Why Are Filipinos So Poor?

Updated: June 26, 2021

Just the other day, I was organizing my book shelf when I saw a novel which my Humanities teacher assigned for us to review back in college.

It was Viajero by F. Sionil José.

This novel is about the Filipino diaspora as seen through the eyes of an orphan who is brought to the United States by an American captain. The plot is closely similar to the cathartic experiences of David Poarch, if you know him.

Anyway, browsing through the pages of the book, I’m saddened by the fact that much of the details of the story is now lost in my memory. Nevertheless, I do distinctly remember being close to tears back then upon reading one of the climactic chapters of the novel.

As I went on and finished my chore, I am reminded of another work by F. Sionil José. It’s an essay which I read as a forwarded email years ago. And so I went to my computer and logged in to search for that archived message.

Thankfully, it was still there and I’d like to share that composition here. It’s quite long but please take some time to read it and hopefully, it will inspire you to become an agent of change for other Filipinos.


Why Are Filipinos So Poor?

By F. Sionil José

What did South Korea look like after the Korean War in 1953? Battered, poor – but look at Korea now. In the Fifties, the traffic in Taipei was composed of bicycles and army trucks, the streets flanked by tile-roofed low buildings. Jakarta was a giant village and Kuala Lumpur a small village surrounded by jungle and rubber plantations. Bangkok was criss-crossed with canals, the tallest structure was the Wat Arun, the Temple of the Sun, and it dominated the city’s skyline. Rice fields all the way from Don Muang airport – then a huddle of galvanized iron-roofed bodegas, to the Victory monument.

Visit these cities today and weep – for they are more beautiful, cleaner and prosperous than Manila. In the Fifties and Sixties, we were the most envied country in Southeast Asia. Remember further that when Indonesia got its independence in 1949, it had only 114 university graduates compared with the hundreds of Ph.D.’s that were already in our universities. Why then were we left behind? The economic explanation is simple. We did not produce cheaper and better products.

The basic question really is why we did not modernize fast enough and thereby doomed our people to poverty. This is the harsh truth about us today. Just consider these: some 15 years ago a survey showed that half of all grade school pupils dropped out after grade 5 because they had no money to continue schooling. Thousands of young adults today are therefore unable to find jobs. Our natural resources have been ravaged and they are not renewable. Our tremendous population increase eats up all of our economic gains. There is hunger in this country now; our poorest eat only once a day. But this physical poverty is really not as serious as the greater poverty that afflicts us and this is the poverty of the spirit.

Why then are we poor? More than ten years ago, James Fallows, editor of the Atlantic Monthly, came to the Philippines and wrote about our damaged culture which, he asserted, impeded our development. Many disagreed with him but I do find a great deal of truth in his analysis.

This is not to say that I blame our social and moral malaise on colonialism alone. But we did inherit from Spain a social system and an elite that, on purpose, exploited the masses. Then, too, in the Iberian peninsula, to work with one’s hands is frowned upon and we inherited that vice as well. Colonialism by foreigners may no longer be what it was, but we are now a colony of our own elite.

We are poor because we are poor – this is not a tautology. The culture of poverty is self-perpetuating. We are poor because our people are lazy. I pass by a slum area every morning – dozens of adults do nothing but idle, gossip and drink. We do not save. Look at the Japanese and how they save in spite of the fact that the interest given them by their banks is so little. They work very hard too.

We are great show-offs. Look at our women, how overdressed, over-coiffed they are, and Imelda epitomizes that extravagance. Look at our men, their manicured nails, their personal jewelry, their diamond rings. Yabang – that is what we are, and all that money expended on status symbols, on yabang. How much better if it were channeled into production.

We are poor because our nationalism is inward looking. Under its guise we protect inefficient industries and monopolies. We did not pursue agrarian reform like Japan and Taiwan. It is not so much the development of the rural sector, making it productive and a good market as well. Agrarian reform releases the energies of the landlords who, before the reform, merely waited for the harvest. They become entrepreneurs, the harbingers of change.

Our nationalist icons like Claro M. Recto and Lorenzo Tanada opposed agrarian reform, the single most important factor that would have altered the rural areas and lifted the peasant from poverty. Both of them were merely anti-American.

And finally, we are poor because we have lost our ethical moorings. We condone cronyism and corruption and we don’t ostracize or punish the crooks in our midst. Both cronyism and corruption are wasteful but we allow their practice because our loyalty is to family or friend, not to the larger good.

We can tackle our poverty in two very distinct ways. The first choice: a nationalist revolution, a continuation of the revolution in 1896. But even before we can use violence to change inequities in our society, we must first have a profound change in our way of thinking, in our culture.

My regret about EDSA is that change would have been possible then with a minimum of bloodshed. In fact, a revolution may not be bloody at all if something like EDSA would present itself again. Or a dictator unlike Marcos.

The second is through education, perhaps a longer and more complex process. The only problem is that it may take so long and by the time conditions have changed, we may be back where we were, caught up with this tremendous population explosion which the Catholic Church exacerbates in its conformity with doctrinal purity.

We are faced with a growing compulsion to violence, but even if the communists won, they will rule as badly because they will be hostage to the same obstructions in our culture, the barkada, the vaulting egos that sundered the revolution in 1896, the Huk revolt in 1949-53.

To repeat, neither education nor revolution can succeed if we do not internalize new attitudes, new ways of thinking. Let us go back to basics and remember those American slogans: A Ford in every garage. A chicken in every pot. Money is like fertilizer: to do any good it must be spread around. Some Filipinos, taunted wherever they are, are shamed to admit they are Filipinos.

I have, myself, been embarrassed to explain, for instance, why Imelda, her children and the Marcos cronies are back, and in positions of power. Are there redeeming features in our country that we can be proud of? Of course, lots of them. When people say, for instance, that our corruption will never be banished, just remember that Arsenio Lacson as mayor of Manila and Ramon Magsaysay as president brought a clean government.

