Losing my Filipino-ness

After 20 years of living outside the Philippines, I can say that I’m losing some of my Filipino-ness. Filipino-ness? Is that even a word?

No, it is not that I don’t eat tuyo anymore. Nor that I don’t point with my lips anymore. Nor did I lose my Filipino accent and speak with an American twang now. It’s not any of those.

What I lost are some traits that we Filipinos are known for, but I believe we would be better off without them. Here are the traits:

1. Filipino Time

This trait I have not really picked up, even when I was still in the Philippines. I hate to wait for people, as well as I don’t like people waiting up on me.

Why are we fashionably late anyway? If our appointed time is at 7 o’clock, we feel it’s OK if we come at 7:30 or 8:00, or even later than that. We justify that Filipino time is still better than Indian time, that is not showing up at all. (I have no clue why we Pinoy call it Indian time, and for my Indian friends, please forgive us.)

Even our salawikain gives an excuse for this: “Huli man at magaling naihahabol rin.” I think the better proverb for us would be: “Huli man at magaling, huli pa rin!

It is not good to be late, ever. In school, or in business world, or just even among friends.

2. Making “singit.”

No, it is not sing it. I know Filipino likes to sing, but this is something else. Singit means cutting in line. I would admit, I have done this before, when I was much younger. But not anymore.

We think it is “abilidad” if we can cut in line and make things faster for ourselves, not thinking of other people who lined up fair and square. Whether it is cutting in line at a check-out counter, or jostling in bus stop stations, or cutting lanes in traffic, these all boils down to our lack of self-discipline.

The only thing that I believe these people who likes to make “singit” deserves, is “kurot sa singit!”

3. Talangka mentality.

Filipinos love sea foods, including the crab. But this has nothing to do with our fondness of crabs. I have observed that we Filipinos like to pull down other people to elevate ourselves. Whether they are our office mates, neighbors, or “friends” (what a real friend we are).

Sadly to say, that even in our own Filipino organizations, outside the Philippines, I have witnessed humor-mongering and bickering among us kababayan. If we don’t like the leaders, we form our own organization to counter the other. “Pataasan ng ihi!”

It is not surprising then, why I am not a member of any Filipino organizations or clubs.


image from here

4. Kumpare system

There is nothing wrong with getting people that we like as our kumpare or kumadre. But many times we use this to get unfair advantage. We say, “kumpare ko si mayor,” or “kumpare ko si Kapitan (Baranggay Captain), and thus we can get away with what we want. We use even the faintest connection to an “authority” to get a pass. “Kumpare ko iyong pinsan ng kapitbahay ng querida ni General.”

We even flash a business card that is signed by a Police Chief or Vice Mayor, whom we say is our friend, when we are caught so we will not get a ticket for a traffic violation. I will not say that I don’t like to have a signed card like that, when I was still living in the Philippines. But it does not work here where I live now.

Why can’t we get our advantage fairly, through our hard work and by our own merits?

5.“Pwede na” and “Bahala na”

You have heard those terms and know them very well. I would be lying if I say that I have not used them before. But I have evolved.

We have the tendency to take short cuts if we can, and want the easy way out. We don’t strive hard enough to give our best, if there’s a less demanding way to do it, even if the result is sub par. “Pwede na ‘yan”“Pasado pa rin naman” we countered.

Or worse yet, we leave our destiny to luck. We are fatalistic – “Bahala na.” “Swerte swerte lang talaga,” we reasoned.

What I believe is that success is much more of “perspiration” rather than of good fortune.


So these are traits that I don’t want to be identified with. Don’t get me wrong, I love my heritage, and I am proud to be a Filipino. But there are certain Filipino-ness, or traits, just like the above, that we as a people, can shed, and not hurt our identity a bit.

Besides, I can still be identified as a Filipino by many other things, like when my clothes smells like piniritong isda, or when I blurt “Aray” when I bump my knee.

You know you’re a Filipino if……

Last week, our friends came back after a short vacation in the Philippines. They gave us pasalubong: 2 boxes of Iya’s pastillas, a pack of Choc-Nut (my favorite chocolate), and a book entitled “You know you’re a FIlipino if…..”

By the way, feeling compelled to bring pasalubong to your family and friends every time you return from a trip, is definitely a Filipino trait.

I have read some tidbits and pieces of this “you know you’re a Filipino if…” in the past from the internet, but I was thrilled on reading the compilation of these in a book. (As if I don’t know what being a FIlipino is.) I like it so much I read the book in one sitting. In fact, I finished it in less than 15 minutes!

Here are some Filipino traits mentioned in the book that rings very true to me:

1. You have uncles and aunts named Boy, Girlie and Baby.

And for extra point, I even have an aunt named Nene.

2. You call your friends’ parents and your own parent’s friends Tito and Tita.

When we taught our kids to do the same, it confused them, as they really thought they were all relatives.

3. Your grandmother greets you by smelling your cheek.

Come to think of it, I also give my kids a “sniffing” kiss.

4. You shower at least once a day.

I thought all people do this. But as I found out, not all culture is compelled to take a shower everyday. Some do it only when it is their birthday!

5. You call a toilet “CR” as short for comfort room.

When I first arrived here in the US, I asked a stranger where is the comfort room and I got a blank look. They never call it that. They call them restrooms or bathrooms. Needless to say, it delayed easing my discomfort.

6. You keep a “tabo” in your bathroom.

Even when we are traveling and staying in a hotel, we use whatever makeshift container as tabo.

7. You eat with your hands.

Other cultures may view this as gross. But how can you eat tuyo with a fork?

8. You love to eat what others mistakenly refer to as “rotting fish.”

Our kids will pinch their nose when we are cooking fried fish, tuyo or danggit.

9. Your second piece of luggage is a balikbayan box.

But now that we are only allowed 50 pounds of luggage in an airplane, this makes it difficult to fill a balikbayan box.

10. You point with your lips.

This comes handy when someone ask you for direction and you are holding a bayong in one hand and an umbrella with the other.

11. You hold your palms together in front of you and say “Excuse, excuse” when you pass in between people or in front of the TV.

Why we do this, I really don’t know.

12. You respond to a “Hoy” or a “Pssst” in a crowd.

I try not to call someone by this anymore, but I would probably still turn around if somebody do this.

13. You use ambiguous words like “kwan” and “ano” and yet be perfectly understood by other Filipinos.

Ano ka nang ano, hindi ka naman inaano, pag ako na-kwan, aanuhin kita, ma-kwan ka diyan.

14. Your sneeze sounds like “A-ching” instead of “A-choo.”

Do you also wonder why our rooster says “tik-ti-laok” and not “cock-a-doodle-doo?”

15. Instead of “I beg you pardon” you say “Ha?”

Ha? Huh? Ha?

You know you’re a Filipino if you find these items in your home. (These are just a few I found lying around our home.)