A president trying to be "humble" comes across as a wang(ker)

Filipinos are culturally hobbled by a compulsion to assert class dominance over the other. Much of the priority pursuit of the average Filipino involves decking himself in the latest branded t-shirt, sporting the latest mobile device, and uttering the latest hollywood catchphrase. Nothing new nor nothing surprising about this. Much of what contributes to the impoverishment of the Filipino is driven by a neurotic susceptibility to the Jedi mind tricks of clever marketing, and a vacuous regard for the substance behind truly excellent brands. The engineering brilliance that purrs underneath the understated exterior of a Mercedes Benz automobile, for example, is simply lost on the Filipino mind’s fixation on the three-pointed star that is its mere symbol. Indeed, Filipinos are huge patrons of fake branded products — a testament to this renowned lack of depth in our sensibilities. The brand is the be-all-end-all. What it symbilises is of no consequence to the average Filipino consumer. For us quality is a magically mysterious property of a product. The thinking and diligence that goes into engineering an excellent product <back stage simply does not register.

The venerable Micheal Tan in his masterpiece “Pinoy Kasi” article laid it out quite eloquently:

For the Filipino, this is usually done by over-dressing, decking himself with what he thinks are the symbols of wealth: flashy jewelry, brand-name accessories.


It is amazing how this training to be immodest starts early in life. You see it even in school among the children of the rich and powerful, in the way they dress, in the latest electronic gadgets they carry. These kids don’t walk, they strut around. Neither do they talk; they boast, they order people around.


The swagger, the insolent voice, the conspicuous consumption of wealth are all part of an assertion of privilege, a long-playing ritual to intimidate others into “modest” silence. In countries where such a culture dominates, like the Philippines, progress is slow. There is little room for innovation or creativity since individual merit is rarely recognized. The only way up, besides being born into privilege, is to join the circle of sycophants that sing daily praise to those in power.

Such an unsavory character burnt straight into the very fibres that make up the very fabric of Philippine society, possibly explains why our best-intentioned efforts to exhibit a bit of humility more often than not comes out like a badly-executed comedy of errors. Not only is Pinoy kayabangan (arrogance) so deeply-ingrained, the already tiny philosophical landscape of the Filipino lacks a rich enough conceptual framework around humility in the true sense of the word.

Again, Michael Tan explains:

Our language says it all. We do not have words for “modest” and “modesty” in Tagalog, except in the sense of how a woman is supposed to behave. We do have a word for “humble” – mapagpakumbaba, which emphasizes the way we are supposed to lower, even prostrate ourselves, in relation to the powerful.

Indeed, in the same way that a lack of a concept of efficiency in Filipino native dialects reflects the pathos of our industrial prowess, an inability of the vocabulary of Pinoy languages to capture the the many dimensions of humility explains why our efforts to be “humble” simply fail. The Filipino brain is simply not wired to be humble.

Knowing all of the above, it is now quite easy to see the cultural psychology behind the way President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III painted himself into a corner in this whole issue about him declining to avail of his “wang-wang” privileges.

The Law is quite clear about who is entitled to what with regard to this:

Under the law, only the president, the vice president, the heads of the two chambers of parliament, the Supreme Court chief justice, police, military and emergency vehicles can use sirens and drive through red lights.

The issue surrounding the abuse of sirens and motorcades is more around an atrophied ethic of application and enforcement of the Law in Philippine society. Indeed, ours is more a culture of crime rather than a society of law-abiding citizens. It is a systemic issue, and wang-wang‘s are mere symptoms of this broad-based cancer that famously afflicts Filipino society.

The trouble with a people possessing a well-developed ethic of arrogance and a stunted understanding of humility is that an attempt to be humble often results in an over-compensation. It can be likened to the sorry performance of a bad actor trying to portray a complex character. When complexity is far beyond the ability of a mind to internalise it, there can be only one result: epic fail.

Look at what false humility is costing Noynoy Aquino today as evident in this AFP report:

Presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda admitted on Thursday that Aquino’s insistence that he be treated like every other Filipino in traffic was causing a massive headache for his bodyguards.

