The “Pilipinas Kay Ganda” Embarrassment and Pinoy Culture: A Case of a Product-less Brand

This is an article – somewhat updated – that I originally wrote sometime prior to the last national election in connection with an extended discussion on political platforms, and in light of the giggle-inducing launching (and quick withdrawal) of the ill-conceived “Pilipinas Kay Ganda” tourism marketing campaign this week seems to have become somewhat relevant again.

The anthropological definition of culture is “The sum total of the attainments and activities of any specific period, race, or people, including their implements, handicrafts, agriculture, economics, music, art, religious beliefs, traditions, language, and story.” What that all-encompassing definition suggests is that culture is the identification of a people, the picture that they and the rest of Mankind can look at and say, “This is what a Pinoy is.” Or an American, an Indian, or a Japanese and so on, as the case may be. A single picture, but one with two faces: one is the symbology, the comparatively simple components that serve as reminders of the deeper character – a flag, a national language, anthems, heroes, modes of dress, unique foods, spiritual beliefs and customs – and the other is the character itself, the ethos and mores, the shared attitudes towards self and community, and the common thought process that leads to shared ideals.

If these aspects of character are weak or absent, the symbols are meaningless – the flag is just a piece of cloth, the anthem is just a song, the marketing slogan a random collection of words. The Philippines has no lack of angst over the development of a ‘national culture’: bills are passed in the Legislature to enhance “cultural heritage”, and even the idea of a ‘national language’ – a laughable notion in this polyglot land – is fervently promoted as a means to “bring the people together.” All such efforts fail, and will continue to do so, because the underlying character that gives such symbols meaning is missing from the Pinoy. Benign0 in his thoughtful article “What Freedom Demands of Us” explains one of the root causes for this shortcoming:

“Whereas anyone can wear a shirt with a slogan, wave an “L” shaped hand, or tie a yellow ribbon, what separates Sapiens from Erectus is an ability to consider in a deliberate manner the consequences of one’s actions and remain personally accountable for said consequences.

That is what freedom truly entails: a freedom to think and a freedom to act on the basis of said thinking. …The common denominator here is the obvious reliance of Filipinos on or deference to pedigreed, elderly, or celebrity edict above their better individual judgment.

Marriage is a microcosm of that cultural syndrome that stands out as a stark reminder of just how backward Philippine society remains. Marriage or choosing a lifetime partner is therefore a good example to use. In the most primitive societies, one’s lifetime partner is largely determined by prior arrangements/contracts made between one’s parents (or worse, as a result of a debt owed by one clan to another). In modern societies, on the other hand, most adults make that choice based on free will using their independent evaluation faculties to the best of what is available.

In primitive societies, the partnership is entered into with a resigned state of mind or in deference to the established order of things. In advanced societies, it is a relatively deliberate and conscious decision based on the best information available at the time.”

The unfortunate fact revealed by the evidence of the Pinoys’ sheep-like acceptance of authority, their respect for credentials, and their utter reliance on instinct and emotional response in any other situation is that as a people, the Pinoy has yet to rise above the third Maslowian level; esteem and self-actualization remain elusive, because those things require, as Benign0 puts it, “a broad range of work and thinking that productive participation in a free society demands of us.”

From the point of view of those who ostensibly lead the nation, culture presents a dilemma: Without a healthy culture no plans or objectives can be fully successful, if at all, yet it is impossible to express an objective to “change the manner in which the people think to one which is more productive” in practical, measurable terms. Even the most open-minded or thick-skinned people will balk at being told they are primitive or mentally lazy, and so a set of actions intended to achieve the above objective must be subtly creative in how it approaches the task. Measures to encourage fundamental cultural change must be developed: ideas that require individual and national self-reliance, accountability, and long-term considerations of actions and consequences – in short, things that advanced societies can do as a matter of course and that primitive societies must learn.

By addressing the fundamental character aspects of culture in this practical way, the more easily-understood symbolic aspects can be addressed more directly. Thus, a tiny tarsier and smiling coconut tree would actually mean something positive, rather than simply being visual cues for the pwede na yan approach – a cultural trait that is probably not particularly helpful in tourism marketing. Culture, the definition of a nation or a people, is essential to society, but cannot be fabricated and only reveals itself in the long-term through results. The results the Philippines have achieved to this point speak for themselves, and speak volumes for the culture. As spectacularly as “Pilipinas Kay Ganda” failed to impress, it is really no better or worse than any other slogan that might replace it – not so long as the slogan is advertising vaporware on a national scale.


