Wednesday, June 13, 2012

The Filipino society as I see it

Society plays a vital part in shaping a country, together with politics and economy. Social weather more often dictates what laws can be passed. People's culture and tastes are basis of the different products that companies can profit from. Most of the time, things that are against social norms are ignored and rejected.

There are so may things that we can be proud of our society and our culture. Some notable parts of the Filipino culture that I am aware and I can see around are:
  • Strong family ties - We love our families so much that we continue live with them even if one is old enough to be independent (based on other cultures' standards - e.g. 18 years old for Americans) and even if one already has a family of his/her own. Extended families are everywhere. This is one of the positive values that Filipinos have that show how much they love and want to stay with their families for a long time. Even in independent situations, Filipinos miss their families a lot, especially those who are in other countries for whatever reason. That is why reunions happen most of the time during holidays and special occasions like birthdays and anniversaries.
  • Bayanihan culture - Filipinos cannot take or even tolerate suffering of their fellowmen. Hence, they extend help to achieve common goals. This is evident in the hardest of times like when someone dies, people give money or "abuloy" to the relatives of the deceased. Rich people and even people living simple lives donate what they can to victims of calamities.
  • Hospitality - We are naturally warm to our guests may they be local or foreign. We serve food, clean for them, provide a place to stay, and even give them stuff to bring back home when they leave (pasalubong).
  • Religious practices - These are manifested in times of religious holidays when people flock to visit their churches to attend services. Major religious holidays in the country are Christmas and Holy Week/Easter for Christians and Ramadan for Muslims. In their own times, people pray a lot whether to ask for favor from the gods, ask for forgiveness, praise and thank the gods for all the blessings.
  • Fiesta celebrations - The country has a lot of feasts in different regions that make seasonal tourism a lucrative business for many. These are also chances for various provinces to boast their celebrations whenever they are featured on media. Government even declares national non-working holidays for major feasts, making the Philippines one of the countries with the most holidays in the world.
  • Sense of humor amidst poverty - People love to just laugh about almost everything, even the simplest of things. People can even find humor in the major events that they see in the news - even bad news. Jokes are evolving; everyday; there can be new jokes out of new events.
  • Filipino pride - We take so much pride in the achievements of our fellowmen. We love to announce to the world how great Filipinos are, even those only with less than full Filipino blood (if there's such thing as pure Filipino blood) in other countries. You can see on social media like Facebook and Twitter how easily Filipinos can make their fellowmen trend worldwide in their times of glory.
  • Love for food - People just love to eat! Even during simple events, we celebrate by eating. This love to eat strengthen the ties that families and friends have for each other, because they spend time with each other. With this big love for food, you can still hear a lot of people saying they will stick to a strict diet for them to lose weight but the next minute, you see them munching on food again. This is, however, a watch-out for people because one of the major causes of death in the country arises from unhealthy diet.

