The national Pride of the Filipinos –
Strength and References
"All Filipinos want to be something else.
The poor ones want to be Americans, and the rich ones all want to be
Spaniards. Nobody wants to be Filipino ", writes the American
author Suretsky quoting a remark of one of his friends. His article
“Inferiority Complex: A Filipino Malady?” aroused considerable
public attention in the Philippines. Not quite so provocative, the
author puts himself: „The
basic problem seems to me, after many years of observation, to be a
national inferiority complex, a disturbing lack of pride in being
Filipino. a lack of self-love, of respect for and love of the
country in which they were born“
Quintin D. Andres formulates concisely: "Filipinos in general
have an inferiority complex" (2)(3). Not only in the
literature, references can be found with regard to an alleged
minority feeling of the Filipinos. The impression to be still
colonized underdogs is also an often-discussed topic in the
Philippine Internet. In this context not a few writers complain
about the continuing "self-flagellation" of the Filipinos. Mostly
however, the writers exclude an inferiority complex for themselves,
but see its existence at others.
So, in the prevailing public opinion the view
is predominant that the national pride of the Filipinos is
underdeveloped and that there are inferiority feelings toward the
Western world in broader sections of the population. Only a smaller
youth study from the late nineties, presented by the SWS survey
institute, shows different results and contradicts the majority
opinion (4). The survey showed that 69 percent of
interviewed young people were "very proud" and 24 percent "rather
proud" of their country. Considering these results, we could ask, if
the "Inferiority Complex" and "Colonial Mentality" is only a
phantasm, an obsession of publicists - or should there be a change
the following, we try to answer this question. We should annotate
that - regardless of collective settings - a feeling of inferiority
with regard to individuals can be evident, it can be covered or it
is in the case of a very self-confident or ignorant person not or
nearly not present. Not only the extent of the assumed inferiority
can be determined exactly, also the reasons for it remain often in a
We try to approach the topic on three levels.
We first examine possible historical
and cultural backgrounds, then we ask for references in economic and
technical areas and then we lead up - without wishing to publish
racist sounding texts - to physical aspects.
A. Historical and
general esteem the family is traditionally hold in very high regard
and comes first. Its intimacy and solidarity are appreciated. Then often
follows the affiliation to a barangay, a specific province. For
example people are proud to
be an Ilocano or Bicolano. In the past, this provincialism was
abused by the Spaniards in the suppression of local revolts when
they recruited auxiliary troops from other parts of the country. The national idea was up to the middle of the 19th century
out of consideration.
Again and again we find in the Philippine literature the complaint
that Filipinos would have only poor knowledge of their own history
and this could also explain their weak national pride. Nathan
Gilbert Quimpo writes:
educational system continues to miseducate Filipinos by glorifying
the boons of continuing foreign domination at the expense of
indigenous culture. School children learn very little of their
country´s history, especially of the heroic resistance of their
ancestors to American occupation (5)
We are here not in the position to judge the
presence or absence of historical knowledge of the Filipino people.
But even a better knowledge of the
relatively short national history can sadden. Is it arrogant, to
say, that the Philippine history, has only a reduced number
of specular highlights?
The historical events in the archipelago
before the arrival of Spanish colonizers are largely lost in the
mists of history. We know only, that there was an
decentralized rural barangay- or
little kingdom-culture. Only few written documents have come down to
us. Some of them have been destroyed by the Spaniards.
there is an impressive construction that was begun in about 2000
years ago and which competes - together with the Great Wall, the
Acropolis or the St. Peter's Basilica – for the title "8th
Wonder of the World". We mean the irrigation terraces around
Banaue in northern Luzon. It is a unique agro-technical work and an
important cultural and historical monument. The terraced fields cling for miles
and miles spectacularly with a wealth of forms on the steep mountain
slopes. Unfortunately, too little is being done for its conservation
and better tourist development.
