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Four Great Qualities of the Filipinos and the Realities Behind - A Wake Up Call

In this post, I will bravely share my opinion on the real state of our nation. I will also offer recommendations on how we can make the most of it – in terms of our present good economic standing. If you please be open-minded in understanding the true meaning of this post.

Progressive Philippines

Did you know that Philippines is the 34 largest economy (out of about 190 countries) in the world today?

Let these facts and figures explain everything.
  • · Over 100 million Filipinos are living in the Philippines today, a significant number in terms of workforce who can build a nation. Over 40 million Filipinos are in the labor force in 2016. Put in another way, 4 of 10 Filipinos are working. Source:

Doesn’t these look impressive. Now, I’ve got a question for you.

Is Philippines still a poor nation?

The reasons I ask that is to open you up to these realities we Filipinos keep ignoring for decades.

The Land of the “Masisipag”
Philippines is the home of farmers, fishermen, and livestock raisers. With this reality alone, Filipinos’ industriousness is unquestionable! We can feed ourselves more than enough.

Man Preparing to Pull a Pile of Cabbage

But why some of us are still starving? What’s wrong?

That old story of farmers tilling soil day and night but it’s the landlord who’s gaining a lot – that still holds true to these days. I personally hear that story from a farmer. And those documentaries airing on national TV channels, they are valid proofs our farmers and fishermen are in serious trouble finding their next meals.

Here’s what I know.

Rice Planting
You can harvest rice or “palay” from four (4 ) in well-irrigated areas to five (5) months in areas where there is poor access to water. And when the typhoon hits in the months of August to December, that could be the end of the story for harvesting. I’ve been a farmer myself. I used to help my late lolo “Mario” plowing the field, harvesting palays. And I once funded a rice planting venture. How much the farmer gets? 1/4 goes to the funder.1/4 goes to the land owner.1/4 automatically goes to debts. 1/4 remains after 4 to 5 months of hard work under the sun, against the heavy rains. That is where the rice goes.

Livestock Raising
In livestock raising, in the Philippines, we have the poultry and hog business thriving over the past decades. I’m from a province that produces millions of livestock heads per year – Batangas. Here’s how this business works.

For every 100 poultry, on the average, you will spend Php 100 per head for feeds, vitamins, water, electricity, and shelter. You can then sell them at Php 150 after 45-60 days. Ideally, that’s a clear Php 5,000 profit for roughly two (2) months of effort. Sadly, this is not the case to many raisers most of the time.

Of the 100 poultry, 10 will surely die out of heat stroke during summer months or flu during the rainy days. Then during selling days, here comes the middle man cutting 5%-10% for the sales commission. Poultry from your farm will be collected and transferred to a bigger farm. That is where the cut comes in. Sadly, payment will exchange hands only after a week or two. Still excluded to that is when neighbors or friends buys the poultry under credit arrangement. How much remains on the profit? Almost nothing!

When it comes to hogs, for every 10 heads, you will invest Php 3,000 on each the cost breakdown of which is just the same as how the poultry is grown. After 4 months, they will sell at Php 3,500 to Php 4,000 each. Roughly, you’ll gain Php 5,000 to Php 10,000. But then, unfavorable circumstances happen most of the time.

One of the regrettable things hog raisers experience is wrong timing. For some reason, pork meat price is on its all-time low during selling. This situation happens every year in the country. Then we have this so-called “Pa-iwi” system where someone will fund the hog raising and get a 50% cut on the profit. Whether it’s a loss or gain selling day, the main hog raiser, one who does the labor, is always a looser here

And imagine this, if one of the hog dies, the hog raiser is completely screwed up. Still excluded to this dilemma is the growing problem of meat importation. Competition leaves most Filipino hog raisers unprofitable.

For our brave fishermen, scouring the oceans day and night, on stormy days and off-season for fishes, takes big sacrifices. They are bounded to pay for the boat’s rent or buy gasoline for their own boats. There are bountiful catch days and zero catch days too - which is often the case in the past decades according to fishermen from everywhere in the country. Large ocean vessels catching fishes leave fishermen less.

