« The government’s responsibility to act on the Alston report | Main | The Child in the Filipino – Part 2 »

December 11, 2007



Personally I think you left too much compressed into that last line. As I was reading your post, and as I have thought observing 1st hand, these are more Catholic-Protestant contrasts than they are North-South, East-West, Pinoy-nonPinoy characteristics. Good old-school Max Weber: Catholic world-view revolves around the family/household, even occupations are hereditary (in Europe through craft guilds); Protestant worldview revolves around external, non-familial relationships, thus hyper-specialization and the Industrial Revolution. I have heard many of your observations about responsibility, work, friendship, gossip, etc said of Italians and Spaniards as well (birth control and family size could also go here). Hailing from a Catholic region of a non-Catholic country, many of the same things can be and are said of my people. And there is a certain common aesthetic to the backass-wardness of it all. Tagay!


Torn, well observed. Are the Philippines God’s (and for large parts of Mindanao Allah’s) kindergarten then?

Sili: I agree to your observation (and Max Weber’s of course) that there are fundamental differences between Catholic and Protestant regions. However, Spain changed tremendously since Franco (Spain’s last Catholic Dictator) died. Portugal and Ireland also changed a lot. All these countries have one thing in common: They still remain ‘Catholic’ but the church lost control of its sheep. They may now follow the false shepherd but they are developing quickly.


Very perceptive and well observed and I agree that the somewhat childlike innocence of the Filipino is one of their charms. The down side, though, is well illustrated by the news that a sample poll voted Gloria Arroyo to be more corrupt than Marcos (!!!) or Estrada. Well, which fantasy world are they living in? Many million dollars have been recovered from various accounts of Marcos and his cronies to the benefit of the Philippine Treasury; substantial sums have also been recovered from Estrada. Yet all allegations of corruption against Gloria have failed to be substantiated. I am not saying there is not corruption and the First "Gentleman" is certainly less than savory; but to put the President on a par with Marcos or even Estrada is childish. It's as if voters polled out of spite rather than any grasp of reality. This is infantile and regrettably illustrates the continuing immaturity of Filipino politics. But we have to take the rough with the smooth and on balance the Filipino people remain some of the nicest one could wish to meet.

amateur misanthrope

I like how you described pakikisama. It's my observation that Filipinos are friendlier to foreigners than to each other.


Wonderful topic Torn, with as many sidenotes to consider as there are Filipinos overseas :D
Reading through the list of characteristics, I saw myself in many of the items! I should probably print it out and mark those I really should do something about in the new year! lol


The Max Weber argument of the benign effects of protestantism is oversold. The World Economic Forum did a study of female empowerment among 130 nations recently, and while that was topped by the usual suspects from Scandinavia, the Philippines came in at No 6, ahead of Germany. Ireland and Spain also made it to the top ten, so three deeply catholic countries are doing very well in temrs of gender equality. Catholicism can't be THAT retrograde after all...
In fact, in my native Germany, it is the predominantly catholic South that keeps the economy afloat, while the protestant North and East receive subsidies redistributed from the South. So Max Weber doesn't explain contemporary Germany. It seems he made far too much of the difference between Protestantism and Catholicism. When it comes to political culture, protestantism isn't that benign either; election results in the early 30's in Germany show that Catholics continued to vote for the democratic catholic Centre party, while the Nazis performed best in heavily protestant areas. Slavery persisted in the protestant bible-thumping American south far longer than almost everywhere else, and Apartheid was religiously justified for very long by the calvinist protestant church that most Boers belonged to. So I'd suggest we go to a more nuanced analysis of cultural phenomena rather than blaming everything on the Catholic church. As to the clichés about Filippinos, everything has two sides: the Filippinos are accused of not being serious; but the other side of the coin says that they are not prone to fanaticism, and that is one of the reasons why the country is far more tolerant of its various minorities. On balance, I think that might be quite a good thing.


