Principles vs Rules

My wife is Filipina and Filipino people are more externally-driven than internally-driven.

In my post about the Filipino concept of happiness I mentioned that Filipinos prefer being masaya (temporary happiness which is the result of titillation and external stimulation or, in other words, what Aristotle called “hedonic happiness”) to being maligaya (inner happiness that does not depend upon external stimulation, or what Aristotle called “eudemonic happiness”).

And in my blog I have also repeatedly touched on the Filipino culture of pakikisama or togetherness: Filipinos definitely fancy being part of a group and very few seem to value the kind of solitude that creates internally grounded individuals.

So Filipinos are, in many areas, externally grounded.

This Filipino trait also influences what motivates many Filipinos to do what’s quote-unquote “right” or moral.

Filipinos seem to need rules and authority figures, who enforce the rules, and they also have a deep-seated need to avoid hiya (shame) and save mukha (face).

Very often Filipinos reason in terms of pwede ba? o hindi pwede? (can I or can’t I?), dapat ba? o hindi dapat? (do I have to do it or not?), bawal ba? o hindi bawal? (is it forbidden or not?).

And, as I have said, they often do something or abstain from doing something because failing to do the quote-unquote right thing or doing the wrong thing might be nakahihiya (put them to shame).

The buwaya

Traffic in Manila is a big mess and rules are merrily ignored….unless there is a buwaya (literally “crocodile”: a Filipino word that in this context means policeman) around.

People who are guided by principles create more advanced communities

One of the insights that travelling around the world has given me is that societies that need a lot of rules and the constant presence of some authority figure who is always reminding people to abide by the rules and where people need to always be specifically told what to do or not to do, what’s allowed or not allowed, are less progressive and evolved while societies that are driven by broad principles are more evolved.

This also applies to individuals because a society is the sum total of the individuals who make it up.

In my life I have visited very advanced countries such as Sweden and Finland and developing countries like the Philippines and what I have noticed, for example, is the fact that in the first group of nations people drive safely, and abide by the rules in general, regardless of whether police is around or not while in places like the Philippines people only respect the rules if a buwaya is there.

In the more advanced countries where people do the “right” thing (at least the kind of right things that create order and efficiency and a thriving economy) people seem to be guided by the general overarching principle “if I want to live in an efficient community I have to do my part as an exemplary citizen who drives safely and disposes of the garbage properly, stands in line without complaining etc.”.

There are people (and communities) who seem to be driven to doing what’s quote-unquote “right” from a place of consciousness and awareness of why doing the quote-unquote “right” thing is good and beneficial and they align with it.

And there are people who need a rule and a carrot and stick approach to do what’s “right” and the Philippines definitely seems to fall in this category.

“Tanungin mo ang pastor”, “sabi ng pastor”

And when it comes to religious laws and principles many Filipinos rely on what the pastor said and they need to be constantly reminded by some pastor what to do in a specific situation.

Now what’s interesting here is that the Philippines is a Christian nation, for the most part, and Christianity is all about principles over rules.

So, at least in theory, this concept of principles over rules should be taught from a very early age.

I am not promoting any religion here because it’s not my purpose in this blog, I am just trying to make a point.

The very core of Christianity and what sets it apart from Judaism is the fact that Jesus replaced hundreds of specific laws with few broad principles and, in fact, he said that the hundreds of specific laws of the Mosaic Law boil down to few broad principles like “love your neighbor as yourself”.

He also said something along the lines of “keep on seeking first the Kingdom” instead of giving a ton of commands about how often his followers should do spiritual things.

Once one has embodied the idea (if he believes in Christ) that the Kingdom is a priority it is up to him or her to determine how to apply this broad overarching principle in various circumstances and such individual does not need any constant reminders. And if one has embodied the principle “love your neighbor as yourself” he doesn’t need to be commanded not to kill, steal etc.

Coming from a place of awareness

So, what’s interesting is (and this applies to every domain of life) that one can do what’s right because somebody told him, because of fear of punishment or, as it often happens in the Filipino culture, to avoid hiya (or “shame”) and to save mukha (or “face”) or he can do what’s right and moral from a place of integrity, consciousness and awareness.

“Simulain” and “batas”

In the Tagalog language there is a distinction between the words batas (law) and simulain (principle): this means that the idea that a person can be driven by broad principles rather than strict rules is not foreign to the consciousness of Filipinos.

Because these words do exist in the vocabulary of the Filipino language this means that Filipinos do have the concept of what a principio or simulain is.

It is just that many Filipinos need to be trained to reason in terms of principles and understand the value of being internally driven to do what’s right…. whatever that means.

Introvert Western Husband of a Filipina vs the Filipino Culture of Pakikisama

(I have slightly modified this old post)

A typical Filipino social gathering

My wife is Filipina and she comes from a culture that is all about pakikisama, a Tagalog term for togetherness.

I, on the other end, need, cherish and actually crave plenty of solitude and prefer associating with few selected individuals to having a lot of friends and going to large social gatherings.