Sadly, there are so many other Filipino habits that I believe hinder progress, and more often than not create misunderstandings and even chaos. Below are some of them.
  • Colonial mentality - This is in irony with our Filipino pride. We may not be aware of it at times, but there are many instances where we value western culture, people or products more than our own. More Filipinos watch American idol (vs. local talent shows), NBA (vs. PBA), and other international TV series. Foreign films make more money than local films. People are willing to pay thousands of pesos just to watch concerts of international superstars, but do not want to watch a local performer even for free. We prefer international brands of clothing than our own. We make a big fuss about international franchises of food that come into our country, rather than favoring our local delicacies. And most of all, many people lack pride in the "Filipino look" - brown-skinned, short-nosed, etc. We spend a deal of fortune just to make our skin fairer, and some go as far as going under the knife to look "imported." Skin whitening products are everywhere and it's a big shame that Filipino marketing graduates from top schools in the country sell these soaps and creams. More so, local companies are profiting and growing from selling papaya soaps and gluta products that whiten skin.
  • Crab mentality - Admit it, more often than not, we easily get envious of other people's success. And this envy sometimes results to finding flaws in a person to the point of destroying another, pulling them down from the throne of their triumph, so that one can steal the spotlight.
  • Belief in misconceptions - We tend to believe in a lot of absurd things like:
    • All gay men dresses and acts effeminately.
    • Gay people look for love from straight men.
    • Gay men want to become women.
    • Misconceptions related to certain sicknesses that are totally false.
  • Superstitions - Educated people know that superstitions have no scientific basis. But there are many instances when we still follow these things, thinking "There's no harm in believing anyway" - even at our own expense.
  • Too much integration of Church in politics and society - This is one of the reasons why the Philippines is still poor. We cannot pass bills on reproductive health, divorce, death penalty, marriage equality, etc. because the Church (led by the CBCP) interferes a lot. Religion is good, they teach a lot of values to its followers that make them live good lives. But this is a democratic country where the government and society should stand on its own. Government should be able to enact and enforce laws that majority of the leaders deem would be beneficial for the entire country without anyone telling them that this is inconsistent with the bible. Different sectors of society should be able to express what they feel through are without fear of persecution from the church just because their belief is different. The Church is becoming pathetic; it seems like they just want to be involved in everything even if they're not invited. They just want to be heard even when people are not asking for their opinion. They just want to stop everything - even the progress of this country. Someone should do something about this. Many other countries progressed because they did not let religion stand in their way.
  • Tendency to complain/whine/blame - When the weather is hot, we complain. When it's raining and it's cold, we complain. We can't seem to be satisfied with just about anything. When something goes wrong, we simply whine instead of doing something about it. When we hear bad news, we tend to blame different people or sectors of society - instead of finding a solution for the problem.
  • Machismo, sexist/discriminative tendencies - Until today, many men believe that they are better than women. A perfect example is when a man is driving or is just on the road, and sees an accident or just a bad driver, he immediately says "Babae 'yang driver (The driver is a woman)." Chivalry is okay, as evidenced when men give up their seat in a public transport and offer them to an old lady, pregnant woman or a mother with a child. But nowadays, many women are stronger and doesn't give a damn. They can do everything that men can. No doubt about it. But words that Filipinos love to say often brings back these sexist tendencies. An example is "Kalalaki mong tao, ang duwag-duwag mo (You're a man, yet you're a coward)." It's as if males are not allowed to be scared of anything, and women are licensed to be afraid of anything - as if they're the weaker sex. And what hurts me the most are our tendencies to look down on gay people. When people say "Mayaman nga, bakla naman. (He may be rich, but he's gay anyway)" It's as if being gay makes one less of a person. Also, Filipinos relate cowardice to being gay. People say, "Bakla ka pala eh (Oh you're a fag)" whenever someone chickens out on a challenge. Gay people can look like strong masculine men too, as I have described in my blog about non-straight men ( Sad to say, these discriminatory acts and beliefs towards gay people are reflected and magnified in media by stupid gay directors and writers themselves.
  • Racism - No one can say I am wrong about this. We laugh on the color of black people; we think it's dirty. We deliberately and mockingly call them "negro", "egoy," "negrito," or what have you without being politically correct (African, African-American, black). We think all Indians and Arabs have bad body odor because of the spices in the food they eat. We think blondes are dumb. The list could go on. Yet, the worse part is, we react so negatively when other people throw racist remarks against Filipinos, like when they imply that we are only good in providing domestic helpers to other countries, we are good-for-nothing monkeys who love to kiss a foreigner's ass for money, we all want to become Americans, among others.
  • Love of gossip - No need to elaborate so much on this. Gossip shows and columns are everywhere - and they sell even if most of the time the facts have been distorted or exaggerated. Serious conversations come to a halt when someone comes in who have a "juicy blind item." People love to hear about the private lives of local and foreign celebrities, even politicians.
  • Too much influence of media - This is highly debatable, but I believe many people rely most of their decisions on what they see on TV and other media. An example is national elections - people tend to vote for the candidate who has been very strong in surveys, and most of the time these candidates win. People listen too much to bad reporters who have bad manners like Mike Enriquez and Tulfo brothers, when strictly speaking, they shouldn't have qualified to become journalists. Media has become opinionated; they are sometimes very deliberate in taking sides, even if the word media (from the word medium) implies objectivity and neutrality. Money from advertising has indeed driven Philippine media into the rubbish it is today while sadly, people still listen to them as if they are totally reliable.

What do you see in our society today? Feel free to add and/or share your thoughts or even disagree with my opinions by commenting on this post.

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