Filipino Thoughts

Let me just say this straightaway: I love my country, and I love my countrymen. I believe that we're a people of endurance and of wit, and though we sometimes tend to misplace our faith, I believe we are a nation that is good, intelligent, and full of potential. 

But there are moments that shake my trust in the Filipino people, that make me--unfortunately--feel ashamed of the way we can sometimes act. One such moment occurred at the San Francisco International Airport on the day I was to leave the US for home sweet home. 

It's standard protocol that when boarding a plane, the seats are filled in from back to front. This is to avoid passengers bumping into each other too much on the narrow aisles of the coach section of an average 747. It is a rule meant to promote order and control. So when those in charge of getting passengers aboard announced that those seated on rows 81 to 97 may now embark, it should have been an easy task of looking at one's boarding pass and falling in line. 

But that day was proof that what should be usually isn't. Instead of travelers quietly filing toward the gate, chaos reigned. People whose seat numbers were not from 81 to 97 milled in front of the doorways, chatting loudly and getting in the way of those trying to get in. Parents, children, old men--everyone jostled and pushed and tried to get in front of the person ahead of them. Those who were supposed to be there waved their passes and passports in the air, calling out loudly, "Ako! 81 to 97!" As I myself was shoved around (my brother and I were on row 94), I saw the attendant desperately attempting to restore--or I should say establish, since there was none to begin with--some sense of order. 

"Please line up, everyone," she all but begged in as loud a voice as possible, a voice unfailingly drowned out in that palengke atmosphere. "Let's show them that we can do this!"

Nobody listened. I tried to stand still and force a line behind me (and I'm not saying I'm some kind of model citizen for this; it was really just the shame in my belly that made me swallow my anger at being cut three times by three different families, and becoming one with that wailing crowd) to no avail. It was... EDSA at rush hour. It was SM during a weekend sale. It was, as my Taft-educated brother put it, the MRT's on a weekday morning. It was something Filipinos do all the time, and it was embarrassing as hell.

We made it through eventually, though as I walked toward the plane I looked back and saw no semblance of any line at all. And it made me sad, really. I remembered my twelve years of Philippine education and saw myself lining up for every single day of it. I had been taught to line up beside my classroom, at the cafeteria, at the covered courts during assemblies; we  were made to stand in line from enrollment in kindergarten to graduation in senior year. It is a standard of discipline, and we enact it in our schools here much more strictly than they do in many countries abroad, including America.

And yet we, the adults, can't seem to make it happen when it truly counts. It's a sad thing to learn. If we don't have the patience and the discipline to form a line at the airport to make it easier for everyone; if we have to put ourselves first and shove our way to the front every single time, what hope do we have of gaining the fortitude and self-restraint that will make our country better? 


  1. That's one thing that confuses me about people who can't seem to wait to get onto the plane.

    It's not like it'll help them get to their destination sooner, nor does it mean they'll end up with worse seats.

    Ah, well. This sort of reminds me of the current debate on the RH bill -- in fact, some of the things being asserted sometimes make me more ashamed of being Filipino than the fracas you described.


  2. My sentiments articulated. Thank you.

  3. “Disciplining yourself to do what you know is right and important, although difficult, is the highroad to pride, self-esteem, and personal satisfaction.”
    - Margaret Thatcher

    Filipino's are full of Pride as an emotion. It streams in the blood like a river of gold. Yet, our Poverty goes beyond plain economics. Filipino's are poor in execution. It's not enough to say you are a proud Filipino and then proceed to urinate on your city streets. You are a proud Filipino yet you are jaded at your neighbors opportunity.

    The recent stories from the tsunami which struck Japan hit home for me. A disciplined society in the face of natural disaster which did not loot, shared its minimal resources, and stayed patient as help was slow to arrive. The Japanese do not need to wave a sword or flag or have a world champion boxer on their TVs to show their pride. They do it by action, they do it by honoring each other in every way they can.

    I am a very proud Filipino and I prove it everyday. I wish more would join the fun.

  4. And how about unbuckling the seatbelt way before the seatbelt sign turns off? That irritates me as well

  5. Several years ago, I went to an lumad community where I tried to impose some sense of order in their seemingly un-ordered lives: I asked them to form a line. The concept was literally foreign to them. I was shamed to know that in their culture they didn't have lines because their sense of order is different from ours: our order is based on first-come-first-served (i.e. who arrives first gets served first). Their order is based on something more humane--the person who needs it first gets served first. Their sensitivity for each other is outstanding. They know who among them needs the most and they give way even if they have arrived ahead of that person.

    Just a curved ball to see things from a slightly different perspective: We always say Filipinos don't know how to form a line as if lines and following rules are the bastion of excellence and order.

    Maybe excellence is about other things than lines and discipline. Maybe we have lost the capacity for deep sensitivity precisely because we have imposed "lines" on our people. And so we cut corners in rebellion and out of subconscious cultural spite.

    What do you think?

  6. Angperegrino, that's a good story about the Lumads. But I don't think that concept of sensitivity applies to lining up to board the plane. If it did, then people would let the old, the sick and the children first, which we all know does not happen. It's every man for himself like what Jessica said.

  7. So says the Proverbs...

    "A monkey in uniform is still a monkey by heart."

    "A single bad apple can ruin the entire stock."

    This only proves that the Filipino is not really a single "race" but an amalgam of "races" forced to be cooked together in the pathetic archipelagic melting pot known as the Philippines.

    Therefore the Philippines is not a nation (single culture, single race, single everything) but your typical democatic 3rd world country.

    On one side: no matter how well-bred you are, there will be a thousand others to ruin your poise.

    On the other: No matter how well-bred a monkey is, the creature will continue its monkey business.

    Sad to say, that's how I see this country. An ice cream topped with well-bred goodies but wreaking with filthy spoiled slime underneath.

    What this country needs is an intellectual civil war between the well-bred and the not.

    Technically, it's safe to say that half of Filipinos are idiots. Sorry about the racism but sometimes we need this.

    -- God of Entropy

  8. Most of Filipinos are lazy nowadays for doing such a self-discipline, even filing a simple line they don't want now to follow and if you attempt to tell them, then you're in trouble of making argue or to be shouted at. This is the effect of too much freedom in the Philippines everyone wants to be first and dominant and even you make rules many will try to break each of it. And in the end the rules will be revised many times with those many alibis and excuses until it favors to this rule abiding Filipino.

  9. one of the things i had to adjust to, after living for 3 years overseas, was the way we board buses. the method is akin to a sumo match, with people jostling and pushing each other just to get in. nobody is spared-- the elderly even get hurt. it is one of the numerous reasons why i hate living here in the Philippines, and why I want to leave this place again.

  10. Yes I do not condone this....In fact I hate typical FILIPINO Behaviour. I am nationalistic in terms of PHILIPPINE SPORTS! BUT NEVER NEVER the Negative Traits of the FILIPINO.

    You are the CUTEST GIRL that I have ever ever seen!
    I think it was a good decision or thought process that you were just Silent and Waited your turn.