I love solo hikes and I also love sitting alone on park benches or simply being shut away in my room to read for hours on end. And I love going to a cafeteria or a restaurant with maximum one or two very close friends and engage in deep conversation.

The Filipino culture is, on the other hand, all about large social gatherings, music, dancing and karaoke, chit-chatting and sharing.

The Filipino idea of togetherness fosters a spirit of bayanihan, a spirit of communal cooperation and help which is such that the whole community helps when of its member needs practical help.

So how can I, a very strong introvert, sit well with a Filipina who comes from a culture that is strongly oriented toward connecting with a lot of people?

Well, not only have I discovered that an introvert man can sit well with a woman who comes from a culture that encourages much togetherness but I have also found out that an extrovert person actually needs an introvert partner and that an introvert and an extrovert complement each other rather nicely.

Here are some reasons why I think an introvert like me can thrive in a relationship with an extrovert and make it work rather well.

Introverts are not hermits, they just prefer few and high quality relationships to many shallow ones

The Filipino idea of togetherness has a lot of great aspects to it, like the spirit of bayanihan that I have just mentioned.

On the other hand, because Filipinos definitely prefer large social gatherings to socializing with one or two people at a time, relationships tend to be rather shallow.

In my life I have always had very few friends but those people have been my friends for decades.

I have always preferred fixing misunderstandings and working on improving my relationships with those few people to running away from them when things don’t work out

There are people who seem to have plenty of options because they have plenty of shallow relationships with a lot of people so they always have someone else to turn to when they get upset with a particular person.

I prefer to maintain my relationships with the people whom I care about and make them grow to turning to other people when things don’t work out and this personality trait has stood me in good stead in my marriage.

I have been through a lot of misunderstandings and conflicts in my relationship (like all those who are in a marriage) but I have entered this relationship with the idea that there is no plan B. My wife is my best friend and the relationship has to work and I am committed to raising the quality of it every single day.

And, because I have very few friends outside the relationship, I can focus on my marriage without too many distractions from a lot of people who claim my time and attention.

Introversion Breeds Peace Within and Without

Because I need and cherish solitude I can easily leave the scene of a heated discussion without suffering too much because I can be just as fulfilled while alone as when I am interacting with my wife (or with any other person).

Also, choosing to deliberately isolate myself on a regular basis, by carving out moments in which I write in a journal, gives me the opportunity to reflect on what’s working and what’s not working in my relationship and come up with solutions I couldn’t come up with if I were always socializing.

Contemplation and inner work breed more self-control and peace of mind in general and create an internal environment that can hardly coexist with conflict.

An Introvert Gives Space

Because an introvert needs space he is also more likely to give space and giving space is vital in an intimate relationship.

I need a lot of space and I am willing to give my wife space, to the point that I am willing to allow her to spend even one or two months in the Philippines while I stay here (and this has already happened three times since we got married).

An Introvert is Rich Internally and Therefore is Less Clingy

A strong introvert doesn’t enter a relationship because he is desperate about finding a spouse.

As I have already mentioned, during my moments of solitude I can be just as fulfilled as when I interact with people, or, more accurately, I feel even more fulfilled.

I fully enjoyed my almost four decades of singleness (I got married at age 36) so I was not really clinging to the idea of finding a marriage mate, I could perfectly function alone.

And, because one of the hallmark traits of a thriving marriage is giving, those who don’t enter a relationship because they badly need companionship have more to give, or, at least, have less to take.

The Downside of Being too much of an Introvert

So, being an introvert has, without a doubt, stood me in great stead as far as my marriage is concerned.

Yet I must admit that sometimes I push my need to be alone too far and my being too much of an introvert borders on selfishness.

Not only does my wife connect with a lot of people to just socialize with them: in so doing she actually helps a lot of people in many practical ways, which is something that I definitely need to work on and that I am learning from my Filipino wife.

So I think that an introvert and an extrovert can definitely learn from each other and not view each other as incompatibile.

I am the most introverted person you can imagine, I am, in fact, the peak of introversion while my wife comes from a culture that is the polar opposite of it and yet we manage to function rather well.

My experience shows that a relationship between an hyper-introvert and an extrovert is possible and if I can be in a relationship with an extrovert everyone else who is in a similar position can.

So, yes, a strong introvert can perfectly be in a relationship with an extrovert and my experience is the evident demonstration that this is definitely the case.

Why Avoid Jumping from one Relationship to Another: a Lesson from the Filipino Movie “All My Life”

(I have modified this old post)

Many immigrants in my country end up broke and mired in debt because of their mindset, similarly people who move to another relationship without changing their mindset don’t solve any of their problems

Relationships don’t fix our emotional issues

When I entered my relationship with a Filipina one of the very first things I did, to become acquainted with her culture, was watching Filipino movies.

One of the first ones I watched is entitled “All My Life”.

The lyrics of the theme song of this famous Filipino movie say something along the lines of “I’ll never forget how you brought the sun to shine in my life…there was an empty space in my heart”.