Staufer: Max Weber's argument might be oversold but we have to recognize the time when he wrote about different faiths. At the time of Weber’s writings Germany was still largely an agrarian society. The latter seem to be true for the Philippines in 2007 as well.

In essence my argument is simple: The less interference of religion into state policy development, the more development. Religion should remain private and a separation between state and religion should be the way to go.

Regarding tolerance: Most religions preach tolerance, but the reality is often different (also in the Philippines if we look into all aspects of what’s going on in Mindanao).


In the absence of perspective from the poor-people's side of rearing, I will agree that Filipinos tend to stay longer in the parent's household...but not because of dependence from the bounty that the parent's provide, but for the mere fact that this is the most economical way to get through life when you are poor. Many a Filipino adolescents would have scrambled out of their parents houses if only they can afford to get their own.

For the middle class and the rich, If they had yayas and drivers, why would they bolt out of the convenience?, and in the same irony, For the poor who cant afford to sustain themselves, why would they even think about leaving?


Yeah, Pinoys are childlike and childish in many ways. The former is charming: I haven't seen other cultures where adults routinely tease others about being in love. Uyyyy!

I'm sure some of these traits have to do with Catholicism (mostly the repressed sexuality bit, I would guess). But I have heard Catholic mothers described in the same way as Jewish mothers, African 'fatalism' sounds like South American fatalism.

Maybe time flows differently (slowly?) for peoples who have not been thrown into the rhythms of industrial time? There is less need for precision, for planning, for resolving problems quickly regardless of who gets offended. There is a lot more time for kindness and sentimentality, for friendships that may not last and have no discernible strategic value. But I speak here of a society in general and how it 'matures', though I recognize that differences in class will impact on individual adults. (Kids who work in sweatshops would be far more independent and cunning than middle class kids in the same society, for example.)

As for the 'dependence' on parents, I'm probably not the best person to speak about this since I've failed most Pinoy-ness tests on this matter. I've lived on my own since I was 21. That said, my parents cared for me and my siblings in the most patient and loving way. I see my attachment to them as being based on that bond, rather than dependence.

I am disturbed by how many Europeans I've met here actually hate their folks. If they were treated horribly by their parents, or maybe just ignored, that's the logical result and that's sad if indeed it is the inevitalbe consequence of 'progress'.

On the other hand, a lot of Pinoy kids, rich or poor, are spoiled. Maybe the poor kids won't have yayas, but you can look at how Pinoy children burst out crying at the slightest frustration, how they're bathed and powdered until shortly before puberty. The result: grown men who need their mothers or wives to dress them, grown women who are so coy about sex then get pregnant the first time they do it, and clingy adults who can't survive outside of clans and cozy peer groups. That's also sad and certainly no catalysts for 'progress'.

The Equalizer

We shouldstop thinking that we are a Latin American country in Asia or the 51st state of the US of A. We must establish our identity as ASIANS.


Interesting observations you have there. My husband also has the same observations about Filipinos. Although I am not typically Filipino (I flew to Europe using my savings and I have lived on my own since I was 23), he teases me to no end when he reminds me that I was spoon-fed by a yaya until I was 7.


hey! no post is too long for a subject like that. the way you say it, it's like you have really seen them and not just a byproduct of books and second-hand info. how about a part 2? :)

Mike Calimbas

Great post. As a Filipino-American who has lived in the US since the age of 8 and has been back to PI regularly, I am fortunate to see these cultural disparities from both sides of the coin. I snicker a bit but agree with every trait of Filipino normalcy depicted in this blog. lol.


Torn, you must know too that there are gender differences in how Filipino boys and girls are raised. This may explain why the drop out rate for high school boys is nearly twice as high and girls are doing much better academically. Rina David also thinks that's why many men think they can urinate in public and most women tend to have the will to hold it in while they look for a toilet. (well, of course, there are also practical considerations)

The comments to this entry are closed.

Blog powered by Typepad