Sorry, I can’t “move on” from this incident, since I believe there are a lot of lessons we need to raise over and over again and pound into the consciousness of people.
The Manila Bus Hostage Incident/Massacre was no isolated incident. It was an effect of everything our culture stands for. Our Filipino values, our system, our beliefs and of course, our corruption, all played into the event and caused the massive failure that led to the deaths of eight Hong Kong nationals. Every step of the story, from the culture that led to the action of Mendoza to the reaction of our flippant president and our people to the incident, shows how destructive our cultural failures are and how these same factors are keeping our country from moving forward.
First is Mendoza. He was certainly wrong. Filipinos want to say that he was not a Filipino that day he took hostages. But that is wrong; he is every bit as Filipino as every other Filipino is, and he represented us that day. He was born Filipino, raised Filipino and died a Filipino. He is a product of Filipino culture.
He was a good example of misplaced pride. He was sacked because of allegedly taking part in force-feeding shabu to a suspect, an unethical act. If he was there, why would he tolerate it, despite being a decorated cop? If he was not there, why was he unable to control his men, showing inadequate leadership? Was he “laissez faire” with his men (similar to our president with his people)? Misplaced pride is a sure factor in this.
Dysfunctional family values also played into Mendoza’s role. His brother when being arrested said something that revealed that the gun used by the hostage taker was actually his. One brother knew that the other was going to commit a crime; why didn’t he stop his brother, being a police officer himself? He was most likely an accomplice and it means that his values were twisted. If family values meant helping your brother even in doing wrong, then that probably reflects a problem in the values of society.
The Filipino Cultural Trinity
The Bus Hostage Incident/Massacre was a demonstration of our cultural faults as summed up in Benign0’s brilliant Filipino Cultural Trinity:
1. Pwede Na ‘Yan
a. Instead of sending the appropriately equipped and trained SAF; they sent pulis patola who knew zilch about hostage situations. A clear failure of command based on “pwede na yan” mentality.
b. It was clearly a national event, not a local one, since the hostage were foreigners. But the inappropriate local forces said they were enough, so the upper leadership thought, “pwede na ‘yan” and let it go, because they had “sosyal” meetings to attend.
2. Bahala Na
a. He knew that hostage taking was wrong to do; but Mendoza probably had “bahala na” mentality; “bahala na” whatever happens to him despite his wrong action; so typically Filipino, isn’t it?
b. The upper leaders let it go, even if they might have known better; so if the showboating local buffoons handle it, “bahala na.” They’re needed at their “sosyal” meetings.
c. Investigators raise the possibility that the Manila policemen were the ones who shot the tourists, and not hostage-taker Mendoza. They probably shot at random, thinking “bahala na” if the hostages get hit. See how the “bahala na” mentality costs unnecessary lives.
a. Finger-pointing starts, everyone’s denying their part in it; in the end, no one may get punished for it.
b. Says the prez, “heads will roll,” but will they be the right heads to roll? And is head-rolling the right thing to do at all?
c. Reactions of Filipinos (as discussed below) imply impunity. It’s as if the Filipinos want to answer for nothing. They say, China is also responsible for a (purportedly) similar event. It’s also typically “Filipino” to try and escape accountability.
The Reactions – More Shame and Idiocy
The Filipino reactions to Hong Kong’s anger were riddled with unethical behavior and lame attempts at saving face. Perhaps these reactions show that Filipinos value face – amor propio – more than substance. It’s better for us to look good than be good – which is a failure of ethics. It thus leads to the following unethical reactions:
1. Victim mentality and Ad Hominems – A writer, purportedly Aurora Pijuan, circulated an article bringing up the murder of some Filipino tourists in Tiananmen, Beijing in 2005. It alleged parallels between this event and the bus hostage crisis. It was echoed by obviously biased columnist Billy Esposo in The Star. They held that China should also pay for this murder of the Madrigals in 2005.
This is another shameful reaction of Filipinos because it is smacks of ignorance and victim mentality. The Tiananmen murders were given justice and already paid for. The Madrigal family said that they never wanted it to become public. And they can never be parallels; the Tiananmen incident is just a sudden race-based murder without hostage-taking, while the Manila Bus Massacre is a hostage-taking where there was lots of time for proper solutions to be enacted. It’s comparing apples to oranges. Thus, the issue of the 2005 Tiananmen murders is invalid for the Bus Massacre. The Philippines still owes Hong Kong, not the other way around.