These are not just the lyrics of a song, this is actually how most people who wish to be in a relationship or wish to be in a better one think.

A lot of people in our society, not just in the Philippines, believe that on a sunny day the ideal partner will show up and “bring the sun to shine” in their hearts, there where there is an “empty space” to fill, as the song goes.

I believe that this is a myth and that entering a relationship or moving from one relationship to another doesn’t quite bring the sun to shine in an empty heart.

It has been said many times and in many ways that one of the hallmark characteristics of a healthy relationship is giving, so if one has an “empty space” to fill the solution is inner work not someone else who will do it for us.

I believe that if our current partner is not causing the “sun to shine” in our heart the solution is not another partner, rather it is fixing our own crap and no one can do it for us unless we do it.

Unless one is in a relationship with a partner who has become abusive, violent, irresponsible, extremely lazy or otherwise unbearable to the point that there is no way to continue the relationship, moving from one relationship to another is not the answer in my modest opinion.

Migrating from a relationship to another without changing ourselves is like moving to another country without first improving ourselves

I think the condition of many Filipino immigrants in my country is an interesting metaphor to illustrate this point.

In much the same way as many people move from one relationship to another, Filipinos who live in Italy have moved from one country to another looking for greener grass.

The problem is that while some have indeed fixed their financial problems most are just as broke as if they would be if they had never left the Philippines. Why?

Because of the bahala-na approach to life (or “casual” approach to life), which is part of the “Pinoy mentality” that often doesn’t change when Filipinos move to another country.

For example, one of the reasons why Filipino people leave their country and move here is because here in Italy health care is free. The problem is that despite having access to free medical care most Filipinos keep drinking way too much alcohol, eating way too often at KFC, Mc Donald’s, most exercise very little if they exercise at all and, as a result of this mindset, they are just as ill as if they lived in a country that has no free health care (my wife is Filipina and I love Filipino people flaws and all, I am just trying to make a point here).

So my point is that wherever we go we bring us with us. Unless we shift our mentality no place, situation or person will ever fix our problems.

A famous motivational speaker said that “it is not the blowing of the wind, rather it’s the setting of the sail” that determines where we wind up in life.

It is true that, just as there are people who cannot help but flee from dangerous and abusive relationships, there are also people who cannot help but flee from countries that are plagued by war, extremely difficult economical situations, persecution and so on.

The problem is when one runs away from a difficult situation that is the result of a messed up mindset and expects to find the solution to his or her problems by moving to another environment without changing anything about his or her mentality

Many Filipinos, as soon as they move to my country have kids before they even find adequate work, many buy a fancy car and the latest electronic gadgets and give very little thought to cultivating smart financial habits and, as a result of this bahala-na approach, many end up having spent years or even decades in this country without having changed anything about their situation.

If we work on our mindset we can make our present relationship work

The same principle applies to relationships: if we have an “empty space” in our heart we need to fix it by doing the hard work that is necessary to change our mindset and if we do our homework in this area chances are that “the sun” will start to shine in our heart of its own accord and it is highly likely that by doing so we will not need to rely on someone else and change partner to fill the “empty space in our heart” but rather we will be able to make our present relationship work.

If we do nothing to improve ourselves and expect a new partner to fix us we will keep chasing “the same person only in a different body” as Dr. Wayne Dyer wisely said and the empty space in our heart” will remain empty.

The bottom line is: it is way better in my opinion to work on our mindset and fix our weaknesses, thereby making our present relationship work, than run away from the relationship in search of the elusive goal of finding the perfect match who can make the sun shine in an empty heart.

Diskarte: the Resourcefulness of Filipinos

Many blogs and other sources of information kind of look down on the diskarte approach to life of Filipinos.

In this post I want to talk about diskarte from the standpoint of someone who is married to a Filipina and highlight the perks, as well as the downside, of the diskarte mentality.


But what is diskarte?

Diskarte has no exact translation in English. The closest translation is probably the ability to improvise in a difficult situation.

Etymologically, diskarte may be Spanish in origin (from descarte, descartar, meaning “to discard”), but it has since evolved into a Tagalog word having different meanings.

The primary way in which Filipinos seem to use this term is with regard to building or fixing things when there is little or no money or resources.


Often the diskarte approach doesn’t produce high quality labor, rather it only puts temporary “patches” on things or problems that need to be fixed based on the typical Filipino idea that pwede na iyan (it will already do).

And in the Philippines there are a lot of things like houses, vehicles and infrastructures that are very precarious.

In the Philippines there are a lot of what I call “patchwork” homes where whatever material is available (hollow blocks, metal sheets, bamboo etc.) is blended together to build homes that don’t have a specific style but, nevertheless, provide “kahit papaano” (somehow) some shelter.

“patchwork” homes

Another interesting thing about diskarte and pwede na iyan is the incredible number of vulcanizing shops that can be found everywhere in the Philippines where worn-out tyres are repaired ad infinitum by putting patches upon patches on them.

Dangling wires and highly polluting cars that are fixed in a “diskarte” manner

Another interesting thing about diskarte is the jungle of dangling electric wires that in the Philippines are found everwhere, not only in the countryside but also on every main street of any major city.