We do not have the classical arts that brought Hinduism and Buddhism to continental and archipelagic Southeast Asia, but our artists have now ranged the world, showing what we have done with Western art forms, enriched with our own ethnic traditions. Our professionals, not just our domestics, are all over, showing how accomplished a people we are!

Look at our history. We are the first in Asia to rise against Western colonialism, the first to establish a republic. Recall the Battle of Tirad Pass and glory in the heroism of Gregorio del Pilar and the 48 Filipinos who died but stopped the Texas Rangers from capturing the president of that First Republic. Its equivalent in ancient history is the Battle of Thermopylae where the Spartans and their king Leonidas, died to a man, defending the pass against the invading Persians.

Rizal – what nation on earth has produced a man like him? At 35, he was a novelist, a poet, an anthropologist, a sculptor, a medical doctor, a teacher and martyr. We are now 80 million and in another two decades we will pass the 100 million mark.

Eighty million – that is a mass market in any language, a mass market that should absorb our increased production in goods and services – a mass market which any entrepreneur can hope to exploit, like the proverbial oil for the lamps of China.

Japan was only 70 million when it had confidence enough and the wherewithal to challenge the United States and almost won. It is the same confidence that enabled Japan to flourish from the rubble of defeat in World War II.

I am not looking for a foreign power for us to challenge. But we have a real and insidious enemy that we must vanquish, and this enemy is worse than the intransigence of any foreign power. We are our own enemy. And we must have the courage, the will, to change ourselves.

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  1. aray ko, totoo lahat ng sinabi ni lolo jose. yan tawag namin sa kanya dati nung naging prof namin si f. sionil 🙂 masyado kasi tayong lastikman – kung asan tayong lugar, yun na agad tayo. nawawala yung pagiging pinoy ba. pero alam mo, ngayong asa ibang bansa ako, ngayon ko feel na feel ang pagiging proud pinoy ko. itong asawa ko nga pinoy din daw sya at sempre pa, balak naming umuwi ng pinas at dyan manirahan sa lalong madaling panahon.

  2. We don’t love our country enough. One of my professors before said that those who are not in the country anymore like kengkay tend to love the country better than the ones who live here.

  3. Yes, all of what The author is saying or said have a valid reason to link poverty with it. But it is not really what ALL Pilipino is! Remember that what he is talking about is in general terms. I have still big hope of this Country to prosper…

  4. We are great show-offs. Look at our women, how overdressed, over-coiffed they are, and Imelda epitomizes that extravagance. Look at our men, their manicured nails, their personal jewelry, their diamond rings. Yabang – that is what we are, and all that money expended on status symbols, on yabang. How much better if it were channeled into production.

    I dismissed my maid last week because she stole a number of my groceries. When I asked why she stole, she said she pitied her kids. but when I look at the groceries, it was Lipton Milk Tea, yoghurt milk which is not even basic necessity. WHen I checked her things before she left, I saw her wardrobe. Oh gosh, she had a collection of flashy tops. I guess all her money was spent on clothing.

    Priorities are just so messed up.

  5. @kengkay
    Ako naman, I have an Australian friend who calls the Philippines his home. He’s been living here for just a year and is almost fluent in Tagalog already. I wish more Pinoys would feel proud and love their country more.

    I think the group is somehow divided into polar extremes. I’ve met Pinoy US immigrants who had totally lost their Filipino soul. However, I believe there are a lot more of those who sincerely misses the country and hopes that in time, they could go back and retire in the Philippines (just like kengkay).

    Yes, we should not despair on what F. Sionil Jose said in the essay but rather take it as a challenge to promote change in ourselves and in others. I hope that Pinoys who are losing faith in their country could have your optimism. Thanks for sharing.

    Yup, I read your plurk about that, such disappointing news really. Spending priorities are indeed messed up for some Pinoys. 🙁

  6. Well, speaking as a Filipino we are:
    1.) Short sighted in our goals. We need to change that attitude.
    2.) We are great planner (especially in corporate world) but we lack implementation and actions.
    3.) Population of 88.0 Million can make our country worst if we do not control. We need a birth control policy. Been seeing news reports on babies being thrown out on buildings, rivers, moving vehicles. What a pity for this children!
    4.) Too much politicking.
    5.) There are too many things to discuss I am already saturated at this moment.

    In truth, I love Philippines. I wish to live here longer. I did have the opportunity of immigrating to another country with my profession in the healthcare industry but somehow something is bringing me back to the old Philippines especially in the province where I grew up. I hope we prosper within the next 159 years (see Phil. Star article) after we become a first world country then as our next generation would reap the fruits of our labor.

  7. It hit the mark. Nationalism is what inspires great men of our country to strive. I also believe having an entrepreneurial spirit helps big time. Its a win – win for all.

  8. […] Why Are Filipinos So Poor? This post features the famous essay by F. Sionil José’. It talks about the reasons why there is poverty in the Philippines and ends with a call to action to become agents of change. […]

  9. I think the issue is an old story. We will not attain any progress. We will just wait that someday the integration of all Asian economies into one powerhouse like Euro will bring us to kingdom come.

    Welcome the new Asian money the Aseano.

