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October 17, 2005



Here's some kind of off-tangent insight on why the Filipino mind cannot seem to develop big ideas, execute big initiatives, and achieve big things. It is an essay by Nick Joaquin that highlights the Flipinos "Heritage of Smallness". You can read the full article here:


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The Filipino who travels abroad gets to thinking that his is the hardest working country in the world. By six or seven in the morning we are already up on our way to work, shops and markets are open; the wheels of industry are already agrind. Abroad, especially in the West, if you go out at seven in the morning you’re in a dead-town. Everybody’s still in bed; everything’s still closed up. Activity doesn’t begin till nine or ten-- and ceases promptly at five p.m. By six, the business sections are dead towns again. The entire cities go to sleep on weekends. They have a shorter working day, a shorter working week. Yet they pile up more mileage than we who work all day and all week.

Is the disparity to our disparagement?

We work more but make less. Why? Because we act on such a pygmy scale. Abroad they would think you mad if you went in a store and tried to buy just one stick of cigarette. They don’t operate on the scale. The difference is greater than between having and not having; the difference is in the way of thinking. They are accustomed to thinking dynamically. We have the habit, whatever our individual resources, of thinking poor, of thinking petty.

Is that the explanation for our continuing failure to rise--that we buy small and sell small, that we think small and do small?

Are we not confusing timidity for humility and making a virtue of what may be the worst of our vices? Is not our timorous clinging to smallness the bondage we must break if we are ever to inherit the earth and be free, independent, progressive? The small must ever be prey to the big. Aldous Huxley said that some people are born victims, or "murderers." He came to the Philippines and thought us the "least original" of people. Is there not a relation between his two terms? Originality requires daring: the daring to destroy the obsolete, to annihilate the petty. It’s cold comfort to think we haven’t developed that kind of "murderer mentality."

But till we do we had best stop talking about "our heritage of greatness" for the national heritage is-- let’s face it-- a heritage of smallness.
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BenignO -- Thanks for the interesting comment and sorry it has taken me so long to reply. What you say is true up to a point, but I wonder if this is really a characteristic of "Pinoyness". It seems to me more a characteristic of impoverished nations, whatever their cultural stripe. The example Nick quotes of buying one stick of cigarettes is a good one. I am sure Filipino smokers would adapt without any difficulty to buying one pack at a time, the fact is they imprisoned by a lack of cash rather than a lack of ideas. Unlike Huxley (and I wonder how long he actually spent here) I actually find Filipinos quite imaginative and resourceful people. The problem is that they have to waste these talents on scrabbling around for daily necessities, rather than on dreaming great dreams.

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