I’ve spent the most part of 7 years here in the Philippines and my Tagalog is pathetic. Why is it pathetic? Well (and this is where I go into excuse mode), I just can’t get it. I had French lessons as was the norm in England way back in the 17th century when I was young. I have little idea of how to speak French despite it being on the school curriculum.
I am far from alone as many in England don’t speak much French. Is it laziness? Is it arrogance? Is it bad teaching? Well, if I’m honest I don’t really know. All I know is that not only me but the majority of British people don’t speak other languages. Correct me if I’m wrong but I suspect the same applies in most other English-speaking countries. The overwhelming majority of people from English-speaking countries simply don’t learn other languages. Of course, there are always exceptions to the rule, but in general, I think it’s fair enough comment.
When it comes to Filipinos they generally speak the National Language of Filipino, which is basically the Tagalog dialect, along with their own local dialect, and almost everyone having at least some grasp of English. To me, that is something that is not credited enough and I don’t know much about the school system in the Philippines, but it seems when it comes to language training, they are well ahead of us.
Why is it we westerners cannot learn something you can’t change such as a language and Filipinos cannot make any inroads when it comes to making the country a better place? Both are significant failings in both of us.
Why do people with such ability and such resourcefulness along with the ability to learn, lack something we have such as common sense? Well, this is just me trying to work it out, no research just sharing my own thoughts.
It is my belief that it is linked to critical thinking. I do believe this is what lies behind much of the difference between us (westerners) and (Asians).
Critical thinking is something central to western thinking and attitudes whereas in most Asian cultures, it is missing. I really believe this is central to much of any divide between us.
Critical thinking is effective in so much as it helps to bring on positive changes, but it’s a hindrance when it comes to learning and understanding. We critical thinkers tend to be condemning of what we are learning meaning we are not always listening or learning. Languages we cannot change so we shun them.
Time and again I’ve come across foreigners here that are frustrated with people who are so happy to accept and as a consequence, things don’t improve. As a westerner, I have critical thinking. I don’t pretend to know the origins of it but in short it means I’m questioning whereas a Filipino is accepting. This is a fundamental difference between us and I don’t think it’s a matter of who is right or wrong, it’s a simple case of understanding it and how it makes us different.
It’s the reason why Filipinos don’t fight for change and us, as westerners, are never happy with the improvements. Both attitudes, whether it’s critical thinking or that of acceptance have their negatives. Acceptance hampers improvement whereas critical thinking possibly hampers our ability to understand as we don’t simply look at what’s there, we always seek to change it. That’s not always helpful either.
Back to the language ability issue then it could be that westerners are so busy saying French is stupid or difficult, and not getting our heads around the masculine and feminine in the language that we don’t have the ability to learn. A Filipino would not think in terms of why it can’t be easier, they would just learn it. Sometimes, I think we westerners can ask why a little too much but that’s the way we are.
It would appear neither way is ideal whether critically inclined or acceptive, but it makes us who we are. Understanding this difference is very important when learning how to interact with each other.
East West Mix
As per usual though it’s not a straightforward matter of how Filipinos are or how foreigners are as there are many exceptions to this theory. Due to western influences whether historical or cultural, there are some here with more critical thinking ability than others. I cannot say if that is something that has developed more over recent years or not, but it is noticeable
The culture here is basically Asian with much western thinking interjected. For the purposes of this article let’s not go over history and say where the western influence of the Filipino come from, I think we all know that. But despite the western influence and many willing to take on aspects of western culture, I would say the mind-set is still that of acceptance in general; critical thinking is really not the norm here.
Again, this is only my belief for what it is worth, but here lies some division among Filipinos themselves. I always see foreigners berating Filipinos for not acting against the wrongs and even guaranteeing it by voting obvious monsters. It’s not just foreigners though. Some Filipinos with critical thinking get more annoyed than anyone at some of the apathy and over acceptance within the culture. We have what would appear to be 2 kinds of Filipino, and a little conflict does seem to be apparent.
I have made efforts within myself and in my writing to be understanding of the acceptance way of thinking. In fact, it has helped me over time with understanding, but naturally I have retained much of my critical thinking. The idea of a combination of these 2 ways of looking at things sounds good, but they don’t blend as they are very different. Here lies much of the division between Filipinos and definitely an area where westerners and many Filipinos clash.
It is my belief though that critical thinking is becoming more and more a part of the Filipino. Maybe again related to advances in technology which means more information dissemination. People or at least many of them are not prepared to not question things anymore and many are even shouting for change whereas once it was more a polite request.
Is the Filipino changing? Well, on some levels yes for reasons I’ve just stated but it is not a wholesale change. Many still retain the non-complaining non-action head in the sand approach. It’s not all bad and I have come to understand this way of thinking more and more over the years I’ve been here. It has even helped me with my personal development and in some respects, inner peace. I was never one to accept. I wouldn’t say I’ve become acceptive, but it has calmed me down and made me feel that my shouting and frustrations don’t serve as much purpose as I thought and I only hurt myself.
Adapt to survive
So what is any of this saying. Well, only that as always we have to learn from each other. I get frustrated at the attitude of some who see being critical as simply negative or complaining. Of course, if you want changes, you have to demand them and wrongs need to be highlighted and addressed. I do hate it when people seem to think I am impolite for saying the obvious and my wish is only to right wrongs and face things as they are and improve it.
On the other hand, taking on board the acceptance way of thinking I have learnt to listen more and to not just tell which could be perceived as arrogance. In that respect, it has done me a lot of good. I’m more analytical and definitely more understanding.
Many here simply don’t want to hear that things are not as they should be sometimes. What I wish they would understand is that with me at least, it’s not a sense of superiority, it’s a way of thinking which is built-in in many westerners. I accept it’s not all good and we really do need to take on board some of the Asian acceptance mode of thinking mainly because it’s better for your peace of mind.
So on this day that Janet Napoles faces the Senate, I don’t expect a huge readership so I’ve gone ahead with this contemplating my navel post. Forgive me that but I’m sure the critical thinkers among you will be glued to the live coverage and the acceptors will watch it too if only to watch a circus.
With the recent issues involving the pork barrel scam, it could prove to be an interesting test to see which way the Filipino is heading. The next election will be an even bigger test. Changes may be coming but once again I finish with the immortal line, let’s see.