Don’t Get Involved!

A Filipino Mentality that differs wildly from what I am used to

This Filipino mentality showed it ugly side recently here in Dumaguete. There was a very sad and unfortunate incident that has made me remember something my wife has tried repeatedly to convince me of. Out of respect for the family of the man, and his memory, I do not want to get too far into details but a simple overview is that a young American man got into a dispute in a bar which ultimately led to his death. The whole incident was caught on video from the security camera of the establishment, which then found its way on to the internet. I, like many others I am sure, watched the video and besides the the obvious revolt I felt watching the death, something else shocked, and yes pissed me off. As this man lay on the street, countless people walked by seemingly entirely disinterested let alone showing a willingness to help.

This took me back to several decades ago when I heard numerous stories about similar behavior in New York City, where it was reported that muggings and other violence occurred on the streets in broad daylight and without intervention from passerbys. At that time, it was hard for me to fathom, as I have basically spent most of my life in small to medium sized cities where this just did not occur. I had always grown up with the belief that if some one needed help, it was my duty and responsibility to aid in any way that I was capable of. This seemed to be the normal mentality, expectation and behavior of most people I knew.

Here in the Philippines, I have found that this mentality is rare, and though shocked and pissed off when watching the video, I was not entirely surprised. A personal example I have experienced was when a female employee of our company called me late one night in tears complaining that her boyfriend, who also worked for us, had once again spent all their pay on drugs and when confronted with this, he physically assaulted her. In my belief that I was doing what is my responsibility,( though strongly urged not to by my wife), I went right out and picked her up, brought her to the police station to file a complaint, bought her food, then set her up in a modest accommodation. Then the nightmare began. At first, this girl pleaded with me not to tell her boyfriend where she was living and after several days of sticking to that despite threats from him, I then found out that she contacted him directly and were back together. What I was left with was one seriously angry boyfriend who had taken my actions as an affront to his honor, and him trying in every way possible to make me pay for it. And the real kicker was that she was right beside him the whole way helping him do this.

I also remember back a few years ago when a banca boat caught fire in front of our place. I believe I did the right thing and went out with our boat to rescue the crew, and once we got them off the boat took them on a two hour journey to the nearest hospital. A few days later the fun began with constant phone calls texts, and visits from the crew’s family demanding that I pay for the hospital bills. After all it was my fault for bringing them to an facility that though saved their lives, they could not afford.

In both these instances, I did what I thought was right without any second thought, against very stern opposition from my wife who insisted that I should not get involved.

Since then, I have observed that what is normal here is to NOT get involved. On a regular basis from traffic accidents, to illnesses to simple requests for directions, the normal Filipino mentality is not to get involved, unless it is a family member. (then the rules change dramatically and the expectation is that you better help out).

How does this Filipino Mentality affect my life in the Philippines?

It makes things difficult for sure. Though I have already experienced some of the painful consequences of getting involved, to not do so will usually go strongly against my moral compass, and at 54 years of age I do not know how much flexibility I have to change that compass. On the other hand if I do help out I know full well that there will be consequences that will be ,, umm,,  unpleasant from my wife.

How do I deal with the “not get involved” Filipino mentality?

For starters, I have to accept that I am not going to be able to convince the Filipinos around me that they should change. They will not. It will always be their decision whether to look the other way or not, and that decision is one only they will have to live with. Personally I hope I never change too much though and will always be the type of person who does get involved when it will help for me to do so. I have learned though that in most cases I will have to maybe stop for a second and fully understand what the consequences might end up being. That is especially important now that I have a wife and family and that those consequences could affect them.

One thing I do know though is that if I ever casually walk by while someone is getting beaten to death or is lying on the street in a pool of blood, I will never be able to look at myself in the mirror again!