Lately, furor (or more specifically, Filipino butthurt) erupted when a Singaporean complained about noisy Filipino maids in a bus. He suggested that Filipinos have their own buses; Filipinos took offense (but a dedicated bus is a good idea; it ensures security and privacy for our people there). Another is when Filipino-born Straits Times author Raul Dancel wrote acontroversial article about his experience on a trip in Manila where he described his difficulty adjusting between the local Filipino and Singaporean terms. But the most important part was that after the long time, the dysfunctions in the country seemed the same. Some people found his article condescending. However, I would ignore that for now. What he wrote in the latter part of his article, many would agree with: the atmosphere of the Philippines remains backward and insecure compared to Singapore… and to other countries, for that matter.

To reinforce the point made above, a friend in Singapore had an observation while riding the train. She was seated beside a middle-aged Filipino who was having a video call with his wife in the Philippines without using earphones, for everyone to hear. And he was even talking loudly, as if he was in the palengke. My friend thought, a little consideration and social etiquetteplease (exactly what many Filipinos lack)!

My friend’s next comment: No wonder we are the most disliked foreign groupin Singapore.

I’m not sure if Filipinos being the most disliked there is exactly true, but when you think about it, there’s a reason for Dancel’s much-maligned article and similar accounts. Filipinos are disliked in other countries… and this dislike is not without reason. It is not racism or oppression. Filipinos really have bad habits that annoy or even harm other people. Just lately, there was an OFW in Saudi Arabia who was arrested for illegally being a tattoo artist. I personally have nothing against tattoo artists. Perhaps banning tattoos is harsh. But when you’re in another country, you should follow the law – otherwise you create the bad image of Filipinos as lawbreakers.

My friend may have cringed at a fellow countryman’s behavior, but it could be worse. There was a case of a Filipino in Australia who filed a complaint about a person named Kiki, claiming she was offended by the name (since Kiki in Tagalog means the woman’s genitals). Thankfully, good senseprevailed when other Filipinos convinced the complainer to drop the pointless charge. There is also the more serious case of a Filipino caregiver in the U.K. who was caught on camera maliciously slapping an elderly patient. That again may create fears about Filipino caregivers. There are more, but we need not go further, lest people melt in their seats in shame. Don’t get me started on the reactions to the 2010 Luneta Bus Hostage Crisis: that is worthy of a million facepalms.

That’s why it’s really hard to defend our country and culture. Filipinos misbehave, and even if such cases may be fewer compared to the total number of Filipinos there, it’s serious enough to create a generalized bad image. We have bad habits we should cut down. But we have a sense of entitlement wherein we demand locals in a country give way to us rather than us complying with their rules. It’s like the guest demanding that the host serve them like a servant. It’s the trait of being mayabang and pompous.

Perhaps one excuse Filipinos may have is, we have low educational attainment, most Filipinos have low economic status for learning, we come from a country where noise is much accepted and social manners are not always taught. But these are not reasons. Filipinos who go abroad surely have been trained and taught to be more discreet and to not bring to other countries their bad habits from home. But the problem is, they may prefer to stick to their lack of discipline and stubbornness. We have a damaged image thanks to our damaged culture.

An extreme defense of Filipinos may be, “Don’t tell us to be silent! We Filipinos are noisy to show that we are happy! Don’t stop us from being Filipinos!” But if being “Filipino” requires us to be noisy, inconsiderate, arrogant and careless, then it’s better not to be “Filipino.”

Because of how long the bad image has lingered, Filipinos have no choice but to double their efforts to show that they are good. It seems our educational attainment should not just include technical information, but also good manners and right conduct. Ethical behavior should be the focus of educational content (I wish the K+12 program focused on that), but perhaps moreso with mass media. Another is that perhaps Filipinos should learn to police each other. That is most likely one feature of disciplined cultures like Singapore; people know how to chide or dissuade their countrymen when one of them is misbehaving, the mark of a self-policing society.

If they say good manners are a product of western imperialism, I’d call hogwash on that. Good manners are the same everywhere: don’t be noisy where people want quiet. Don’t insist that people bear with your ill manners. The Filipinos are not being oppressed by other countries. They are oppressing themselves. Once Filipinos accept that and that they have flaws to fix, them there may be some progress in solving the dysfunctions of our country.

And let me borrow from Benign0′s article: how can a nation achieve great things when it defends backward behavior that itself prevents achievement of great things?

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