The national Pride of the Filipinos – Strength and References



All Filipinos want to be something else. The poor ones want to be Americans, and the rich ones all want to be Spaniards. Nobody wants to be Filipino ", writes the American author Suretsky quoting a remark of one of his friends. His article “Inferiority Complex: A Filipino Malady?” aroused considerable public attention in the Philippines. Not quite so provocative, the author puts himself: „The basic problem seems to me, after many years of observation, to be a national inferiority complex, a disturbing lack of pride in being Filipino. a lack of self-love, of respect for and love of the country in which they were born“ (1). Quintin D. Andres formulates concisely: "Filipinos in general have an inferiority complex" (2)(3). Not only in the literature, references can be found with regard to an alleged minority feeling of the Filipinos. The impression to be still colonized underdogs is also an often-discussed topic in the Philippine Internet.  In this context not a few writers complain about the continuing "self-flagellation" of the Filipinos. Mostly however, the writers exclude an inferiority complex for themselves, but see its existence at others.

So, in the prevailing public opinion the view is predominant that the national pride of the Filipinos is underdeveloped and that there are inferiority feelings toward the Western world in broader sections of the population. Only a smaller youth study from the late nineties, presented by the SWS survey institute, shows different results and contradicts the majority opinion (4). The survey showed that 69 percent of interviewed young people were "very proud" and 24 percent "rather proud" of their country. Considering these results, we could ask, if the "Inferiority Complex" and "Colonial Mentality" is only a phantasm, an obsession of publicists - or should there be a change in attitudes?

In the following, we try to answer this question. We should annotate that - regardless of collective settings - a feeling of inferiority with regard to individuals can be evident, it can be covered or it is in the case of a  very self-confident or ignorant person  not or nearly not  present. Not only the extent of the assumed inferiority can be determined exactly, also the reasons for it remain often in a speculative frame.

We try to approach the topic on three levels. We first examine possible historical and cultural backgrounds, then we ask for references in economic and technical areas and then we lead up - without wishing to publish racist sounding texts - to physical aspects.

A. Historical and cultural aspects

In the general esteem the family is traditionally hold in very high regard and comes first. Its intimacy and solidarity are appreciated. Then often follows the affiliation to a barangay, a specific province. For example people are proud to be an Ilocano or Bicolano. In the past, this provincialism was abused by the Spaniards in the suppression of local revolts when they recruited auxiliary troops from other parts of the country. The national idea was up to the middle of the 19th century out of consideration.

Again and again we find in the Philippine literature the complaint that Filipinos would have only poor knowledge of their own history and this could also explain their weak national pride. Nathan Gilbert Quimpo writes:

„The educational system continues to miseducate Filipinos by glorifying the boons of continuing foreign domination at the expense of indigenous culture.  School children learn very little of their country´s history, especially of the heroic resistance of their ancestors to American occupation (5) “.

We are here not in the position to judge the presence or absence of historical knowledge of the Filipino people. But even a better knowledge of the relatively short national history can sadden. Is it arrogant, to say, that the Philippine history, has only a reduced number of specular highlights?  

The historical events in the archipelago before the arrival of Spanish colonizers are largely lost in the mists of history. We know only, that there was an decentralized rural barangay- or little kingdom-culture. Only few written documents have come down to us. Some of them have been destroyed by the Spaniards.

However, there is an impressive construction that was begun in about 2000 years ago and which competes - together with the Great Wall, the Acropolis or the St. Peter's Basilica – for the title "8th Wonder of the World". We mean the irrigation terraces around Banaue in northern Luzon. It is a unique agro-technical work and an important cultural and historical monument. The terraced fields cling for miles and miles spectacularly with a wealth of forms on the steep mountain slopes. Unfortunately, too little is being done for its conservation and better tourist development.

In 1521 Magellan lands with three ships east of Samar. After concluding some peace contracts with native chiefs, he meets five weeks after his arrival on the island of Mactan the tribal chieftain Lapu-Lapu, who is not willing to submit to the Spanish colonialists and is ready to fight. Magellan, who has at the time of combat only about 60 soldiers, gets killed. Today Lapu-Lapu, whose figure is not well known, is regarded as national hero. For some Filipinos the veneration of Lapu-Lapu - the man of action, not just words – is not congruous enough. They call for a huge monument in Luneta on the side of the mortal remains of Rizal. And why not giving an airport his name?

Until 1898, the Philippines were a Spanish colony. For Nathan Quimpo the Spanish colonial regiment was in nearly every aspect a racist one:

”The Spanish colonialists pursued a blatantly racialist policy in their colonies. Their treatment of the Indios, whom they regarded as belonging to the "primitive" and "inferior races" and as fit to be to be enslaved or subjugated, is already well known to present-day Filipinos. (5)”.

