Binge Drinking in the Philippines or “Inuman”: the Magnitude of the Phenomenon

This is a topic that I have already touched on a few times and, because I have very close ties with Filipinos, I often wonder what kind of arguments I can use to exercise a positive influence on the Filipinos I interact with and get them to quit or, at least, reduce heavy drinking.

But what is the magnitude of the problem and to what extent can binge drinking in the Philippines or “inuman” be considered an addiction to worry about?

According to a survey “binge drinking among currently drinking adult Filipino males was at 64.4 percent, while it was 31 percent for females. Current drinkers are defined as those “drinking alcoholic beverages in the past 30 days” prior to the study (

If you marry a Filipina and begin to interact with her Filipino relatives and friends, it will not be long before you discover that the practice of binge drinking or inuman is very widespread indeed in the Philippines as well as among Pinoy abroad.

Almost every social gathering features the “for the boys” tradition, where the men separate themselves from the rest of the group and engage in some “maBOTEng usapan” (a play on words for “maBUTIng usapan” or a “good conversation, “bote” meaning “bottle”) over “kaunti-container” alcohol (“kaunti-kaunti” means “a little bit” and they replace the second “kaunti” with “container”).

The above mentioned survey talks about 64% of Filipino males as being regular consumer of alcohol.

My impression is that the percentage is even higher, at least based on what I personally observe.

But to what extent does binge drinking in the Philippines or “inuman” qualify as an addiction and, therefore, as something to worry about and possibly try to correct?

According to a study that I have stumbled upon, if a person can go 7 days without consuming the substance he suspects he is addicted to and no cravings arise this person is not an addict, if cravings do arise he is an addict.

Well, Filipino males who can go 7 straight days without consuming alcohol are hard to come by.

I remember hearing a Filipino complain with the flight attendants of Saudi Airlines because they wouldn’t serve any alcohol during the 8-hour flight from Ryadh to Manila!

There is no doubt that binge drinking or “inuman” in the Philippines is not just a tradition and part of the folklore, it is a harmful addiction that claims many lives and keeps the Philippines stuck socio-economically.

Filipino women generally frown upon their male partner’s “inuman” but they live with it because the habit is deeply embedded in the “macho” Pinoy culture and there is little they can do about it through preaching and arguments.

On the other hand the Philippines is one of those countries where stimulation and titillation of the senses through all kinds of addictions, not just alcohol but also soft-drinks, food, gossip, TV is deeply rooted and, as I have repeatedly said Filipinos are more after being “masaya” (temporary enjoyment of happiness through stimulation”) than “maligaya” (lasting happiness). Therefore, the very women who frown upon binge drinking in the Philippines or “inuman”, they themselves have dozens of addictions to food, gossip, Facebook, TV etc.

Few of us, wherever we live, can go 7 days without some stimulation and I myself have my addictions and cravings.

While a craving-free life is almost impossible to attain, there is no doubt that the fact that the Philippines is a country where instant gratification is so deeply embedded causes it to be a nation where the average health condition of the population is much lower than it could be and even Pinoys who live in more affluent countries and who could afford a much healtier lifestyle, more often than not miss out on the opportunity to live healtier lives because of the “masaya” over “maligaya” mindset.

Yes, binge drinking in the Philippines is a big problem that causes a staggering number of people to come down with all kinds of diseases and it is also something that keeps the Philippines from emerging socio-economically for, as Steven Pressfield said in his book “Turning Pro”:

“…what ails you and me has nothing to do with being sick…What ails us is that we are living our lives as amateurs. The solution…is that we turn pro.”

Life in the Philippines, as well as overseas, is hard and requires labor and discipline, it requires “turning pro” and replacing insistence on titillation and the tendency to escape from discipline with the acquiring of the skillset (not just diskarte) needed to make the grade.

The decision of the “amateur” to remain stuck in the need to numb their senses in the face of “kahirapan” prevents many Filipinos from doing the constructive work and acquiring the discipline needed to emerge from poverty, disease and an overall low-quality existence.

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