Power to the Pinoy: Pinoy fears we need to get rid of to get ahead

By Lalaine Chu Benitez


Filipino Attitude: Pinoy fears we need to get rid of to get ahead


These neOur forefathers have done us well, imbuing us with Filipino values like love for family, friendliness, and resilience, among other things.  These keep us connected to each other as a community, and have endeared us to other people across the globe.  However, not all that is inherited is positive – some of the traits and attitudes ingrained in us affect us adversely and prevent us from progressing.gative influences, fears and hesitations are magnified, especially abroad where we need to adapt to a more global lifestyle and keep ourselves competitive versus our multicultural peers.


Are we generalizing? Perhaps?  But these are quite commonplace within the Filipino-sphere that they are worth pointing out. So kababayans, face your fear –


Fear of speaking out or speaking in English

Growing up, we were told to hold our tongue, “wag sumali sa usapan ng mga matanda”’ (don’t get involved in adult conversation), “wag sabat ng sabat” (don’t butt in), “wag pala-sagot” (don’t answer/reason out).  No wonder, most of us are apprehensive to speak up in general.  Unfortunately, out here, we need to be the opposite and talk with confidence, sometimes, even raise our voices to be heard.


Sometimes, it’s the lack of confidence in speaking in English, or being ‘F and P challenged’ that keep us silent, or intimidated to open our mouths.  We have our own kabayan grammar and pronunciation ‘Nazis,’ especially on social media. Have you seen how they are so brutally critical of our beauty queens when they can’t speak flawless English?  Look at other nationalities, though.  They might speak imperfect, sometimes broken English, but that has not stopped them from succeeding in life.  Yes, even at the workplace.  English is only a tool, a means to communicate just like any other language. One’s English prowess is NOT the sum total of their entire intellectual capacity.


So, regardless of your English proficiency score or your confidence level – speak up, speak your mind, and speak louder.  Nobody’s going to bother to hear you if you don’t assert yourself.


Fear of standing out

We take comfort in conformity and keeping a low key presence.  It’s evident in the way we speak in hushed tones, the way we dress mostly just like everybody else, and how we put our hands together and “attempt to shrink” when we pass in front of a crowd .  We were taught to be humble – “wag mayabang,” and to not call attention to ourselves.  Humility is so revered in our culture that we seem to look at people who are more assertive with disapproval.  Don’t stand out or be the “bida,” lest you be called “atribida” or “ma-epal.”  Then there’s the woman who is forward – the “maldita.”  When someone says or does something out of the ordinary, folks would say “eh di ikaw na ang magaling,” as though the deed was done to show-off. Dress more than the usual and some Pinoys might ask, “Saan ang binyag?”  “Saan ang kasalan?”  Unfortunately, in our community, being overly critical is a popular sport, with our own kababayans playing the role of meddling kontrabida.


But who cares, right?  Shed this hesitation by building confidence in yourself and allowing yourself to shine unfettered by others’ conditioned views.  And the next time somebody tells you – “eh di ikaw na,” you should answer with full conviction – “oo, ako na nga at wala nang iba.”


Filipino Attitude: Pinoy fears we need to get rid of to get ahead


Fear of mingling with other cultures

“Why do Filipinos only mix with their kind?” foreigners would sometimes ask.  They have a point.  Attend any multicultural event and chances are, you would see Filipinos chatting only with other Filipinos.  Perhaps we are just shy; uncomfortable to talk to people who don’t speak our language?  Maybe, we just don’t know what to say, or how to break the ice?


Or perhaps, there are deeper roots to our hesitation to mingle with others?  We have always been conditioned to be clannish.  We are so used to identifying each other as Tagalog, Bisaya, taga-provincia, taga ciudad, etc.  When in fact, all of us are really, at the heart of it – ‘Filipinos’ and that commonality is felt even stronger the farther you go away from the homeland.


Don’t miss out on the opportunity of learning from others and making new friends because of ingrained timidity or insularity.  Instead, utilize that signature Filipino smile and introduce yourself.  Talk about the weather, if nothing else.  Take interest in other people.  That’s where you start.



Fear of being ambitious and more successful

Philippine literary legend Nick Joaquin once wrote about the Filipino’s Heritage of Smallness – on how our society is predisposed to thinking, always – in small scale.  Case in point, the baranggay, bahay kubo, sari-sari store, tingi, isang kahig isang tuka, etc.  The same concepts still stand today, add to that, phrases that segregate like “pang masa,”pang sosyal” or “pang mayaman,” or the self-limiting ideas of “Pinoy lang ako” or “okay na yan.”  All these, seem to promote, not only “smallness”, but also mediocrity, the willingness to settle for less, low self-esteem, even the lack of faith in oneself.


Most of us were raised to be content with a “simpleng buhay.”  And there is nothing wrong with being happy with a simple existence.  That is, unless it kills your spirit, your passion and potential, making you believe that you are less than what you can truly be.  And if it stops you from asking for what you deserve in life. Then again, demanding what you deserve is a whole other story.  You cannot even begin to aspire, let alone, ask for what you want, if you cannot see beyond the “small” blinders.



We should unshackle ourselves from all these inherited ideas and beliefs that prevent us from leveraging endless possibilities.  These fears hinder our chances of fulfilling our potential and being able to stand with the rest of the international community as equals.  It doesn’t make us less Filipino when we shed some of the ideas which were handed down to us by our elders.  Our job is to allow what is good to continue to shape us, and build something better from the negatives that limit us.



Lalaine Chu Benitez

Editor-in-Chief and aspiring urban farmer “almost superwoman” Lalaine has been driving Illustrado’s mission to uplift Filipinos in the region for almost a decade now.  A former corporate dynamo living in Dubai for over 20 years, she has seen enough to appreciate that the best things in life can’t be bought, and that in this day and age, authenticity could be one’s best asset.



More Pinoy Power on Illustrado Life. 


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