In Mary H. Fee’s book A Woman’s Impressions of the Philippines published in 1910, there’s a chapter titled “An Analysis of Filipino Character.” When I read it, it felt like she was describing Filipinos in the 2010’s – a full century ahead of her experiences. Ms. Fee was not at all anti-Filipino, but her depiction of Pinoy pride and the Filipinos’ stubborn simple-mindedness was right on the money.
This is one of the reasons I do not view the current situation in the Philippines as a political issue but rather a Filipino issue. If more than 40 years of good governance led by Americans had done nothing to change the nature of the Filipino (and consequently, his predicament), what will?
Note: Ms. Fee was an American who spent years teaching in the Philippines beginning in the early 1900’s. Her book is now in the public domain.
Here’s a sample from the aforementioned chapter:
“Some four years ago, I was teaching a class in the Manila School of Arts and Trades, and was giving some directions about the word form of English sentences. I advised the class to stick to simple direct sentences, since they would never have any use for a literary style in English. Some six or eight young men instantly dissented from this proposition, and insisted that they were capable of acquiring the best literary style. Not one of them could have written a page of clear, grammatical, idiomatic English. I tried to make it clear to them that literary English and colloquial English are two different things, and that what they needed was plain, precise English as a medium of exchange in business, and I said, incidentally, that such was the English possessed by the major portion of the English-speaking race. I said that although the American nation numbered eighty millions, most of whom were educated and able to make an intelligent use of their language in conversation or in writing, the percentage of great writers and speakers always had been small and always would be so.
When I had finished, the son of a local editor, arose and replied as follows: “Yes, madame, what you say of Americans is true. But we are different. We are a literary people. We are only eight millions, but we have hundreds and thousands of orators. We have the literary sense for all languages.””
Link to the chapter:
PDF version from archive.org:
Other quotes from the chapter:
“…Filipino children reverse this attitude. They are quite docile, seldom think of disputing authority as applied to discipline, but they will naively cling to a position and dispute both fact and philosophy in the face of quoted authority, or explanation, or even of sarcasm.”
“They will faithfully memorize pages and pages of matter which they do not understand, a task at which our nervous American children would completely fail. They are exceedingly sensitive to criticism, and respond quickly to praise.”
“Middle-class Filipinos have a very inadequate conception of the tremendous wealth of artistic, literary, and musical talent interwoven with the world’s development, and are especially inclined to pride themselves upon their racial excellence in these lines, where, in truth, they have achieved almost no development whatever in spite of the possession of undoubted talent.”
“If you talk to a Filipino carpenter about the carefully constructed houses of America, he does not sigh. He merely says, “That is very good for America, but here different custom.”
“It would be far easier to distract the attention of the children of the State of Ohio from their distinguished fellow-citizens, William H. Taft and John D. Rockefeller, to fix it upon the late Lord Cromer or that Earl of Halifax known as the “Trimmer,” than it is to tell a Filipino child that the way to distinction lies through toil and sweat.”
“The weakest point in a Filipino child’s character is his quick jealousy and his pride. His jealousy is of the sort constitutionally inimical to solidarity.”