No, Filipinos are not liars in general. Of course there are people who are liars in every race, but from what I can see, Filipinos have no more greater degree of liars than any other race.
Why do I even ask? Well, I hear a lot of foreigners, tell me that they think Filipinos are liars. Why do they say that? Well, I believe it’s because of a language barrier.
What I hear from a lot of foreigners is, they will last Filipinos questions, and whether the Filipinos answer yes or no, their actions are not the same as what they answer, or the way they answer it turns out to be untrue.
There is something that I’ve come to realize a number of years ago after I moved here, and last week my Bisayan lesson was on the same subject and really drove things home for me. The way that English is used, and the way that Philippine languages are used, in terms of questions and answers are totally different. Did you realize that if you ask a Filipino question, and he answers no, he can be agreeing with you? It’s true. It all depends on the way you phrase the question that you ask.
For example, let’s say you have a maid working for you, and she cooks for you also. Around midday, you ask her a question:
Don’t we have some chicken for dinner?
So upon hearing this question your maid answers:
Now for a Westerner like you or me, this would mean that yes we do have some chicken for dinner. But in the Filipino languages, you asked, “don’t we have,” and the maid answered that “yes, we don’t have.” She just told you that there is no chicken for dinner, but the way she answered, you will think that there is chicken. It’s very confusing, don’t you think? Since there was a negative word in your sentence she is agreeing in the negative. It’s completely different from the way a Westerner thinks. However, her answer is honest, she just thinks in a different way and speaks in a different way than we do.
I’ve lived here for more than eight years, and I have to think hard when asking questions like this in hearing the answers, to make sure that I understand correctly. The best thing you can do is to get somebody to completely say the answer, not just yes or no. For example, for clarity let the maid say “yes, we don’t have any chicken.” As long as you can get a complete sentence answer like this, the answer will be understandable and clear, but with a one-word yes or no answer it can lead to some real misunderstandings.
So, going back to the question in the title of this column, no, Filipinos are not liars. They just used words in a different way than we do, and it leads to misunderstanding on our part. It takes a long time to get used to, but with practice, you can understand.