The Filipino People’s Love-Shame Relationship

Filipinos love their country and at the same time many of us would bad mouth it to every foreigner we’d meet. There are many things that people can criticize about the Philippines–our corrupt government, the rise of poverty, the avaricious business tycoons, the unsanitary streets filled with trash, the rebels in the south, the criminals, the slow and biased justice system, and the list goes on. Add centuries of colonialism where our colonial masters did all they could to make us feel like savages, and you’d end up with a people who’d feel like their country was a god-forsaken land.

Ask any Filipino about our food however, and you’ll have us glowing with pride. We’d feed you to death just to prove how awesome our delicacies are. Some of our specialties are lechonkaldereta, adobo, kare-kare, and paella. If you have a sweet tooth, we’ll feed you some halo-halo, sapin-sapin, and leche flan. We’d force you to eat balut and not feel a bit offended if you almost vomit at the thought of eating a duck embryo. We’d even laugh at your tortured face as you try to eat it.

Ask Filipinos about Filipino people and you’d have a mixed review. Overseas Filipino workers are given high marks on being hardworking and having integrity, but the Filipinos back home are often described as undisciplined, lazy, and dishonest. Why is Juan Tamad geographically dependent?

Ask Filipinos about our culture and most of us would say we don’t have one. Many Filipinos think that our culture is just a combination of the cultures of our colonial masters and other foreigners who have visited our shores. It seems crazy to think that a whole nation doesn’t have a culture. Heck even a small gang has a culture, so how can a whole country not have one? My sociology teacher gave me low marks when I said this in a paper, but up to now I still can’t explain what Filipino culture is. I know we have one, and I notice when something is distinctly Filipino, but I don’t know how to explain what Filipino is.

Ask Filipinos about our art and many would say that our artists are unoriginal and shallow. Ask them to name who these artists are, many would say I don’t know. I even have a friend whose parents forbid her to watch Filipino movies because they don’t want her to become stupid. I don’t think this is right, but I must admit that I haven’t exposed myself enough to Filipino art. I have long promised myself to read more Filipino books and watch more Filipino movies, but I haven’t made good with these promises.

Ask any Filipino if they want to return to their country and the answers will be different across generations. The younger generation who grew up in other countries would usually say no. The ones who’ll say yes are the Filipinos who have known what it’s like to live here. Other countries will always feel lonelier, lacking the smiles of a people and warmth of a world that are worth knowing and worth staying for.


[1] Juan Tamad is a character in Filipino folklore. He is so lazy; he lies under a guava tree with his mouth open, waiting for the fruit to drop into his mouth.

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8 thoughts on “The Filipino People’s Love-Shame Relationship

  1. I still miss the Philippines even though I’ve been living abroad for over a year now. In fact, my yearning to return only seems to get worse the longer circumstances keep me from it. 😦 However, I would like to make more of myself first before coming back there so that I’ll also have that much more to give back to our country… Sigh…

    For instance, I think social work is a relatively new concept there, knowing how UP only began offering it as a course not so long ago. The US has had social work as a part of its history for over 100 years now… & after I have had more experience in the field, perhaps that is when I will come back…

    In the mean trime, I agree most of the problems there could just be growing pains & that it is a developing nation. & yes, if we only continue to care for 1 another, maybe we’ll have a future better than anyone has ever imagined. 🙂


    1. Hey Cat! I know what you’re going through. When I went to the U.S., I really missed the Philippines. I wish you good luck. I’m sure you’ll be successful there, and I hope you’ll be able to come back someday. What kind of social work are you thinking of? I’m also going to volunteer for feminist ngos, so it seems like we have the same life plans. I really have high hopes for the Philippines too. I hope we can all contribute something to our country. 🙂


      1. To answer your question, I’d like to tie up social work with the educational system I am already familiar of. & even with knowing that, the social work field remains to be a broad one, which I intend to learn more about through experience & hopefully a master’s degree from here in the US later on. 😉

        Volunteering for feminist NGOs does sound a lot like you. 🙂 Wish more people would join us in taking pride in the Philippines & giving it back what it deserves though. Thanks for being among those friends of mine who remind me the Philippines is a country full of promise! 😀


        1. It’s good that you are starting to explore the different fields of social work. I’m sure once you have more experience, you’ll realize where you want to specialize in. Hahaha yeah feminism seems like it’s my thing. The high school play that I wrote was very feminist, so high school pa lang I already knew that I was interested in this topic, but at the same time ngayon ko lang na-realize na I want to do something about it. Aww thanks Cat! I’m sure you’ll also help the Philippines in the future and you’ll help so many people once you get into social work. Good luck to both of us! 🙂


  2. A very interesting topic. I lived in the Philippines for the first time in 1986, as a student from USA, although an older college student. I’ve visited the Philippines many times over the past 26 years, almost yearly, and have lived here full time the past 3 years.

    My wife, a Philippine citizen, worked abroad for 15 years but not in the USA and she is not interested to visit the USA. Our 6 year old son is a dual citizen and he is fluent in English and Ilonggo, more so than the average 6 year old. This year, he will learn Tagalog. I agree that my wife’s attitude and experience is much different than those who have never left the country for an extended time and who lived on their own among foreigners.

    The Filipino culture is similar in Luzon and in Negros Occidental, in some respects, but also different in many respects. To ask to define Filipino culture is almost like asking to define American culture. Both are diverse and regional. I would like to see more unity in both countries!

    I still get excited about the Philippines. Everyday is a new adventure for me and I am not new to the Islands. I saw a new video just yesterday, “Phil So Good: Paradise on Earth,” by French singer Julien Drolon, and featuring Philippine singer, Rhian Ramos. The video was shot in Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao. In several video shots, the French singer is standing in the sea with his pants rolled up and he is singing a line from the song, “I’m in the Phil-li-pines.” That is the way I feel, too, everyday, lol. I am happy here. I have very few American friends in the Philippines, as most are Filipino.

    There are problems but the good things outweigh the not so good things by a country mile, in my opinion. I see the problems as just growing pains since the Republic of the Philippines has only been around since 1946. I never use the term, “Third World,” as the Philippines is still a developing nation. It is certainly not a Banana Republic.

    I am sorry this is a little long and I could make it a lot longer, lol, based on my personal experience the past 26 years, but I cannot make a comment about the Philippines in just a few sentences. Please forgive me.
    Take care,

    ~ Gary ~


    1. I’m so glad that you love living in the Philippines. Yes Philippine culture is very diverse. In some ways, this makes things interesting, but sometimes this can lead to disunity. When I was younger, I didn’t appreciate the Philippines, but now I’m growing to understand my country better, and I’m learning to love it despite its imperfections. All countries have their imperfections, but that doesn’t mean that citizens should be ashamed of their country. I have great hopes for the Philippines. You are right the Philippines is not a Banana Republic. The Philippines has so much potential, and I know that it can improve so long as the people in the country help it improve. Thank you so much for sharing your insights and other information. No need to apologize for writing a long comment. I really appreciate it that you are so enthusiastic about the Philippines and that you are so willing to share your thoughts about the country.


    1. Yeah I think more people should get to know the art world first before passing judgement. Then again, kailangan din ng art world ng more exposure so that people will know just how great our artists are. Thanks for reading my post, Mahar!


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