Can Filipino Culture Afford to Remain Stagnant?

As the world becomes a global village people get to exchange ideas, beliefs, attitudes, practices, food and various facets of culture. The dynamics are interesting and challenging because the way of doing things in one culture may not be the same in a different culture.

How we keep time

For example, time – people in the West are sticklers for time. Other cultures operate on island time – one variant being “Filipino time” or being habitually “fashionably late”. It doesn’t matter whether a Pinoy social event is in the islands or in the continental USA, most pinoys will usually show up half hour to one hour late. But, some Pinoys do show up on time, if not early. They, however are a – minority. The thing is – when habitual tardiness in parties spills over into the workplace, productivity suffers and in the end, the company suffers. But no worries about tardiness – we have compadres, katropa who will cover our back; who by pakikisama will time in for us; or who have utang na loob who owe us – one way or another the tardiness will not show up because we “take care of our own”. In contrast, the Japanese will not tolerate such behavior.

How we treat honor and “face”

Another aspect involves whether ones culture is individualistic or communitarian. For example if I am individualistic or a self-determining person then value will be placed on preserving my image with others and myself. If there is conflict I will take upon it myself – and address the party who I believe wronged me. I will be glad to sit face-to-face and confront my accusers.

However, if I see myself more as a group member then my considerations will be more about the group – about not bringing shame to the group, or I may avoid criticizing another group member so as to maintain group harmony. I will use a third party to act as a bridge between other people in the group. Since there is no direct confrontation, harmony is preserved. The thing is – when there are 3rd parties involved, the message tends to get mangled – and both parties can be played off by the 3rd party.

The former is more common in the West. The latter is very prevalent in the East.

Fate and Personal Responsibility

Communication across cultures is also affected by variables involving fate and personal responsibility. In effect this reflects the extent to which we perceive that we are in control of our lives against the degreee to which we believe that we are subject to forces beyond our control – or how much we gauge our ability to change the course that our lives may take.

Some draw a relationship between the land and the attitude on personal responsbility. The vast North American landscape for instance is seen to nurture a “frontier” mentality, of conquest and mastery over the wilderness, a larger sense of life. When experiencing failure, the admonition is to try again. Action, efficiency, merit, and achievement are of utmost importance. Free will takes the prime spot.

In contrast, smaller territories with histories of repeated occupation and colonization, place more emphasis on the role of destiny. Struggles are more likely to be seen as inevitable and a fatalistic mindset becomes deeply rooted. The response to failure then becomes “bahala na”, implying that failure was destined.

The former will expect activity and accountability – while the latter will expect that the things should remain as it is.

The former will see the latter as lazy. The latter will see the former as arrogant and delusional in what his ideas can accomplish.

Tadhana - Am I a slave of destiny? Or, do I create my destiny based on the choices that I make?

The Workplace

Differences can also be seen in the workplace. For example, in the West, it is performance that counts. In the Philippines – it’s not about performance, or better yet, your “performance” is not based on what you deliver to the bottom line – but how well you “fit” within the organization – will you go with the flow or will you rock the boat. In the West doing business means creating organizational wealth. In the Philippines, it means individual wealth.

The differences go on and on.

Cross Cultural Management

Given that cultural backgrounds differ, sparks are bound to fly. The smarter actor will recognize the cultural factors at play and will manage the divergence and convergence of attitudes.

When a person from one cultural background meets, interacts, understands, and deals with persons from another cultural background – that is cross cultural management.

Looking at the divisions in Philippine society – one can see two cultures – one oriented to the West, a minority – and one that sits diametrically opposite to it, the majority.

The thing is, as a country we are aspiring for a quality of life with its attendant comforts and conveniences without the corresponding cultural attitude necessary to sustain such way of life. This is akin to performing cosmetic surgery with a kitchen knife instead of a scalpel.

We can’t be habitually late in a world that beats like clockwork. We can’t keep on going with the flow when such is working against us. What’s the point in fitting in when your organization is about to close ship due to inbred thinking? Where do we draw the line on retaining a “culture” that doesn’t work for us?

Ningas-cogon, bahala na, utang na loob, pakikisama, are supposedly classic Filipino values – whose time has come to be re-evaluated.


Preservation and co-existence between cultures used to be the norm but the times are changing. Cultural boundaries are being taken down. Cross pollination takes place through the generations. New identities are being evolved or made through integration – drawing the smaller parts into the bigger whole.

We shouldn’t be afraid of change. To survive and thrive in todays complex global society, we need to incorporate a wide range of styles, attitudes, perspectives, practices in continuous process of innovation and improvement.

It is difficult for one culture to have all the answers, but when we network and learn from other cultures to bring solutions to our challenges we take on more valuable roles that contribute to the greater good – and our individual good.

Filipino culture can’t remain stagnant forever – something’s gotta give.



  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Philippine Culture, AntiPinoy.Com. AntiPinoy.Com said: New post: Can Filipino Culture Afford to Remain Stagnant? ( […]

  2. ulong pare · ·

    … daaaaaang

    … at the current state, the flip culture would remain stagnant; they’d further regress to stone age…

    … prez abnoy has nothing to offer…

    … ay sus ginoo naman, mga kabayang flips… puro kayo tunggaks!