“That’s a concern. Either he wakes up earlier and just observe all these traffic rules or, since he’s allowed to use sirens, he can use the sirens,” Lacierda said.

Sayaw, Pinoy, sayaw.


About benign0

benign0 is the Web master of GetRealPhilippines.com
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56 Responses to A president trying to be "humble" comes across as a wang(ker)

  1. mel says:

    Exactly. It is a matter of law-enforcement and not proving PNoy’s self-discipline.

    Presidency is not a Kindergarten. Children have their parents/teachers and adults have their cognitive thinking to discipline themselves. PNoy’s refusal to use his privileges shows his incapability to analyze a pyramid!

    • Aegis-Judex says:

      Amen! What use is a privilege when you put it not to use?

      Ah, stupidity! Thy name is Noy!

    • Scribbles says:

      And the media is all “purisimo!” about the wang-wang issue. It drives me nuts listening to radio host talking about wang wang every time for almost two weeks now. The media is so good at brainwashing people.

  2. HusengBatute says:

    This wang-wang thing is a very lame choice of an example. It is impractical and unsustainable given the extraordinary circumstances under which the president may find himself.

    If Noynoy really wants to lead through example and convince even perhaps his doubters, he should prove himself to be truly impartial and non-selective–He should also investigate cases that may even involve his family, like Hacienda Luisita and his relatives. Noynoy, be a true example and show us that you neither exempt nor give special favors to anyone, not even your relatives.

    Until then, everything else is just for show, for brown-nosing to the public, or may even just be a ruse to divert attention away from the skeletons he or his family may be hiding in their closet.

    Gibo already demonstrated his ability to put the country above his family’s interest–risking even his relationship with uncle Danding and family. Is Noynoy equally capable of doing the same?

    • Lilly says:

      [quote]Gibo already demonstrated his ability to put the country above his family’s interest–risking even his relationship with uncle Danding and family. Is Noynoy equally capable of doing the same?[/quote]

      Alas, most of the people I’ve talked with about Gibo’s parting with Danding said something along the lines of “Ayan! Yan ba pagkatiwalaan mo? Walang utang ng loob sa pinanggalingan!”

      Ah, Pinoys. You don’t know what the hell you want.

  3. ChinoF says:

    Benign0 makes a good connection between culture and symbolic actions by politicians. You could see the similarity between the wang-wang issue and having the latest consumer goods: they give a semblance of something for a mere temporary high rather than giving the real thing. Filipinos value the superficial changes because they probably feel too lazy or too hopeless to make any real changes that will really fix the problems.

  4. GabbyD says:

    “The trouble with a people possessing a well-developed ethic of arrogance and a stunted understanding of humility is that an attempt to be humble often results in an over-compensation”

    why is getting rid of wang wangs “overcompensation”?

    • mel says:

      @Gabby D

      PNoy’s focusing on banal wangwang issue shows his incompetence in addressing significant issues.

      Psychologically, he behaves in a way that he is trying hard to show humility in order to hide his deficiency in judgment.

      • GabbyD says:


        “PNoy’s focusing on banal wangwang issue shows his incompetence in addressing significant issues.”

        if ur interpretation of B0 is right, wouldnt that be undercompensation? under — coz he isnt addressing significant issues?

        moreover, by using the word “compensation”, this means there is something that must be compensated (ie. some hurt). in this context, pnoy is compensating for some thing he did in the past? what is this thing?

      • benign0 says:

        When I use “over-compensation” here, GabbyD, I mean it in the same sense of how guys who drive big sports cars or SUV’s are said to be compensating for a male inadequacy (such as, say, being cursed with a small batuta).

        Bad actors who lack a deep understanding of the character they are trying to portray tend to over-act which is a form of over-compensation in the acting effort.

        Inexperienced drivers may over-compensate when turning a corner by allowing a larger-than-necessary clearance from the kerb around which they are turning.

        In fact it seems that, you yourself, Mr GabbyD are also over-compensating — over-compensating from a chronic inability to grasp subtle concepts as what are described above and in this article. This over-compensation on your part reveals itself in the sort of questions you ask here. 😀

      • mel says:


        I think you are translating the word compensation literally.