About bkritz

I'm a writer, and I do things my own way. That might sound cool to you, unless you're one of the people who actually knows me, in which case you're probably shaking your head in exasperation at the depth of that understatement.
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33 Responses to The “Pilipinas Kay Ganda” Embarrassment and Pinoy Culture: A Case of a Product-less Brand

  1. Miriam Quiamco says:

    What the Philippines represents or has is “culture of poverty”.  I once witnessed a Filipina with her older Japanese partner, they were with the family members of the woman and to me back then, barely out of college, I was struck by the lack of dignity of the family who would let this foreign older man take them all to the mall to shop for what they should be able to buy themselves.  Japanese friends have recounted similar stories of how Japanese men would often get disappointed after visiting their girlfriend in the Philippines, since, they would find themselves being the “sugar daddy” of not just the woman they fell in love with, but also of the whole clan.  An American English teacher fell in love with a Filipina, he went to visit her in the Philippines and now he must send her money monthly to support not only the girlfriend, but her whole family as well.  And to think that in the case of the latter, he is only an English teacher here, which means, he has to work hard for a salary that is not really much in terms of purchasing power.  Such stories are truly tragic, it reinforces the ideas above of a Filipino culture that is truly undeveloped, that in the face of adversity, Filipinos would rather be free loaders rather than find a place under the sun where they can use their own powers and live in dignity, albeit not materially in abundance.  

    • WTF DUDE!!! says:

      in short they are using LAZY powers 😀

    • NotMasochisticFilipino says:

      Sus, kahit kapwa pinoy na OFW, ginagawa nilang sugar-mommy/daddy e yun pa kayang banyaga.

      Which reminds me of such plot where characters device a plan to make one of the main characters their sugar-daddy. Seems like they take such plots to heart since after all, they wish to be like those rag-to-rich characters in telenovelas.

    • BenK says:

      That’s such a stereotype, but it’s absolutely accurate. Meet a happy and long-lasting mixed couple, and chances are the Pinoy half of that equation will be a rare (at least by local standards) example of self-reliance and dignity.

      • Homer says:

        While it’s so true that (in many cases) the Pinoy half of a mixed couple become freeloaders to whoever plays the sugar mommy/daddy role, half the blame must also go to the individual who allows him/herself to be used by the “kapal” pinoy family.

      • BenK says:

        True enough, but someone else’s enabling the bad behavior doesn’t excuse the kapal family from being that way.

      • Aegis-Judex says:

        Now isn’t that just stupid?

      • Homer says:

        Agreed, but there’s also a lesson to be learned for those who enter a mixed relationship…to know what they’re bargaining for in case the pinoy half of the family is kapal. Sadly, these kind of families do exist,. .so for those who rule with their heads as well as their hearts, the choices are there.

    • ChinoF says:

      This is why I’m not yet married… and I’m even afraid of dating a fellow Filipina. hehehe

      I never liked the way Filipino culture requires you to marry the whole family instead of just the mate. It’s certainly related to the culture of poverty. Whatever happened to, “a man must leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife” (and so with the woman joined to her husband)? 

      • ChinoF says:

        By the way, don’t you think that the Yellow gov’t has the same idea with its CCTs, which mostly came from foreign sources? It’s as if they want the other countries to dole out to the Phils forever. 

    • J.B. says:

      If you think the economic angle of the girl’s family, they’re implementing a tactical offensive called “bleed and dry”. 🙂

      The only problem with this approach is that it paints a very negative image of a Filipino in-laws where other prospective suitors may be turned off after hearing such recounting of facts from friends who experience same.

