THE BLOG
10/13/2014 02:31 pm ET Updated Dec 13, 2014

Culture Sh*t to Cultural Shift: Identifying Filipino Norms That May be Hindering Our Growth

Challenging Norms: Sometimes It Takes an Outsider's View to See What's Wrong in You

When you're in a relationship with someone of different culture and upbringing, two things can happen - you will embrace a whole new perspective or help the other person the reasoning behind current behavior in your culture. Or sometimes, you realize that there are certain habits that you may have been unconsciously following blindly.

From time to time, me and my boyfriend would talk about certain Filipino habits and his favorite question would be - "why"? One classic example that's becoming a regular topic in our conversation is:

"Why do Filipinos choose to procrastinate and do something tomorrow when you can do it within the day?"

I often find myself trying to defend certain behaviors I have grown accustomed to. However, more often, I catch myself privately wondering and asking the same questions to myself and ruthlessly evaluate whether there's any valid reasoning behind those behaviors and habits.

Or am I, just like any others, blindly following certain principles just because they were inculcated to me in my early years?

Stepping back to the question - "Why do Filipinos choose to procrastinate and do something tomorrow when you can do it within the day?"

Well, to be fair, procrastination is a habit not exclusive to Filipinos alone. In fact, it is an epidemic condition that knows no boundaries.

Our daily discussions about culture differences got me thinking about certain habits that could be hindering not only personal growth of Filipinos but even of the country, collectively. My musings inspired my proposed topic to a local TEDx event in the Philippines, which unfortunately wasn't approved (without any notice).

That Unheard TEDx Talk: Cultivating global growth from the South - exploring the possible hindrances to growth

My goal was to inspire the crowd on the idea that global aspiration can be achieved through home growth and that it is possible for any ambitious individual to think globally while impacting locally.

When asked as to how do I think as a digital marketer would I propose to help make Cebu position itself as the emerging hub for national development and innovation, I took the unconventional route which is to look at what may possibly hinder it and move forward with the goal.

After deconstructing some of the common socially inculcated norms which could potentially hinder the growth, I've realized that certain cultural norms present in my country are not exclusive to the people of the South alone but scattered in all parts of the country, which I will identify below:

1. Idea of 'Filipino Pride" - detrimental to our growth as a nation

The Problem: We subconsciously put ourselves lower than the rest of the world
Solution: End of 'Filipino pride': you are as great as anyone else in the world

'Filipino pride' is when a Filipino (it does not matter whether the person is half, quarter or even 10% Filipino, it all looks the same to us) accomplishes anything at a global level and achieve worldwide recognition. It starts to feel as if one person's recognition feels like every Filipino's triumph. I have expressed my confusion about the nationwide habit in the following post: On Being Filipino: The Things I Don't Understand.

I think it's a nice gesture to be unified in celebration for someone's accomplishment. However, there's an underlying problem with the fact that we tend to look at ourselves as underdogs and subconsciously put ourselves lower than the others. Hence, the Filipino pride.

How do we end this, so we could push forward not just as a city but as a driving force to the country?

We tend to celebrate individual triumphs (ME) and claim it as some of sort of national pride (credits to WE) and trying to over-celebrate success as if it's not something Filipinos could not easily do, unlike the other races, on a daily basis.

What if we start looking at ourselves in a new light and believe in the power of me (as an individual) and every person's individual capabilities and that just like the rest of the world, we can do great things.

2. Grass is greener on the other side - the thrill in unknown

The Problem: The 'grass is greener on the other side' thinking
Solution: Grass is greener where we water it. Or, instead of useless grass, maybe we should start planting crops instead.

It starts when parents start thinking as to where to send their kids to college and the usual route is to take them to bigger cities or other countries with the thinking that it's always better and the grass is greener on the other side of the fence. It instills in the mind of the new generation that the only way to make the existing condition better is to; first, escape it and resolve unrelated issues somewhere else. It's like proudly participating in global causes (e.g. Ice Bucket Challenge) yet failing to raise awareness and participation in local issues.

The only way to resolve the challenges of this city (or country), for this city, is to face those in this city.

3. Colonial mentality - anything 'imported' is better
Problem: "Go big. Or go home" mentality
Solution: Or maybe, you can GO BIG even when you're at home

It's common in Filipino household to embrace the "colonial mentality" - thinking that foreign products and individuals are far better than local ones and anyone who's been out of the country is generally perceived to be much cooler than anyone who's spent their entire life only in the Philippines.

It's important to note though, that there had been many stories of globally celebrated Filipino entrepreneurs who were fearless to start their businesses in Cebu and have eventually made expanded beyond its local shores.

a. Monique Lhuillier - globally renowned designer to celebrities, born in Cebu
b. Ben Liu of Golden ABC (makers of Penshoppe, Oxygen) - proudly started in Cebu, recognized pioneer in the Philippine fashion retail scene
c. John Gokongwei (the third richest Filipino, according to Forbes), Cebu Pacific, Universal Robina, JG Summit Holdings
d. Kenneth Cobonpue - world renowned industrial designer

These people have managed to start internationally renowned works and companies, right in the Cebu shores. It means that it's geographically and economically proven to be feasible to think globally yet impact locally.

What do these people have in common that made them successful? They had the global vision and recognized that all the chips to building their own success is right at their doors. They simply needed to push through and open it.

There are probably many other cultural norms that affect our thinking and limit the possibilities of growing exponentially because at such an early age, society tells us that anyone who's fairer is better. Anyone who's been educated abroad has much more advanced thinking. It's saddening to see that many individuals subconsciously limit ourselves because we've been told by our parents, peers and even by those whom we hold dear to our hearts.

The problem lies in the society but in me
The goal now is to stop thinking about whether the grass is greener on the other side because we can make it green right where we are! We no longer have to face the sad possibility of going big somewhere else or go home. We can go big right even when we're at home.

Often, it is the view of the unknown and untouchable that excites us.This very same feeling rob us of the opportunity that's right in front of us, or the ones that we can create at that very moment.

The challenge is for every Filipino to ask ourselves - "Am I subconsciously limiting myself by blinding following culture norms?" "Am I robbing myself of exponential growth because I think of others highly and belittle my personal strengths?"

Perhaps the problem is not the government or the society. Perhaps the problem lies and is securely wrapped inside me.