I write many an article about life in the Philippines and about understanding Filipino culture and mindset, and I can see a positive side to most things. Wonderful, kind-hearted people who have a lot to teach us hard-hearted “foreigners”, as I’m sure most involved in Australian Filipina relationships learn to realise. But this is one area where I must admit I find myself struggling to understand, and that is why Filipinos tend to act with impulsiveness with little to no thought of long-term ramifications and sometimes tragic results that hurt them more than anybody else.
“Bukas na lang” means “Ahhhh, leave it for tomorrow.” Let’s not think about it today. Again, I love this place and I love the Filipino people here. This is my home. But my goodness, I find this so difficult. What I’m talking about is Filipinos making decisions to suit right now, and to hell with the consequences. Sometimes this is tied-up with pride, hurt feelings, etc. See the previous article on “onion skin” and how easy it is for Filipinos to get their feelings hurt, and how this can lead to careless decisions. But it’s not just that. It applies to so many things. There’s a lack of forward planning, and decisions are made without considering consequences in the short or long term.
Impulsive behavior – Filipinos AND Australians
We can all be impulsive. Our emotions and our hormones can make us do stupid things which we later regret. Those Australian men who’ve got themselves involved with a pretty girl who’s just plain wrong for them because her attractiveness made our brains switch off, yes I’m sure they (We? Yes, I’ve done it too!) can relate to the folly of impulsiveness. Fear can be a motivator too, ie. fear of losing what appears a great deal. If we’re angry we can say things we wouldn’t normally say. But most of the time we try not to do this, and we try to consider the medium and long terms.
Filipinos though? I suppose maybe its emotion (ie fear, pride, love/desire, anger, embarrassment, etc) which motivates a lot of short-term decisions. There just seems to be less decisiveness in trying to avoid rash decisions than you will see in your average Aussie. Emotions tend to rule the day, and very little is done to fight this. Little in the way of internal struggle, or even useful advice beyond the clichéd mutterings of “He/she is not thinking of his/her future!”
You are not thinking of your future!
Has everyone heard this one? This is what they say when the teenage girl drops out of college because she’s pregnant to her boyfriend. Their situation caused not only by sexual attraction, but by a lack of planning…..family planning! He didn’t bring condoms. She never insisted on them! But whether it’s that, or the kid simply not taking studies seriously, or tossing in a job opportunity because it meant would miss the family and friends, that’s the common response. Everyone says they were not “thinking of their future”, but this often lacks weight because the person who says it rarely thinks of their own future either.
Before I came here permanently, and when I had just been a frequent visitor, I still thought mostly as an Aussie. How else could I? I grew up in Australia! In Australia I was always acutely aware of the “wolf at the door”. Always aware that the world was a scary place, and that it would eat you alive without you having security and stability. House….money in the bank….safety from the elements and from “bad guys”, etc. Yet Australia has safety nets that the Philippines doesn’t have. You can’t “get the dole” or be placed in a nice housing commission house if you find yourself on the street with no money. Here? No money and no house means you go hungry and you may sleep in the rain. Is that enough to motivate the average person, especially those with family to support, to work hard and to hang onto a job? Not necessarily.
I can remember a job I had years ago in Sydney. Had wife and baby at home at the time. I was in my 20’s and it was the late 80’s. And no, I didn’t have a mullet hairstyle. I was just a whole lot slimmer. I had a manager at work insult me, and he did it in front of others. And I sat there and took it. Would have liked to have got up and told him to stick the job where the sun didn’t shine, but no I sat there in silence. Because if I had done so, I would have let my family down and our future plans to move up to QLD when we had enough money for a house deposit would have been put off for maybe years. And that would never have been OK.
Here? Let’s think of some occasions of Filipinos not “thinking of their future”:
- Had a driver (with wife and two kids) try to side-swipe a motorbike in our car (with child passenger) because the motorbike driver had given him “the dirty finger”. I shouted at our driver and told him never to do a thing like that again. Later had his wife text message us with his resignation, because his feelings were hurt. He went back to driving his tricyle.
- Same driver it seems had a few arguments with a subdivision guard. Went home…got a gun….pointed it at the guard’s head. Fortunately his late-father was in the NBI, so his old mates collected his home armory and no charges were laid, or he would have been in jail now over hurt feelings.
- Office security guard learns someone is squatting in his house in the province. Gets on the bus. Gets a gun. Fully intends shooting the squatters. Not sure why he didn’t succeed, but nearly did. Also a family man, and would have dumped his family because his anger won the day.
- Domestic helper with six kids, useless husband (doesn’t work, and has mistresses). Lived in poverty, and resembled a broomstick. Worked with us. Good salary. Had plans for building a proper house. Husband tells her to come visit. Fakes having a stroke (yes, I’m serious!), which the doctor identified in examination as fake. Did all this because she loved him and missed him, and lost what would have been long-term employment and a good future for kids.
Basically, we’ve had to learn how to talk to staff very carefully and at the same time expect to see good employees throw everything away if they feel embarrassed or get their feelings hurt. Hang the consequences. Forget about taking it on the chin, because life is just like that. Forget what ol’ Malcolm Fraser said about “Life was not meant to be easy”!
We already have to put up with staff needing to take days off because it’s their birthday, or it’s their child’s birthday, or someone asked them to be a bridesmaid at their wedding which is taking place on a work day. We’ve had staff telling us they wanted to visit their mum for her birthday in the province the evening before. Me? I sit here and work when I have a fever, or with a bad headache, or when my back is giving me merry hell. Because if I don’t do what is required, then my business will suffer and my clients will go elsewhere. Who could blame them? And that’s just reality.
Yes, getting a little off-track here onto work-ethic issues, but it’s all part of it. I really do wonder why so many Filipinos take the path of least resistance. There is a wolf at the door in Australia, but there’s a whole pack of Filipino wolves here in the and they have rabies! Let your emotions get the better of you in the Philippines, and you lose out badly! And no, sadly I don’t have any answers. If you intend to have dealings with Filipinos, you can expect to come across this difficult phenomena.