A very simple idea to take care of one another better

Mother and child cross the street. [By junpizon, depositphotos, non-commercial use]

By JoeAm

Filipinos are very self-contained. Haha, that’s my polite way of putting it. More direct would be to say most Filipinos are “totally self absorbed”. There is not a lot of other-awareness here. Not a lot of courtesy, kindness, or giving. There is a whole lot of taking.

Ach. What’s going on here? It is not my job to judge Filipinos. It is to discuss ideas. After all, Americans have lost their way, too, so who am I to stand on the hill looking down across the Philippines.

But maybe you, as Filipinos, would care to do the looking and the judging?

Do you feel that you are among people who are generous with their outreach to others? Do you cross the pedestrian crosswalk knowing drivers are looking out for your well-being? Do you go to the fish market and believe the weighing scales are set accurately? When you buy something from a local vendor, do you count your change carefully? Does your doctor go out of his way to schedule an appointment for you? Do voters vote to build a better nation? When you visit a government office, do you get served courteously? Do you feel respected most of the day, or is it rather a desert of appreciation, a battleground of people angling for advantage?

Well, I am a very wary fellow, myself, but then I’ve been shot at here, had my house robbed by relatives, my trees cut down by neighborhood pranksters, unkind rumors spread about my wife by neighbors, and cheated on the tin I donated for the local church roof (the contractor ordered about 30% more than necessary). I cross the crosswalk as if prey for attacking drivers and steel myself to be humiliated whenever I visit a government office. I hold onto my wallet in crowded places and leave the shopping to my wife so my blood pressure is not challenged. I am aghast at how much trash gets dispensed across the landscape, even in 2019 when we ought to be more ‘woke’. I drive like an aggressive maniac because it is the only way to get through the host of other drivers fully willing to claim my right of way if I pause to blink. I notice the people cutting into lines here and there, but don’t say much. I once objected to a woman cutting into the line ahead of my young son at the ice cream kiosk and if she had had a gun, she would have shot me.

It’s not worth it.

So I’m guessing that if you are an objective observer of goings on in the Philippines, you might agree with me, Filipinos aren’t doing a lot to take care of Filipinos.

I have in mind a simple way to change that. I hope you do not think it silly.

My idea? Do a better job using signs for road enforcement. The government has spent a lot of money in my area on roads, and so we have four lane highways where there used to be narrow rural roads. But there are no signs. Motorcycles drive right down the line between lanes, blocking both. I am flabbergasted, but because so many do it, I’m thinking I’m the one who is wrong to believe it would be safer if they got in either the left or right lane.

I think the city or province or national government, whoever manages the highways, ought to post signs here and there along the highway that say “slow vehicles keep right”.

And before major pedestrian crosswalks, they should put up signs that say “Yield to pedestrians in the crosswalk”. Not that funny cartoon sign with a stick figure striding in a crosswalk.

And near schools, scrap the signs that say “slow, school zone” and replace them with “school zone, keep our kids safe”.

Do you see the underlying message there?

Think about others.

On buses “don’t kill our oceans, put trash in a bin”.

Then have some bins at the major bus stops.

I’m sure there are hundreds of ways to inject “thinking of others” into the lives of everyone. Small ways, little easy thoughtful ways. Just a sign here, a reminder there.

That’s my idea. Make a national commitment to taking care of one other better.

Maybe it will feel good to be kind.

I hope so.


41 Responses to “A very simple idea to take care of one another better”
  1. Wilfredo G. Villanueva says:

    I hope you don’t think I am “nagbubuhat ng sariling bangko” or self-promoting. It’s like this: drive in Quezon city and know the meaning of rudeness. Drive in Las Piñas city and be blessed. Pedestrians are given way and they say thanks with a wave of a hand AND a smile. Pedestrians are king in my mind and I have had this attitude for a long time. Is courtesy contagious? Go figure.

  2. You’re right Joe. I’m a former jeepney driver and I really hates those motorcyclists who waves in and out in front of your vehicle or overtakes on the right side, even on the curbs which endangers the pedestrians and themselves too if and when the vehicle they’re overtaking on the wrong side stops to unload their passenger/s. And also those tricycle drivers who keeps driving on the middle/fast lane though they’re too slow, causing a traffic. And some private or public vehicles who doesn’t have courtesy to give way to crossing pedestrians even on pedestrian lanes. Some filipinos are really self-centered and selfish. Always in a hurry to be prioritized first.

    I hope all of you that will read this comment can understand my “english”. 🙂

    • Your English is terrific, and thanks for validating my remarks in the article.

    • madlanglupa says:

      If you thought ours are bad, no way I’ll try to drive on the streets of Ho Chi Minh City — too many motorcycles.

      We have absolutely no driver discipline because we don’t have formal public driving schools.

      • That possibly contributes, yes. But also the need to get around. I’d estimate that over half the drivers in my area are unlicensed and some are as young as 12 or 13. The only rules they know are to avoid checkpoints.