And M. C. Garbon criticizes harshly:

 “The Spanish colonization was a period of Filipino sufferings. Filipinos were treated ruthlessly and were brought about their lack of ethnic pride. They were caught in a hierarchy of inferiority …  The recurring reminder of the Filipinos weakness marked into the minds of the citizens and as a result until the present they still feel inferior and uncomfortable around foreign races"  (6) .

The following fifty-year colonization by the Americans is also accompanied with attempts of cultural brainwashing. Efforts were made to transfer to the Filipinos alleged higher American identity characteristics and to impose them a system of norms and values of American origin.

How to handle with the assumed harmful Spanish and American heritage? No one will probably get the idea to abolish Catholicism in the country and to put down the old churches in Mexican Baroque. The Spanish architectural heritage has become an integral part of Filipino culture. - As part of the competitive world economy the Philippines cannot abstain from western performance standards. And a further reduction of English language teaching can only be detrimental to economic progress.

It sounds like heresy – but the question may be allowed, whether the colonial experience is really a centuries lasting mortgage or whether the historical back-reference is only an attempt of fast assignment of blame.

A country can be proud on his historical heroes. In 1993, ex-president Fidel Ramos appointed a National Heroes Committee even with the ascertainment of "heroes." Right at the beginning It was evident and indisputable that Jose Rizal and Andres Bonifacio (7) should be included in the list of heroes. Surely – Rizal promoted the Philippine independence by his writings, but we should also mention that he considered the Philippine Revolution of 1898 as too early. Instead he called for a confederation with Spain and the representation of the Philippines in the Spanish Cortez. After two years of consultation, the committee nominated six other persons:

• Muhammad Dipatuan Kudarat (1581-1671) - He fought in Mindanao against the Spaniards and the Christianization of the island

• Gabriela Silang (1731-1763) - After the death of her husband she took over the leadership of a revolt against the Spanish for four months. After lost battles she was executed by the Spaniards.  In this context it remains a mystery why her husband Diego was not included in the list because he led the revolt for much longer. Diego Silang fought in his time only for the independence of the province Ilocano (8)

• Emilio Aguinaldo (1869-1964) - Military leaders, politicians, president of the first Philippine Republic - Emilio Aguinaldo, the revolutionary leader and president of the first Philippine Republic deserves to be listed. But the heroic gloss has also dark spots. He signed the execution order for Andres Bonifacio and initiated the execution paths of the hot-blooded General Antonio. For 800,000 pesos reward – given by the Spanish rulers - he accepted the renunciation of the revolutionary leadership. Later, he fought the American troops, but later he swore the "Oath of allegiance" to the Americans. In the 2nd World War he is in solidarity with the Japanese occupation forces.

• Apolinario Mabini (1864-1903) - paraplegic intellectual head of the revolution. He formulated as secretary of the Interior from today's perspective a very progressive constitution (9)

• Marcelo de Pilar (1850-1896) - as journalist, editor and revolutionary leader, one of the leaders of the Illustrados

• Melchora Aquino (1812-1919) - revolutionary from a humble background, which rendered her services in particular to the care of wounded soldiers

• Juan Luna (1857-1899) - Filipino painter

It is noteworthy that on this official list the name of Lapu-Lapu does not appear.

Let's stay with the politicians. In the Internet statements can be found, which pretend that incompetent, corrupt politicians contribute also to the national shame. And in fact – a study of the inaugural speeches of the Philippine post-war presidents shows regularly an enormous discrepancy between their political goals and the actual results of their actions. Most promises were, or could not be kept. The political instability in the country continues to the present day. In this context, we mention only the keywords mass poverty, inadequate land reform, NPA-revolts and the separatism in the south of the country.

There are still other unofficial and longer lists of “heroes” in the Internet.  A list has the names of 42 personalities, including, for example, the composer and the lyricist of the Philippine National Anthem. The question, if all candidates should belong to the “pantheon of heroes“ is at least discussable.

Let's change the subject and bring up the question: What literary figures have an international reputation? The answer depends also on the literature horizon and is probably   different. We are sure, that Francisco Balthazar (1788-1862) with his early epic poem, "Florante at Laura" is only known to a few literary specialists. A prominent position has certainly Jose Rizal with his novels “Noli Me Tangere” and “El Filibusterismo”. But then the selection becomes smaller. If we add also authors, living and publishing in the United States, we could mention also less known authors like Carlos Bulosan, Francisco Sionil Jose, Jessica Hagedorn, Ninotchka Rosca, Jose Garcia Villa and E. San Juan Jr. Translations into German language are in very sorry state. The number of publications here in Germany can be counted on one hand.