      • GabbyD says:


        i accept ALL of your definitions of overcompensation here. (except for when u used me, of course)

        so here’s what. if you can write down a sentence of this form, maybe we will understand why u used “over compensation”.

        “When I use “over-compensation” here, GabbyD, I mean it as how Pnoy “A” are said to be compensating for “B”.

        where “B” is something embarrassing/small, and where “A” is something grandiose/large.


      • GabbyD says:


        there is another element to this “overcompensation”term…

        when a man with a small penis buys a large car, this “compensates” for the small penis by arguing that a large car IS ENOUGH to “compensate”/replace the fact that the person has a small penis.

        is enough to do … what? get women, presumably.

        let me spell out the argument: there are several ways to get women. two substitutable ways are to have a large penis, OR to be wealthy. both work — so if there is a display of wealth, that means he MUST have some defect.

        lets say this argument is correct …

        then you must be saying that getting rid of wang-wangs is an ostentatious display to curb corruption, which implicitly argues that yes, its effective in curbing corruption (in the same way that big cars can effectively attract women).


      • GabbyD says:


        not at all! you may compensate for something that NOT a tangible thing.

        i am merely asking what is that “thing” Pnoy is compensating for… and what is the evidence that he has done/has this “thing”

      • jethernandez says:


        The stupid question you’ve asked on overcompensation refers to the dumb move of Noynoy to have included in his speech that moronic issue of wang wangs… which thus has lead him to get into a persona of an overacting tele novela actor. What’s happened next is that he now has one stupid and invalid excuse to be late in any or all appointments of his because he has no wang wang… He now becomes more than a BUWANG because he’s now saying that he needs to sleep early in order to rise early because he has no wang wang… Thus… lessening his productive time for God, country and family because he has no wang wang…. so for the love of the blessed virgin boy abunda… HE HAS TO SLEEP EARLY BECAUSE OF WANG WANG!!!! …. now is that COMPENSATING or OVERCOMPENSATING?

      • Aegis-Judex says:

        Mother of Our Lord Jesus Christ, will the president of this barbarian nation man up and use his powers for the sake of the development of these savages instead of focusing on savage things?

      • GabbyD says:


        ang laki naman ng epekto ng wang wang. kaya ka pala stressed! 🙂 b0’s quote was about pnoy’s bodyguards ONLY, but you have written an entire telenovela about the effect of wang wang…

        now, that IS OVER-ACTING 🙂

      • Miriam Quiamco says:

        Hey Gabby D, the presumption you used on women is totally, totally, totally politically incorrect, would you find other examples to make your point, I find this totally vulgar. Sexist and lowly evolved men would reduce women’s preferences for men on these two criteria, are you part of this crowd? Goodness, gracious, you are totally out of line here. It makes me wonder now what your sexual orientation is, you seem to have this phallic fixation, stop reinforcing these unfounded stereotypes on women by using them in clarifying your point, which is still not quite clear. Your comments at times make me wonder if you are really interested in engaging people genuinely or you are just bored out of your mind when you bring up non-sequitur points of contention.

      • Aegis-Judex says:

        Miriam, why don’t we let him? Perhaps he is still in the stage of denial.

        Political incorrectness? Just call a sword a sword, not “a bladed tool used for war.” BTW, I think GabbyD was just playing the “Shock and Awe” card.

        Remember, a spade is a spade!

    • mel says:

      Thanks, jethernandez!

      Ich glaube, Du musst Dein Psychologie Buch nachlesen. :mrgreen:

      • Anonylol says:

        I like how GabbyD completely misses the point and starts arguing about something that is superficial.

        I think it underlines the article’s argument quite nicely.

        Also, GabbyD’s trolling is elementary school level.