Here in Italy, as well as in the rest of Europe, electrical cables are situated underground.

If you visit the Philippines you cannot help but notice spaghetti-like wires that they have in their electric/phone posts within the cities and towns. More so in the busy and main streets of each town.

Messy overhead cables sometimes situated slightly above one’s head are everywhere and they cause frequent blackouts, in fact I remember blackouts occurring at least once a week while in the Philippines, and I also remember being out of electricity for 3 days and not being able to recharge my phone.

Maybe the reason why they don’t do the underground wiring is that floods and typhoons occur several times a year in the Philippines but wires could at least be arranged in a more orderly fashion.

Hanging wires make it much easier for people to illegally tap into the public grid.

So, because in the Philippines many things are built or fixed in a diskarte and pwede na iyan way the quality is what it is.


However, from a selfish point of view, being married to a Filipina has helped me to benefit from diskarte in many ways.

The fact that Filipinos were born and raised in a country where they are forced to find the way to build or fix things, even if they lack the resources, is such that almost all Pinoy men have a way with manual labor and can fix a little bit of everything.

And often this stands them in very good stead when they work abroad, because their employers are more than happy when their Filipino tagalinis or cleaners can also fix their cars, their appliances or a leaking sink or drain. Many rich Italian employers are rather stingy and they like it when they can pay only one person to do a thousand things.

So, under this aspect, Filipinos have the edge over other ethnic groups that work in my country.

And their ability to fix almost everything, even if sometimes it’s nothing more than a pwede na iyan solution, helps me quite a lot.

I almost never go to a mechanic when I have an issue with my car and 90% of the time I bank on my Pinoy friends. Sometimes they fix my car’s issues permanently and sometimes not but, nevertheless, I save big money.

For example, few months ago the left front headlight of my car blew out. I tried to replace it but, because the fuse box is way too close to the headlight, I could barely put my finger between the fuse box and the headlight and I couldn’t see a thing. In order to move the fuse box a little bit to make more room for my hand and to be able to see something I had to remove the battery first.

I did all this labor but I still found it difficult to replace the light bulb so I decided to go to a car electrician. It took him one hour to replace the bulb and he struggled to do it.

For some strange reason the light bulb blew out again but a Filipino friend of mine happened to be around.

Well, it took him 30 seconds to replace the light bulb!

The irony of it is that he managed to do it without having to remove the battery or anything else.

Since he was available he also changed the two ignition coils and the spark plugs.

A Filipino friend fixing my car

Because, as I said, Filipinos were born and raised in a country where most people can’t afford to take their car to a garage or to have a specialized professional build their house or fix their appliances or a leaking drain or anything like that, they are forced into learning how to do these things themselves.

Because building and fixing things properly requires expensive tools and materials, which most Filipinos have no access to, they use whatever means they can put their finger on to build or fix things no matter what.

So, as husband of a Filipina, not only do I benefit from diskarte when my car breaks down and the repairs that need to be done don’t entail messing with the electronic components, but I can also bank on Filipinos to have my washing machine fixed, a leaking pipe, you name it.

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.

And if you have to do and electrical installation or repair the roof of your house etc. everything has to be legally certified and done by meeting legal standards.

For this reason most Italians abstain from even trying to fix things themselves and turn to an expensive professional for help.

Obviously a highly specialized professional (and here in Italy we have many) does a high quality job but he will charge money that even in an industrialized country like mine is getting more and more difficult to earn.

And so Filipino diskarte definitely stands me in good stead.

I party agree with those who say that diskarte and pwede na iyan create crappy work and that a country where most things are built or fixed by resorting to diskarte can hardly grow and prosper.

On the other hand, as I said, even in countries where the standards of building and fixing things are high there is economic recession, unemployment and, as a result, people are not always in the position to pay an expensive professional and some flexibility and diskarte would definitely help.


So is diskarte a positive or a negative trait of Filipinos?

In an ideal world all kinds of things should meet the highest possible standards of building and fixing.

And there is no doubt that, because in the Philippines, way too many things are built in a diskarte and pwede na iyan fashion the country struggles to meet the standards of the more industrialized countries.

On the other hand, as I said, the countries where the standards of building and fixing are high are not immune from economical problems and, as a result, when people have to build or fix things they find themselves in the difficult position of having to spend money they don’t have.

Because no country is the “ideal” world sometimes letting go of very rigid rules and standards and imitating the flexible Filipino sense of diskarte would help.

The Filipino Drinking Culture-Inuman at Pulutan

(This post is part of my “spring cleaning”: I am re-editing and improving some old posts )

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 drinking alcohol in a group or inuman is very widespread in the Philippines as well as among Pinoy abroad.

Almost every Filipino social gathering features the “for the boys” tradition, where the men separate themselves from the rest of the group and engage in inuman.