In 1521 Magellan lands with three ships east
of Samar. After concluding some peace contracts with native chiefs,
he meets five weeks after his arrival on the island of Mactan the
tribal chieftain Lapu-Lapu, who is not willing to submit to the
Spanish colonialists and is ready to fight.
Magellan, who has at the time of combat only about 60 soldiers, gets
killed. Today Lapu-Lapu, whose
figure is not well known, is regarded as national hero. For some
Filipinos the veneration of Lapu-Lapu - the man of action, not just
words – is not congruous enough. They call for a huge monument in
Luneta on the side of the mortal remains of Rizal. And why
not giving an airport his name?
Until 1898, the Philippines were a Spanish
colony. For Nathan Quimpo the
Spanish colonial regiment was in nearly every aspect a racist one:
Spanish colonialists pursued a blatantly racialist policy in their
colonies. Their treatment of the Indios, whom they regarded as
belonging to the "primitive" and "inferior races" and as fit to be
to be enslaved or subjugated, is already well known to present-day
And M. C. Garbon criticizes harshly:
Spanish colonization was a period of Filipino sufferings. Filipinos
were treated ruthlessly and were brought about their lack of ethnic
pride. They were caught in a hierarchy of inferiority … The recurring
reminder of the Filipinos weakness marked into the minds of the
citizens and as a result until the present they still feel inferior
and uncomfortable around foreign races"
The following fifty-year colonization by the
Americans is also accompanied with attempts of cultural
brainwashing. Efforts were made to transfer to the Filipinos alleged
higher American identity characteristics and to impose them a system
of norms and values of American origin.
How to handle with the assumed harmful
Spanish and American heritage? No one will probably get the idea to
abolish Catholicism in the country and to put down the old churches
in Mexican Baroque. The Spanish architectural heritage has become an
integral part of Filipino culture. - As part of the competitive
world economy the Philippines cannot abstain from western
performance standards. And a further reduction of English language
teaching can only be detrimental to economic progress.
sounds like heresy – but the question may be allowed, whether the
colonial experience is really a centuries lasting mortgage or
whether the historical back-reference is only an attempt of fast
assignment of blame.
A country can be proud
on his historical heroes. In 1993, ex-president
Fidel Ramos appointed a National Heroes Committee even with the
ascertainment of "heroes." Right at the beginning It was evident and
indisputable that Jose Rizal and Andres Bonifacio
(7) should be included in the list of heroes. Surely – Rizal
promoted the Philippine independence by his writings, but we should
also mention that he considered the Philippine Revolution of 1898 as
too early. Instead he called for a confederation with Spain and the
representation of the Philippines in the Spanish Cortez. After two
years of consultation, the committee nominated six other persons:
• Muhammad Dipatuan Kudarat
(1581-1671) - He fought in Mindanao against the Spaniards and the
Christianization of the island
• Gabriela Silang (1731-1763) - After
the death of her husband she took over the leadership of a revolt
against the Spanish for four months. After lost battles she was
executed by the Spaniards. In this context it remains a mystery why
her husband Diego was not included in the list because he led the
revolt for much longer. Diego Silang fought in his time only for the
independence of the province Ilocano (8)
• Emilio Aguinaldo (1869-1964) -
Military leaders, politicians, president of the first Philippine
Republic - Emilio Aguinaldo, the revolutionary leader and president
of the first Philippine Republic deserves to be listed. But the heroic gloss
has also dark spots. He signed the
execution order for Andres Bonifacio and initiated the execution
paths of the hot-blooded General Antonio. For 800,000 pesos reward –
given by the Spanish rulers - he accepted the renunciation of the
revolutionary leadership. Later, he fought the American
troops, but later he swore the "Oath of allegiance" to the
Americans. In the 2nd World War he is in solidarity with the
Japanese occupation forces.
• Apolinario Mabini (1864-1903) - paraplegic intellectual head of the revolution.
He formulated as secretary of the
Interior from today's perspective a very progressive constitution
• Marcelo de Pilar (1850-1896) - as journalist, editor and revolutionary leader,
one of the leaders of the Illustrados
Aquino (1812-1919) - revolutionary from a humble background,
which rendered her services in particular to the care of wounded
• Juan Luna
(1857-1899) - Filipino painter
It is noteworthy that on this official list
the name of Lapu-Lapu does not appear.