  10. thanks sir fitz. i am your avid reader:) i am 24 years old and i’ve been working here in dubai for more than a year already. ang bilis po talaga ng panahon.

    nakakalungkot po dahil hanggang dito po ay dala-dala pa rin ng ibang pinoy yung mga hindi kanais-nais na ugali. yung ibang pinoy po dito, dahil matagal na sila, pakiramdam po nila ay nakatataas sila sa mga baguhan. batiin mo na “kabayan”, hindi ka papansinin. sila-sila rin po ang nagsisiraan, nagchichismisin. maraming pinoy din po ang kumuha ng loan sa bangko dito saka tatakbo ng pinas kaya hirap na po kumuha ang ibang kabayan natin ngayon. black-listed ika nga.. mga illegal agents, hindi po mawawala. meron din po kaming nakasama sa bahay, isinangla nya yung laptop ng iba, ipapa-upgrade nya daw pero hindi na ibinalik.. saka dito po, kung sino pa po ang mga mababa ang mga sweldo, sila pa po ang mahihilig na gumimik, magpunta sa mall, makipagparty sa kaibigan.. inuman, kahit po bawal dito ay hindi po mawawala..

    thanks for posting enriching & enlightening essays like this. you can check my site, you wiil see that my thoughts were inspired by your blogs.

    thanks again sir fitz. i’ll keep on visiting your site. 🙂

  11. I was asking the same question too??

    My teacher once told me that before Philippines is like the most envied country here in Asia. Tourists from around the world would visit Philippines just to see our place. We were once the richest, I mean What happened?? Well, corruption is one thing and of course our resources here were not used properly. Let’s take for example the country Japan, they belong to the first world and they are famous because of their technology. Robots, new gadgets, all the latest technology we could find it there (or at least i thought so), but have it crossed your mind that the Raw materials used in making those robots is from a third world country like ours in which a lot of natural resources could be found. If we were just a little resourceful I think we will not become like this today.

  12. I agree with what the author had said about us, we want to show off our materials things. Nevertheless, I am proud to be a Filipino. I am married to a foreigner and we are hoping that one day, when our children are educated and be able to contribute in our society we will retire to our beloved country.

  13. i am a filipino and i am very ashamed to be a filipino. we are a nation of idiots who live to exploit each other. parents exploiting kids. authorities exploiting civilians. kids exploiting adults. it’s a dog eat dog world where people don’t even know the concept of falling in line. they think cutting ahead of you is the norm. the drivers can’t drive properly, the pedestrians can’t cross the street properly. there is no hope for this nation. sadly my children will have to live in this god-forsaken country. the police force is unable to protect its people and the government lives to leech money from the national budget. i can’t even believe that some people actually think that ther is still hope for us. open your eyes. there is no hope. i would rather this country got nuked. i used to be proud of my country, and i’ve been so blinded by that pride that i didn’t see that it was all a lie. this country is one big lie. it feels so good to let the truth out. i hate the philippines. i hate filipinos. there, i’ve said it.

  14. Wow! The article was spot-on! Now I can’t wait to share this on Facebook.

    F. Jose blamed the culture rather than corruption behind the reason why this country is so poor. I mean look at South Korea. They, too, had many corrupt politicians during its developing years but since it was in Korean culture to value hard work, they rose to become the 13th largest economy in the world.

    Baliktad naman sa Pilipinas. Filipinos are such pleasantry addicts. Come payday, first words are bound to be, “Tara! Gimik tayo!” Pag may birthday, mag-party at magwaldas! Binyag ng anak, waldas. Fiesta, waldas. Despedida, waldas. First word ni baby, waldas. Yes, some Filipinos may be hardworking but look at how the culture of consumerism has plagued them into saving only little or none at all. The Balikbayan Box sent home by OFW’s should symbolize this very well.

    I also blame our poorness to the Filipino “Bahala na,” and “Pwede na yan,” attitudes. They don’t plan ahead for the future. They plan only for the day, not years from now.

  15. “Eighty million – that is a mass market in any language, a mass market that should absorb our increased production in goods and services – a mass market which any entrepreneur can hope to exploit”. I believe in this point because population is power, but the problem is 80% of the wealth only belongs to 20% of the people and 80% of the people shares the 20% of our wealth. This is due to massive corruption in our govt. coffers and it’s only the majority of the people who can solve this through their power of suffrage.

    ‎”We are poor because our people are lazy. I pass by a slum area every morning – dozens of adults do nothing but idle, gossip and drink. We do not save.” This is true in Manila and other big cities where people from different provinces converge looking for jobs. Had our govt. budget from the national govt. really trickled to the barangays and sitios, and helped people generate income, I believe these urban centers will not be having overpopulation problems.

    I happened to experienced living 7 years in the mountains of Cabanglasan, Bukidnon (in Mindanao). You can seldom see lazy people there. During daytime, the roads are empty because you can see them in their farms tending their plants. But in the afternoon and night, a lot of people singing with tuba wine and just having a good time with peace and happiness.

    Those who are victimized with high debt and corruption in financing, leave the place and went to the cities to find job. If govt. only solve their problems in their local levels, I believe peace and happiness in the mountains will be maintained. By the way, I observed that a lot of vacant lots and spaces were still good for even a million populations, but as of that time only a couple of thousands and decreasing happened to till the lands.

    If Sionil Jose just happened to visit and stayed in those places in the rural areas, maybe he will have a second thoughts on this article. Maybe he can focus more on govt. corruption which really caused poverty which also caused the problems of overpopulation in the cities, probably he will be able to recommend specific ways to solve our specific problem which is graft and corruption. And if this is solved, we dont need the RH Bill the politicians have recommended as palliatives to our social problem.

    I hope and pray that P-Noy would be able to clean our govt. with these corrupt people, just like Lacson and Magsaysay did as mentioned in the article. I also disagree on Jose’s conclusion that people are generally lazy based on his observations in the slum areas. It’s because there are no vacant areas there, no farms, no jobs, nothing to do. But as I’ve said, in the rural areas where I was assigned before, you can seldom see lazy people because everybody is busy.

    And yes, these yabang people are mostly seen on the cities and urban centers where graft and corruption and wastage of resources are the order of the day. In fact those who went there got the contagious disease of payabangan. Its in these places where you can see the very people who believe that problems in our country has to be maintained through their buying power of people’s votes and helped these politicians in power and the very politicians who recommend RH Bill. And those people who support the RH Bill are also found in these very places where that contagious disease of payabangan will never be cured. We’ll hope and pray it will. God bless us and God bless the Philippines.