What this entails is basically this: a group of boys (it is typically the men who engage in this practice) sits around a table that is situated few meters away from the area where everyone else is singing karaoke, dancing, eating or doing kwentuan (or chit-chatting) and they lay a few bottles of beer, gin, brandy or other kinds of alcoholic beverages (mostly hard drinks).

And while they are sipping they snack on some food (usually pieces of meat) called pulutan.

MaBUTIng usapan vs maBOTEng usapan

As I often mention in my posts, Filipinos are very social and like spending hours talking and gossiping.

Filipino women seem to be more inclined toward tsismis or gossip (not always malicious gossip, most of the time it is just a harmless sticking of their nose into other people’s affairs).

Men in the Philippines, on the other hand, only seem to know two kinds of conversation: the mabuting usapan (literally the “good conversation” meaning, I guess, a conversation centered around a topic) and the maBOTEng usapan, bote meaning “bottle” (of gin of course) which is a conversation that has no specific topic, rather it is just an opportunity for drinking.

I remember walking down the main street of my wife’s barangay and noticing that early in the morning men were seated either on the side of the road or in front of their homes and, because they knew I could speak Tagalog, they would say to me: “kwentuan tayo” (“let’s chat”) and, because I had already acquired some experience with the Filipino community here in Rome and I was already rather acquainted with the two possible types of conversation Filipino men engage in, I would ask: “ito ba ay isang mabuting usapan o isang maBOTEng usapan?” at which they chuckled and pulled out a bottle of Ginebra San Miguel to make it clear that 99% of the times the usapan is a maBOTEng one!

The average consumption of alcohol in the Philippines

According to a survey “binge drinking” or inuman 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 (

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.


The Tagalog expression for “much” or “a lot” in Tagalog is marami while the word for “a little” is kaunti.

“Just a little” is kaunti lang.

However, when it comes to wines & spirits, Filipinos use the expression kaunti-“containerwhich tells you everything about the “average” consumption of alcohol per capita in the country.

For Filipinos abroad, especially those who live in cold countries, the container is even larger as in cold climates that Pinoy are not familiar with, Filipinos need maraming “pampainit” (“heater”).

History of alak in the Philippines

Before the Spanish colonized the Philippines, the Arabs and the Chinese were already actively doing business with Filipinos.

It seems that alcohol was introduced in the Philippines during that period.

Apparently the Tagalog word “alak” comes from the the Arab word arraq.

And it seems like exposure to the Arab liquor got Filipinos to start their own production of alcoholic beverages.

Filipinos started distilling lambanog from coconut flower.

Basi a popular drink in the Ilocano Northern regions, is distilled from sugar canes.

The Omnipresent San Miguel Corporation

In 1890, the Philippines became the first country in Southeast Asia to open a beer factory: La Fábrica de Cerveza de San Miguel.

The name San Miguel, originates from the brewery of San Miguel, Spain.

If you visit the Philippines you will see San Miguel products everywhere, from Ginebra or gin to San Miguel beer.

Over time other companies like Tanduay, a factory that produces rum, cropped up in the archipelago and to this very day the production of all sorts of alak thrives in the Philippines.

In the Philippines you can find all sorts of alcoholic beverages: from light San Miguel beer to strong Red Horse beer, from Ginebra San Miguel gin to Tanduay rum, Cuatro Cantos, you name it.

“Nanay tatay gusto ko isang… tagay”-young people and drinking in the Philippines

Two of the Filipino songs that I used to listen to at the start of my journey with the Tagalog language are “Leron Leron” and the one that goes “nanay, tatay gusto kong tinapay. Ate, kuya gusto kong kape….lahat ng gusto mo ay gagawin ko”

It seems like the lyrics of “nanay, tatay gusto kong tinapay…” need to be slightly modified, based at least on what I am reading in this article

The article says, in part:

The cases of alcoholic drinking among the youngsters [between the age of 13 to 21 years old] have reached an alarming level compared to the recent past,”

This is indeed very alarming. “Philippine law sets the minimum legal drinking age at 18 but underage drinking is widespread,” wrote Joyce P. Valbuena in a report for Health Action Information Network (HAIN). “Most young people get alcohol from home with or without their parents’ permission. They know how to obtain alcohol—they are able to get it from friends or they can discreetly buy for themselves.”

What is even more alarming is the fact that more and more youngsters are now drinking than in the recent past. In a survey conducted by the University of the Philippines, 60 percent of Filipino youths today are drinking alcoholic beverages.

Even at a young age, Filipino teenagers are already drinking. A study conducted by the East-West Center (EWC) in Hawaii showed 11 percent of boys began to drink by age 15. Only 4 percentof the girls commenced to drink at that age

So it seems like many young people in the Philippines are no longer singing “nanay, tatay gusto kong tinapay” but rather “nanay, tatay gusto kong isang tagay” (“shot”) and even the final part of “Leron Leron” imbes na “isang pinggang pansit ang aking kalaban” ay nagiging “isang baso ng gin ang aking kalaban”…..

Ang “Presidente” and ang “Emperador“: who really rules the Philippines?

The Philippines is a republic and it has a president. Yet, under certain aspects it is similar to ancient Rome.

