One of the characteristics that sets Filipinos apart from other cultures, which can be seen as weakness or strength, is a durable sense of self. I have no statistics to back it up, but my guess is that Americans have more insecurities than Filipinos. A lot. It is the result of all the introspection that is done by Americans, the self-critiques that drive self-improvement but also makes for self-doubt.
Filipinos are high on themselves, as Ilda pointed out in her Get Real Post article that reported survey results showing that 48% of Filipino men believe they are sexually attractive, making them the most narcissistic men in all of Asia.
This self-appreciation is weakness if it evokes an onion skin sensitivity that rejects criticism and forms an inherent blindness against the agitations and tensions that produce growth. It is strength when it is combined with skills and discipline, as in the case of Manny Pacquiao who is skilled and disciplined at boxing, or Cristeta Comerford, US President Obama’s chef, who is skilled and disciplined at managing cookery, or Charise who is skilled and disciplined at entertaining.
Too many Filipinos exercise their durable sense of self without any skills or discipline attached, and that produces pollution, overbearing poverty, houses built on slippery slopes, poor response to typhoons, and a weak economy without any industrial strength: a lackluster tourist effort that tries to paint a glow on dead coral, trashy beaches and rebel-infested mountains; weak mining and forestry management that can’t get out from under corruption and poor industrial practices; trade that is bogged down in Customs taxes and nightmare paperwork; and fishing and farming that are managed as workplaces for the indigent rather than globally competitive industries.
You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink. You can explain to a Filipino the importance of developing skills, but you can’t make him skilled. Especially if the educational system is weak, the societal umbrella is warped by favoritism instead of a premium on competence, and there are too many bodies fighting for too few substantive jobs.
You can’t develop skills if that durable sense of self blocks self awareness. Coach Roach gave Manny the self-awareness that to be a truly top-flight fighter, he needed to combine his raw athletic talent and toughness with skill and discipline. He needed to develop the ability to fight with left and right hand power. He needed to learn the technique of stepping 90 degrees to the opponent’s right and clocking him with a right cross that he can’t even see. He needed to develop the discipline to send his party-hearty friends packing when he needed to train 100%.
The primary need of the Philippines is not a President who is a hero, or more foreign investment. It is the self-awareness that “I need skills”, in business management, or technology, or language, or diplomacy, or the disciplines I exhibit in my daily life. A skilled person would not accept stray dogs on the highway killing motorcyclists, or pollution that gives people cancer, or running agriculture as farming instead of agribusiness, or hiring cousins and classmates instead of competent people, or arriving late for anything.
Self confidence is great if it is attached to skills and discipline. Otherwise, it is just the Philippines as we see it now.