      • GabbyD says:

        trolling? not according to wikipedia:

        “In Internet slang, a troll is someone who posts inflammatory, extraneous, or off-topic messages in an online community, such as an online discussion forum, chat room, or blog, with the primary intent of provoking other users into a desired emotional response[1] or of otherwise disrupting normal on-topic discussion.[2] ”

        first, i started the topic. second, the topic comes DIRECTLY FROM B0’S POST. third, i dont care about emotion. i just want to know what b0 means when he uses the word “overcompensation”. thats not superficial either — overcompensation is the core idea of his blogpost!

    • ChinoF says:

      “Overcompensation” here has the same meaning as OA.

      Wang-wang is just a public display of contrived sacrifice, but it’s in fact detrimental to society, as ambulances and police will come late to the hospital or the scene of the crime.

      • GabbyD says:

        ambulances and police should still be able to use sirens. thats not what pnoy is talking about.

      • Anonylol says:

        Your additional responses argue the meaning of the word while completely missing the context in which it was used.

        I assumed you were trolling because the alternative would be you being unable to understand the meaning of the article. Or in other words being pants-on-head retarded.

  5. red says:

    When Pngoy calls himself humble, is that a sign of humilty? 😈

  6. palebluedot says:

    While wang-wang is an onomatopoeia for siren sound. A fuss of priority for those who are riding and driving, those who are privileged to own cars, have jobs, have income to go to market etc. Wang-wang in the south is slang for loose or hollow or empty space. Like when someone says “wang-wang akong tiyan”, it means he haven’t eaten. Sometimes we even tease those who are thin as “wang-wang”, for “niwang”. We suggest the president should redefine his wang-wang into our wang-wang. It’d be a sure hit to the poor 😈

    Btw, most cities/towns do not care about wang-wang problems. We even like it passing by coz then we get that free chance to see some celebrities 😯

    Wang-wang –> much ado about nothing! 🙄

  7. barbara barado says:

    ako ang tagal tagal ko ng nag cocommute sa maynila. jeep, fx bus etc. wala naman epekto sakin at sa mga friends ko yung wang wang na yan pag meron kami nakakasabay sa daan, ni hindi nga nag rereact yung mga kasakay ko. ewan ko ah, affected lang yata talaga dyan sa wang wang na yan yung mga may sariling sasakyan at nagmamaneho. siyempre nasisingitan sila. hindi naman kasi araw araw meron kang makakasabay na may wang wang. kaya nagulat ako nung ipagbawal yan, ang natutuwa lang dyan yung mga may sariling sasakyan.

  8. barbara barado says:

    mas matutuwa pa ko sa kanya pag inuna nyang hulihin ang mga smoke belcher. kakairita kaya yun lalu na pag nasa jeep ka, tapos meron malapit na sasakyan na may maitim na usok kainis diba. kahit pag nag aabang ka ng masasakayan tapos may dadaan na may maitim na usok grrrr yun.

  9. NFA rice says:

    The President has to arrive to his destination as quickly as possible to be able to arrive where he needs to be. The law regarding wangwang is there for a reason. Why doesn’t he use the privilege that the Presidency needs?

    This humility is hollow and childish. We don’t need this false humility. The real humility here is the use of the privileges of the Presidency to serve the interests of the people effectively. Noynoy, my boy, the Philippines is not only the streets that you commute on, for crying out loud!

  10. Hyden Toro says:

    Maybe, it is just a show off of humility…Afterwards, back to the same routine…

    • bokyo says:

      De ol’ Ningas Kugon, eh? 😀

      Tingnan natin kung di makagamit yan ng wangwang kung abutan ulit ng sakit ng tyan si Noynoy 😛

  11. boombox says:

    Hey Wank-er prez…

    Have you’ve ever been here in Lanao del Sur..? Guess what, your Wang-Wang policy does not apply here..

  12. spatz says:

    This privilege to use sirens is given to Presidents because the job asks for it! It’s a necessity. And here we have a president trying to act like us mortals by not using wang-wang. What does that achieve? Di nama yan issue masyado sa mga probinsiya yang wang-wang na yan.

    And Good Lord i can’t believe the media is till talking about this non-issue.

