Monday, July 3, 2017

Filipino Character Has Not Changed in 300 Years

A few months back everyone was surprised that a lowly janitor aced the Philippines bar exam.
“I’m so lucky. I don’t know how to thank the Lord and all those people who gave me strength.”
Funny how he attributes his academic accomplishment to luck rather than hard work and study.  Says a lot about the Filipino mindset regarding life in general.  Hard work is nothing, blind chance is everything.

Now everyone is rejoicing that the University of the Philippines just awarded a degree to it's first Aeta student.
No other Aeta has been known to have graduated from the state university before King, who obtained a Bachelor of Science degree in behavioral sciences at UP Manila last month.
It's a little too easy to point out how absurd this picture is and probably a little obvious how much a metaphor it is for the Philippines but what else is there?  I am not going to discuss this guy and his ridiculous degree in behavioural sciences (will be become the tribal psychologist?) but I will use this picture as a starting place to point out just how much a metaphor this picture is for Filipino society at large.  More than anyone may realise.

300 years ago the Jesuits were in a bind.  They had ordained Indian and Japanese and Chinese natives as priests but as yet no Filipinos had been ordained to the priesthood.
To sum up: three main causes combined to retard the formation of a native clergy in the Philippines. The first was the primitive condition of society, which had first to be raised to that level of cultural maturity required before it could provide suitable aspirants to the Catholic priesthood. This preliminary work of civilization was mainly if not solely the achievement of the first Spanish missionaries.
Unlike China and Japan which were highly literate and advanced societies the Philippines was backwards and primitive socially. Compared to the other Asian nations the Jesuits had evangelised the Philippines needed to be civilised before any real work could be begun.

In 1720 the Catholic priest Gaspar de San Agustín wrote a long letter to a friend in Spain detailing why native priests should not be ordained and giving the reason as the many faults in the Filipino character.
95. I do not believe that I should omit mention, saltem per transenam, of a matter very worthy of consideration—namely, that if God chooses to chastise the flourishing the Christianity of these islands for our and their sins, by placing it in the hands of Indians ordained as priests (as appears about to threaten us very soon); if God do not apply a remedy, what abominations will not follow! For to declare that they will change their customs  and the aforesaid vices is impossible. On the contrary, their arrogance will grow worse with exaltation to so sublime an estate; their cupidity with power will be better fed; their laziness, with the lack of necessity; and their vanity, with the applause that they would wish to have; for they would desire to be served by those whom they would in another estate respect and obey; and the villages would suffer from the curse mentioned in Isaiah xxiv, 2, sicut populus, sic sacerdos. For the Indian who is ordained does not become a priest because it is the calling that conduces to the most perfect estate, but because of the great and almost infinite advantage that comes to him with the new estate that he chooses. 
In this paragraph he mentions "their customs and the aforesaid vices" of which he had just given a very long and detailed list. Nevertheless I will parse through this list and we shall see that the observations of this Augustinian friar from 300 years ago are still the same characteristics exhibited by Filipinos today.
8. This disposition and influence makes them fickle, malicious, untrustworthy, dull, and lazy; fond of traveling by river, sea, and lake; fond of fishing, and ichthyophagous—that is, they sustain themselves best on fish; they have little courage, on account of their cold nature, and are not disposed to work. Besides this they have other qualities and vices, of which I do not know the cause, and I do not believe that I can easily know them. I shall mention some of them.
9. First, they are remarkable for their ingratitude; and although ingratitude is an innate vice in all people, through the corruption of original sin in our vitiated nature, it is not corrected in them by the understanding, and they lack magnanimity. Therefore, it is all one to do a good turn to an Indian, and to prepare oneself to receive the blow of his ingratitude. Consequently, if one lend them money, they do not pay it; but instead they run away from the father. 
10. If they borrow anything that is not money, they will never return it until it is requested; and, as an excuse for not having returned it; they say that they have not been asked for it. 
11. Their laziness is such that if they open door they never close it; and if they take any implement for any use, such as a knife, pair of scissors, hammer, etc., they never return it whence they took it, but drop it there at the foot of the work. 
12. If they are paid anything in advance, they will leave work and keep the pay. 
16. They are curious, rude, and impertinent; and accordingly, when they meet the father they generally ask him where he is going and whence he is coming; and innumerable questions, all impertinent and troublesome. 
21. They care more for their disheveled hair than they do for their souls; and only they will not imitate the Spaniards if they have the custom of shaving, as is now being introduced with the false hair and perukes. 
23. When they go out alone at night, they must have a blazing torch, and go about waving it like a censer; and then they throw it down wherever they please, and this is usually the cause of great fires. 
26. They do not care for any domestic animal—dog, cat, horse, or cow. They only care, and too much so, for the fighting cocks; and every morning, on rising from slumber, the first thing that they do is to go to the roosting­ place of their cock—where, squatting down on their heels, in its presence, they stay very quietly for at least a half­ hour in contemplation of their cock. This observance is unfailing in them. 
 29. One may not trust a sword, mirror, glass, musket, clock, or any other rare article to them; or allow them to touch it even with the hands; for immediately, by physical contact alone, they put it out of joint, break it, and harm it. They can only handle bamboo, rattan, nipa, or a bolo, and some few a plow. 
30. They are insolent and free in begging for unjust and foolish things, and this without considering time or season. 
31. They are very fond of play, for they believe that it is a restful way in which to gain much, and it is very suitable to their laziness and lack of energy. Therefore, an Indian would rather lie stretched out in his house than gain the greatest wage. On this account, when he gets a peso he stays at home without working, until it is all eaten up or drunk up, for it all amounts to the same thing. 
33. It is laughable to see them waken another who is sleeping like a stone, when they come up without making any noise and touching him very lightly with the point of the finger, will call him for two hours, until the sleeper finishes his sleep and awakens. The same thing is done when they call anyone downstairs, or when the door is shut; for they remain calling him in a very low tone for two hours, until he casually answers and opens to them. 
36. While it is a fact that they are extremely credulous among themselves, they will believe of the Spaniards only what is against them. Therefore, it is evident that the [Christian] faith is a supernatural act, in that they believe the divine mysteries taught by the Spaniards. However, they do not believe some things, or refuse to believe them because they find the contrary profitable.  
So great is the ease and tenacity with which they believe the greatest nonsense, if this is to the discredit of the Spaniards or against them, that it would be a long undertaking to recount some of it. 
38. May God deliver us from any one of those Indians whom they consider as sages, who says any bit of nonsense, even though it be against the faith, and they only respond, Vicanong maronong, "Thus say the sages," and it is labor lost to persuade them to the contrary; for the authority that these scholars have over them is incredible. 
42. They are so ignorant that they do not have the slightest knowledge concerning the origin of the ancestors from whom they descend, and whence they came to settle these islands. They do not give any information concerning their paganism, which is not the worst; and they only preserve in certain parts some ridiculous abuses, which they observe at births and sicknesses, and the cursed belief that persuades them that the souls of their ancestors or the grandfathers of the families are present in the trees and at the bottom of bamboos, and that they have the power of giving and taking away health and of giving success or failure to the crops. 
43. They act tyrannically one toward another. Consequently, the Indian who has some power from the Spaniard is insolent and intolerable among, them —so much so that, in the midst of their ingratitude, some of them recognize it, although very few of them. 
44. They are wanting in understanding and reflection, so that they do not recognize any means in anything, but go to extremes. Consequently, if one ask them for warm water, they bring it boiling, and then if they are reproached and told that one wishes it more temperate, they go and bring it back as cold as ice. 
48. They are much given to the sin of blasphemy, because of their natural vileness, their pride, and, their presumption. Hence it is quite usual for them to complain of God, whom they call Paghihinanaquit, asking why He does not give them this or that, and health or wealth, as He does to other creatures. 
49. They are very vain, and they spend their money never more willingly than in functions of vanity; for they consider themselves highly; and wish to be esteemed without doing. anything worthy of esteem. The men especially, even though they do not have anything to eat, must not for that reason fail to have a shirt and a hat, and to dress in style. 
50. They are revengeful to an excessive degree—so much so that they are vile and cowardly; and the ministers have great trouble in reconciling them with their enemies; and although they do it through fear, it is never with the whole heart, for this passion has great influence over them. 
51. In order to be contrary in everything to other nations, they have lust but no love. This is in regard to the illicit love; for in the supernatural love which grace causes in the sacrament of marriage (since divine impulse works in this) their evil disposition is conquered and most of them make very good husbands. But in illicit intercourse the men have no other purpose than bodily appetite, and to deprive [of virginity] as many women as they have done, in order to sport with it. For it is a long established custom among them that the women shall give to the men, and the latter shall be the ones served and feted; while only blows, kicks, and trouble are given to the women. So true is this that one might say that they have an inferno both in this and in the other world. Hence the women are very poorly clad, for the men want everything for themselves. 
57. They are greatly lacking in foresight. Hence the servants and stewards do not advise their master to procure any article until it is completely gone. Therefore when they say that there is no more sugar or no more oil, it is when there is not [oil] enough to whet a knife. Consequently, great deficiencies and annoyances are suffered because of this custom.