Universities and colleges are certainly cultural institutions. The Philippines has hundreds of them. QS Quacquarelli Symonds has recently released a list of Top Universities in Asia 2010. We find only two universities of the Philippines, which are under the top 100 Asian universities. The Ateoneo de Manila is holding the position 58 and the University of the Philippines has position 78. These positions are not fully satisfying, but we have also to consider that nowadays scientific outstanding performances are not only a question of qualifications of scientists; they also depend on the amount of financial sponsoring or government contributions (13).

Pop culture and entertainment is also – perhaps on a lower level - belonging to the cultural inventory of a country. Here many stars are shining and the list of prominent figures is probably longer than such of the authors. We mention only the name of Freddie Aguilar, Gary Valenciano, Regine Velasquez and Lea Salonga. The Madrigal Singers of the University of the Philippines are also offering classical choral music.

B. Economic and technical aspects

A nearer look at the economic and technical achievements of the country does not give cause to great enthusiasm. With regard to the year 2009 a gross national product per capita of only 3,300 US$ is estimated. The Philippines are surpassing the level of India (3,100 U.S. $) and Vietnam (2,900 U.S. $) just slightly. Only Laos (2,100 U.S. $) and Cambodia (1,900 U.S. $) are much lower. The Philippines are already surpassed by China (6,600 U.S. $) and Indonesia (U.S. $ 4,000). The gross national product per capita in South Korea, Taiwan and Japan is nine to ten times higher than in the Philippines (10). Because of the relatively weak economic development, the Philippines are sometimes called “sick man of Asia".

In evaluating these figures, we have also to consider, that Japan and South Korea suffered also considerable damages in World War II. The optimistic economic outlook for the Philippines after the war was an illusionary one and the expectations were not fulfilled. The economic policy instruments proved to be quite blunt. Predominant was a policy in favour of the old economy business cliques and oligarchs. The land remained largely an agricultural country, certainly, because the American colonists never promoted the industrialization of the Philippines. They preferred to export their own manufactured goods in exchange for agricultural products from the Philippines. But world prices for agricultural goods showed in the following decades more of a downward trend.

The statistics on poverty in the country is depressing. Different definitions of poverty result in different numbers. Here only a quotation from Niklas Reese: "The rate of the absolute poor, who have only a cash of one dollar a day is for years at around 40% (11).

The number of people, who - in the absence of sufficiently paid job at home - are working in abroad is estimated at least at 8.5 million. A more precise number of the "children of diaspora”, as they were also called, is not available.  The number of illegal workers in abroad is not recordable by the official statistics.

The preference for foreign products still exists and it is for some observers still part of the "colonial mentality". Foreign products have for the most part the advantage of qualitative image benefits. The sometimes irrational preference for foreign products promotes not only numerous smuggling operations into the Philippines, it also destroys potential job, which are so important for the country. In the recent years the Federation of Philippine Industry and the Chambers of Commerce have tried to valorize the image of national produced goods by marketing campaigns. The general slogan was "Buy Filipino", it was also an appeal to the national pride of the Filipinos. It remains to be seen, how effective these campaigns are. It is surely difficult to change rigidified buying preferences with short-term actions. However, there are some observers believing that the level of quality of Philippine products slowly improves.

People can also be proud, if a country has several companies with high economic performance and stronger international market penetration. The magazine FORTUNE for example is ranking the 500 global giants and the 50 biggest companies in Asia. However, the two lists show no Philippine company. To the knowledge of the author, only three Philippine companies that have at least on the Southeast Asia market, a larger market share: It is the San Miguel Corporation (food, drinks) (12) , Jollibee Foods Corporation (fast food chain) (13) and the Del Monte Pacific Ltd. (canned fruits, juices).

A fast-development nation like the Philippines will probably have only a shorter phase of industrialization. Stronger economic growth impulses are expected from the service sector. Especially the IT sector is relevant. It remains to be seen whether there will be a qualitative upgrading from the nowadays predominant administrative computer services to more innovative, more sophisticated computer activities.

