The “Ako Muna” (Me First) Attitude of Filipinos

I’ve written an article about the bayanihan spirit of Filipinos and I cannot help but appreciate how Filipinos help one another in times of need.

I’ve also repeatedly mentioned the self-sacrificing spirit of expatriates who are willing to share their apartments with other families thereby sacrificing their personal comfort to have more money to send home.

These aspects may seem to indicate that the Philippines is one of the most unselfish societies in the world.

However I’ve noticed aspects that massively counterbalance the above mentioned unselfish ways that I so much admire.

Take for example how Filipinos drive their cars: if you have ever been to Manila you could not help but notice how drivers cut other drivers off and squeeze into their lane all the time.

Another “selfish” trait is their lack of ability to queue at the bank or even at social gatherings when food is on the table.

One aspect that impressed me is the sharp contrast between how homes are kept clean inside but, very often, the outside has no coating or paint on the naked blocks that make up the facade. This seems to convey the message “my private space first”.

In other words Filipinos, in general, tend to put their own interest (me first, my household first) before other people and ahead of the general interest of the community.

Although they have unselfish ways, by and large their self-interest and that of their family seems to prevail over that of the community and the bayanihan spirit only partly counterbalances a short-sighted pursuit of self-interest in disregard of the public welfare.

That private interest is something that prevails over public interest is also evident in how tourist spots like Baguio or Boracay have been greatly damaged to the point that the government has had to make the drastic decision to close Boracay Island for several months to repair the extensive damage brought about by greedy self-interest.

Filipinos have amazing generous ways but the overall short-term thinking keeps them from creating a society where the general interest of the community is more important than self and kin group.

So, how do you build a bridge if you are a Westerner who is concerned with public interest and your Filipino spouse is more ako at ang pamilya ko muna and you cannot see eye to eye under this aspect?

You can do so by choosing to focus on what’s working rather than what’s not working in your spouse’s culture and there is no doubt that the unselfish care your Filipino spouse likely has for her family, including you, is something you can decide to consistently focus on.

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