    • bp says:

      there was a filipina featured in mel and joey last night that said something that i found odd. this woman is now living in new zealand and is married to a kiwi (not the fruit of course). anyway, on their love story, she said something like “he (the kiwi) had to know that he will not only marry me he will marry my whole family.” the way she said it sounded like she was even taking pride in it. 😦

      • Miriam Quiamco says:

        Exactly, these rotten values are reinforced in soap operas and on “respectable” TV shows like you mentioned as positive traits of the Filipinos.  We are being portrayed as sacrificial lambs of our families and that a girl wanting to get out of poverty and prostitutes herself uses supporting her family as an excuse for her lack of imagination.  How many young prostitutes can be found in red light districts in tourist havens in the country, like the one I saw on Puerto Galera would justify selling her 16-year old flesh to a balding, pot-bellied foreign man in his 60s or 70s in the name of saving her family from poverty.  Apart from materialism, many of our young women have not been raised well, TV programs hail them as maria clara and “mahinhin” and would only go to these unsavory occupations to save their families, to send brothers and sisters to school, but in fact, it is also because these girls do not have any spiritual life at all.  The church teachings have not touched them in a deeper level, their conscience is totally non-existent!!!  What a country we have become!

  2. Hyden Toro says:

    DATUISM is alive and well in the Philippines.

  3. Hyden Toro says:

    We Filipinos are known not to strive for excellence for everything that we do. The Germans are known to be Perfectionists. The Japanese work for the good community . Japanese people have the spirit to work and cooperate for the good of the community.

    We Filipinos are known for our:

    (1) “Ningas Cogon” mentality. Our enthusiasm ignites like fire; then it dies quickly a suuden stop.

    (2) “Pasikat Mentality” – If you have wealth; taken legitimately or illegitimately. You flaunt it to everybody. This is the reason we have so many corrupt people. Wanting to do the “pasikat” on everybody. Announcing to the world: they have arrived.

    (3) Family Dependent Mentality – foreigners marrying Filipinas complain: if you marry a Filipina, you marry the whole Family. I have a good American friend. He is married to a Filipina. His wife remits money to his family and relatives, frequently. The wife also send goods thru the Balikbayan Boxes. And this is causing a strain in their marriage. My American friend complained to me: “I did not marry his family.”

    (4) Datuism – It is an ancient trait of Filipinos. The Datu provides all the needs of his tribe member. In return; the members of the tribe, gives allegiance and loyalty to the Datu. This is the reason we have: (1) Political Family dynasties. (2) Political Warlords. and (3) Patronage Politics.

    Unless, we take a deep look at ourselves. Remove these inefficient characteristics in us. Improve ourselves. We will never Exorcise our own Demons.

    • kaye says:

      Not to mention that Datuism is literally deadly. Just look at the Ampatuan case.

    • ChinoF says:

      Datuism can be seen as part of our indigenous culture, so some out there might say, “this is our culture untouched by foreign influence, so we should defend it!” But then you’ll defending an ancient system that is actually harmful and leads to citizens’ deaths. So is all indigenous culture worth defending? Obviously not. 

    • The Lazzo says:

      Devil’s advocate:

      The Nazis and Tojo-ists were able to subvert these industrious mentalities to their own genocidal gain. The Japanese believed the Greater East Asia Sphere was their “community,” something many of our aging vets and survivors sadly remember firsthand. And the Germans believed the only perfection could come from Aryans, and everyone else had to be incinerated.

      With that in mind, given what we have to work with now, perhaps it might work to reverse-subvert (as it were) these mentalities into something more productive. E.g. actively promoting the legitimate, hard-work examples of “pasikat” above the corrupt gains (however rare they are here) as a more positive example.

      Yeah. My tuppence.

  4. Hyden Toro says:

    Sorry: it should be “her family”. I will improve my grammar next time.

  5. with our 1) heritage confused and confusing, 2) our current situation a mess, and 3) our potential a complete blank, any tourism effort by the Aquino administration will be as good as peddling a, as you stated here, a vaporware.

  6. Haw says:

    I remember when I was 15 years old, my parents kept telling me not to have a Filipina girlfriend. Because once you marry her, you marry the whole family. I took that advice to heart. hehehe


    hey! read the daily tribune today , FRONT LINE BY NINEZ OLIVAREZ.

    • Zadkiel says:


      Incompetents, Inc.
      Ninez Cacho-Olivares


      Noynoy Aquino’s Cabinet — nay — administration, is not only lightweight, but also highly mediocre, as shown by the silliest campaign slogan of Tourism Secretary Bertie Lim’s “Pilipinas kay Ganda.”