Let's stay with the politicians. In the
Internet statements can be found, which pretend that incompetent,
corrupt politicians contribute also to the national shame. And in
fact – a study of the inaugural speeches of the Philippine post-war
presidents shows regularly an enormous discrepancy between their
political goals and the actual results of their actions. Most
promises were, or could not be kept.
The political instability in the country continues to the present
day. In this context, we mention only the keywords mass poverty,
inadequate land reform, NPA-revolts and the separatism in the south
of the country.
There are still other
unofficial and longer lists of “heroes” in the Internet. A list has
the names of 42 personalities,
including, for example, the composer and the lyricist of the
Philippine National Anthem. The question, if all candidates should
belong to the “pantheon of heroes“ is at least discussable.
Let's change the subject and bring up the
question: What literary figures have an international reputation?
The answer depends also on the literature horizon and is probably
different. We are sure, that Francisco Balthazar (1788-1862) with
his early epic poem, "Florante at Laura" is only known to a few
literary specialists. A prominent position has certainly Jose Rizal
with his novels “Noli Me Tangere” and “El Filibusterismo”. But then
the selection becomes smaller. If we add also authors, living and
publishing in the United States, we could mention also less known
authors like Carlos Bulosan, Francisco Sionil Jose, Jessica
Hagedorn, Ninotchka Rosca, Jose
Garcia Villa and E. San Juan Jr. Translations into German language
are in very sorry state. The number
of publications here in Germany can be counted on one hand.
Universities and colleges are certainly cultural institutions. The
Philippines has hundreds of them. QS Quacquarelli Symonds has
recently released a list of Top Universities in Asia 2010. We find
only two universities of the Philippines, which are under the top
100 Asian universities. The Ateoneo de Manila is holding the
position 58 and the University of the Philippines has position 78.
These positions are not fully satisfying, but we have also to
consider that nowadays scientific outstanding performances are not
only a question of qualifications of scientists; they also depend on
the amount of financial sponsoring or government contributions
Pop culture and
entertainment is also – perhaps on a lower level - belonging to the
cultural inventory of a country.
Here many stars are shining and the list of prominent figures is
probably longer than such of the authors. We mention only the
name of Freddie Aguilar, Gary Valenciano, Regine Velasquez and Lea
Salonga. The Madrigal Singers of the University of the Philippines
are also offering classical choral music.
B. Economic and technical aspects
A nearer look at the economic and technical
achievements of the country does not give cause to great enthusiasm.
With regard to the year 2009 a gross national product per capita of
only 3,300 US$ is estimated. The
Philippines are surpassing the level of India (3,100 U.S. $) and
Vietnam (2,900 U.S. $) just slightly. Only Laos (2,100 U.S.
$) and Cambodia (1,900 U.S. $) are much lower.
The Philippines are already
surpassed by China (6,600 U.S. $) and Indonesia (U.S. $ 4,000).
The gross national product per capita in South Korea, Taiwan
and Japan is nine to ten times higher than in the Philippines
(10). Because of the
relatively weak economic development, the Philippines are sometimes
called “sick man of Asia".
In evaluating these figures, we have also to
consider, that Japan and South Korea suffered also considerable
damages in World War II. The optimistic economic outlook for
the Philippines after the war was an illusionary one and the
expectations were not fulfilled. The
economic policy instruments proved to be quite blunt. Predominant
was a policy in favour of the old economy business cliques and
oligarchs. The land remained largely
an agricultural country, certainly, because the American colonists
never promoted the industrialization of the Philippines. They
preferred to export their own manufactured goods in exchange for
agricultural products from the Philippines. But world prices
for agricultural goods showed in the following decades more of a
The statistics on poverty in the country is
depressing. Different definitions of
poverty result in different numbers. Here only a quotation from
Niklas Reese: "The rate of the absolute poor, who have only a cash
of one dollar a day is for years at around 40% (11).
