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The Filipino “It’s OK” Mentality

As many of the readers here who is either Filipino, foreign born who has visited the Philippines for a period of time or has lived her will know, one of the most popular English saying used by many Filipinos is “It’s OK.” Unfortunately it is not just a saying but a way of life and mindset.

How and when is this term used you might ask. It is used many times in many circumstances:
If someone has a job, but are paid less than minimum wage and you ask why, you will hear “It’s ok; at least I have this job.”

If a Filipino buys something and it breaks before it’s intended use life, they will say “It’s OK, we just try to have it fixed.”

If there is a higher price for something and you complain to your friend or family again you will hear, “it’s ok, we can still afford to buy some, even if less in quantity.”

This is something you hear all the time. At times I want to scream “It is not ok!!” But this is the culture and mindset of many Filipinos. As I have written many times, I try to understand the culture which is so different than the culture of America and European countries and try to adjust my understanding to live here, some things are so difficult to understand. In addition, since I am not a Filipino, it is not my place to tell people that their culture and country might be wrong. I had decided to move and live here and try to accept how and what life is here.

I realize, I cannot change a country, or even the culture and mindset of the people around me. As I am reminded many times, this is the Philippines and not America. This is true so why do I discuss this. It is because many of the readers here want more information about the Philippines because they are thinking of relocating here for retirement or whatever reasons they have to do so.

From my last article “Jobs and Self Improvement in the Philippines”, one of the readers left a comment and directed me to a link for an e-book “Get Real Philippines”. This eBook is written by a Filipino with his thoughts about the “How’s” and “Whys” life is the way it is here.

Again, this is not my words and I am not stating I agree or disagree with his evaluation but to me it is interesting reading. I am also not a researcher and have not the intelligence or energy to do such a study.

I hope you will take the time to read this book and maybe comment about your thoughts.  For me, I will read it a few times to get a better understanding of what is being said. For me, this is not a book to read in a hurry or when tired and might need a few readings to best absorb the real meaning of his words and philosophies.

24 Responses to “The Filipino “It’s OK” Mentality”

  1. david S. says:

    Great topic Bruce! I’ve been studying the Filipino culture for some time now trying to make sense of it. It appears to me that a handful of wealthy Filipino families are manipulating the country’s resources for their own benefit. That’s why they make it so difficult for foreigners to invest in their country. They don’t wnat to compete. If the Philippines changed a few of their archaic policies, they might be able to attract some of the proseperity that’s gone to neighboring countries.

    • Bruce says:

      David S.,

      As I feel all countries governments are controlled in someway by big business. Look at all the Bailouts the US has given banks and automotive companies in the US.
      I think the Philippines, with all the years of occupation by foreign countries, there is a defensive feeling about foreign investment. Even though I understand this, I feel if done right, foreign investment can bring jobs and money to this country.

  2. david S. says:

    Note to self: Check spelling next time before posting.

  3. Expat 21 says:

    I’ll take a look at this ebook. It sounds interesting.

    Expat 21 at Expat Abroad

  4. Jason says:

    If the ebook is too heavy a read for a single sitting, there’s also the Get Real Philippines website that’s great for browsing.

    About | Issues | Solution

  5. Ken says:

    Read the book, and it does contain a lot of truths about Filipinos, but certainly far from many working abroad. A lot, in my opinion has to do with “TRAVEL” as there is much that can be learned/unlearned from it.

    Seeing how other nationalities live and handle situations is an eye-opener and really makes you re-evaluate your thoughts and feelings about certain subjects.

    I work with (1)OFW-Filipino, and (1) Filipino American raised solely in the PI and know more, I bet I have heard the “It’s Ok” reply a thousand times. Funny thing is, I have come to expect that reply, and really do not have a problem with it. I suppose you simply get used to it. It’s the same in Thailand with the “mai phen rai” thing. Upon further thought, I think it’s simply their way of (in their minds) calming you or letting you know, well…….it’s ok. hehehe.

    • Bruce says:

      I agree with you but at time it frustrates me when the attitude is to me just giving up instead of trying to change things for the better. I do feel the mentality is not just for the Philippines, I myself while living in America just threw things away instead of confronting the product manufacturer or store selling a bad product. I just feel here, too many are taken advantage of this mentality.

