Filipino culture is a multi-faceted, complicated thing that has so much to offer the world. But it isn’t perfect. Like many other cultures, we’re prone to certain toxic patterns that may seem relatively harmless on the surface, but have repercussions that can hurt generations. As we approach Independence Day and celebrate our history, consider this an opportunity to reflect on what we can do to help our society move forward into a happier and healthier state.
Here are just some deeply embedded toxic aspects of Filipino culture we should leave behind.
8. Treating kids like retirement funds
If you’re considering having kids and one of your top reasons is you’ll need someone to support you when you’re old, you need to take a good look at your life and your choices, because that’s hella toxic. Kids aren’t investments; in fact, they’re pretty expensive. So if you want to retire rich, make actual financial investments instead.
Having offspring so you can have a safety net in the future will inevitably result in unhappy kids who will likely one day view you as a burden. Do you really want that?
7. Entitlement to pasalubong/palibre
Don’t get us wrong — pasalubong culture can be a great thing. In its purest form, it’s a way to show loved ones that while you were elsewhere exploring the world, you still had them in mind. But sadly, some
entitled jerks folks have warped this custom and made it feel like an obligation.
Balikbayan neighbor comes home for the first time in years? They ask for pasalubong. A second cousin recently got a job? They ask for libre. It’s no wonder that some OFWs dread coming home because it means having to overspend on everyone they come across.
Once we start treating pasalubongs as a bonus — instead of something that we’re entitled to — our relationships (not to mention our bank accounts) will be so much healthier.
6. Utang na loob
Scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours — with interest. That’s basically the gist of the utang na loob mindset, and while that isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it’s prone to abuse. People can (and often do) misuse utang na loob to guilt-trip family members into treating them a certain way. Some use utang na loob to pull unethical favors in the workplace or even politics.
5. Crab mentality
Crab mentality — or the tendency to treat people badly when they’re ahead of us — isn’t unique to the Philippines. Envy, after all, is a normal, universal experience. But crab mentality is especially prevalent here, perhaps because our communities are so tight-knit, or maybe because so many of us can’t shake the belief that other people’s success is a result of our own loss. Crab mentality may also be the result of a twisted form of pakikisama — they don’t want to be left behind, so they pull people down so that they can all be equal again.
Whatever the reason, it’s something that we should outgrow ASAP. We’re all doing life at our own pace and we shouldn’t compare. When we see our peers doing better than us, we should celebrate with them and maybe even use that as motivation to work hard and achieve success as well.
3. Being onion-skinned
We Filipinos are a thin-skinned bunch. When someone (especially foreigners) writes something about our country that’s even just a tiny bit critical, hordes of Pinoys will take this as their cue to defend the country’s honor and call that opinion stupid, the opinion-giver a fool, and, if the critic happens to be in the Philippines, inevitably tell him/her to go back to where they came from. But people are allowed to have opinions and vocalize them — as long as they’re not being a racist jerk about it, why react so violently?
Apart from looking like oversensitive babies, not listening to criticism can also do us a disservice. Negative feedback can show us areas where we need to grow. This may be a radical idea for many Pinoys out there, but it is possible to love your country and be proud to be Filipino AND acknowledge that it needs work. In fact, turning a blind eye to its problems doesn’t do the country any favors. How can we hope to improve if we don’t call out what’s wrong with it?
3. Putting politicians on pedestals
Government officials aren’t our country’s heroes and saviors. They’re people that we have elected to use our hard-earned taxes to serve the public. So when they do something good, we can be grateful, but we shouldn’t fall down at their feet for simply doing their job. And when they aren’t doing their job properly, it’s only right that they are called out for it.
2. Internalized racism
It’s been over 100 years since we won our freedom from Spain and almost 80 since we were “given” our freedom by the Americans, yet we still haven’t completely shaken our self-hatred. Sure, we’re quick to comment “Pinoy pride” when Filipinos abroad get any form of recognition, but we also ridicule thick Filipino accents, devalue local brands, and whiten our skin/get our noses done to fit Eurocentric beauty standards.
Centuries of colonial oppression have given us a lot of baggage to unpack, but being aware of our internalized racism will help us avoid perpetuating it.
1. Romanticizing Filipino resilience
Yes, it’s amazing how Filipinos are able to survive the worst disasters and adversities. But we should also stop settling for the bare minimum. When people use our resilience as an excuse for incompetence, that’s just toxic positivity that normalizes suffering. A life of struggle shouldn’t be the norm. The Filipino deserve better.