The number of people, who - in the absence of
sufficiently paid job at home - are working in abroad is estimated
at least at 8.5 million. A more precise number of the "children of
diaspora”, as they were also called, is not available. The number
of illegal workers in abroad is not recordable by the official
preference for foreign products still exists and it is for some
observers still part of the "colonial mentality".
Foreign products have for the most part the advantage of qualitative
image benefits. The sometimes
irrational preference for foreign products promotes not only
numerous smuggling operations into the Philippines, it also destroys
potential job, which are so important for the country. In the
recent years the Federation of Philippine Industry and the Chambers
of Commerce have tried to valorize the image of national produced
goods by marketing campaigns. The
general slogan was "Buy Filipino", it was also an appeal to the
national pride of the Filipinos. It remains to be seen, how
effective these campaigns are.
It is surely difficult to change
rigidified buying preferences with short-term actions.
However, there are some observers believing that the level of
quality of Philippine products slowly improves.
also be proud, if a country has several companies with high economic
performance and stronger international market penetration. The
magazine FORTUNE for example is ranking the 500 global giants and
the 50 biggest companies in Asia. However, the two lists show no
Philippine company. To the knowledge of the author, only
three Philippine companies that have at least on the Southeast Asia
market, a larger market share: It is the San Miguel Corporation
(food, drinks) (12) , Jollibee Foods Corporation (fast
food chain) (13) and the Del Monte Pacific Ltd. (canned
fast-development nation like the Philippines will probably have only
a shorter phase of industrialization. Stronger economic
growth impulses are expected from the service sector. Especially the
IT sector is relevant. It remains to be seen whether there will be a
qualitative upgrading from the nowadays predominant administrative
computer services to more innovative, more sophisticated computer
In our footnotes we mentioned already the
name of Eduardo Conjuangco and Tony Caktiong. They are belonging to
the group of Chinoys (Tsinoys, which often have key positions in the
economy of the Philippines. Many of
them emigrated two or three generations ago from southern China.
Often they started from humble beginnings but with the help of their
Chinese community. A few are now owners of business empires in the
country. We mention only the Conjuangco clan ( San Miguel Corp.,
PLDT), Lucio Tan (Fortune Tobacco, Allied Bank, PNB, PAL), John
Gokongwei (PCI-Bank, Digital Telecom, Cebu Air), Alfonso Yuchengco (companies in the finance and insurance sector), Henry Sy
(retail king - SM Group) and George Ty (Metrobank, Bank of
Philippine Islands). An earlier article of the author portraits
these entrepreneurs and their backgrounds more closely (14).
It is not our intention to create
here divisions between the former immigrants and the indigenous
Filipinos. Undoubtedly, the Chinoys today are an integral and
respected part of Philippine society. Nevertheless, it is worth
thinking about the overrepresentation of Chinoys in top level
positions. Hundred thousands of sari-sari shops show that Filipinos
have also the disposition for entrepreneurial spirit, but many of
them they don’t reach the next higher level of business.
Another source of national pride can be a
higher number of international recognized inventors and scientists.
The Internet shows several lists of “famous” Filipino candidates.
But, as we will see, some of them are falling through the sieve
after being checked.
is necessary to make a preliminary remark. In general, inventions
require higher financial investments grants – that is one reason why
highly qualified Filipinos are often forced to go abroad.
Furthermore, inventions are often based on preceding inventions and
they are today often the result of teamwork. The single inventor has
become a rarity. These facts are not always sufficient known by some
authors of such lists.
We checked one of several lists of "Filipino
Inventors and Scientists"(15) and compared it with
articles from wikipedia. Wikipedia articles are sometimes
controversial. Nevertheless, we take the view that wikipedia –
compared with other public encyclopedias – offers a broad and to a
large extent validated knowledge. The list
shows a whole lot of "inventors". But from the lay perspective it is
nearly impossible to assess the level of inventiveness.
