Private Cleanliness and Public Sloppiness in the Philippines: a Reflection of the Ako Muna Mentality

The Philippines is one of those countries where people treat their homes and their private space much better than public places.

I remember my mother-in-law constantly sweeping the floor with a walis tambo like the one in the picture

The typical “walis tambo”

Also Filipinos take frequent baths, not only in the tropical hot and humid climate of the Philippines but even here in my country, even in mid-winter.

However a foreigner who visits the Philippines cannot help but notice the sharp contrast between this maniacal insistence on kalinisan or cleanliness in a private setting and the careless approach of Filipinos to how they treat anything that is public.

This attitude is one of the manifestations of the ako muna or me first attitude.

Filipino drivers treat public roads as if they were their own and merrily disregard traffic laws (like Southern Italians) by displaying a rather matapang or cocky attitude and, as I pointed out in my previous article on the ako muna attitude, this “me first” attitude is one of the things that keep the Philippines from making further progress as a community despite the amazing bayanihan spirit.

The contrast between insistence on one’s own private cleanliness and public sloppiness is also seen wherever there is some kind of karatula or sign that constantly reminds people to abide by the law: wherever you turn in the Philippines there is some kind of reminder, sometimes written in bold letters, that says something along the lines of bawal bumaba dito (don’t get off the bus here), bawal umihi dito (do not take a piss here), bawal magtapon ng basura (do not litter).

Bawal bumaba dito

And, sure enough, the ako muna attitude of most people and their disregard for that which is public rather than akin or “mine”, gets them to pee where they are not supposed to pee, to bumaba where they are not supposed to bumaba and litter where they are not supposed to litter.

This ako muna attitude and the resulting public sloppiness as opposed to private cleanliness may surprise and shock a Western visitor.

I doesn’t shock me because I come from Southern Italy and here we have some ako muna attitude and public sloppiness too…

Public sloppiness in the outskirts of Rome

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