Last year a close relative, near and dear to my heart, said this about Filipinos and the sometimes hidden but none-the-less very rigid ‘class system’ that underlies Philippine society. “They are what they are” … and the hidden meaning was, there are classes of people here whom you are not going to change, no matter what you spend on education, material items or (the most costly investment) giving of yourself.
As an American and a person strongly believing in the principle we are all children of God and equal in his eyes, a fellow who has read and even gotten emotional over Horatio Alger style stories, and a guy who even working professionally in the human relations/racial discrimination field I found that statement and the attitude behind it shocking. Oh what I could have said, wished I had said, how it cut me to the quick that a Filipino, of age and wisdom, would make such a crass and even hopeless sounding statement abut fellow Filipinos.
Everyone has potential, Everyone wants to better themselves, Everyone wants the best for their children … don’t we all know these truths to be self-evident?
Well in my heart I still believe they are, but you must temper your dreams at times with the reality of the Philippines. It’s not necessarily a show stopper, but if you approach life here and approach the people you meet who might need some help with the same strategy you would approach them in the US, you are very liable to hurt yourself emotionally and you may even hurt, or badly upset the person you think you are helping.
The Philippines has a very class conscious society. It has since the days before the Spaniards, and certainly the idea of classes or even castes were strongly ingrained and reinforced during the nearly 400 years of Spanish rule. In the US when we see a guy emptying trash cans we automatically assume he wants to be the office manager. And we certainly make the almost always correct assumption that the trash man wants his son or daughter to have a better education and a ‘better life” (in US-speak a ‘better life’ means more salary).
There are people born and raised here in the Philippines who feel the same, but in my experience they are ore thin on the ground than their counterparts in the US, and (a more likely theory) the signs that indicate they want to climb the ladder of success are much more subtle.
My thoughts on this issue are, don’t give up on helping, be open and ready to help when you can, but lose the ingrained American “I’m here to help, here’s what you need to do” focus many of us seem to labor under. What are your thoughts?
Here’s a couple stories that have made my mind work in this direction, if you want to explore a bit more about how your mind works.
What do you think? Do I give up too easy or do I not try hard enough?