  18. google: worldwide math/science scors

    google: IQ and wealth of Nations

    google: professor richard lynn of UK

    google: IQ map of the world.

    philiippines/filipinos are cursed by low IQ.. an IQ of 85 (eighty-five)

    yes. yes yes… internet/web/google Now has all this data in public. public data. public knowledge of the IQ of the philippinbes. stuck at 85 compared to standard of 100 (one hundred)

  19. maganda ang mga niisip ng bawat isa tungo sa pag unlad ng isang bansa,subalit ako ay labis na nagtataka bakit wala ni isa na nag sasabi na dapat ay ayusin muna natin ang ating pang bansang wika (ako nga mismo ay di maayos mag tagalog) oo marami tayong dialekto sa Pilipinas, subalit dapat ay may isa tayong gagamiting pang bansang wika, sabi ng iba Taglish . . .subalit isa isahin nyo ang mga bahay lalo na sa mga mahihirap na pamilya, ang mga bata ay hindi nakak intindi ng “english” ,

    nag trabaho ako at nag “TNT” sa Japan ng Labing Limang taon, at marami akong natutunan doon, napakaraming dapat baguhin sa Bansa natin , at UNA na rito ang pag gamit sa wikang pang Bansa . . .kung mahal natin ang ating bansa dapat ay mahalin muna natin ang ating wikang pang bansa

    Napakalaking bagay ang ginaganap ng Wika sa isang Bansa, dapat lahat ay nag kakaintindihan o nag kakaunawaan, dapat ang mga Libro ay naiintindihan ng mga bata ang ibig sabihin hindi yung alam lang nilang basahin. .

    ito muna ang unahin natin ang Pag mamahal sa ating Pang Bansang Wika , ako po ay may isang anak na “Junior Highscool” at isang Kolehiyala sa Japan . . at sila ang nagpapatunay kung gaano kamahal ng mga Hapones ang kanilang Pang Bansang Wika at Sariling Bansa . . . .

  20. I agree with the author. He’s 100% correct. I’m a Filipino who was born in the Philippines but migrated to a western country at the age of 10. Having experienced two different cultures, I think the problem with Filipinos is their upbringing.

    Parents in the Philippines raise their children in a very spoiled manner (from middle class parents and up). Everything is given and never earned. As a result, children do not learn the value of hard work. To make matters worse, parents do not allow their children to be independent.

    I think family values of Filipinos are misguided. I guess when the country lacks resources, people are forced to behave this way. But this is no excuse.

    Another problem I see is that the majority of assets in the Philippines are owned by people who do not even see themselves as Filipinos. These elite see themselves as Chinese, Spanish or Americans even though they have lived in the Philippines all their lives. The reason why the Federal Government does not have any money is because these billionares understate their income tax returns. And the IRS turn a blind eye because of corruption.

    I’ve been back to the Philippines a few times on holidays as an adult now and I realise that people do want change but they don’t want to do anything about it. I think this country needs a strong leader. A leader with an iron fist to resurrect order. For example, like a Margaret Thatcher or a Vladimir Putin.

    Honestly, with all due respect, leaders like Arroyo or Aquino III are not the answer. Leaders like these do not have the courage nor the intention for change. There’s only one solution to this. REVOLUTION!!!

  21. I am a Filipino who migrated to the US a few years ago. I totally agree with this article. I have seen so many LAZY Filipinos both in the Philippines and here in the USA. So many people, who are so capable of working, refuse to work despite their able bodies. Sadly, my family members were also some of them. When I graduated nursing school, I vowed to myself, ” I WILL NEVER BE POOR AGAIN…. NEVER!!!” I worked my ass off when I was in the Philippines. I taught as a reviewer, volunteered at the hospital every other weekend and even got a Master’s degree. After doing this for two years, I was able to save a couple thousand pesos which I used to pay for a USA Work Visa Processing. When I got to the USA, I worked my ass off again. I became a supervisor in less than 6 months and became a Nurse Practitioner in less than 2 years. Now, I save upto $4,500 every month. I do not waste my money on clothing and I DONT waste my money on fancy cars or restaurants. I have a great fiancee who is also a nurse. I have not followed the steps of other Filipinos here in the USA who are either unemployed (especially the “house-bands”) and those who are complete SHOW-OFFS. Filipinos who earn a meager salary but drive in over-the-top cars or buy houses they know they can’t afford to pay! I have lived in a frugal manner and I even drive a second hand car.

    The reason I am sharing this is because the solution to our poverty is within us. It starts with AMBITION and is accomplished with HARD WORK. There are no short cuts. WORK HARD, DREAM BIG, STAY GROUNDED and of course, PRAY. These are the secrets to being successful in life. I am 28 years old and I own a house with a pool with 24-hour security, I own a car, I have a prestigious job and I have a “fat” bank account… and the good thing is, I’m just getting started.

    One day, I will return to the Philippines. Not to show off, but to help my fellow Filipinos and show them that AMBITION and HARD WORK is the key out of poverty.

    MABUHAY ang PINOY!!!

  22. Part 1…

    Filipinos indeed have this bragging attitude that is surely one of the most annoying attitudes that I have seen. I am sure that this itself is one of the way of lives that could bring a Filipino down into poverty.

    I spent my schooling in private schools mostly from kindergarten to university. Don’t get me wrong, but in all honesty we are only middle-class citizens and my mother isn’t convinced of the public school education that is offered in the locality. Yes, tuition are sky-rocket high but what is most amusing is that my fellow classmates are mostly, also, middle class. The only difference is that, they have parents who work their asses off in Saudi, Kuwait or in any nooks out there that is not inside of the Philippines. I know and have seen how they dressed, how they flaunt their ipods, shoes and chocolates from abroad. I could only raise an eyebrow at their attitude and the eat the chocolate, if ever I was offered a piece.