Rome, the city I live in, used to be an empire and it used to have an emperor.

Well, although the Philippines is not an empire and it has a president, it also has an Emperador or emperor and the emperor is definitely higher than the president.

Why? Because ang Presidente ay nakaupo sa palasyo samantala ang “Emperador” (brandy) ay nakatayo sa mesa or the president seats in his office while the Emperador always stands on the table.

Now, it stands to reason that the one who stands is higher than the one who sits, therefore there is no doubt that ang Emperador ay mas mataas kaysa (higher than) sa Presidente and all the more so because mataas ang leeg or it has a long (bottle)neck.

Emperador is not a person or a title, rather it is a popular brand of brandy in the Philippines. The Spanish brand Fundador is also very popular.

That is why the Emperador has more influence on some Filipinos than the president himself.

The 4 roles of alak: pampainit, pampatunaw, pampagana and pampatulog

Filipinos say that alcohol or alak is pampainit, pampatunaw, pampagana and last but not least pampatulog.

There is little doubt that alak, especially hard drinks, is pampainit or “it warms you up”. Also, there is little doubt that it is pampatunaw (it has a melting effect): I’d say that it is pampatunaw ng atay (liver….)….

As for pampatulog and pampagana I am honestly a little confused:

If I need some pampatulog I may use something like this:

If I need some pampagana I’d use something like this:

This means that if I take pampatulog then I have no gana (energy or drive) and if I take pampagana then I cannot matulog (sleep).

How do Filipinos reconcile that? Only Filipinos know….

The Philippines: a land flowing with alak

Ancient Israel was named a “land flowing with milk and honey”.

In Tagalog that would be “gatas at pulot-pukyutan”.

Well, based on what I have mentioned in my article, it can be said that the Philippines is a land flowing with alak at pulot-pulutan!

The Role of the Husband in the Philippines-“Under the Saya”

The “Noli Me Tangere” by José Rizal (Tagalog version)

Monument to José Rizal in the Luneta Park in Manila

Gloria Arroyo, one of the symbols of the modern Filipina who often occupies positions of power in the Philippine society

Young Filipina students on the road to becoming qualified to cover important social roles

(I am re-writing and updating some of my old posts)

One of the things that someone who wishes to marry a Filipina needs to know is the difference between the stereotype image of the submissive Filipino wife and the reality of the Filipino husband who plays the macho but ends up being put under his wife’s dress or under the saya.

The stereotype image of the submissive Maria Clara and the modern Filipina

Maria Clara De Los Santos is the leading lady and fiance of the leading character Crisostomo Ibarra in the novel Noli Me Tángere, written by the Filipino National Hero Dr. José Rizal.

While Crisostomo Ibarra was studying in Europe, Maria Clara was sent to a convent school, where she received rigid education under the Catholic religion.

This character has become the ideal image to describe a traditional woman in the Filipino culture, a woman who is shy, demure, conservative, one who never speaks out and who is supposed to be an obedient and respectful daughter, a good wife and mother.

However, my experience tells me that if you marry a Filipina, chances are that you will share your life with a woman who has very little to do with the stereotype traditional image of Maria Clara.

I’ve been in a relationship with a Filipina for 20 years, I’ve been to the Philippines a few times and I have daily contacts with the Filipino community of Rome and I’ve never really come across a Filipina who corresponds to the stereotype traditional image of Maria Clara.

Many of my wife’s female relatives are teachers, engineers, college professors while, often, their husbands barely work and mostly do menial jobs like driving tricycles or magsasaka (farmer).

One of my wife’s cousins teaches in a school in the Sierra Madre Mountains and her husband’s “job” is to take her there with his motorbike and, when the lesson is over, take her back home.

Most Filipinas who live in Rome were the first ones to arrive here and few years later they petitioned their husbands who, more often than not, earn even less than their wives, provided that they find a job.

Most Filipino food stalls or grocery stores, as well as Filipino restaurants or catering services, here in Rome are run by Filipino women

The largest multiethnic food market in Rome: most Filipino stalls are run by women

Neighborhood Restaurant near the Vatican is run by women

The “Culture Shock Philippines” book by Alfredo and Grace Roces talks about “the Filipina’s remarkable skill as an entrepreneur. Almost every Filipino wife is involved in some business ‘on the side’—whether it be a small store, a kiosk selling drinks and snacks, selling paintings through friends and contacts, a cake shop or perhaps accepting orders at home, etc.—and what’s more, doing very well at it. Many big businesses are run by Filipino women. Filipinas figure prominently in the business world. To give some examples: the Philippine Women’s University was founded by a Filipina the Filipina’s remarkable skill as an entrepreneur. Almost every Filipino wife is involved in some business ‘on the side’—whether it be a small store, a kiosk selling drinks and snacks, selling paintings through friends and contacts, a cake shop or perhaps accepting orders at home, etc.—and what’s more, doing very well at it. Many big businesses are run by Filipino women. Filipinas figure prominently in the business world. To give some examples: the Philippine Women’s University was founded by a Filipina and is still run efficiently by Filipinas; one of Makati’s biggest and most popular department stores is owned and managed by a Filipina; the two biggest bookshop chains are owned and were built up by two Filipina sisters”

My friend Rebecca runs this eatery in La Union

So, as it turns out, quite often Filipino women have more “power” than men and, definitely, have very little to do with the stereotype traditional image of Maria Clara and, actually, the Philippines has already experienced having two female presidents (Cory Aquino and Gloria Arroyo) while here in my country this is still taboo.

