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It's Our Own Mess
1/22/2007 8:51:27 AM

I believe there's a lesson to be learned from the humor of Pepe Alas in "Without Spanish--What Is a Filipino?" ( that nationalism or patriotism doesn't have to make us decide between our tribal past and what we became after more than 300 years of colonial rule because that would be next to impossible. I don't see how using colonial mentality as the scapegoat to our self-inflicted woes is going to help us solve our problems. The nation's moral fiber, not to mention our socio-economic condition, has taken a turn for the worse from when we started self-rule in 1946--and we cannot blame that to any colonial ruler but ourselves.

Our greatest weakness is our inability to forge alliances because of a certain distrust for each other. There’s a mean spirit in us that wants to make someone look bad in order for us to look good—possibly one of those carry-overs from colonial rule: “got to put down someone to look good in the face of the master.” Sometimes, even the consequences of putting down someone are immaterial to our existence or our desire to rise to the top; for instance, the case of a Filipino immigrant to the U.S. ratting on a fellow Filipino who is a TNT (tago ng tago) or illegal, or the case of the existence of the Katipunan being unraveled in that confession booth years and years ago. Hence, we have a relatively low batting average in forming large organizations or conglomerates with any sizable capital outlay and which can think BIG and which can plan long-term. [One doesn't have to look hard and far to find an example: GUMIL and TMI, and if you read all the petty recriminations somewhere here at, for instance, you'd know what I mean.]. The situation is even worse in the public sector where short-term political maneuvering dominates much of the action.

Our inability to think big and parley the ingenuity of our people to our nation’s advantage in the world community is almost legendary. Take the advances in rice culture developed at the International Rice Research Institute in Los Baños, Laguna, for instance. The Thais took advantage of the results from the rice research and we had to import rice from that country. A while back, I could still find Philippine dried nori sea weeds (gamet) at some U.S. oriental grocery stores. Recently, it seems they’ve been supplanted by the cleaner (no sand) variety imported from Japan. Losing important market share because of poor quality control is a nagging problem.

The widespread poverty is such that one is forced to eat his principles by the need for basic survival. Our resilience, for which we are known, is a double-edged sword. On one hand, it seems to have us keep going in the face of adversities. On the other hand, it provides us with a false sense of some almighty power that’s there to clean up after our mess (“Bahala na ang Dios”, “Maawain ang Dios”). In a sense, as VF pointed out somewhere, our “Filipinized” Catholic upbringing appears to have contributed to our miseries because the Italian version, or the Spanish version, does not appear to grind these countries’ people down to the poverty level of our countrymen. Family planning (not a favorite topic in the Catholic church) or the lack of it has propelled the Philippines into the 12th most populous country of the world in 2006 at 89.5 million (

We can go on and on. But that would be just re-stating what Jose Rizal wrote in Noli Me Tangere more than a hundred years ago. Rizal’s goal of exposing the “social cancer” years ago in order for Filipinos to find the means to ameliorate it stands. Only the situation has changed. To repeat, we, Filipinos, are our own rulers now.

Honestly, I have no illusions about the solution to our problems or a remedy to our own social cancer which seems to have gotten a turn for the worse… I just hope that the leader who would get us out of our own rut would not be in the cast of North Korea's Kim Jung-il; perhaps that Filipino leader could learn some lessons from Singapore's Lee Kuan Yew.


1/23/2007 12:16:15 AM

Yup! It’s our own mess! Or is it?

Oist Zeny, (ading or manang?) I’m not becoming fatalistic now huh, -just getting amused and not in the mood to rebut. hak hak hak!

(Ei ading, when I rebut, my intention is just to give a second opinion....)

...I also once said that some Pilipinos work a lot harder and better when they go abroad! They even excel and get recognized in their own fields where it was impossible to do back in the Philippines (–either they get ignored, victims of nepotism, or plain lack of enthusiasm from the part of employers). They talk like well polished diplomats and sip their glass of champagne like the King of Spain! Everything you ask for refined manners!