        Hi Chi Minh City was already a zoo in the ‘70’s when I’d drive my jeep there, and it was known as Saigon. But rules were straightforward. You yielded right of way to bigger vehicles, faster vehicles, vehicles in which the driver was honking incessantly, and vehicles in which the driver was waving an arm out the window. At intersections, motorcycles did not stop at the back of the jam, but moved to the front, creating a kind of bulbous collection of bikes at the front that took off in a riot of drag racers when the light changed. It was amazing to behold.

        • I’d add that about 25% wear a helmet as required by law, and overloading is common. The city generally looks the other way because jobs don’t pay much, people have to get to them, and schools are a long way away. Helmets cost money. There are no school buses because to operate them would take hundreds of low-paying jobs away. It is rather an economy of need.

  3. karlgarcia says:

    You can’t even cross the street without assistance from an enforcer nowadays, because no one will stop.

  4. John D Dyte says:

    Light topic!! Wonderful!! I got an idea to stop people from crossing when they should not. Set up electronic sensors to shoot water when some one enters a zone they should not. For cars, water soluble food grade dye. I know water is scarce but I am talking squirt. Non-harmful but inconvenient creative Pavlov solutions are great! On the cutting in business, I always wondered by vendors who have lines don’t use the “first class” method. Three times the price, no line!!!

    • Creative ideas all, John. But I might quibble a little on the punishment routines. Although they might indeed cause different behavior, I’m driving for something a little deeper that can carry into all phases of life, even voting. The will to be kind has to be seated within the emotional core of every Filipino.

      Still, that food grade dye would be fun to see! ahaha

  5. Icoy Mercado says:

    Hello, Joe. Thank you for this piece. Many say that if you want change, it should come from you first. But…

    • I don’t counterflow but when I assert my lane, these kamote drivers fume at me as if I’m the one breaking the law; same as when I blow the horn on those jeepneys stopping even 5 meters or so to load/unload passengers;
    • I slow down and stop for pedestrian crossings but other motorists don’t! To which I may be the cause of slowing down the traffic or which may even be fatal for the pedestrian;
    • we earnestly try to segregate our trash but when I go out, passers-by liter the outside of our house!

    Yes, I agree with you, there is a lot of taking.

    Anyway, while I’m here, just commending the staff of the DFA at SM City San Pablo. So very polite, courteous, composed, and sincerely smiling. Unlike their Dept. Sec. :p

    • Point 1. Ah, yes, try to exercise reason and you’ll be met with a rant. So true.

      Point 2. I don’t stop often because I think I would be driving outside of people’s expectations, and thereby CREATING risk.

      Point 3. Sigh.

      Cheers to you, Icoy, and to DFA San Pablo.

  6. edgar lores says:

    1. When I first arrived in Oz, I was impressed by the consideration for people and for others. I guess this consideration was most evident in the rules of the road and the provisions for disabled persons.

    o Pedestrians are king.
    o Traffic poles at street corners are equipped with signal buttons that, when pressed, shortened the waiting time for the pedestrian walk light to turn green. More amazing, the signal boxes emit a tick-tock sound that speeds up when the walk light came on. This was, I was told, for blind people to know when it was safe to cross.
    o There is no honking of horns.
    o There is parking nearest the entrances to malls that are reserved for disabled persons and for mothers with prams.
    o The sidewalks have gentle declinations at street corners for people on wheelchairs.
    o Most buildings have permanent ramps for wheelchair access and train stations have lifts (elevators) and portable ramps.
    o The floor number buttons on lifts are marked in Braille.
    o There are many parks which have picnic and toilet facilities – and garbage bins.

    2. Coming from Manila of the 80s and 90s, these practices and amenities were a revelation to me. I understand that some of these amenities have been incorporated in Philippine life.

    3. When you come to think of it, these are simple ideas as the blog points out. But the ramifications are enormous.

    3.1. For one, there is the premise that there is a recognition by the government that it has a duty of care and service to its citizens.

    3.2. For another, there is encouraged a mutual understanding among citizens that the consideration of others makes for a genteel society.

    3.3. For a third, special consideration must be extended to people with disabilities or encumbrances, like mothers with young children.

    3.4. Finally – and perhaps most importantly — people absorb the idea that there are limits, boundaries, and mutual obligations that must be observed in a civil society.

    4. These simple ideas outline the social contract that finds its final form in the written Constitution and the unwritten cultural memes. When practiced, they form the ties that bind. Ties that should not be so easily severed as they are now in an uncivil society led by a wayward government and followed by a lost citizenry.

    4.1. In the country of the blind, the blindest man may be king.

    • 3.1 and 3.2 would be wonderful first steps. Government accountability and mutual understanding among citizens that raise taking care of others to a patriotic duty. Maybe it would also end the practice of leaving stray telephone poles in the new lane on the highway.

  7. Thanks for your insights. Here’s what I think: most people are hesitatingly courteous because they suspect the act wouldn’t pay dividends. The golden rule is distorted immensely.

  8. QuietPoetic says:

    Light topic indeed. Big change is rooted from small changes like the one stated in this article. PSAs are helpful tool to educate the masses. I can vividly remember the “no loitering” and the “MAD” (mad about drugs) campaigns I’ve seen as a young girl in the 90s. This is clearly anecdotal but it has stick with me til today.

