Why Can’t Filipinos Seem to Follow Simple, Basic Rules?

I was standing at a crosswalk one time somewhere in Magallanes, waiting for the pedestrian light to turn green on a weekday noon. But, as usual, people were crossing the busy road anyway, causing further traffic down the narrow thoroughfare. New people who would approach the crossing would just proceed without any hesitance, passing by me who was patiently waiting for the right time to cross. There was only me and another guy still standing by the side of the road, showing intention to actually following this basic pedestrian rule. The tita in me wanted to say, “Good job ka, hijo!”

Manila 4 1Image: Eunick Nobe @eunicknobe

I see this scenario every time I go out, and I’m pretty sure you do, too. One time I saw a lady hurriedly try to cross the street when she wasn’t supposed to, and almost collided with an upcoming car. The car went into a quick halt, of course, followed by a loud, angry honk, but in the end it was the lady who seemed pissed at the driver’s reaction, even if it was visibly her fault.

Each time, I find myself shaking my head out of frustration and I wonder, why do Filipinos seem to have this general disregard for rules, even towards the simplest, most basic ones?

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Manila 1Image: Eunick Nobe @eunicknobe

You see a trash can in a public space, and almost always that small radius around the trash bin would have litter all over it. What, those people couldn’t be bothered to take two more steps to actually reach the mouth of the trash can?

And then there’s cutting in lines, cutting in traffic, the cars and the motorbikes swerving like it’s their last day on earth. Jeepney, bus, and taxi drivers who unload passengers where they are aware they shouldn’t, and people standing on the left side of an escalator even when LARGE SIGNS beside the escalator and on it would say “Stand on the right, walk on the left”. I saw a man jumping a fence on an island in the middle of the road at Paseo de Roxas once, when clearly that fence was put in place to prevent jaywalkers like him from crossing—but it didn’t stop him anyway. I could go on and on. I’m sure you have things to add to this, too.

Do we just…not care at all? 

Manila 5Image: Eunick Nobe @eunicknobe

Where does this general disregard for rules root from? Why do we not care when, obviously, many of the small inconveniences we face in our everyday lives are caused by our own actions, our own insensitivity?

Perhaps it’s the mindset that the little mischievous things we do don’t matter, that they don’t have a grand effect on anything especially if we can get away with it. (Which we most often do, hence the repetitive nature of it.) But this mindset is toxic and, ultimately, false. It does have a grand effect on things—especially if everyone is doing it. Our little disobedient acts can easily turn into habits and, eventually, a way of life. A culture. And is this really the culture we Filipinos want to be known for?

Are our actions really a classic case of survival—tired workers just trying to make it home—or are we really just insensitive?

Manila 3Image: Eunick Nobe @eunicknobe

But here’s the thing. We keep demanding for big changes in this country, from our leaders whose inconsistencies have tired us out. But do we really have the right to demand big changes when we can’t even make the small ones? To follow the pedestrian light? To dispose of our trash properly? To obey traffic rules? To stand on the right side on an escalator?

Perhaps living in our society can be a little less hellish if we just learned to follow the rules. Perhaps living in the Philippines wouldn’t be as tiring as we all know it to be. Perhaps the problem is us.

Demand for our leaders to do their jobs all you want, but hey—don’t forget to do yours, too.