(And mind you, there are still a lot them left in the Philippines but gosh, you really can’t take off that ‘elitist attitude of them.... say hi to a beauty and she’ll take you as a ‘presko’! HAR HAR HAR!)

Now, the other ‘some’, though they are already abroad, it is very sad to say that they still bring their ‘colonial mentality’ with them: some still pee in the streets, drunkards, beat their wives (beat their husbands too... smile), talkative and mongers, womanizers (husbandnizers [?] .... smile again).

Ei, can’t we really do something? Here is my rhetoric if somebody asks me why this and why that about the Philippines:
E, kase[i] po.... The Spaniards taught us how to become liars and drunkards; The Americans taught us how to cheat, that is you invest something and expect to get something more than you deserve (Lacoste hehehe! [buaya]; The Japs taught us the art of the geisha, kaya ayan a lot of Smiths think that Pinays are there for an easy grab! huuuuuuuuu; The Chinese to become radin ...hehehe like the Ilokanos (can’t remember the English of kuripot!)

HO, suppose we take off that ‘Elitist’ mentality to start re-engineering our society? It may work, who knows? There is not really much capital to invest...just the smile muscles and a little breath of honesty!

Hey, hey, hey... ania ti makunayo kaka-arruba?

Zeny Padre
1/23/2007 8:53:17 AM

VF: Thanks a lot for not shying away from the stuff that I tend to gravitate to. I realize it's difficult to "small-talk" our way out of this type of discussion without hitting a nerve here and there. On the other hand, it affords us some self-catharsis.

Attributing our faults, frailties or imperfections to the Spaniards, Americans, Japanese and/or Chinese gives me this vision of a marionette totally incapable of moving on its own. Have we degenerated that far down to have lost our senses, our ability to filter what's right from wrong?

Then again, assuming we are influenced by the Spaniards, Americans, Japanese and Chinese, that shouldn't be so bad. After all, those countries are doing just fine. Ergo...

1/23/2007 10:13:28 AM

I am a little bit occupied here at work Zeny but I can’t just help myself smiling when I read your post.

Did you say marionette? I think I agree with that idea considering the fact that our economy is dollar-based, not gold-based…. -something too lengthy to elaborate right now…. thus we get dictated by those nations whose economy is supported by their gold reserves (thus stronger).

So what now for the marionette issue? I don’t really attribute totally our faibles to our colonizers for I always believe on the innate goodness of an individual –the Pilipinos in particular. The issue however is that we, the Pilipinos seem to always dream for instant fortunes that we neglect the issue of “growing-up” the way rich nations did before becoming rich.

Look at America. They were first an agricultural economy, fed their people and grew up learning lessons and became an industrialized nation.

What do we do and what do we want in the Philippines? We want to copy other nations –instant industrialization. Good! But do we have our own technology? Nope, we copy …yet… but just as what you said, of inferior quality!

We all want our children to become doctors but we never realized that the plumber we so lowly find degrading is just as important as an engineer to make the turbines of an atomic reactor go rolling!

…so you see… it’s that elitist attitude again n’est-ce pas?

Huuuuu… babalik si ako hehehe!

1/23/2007 1:35:16 PM


…I told you, it’s still the elitist mentality!

Ei Sister! (I think you are my sister -taga-Pinili'ak kabsat)... did you leap frog me or you read my mind! I am supposed to post the same scenario! ngarud, keep posting! I’m drained from work and I’ll go to bed grinning and hope to use your ideas to grill my friend FVR next time I see him.

(will cost him another box of his fav cigars!)

Zeny Padre
1/23/2007 3:59:01 PM

Sorry, if you caught me posting my blog initially in the comment section. Realized my mistake only after I re-opened my blog.

I'm afraid your point about "elitist mentality" somehow eludes me. I don't see myself peering from the vantage point of an ivory tower. My ideas are plain, commonplace, sometimes uneventful. The experiences I've pointed are those of an unelitist member of the common, regular crowd. In short, I have no claim to any shade or nuance of elitism nor do I want to create the impression that I'm an elitist, whatever that means.


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