My wife left the Philippines in her early 20’s and learned very early in life what it is like to be self-sufficient thereby developing a very strong character, while in my early 20’s I was still relying on my father for support and I live in a country where, sometimes, even in their 30’s and 40’s men still live with their parents as the cost of living is too high.

Under the Saya

So, far from being women who are shy, demure and submissive, many Filipino women are actually in a financial and psychological position to put men ander da saya, including Western men.

“Ander da saya” is the Filipinized term for “under the saya” or under a woman’s dress. Many Filipino men are in subjection to their wives.

The macho-machunurin

Filipino men like to play the macho.

They act like machos when they drink, drive or get involved in suntukan and awayan (fights).

Yet, speaking of the role of the husband in a Filipino family the “Culture Shock Philippines” book says: “every Filipino husband strives to give an impression of, for fear of being called ‘under the saya’—henpecked. This threat is real because Filipino wives are very dominant and, though they may appear quiet and submissive before others, are very skilful in manipulating their husbands to get what they want. Because the wife runs the household, she considers it her territory and the husband does not have much say in household issues. He gives his opinion only when consulted”

An interesting play on words for these men who play the macho when they drink or drive (or drink and drive) but get constantly henpecked by their wives is machunurin, a combination of “macho” and masunurin (submissive).

Men in the Philippines also call themselves tigasin or strong when, in fact they often end up being tiga-saing (a play on words for taga-saing, the one who cooks rice), tiga-salok ng tubig (one who gets water), tiga-luto (the one who cooks) etc.

Sometimes I am the “tiga-luto”

Being aware of the huge difference between the stereotype traditional image of Maria Clara and the actual modern-day Filipina is something that one who wishes to marry a Filipina definitely needs.

Many modern Filipinas have a rather strong personality, they certainly have no inferiority complex toward men and know how to get what they want.

So, be prepared, don’t expect a shy Filipino woman, rather get ready to deal with the exact opposite and look for ways to avoid being put under the saya.

Is the Philippines a Western Country in South Eastern Asia?

(I have slightly modified my previous post entitled “The Misleading Western Veneer of the Philippines” and I have replaced it with this updated version)

Many foreign visitors who set foot for the first time on the archipelago easily and quickly jump to the conclusion that the Philippines is a Western country because of its palpable Western veneer.

Yet this Western veneer can be rather misleading.

The reason why I am using the expression “misleading” with regard to the Western veneer of the Philippines is because, basically, when I first met my wife I had a vague idea that the Philippines was an ex Spanish and US colony and that Filipinos are usually fluent in English, and so I kind of fell into the trap of assuming that I wouldn’t have to work really hard at building rapport with my wife’s culture precisely because I thought that the Philippines was essentially a Western country or, at least, a country that was heavily influenced by its former Western colonizers.

Yet, before long (and I mean less than three months into the marriage) I started noticing that my wife was akin to us Westerners only on the surface and I started noticing a bunch of things that set the Filipino community very far apart from the West.

For example, as I have already mentioned in one of my posts, I noticed that both my wife and her friends and relatives would hardly associate with local people and that 99,9% of my social life was only taking place within the context of Filipino social gatherings.

My old friends hardly existed for my wife and I had to really insist to get her to spend an evening with my former friends.
This isn’t just my wife’s mentality but rather a very widespread trait of the Filipino community here in Rome: they basically form a very closed sort of “enclave” and they almost only socialize with other Filipinos. The gap between the Western veneer of the Philippines and the actual reality became more evident to me the first time I set foot in the Philippines.

When I got out of the N.A.I.A. airport I found myself almost immediately on the Roxas Boulevard (which is very close to the airport) and because it was 11 pm the boulevard was full of neon lights. A view of the Makati City Skyline from the EDSA Avenue (the “Western veneer” of the Philippines)
I had visited quite a few cities that have some American style skyscrapers and neon lights before but nothing like what I saw in Manila in terms of the amount of neon lights and skyscrapers and the size of the shopping malls. A typical house compound in San Ildefonso Bulacan where relatives live in close proximity (the reality behind the “veneer”)
So my very first impression of Manila by night, with it’s buildings entirely covered with neon lights, those massive fast-food restaurants, malls and skyscrapers (and the contrast between these things and the various Spanish-style Christian churches that I was noticing along the way) plus the huge karatula, most of which written in English, was that I had really landed in a Western country.

But when I arrived in San Ildefonso, Bulacan (my wife’s town) an entirely different reality revealed itself.