  6. Jason says:

    The question is, though, how much longer can we take this attitude? It’s the classic boiling frog anecdote. We simply adjust as we’re getting cooked…

  7. hello my friend..
    I was reading your comment on “its okay”.. really its ok. I appreciate the entire lenght of your letter. Your attitude to your host country is admirable. True, this is the Philippines, Davao in particular and each country has its own uniqueness, whether you like it or not, and guest should adopt to it to be in congruent to its inhabitants.
    Our country had been under foriegn dominance since time immemorial, spaniards, dutch, japanese, chinese, americans etc.until 1945.. These influences made the difference and the uniqueness our culture.

    i hope all foreingners share the same attitude u have.. .and live happily ever after……. with a filpina wife or whatever….

    Enjoy your stay Bruce.

    • Bruce says:

      After all the time we have known each other, it is nice you finally visited my site and commented. I thank you for your insight, appreciation and our friendship.

  8. The thing is you have to look at it from the eyes of a Filipino. The overthrowing the government replaced one corrupt official with another. The strangle hold on commerce by companies such as Nestle stop things changing. Ive discussed topics round a table with Beer politics and most Filipinos I have met and close friends with all feel the same as any country. (e.g. the UK) Complaining is a waste of time as no real change will ever come. So griping about the cost of something where a major player or government have hiked the prices they know no good will come of complaining. Its the same reason in the UK things like British Steel, Mining etc. were all broken up because they gave the people a voice. What you should be looking at is how it “really” compares to your home country as a lot of things are more similar than is realised.

  9. Carol says:

    This is a great post Bruce! Anyway I am a Filipina and I am in Davao too. What you wrote is all true and I just hope many will be able to realize it. I am guilty of that too a lot of times. Filipinos are saying it’s OK because even if they complain, they won’t be given attention and solution by the authorities. Or if there is, it will take lightyears. How about asking the ABS-CBS and GMA about this problem? I mean, I am hoping that the broadcasting companies and the radios too will make a program for the sole purpose of accommodating people’s complaints. That will make them do good in their services and products.

    I make and sell cloth diapers and baby slings and it takes hours to finish a dozen diapers because I want it to be perfect. I think it is because I am a choleric. This “it’s OK” thing might be due to personality types too isn’t it? But eventhough I am perfectionist, a lot of times I will just shrug and say it’s ok because I don’t want to argue with other people that I didn’t know.

    • Bruce says:

      For me to contact the TV stations might be a problem. Many here do not like advice from a foreigner. They feel we are trying to take over again. If you or someone would like to do it, I would have no problem joining with them.

      I like to express my views, but do not like controversy, so I will say ok, just not to get into an argument or the others persons idea does not affect me or make any difference.

      • Gitarista says:

        Hi Bruce,

        That’s what 250 years of siesta under the Spaniards, 50 years of Hollywood and an atrocious 2 years of harsh sushi under the Japanese can do to a people.

        And I fully agree that we, as a people, are the ones who have to change our own character. As I see it, even on any given society or culture, the great traits of a people, culture or society, when taken to the extreme becomes poisonous.

        As the saying goes, “Give them an inch and they’ll take a mile”.;-)

        Warm regards to you and your family,

        • Bruce says:

          I thank you for your knowledge and insights. I hope someday this country advances to a more industrialized nation and life can be better for all. But as you know, it has to start with the people.

          • Gitarista says:

            Yes indeed. It has to start with the people. Slowly but surely, it looks very promising from what I’ve seen in my last 2 visits this year. I’m very impressed with the Filipino youth of today. I saw this in Manila, Davao City and Gensan. And even as far as Bislig City. They’re a much, much better generation than mine. They’re more socio-politically “aware” and they will definitely carry the nation. They’re a better breed of intellectuals in the making.

            As always, I thank you for sharing all your write ups, insights and experiences in our beloved Philippines here at your website.

          • Bruce says:


            I am hoping what you wrote is true, the children of today are the future for all their respective countries. IF you have any thing you would like to write here, or have suggestions for subjects for me to write about, your thoughts are welcome. I just will not write about politics or politicians since it is not my place to do this.

  10. cerana says:

    Living in the US helped me see what I was doing wrong in the Philippines. I learned how to listen to my feelings and express that feelings without fear of getting gunned down. Can we just be honest to ourselves without getting critized? I like this discussion.

    • Bruce says:

      Again, thank you for visiting and your comments. I enjoy hearing from Filipinos both here and abroad.

      I hope you will continue to visit, comment and to give me thoughts for future articles.

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