    I remember that time when I was in high school and one of my OFW-kid friends’ dad (who was a seaman) was in the news as a survivor of a tanker sink. In the morning, at class, I was dumbfounded by the reaction of my classmate. My God, she didn’t even cared that her dad ALMOST DIED she just said “Sayang yung Ipod na pinabili ko kay Papa, TSK! Hindi niya kasi kinuha agad nung palubog na ang barko! Hindi niya tuloy nauwi dito, sayang.”

    In my thoughts? “HOY! HINDI MO BA NARIRINIG ANG SARILI MO?” I have always regret that I wasn’t the expressive type back then. Maybe I was just too intimidated at the power and money that they brag to me that I rather shut my mouth. And that was really, really wrong. I should have said something like. “Paano kung namatay ang Papa mo? Eh di wala kayo ngayon sa buhay? May trabaho ba ang Mama mo? Diba winawaldas niyo lang ang pera na padala ng Papa mo dito?”. I thought it was too rude. But I also realized that if I was really her friend, I should have told her that.

    Another one came up again just last summer class. I have this classmate who was more or less a friend to me who is also an OFW-supported kid. Her three siblings are all working abroad, she was the youngest and she was still in school. She bragged to me that her sister gave her 31,000 php per month as support. She also bought me a bracelet and dragged me into various shopping sprees, picking clothes (the very showy, dressy types) that are very expensive and asking me if those look good on her. I just nodded and acted very civil about it. But when the opening of the first semester, my mother saw my materialistic friend’s mother inside the PEC office of our school and she was processing loans so that she could enroll my friend to school. When my mother told me that.. I just laughed my ass off, like it was a WTF moment. Oh God.

    However, the rich Filipino kids I knew? The REAL RICH ones? They are those type that rode a muddy farm truck to school, instead of some flashy Japanese car. They are those ones who wore the batch t-shirt at Christmas party instead of forcing their parents to buy new clothes at that point of time. They are the most simple people I ever knew. AND THEY WERE RICHER THAN US TENFOLD (most of them are Filipino farmers and business owners, no employee, no OFW).

  23. Part 2

    —>The estimated GDP per capita for the Philippines in 1900, the year Spain left, was of $1,033.00. That made it the second richest place in all of Asia, just a little behind Japan ($1,135.00), and far ahead of China ($652.00) or India ($625.00).

    It’s funny how I agree very much at what this article say but it has just a flaw in research. Not every Filipino is a bragging type. what would be the most accurate is that mostly, those who are poor are he ones who do the bragging once they have money in their hands. They burn it all up like there’s no tomorrow. That’s why most of OFW families, remain poor even though the money is more plentiful. But why the OFW label transcends to all of us? It is because the school system teaches us to be all OFWs when we grow up (AND BELIEVE ME, IT ISN’T A GOOD THING).

    ONE MORE FLAW. This one quote:

    “But we did inherit from Spain a social system and an elite that, on purpose, exploited the masses. Then, too, in the Iberian peninsula, to work with one’s hands is frowned upon and we inherited that vice as well. Colonialism by foreigners may no longer be what it was, but we are now a colony of our own elite.”

    If the writer of this article done thorough research then he shall discover that our attitude now, is not in any way inherited from the Spaniards. First of all we we weren’t ACTUALLY governed by Spain or the whatever goes in the Iberian Peninsula at the time of the colonial era. People, WE WERE GOVERNED BY MEXICO (now see the pattern grew more clear). How the hell would you think that Spain could rule us when we are so far away from them. If we were nearer, we would have been governed better. Maybe you won’t ever know but SOUTH of ITALY, NETHERLANDS and BELGIUM were also at one point of time Spanish Colonies (But comparing us to them are totally laughable and a totally different story).

    1821- the year when Mexico got it’s independence and we had finally received direct rule from Spain. 19th century- the century of Illustrados, Carlos Maria dela Torre (The Liberal Gov Gen), Rizal and Free Education Decree that increased the number of Educated Filipinos.

    It just concludes that it isn’t the colonizers who are at fault by feeding us undesirable piece of values and attitude. But it was our own attitude (even back then when Magellan’s foot didn’t yet touch a single grain of sand at Limasawa, Leyte.) that is at fault. If what the writer said was true (“the social system and an elite that, on purpose, exploited the masses” part) then HONG KONG, MALAYSIA, MACAU and all the others would also be like us, even worse. Ever read about the British, Portuguese and Dutch empire and their colonial codes? Where the social classes are more pronounced and mingling with other classes can end in a harsh punishment?

    “The Spanish view when viewed in the broader light of global colonization was generally mild and humane. The Filipino people were not brutalized. Spaniards and Filipinos intermarried and mingled socially. Slavery and tribal wars were suppressed”

    “It brought about the unification of the Filipino people. The diverse tribes were molded into one people, under one God, one King and one Government and out of their common grievances against Spain,blossomed the spirit of Nationalism.”

    “Spain uplifted the Filipinos from the depth of primitive culture and paganism and gave them the blessings of Christianity and European Civilization.”

    “It is not true that the friars and the Spaniards were “heartless vultures” who had “cruelly abused our ancestors” an idea that comes from some traditional historical books. If such were the case, great Filipinos such as Rizal, the Luna brothers, Mabini and many others would have not turned out as good, in some cases even better than their peers in Spain and other European Nations.”

    “Historians praise the Spanish colonial code for it’s Christian spirit and human approach. Against prevailing racism with the Europeans looked down on non-Europeans as inferior races, Spain agonized and wrestled with its corporate conscience to find out how to treat the non-European subjects. Described as the “Spanish struggle for justice in the conquest of America”, the royal efforts led to the early papal declaration in 1535, long before Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, that all men are free and equal, and may not be deprived of their freedom or their possessions. Since then, although very slowly, human slavery have been banned.”