And when it’s selling time, middlemen are always the winner here. We have here a system called “Bulongan”, a bidding war, which happens in almost every fish port in the country. Sounds beneficial but for every winning bid, a fisherman is uncertain of whether he can still catch fish the next day or not.

Who are the “masisipag”? No doubt. They’re we Filipinos! But with this system, I don’t think it’s worth to become one.

The Nation of “Matitiyaga”
With a minimum wage of Php 491 in the National Capital Region and about Php 300 on the rest of the regions, considering both parents are working, we can say that that is just enough for a family of 4 to buy the foods, pay the bills, and pay the mortgage each month.

People Selling Under the Heat of the Sun

Filipinos, ever since, are not happy with this income. This is the voice of many during Labor Day in the Philippines, “pay increase!” That’s a reality they have to swallow everyday. Lucky are those employees who are earning a thousand or more a day, they will still have the time to dine out during pay days or get to buy the appliances and gadgets they dream to have.

Filipinos are hardworkers, whether you agree or not. But, Filipinos, especially the wealthy ones, are great spenders too! Name it: car loan, appliance loan, birthday party, Christmas shopping, holiday travels, and more. Despite being a hardworker, in my opinion, Filipinos ended up in bad debts because of the lack of quality financial education.

Speaking of education, here’s the reality about education in the country.

Thousands of graduates are produced by thousands of colleges and universities across the country each year but only a few of them got it on the job during the first year. The reason for that, as what the economists say, is “job-skills mismatch”. So students get rejected every time they apply for a job. Or when they get hired, they are too slow to get the pay raise or the incentives they should have.

Where are these jobless students landing on?

Some ended up depending on their parents’ support. Other chooses to accept jobs offered on public markets as sales person. We call these jobs here as “tindera”, “kargador” or “boy helper”. Many are immediately seeking working abroad opportunities. Plenty of them are just accepting a job they don’t like and get contented with the minimum wage. And this story repeats itself year after year after year.

From earning enough, to working hard, to finding a job, to spending money, looks like Filipinos are out of luck. “Kung walang tiyaga, walang nilaga”. How true?

The Country of “Mauutak” and “Madidiskarte”
Obviously, Filipinos will do what they can to bring food on their plate. We are smart and strategic in many ways, no matter how hard life is. But let’s get down to the deeper stories where positive characteristics like these seems to contradict its real meaning.

Business as Usual in the Philippines

Thief Mentality
There is a song from the popular all-Filipino band “Asin” with the title “Magnanakaw” (thief). In this song, Filipinos were accused (not by the band, but of the people in general) to have this natural “thief” mentality even during the days of our ancestors.

In the Philippines, when one says “Madiskarte talaga si Kuya”, it can be understood that the person did a strategic approach towards solving a problem or getting what he wants. But on whether he did it legally or illegally, fair or unfair, that doesn’t matter much to observers. When someone tells you “Mautak ka talaga Ate”, that would mean you were able to either beat or fooled someone.

How did this come to be like this?

You will hear these words: “Akala mo maiisahan mo ako” (You think you can fool me?). Someone would tell himself “Naisahan ko kayo” (I fooled you). This kind of thinking has become “natural” or “normal” among many Filipinos, from down to up. And this obviously means Filipinos are fooling each other, for survival sake.

I wrote a post years ago “Corruption Kills Filipino People”. This post explains how we can connect Filipinos natural “thief” mentality to the now “mautak” and “madiskarte” mentality many of us portrays.

Time to Change the Way We Think
Why am I exposing these contrasting realities? My message is simple: I am suggesting that we change the way we think right now. Yes, you and me.

The progress of our nation, as what the facts and figures above explain, will not do any good for you if you’re thinking it the wrong way. Perhaps, your being “masipag”, “matiyaga”, “mautak”, and “madiskarte”, if you really are, should reflect on the quality of life you have right now. But are these reflecting on majority of the Filipinos? No.

Look around you.

If you have these qualities or characteristics, you will definitely care for the good of the society and not harm it. You will not be fooled repeatedly or fool someone again and again. You will help your co-Filipino whenever there is a chance. You will think of better ways to make your life and the life of others progressive for real.

Do you agree with me on this post? Please raise your comments below.

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