially bringing the optimism that a shift is occurring, for the good. Consider this article a little encouragement in that direction then, carrying with it the hope for the adoption of some good habits nationwide.

  6. Gerardo Vergara says:

    Like Paul, I still haven’t lost hope of turning things around for the sake of the many and especially the younger generation. Unlike other countries whose people are fighting each other to extinction of the race, we have abiding peace anywhere else we go except for pockets of guerilla warfare that affects only a small portion of the population.

    Without peace, progress is impossible to attain and although there is that great divide that separates classes by wide margins, we still cling even to the flimsiest of hopes that the time will come when we, as a people, would achieve success as a political community.

    For someone from a foreign land like you, Joe, who chose to be one with us, I truly welcome your efforts to institute lasting changes in this chaotic situation we are in right now due to an overbearing media and corrupt politicians who will stop at nothing to make the situation more chaotic and messy.

    Everything will come to pass, that’s for sure, so I am patiently waiting. There are always solutions to even the hardest of problems and I know they are not far from being found.

    • Joe America says:

      I love that upbeat perspective, Gerardo, and I’m happy that you see my engagement as constructive. And I agree. There ARE solutions to even the hardest of problems.

  7. Micha says:

    I hope Joe, that there is no ambivalence in your recognition of the fact that the maladies you have listed above are not entirely unique to Filipinos (you only mentioned Russia and China though).

    What is apparent is that these blight and errors are fairly distributed, with varying degrees of severity, across other democracies with far more longer history of development and craft.

    Destabilizing left, check.

    Sensationalist media, check.

    Ignorant voters, check.

    Unruly, misguided kids, check.

    Corrupt politicians, check.

    Religious idiots, check.

    Perhaps the question that needs to be asked is, what are the forces that make these aberrations happen almost everywhere?

    • Joe America says:

      The maladies I listed are for sure not unique to the Philippines. Also, there are about as many different forms of democracy as there are states being democratic. So, while there are similarities, they differ widely. Poverty exists in the United States, and ignorance is rampant, and the extreme left is destabilizing to the extreme right, and gangs run riot in certain parts of the big cities . . . and on and on.

      But I have two restraints that force the article into being: I’m dealing with the Philippines, no other state, and the essential question is, “is the Philippines all that she can be?”

      I answer “no”, but others may find satisfaction with the condition of the condition. And that is fine.

      Because “no” is my answer, I have to figure out why the nation is so impoverished and unable to do much about it. And I discover that there is an absence of directed energy, logically applied, passionately pursued. Everything is up in the air, an over-abundance of details colliding with one another, much like a recent Supreme Court ruling, and never quite landing right. So we try to impeach a President who could easily be nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize and impeachment would have one certain result, more upheaval and less progress toward ending poverty. And I plunge back into the pool trying to find a reason for the spinning wheels and endless nonsense and . . . write a blog . . .

      I have no axes to grind here . . .

      • Micha says:

        “I have to figure out why the nation is so impoverished and unable to do much about it. And I discover that there is an absence of directed energy, logically applied, passionately pursued.”

        Because our plutocrats – who are in full control of the nation’s affairs and resources – don’t have the will, the incentive nor the inclination to logically pursue a policy of improving the lot of our impoverished population.

        Economic inequality undermines democracy, so In that sense, we don’t really have a democracy. It’s a sham. What we have, in fact, is plutocracy incorporated.

        • Joe America says:

          I accept the point. I don’t think it is a democracy, either. There are no principled stands by the political parties, there are just interpersonal dealings.

        • PinoyInEurope says:

          Philippine politics basically never changed since pre-Hispanic times. You have the equivalent of sultans, datus and their respective barangays in shifting alliances – disguised as democracy. You have ancient superstition disguised as Christianity.

          For all the pragmatism and adaptability the Filipinos show in adapting to new masters – both in their own country and abroad as OFWs, they are actually very inflexible when it comes to reflecting about how they do things and adapting to changing times.

          They adapt to the “amo” outwardly but as soon as they are among themselves, they revert to the old habits. A bit of a survival instinct I guess, but in the wrong way. Unlike the Japanese who kept their old culture but learned intensively and systematically from others.

          • Joe America says:

            Nice crisp portrait. I’m thinking that the old ways are starting to erode under pressure of social media though. Forthright may be a new concept coming on stream. From that, pragmatic accomplishment. It will take a few years to get it to the provinces and a few more to get it to the barangays.

            • PinoyInEurope says:

              Aside from social media I see the reality of what is happening to the country especially to Metro Manila as an important driver. The small-group or barangay mentality combined with improvisation – something Filipinos are very talented at – worked up to a certain point, it even worked in a crazy sort of way in Metro Manila up to the 1980s maybe, but now people are observing how it does not work anymore and are talking about it in social media – the virtual barangay of todays Filipinos. I know it from my own personal experience in life as someone shaped by the Philippines as well that the Filipino only reacts and MAYBE changes his ways as soon as he is in really deep trouble.

