The Filipino Stereotyped by Philippine Cinema






Philippine cinema in its present state can easily be dismissed as a dismal commodity that caters to the shallow tastes of the masses. However, a deeper analysis of its content could reveal interesting - and disturbing - facets of the Filipino psyche. Since they are productions of the masses, for the masses, they provide a look into how the average Filipino perceives the world and how he fits into it.

All in all, one can cite thousands of reasons why Philippine cinema in its current state contributes to undermining the viability of the Philippine nation. However, three disturbing features stand out:

(1) Filipinos want to believe that the rich have the same basic attitudes as the masses except that they have more money. How they managed to earn and accumulate that money seems to be of little interest.

The portrayal of rich people in Filipino movies is flawed because in Philippine cinema, rich people merely have money and power. The painful and politically-incorrect truth, however, is that most rich people are different from the masses not only because they have more money, but also because they are more disciplined and self-reliant, better-educated and better-bred. Their minds are wired differently and therefore possess, to a lesser degree, the insecurities, abrasiveness, and vindictiveness of the Filipino masses. In this light, there is a marked absence of any themes in Filipino movies that highlight or acknowledge the virtues and work ethic that most rich people possess to enable them to accumulate wealth. Rather, the roles of rich characters in these movies throw light onto how the average Filipino might make use of such resources once acquired; often to assert superiority, oppress others, and flaunt material possessions.

In Filipino movies, rich people are rich because they (1) are crooked, (2) inherited their wealth or are descendants of colonial carpetbaggers, and/or (3) are politicians. These characters, back-dropped against manicured gardens, tacky birthday-cake-like mansions, and Mitsubishi Pajeros (and, yes, Honda Civics), still exhibit underclass traits: engaging in shouting matches and slapping duels, throwing money around (so how did they get rich in the first place?). If not, they are portrayed in that clich´┐Ż Spanish-era haciendero image: nose-up postures, frequent head-to-toe glances, velvet or silk robes (don't the rich also go around in sando and tsinelas in their own homes?), etc. In short, Chavit Singson best characterises the Filipino rich of the Philippine silver screen rather than the Ayalas, Concepcions, Sy's and Ongpins.

Such a tunnel-visioned perspective on social and economic class provides a reassurance to the average Filipino that he is the favoured underdog in the on-going class struggle but at the same time excusing his indolence, lack of initiative, and apathy. The lack of appreciation of character traits that contributed to the financial success of the legitimately wealthy is a significant hindrance to implementing a sustainable livelihood program for the common Filipino.

(2) Filipino manhood is still defined using old hunter-gatherer standards of masculinity.

Meanwhile, the Filipino male is given license to strut around in his leather/denim jacket (in this climate?) to woo the babes of barely-legal age and make trouble in karaoke and girlie bars. In Philippine cinema, women are the trophies of such behaviour. They are often portrayed as naive country girls or newly-arrived migrants to the big city. This is the predominant theme of Filipino movies with a male-dominated action/adventure plot.

In the same way that Pinoy movie heroines always end up in the arms of a Prince Charming who rescues them from their backward rural homes or cruel masters, Filipino men dream of marrying the mestiza at the other side of the tracks. Philippine cinema advocates the average Pinoy male's approach to achieving this next-to-impossible feat by further brushing up on boorish behaviour. Stuff Robin Padilla takes to heart especially after the box office successes of his 1990's movies most of which had that theme.

This narrowness of the range of male-lead movie themes is striking in this respect because it points to a disturbing lack of openness of the society to alternative behavioural or ethical models to govern the upbringing of Filipino men.

(3) Filipino women are waiting for their prince charming to come from somewhere else.

As stated above, most Pinoy movies with female leads are about these characters' looking beyond their personal horizons for the man who will rescue them from their bondage. These horizons are usually metaphorical; i.e. their rural village, social class, etc. But the tenet "women are forever searching" as applied to the Philippine setting is exceedingly highlighted by Philippine cinema. Pinoy movies about relationships between people within their immediate community, social class, office, etc. are markedly rare.

Still wondering why we are a major exporter of mail-order brides?

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The above three key characteristics of Filipinos highlighted by Philippine cinema are enough to help us understand why our country continues to fail. These three symptoms that are substantially represented in Philippine cinema hit right at the heart of any prognosis for our prospects for national development - (1) our approach to self-development, (2) the upbringing of our future generation of leaders (given the reality the Philippines is still a man's world), and (3) Filipino women's confidence in Pinoy men as providers.

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The Pinoy Male. There is something about Pinoy-style upbringing that makes the Pinoy male the "unique" character that he is. Michael Tan of the Philippine Daily Inquirer writes.


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