Monday, May 30, 2011

Is the Philippines Backwards, or Even Grammatically Correct?

In my communications classes at the University of Southern California, I was taught that there is perception and there is truth. Take the case of all the stray dogs roaming the Philippines, passing their fleas, ticks and rabies to people whilst helping recycle garbage into fertilizer that too often ends up where people walk, and kids play. These mangy creatures, of no observable breed, are generally skinny and lethargic, as we would be if we were uncared for and starving. Filipinos don’t seem to notice the dogs. It’s as if they were just a part of the natural landscape, like plants in pots. Foreigners notice. It is one of the first things, along with chickens flapping about in the bus, that smacks them in the eye and causes them to mutter, “Oh my God, this place is backward”.

Now is that perception or truth? For myself, backward is relative to some ideal, but I have a hard time holding the US up as any kind of ideal, for the relentless consumption, the veritable eating, of the planet being done there, and the loony rationalizations that emerge as nobs there hob for favoritism and votes. I read that Neut Gingrinch has declared that global warming is not an issue, that, indeed, dinosaurs thrived when the planet was a lot warmer. No need for us to worry. And with icons of virtue like Donald Trump and Sarah Palin leading the pack, for sure the notion that Americans are an intellectually advanced species disintegrates.

And frankly, I get nostalgic for the good old days of my youth when we walked to school through rain and snow and the heat of the radioactive cloud that hung over my town from the nearby Rocky Flats nuclear playground. We wrote letters to people far away instead of e-mailing them, and it would be hard to say the excitement a letter would generate is more backward than the impassionate greeting of an e-mail “ding”. I learned to type on an old Underwood with keys so heavy that I never had to work out with weights; I just typed. Now I sit at my Chinese made flat screen flipping words into the internet black hole as if that really mattered to anyone but myself. We have advanced so far so fast that we are now behind where we started.

Backward, indeed.

I like all the tricycles plying about the streets of my home town. I know a bunch of the peddlers personally, for they worked for a time building my home. They pedal for pesos between construction jobs. It is hard to say that they are more backward than all those Harvard trained stock brokers in starched shirts laboring at their computer screens to find every informational advantage that the common sucker does not have access to. Sweat is at least honest.

Oh, people moan about how Filipinos have raped the land and chopped down all the trees, but that is just evolution. I read that pine trees in America are actually a recent phenomenon. They have not been there “always”. Plants move in and out as God repaints every few millennia. I figure Filipinos are just one of His brushes, and so we have mountains with coconut trees and coffee plants instead of jungle trees and vines. So they slide down into the sea now and then, mixing some of God’s creatures into the mud, washing them to Indonesia. We all gotta go sometime, and why pay money to ride Raging Rapids at Knotts Berry Farm? This notion that we have to pay $500 for a jolly family day at Disneyland is backward to me. It is more honest to go to the beach and watch the naked boys doing backflips into the surf.

So I guess I agree with Neut. Bring on the dinosaurs.

As for all those dogs on the National Highway? I just pretend I am in the 50’s in some musty corner of the bowling alley, working the pinball machine. Instead of flippers, I wield a 3,000 pound chunk of metal. Instead of bumpers that light up, there are tricycle drivers that shout “eeek” and head for the rice field as I barrel toward them doing 110 KPH. Maybe it is more like Donkey Kong, now that I think about it. Indeed, I am going to start putting decals on my car for all the livestock I’ve slaughtered here with my vehicle. One dog, two chickens, three hats, a bird, three tricycle handlebars, one flower pot, and 783 million mosquitoes.

Backward is perception. Living real is truth.


  1. " Foreigners notice. It is one of the first things, along with chickens flapping about in the bus, that smacks them in the eye and causes them to mutter, “Oh my God, this place is backward”."

    see, why is this opinion by this hypothetical foreigner "true" in anysense?

    this foreigner has a relationship with a dog. when he sees a different relationship, he balks.

    imagine a foreigner (X) flying to a farm in say, the middle of america. he sees wild turkeys, and this foreigner says, how backward!

    see, in X's world, turkeys are kept as pets and are fed expensive turkey food. eat them for dinner!? terrible!

    why is X's view "right" or "wrong"?

  2. Brilliant, Joe. Indeed everything is relative, though I have to note though that even in "backward" 1950's America, people lived to a far decent standard to the one lived by Filipinos in 21st Century Philippines.

    And just the same, I believe that even a notional standard needs to be held up for the society to aspire for. If that be a standard defined by Western European civilisation, so be it. Aspiring to that does not necessarily mean we take all -- including the bad -- of what Western European civilisation has to offer. The key is in picking the winning aspects of it and leaving the losing ones -- and to learn by watching how those that continue to live by the losing aspects sink.

  3. I like the way you put it Joe. You are a man who longs for a simple life, which is probably the reason why you prefer to live in a "backward" society.

    But the problem is, a lot of Filipinos are tired of the "simple" life. They long for the western way of living, which is why a lot of Filipinos are living beyond their means. They want to emulate the lifestyles of their idols on TV. An example of how they do this is when, rather than use their hard earned money for something more productive, they use it to buy cell phone credits to call their friends and chat about nonsense. They are more preoccupied with instant gratification than their future. They have no idea of what sacrifice means.

    People do complicate their lives, indeed. Everyone thought that all this technology would somehow make people's lives less stressful. Unfortunately, it has only given way to new troubles. People with narcissistic tendencies have gotten worse because of social media. It has given them more opportunity to grandstand. And more and more people are feeling less significant because they feel small in comparison to the celebrities they see. This leads people to be unhappy about their "simple" life.

    So the choice is clear, if Filipinos want a simple life, they'd better not long for the western lifestyle or complain about what they don't have. If they want a western lifestyle, they'd better work as hard as the westerners.

  4. Ingenuity maybe triggered by want of what may be better, so that if you see stray dogs and name a soccer team with it, the need to understand Filipino psyche quoting Ilda Pro may have become something of a necessity, really with urgency. Anyone familiar with the Maria Christina Falls in Iligan City? If no then allow me. It is an American technology using hydrology to produce electricity, and this was in 1930. This was meant not to light up homes but provide power to a locomotive, an electric train so that transport can happen in earnest, because if you have efficient transport you get to be okay providing for food and agriculture, so no hungry people. Similarly as we might not know, the Trambia providing good means of transport in Manila is also electric-run, efficient and clean and no traffic. Filipino ingenuity junked all this nice and clean technology and replace them with poison oozing Jeepneys because oil cartels says so, so don't be surprised if Askals are as good as a soccer team, they're dogs but we're used to them just like the Jeepney, right Ilda?

  5. Or Joe America could be describing Havana, the old 50's automobiles and Che Guevarra. To be in places preserved by Marxism remind of Kabul, the place preserved by too many wars.

    Havana I suppose may be healthier, and really getting into the groove of scribing, man not Kabul I won't.

    1. Somebody please tell the millions of people around the world dreaming of emigrating to the United States that this country is backward and that they would be better off going to a much more progressive and advanced country like the Philippines. Let us pray that all other countries in the world would someday enjoy the opportunities, social mobility, social equality, equality of rights, good governance, high standard of living for the "common man", wealth, and prosperity that is taken for granted by most of Filipinos today. Then there would be no need for fathers and mothers to leave their children to earn a decent living abroad, and their children to grow up without them.


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