Why Filipinos Are Shallow

by Fernando Perfas

This article is in response to F Sionil Jose’s article that came out in The Philippine Star. In general, he made convincing arguments or reasons on why Filipinos are shallow. I understand the term to mean “the lack of depth” or “trivial.” He hit on some important reasons such as the lack of quality educational system, lack of interest in reading, and our predilection to impress or being “ego-driven,” to use his words.

I will build on what he has already said because I agree with them. However, I will elaborate on some of his points and add my thoughts on his ideas. I will use the word culture to make an important point regarding our lack of pride in quality. Quality as a normative term means a gold standard for measuring the value or importance of something in enhancing our sense of happiness or some sommum bonum we hold dear.

“Reading transcends physical, intellectual, and social boundaries. When properly nurtured, love of reading is the most efficient transmitter of local and world culture. World-class literature humanizes, refines, and expands human consciousness. It refines our thought processes as we indulge in the thought processes embedded in the works of masters.”

We acquire culture in our upbringing and the environment that we find ourselves exposed to. Besides upbringing, education is another important vehicle of culture. One that is free and widely available now but is taken for granted is reading. Reading transcends physical, intellectual, and social boundaries. When properly nurtured, love of reading is the most efficient transmitter of local and world culture. World-class literature humanizes, refines, and expands human consciousness. It refines our thought processes as we indulge in the thought processes embedded in the works of masters.

“We acquire culture or the ability to sharpen the capacity to discriminate between mediocrity and excellence through life experiences, education, or vicariously experiencing different facets of life, which otherwise are inaccessible to us in real time, through reading.”

We acquire culture or the ability to sharpen the capacity to discriminate between mediocrity and excellence through life experiences, education, or vicariously experiencing different facets of life, which otherwise are inaccessible to us in real time, through reading. I did not mention “right” contemplation as another refining mental process that sharpens our discrimination between what is essential and trivial in life. I will leave this alone, because it is another, but related, discussion by itself.

It is regrettable that as a government policy, education remains the least of our national priority. I have been lucky to get first-class education from a public university funded by the City of Manila. The Pamantasan Ng Lungsod Ng Maynila (PLM) or the University of the City of Manila was almost an experimental university when it first opened its doors in 1967. It is a success beyond everyone’s expectations, and it continues to produce graduates who garner top spots in national licensing exams and compete against graduates from more affluent universities. Despite that distinctive achievement the PLM lacks modern facilities and is continually under budget. You would imagine that the national government would have taken notice. That, my friends, is the state of our national consciousness about quality education, a shallow and misguided sense of priority.

“What has enslaved us and what blinders have we put on that limit our ability to see beyond what is mundane and immediate? Pride in quality is not inherited, rather, it is cultivated through having the right attitude and discernment of what constitutes value.”

Despite our many likable qualities, why are we stuck with simply surviving or doing just enough, wallowing in mediocre standards? With all our intelligence, why can’t we get passed triviality and engrossment in materialism? What has enslaved us and what blinders have we put on that limit our ability to see beyond what is mundane and immediate? Pride in quality is not inherited, rather, it is cultivated through having the right attitude and discernment of what constitutes value.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR Dr. Fernando B. Perfas is an addiction specialist who has written several books and articles on the subject. He currently provides training and consulting services to various government and non-government drug treatment agencies regarding drug treatment and prevention approaches. He can be reached at fbperfas@gmail.com.

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