In our footnotes we mentioned already the name of Eduardo Conjuangco and Tony Caktiong. They are belonging to the group of Chinoys (Tsinoys, which often have key positions in the economy of the Philippines. Many of them emigrated two or three generations ago from southern China. Often they started from humble beginnings but with the help of their Chinese community. A few are now owners of business empires in the country. We mention only the Conjuangco clan ( San Miguel Corp., PLDT), Lucio Tan (Fortune Tobacco, Allied Bank, PNB, PAL), John Gokongwei (PCI-Bank, Digital Telecom, Cebu Air), Alfonso Yuchengco (companies in the finance and insurance sector), Henry Sy (retail king - SM Group) and George Ty (Metrobank, Bank of Philippine Islands). An earlier article of the author portraits these entrepreneurs and their backgrounds more closely (14). It is not our intention to create here divisions between the former immigrants and the indigenous Filipinos. Undoubtedly, the Chinoys today are an integral and respected part of Philippine society. Nevertheless, it is worth thinking about the overrepresentation of Chinoys in top level positions. Hundred thousands of sari-sari shops show that Filipinos have also the disposition for entrepreneurial spirit, but many of them they don’t reach the next higher level of business.

Another source of national pride can be a higher number of international recognized inventors and scientists. The Internet shows several lists of “famous” Filipino candidates.  But, as we will see, some of them are falling through the sieve after being checked.

It is necessary to make a preliminary remark. In general, inventions require higher financial investments grants – that is one reason why highly qualified Filipinos are often forced to go abroad. Furthermore, inventions are often based on preceding inventions and they are today often the result of teamwork. The single inventor has become a rarity. These facts are not always sufficient known by some authors of such lists.

We checked one of several lists of "Filipino Inventors and Scientists"(15) and compared it with articles from wikipedia. Wikipedia articles are sometimes controversial. Nevertheless, we take the view that wikipedia – compared with other public encyclopedias – offers a broad and to a large extent validated knowledge. The list shows a whole lot of "inventors". But from the lay perspective it is nearly impossible to assess the level of inventiveness.  

Here some critical findings:

- Pedro Flores is considered the inventor of the Yo-Yo-roll. But he marketed this - in the   Philippines for centuries played game - in the U.S. only on a larger scale.

- Agapito Flores has been designated as the inventor of the fluorescent tube. But there is no mentioning of his name in the relevant article in wikipedia.

 - Roberto Del Rosario is regarded as the inventor of the karaoke system. According to wikipedia his "minus-one music" system is only a forerunner invention.

- Eduardo San Juan is mentioned as the inventor of the lunar vehicle. According to wikipedia, the NASA has not listed his name as co-constructor. Wikipedia mentions other names.

- Gregorio Y. Zara should be the inventor of the video telephone. Here, too, wikipedia mentions only the ATT development teams and the Deutsche Reichspost.

- Finally, we have to mention Daniel Dingel, who claimed he had invented a hydrogen reactor. With its help, a car could run a car with only water. Even the presentation of the model car met strong suspicions. Now the Philippines DOST- Institution claims officially that the invention to be false.

Let us close the chapter on economic and technical aspects with the notice, that the country’s infrastructure is still insufficient. We refer here only to topics like road transport, port development, energy supply, environmental recycling and vocational training.

C. Physical Aspects

Filipinos are generally of smaller stature and they often have a smaller nose than the so-called Caucasian-white race. What does the smaller stature mean in the fields of competitive sports?

National pride can also refer to the number of Olympic medals. The medals figure as an indicator for national competence and strength. Even “coach potatoes” can join the jubilation. Successes in international competitive sport follow the maxim "higher, faster, and farther" and depend surely on many factors like financial sponsoring and training support.  Many disciplines - especially in the track and field athletics – require a longer body size and here are the small sized Filipinos often in a hopeless position, even if their body size became taller in the last decades. Nevertheless, the results in the past are not so minimal to suffer from depression. Filipino athletes have - since their first participation in the Olympic Summer Games in 1924 - never won a gold medal, but at least nine other medals. Mostly boxers have been medal winners.  

One of the outstanding boxing sportsmen has called the government for more support of the Philippine Olympic participants. We talk about the boxer Manny Pacquiao, who has a more than impressive fighting statistic. In his 51 professional fights in the course of twelve years he achieved 45 wins (including 38 by knockout), three fights ended in a draw and only three losses, he had to accept. He started in the flyweight and is now fighting in the heavier welterweight division. Never before in the boxing history has a boxer managed to gain nine world championship titles in seven weight classes. Manny Pacquiao can now boast himself to be one of the few modern undisputed national heroes of the Philippines (16). Let us hope that his reputation does not volatize too quickly in the seats of the Philippine House of Representatives.

