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Post More on National Character and Corruption: Philippines
Created by John Eipper on 10/03/15 7:19 AM

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More on National Character and Corruption: Philippines (Bienvenido Macario, USA, 10/03/15 7:19 am)

Ric Mauricio wrote on 2 October:

"I was quite dismayed at the tone of Bienvenido Macario's post (1 October) on the national character of Filipinos, together with his recommendation not to visit the Philippines. Being part Filipino (I have never met a pure Filipino, though some are more Filipino than others), I have to disagree with President Taft's depiction of a nation as a whole. To include such inflammatory rhetoric is a disservice to a people who some have described as a very friendly people."

My post was very clear:

"When listing countries our hardworking editor wanted to visit, I was relieved not to see the Philippines. At this time it is not advisable to travel to the 'Paradise Lost' that is the Philippines, based on Lane Michael White's experience, an American missionary preaching in the Islands."

Did anyone bother to think why the Transportation Security Personnel picked an American Missionary instead of a Filipino-American or OFW? Remember this "laglag bala" set-up is the second time. By picking an American Missionary, they knew the supposed victim would bring the whole scam out in the open to embarrass that department of the government and the whole Aquino III administration.

At this time anything goes, because of the May 2016 presidential election in the Philippines. Aquino III's anointed is Mar Roxas II, former Transportation Secretary and current Interior and Local Government Secretary, whose grandfather Manuel A. Roxas, Sr., is being blamed for all the misery the Filipino people have suffered since 1946. It was Manuel A. Roxas, Sr. who sought and unfortunately was granted independence for the Philippines without consulting the Filipinos, even through a rigged referendum.

In fact, since the laglag-bala episode caters to foreigners who do not vote in the Philippines, another scandal developed again at the expense of Philippine Liberal Party standard bearer Mar Roxas II.

During the Liberal Party's mass oath-taking of some 80 local officials in Sta. Cruz, Laguna, as part of the entertainment, sexy dancers twerked with a few local officials.

It went viral.

See: Sexy dancers Twerk at Liberal Party event October 1, 2015:



Aquino III, who will soon step down, is said to be very desperate because he is likely to go to prison if the next president comes from the opposition. In addition to Mar Roxas II, whom he has officially endorsed, He has also anointed an incumbent senator, Grace Poe-Llamansares. She is popular and all the scandals hitting Mar Roxas II are in her favor. But Grace Poe used to be an American citizen who renounced her citizenship to enter Philippine politics. Her husband and children remain US citizens and therefore could not even vote for her.

What do I think? This means Grace Poe could win in May 2016 but will be ousted by technicality and would be replaced by whoever will be elected Vice-President.

Now do you have an idea how creative Filipinos are in weaving plots and schemes when it comes to money and political power?

JE comments: Ric Mauricio stressed the friendliness of the Filipinos, which gave me a thought: what is the correlation between national "friendliness" and corruption?  Latin American nations (together with the Philippines) strike me as ranking high on both indices, while dour nations such as Finland are both unfriendly and corruption-free.

The "twerk" video (first link, above) is crude in both the content and technical senses of the word.  This particular YouTube clip has just over 5000 views.  Hardly viral, I would say.

One further observation:  the American missionary who fell victim to laglag-bala was 20 years old.

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  • National Character (Tor Guimaraes, USA 10/03/15 7:21 PM)
    This discussion topic compels me to object to a few notions expressed here implicitly or explicitly. The notion of "national character" must be interpreted more carefully. Obviously we are talking about differences in culture, which thank God is a reality making otherwise boring international visits more interesting and much more fun.

    Cultural differences is a wonderful thing, but individuals run the gamut of personalities within every culture. For example, Portugal is one of my favorite countries because it reminds me of Brazil fifty years ago. I was very mortified when my new Portuguese partner, trying to be friendly, picked me up at the airport in Porto and very excitedly wanted to show me "something special" for lunch. He drove us to this huge three-level parking garage and we walked into this very large brand new shopping mall with lots of new restaurants: MacDonald's, KFC, Taco Bell, and many others. No sign of any old local Portuguese restaurants that I love so much. I might as well have been downtown any US big city. I wonder how many times I disappointed my national and foreign visitors when they come to the "Bible Belt Deep South" because I did not show our local cultural peculiarities.

    Further, I guarantee everyone that crime and corruption in the Philippines are no worse than in Brazil, for example. I also guarantee everyone that we have both wonderful people and "a-hole" idiots among every group. Therefore, we must resist the temptation to believe that there is a "correlation between national 'friendliness' and corruption" I reject JE's notion that "Latin American nations (together with the Philippines) strike me as ranking high on both indices, while dour nations such as Finland are both unfriendly and corruption-free." I assure you that there are exceedingly friendly people in Finland and other "dour" nations, even in Switzerland (I admit in this case I am less than absolutely sure).

    To me the most amazing thing is that even in countries with a long history of terrible corruption, some people chose to behave as if untouched by the garbage surrounding them everyday. Some years ago on this Forum I wrote that these people to me "are like beautiful flowers growing on a pile of manure." It is true.

    JE comments: When it comes to contrasting cultures, we will never be able to draw a line between crass stereotype and insightful analysis.  The important thing with this topic is to be aware of--and discuss--the pitfalls.