In addition, this is the ad hominem fallacy – attacking the other person instead of sticking to the argument. It’s like the criminal who was caught red-handed by the police still has the audacity to point a finger to the policeman and say, “you probably committed a crime too!” Also, since the incident was already paid for by China, the people who say that it still needs justice may be lying! Thus, this raising of the 2005 Madrigal incident in Tiananmen is unethical. This applies also to Filipinos raising the melamine and lead paint in toys issues. They’re bygones. And they never change the fact that Filipinos are still responsible for the Manila Bus Massacre.
2. Taking Refuge in False Pride – Many messages have spread around telling Filipinos to step up self-promotion for their country. 2010 senatorial candidate Alex Lacson circulated his own message that Filipinos should actively promote and praise achieving Filipinos and try to snuff out the negative news about the country. Unfortunately, his message and the messages of the “Proud to be Pinoy” crowd relies on the old-fashioned but dishonest method of red herring – using a distraction. Also, as BongV explained, following Lacson’s suggestions is not enough (or is even wrong, like in the “Buy Filipino” and “speak only about the positive to foreigners” parts).
Many people say, “There’s Charice, there’s Arnel, there’s Pacquiao, there’s this and that achieving Filipino that we should be proud of… so forget the Bus Massacre.” Sorry, this will never undo the wrong done during the hostage crisis. It’s only done to take attention off the issue. This is also meant to build up false pride or fake pride. Just ask yourself: do other nations do this when a similar thing happens in their country?
The fake pride approach seems to imply that the Filipinos are accepting disasters like the Bus Hostage Crisis as inevitable events. In other words, they have given up all hope in rightful prevention. All they will do is let these disasters go and just try to make up by drawing attention to this “successful Filipino.” It’s the same things drunkards do – drown their sorrows in Pleasantry Addiction. Thus, nothing gets solved; it actually gets worse.
3. Souvenir Picture Taking/Camwhoring – Perhaps the more flagrant and truly more shocking reaction of Filipinos is their taking pictures, smiling, in front of the crime scene. It was a truly inappropriate action that shows that Filipinos do not know how to respect the solemnity of an event. It also gave the idea that Filipinos are masters of schadenfreude – being happy at others’ misfortunes. It gives the impression that Filipinos are cruel and uncaring, and don’t care that someone else died for their own enjoyment. Schadenfreude – is that the trait of a “god-fearing” nation? Of course, the goal of souvenir picture taking is, “I’ll be part of history with this picture.” Still, it’s the wrong way to be in history – better do it with achievements.
4. The Government’s Reaction – Not taking Tsang’s call or not even calling back when he should, finger-pointing at the other factions, saying things like “our problems now, in two or three years we can say that they are laughable when we recall that they were not that grave,” and getting “insulted” by the HK government’s letter These are among the most irresponsible things anyone can say… and are clear signs of brainless arrogance.
Oh yes, don’t forget the extra flashy smile that made the Hong Kong people and Chinese angry.
How to Handle the Shame
It would be normal for any civilized person of the host country to be humbled by this event. But many Filipinos refuse to be humbled. They wrongly believe that humility is the same as shame. They believe in saving face to protect their pride – which is worth nothing at the moment. Thus, they show that they are uncivilized with the reactions stated above. And this lack of civility is the result of a highly flawed and corrupted culture.
You don’t need to be ashamed of being Filipino; that’s not the problem here. The incident itself is the main source of shame. But the Filipino reaction is a source of greater shame, because it hints to the shamefulness of our culture. It demonstrates the self-righteousness hypocrisy and whitewash mentality of Filipino culture. It shows how arrogant and callous Filipinos have become – the very opposite of the “God-fearing” people they claim to be.
Richard Gordon said, “We are a dysfunctional country.” I agree in saying, “We are a dysfunctional culture.” We have dysfunctional values, dysfunctional beliefs and dysfunctional practices. The Manila Bus Hostage Incident/Massacre demonstrated all of this in one event.
There’s only one thing to do after all this: accept that we are dysfunctional and fix ourselves as a country; we should fix our culture. Non-acceptance of this is blinding oneself from the truth. And if we don’t develop this acceptance, then we can expect far greater disasters in the future. As Adam Carolla said, “Get your **** together, Philippines.”
I just wonder, with all the arrogance and brainlessness of our culture, if we will finally admit our own mistakes and take action to correct them.