Mr. Steve Macon and the “Balat Sibuyas” Attitude of “Pinoys…”
Note from the editor: This article is in response to Filipinos are NOT rude to foreigners unless, we have to be. (In response to Mr Steven Macon) written and submitted on November 29, 2011. This would be the final opinion article regarding the issue being discussed.
I honestly think that Mr. Steve Macon is definitely exaggerating and being insensitive to us pinoys especially to his wife and his neighbors back in Cebu. I, however, being the critical mind that I’am, would still want to give my two cents on the matter. I have read both Macon’s article and Joadobo’s response to the seemingly less thought and maliciously written piece of the retired American who currently resides in Cebu together with his Filipina wife of 21 years. It’s a shame that an American has the guts to spew hurting words against Filipinos but seeing things from his perspective, the man has some valid points. I think that due to our long history of being colonized by the Westerners (including Americans), we have developed a sort of love-hate relationship towards the people of the white race. Admit it or not, many of us see Americans or any white looking foreigner as a walking pile of dollars. This kind of mindset makes people believe that since these foreigners are loaded with money, the opportunity for profit would be that easy. Even some balikabayans are not safe from evil scheming taxi drivers and airport personnel when they come home and walk out of the airport. I suppose some Filipinos are innately greedy to the extent of trying to extort money out of hardworking OFW’s. It’s probably the little salary that they get that forces them to do such things but our idea that “white” foreigners have tons of cash is outright misconstrued. Sure they come to the Philippines with enough cash and because of the exchange rate, they get more peso out of their dollars but it doesn’t mean that they have millions of dollars in their bank accounts.
The main problem really is our ingrained colonial mentality and that idea that the whites of the West are superior and richer than us brown Filipinos. While it’s true that Western countries are far richer than our beloved archipelago and are much developed than our poor country of 7,000 islands, it’s still a fact that poor people exist in every country in the world. Some may not be poor but are middle class and wouldn’t have tons of dollars at their disposal. It is therefore wrong to think that Americans or white Westerners are rich and generous enough to splurge their hard earned money while they’re having the time of their life on our white beaches and cheap super malls. This part of our culture needs changing but Filipinos can only change this kind of mindset through media and propaganda. The prevalence of colonial mentality is a result of a long tradition of marketing campaigns for foreign or U.S. products and whitening products on TV. Until we realize that our preference for products made in the U.S. is a result of manipulation by the colonizers of the past so we would patronize their products and help them gain profit, we would remain eternally imprisoned in a state of neo-colonialism. We would not grow out of our misconception that all white people from the West are rich and opulent. We will always feel a sense of inferiority towards them because we have that idea that we are poor and incompetent when compared to them “puti’s”. It’s sad to admit but most of our kababayans have that kind of mentality despite the current global progress and technological development.
I know Filipinos felt hurt by Mr. Macon’s words, but he was just trying to state the obvious although he forgot to analyze the facts and go deep into the problem. He saw that we are a culture of dependency and some of us are too lazy to make a decent living while expecting people to help them. This is also a sad truth about the Filipino culture but it’s not only limited to us. Close family ties is normal for Asians which the Americans or the Westerners wouldn’t comprehend. We tend to take care of our family especially when they are in trouble. In the U.S., they probably don’t give a damn about their relatives but in the Philippines, your family is the most important thing in the world. That’s why a lot of Filipino fathers, mothers, sisters, brothers, sons and daughters are in diaspora working away from home to support their loved ones.
This is the difference between Western and Asian cultures which comes with a number of advantages and disadvantages. Such culture can cause some people to be dependent when they have someone to support them and provide for them when they don’t have any means of supporting themselves. It could foster a society of dependency which is clearly happening now in the Philippines. A lot of people in the slums are “tambays” because they know they have fathers, mothers, sisters, brothers, sons and daughters who would support them no matter what happens. I can see how Mr. Macon finds this annoying but then again this is something that defines our race which could be problematic when the economy is not doing so well and lot of people are struggling to earn a living. It could be very disadvantageous when your relatives expect you to help them when you can’t even help yourself. I suppose from an American’s point of view, this might seem abnormal but our culture is very much family oriented that we sometimes think of our family first before ourselves and before other people outside our family. Again, to a foreigner this might sound inconceivable but for us Filipinos, it’s just normal to show our love towards our relatives. And of course we also have the concept of “hiya” (shame) and “utang na loob” (gratitude), which could make us very vulnerable to abuses when our relatives insist for favors and financial support. These are things that would be hard to explain to a foreigner especially to a Westerner who doesn’t understand where we are coming from.
Lasltly, I have read the comments of some DF members and noticed that a lot of us were appalled by Mr. Macon’s article and I think that this has something to do with our culture of being “balat sibuyas” (onion skin). We are quite sensitive when people point out our flaws and we tend to be very defensive when our values are being attacked. It’s probably related to us being very conservative as well and being very indirect when we try to criticize someone. We expect people to beat around the bush and use euphemisms. Mr. Macon was very direct in his approach and I could see why some of us raised their eyebrows after reading his article on DF. I think we all need to be reasonable and try to see where his grievances are coming from instead of acting like the problem doesn’t exist. I have to give it to Mr. Macon because he had the guts to publish a very anti-Filipino article on Definitely Filipino. Let’s give him the credit despite of the fact that he crossed the line and is now a persona non-grata of this community…