      This slogan, incidentally, was embraced by Noynoy, who even added his personal touch to with by adding a coconut tree and a tarsier up on the tree, but who now tries to get out of it with some lame excuse of having participated in the alleged drab original poster, now saying that this will not only undergo revisions, but would be scrapped completely, with the old logo of “Wow Philippines” to still be in use, until a new one surfaces.

      This state of tourism affairs, in reality, shows not only Noynoy and his administration’s disdain for anything identified with the previous administration, but also their very amateurish and incompetent ways, what with a bunch of new officials who, by and large, have no experience in running government departmental ways — in this instance, the ways to sell a country, and to the extent of having a president who even has to put his “imprint” on a tourism logo.

      Where the experience and expertise of the old tourism executives would have helped greatly in that department, Noynoy and his Bertie Lim kicked them out and replaced them with persons who know next to nothing about selling the Philippines. What on earth is the experience of a Black and Whiter being in charge of tourism promotions, or for that matter a spokesman of the elite Makati Business Club that only knows how to kiss the administration ass that it supports, and kicks administration ass when it goes against that administration?

      Noynoy, in trying to get out of the stupid tourism logo in which he had a hand, claimed that “the (tourism) stakeholders don’t sound content. So probably, we need to do more than just fine-tune it. We should look for something more fitting.”

      But it does not need a tourism expert to immediately know that Pilipinas kay Ganda was not only flat and boring but unsellable, having a language problem.

      The fact that Noynoy and his Bertie Lim and yellows failed to see it as such shows their amateurism, incompetence and mediocrity. They know nothing, yet they want to destroy everything that has the Arroyo brand, and in the process, destroy themselves, not only because they are all newbies, but because they are certified incompetents.

      This was supposed to be a rush job? But they in the tourism agency certainly had more than five months to come up with a new spiel, if that was what they wanted to do. But they copied another travel logo instead.

      Funny, but Noynoy and his yellow sip-sips blast away at the Supreme Court on the plagiarism issue, they too are guilty of the same crime, as the Pilipinas kay Ganda logo is said to have been a copy of the Polish logo, but one which Noynoy’s tourism people claim is not plagiarism, as they claim it is not an exact copy.

      So is Noynoy going to fire Bertie Lim and his mediocre tourism crew? After all, he did state before the UP Law Faculty that it is wrong to copy, to lie, to steal ideas of others, as these do not conform to his claimed straight path which is certainly taking the clear crooked line.

      No such thing. Noynoy said he has asked Lim to show him the full blueprint of the new tourism program so he could review it.

      Good grief! Why does a president have to review the new program, especially when he himself couldn’t tell that the Pilipinas kay Ganda logo was such a bummer?

      Lim was reported as saying said he is confident his Tourism department will attain its full-year target of 3.3 million arrivals, from just over 3 million in 2009.

      One shouldn’t hold his breath for it — not with such incompetents in government.

      • ChinoF says:

        Aye, I thought it that way too. The copying of the Polska style was plagiarism. 

      • this is weird. releasing something and telling the people that it’s not yet fully realized and that it’s still for testing. are they just treating the philippines as a testing ground for them to hone their skills when they should be keeping such things under wraps or internal? even a science student knows that his volcano project can’t be released until the lava mechanism is in place. noynoy making such an excuse is like watching homer simpson escape his incompetence in a simpson episode. tama nga ang sabi ng nakakarami na student government nga lang ang aquino administration. yet to evolve in more than a decade. so this is all a waste of 6 years.

      • Aegis-Judex says:

        How much longer must this country be in the dark ages?

      • six more years for sure. the time beyond it is a blur.

  8. manzi says:

    ganda ng toaster ah.. concept is good but in the end it is a gag product.

    It is impossible for a USB port to discharge the wattage necessary to toast the bread to a satisfactory crunchiness.

    however back to the topic tayo ang tinapay at di tayo matutusta dahil langkwenta ang toaster.

  9. OLLIE says:

    miriam, wag mong nilalahat na merong ganyang katangian ang mga pilipino.  at kung meron man, marami ding pangit na ugali ang mga dayuhan. imbes na pintasan mo ang kapwa mo, i mgnify mo ang magagandang katangian nito para naman matuwa ang kapwa mo at ang Diyos sa iyo. kung wala kang masasabing maganda, shut the #$$@@## up!  sang ayon ako ke lazzo. tama ka. ganyan nga.

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