    “Distance and lack of economic opportunities kept Spanish migration into the Philippines at a minimum but the Spanish crown continued to send missionaries. Despite the weaknesses and failures of Spanish colonial rule the missionaries eventually transformed the islands into a single society.”

    “A visiting British man in the 1800s had observed that only in the Philippines could you see a Spaniard, a native and a Chinese sitting around one table and chatting- a scene that you will never witness in India or other British Colonies.”

    Yes, Manila was one of the most envied cities back then. Very beautiful and had been looked up as a model back then later in the Spanish colonial era post Spanish colonial era too.

    Too bad because of American Bullying that Spain is forced to sell the Islands to the Americans for 20 million dollars and what did the Americans do to our country? Make it their military base in the pacific and dragged us into WWII. Manila was heavily bombed ugly. By then, we forgot all the illustrado spirit of knowledge and our Hispanic culture ripped from us.

    WWII-wise, it’s just my theory, but if the Spanish and the Americans didn’t clashed and if we didn’t get our independence by then, chances are, we would be out of the war. The Spanish were supposed to join the war on Germany’s side but became neutral because it was too poor to support a war. Hitler back then respected neutrality as long as those countries were his friends. With Japan being Germany’s ally, it would be pissing each other off if Philippines is dragged into this. Well it’s just a theory but it could have been possible.

    So summarizing it all… People, stop blaming others for our attitude. It wasn’t an inheritance to them but it is very well deep rooted in our very past. What we can do is to evaluate ourselves learn to deviate from this rotten society and make a difference.


  24. Filipinos are generally lazy.
    They find ways and excuses not to do anything or to put off till later. Pretend to not understand what was being said just not to have to do the work. And I am not describing a taxi driver, I am talking about the white collared employees.
    They rather spend time gossiping and chit chatting with each other and spreading rumours instead of being productive.
    I read here that Filipinos are good planners? No way!
    If I read it correctly, yes planning is “TALKING” about doing something, which many WILL NOT DO in the end. That is why Filipinos are lousy at implementation and execution.
    Hence the phrase TALK IS CHEAP.

    So far the best plans I have seen a Filipino come up with is A BIRTHDAY PARTY or any parties for that matter.
    When it comes to fun and parties (other than work), you can bet they will be very enthusiastic from the planning all the way to the execution!

    Do not get me wrong. I fell in love with Philippines, a country which I SWEAR never to work in and was never interested in visiting BUT as fate has it, I was offered a job in Manila. I found the Filipinos lovable (except their gossiping!) and fun people.

    My observations are;
    – The Filipino govt are screwing its own people. Drawing as much taxes as possible and limiting their ability to travel and find work outside of their country. Look at China, Vietnam, Thailand, Indonesia, etc .. even the Socialist China and Vietnam are not as strict!
    Part of the reason from the immigration standpoint is “protecting the Filipinos girls from exploitation”.
    I agree on this point EXCEPT .. they are still being exploited in YOUR OWN COUNTRY!
    Granted there will be some that will ply their trade in the not-so-glamourous industries BUT there will be millions more that will work hard and earn a honest living and be able to send money back home.
    Even so, how many girls truly and really love working in the sex industry willingly?
    In time, the population will get more affluent and more wealth will be created, which in turns will create more employment opportunities for the people.

    The Filipino govt and policies needs to be changed and let go of all the red tapes. You are just hurting your own people more than you realised.
    Sometimes I do not blame those that do not have any qualifications and cannot find any real work for being lazy.
    They can try but not many can get any real decent jobs to make a living. So many decided to just laze at home rather than do anything.
    Do you see a vicious cycle here?

    – Too much corruption and not enough employment opportunities.

    Look at all the Asian economies.
    Indonesia is coming up very strongly.
    We all know about China and Vietnam.
    Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, etc are Tigers in South East Asia.
    Where’s Philippines? NO WHERE! Not even close.
    If it not because of its liberal and friendly online gaming operations policies in this part of the world, it would probably be a slum still.

    You have 80 million people.
    All the govt has to do is to improve the lives of a percentage of them and change your policies to encourage Entrepreneurship, small biz owners, lower the taxes across all sectors, change the immigration laws, etc and many of your people will be able to slowly pull themselves out of poverty.

    Educate them like Singapore did in the 70s and 80s about Productivity and how it helps businesses to be more efficient and cost effective. This has to be a National level program undertaken by the govt.

    Encourage continuous education. For the next 10 to 20 years, provide free education up till high school, and encourage the parents to save for the children’s higher education during the period and/or create a special edufund saving program for all parents where they can save periodically or monthly.
    Yes this can drain a lot of resources from an already poor country but somewhere, somehow it is possible.
    The issues are the corrupted leaders who couldn’t care less about the people that are paying their salaries.

    It will be a painful revolution or change but in the long run, I believe Philippines can be much better than it is today.
    Otherwise it will be left behind as most likely one of the poorer nation in South East Asia.
    And do not forget that with the changes now happening in Cambodia, Loas, Myanmmar .. which can be considered the last frontier of Asia’s new economies.
    I am afraid Philippines is going to be left far far behind in years to come.
    And that is just too bad for you people.

  25. And I agree with 19yearoldbookworm post on certain point about Americans.

    Americans screwed you upside down.

    Nothing and nowhere where the Americans go or touches or even liberated (except WWII) are good.
    The Americans are full of themselves, imposing their high and mighty Democratic philosophies on other Nations.

    Filipinos should wished that they were formerly a British colony instead. Look at Singapore, Hong Kong, Australia, New Zealand, etc.
    The British disseminated and taught their education system, roads and infrastructures, governance, etc.
    I am not saying that the British are great and they were in many sense racist and sometimes not very kind masters at that time. But at least they left behind legacies of good nations that after independence became rich and prosperous!
    Even if not every ex-colony became a successful nation, at least by comparison in terms of the numbers of countries among other things, the British did much better than the Americans!

