Words by Gayle Dy
Hospitable. Friendly. Resilient. These are the traits that the Filipinos are most known for. And while these may all be undeniably good traits, there is still so much more to the common Filipino than what meets the eye—things that the Filipino himself knows but still prefers to keep under wraps and even blatantly contradict. And although there are times when ignorance equates bliss, one still cannot argue with writer Chimamanda Adichie when she says that “the single story creates stereotypes, and the problem with stereotypes is not that they are untrue, but that they are incomplete. They make one story become the only story.” And the story of the Filipino does not end at hospitality, no.
The story of the Filipino is complex and multi-faceted, and here is one of the most prevalent: her inferiority complex, which was inevitably birthed as a result of post-colonization and still haunts its people to this very day. But because its effects are subtle, many Filipinos remain oblivious to its posing dangers. And as a consequence, these poisonous traits continue to plague the Filipino race, and thus, the cancer worsens.
It is a truism that the first step in curing cancer is actually finding its origin. Filipinos are all well-aware of their Philippine history, of how they were stripped of freedom for over 4 centuries and ruled by different colonizers time and again. During this era, the Filipinos were pushed around, plundered, abused, and denounced by all these intruders. As a result, the Filipinos became frightened and began to feel inferior next to their oppressors.
Eventually, they reached the conclusion that the only way to measure up to these bullies was tobe like them. This brought about the Filipino’s self-imposed racism, believing that Caucasian skin and light hair are the true standards of beauty to live by. “But while the value of pale skin has slowly diminished in the west, the superiority of white skin still remains in Asian countries, specifically the Philippines,” mentioned Luisito Batongbakal in his article, entitled, “A Brief History Of Filipinos’ Obsession With White Skin.”
In the Philippines, whitening products are one of the highest-consumed products of the Filipinos. This may be due to the prevalent marketing campaigns of cosmetic companies, which constantly emphasize on fairer skin and how it is more beautiful. In fact, just last month, skin-whitening brand GlutaMAX launched their latest campaign with the #YourFairAdvantage, which immediately received widespread backlash for its insensitive promotion of colorism. The series of posts acknowledged how lighter-skinned women get better treatment compared to those who are dark-skinned and even went so far as to say that we should copy their skin color in order to receive the same “advantages.”
But the Filipino’s self-imposed racism is not just based on his hating his own skin color. It is also manifested in the way he talks about and treats his own people. It penetrates each time he thinks his Filipino accent is baduy (uncool/of poor taste), or whenever he patronizes someone for not speaking good English. This heightens even more when he measures a person’s intelligence by his fluency in English. It is also racist when he calls his relatives swerte (lucky) each time they date or marry a foreigner. It is racist when he bends over backward just to please these foreigners when he won’t even spare a look for the homeless beggar on the street. It is racist every time he looks down at other people just because they’re darker, poorer, or less intelligent. It is racist every time he jokes about a person’s accent, looks, or culture, and even more, to deny it and deprive him of his rights.
Two years ago in a province of Pangasinan, there had been an incident involving a traveling Igorot man (wearing a red Ifugao skirt at the time) who was denied entry inside a bus boarding to Manila, despite having enough fare. According to writer Frank Cimatu, “all other people were allowed inside the bus except for the man wearing a G-string. The man apparently even ran to take the bus and grudgingly went back to where he was waiting.”
Such instances of treatment are very familiar to other indigenous groups, such as the Badjaos—the most marginalized and poorest tribe in the Philippines. Because of the conflict between Muslim separatists and government troops and the lack of livelihood opportunities, many Badjaos are leaving Mindanao. In fact, in an article written by Glenda Tayona, entitled, “Badjaos shunned in ‘kind’ Iloilo,” She mentions how in last July of 2017, around 70 Badjaos who managed to sneak back to Iloilo some seven months after they were driven away were once again rounded up and deported back to Mindanao. Now living beyond the depths of poverty, what was once a colorful and flourishing tribe has now disseminated into different parts of the Philippines and Asia, including Malaysia and Indonesia, where even there they are still not accepted. Many of the Badjaos, if not begging on the streets, get their living from the coins being thrown into the ocean for them to catch, at their expense brought by the passengers.
The Filipino’s inferiority complex can also be seen through his xenocentric point-of-view, or the preference for the products, styles, or ideas of someone else’s culture rather than of one’s own. Instead of patronizing their own countries’ goods, they feel ashamed of them. It’s not often that one gets to see a Filipino carrying a bag made from local materials such as abaca or rattan. Instead, they opt for the imported and “high-class” brands like Louis Vuitton, Kate Spade, etc. Even in clothing, native fabrics such as the ones famously worn by the Mandayas and Ifugaos have long been traded for Western-infused fashion styles, which the people wear on a daily basis. Because of this, there is a huge decrease in the number of youths today who wish to take on the tradition and learn the craft.
This colonial mentality remains ever-present in art forms such as filmography and literature—how it is always the foreign movies that receive all the hype and attention, whereas local films almost never do. Memes and posts about Avengers: Endgame have been circling nonstop around social media since last month, and yet, there has never seemed to be a single Filipino movie that was talked about for that long, except perhaps Heneral Luna.
Meanwhile, foreign books seemingly appear to be more accessible in bookstores, with them always being paraded on the window displays instead of our own local writers. And not only are they hidden from plain sight, but the catalog of Filipino writers in bookstores are usually limited as well. Though this could be a groundless accusation for some, there’s definitely no question to the argument that interest in Philippine literature has been ebbing for quite a while now.
Lastly, the Filipino’s inferiority complex is manifested in his crab mentality. The Filipino is jealous of other Filipinos, especially of what the other has, which he doesn’t. “He freaks out when the people he looks down on are rising or progressing beyond him, which is why he tries to pull them down, either through harsh words or unkind actions,” says writer Victorino Abrugar on crab mentality. The way he behaves on social media is an accurate portrayal of this trait, how he is always quick to criticize and say degrading labels such as bobo or tanga to his fellow Filipino when he makes a mistake online. Or how he has this double standard of practically shunning kababayans (countrymen) who slip up in other countries by telling them that they are not Filipino, while at the same time, praising anyone who has even a pinch of Filipino blood, so long as he is laudable.
To say that the Filipinos have a strong sense of national identity would be an utter lie. How could one say that truthfully when history has proven time and again that the Filipino does not recognize himself? When just like the Makapili who sold out their own people a century ago, he still has his own self-interest at heart? When he cannot even own his mistakes, but chooses to blame everything on others? No—a better term for the Filipinos would have to be lost.
To the Filipinos, almost a century has gone and you have still not learned from your past. But it is not too late. Change is still attainable, but it begins with you. Everything begins with you. It’s time to change your story. Don’t let this be your only story.