Attitudes: bad and good

by Evans Yonson

(Note: Today’s entry was suggested by Carlo Gaid.)

Barcelona – Having lived away from the Philippines for more than five years now, I have seen the best and the worst of the Filipino -whether at home or abroad. There are some desirable attitudes that most foreigners find remarkable and yet perplexing. Some unpleasant opinions and actions, as seen from a Filipino perspective, would be gratifying to the eyes of a foreign friend.

What are the unpleasant and unrealistic Filipino attitudes? And what are those pleasurable that wherever a Filipino would be in this world, others would see it as truly a Filipino trait? I must stress that attitudes can be bad and good at the same time, wherever and whenever that attitude is exercised or shown.

Bahala na! (Come what may!) – This is an attitude that enables the Filipino to meet difficulties and shortcomings with resignation by leaving it to the high heavens to sort things out. From the positive side, it shows that the Filipino is a risk taker. He jumps off the plane with a parachute but not knowing if it opens or not. On the other hand, if he fails then he blames again the high heavens for not being on his side. If he succeeds then it’s ok. The party goes on.

I attended a Filipino wedding recently. The couple had already decided to get married six months before but had to postpone the actual wedding ceremony date several times. A month before the wedding, the groom leaves for the Philippines to do pamanhikan (asking the woman’s hand for marriage) from the bride’s parents. The groom comes back a week before the altar date and everything goes topsy-turvy. Bahala na! The Lord will provide. True enough, heaven sent angels down to see through the whole ceremony and reception. All’s well and that ends well.

Mañana habit! (Doing things later!) – Some say that this is an attitude handed by the Spanish conquerors and has deeply rooted into the Filipino psyche long after the  conquistadores left in 1898.  This effects the engagement to wait until tomorrow or the next day when when the person involve is not interested or not in the mood. It  causes the delays in many public transactions and even corporations. On the plus side, most Filipinos think deeply and are wont to weigh the consequences of his decision. On the negative side, this leads to corruption especially in government dealings. Getting a passport is a classic example. Not only does the government ask for so many documents but also it takes more than 15 days to get one. At the immigration office, one has two options: if you want the passport the soonest possible time, you pay higher; or if you’ll use this most important document later on, you still pay high. The same documents, the same passport, the same process, the same machine, different releasing time, different amounts.

If you combine these two attitudes, then it becomes a high-end corruption.

Tardiness! – Among Filipinos there is the attitude of coming very late to an appointment or not showing up at all. Add to that, despite being highly-connected (mobile phone, Facebook, iPhone, etc), they still don’t communicate if they’ll be late or not coming at all. For those living abroad, if they are meeting with some foreign friends or prospective employers, they always come in very early or they contact to confirm attendance or their tardiness. I am guilty of this attitude wherever I may be. In the Philippines, I simply turn off my mobile phone. But here, I always ask for appointment and I always arrive earlier no matter the circumstances.

When I visited a Filipino friend in Milan in 2009, I enjoyed talking to her and husband that I totally forgot that the airport was one hour away. Bahala na! I had to rush to the airport. In the end, I missed my flight and I had to buy another ticket for the next flight back to Spain. I couldn’t do a mañana habit with the ticket as I was flying to Madrid three hours after my arrival in Barcelona.

Arrogance! – Most Filipinos are arrogant. An arrogant person is someone who has or reveals an exaggerated sense of one’s own importance or abilities or with their personal properties. My university professor here in Barcelona once told me, it’s easy to identify an arrogant person in the Metro crowd. He is someone who shows to the public the latest and most expensive gadget. And I told myself, it’s easy to recognize an arrogant Filipino in the crowd. Or even among friends.

A classic example is another friend. When people started their interest in photography, he immediately bought the most expensive DLSR camera with all imaginable accessories. We were all amazed. When iPhone 2 was introduced, he rushed and bought one for himself. Then came iPhone 3. iPhone 4. Then iPhone 4S. All these came with a postpaid plan. Along with iPhone 3 came the MacBook craze among Filipinos, he hurriedly procured a MacBook Air. He works as a domestic help and receives the minimum wage. He is married to a housewife who’s taking care of their three kids. They receive monthly food stamps from a Catholic charity organization. Last time I heard, he is knee deep in debt.

Why do some Filipino women prefer to marry their foreign chat buddies than a Filipino. The main reason is not poverty, it’s the Filipino men’s arrogance. Most of them were nurtured with the philosophy: eat, drink, be merry, mañana habit, and bahala na!