    Americans are just full of BS.
    They should clean up their own mess rather than try to impose their cock and bull policies on everyone else.

    I have been to US and I can safely say I HATE IT THERE.
    There are a lot of lazy people there too!
    Young people might I say.

  26. I think main reason of poverty is failure of agrarian reform.
    As he mentioned, Japan and South Korea had this reform.
    Because of reform, landlords in these countries could put their energy to start new businesses rather than waiting for a harvest.
    In Philippine, elite class did not have any incentives to change the system, they rather wanted their status unchanged. Still nowadays, landlords in Philippine are conservative and not adventurous.
    Another reason for poverty is because there isn’t much incentives for people to work hard. If Philippine was a society where anyone who work hard would be successful, many Filipinos would have worked hard.
    In USA, I see many Filipinos who are hard working.
    And when I see Filipinos working hard abroad, I don’t think Filipinos are lazy. They are lazy because people are hopeless and people who work hard in Philippines are not getting fair share of the pie.

  27. […] ano masasabi niyo sa essay na ito. Medyo mahaba po cya, pero if may time kayo, you can read. Why Are Filipinos So Poor? But if you do not have to read, comment na lang po kung bakit kaya. Comment […]

  28. Because of their lack to defend their country from spain and america. if those two countries never came in and destroyed our resources, stolen gold, made servants and slaves, we would be rich and on top of the world with our Austro-malayo blood and none of that cruel spanish blood given to our people. it spewed hatred against others. this is why we think we are better than the whole of asia, and they LOOK down on us because of that, they say why did spain and america conquer your country? why didnt you fight back when ferdinand step on our islands in 1521? why were nobody doing anything back then? because we lacked discipline and people back then believed everything these unknown people that came to conquer our country. If a time machine was made, i am seriously going to change my history and make sure we dont have the name of “Philippines” but of a different name that doesnt sound spanish. i would grab all the guns in this present time and give to my people in 1520 a year later before magellan arrived and he will run away and i will give the entire country guns and protection from our present time and make sure they stay away from our island and not steal our resources. one day my wish will become true and i will gladly risk my life defending pre colonial philippines.

  29. Hi! Really found this helpful for my paper. But do you know where it was originally published? Thank you so much! Your answer will really be helpful for my critique paper 🙂

  30. I am an American living in the Philippines and I see things that are unbelievable here. A family who are my neighbors recently spent 20k on their child’s 1year birthday party, the next week their electricity was cut off. I see people borrow money to throw a party. It’s unbelievable to me.

  31. Accountability, Credibility and Transparency – in short, ACT – extremely important to have these things in our country’s government. Population control should also be emphasized – like what my Economics Professor taught – if you slice a Pizza into 10 small pieces, what kind of satisfaction would you get from a small portion of the Pizza? If you have 10 children, how in the world can you feed/educate these children if you have limited income? Lastly, we have to think reasonably and logically before we spend our money on anything we want to do or have.

  32. Learn these two words:

    LIBERTY – the freedom to do that which is RIGHT IN THE EYES OF GOD of the JHVH/JESUS variety as seen in the BIBLE not through tradition driven Christianity. When the Catholics came to America and tasted of the BAPTIST (generic fundamentalist BIBLE Christianity not one based on tradition) concept of Liberty of Conscience (Leonard Busher in his plea to King James of England for LIBERTY OF CONSCIENCE and even a type of freedom of the press that would be allowed EVEN FOR PAPISTS AND JEWS in the pamphlet RELIGIONS PEACE) concept of LIBERTY OF CONSCIENCE they tasted of it and became now the best Catholics in the World.

    LICENSE – the complementary subset of the dichotomy of raw freedom not covered by LIBERTY to do that which is deleterious to innocent life and at best indifferent to the protection of innocent life. Such is like the Liberal, Socialist, Communist pressing of assisted suicide, abortions and protections for the sins of fornication, adultery, and the homosexual sins which are death styles not life styles. We don’t capital punish the sex sins but we do not have laws protecting them either if governments are to be God ordained authorities that are not a terror to good works.

    Read John Locke’s Second Treatise of Government for a pretty good concept of what Thomas Jefferson was writing in his draft of the Declaration of Independence and a good primer for what ought to be the intent interpretation of our American Constitution, which I think was a model of what the Philippines was based upon. When you consider the communist inspired Income Tax and the IRS of America, you will see the evil of socialism/communism and how it can degrade a country even like America and why you might have some beef with American interaction. They may have some pretty good basic ideas but with the degradation by those who really hate the concept of the Republic that America is (not a raw Democracy which is dangerous to every culture) you can see how they fail to follow up.

    I would be tickled if the Philippines would take the American original model of government sans the institution of slavery (that forced the committee making up the Declaration of Independence to take out Jefferson’s paragraph condemning the slave trade and for some reason replace UNALIENABLE with INALIENABLE right to life – by the way that is one of the ideas of John Locke in his Second Treatise of Government) and run with it shaming America by means of her own precious national documents. Remember some Biblical rules of thumbs like what GOD considers slavery concerning a king taxing the people TEN PERCENT 1 Samuel 8:15-18. How he does not desire FREE men to ever be slaves again as in 1 Corinthians 7:20-24, and that men must submit to GOD ORDAINED AUTHORITIES that are not terrors to good works, and if they do, DO THE GOOD even if punished for so they did with Jesus who went about doing good, and where PAPA PETER HIMSELF who said to submit to every statute of KING OR GOVERNOR, said when told not to preach in the name of Jesus, WE OUGHT TO OBEY GOD RATHER THAN MEN. We give GOD ten percent to show that we are HIS SLAVES, but we are not to give over 9.99 percent of our increase to any government or we are slaves to men as forbidden in 1 Corinthians 7:20-24.

    Please, consider this for the Philippines.