    Speaking of stereotypes, a question for Tor Guimaraes:  what is the general treatment Brazilians receive when visiting the Mother Country (Portugal)?  Portugal is unique among empires, in that the colony--Brazil--for a time became the metropolitan center. 

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    • Portugal's Perception of Brazilians (Tor Guimaraes, USA 10/05/15 6:44 AM)
      Responding to my post of 4 October, John Eipper asked, "what is the general treatment Brazilians receive when visiting the Mother Country (Portugal)?  Portugal is unique among empires, in that the colony--Brazil--for a time became the metropolitan center."

      Before addressing this fascinating topic, I must repeat my strong belief, expressed earlier, that "while cultural difference is a wonderful thing, individuals run the gamut of personalities within every culture, thus demanding great care interpreting so-called national character."

      Compared to Brazilians, the Portuguese "national character" is noticeably more shy and reserved. So much so that when I noticed this difference during my first visit to Portugal, it was bewildering how such "wild" Brazilian people could possibly be descendants from the Portuguese. That bewilderment lasted until my first visit to Italy, whose influence on the Brazilian "national character" should not be underestimated. Without being a geneticist, that is where the genes for wildness came from, not Portugal.

      To address John's question directly, as a Brazilian in Portugal I found the Portuguese extremely friendly, not superficially but at a deeper level. For example, at the end of many of my trips, friends and new acquaintances many times have left small gifts of things they learned I appreciated during the visit. Once they know you and become friends, they are just as deeply friendly as Chinese people, Iranians, and Arabs from traditional countries.

      I remember one trip to the city of Guimaraes to help define my roots, waiting for the train departure from Lisboa, I started a discussion about my superficial impression that the Portuguese seems so peaceful and kind compared to the Spanish "national character." For a while during the train ride I was surprised that the normally quiet and reserved Portuguese jumped into the discussion on both sides, with or without invitation. So much for the character of the quiet and reserved Portuguese.

      Please forgive one more reminiscence, when on a train trip from Lisboa to the University in Coimbra to check my paternal grandfather's student life. The University's administrators were amazingly kind, allowing a perfect stranger a completely free run of the historical student records, and even some long-distance phone calls to my father in Brazil to check on specific information. That was way beyond their call of duty, and their kindness deeply impressed me.

      JE comments: These kinds of comments are the lifeblood of WAIS. Thanks, Tor!

      Regarding Brazil's Italian roots, why is it that Argentina, which is equally Italian or more so, is not as spirited and jolly as Brazil?

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      • Argentines and Brazilians (Tor Guimaraes, USA 10/06/15 6:44 PM)
        Replying to my post of 5 October, John Eipper asked, "Regarding Brazil's Italian roots, why is it that Argentina, which is equally Italian or more so, is not as spirited and jolly as Brazil?" That is another interesting question that involves external perception of a group as a whole and the individuals in the group.

        My experience is that Argentinian individuals can be as "spirited and jolly" as their Brazilians counterpart. The problem is that as group the Argentinians have gained a very negative reputation among other South American nations. For example, at a Venezuelan resort in Caracas, watching the final of a Copa del Mundo soccer game between Brazil and Italy, the former won and from the veranda we could see that the entire city exploded with car horns blaring, parades, and flag waving in celebration as if the Brazilians were their national team. Somewhat surprised I asked my friends if instead of Brazil it was the Argentinian team the reaction would be similar, since we are all South Americans. The answer was an emphatic no. Pressing for an explanation the retort was that Argentinians are a bunch of (something to do with unusual sexual preferences), and that they think they are Europeans rather than South Americans.

        This different view of a group versus individuals in the group manifests itself in different ways. For example, my Jewish friends say that they feel and behave united as a group but they argue like cats and dogs among individuals in the group. On the other hand, they also say that some non-Jews love some Jewish individuals but hate the group as a whole. There seems to be some truth to that but personally I have great admiration for Jewish culture and their accomplishments which have greatly benefited mankind. But, as with any group, there are also many unpleasant Jewish people.

        JE comments: Yes, there are unpleasant members in any group. Yet Brazilians are fortunate in that everyone seems to like them, both individually and as a nation.  Everyone, perhaps, except the Argentines.

        OK, I won't generalize any more for today.  Please visit our homepage (waisworld.org) for this weekend's conference program.  I'll post more details on the morrow.

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        • More on National Character: Watching the English (John Heelan, UK 10/15/15 5:38 AM)
          By coincidence, a Spanish friend recommended that I read Watching the English: The Hidden Rules of English Behaviour by social anthropologist Kate Fox. It certainly has a lot of home truths that he claimed helped him understand Brits better.

          JE comments: That murky domain known as "national character" was one of the underlying themes of WAIS '15. Why, Marie Ridley asked, do the Norwegians so cheerfully embrace their diversity of dialects?  In turn, Tamara Zúñiga-Brown gave us an idea of what Saudi students think of the United States.  And what is it, in the views of Cameron Sawyer and Roman Zhovtulya, that makes Ukrainians Ukrainian and Russians Russian? Finally, we discussed the relative merits of Cuba and Turkey as a setting for the next WAIS gathering. I failed to mention at the time that there is a statue of Atatürk in Havana. I stumbled across it in 1998.  Have the Turks returned the favor, with a bust of Martí (or, egads, Fidel) in Ankara?  I'm doubtful.

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