Let us turn to the female gender. Filipino women don’t want to be - it's not very surprising - "dark, short, fat and ugly", and often they adapt Western ideals of beauty. Cosmetic jars promise to help. In this context, the journalist Randy David criticized the frequent use of bleaching body creams ("skin whiteners") by Filipino women. He criticizes the use of "whiteners” as an "epidemic", a "neurosis." It is an "internalized colonial subjugation”, he is writing (17).

Parenthesis: Don’t know the frustrated women the story about the creation of the races of man? It goes shortly as follow:  When the Lord baked the human races in his oven, he suffered some troubles with regard to the right heat adjustment of his oven. One day the temperature was too low – the result was the white race. The other day the temperature was too hot – that was the origin of the black race. But then the Lord got the right heat adjustment and he was very happy, when he saw the creation of the light brown Filipinos.

There are in the Philippines more than a few money-grubbing plastic surgeons promising help to women, which desire a western or at least a mestizalike appearance. These cosmetic surgeons are offering nose bridge and nose tip extensions, breast augmentation and eyelid corrections. We wrote a gloss on this subject (18). To avoid misunderstandings – nobody denies that also for western women at least vanity boxes are an absolute necessity.

D. National cheers

The glamorous Imelda Marcos was worried about the national reputation in her own grotesque way. Asked about her life of luxury on the one hand and the deep poverty of broad parts of the population on the other hand she should have explained in an interview with the German magazine STERN :

 "We Filipinos lived but always in an identity crisis, had complexes against our colonial masters and plunderers from Spain, Japan and the USA. I only tried my best, so we look good for state visits overseas. My pompous demeanor, my great dresses, precious jewelry: All just mask.“(19)

A good presentation was important for her. Nevertheless, it is much in doubt, if she could improve the image of the Philippines at home and in abroad by her masquerade.

The newly elected President Aquino III is apparently aware of the problem of disturbed Philippine national feeling, otherwise he would not have made an issue about it in one of his first speeches. He criticized in his speech the disdain of the historical past of the country, the prevailing selfishness, the performance apathy and the culture of blame shifting in the country. Then he formulated with much pathos,

 "I believe the blood that runs in our veins is the blood of heroes. We’re a nation of heroes.”

But in the following of his speech he appeals a kind of moderated citizen heroism.

“There are many ways to heroism in the present times, and there’s no need for guns or spears, no need to shed blood ... To be a good and responsible citizen, that's heroic enough" (20).

So he clearly moves away from the classical hero cult and veneration and he is pleading for a kind of everyday life heroism, which could be realized by many. An example could be a single poorer woman, who succeeds in giving her children a better education and life perspective.

Perhaps national pride should be found in other, more modest dimensions. Approaches for such a modest orientation can be found in the Internet when the mostly young writers are writing that they were proud of the Philippines because of

-  the family solidarity,
-  the smiling nonchalance and the adaptability of the Filipinos,
-  the beauties of nature and last not least
-  the attractive women.

These references are not exclusive national features. Nevertheless, such features could - besides the traditional morning flag appeals - also build up a more robust national pride, which is not so sensitive as it happens sometimes in the past. And this pride should not shout from the rooftops, because as the saying goes: With the wind, you make yourself, you cannot fill your sails.

© Wolfgang Bethge, 2010

(1) Barth Suretsky, A Point of View Inferiority Complex: A Filipino Malady? in:

(2) Tomas Quintin D. Andres, Positive Filipino Values, p.95


(4) The Situation of Filipino Youth: A National Survey, Social Weather Stations, in:

(5) Nathan Gilbert Quimpo, Colonial Name, Colonial Mentality and Ethnocentrism, in: http://

(6)MC Garbon, Colonial Mentality: A Filipino Heritage? in:

(7) see Wolfgang Bethge, Der tragische Kampf des Andres Bonifacio, in:

(8) see: Wolfgang Bethge, Diego and Gabriela Silang - Los Indios Bravos, in:

(9) see: Wolfgang Bethge, Suchrätsel - Mabini, in:

(10) See: CIA World Factbook, https:/ & # rp

(11) Niklas Reese, Armut unter Palmen  in: Reese / Werning (ed.): Philippines, Bad Honnef, p. 54

(12) San Miguel Corporation is engaged in the sectors of food, beverages and packaging, and achieved in 2008 with about 26,000 employees in forty countries a turnover of 227 billion PHP. Hold shares have the Japanese Kirin Brewery (~ 20%), public insurance institutions (~ 12 percent), the SM Investment Corp., (~ 11%; Henry Sy) and the ECJ-Companies (~ 17%). ECJ is belonging to Eduardo Conjuangco Jr., who is also the Chairman and CEO of the San Miguel Corporation.