  3. Joe Jireh · ·

    I have lived in Australia for a long time, but am back here in Manila in an effort to ‘strike gold’ in both my business & career.
    To date, I have had no such blessing YET. The very reason for that has been articulated in this article:
    “… in the West, it is performance that counts. In the Philippines – it’s not about performance, or better yet, your “performance” is not based on what you deliver to the bottom line – but how well you “fit” within the organization – will you go with the flow or will you rock the boat…”
    Throughout the years, I have imbibed the trait of PURSUING EXCELLENCE in everything I do specially in the workplace. Somehow, that becomes ‘osmotically’ (sic) evident with the interviewers, specially if the one interviewing comes from the middle management group who gets intimated by my credentials.
    If we are celebrating INDEPENDENCE DAY on June 12, let it be independence form a stale, stagnant, unaccountable, malicious & self-serving mindset that has haunted us for many centuries.
    Let INDEPENDENCE DAY mean a social revolution which leads to cultural reform.

  4. sarcasmgasm · ·

    the problem in here is that when somebody steps up to do something about, he’ll be dragged along with our usual backward thinking culture

  5. There is a cultural integration happening in some places like Manila, Baguio, Subic, Bohol, Cebu, Davao and La Union, where a good number of Filipinos deal and interact with foreign employers and neighbors.
    Simple changes can be seen as in keeping the beaches and the streets clean, lessening noise and air pollution, reporting punctual to work, and even training their dogs like the foreigners do.
    The impact of foreign behaviours to the to the Filipinos may not be dynamic, but at least, is occurence. 

  6. sorry, I meant occurrent.

  7. guilbautedsookie · ·

    I just wanna open up something…

    We say we’re victims of racism…but in our own society–WE ARE RACISTS! Let me tell you a story:

    I was buying a burger and the shithead trainee was like SO SLOW. I told him I will be buying a burger and he like kept shooing me away. Then, a pretty, FAIR-SKINNED woman came and he immediately entertained her order. I then felt hurt and cursed his face (FUNNY THING: I remember his name–NOY). I wouldn’t eat another burger until he was released.

    It kinda hurts that in this country people are promoting “white supremacy”..that only white women can be called beautiful like that. I am glad our current Miss Nursing broke a string of fair-skinned delegates to win the title, BUT DANG THEY HATE HER BECAUSE SHE’S NOT WHITE AND PRETTY.

    I am also disappointed by the “beauty politics” here. I have a classmate who is fair-skinned and beautiful, and she like gets ALL THE FAVORS. She got a failing grade yet maintained her scholarship and had 1.0 in her subjects, while I, brown-skinned, diligent, HAD TO WORK HARDER. Plus, the man of my dreams is hitting on her in front of my ugly face. And because of this white drama, my sister’s self-esteem is in rock bottom.


    I am now convinced that in this world, IT’S NOT INTELLIGENCE, DILIGENCE OR HARDWORK that will bring you up–it’s if you’re beautiful or not, AND HERE, YOU CAN BE A WOWOWEE BIGAT-10 if you’re pretty.


  8. Stagnancy seems to be an intrinsic trait of Filipino culture. If you say we should change this tradition and adopt a new one, other PInoys will say, “ang sama mo; ‘wag mong baguhin ang ginagawa ng mga ninuno namin; traidor ka sa kultura natin” or something like that. It’s like our culture is self-protected against change. But it’s stupidity. Talagang kailangang kang magmistulang antipitika para gumawa ng tama sa bansang ito. No surprise why we’re really backward.

  9. I am blaming the commercialism of the whitening products and sensationalism of “white” ladies in television for the sudden boom of the Mestiza mentality in this country. Even in the poorest Barangays, teenagers are saving their school allowances just to buy a piece of a whitening soap being endorsed by the favorite TV personality.

    The risks of health hazards that may arise from using those skin whitening products are being ignored.

  10. Hyden Toro · ·

    There was an article, some sort of essay, written by our hero, Jose Rizal titled: “The Indolence of the Filipinos”. Rizal defended us of our “indolence”; as pointed out by the Spanish Colonizers. You read his novel:”Noli Me Tangere”. You will understand that the culture and the thinking of the Filipinos had not improved, since Rizal was alive.

    We immitate our former Colonizers: the Spaniards and the Americans. We have despised our native cultures, traditions and beliefs.Look at how we view our so called “cultural minorities”. The reason of the lateness of Filipinos of coming on time is: their Spanish Colonizers were also late on appointments. To make dramatic entrances in any event – showing us their sense of superiority and importance. The Colonizers had long gone. However, the Colonizer’s negative traits and traditions remained. Unless, we change our awareness of ourselves. Change our mindsets. Change our own perspectives in seeing life, itself. We will never change.

    We have the Power of Choices. Thise are the most important faculties in our minds, that God has given to us; if you believe in God. We can choose to be where we are; or we can choose to change and improve our mindsets.


  11. khayez14 · ·

    This article sure got the point on how the society runs nowadays. Oh, guilbautedsookie…. I think I know who you are. You’re my classmate. 🙂 I agree that life is unfair. just like in school

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