  33. At first I totally disagreed but reading further there was truth in all its glory . Laziness is in our culture .
    Plus a very corrupt government added as salt to an open wound.
    We can make the changes within us
    We can rise above all this.
    a very nice and eye opening article indeed.

  34. I think that not all Filipinos are lazy. Many are poor because of the social system, the lack of opportunities of Filipinos, the inequality that is experienced in the work force and other social problems too. It’s wrong to generalize that we are poor because of our attitudes. We also have to consider the social and political factors that are happening around us. And also, construction workers, factory workers and other people with low paying jobs are not definitely lazy. They work their ass of just to get salaries that are not even enough to meet the needs of their families. It’s not our laziness that is killing us, it can be unregulated capitalism.

  35. Gracious, I could write a book about this. Why are we poor? Why? Every Filipino knows why. Most of us share this common traits!! A lot of us are selfish, envious, lazy, we don’t like to help each other, we have no ambitions, we like to show off, we are celebrity worshippers, parents enable their kids to be brats, we like to enslave our fellow Filipinos, we are one day millionaires, we like to rely help from a family member who has more, and the list could go on and on. I have so much animosity towards our crook culture. If we want to improve our lives and our country, we must start from ourselves and from our homes. Parents need to raise their children right! They either beat their kids or overpampered them to be brats! Young people need to dream big, and not worry about gettjng involve in relationships at such an early age that in the end, they get pregnant right out of high school!

  36. Another article about poverty that is 9 of 10 parts “tisk tisk”
    In a nutshell, the Philippines endures poverty because the vast majorities do not believe in justice, do not think they want to face justice because they know it is indeed unjust. So no fair fast equal justice system exists.
    Filipinos think they can cheat foreigners, because they know there is little recourse for a cheated foreigner. Why everybody here knows that judges, mayors, barangay captains for golly sake, are going to side with their neighbors in a dispute. Never thinking that it amounts to anything, just another foreigner who will go back to his place, someday. Well, foreigners have all the money, like it or not. If you lament no investment, think of that foreigner going home and talking to everybody about his visit.
    NOBODY in the Philippines wants foreigners to get fair fast justice in a dispute according to the rule of law. NOBODY. Why it is even in Filipino law.
    No rich person, no politician wants a cheated farmer to get justice in a court of law in 10 days for P50.
    No lawyer wants to be penalized for delay, even though they all know that justice delayed is justice denied.
    I have met few Filipinos indeed who would not capitalize on a friendship or relative in government.
    In short, every Filipino wants a speedy, impartial, justice decision based on the rule of law, for himself only.
    And that is why there is poverty.
    That is why the poor can’t vote themselves a slice of the pie.
    That is why children can be gunned down in the streets by police.
    That is why the Muslims are fighting in the South.
    That is why where ever you look we are a nation of “fixers” with no desire to fix anything.

  37. To the editor, I know I wrote 2 letters, you pick the one you like.
    After reading the letters above where seemingly Filipinos slam other Filipinos as lazy, or corrupt or spendthrift, lawless, etc.

    I reply to you , today I live in USA and know hundreds of Filipinos here and not a one lives a life that includes lazy, corrupt, spendthrift or especially lawless. NOT ONE. Remember the vast majority of these people are women plucked from the depths of poverty.

    When lived in the Philippines for 20 years, mostly playing, I always asked myself “If intelligence is spread across the world fairly evenly, and the basic problems of life very similar, why does this place look so different from other places?

    The Philippines looks as it does, the people act as they do, because they live under a common political system. When I lived there, I bribed traffic cops, paid fixers, cheated immigration, never found a job or made business, got into traffic accidents and let those I struck try to find me, took advantage of women. Conversely when Filipinos come to the USA, they are very hard working, smart handling money, drive safely, because it was the system in place, just as I am in the USA I play by the rules here.

    I laugh at the idea that there is poverty because hundreds of years ago some people from Spain made a power play in mostly Luzon. Are people really that ignorant or is that a lie that feeds into what people want to think? I became the Filipino you accuse of maintaining poverty and my far flung ancestor was never slapped by a Mexican or a Spaniard.

    I can hear it already “another American looking down on Filipinos” BS. I elected to live there for 20 years because I LOVED IT. If I were not sick I would go back to stay.

    People in the Philippines are smart and they are the way they are because that is what pays. They break the law because they think (rightly) that they can get away with it. They don’t work because they rightly don’t think the rewards are worth the effort. They don’t save money because assets are not protected from raiding by people more politically connected than they are, they can’t steal what you have already spent.

    People are poor because the Filipino government was formed by the rich, for the rich, to keep them rich. The rich will never make the changes willingly because it is far cheaper to hire a poor man than a rich one.

    OH? You know a Filipino who got ahead due to hard work, investment, education? And just think, I know thousands of intelligent, hard working, educated Filipinos who lived lives one gut wrenching personal disaster after another. resulting in short, sick lives in poverty.

    No, I do no think US laws will make the Philippines rich. I think that the people who are in power want to address poverty because it makes them look bad internationally, and domestically. This of course would mean that they have to share access to wealth, thus, alternative reasons for poverty are found. Lets blame those who are poor for their own poverty ” we have lost our ethical moorings” because it is obvious that poor folk got poor ways (until they are rich). ” We are our own enemy. And we must have the courage, the will, to change ourselves.” assuming that “WE” are the .0001% of the population that owns 80% of everything. I agree. and lastly “The culture of poverty is self-perpetuating”. Shame on you. Coincidence is not causality. I know personally hundreds of Filipinos who migrated out of poverty, and not a one is anywhere as poor as they were in the Philippines, most are downright wealthy, even by American standards.

    Remember you can take the Filipino out of the Philippines but you can’t take the Philippines out of the Filipino. This means that if Filipinos succeed more often in an outside culture, the reason for them not succeeding in the Philippines is not due to those in poverty having a personality flaw.


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