Here some critical
- Pedro Flores is considered the
inventor of the Yo-Yo-roll. But he
marketed this - in the Philippines for centuries played game - in
the U.S. only on a larger scale.
- Agapito Flores
has been designated as the inventor of the fluorescent tube. But
there is no mentioning of his name in the relevant article in
- Roberto Del Rosario is regarded as
the inventor of the karaoke system. According to wikipedia his
"minus-one music" system is only a forerunner invention.
- Eduardo San Juan is mentioned as the
inventor of the lunar vehicle. According to wikipedia, the NASA has
not listed his name as co-constructor. Wikipedia mentions other
- Gregorio Y. Zara should be the
inventor of the video telephone. Here, too, wikipedia mentions only
the ATT development teams and the Deutsche Reichspost.
- Finally, we have to mention Daniel
Dingel, who claimed he had invented a hydrogen reactor. With its
help, a car could run a car with only water. Even the presentation
of the model car met strong suspicions.
Now the Philippines DOST-
Institution claims officially that the invention to be false.
Let us close the
chapter on economic and technical aspects with the notice, that the
country’s infrastructure is still insufficient. We refer here only
to topics like road transport, port development, energy supply,
environmental recycling and vocational training.
C. Physical Aspects
Filipinos are generally of smaller stature
and they often have a smaller nose than the so-called
Caucasian-white race. What does the smaller stature mean in the
fields of competitive sports?
National pride can also
refer to the number of Olympic medals. The medals figure as an
indicator for national competence and strength. Even “coach
potatoes” can join the jubilation. Successes in international
competitive sport follow the maxim "higher, faster, and farther" and
depend surely on many factors like financial sponsoring and training
support. Many disciplines -
especially in the track and field athletics – require a longer body
size and here are the small sized Filipinos often in a hopeless
position, even if their body size became taller in the last decades.
Nevertheless, the results in the past are not so minimal to suffer
from depression. Filipino athletes
have - since their first participation in the Olympic Summer Games
in 1924 - never won a gold medal, but at least nine other medals.
Mostly boxers have been medal winners.
One of the outstanding boxing sportsmen has
called the government for more support of the Philippine Olympic
participants. We talk about the boxer Manny Pacquiao, who has a more
than impressive fighting statistic. In his 51 professional fights in
the course of twelve years he achieved 45 wins (including 38 by
knockout), three fights ended in a draw and only three losses, he
had to accept. He started in the flyweight and is now fighting in
the heavier welterweight division.
Never before in the boxing history has a boxer managed to gain nine
world championship titles in seven weight classes.
Manny Pacquiao can now boast himself
to be one of the few modern undisputed national heroes of the
Philippines (16). Let us hope that his reputation does
not volatize too quickly in the seats of the Philippine House of
Let us turn to the
female gender. Filipino women don’t want to be - it's not very
surprising - "dark, short, fat and ugly", and often they adapt
Western ideals of beauty. Cosmetic jars promise to help. In this
context, the journalist Randy David criticized the frequent use of
bleaching body creams ("skin whiteners") by Filipino women. He
criticizes the use of "whiteners” as
an "epidemic", a "neurosis." It is an "internalized colonial
subjugation”, he is writing (17).
Parenthesis: Don’t know the frustrated women
the story about the creation of the races of man? It goes shortly as
the Lord baked the human races in his oven, he suffered some
troubles with regard to the right heat adjustment of his oven. One
day the temperature was too low – the result was the white race. The
other day the temperature was too hot – that was the origin of the
black race. But then the Lord got the right heat adjustment and he
was very happy, when he saw the creation of the light brown
There are in
the Philippines more than a few money-grubbing plastic surgeons
promising help to women, which desire a western or at least a
mestizalike appearance. These cosmetic surgeons are offering
nose bridge and nose tip extensions, breast augmentation and eyelid
corrections. We wrote a gloss on this subject (18). To
avoid misunderstandings – nobody denies that also for western women
at least vanity boxes are an absolute necessity.