              Most important, beyond selfish personal interests and the interests of one’s own group, one’s barangay, there never was any concept of common good or “common weal” in the Philippines like the old English called it. Just getting ahead of others, and others really means “iba” – people you do not have to care about, in the olden days people you could sacrifice in the literal sense, even up to cutting their head off which is what happened when barangays fought one another – for one’s own (group’s) advancement. The deep trouble the country and the discussions within overlapping virtual barangays – social media – are causing something like a sense of common weal to develop.

              Also important is the lack of long-term thinking, but how do you develop that in a country where you never knew what would happen tomorrow, so you improvise on the short term. I only – very slowly and by knowing a number of “puti” or “Joes” closely for a while – developed a sense of long-term thinking abroad and was actually surprised that things remained stable, that people could be relied upon and trusted, and that I actually got help instead of ridicule and contempt when I admitted mistakes instead of hiding them like I did before, that colleagues actually were nice to me if I helped them instead of stealing my work and making me look bad in return, that one could actually TRUST other people.

              And that is inspite of a good education that I have in theory, funny how many Pinoys inspite of education still have a highly disfunctional mentality. For one thing it is because we have learned not to really say what we mean, only what others want to hear from us, especially toward “Joes” and “putis”, and also expect others not to really say what they mean and mean what they say, it surprises us when people actually are straightforward and walk their talk, when they actually help colleagues who have problems even if they are not part of one’s in-group, when they actually stick to business agreements in spirit and in a long-term way, when rules actually make sense and are implemented in a human way, yes when police and other authorities actually help you instead of screwing you…

              Which brings me to a further point – a lot of Pinoys in social media, in the network of overlapping virtual barangays – have experienced how life abroad can be, in better organized countries, or are actually living there. And since the typical Filipino will only believe what someone from the same “barangay” is telling him, and even then will remain skeptical, these people are an essential factor. What the “puti” or what “Joe” will tell a Filipino does not really enter his head most of the time, being so strange and foreign, I know from my own experience, and a Joe or a puti may be accepted in a barangay if married to someone Filipino but will rarely ever truly be part of it, even for a lifetime.

              For the most part we Filipinos learned to say what others want to hear, to parrot what foreign masters told us, but did not really understand what they actually meant. Also because from our original, very hierarchic culture, we learned to be afraid to ask, afraid to confront authority and call the bullshit, and persons in authority are used to not having to explain what they are doing in a logical, down-to-earth way, only in an evasive way, often followed by reprisals against those who dared to ask – since asking why is seen as disrespect. If you learn not to ask and never get answers, how can you really learn? It surprised me getting to know some Western bosses (Joes or putis and amos as well, so to speak) that they actually answer questions in a normal and logical way and don’t punish you for asking, in fact that they are grateful for employees or contractors that tell them the truth.

              A lot of the seeming non-logic in what Filipinos tell you, Joe, is just evasive bullshit. They actually know what is going on but will not admit it to someone outside their “barangay”. For fear of losing face, of being ridiculed. How do you teach someone who never experienced constructive criticism to honestly admit mistakes – which is the first step to learning from them? They will never admit mistakes because they fear ridicule. They will not directly disagree with anyone for fear of all-out conflict, not only in front but also from behind. It surprised me after many years of behaving like a typical Pinoy here abroad that bosses, colleagues, business associates do not ridicule you or worse if you admit a mistake but focus on getting the problem solved. That it is actually possible to disagree without being emotional about it, and that disagreement will not necessarily lead to war, and that other people may actually try to find a consensus, a reasonable way out, win-win.

              • Joe America says:

                I have to laugh. You put into a few paragraphs what it has taken me 9 years to figure out. And I still had not figured out your last paragraph, face and ridicule. Thanks for the superb lesson.

      • Micha says:

        “So we try to impeach a President who could easily be nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize.”

        President Aquino was born in a privileged economic class – the closest thing you could get to a Filipino prince, if you will, just as his sister Kris is a princess.

        What he is doing now – prosecuting other corrupt princes – is being seen as a betrayal of his own class. He will be harassed to send a message.

        I myself is not sure at this point if President Aquino is for real or will he easily succumb to the plutocratic pressure of toeing the line.

        • Joe America says:

          He was born of privilege, and Catholic, but he has been loyal to the secular Philippines. Some people get a Nobel award for one achievement. President Obama got it for no real achievement, just the promise of a reversal to the economic crash, something he delivered. Mr. Aquino has had three world-class achievements: (1) Mindanao peace agreement, (2) stabilizing a corrupt government, and (3) a principled, peaceful law-based opposition to China.

    • parengtony says:

      “Sensationalist media, check.”

      I do not mean to correct other people’s comments but only to make more emphatic the existence of media mercenaries. who, IMHO, practice propaganda under the employ of big time PR operators. The sensationalist media label is not entirely appropriate as it removes the ulterior motive of propaganda and de-emphasizes the most noble responsibility of journalism – integrity.

      The basis of my opinion are from many personal encounters with this sad situation.