  13. helios says:

    I’ve been waiting for AP to write about the siren (i refuse to call it wang wang) issue. I remember the PDI writing a story about this and Nonoy was telling his driver that he is starting something here because he saw a motorbike driver give him a thumbs up. what a pea brained president…. or is he? i am inclined to think the Filipinos are the small minded ones.

    Yes Filipinos, the banning of the use of sirens puts food on the table and roofs over you heads and allows us to have access to much needed government services. It solves your everyday problems.

    the last words probably best describes the Filipino: Sayaw, Pinoy, sayaw… we are all marionettes…

  14. J_ag says:

    There is no doubt that this man (the new Prez) really means well. But can a man who would like to reform the country really change the predator culture of business and government in this country by talk and prayer?

    We have for all intents and purposes a predator state. The government as the administrator of the state is mainly a predator rather than an enabler for material prosperity for its citizens. The majority of “pinoys” are natives and subjects and very very very few have it to be conscious of citizenship.

    Today we have pop culture masquerading as culture. Pop nationalism and Pop government.

    Citizens would denote statehood. We are all striving to build a state out of tribes and clans. Malayo pa ang citizenship…

    The extractive and get rich quick from the natives colonial culture is still operating.

    Can the Prez subdue the Predator state in six years. No way……

    • Jay says:

      He never EVER prepared for it. Much as he never prepared for anything in his life.

      I mean the whole thing about using Cory’s death to fuel his presidential campaign engine is a no-brainer but he himself never saw the full potential of it.

  15. Ryunken says:

    He prioritizes a stupid and ineffective law of putting out them Wang-Wangs… Instead of what he promises for the good of his country he’s running… Wait a minute… Did he even promise something for our country’s progress?

    Pin[Head]-Noy is an idiot of his own caliber… He promised to stop smoking when he wins… Yet he’s puffing away… Its so going to be so funny if he dies early in his presidency due to smoking…

  16. Kuliglig says:

    I agree with Mel on the 1st reply. The main sentiment about the siren is not about the abuse and its misuse. It is not about extra privilege for the public “servants”, rather, it is about letting them feel how F****NG hard it is to travel the LAWLESS streets of the Philippines, IN HOPES that they will actually fix it. Alas, Mr. Aquino missed the point and focused on suffering with us instead of fixing it. Why nobody ever blames the law enforcement agencies is just beyond me.

  17. Kuliglig says:

    I agree with Mel on the 1st reply. The main sentiment about the siren is not just about the abuse and its misuse. It is not about extra privilege for the public “servants”, rather, it is about letting them feel how F****NG hard it is to travel the LAWLESS streets of the Philippines, IN HOPES that they will actually fix it.

    Alas, Mr. Aquino missed the point and focused on suffering with us instead of fixing it. Why nobody ever blames the law enforcement agencies is just beyond me.

  18. Bruce in Iloilo says:

    I think that the noun in this sentence is wrong: “The Filipino brain is simply not wired to be humble.” It should read “Human brains are simply not wired to be humble.” What is attributed to “the Filipino” (is there a more condescending phrase?) is actually human nature. Different human societies have had varying success in countering and overcoming this most human of tendencies and therefore they have reached different levels of advancement, but it is always a struggle. Our base human nature is trying to constantly pull us back into a state of nature where life is nasty, brutal and short.

    • Aegis-Judex says:

      Thomas Hobbes? Now that’s one hooray for religion in general.

      Now, in “the Philippine society,” we are simply bumbling around, mostly adhering to the Hobbes model, “nasty, brutish, and short.” This is why I am thankful for AP.

      More power to the thinking Filipino! More power to AP!

  19. barbara barado says:

    kung di mo naintindihan ibig kong sabihin, sabi ko, mas matutuwa pa sana ako kung hindi wang wang ang inuna nyang gawing issue. mas matutuwa pa ako pag sinabi nyang no to smoke belching. gets mo na? kaya hindi ako natutuwa sa wang wang na yan kala mo napakagandang accomplishment nya na

  20. barbara barado says:

    sorry yung post ko pala na yan para sa sagot ni anonylol

  21. mel says:

    Goodbye wangwangs, hello new modus operandi…


    See, PNoy? And there are still many ways…

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