The myth of Filipinos being “matulungin”

Hand Reaching

I was in Megamall earlier when I stopped by Chris Sports to look at their exercise bikes. After canvasing the prices, I began walking out of the store but then suddenly fell from an approximately 3-inch platform. I was on all fours wincing in pain for about a minute then stood up shakily. I have week knees and I’m prone to such accidents. This particular accident however disgusted me. There were quite a number of people in the store and not one single person offered any help nor asked if I was okay when I stood up. Even the salesperson who earlier assisted me just stood silently as I told him that they should put warning signs about the platform lest it cause more accidents. After telling him that, I left the store sorely and procedeed to do my errands.

As I was walking, I began thinking why nobody offered any help or showed even the remotest sign of concern. Are Filipinos so cold now that they only help others when it affects them personally or there’s a major disaster. I’ve heard of mugging cases when there were witnesses but they were just that, witnesses. Filipinos are known for being “matulungin,” right? Or is that just a myth? Guiltily, when I help other people, it’s usually coursed through charity work but when there are signs of danger, I freeze up and become one of those mute witnesses. Why is this? What happened to us? Is our sense of self preservation hindering us from helping our fellowmen?

When I tripped and fell in Europe, so many strangers were concerned about me. They even wanted to call an ambulance. Here I’m lucky if someone offers a hand so I can stand up. I hope I am wrong about how I see our helpfulness. I don’t want to think badly about our race but my experiences say otherwise.

Karen Ang

A plebeian who is trying to make small changes in this world.

  • Joe America ,

    Gadzooks, let me try this again.

    I was relating your blog to my wife and she noted an incident she had recently witnessed were an elderly Filipino riding a bike lost his balance and fell. People stood around watching him. My wife was across the street and I asked her why she watched, too. She said “I am so small, I don’t have the strength to help him up.”

    I think something similar went quickly through the minds of all who stood about. An excuse. I think the “excuse-making” mentality has become very refined in the Philippines, a necessity to keep one’s esteem in a society that seems to be relentlessly pummeling people. So it is not rudeness, exactly. It is people removing themselves from confrontation because in most confrontations in this authoritarian society, they lose.

    • Joe America ,

      Hi, Karen