  8. macspeedmacspeed says:

    The Current Government of PNOY is on the right track, a lot of people in all walks of life, the poor, the middle and the high class are silently doing what they have to do with their lives, positive movements goes on, however the devils the first and the fifth delusional people don’t stop till they get what they want.

    The trimming of CORRUPTIONS is one way to reduce the political ambitions of the many who wish to become rich, in the coming elections and future elections, the candidates will be purely service men for the country. If there is no more chance to become rich in becoming Senator or Congressmen, then a lot will automatically choose a field which they
    can use as their career. The fifth delusional people will vanish to thin air.

    The First delusional people are now aged, new members are not really devoted to their ideas and hence later will leave to a more democratic way of life. The current government process of cleansing and development at the same time will bring automatic
    changing of peoples attitude. The breeze of success will invite anyone to do good in their lives. It is a domino effect. The new government after PNOY will automatically continue the process left by good governance.

    The 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 6th delusional people will always be there part of society for entertainment, food, beverages and other business and industries. Delusion is part of marketing products such as
    movie or new shampoo. 🙂

    • Joe America says:

      OUT, OUT, damned first delusional people. We’ll hardly remember you in 20 years. The rest of us delusionals are good people, in the main, and will get along just fine without you, thanks. Sorry about the fifths . . . we won’t miss you either . . . 🙂

      I appreciate the characterization and the optimism and the laugh.

  9. Paul says:

    I have a thought…every time you post something, let’s stop comparing ourselves to other countries. One, it will not help us resolve our issues and two, whatever you post, whether it is true or not, should we compare it to another country, does not in anyway diminish the validity of your argument.

    That said, my own personal thoughts about our situation revolves around one of the points you blogged about, our inability to let go or we hold on to our emotions too long. Let’s start with a definition of delusional….A delusion is a belief held with strong conviction despite superior evidence to the contrary (wikipedia) not the best source but the definition works. The only good I can see in that definition is “strong belief.” Maybe what we must do as a nation is place our strong belief in the correct place. Sometime back, some one asked me to post a blog about forgiveness. (I do owe that not only to you, Joe, but also to all the bloggers here – I’ll get down to that just give me till next week – Thursday). Forgiveness is a funny and unusual emotion. The phrase “forgive and forget” is a big misnomer. Forgiving will allow us to put our “strong belief” in the right place but forgetting makes us delusional. Ah…many might be saying what the hell is Paul talking about…sorry but you’ll have to wait for my post about forgiveness. Till next week 🙂

    • Joe America says:

      Paragraph one, yes, good point. Comparisons often deflect attention from the real issue, and most of the time are irrelevant. We should introspect, against our own standards, not set up other people’s standards as right for us. Now all I have to do is have some surgeon stick a cattle prod in my brain to get rid of all the American history and experiences lodged there.

      Paragraph two, hurry up already! ahahahaha. No, no. Take your time. 🙂

      • Paul says:

        Hey Joe, now you’re really sounding pinoy “hurry up ‘already'” already…very pinoy hahaha. I have nothing against your comparing us to the US or any other nation. That after all is not only human nature but also a default setting of our brain (yup neuroscience again). But, I’m all with you when it comes to deflection. Ciao for now…Till the article about forgiveness 🙂

    • PinoyInEurope says:

      Forgive and forget – this is something the powerful in the Philippines always ask the less powerful to do for them – so that they can continue oppressing them the same old way. The powerful on the other hand do not forgive and do not forget any attempt by the less powerful to free themselves from their being oppressed. Especially if the less powerful actually are bold enough to call the bullshit the powerful are feeding to them, because the Philippines is run like “Sin City” in the movies: power comes not from violence but from lies.

      The kind of people in the Philippines who talk forgive and forget are usually the kind of loony hypocrites who would throw an unwed mother out of the Church, but ask the congregation to FORGIVE and FORGET a pedophile priest. Forgiving is OK if the person who has done something wrong actually changes his ways and proves it, forgetting is foolish because there are sociopaths who will pretend to change just to deceive people.

  10. Gerardo Vergara says:

    I find nothing wrong in the way Joe compares us to the US of A since the brand of democracy we have here was patterned after that country. And I think you must remember that the political maturity that it is enjoying now came after about 200? years…or thereabouts?

    Now I am not betting that I will see such maturity in my remaining lifetime, say, in 5 or 10 years but I am not also looking forward to, say, 50 or 100 years. That would amount to waiting interminably and several lifetimes of reincarnations.

    • Paul says:


      Thanks for the reply! In 1987 I thought that I would never see our country pull itself out of it’s debt within my generation. In fact, I thought and firmly believed that even my grand children would still be paying for that debt. It is now 2014, my eldest daughter is 22 and and no boyfriend in sight and we are able to pay our national debt with our dollar reserves. I don’t know how old you are and political maturity seems to be a mirage. But who knows, if I life another 30 years (that would make me 80), maybe my grand children will see political maturity 🙂

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