The “Diskarte” Mentality

If you are married to a Filipina you cannot avoid having constant dealings with her family and the Filipino community and this entails having regular dealings with the macho-men of the family and the community.

Filipino men have a rather high opinion of themselves and often have a tendency to kind of look down on Western men. They pride themselves with their uncanny ability to find creative solutions to problems also known as diskarte.

A case in point is their ability to keep their old and worn out cars going.

In the Philippines having a car is a must but there is not enough money to properly maintain them and meet all the standards set out by the law so diskarte is the solution even though it entails cutting corners and skirting necessary safety rules.

While diskarte is understandable in the social context of a third world country the challenge is that even many Filipino expatriates who live in the West go about fixing things, and particularly their cars, with the same diskarte approach they had in the Philippines.

I have regular dealings with dozens of Filipinos here who are either my wife’s relatives or friends and most of them fix their cars themselves. For most of them doing an oil change or replacing the brake pads themselves is routine. Others can even buy an entire engine at the junk yard and replace their car’s worn out engine or the clutch and other car parts that require skill and expertise.

Most Italians turn to a mechanic when their car has a problem (or to a plumber if their sink or their drain are clogged, to an electrician if they have an electrical issue etc.) as in this country we operate from the idea that each one is supposed to do his job and rules are far more strict than in the Philippines. You can’t do an oil change on a public road and dispose of the old oil in the sewer. If you change your brake pads yourself and fail to do it right and have an accident as a result you are in trouble with the law.

For this reason most Italians abstain from even trying to fix things themselves but Italians who are married to a Filipina may be viewed by her Filipino male relatives and friends as hindi marunong mag-diskarte (unable to find creative solutions to problems) thereby unable to properly run a family, unfit of being called a padre de pamilya.

Another area where Filipino macho-men look down on Westerners is the way they drive their cars. In the Philippines traffic rules are totally ignored and it takes them a while to understand that in a Western country it doesn’t work that way (I come from Southern Italy and the area where I come from is not exactly known for it’s law-abiding drivers, yet, compared to the Philippines this is heaven) and that Western drivers are not stupid, they just comply with the law.

Then there is the aspect of heavy drinking. Many Filipino men pride themselves of being able to drink half a bottle of gin and they may try to involve you in their inuman or binge drinking rituals and if you don’t meet their drinking standards they may frown upon you.

Some Filipinas who are married to a Westerner may have a tendency to constantly compare the “masculinity” of their brothers, uncles, cousins or friends to that of their Western husbands.

The question I always ask myself though is: “if Filipino men are so manly and smart how come the Philippines is a third world country?” And the answer is always: “because there is corruption”. In other words Filipinos, from their point of view, are the smartest guys on earth but because of their corrupt politicians, because of natural calamities, because of the oppression of the colonizers, and on and on it goes, they need to migrate to other countries where, strangely, everyone is tanga or, basically, stupid and they have this psychological need to make white men feel inferior and constantly compare their diskarte attitude or other aspects of their masculinity with the supposed stupidity of white people. Filipino wives of white men may also make this kind of comparisons not realizing that if they have had to go abroad is probably because the diskarte approach to life is simply a band-aid solution that does not create a wealthy society and keeps the Philippines stuck in poverty.

So, if you are married to a Filipina and her relatives live in your country you might have to deal with this kind of comparisons between the Filipino machos who know everything and the tanga Westerners.

I think this is a psychological need to soften their uneasiness of being strangers in a foreign land by making you feel inferior and by understanding what lies behind this psychological need to make this kind of comparisons you can laugh away at this situations and not be upset by them.

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