For example I noticed that my wife’s house compound was structured in such a way that the entire extended family lived in very close proximity and, as I walked along the M. Valte Road, I observed that, more or less, all compounds were structured in a similar way.

So I became aware that Filipinos have a concept of what constitutes a family that is miles away from the Western idea of family.

When I was in my mid-twenties my parents were eager to get rid of me and wanted me to find work and my own house as soon as possible, while in the Philippines parents expect their married sons and daughters to build their house in the family compound and never leave.

My brother lives 50 km away from me and we only see each other four or five times a year while my wife and her brother call each other every single day. Although my mother is invalid she prefers paying a katulong to getting a bigger house where my wife and I could live close to her and give her some assistance while my wife’s mother lives with us.

So, yes, the Filipino concept of what constitutes a family is one of those areas in which the contrast between the Western veneer of the Philippines and its actual mentality is quite striking.

So, if you are contemplating the idea of marrying a Filipina, don’t assume that you are going to marry a Western woman.

If you assume that you will pretty soon discover the truthfulness of what the “Culture Shock Philippines” book by Alfredo and Grace Roces says: “The Western visitor (or anyone who has long term relationships with Filipinos) may find he is speaking the same language but not communicating at all. With a sinking feeling he realises he is not in America or England or Canada, but in an entirely different world. Feeling betrayed, the Westerner retreats into his own shell”.

To avoid finding yourself in the position described by the above mentioned book you need to operate from the premise that the various trappings of the Western world that abound in the Philippines only constitute a veneer and underneath this coating there is a culture that has a radically different concept of what constitutes a family.But the kin-group culture is just one of the many aspects that set the Filipino society very far apart from the Western model of the world.

In past articles I have touched on other areas in which the Filipino culture is a vast universe, underneath the “Western coating”, that a Western husband of a Filipina needs to explore with huge amounts of radical openmindedness if he wants to avoid finding himself in the position of “speaking the same language while not being able to communicate at all”.

Filipino “Diskarte” and Social Distancing

As I have mentioned in some of my previous posts, diskarte is the Filipino skill to come up with creative solutions to all kinds of problems.

A major problem that Filipinos are dealing with in this period is how to maintain social distance when big families share tiny homes.

I stumbled upon a funny Facebook post that shows a unique way a Filipino family is using diskarte to keep social distance in their bahay kubo.

Social distancing is, obviously, not mandatory inside one’s home but, apparently, this particular family is super law-abiding and wants to go the extra mile.



Filipino “Diskarte” Amid Coronavirus Crisis: Homemade Face Masks

Filipino people have a way with finding creative solutions to all kinds of problems.

This Filipino trait is known as diskarte.

A serious problem most people have at the moment here in Italy is how and where to find face masks to protect themselves from Covid 19.

I don’t have any problems in this regard because my wife comes from the land of diskarte so I have my personal collection of homemade face masks.

Face masks are almost impossible to find in this country at the moment but, a couple of weeks before the nation-wide lockdown was introduced, I already had my Filipino-made masks.

I am not quite sure about the actual effectiveness of these masks against the virus, but grocery stores won’t let me in without one, so these ones should do their job and grant me access to the nearest supermarket.

It’s getting tough here…..

New restrictions coming…

Barbecue (BBQ) in the Philippines and Among Filipinos in Italy

In the Philippines it is all about food and the expressions kumain ka na? (“have you eaten?”) and kain ka (“have some food”) or “meryenda ka” are the expressions that immediately follow kumusta ka? (“how are you?”) when you visit a Filipino home.

This happens both in the Philippines and among OFW in my country.

Filipinos love food and every street in the Philippines is lined with food stalls and eateries.

Both in the Philippines and in my country Filipinos have social gatherings or salu-salo as often as they can.

In winter salu-salos take place indoors while between spring and autumn Filipinos who live in Rome take advantage of the fact that Rome has plenty of parks and that the weather is, more often than not, ideal to gather outside and mag-ihaw or prepare barbecue marinade.

The basic ingredients used to make barbecue marinade, at least the way they do it here, and the way my Filipino wife does it, are soy sauce, ground black pepper, lemon juice, banana ketchup, garlic, onion and brown sugar.

Filipinos just love it.

The problem is that, for most Filipinos here in Rome, BBQ is something that they cannot afford to do as often as they do it in the Philippines because they live in apartments and, although most apartments here in Rome do have a balcony or a terrace, chances are that neighbors will complain if Filipinos dare using their balcony to BBQ, as Italians like hanging their clothes on the balcony and they hate wearing “smoked” clothes.

The only Filipinos who can BBQ on their terraces or balconies are the ones who have the luck to live on the last floor of an apartment building, in a penthouse (that can be hard to find in Rome and pretty expensive).

A typical apartment building in Rome

What’s the solution then?

There is no other option then than either wait for warmer days and BBQ in a park or buy an electric grill, one of those that can even be used indoors.

My wife and I have one and it does its job, this way my Filipino wife’s cravings for BBQ are satisfied all-year-round…