65. They are especially fond of comedies and farces, and therefore, there is no feast of consequence, unless there is a comedy. 
72. The vice of drunkenness is regarded by them as rank in the fourth degree, and they have made it a point of nobility; for the chiefest men think that they are the best workmen, at this occupation. It is a fact that those most given to this vice are the Ilocans, then the Visayans, and then our Tagálogs. 
Vain, arrogant, revengeful, gullible, don't pay back their debts...sounds like a lot of Filipinos I know. Read the entirety of this letter and you will begin to understand the depth of the problems in the Philippines stems entirely from its corrupt and backwards society. Filipino society has not changed in 300 years.

So just what is the meaning of the metaphor gleaned from the picture of the half-naked tribesman receiving a degree from the UP as well as from the contents of this 300 year old letter?

It is this:  No matter how many accoutrements of the West Filipinos acquire or are foisted upon them (be they political ideals, education, or technological advances) Filipinos will fundamentally remain a tribal society whose heart and soul, their very being, is alien to the West. To be Western is to embrace a certain outlook and philosophy of life which Filipinos cannot grasp. For example there is no doubt that their inability to understand the responsibilities of public servants to the people is the root cause of every strata of government from the barangay to Malacañang being thoroughly corrupt.

No matter how much education or missionary work is spent on the Filipinos they will never be able to comprehend Western religion, Western law, Western politics, or Western anything. Not even Western entertainment!  Take a look at how stupid and void of any real substance the telenovelas and variety shows are which dominate television in this country.

In the above picture it is not only Norman King who is a half-naked tribesman.  All the well-dressed people shaking his hand and handing him his degree are at heart also half-naked tribesman ensnared by the cultural mores of the Philippines.  You can read about corruption in the classroom here.

If Filipino culture and mores have not changed in 300 years since being introduced to civilisation then why should anyone think they will ever change? You can bring a Filipino civilisation but you can never make him civilised.

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