  9. Ancient Mariner says:

    Joe Am, well said. As a long term expat married to a wonderful Filipina I agree with all that you said. I experience it daily here in Pampanga. It is as if you read my mind.
    My assessment of the average Filipino/a is that they do not care about the effect of their actions on those around them. They live in a “me bubble”.
    However, I’m glad to say that there are many exceptions and that I am privileged to have some of them as friends.
    Wouldn’t the world be a better place if texting was banned whilst walking in crowded places?

    • It would be. Maybe we need mall signs. “Kindly put your cell phone away and care about someone.”

      Your point about there being a lot of people who are aware of others is indeed true. It would be nice if they could get into leadership jobs and those who are so self contained would recognize the importance of what they do.

  10. Pablo says:

    Funny…. Best joke of today.

    Or was it sarcasm?

    More signs? Like the ones they place in the middle of the road telling you to drive carefully just before you almost crash into them?? Or the guys who use the additional lane to dry their rice, protected with stones around their patch? Or use the lane to set-up their food stalls and force the pedestrians onto the single remaining lane in the dark of night?
    Or not to throw away their stuff in the sea? You are welcome to help me every saturday morning when my mate and me take about 7 big bags of garbage from the beach and the passers by look with contempt at this crazy foreigner. Mostly shoes, bottles, fishing gear but sometimes a gem like a container with blood samples or an already full waste bag thrown overboard from a ship. Nobody even pretends to follow the example.
    Or trust each other in the shop where the cashier checks first, the bagger second and then the guard at the door has the guts to ask me for the receipt to check it again?
    Or the ‘trusted’ foreman who worked for 3 years, who’s kids were send to school and skimmed off 20% of the workers’ salaries and threatened them so they would not tell their boss?
    Or the caretaker who sold my trees while I was working abroad?
    I did the CLUP for the municipality and had to go through a lot of laws and at the end was not surprised anymore that not a single law was applied as intended, not even half. I found NONE. Not on drinking water, not on waste, not on health, not on traffic, not on fisheries, not on land-use, not on taxes, not on education and not on service to their constituents. Not even on auditing (although here, they needed to pretend a bit better that they made an effort).

    As I said, best joke of today.

    • Okay, you have identified the problem elaborately. What is your solution? Sneer at people? Mine is not intended as a joke. It is intended to begin gently instilling thoughtfulness into people’s daily acts. You can’t just SAY be thoughtful. It has to be internalized. And, yes, agencies responsible for road signage and safety SHOULD be told to get their act together.

    • edgar lores says:

      The level of cynicism is soul crushing.

      Ok. Let’s grant that this is the present reality. The fact remains that other societies have forged better realities.

      Are Filipinos so fundamentally different that we cannot aspire, rise, and attain to a higher reality?

      I believe this question must be answered earnestly at the individual level.

    • chemrock says:

      I have no suggestions to contribute only this to share not as cynicism but to add to Pablo’s list that show how difficult the situation really is.

      I did a bit of consultation for a foreigner who tried to do some real estate development. He bought a huge piece of land in Cotabato. His first deal and he was snooked because there is no simply no buyer for the houses he will build there. So he left the land idle, 30 years now. He got a caretaker just to keep an eye on it. Once he got a small town mayor as caretaker. Now what could anyone possibly steal from him? Useless land with forest. Well the mayor stole the land literally. Or rather he stole the earth of the land. He has been selling the earth to other developers who needed back-fillers. This tops all the stories I have heard .

      On a serious note, Joe your suggestion is good but it can only have a slight chance of success if it’s a sustained campaign aimed at junior school kids. Sustained and collaborated by all agencies. The adults are gone, you can’t change habits.

  11. Pablo says:

    Same here with local friends who make the place great for us. But from the mixed couples who have lived abroad for a long time, it often is the wife who is most agitated when she gets bypassed, ignored, cheated etc.etc. Would this maybe indicate that Filipinos would be able to make this place into heaven if some enablers would flip? Could this indicate that it actually is not impossible to make this into a functioning & caring society?
    But then……. It also often is the wife who tells the husband not to try to change things because “This is Philippines”…

  12. Rules in Germany:


    (First article is to not endanger or harm other visitors or the park itself, and to behave as to avoid harrassing or blocking others)

    Filipino rules are “I have power”:


  13. karlgarcia says:

    Panelo is really taking care of Duterte and Duterte is taking care of the Marcoses.


  14. karlgarcia says:

    There maybe lots of bad Samaritans but there are good Samaritans out there.

    Sure many just watch people get beaten to death, mugged, even raped, but for those who lived to tell I am sure most of them will have a good samaritan story.

    Also the way we help each other after natural disasters or storms is noteworthy and commendable.

    Philanthropists are seen by some as hypocrites, tax dodgers, etc.
    But they still make a difference.

    • Good points, all. I think most of the moral “rats” have found their way into government. People broadly are decent, church-going people who just have needs, and as the economy produces more jobs, the small-ticket bribes and cheating will likely go away.

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