D. National cheers
The glamorous Imelda Marcos was worried about
the national reputation in her own grotesque way. Asked about her
life of luxury on the one hand and the deep poverty of broad parts
of the population on the other hand she should have explained in an
interview with the German magazine STERN :
"We Filipinos lived but always in an
identity crisis, had complexes against our colonial masters and
plunderers from Spain, Japan and the USA.
I only tried my best, so we look
good for state visits overseas. My pompous demeanor, my great
dresses, precious jewelry: All just mask.“(19)
A good presentation was important for her.
Nevertheless, it is much in doubt, if she could improve the image of
the Philippines at home and in abroad by her masquerade.
The newly elected President Aquino III is
apparently aware of the problem of disturbed Philippine national
feeling, otherwise he would not have made an issue about it in one
of his first speeches. He criticized in his speech the disdain of
the historical past of the country, the prevailing selfishness, the
performance apathy and the culture of blame shifting in the country.
Then he formulated with much pathos,
believe the blood that runs in our veins is the blood of heroes.
We’re a nation of heroes.”
in the following of his speech he appeals a kind of moderated
are many ways to heroism in the present times, and there’s no need
for guns or spears, no need to shed blood
... To be a good and responsible citizen, that's heroic enough"
So he clearly moves
away from the classical hero cult and veneration and he is pleading
for a kind of everyday life heroism, which could be realized by
many. An example could be a single poorer woman, who succeeds in
giving her children a better education and life perspective.
Perhaps national pride should be found in
other, more modest dimensions.
Approaches for such a modest orientation can be found in the
Internet when the mostly young writers are writing that they were
proud of the Philippines because of
- the family
- the smiling nonchalance and the
adaptability of the Filipinos,
- the beauties of nature and last not least
- the attractive women.
These references are not exclusive national features.
Nevertheless, such features could - besides the traditional morning
flag appeals - also build up a more robust national pride, which is
not so sensitive as it happens sometimes in the past. And this pride
should not shout from the rooftops, because as the saying goes: With
the wind, you make yourself, you cannot fill your sails.
© Wolfgang Bethge, 2010
(1) Barth Suretsky, A
Point of View Inferiority Complex: A Filipino Malady? in: http://www.stuartxchange.org/InferiorityComplex.html
(2) Tomas Quintin D.
Andres, Positive Filipino Values, p.95
(4) The Situation of Filipino Youth: A
National Survey, Social Weather Stations, in:
Gilbert Quimpo, Colonial Name, Colonial Mentality and Ethnocentrism,
in: http:// cpcabrisbane.org/Kasama/2004/V18n2/ColonialName4.htm
(6)MC Garbon, Colonial Mentality: A
Filipino Heritage? in: http://www.scribd.com/doc/34624029/Colonial/Colonial-Mentality-among-Filipinos
(7) see Wolfgang Bethge, Der tragische Kampf
des Andres Bonifacio, in: http://bethge.freepage.de/bonifacio.htm
(8) see: Wolfgang Bethge, Diego and Gabriela
Silang - Los Indios Bravos, in: http://bethge.freepage.de/silang.htm
(9) see: Wolfgang Bethge, Suchrätsel -
Mabini, in: http://bethge.freepage.de/suchraetsel.htm
(10) See: CIA World Factbook, https:/ www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/fields/2004.html?countryName=Philippines&countryCode=rp®ionCode=eas
& # rp
Reese, Armut unter Palmen in: Reese / Werning (ed.): Philippines,
Bad Honnef, p. 54
(12) San Miguel Corporation is engaged in the
sectors of food, beverages and packaging, and achieved in 2008 with
about 26,000 employees in forty countries a turnover of 227 billion
PHP. Hold shares have the Japanese Kirin Brewery (~ 20%), public
insurance institutions (~ 12 percent), the SM Investment Corp., (~
11%; Henry Sy) and the ECJ-Companies (~ 17%). ECJ is belonging to
Eduardo Conjuangco Jr., who is also the Chairman and CEO of the San