• Never mind the quality – just pay the bill



    One of the main problems with the Philippines is the national obsession with money. Of course money is important but here it seems its importance transcends every other consideration. It is literally the difference for many between life and death. Hospital treatment stories exemplify that very well with cases of people being refused admission because they couldn’t afford to pay a hefty deposit, and dying for lack of medical attention.

    It is virtually impossible to contest a bill these days. Challenging a bill is such a long and tedious process as to be just not worth commencing, particularly as the service will just be cut off because the provider’s billings haven’t been paid in time.

    It becomes a question of admission of responsibility for making a mistake. In Asia and in the Philippines in particular, owning up to a mistake is something that people just don’t do. “It’s not my fault”, “I was not responsible” are standard responses to almost anything that goes wrong and people will go to enormous lengths to deny responsibility for having made a mistake, and it’s not just in preparing utility bills!

    In the end there is little point trying to contest e-pass charges, Meralco, PLDT, mobile phone or water bills. It’s just too difficult. To submit a massive list of difficult to put together “requirements” that then get lost in some bureaucratic system or other, and to be told, “but you haven’t submitted these yet” seems like the claim of omission should be challenged, but after a while you don’t challenge it, you just assemble them all again and as requested submit them all again.

    Flights from Palawan to Manila were all cancelled last night [Monday] due to “high winds”, no compensation or help was offered to the stranded passengers. “The flight will now depart at 7am” – sort yourselves out. In the event the 7am departure was again delayed. My innate character would have had me challenging Air Asia on this one, “high winds ?”, “overnight accommodation provided ?” etc etc. But there would be no point whatsoever getting all stressed out and mounting a challenge to which the only response would have been “not our fault, it’s the weather, force majeure”. So in the end you just accept it and the “service provider” just carries on in its own self interest protecting way with absolutely no consideration for its customers on whose good will the business theoretically depends for its survival.

    To fight for what is right in the Philippines is a hard thing to do. Major issues arise such as the DAP and corruption in general, drug dealing, law and order, generate lots of outrage at the time and the particular issue takes up lots of media space of one sort or another but in the end it all gets forgotten or overtaken by the next scandal and nothing changes as a result.

    If people were not so terrified of taking responsibility for their mistakes at all levels of society then progress can be made. To spend enormous amounts of time and effort, and no doubt money to portray infallibility – the inability to be wrong, is a terrific waste of resources just to portray a quality which everybody knows does not exist.

    The problem I guess is that to admit to having made a mistake is seen as a weakness as well as having the potential for its having a monetary cost. But of course it is not a sign of weakness it is a sign of strength to own to mistakes and then be prepared to take the consequences. “I’m sorry, I am wrong you are correct, it was my fault” – so difficult to say !! No doubt Roman Catholics say this to priests in the confessional but there they can gain instant absolution and forgiveness, and there is no potential for loss of money involved.

    Mike can be contacted at mawootton@gmail.com.


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    1. You hit the nail right on the head with your reference to the Catholic religion, although you just did not say it outright. IT’S THE RELIGION, STUPID, is what Bill Clinton will say to us Filipinos if he were in your place. Has the Church apologized for any single wrong that they have done in this country for the last 500 years? Yet they are the self appointed moral shepherd of the people, so what lessons does anyone expect the people to learn from them? It wasn’t always like this. Things got worse only after Cory came into power, purely by accident by the way, in 1986 when the Church regained the pre eminent position that it lost in 1898.

    2. The filipino wont like you for saying that. When they are wrong they hate anyone to know & if you try to tell anyone they take it as a personal insult & get so angry they might kill you. They never get rid of that anger, that wanting to kill you will last forever. Take their driving, my wife always tells me say nothing as if he gets upset he will shoot you. I think as a race they are just very stupid. They will all get very angry with that, but its the truth. They call themselves hard headed, its a way of excusing stupidity. My wife always gets anry when i say we wouldnt do that in england, even though she lived there for 5 years & was so happy how things worked there once back in the philippines they have that switch where they switch into filipino mode & i understand why as if they didnt they couldnt cope & would get as angry as i do with them. I try not to talk much to them as they seem to know nothing of anything. Its not a slur ( though they will take it that way ) its an observation.

      • this negative trait has become a culture thing, a coping mechanism for Filipinos. that you are alone in trying to correct a wrong thing and nobody cares. we are all helpless in the face of corruption because of the over whelming fact of collusion. and justice is really very slow, that no matter how good you want the country to be, people and government will not be there to support you. in the end, everything will be for gotten like the passing wind.

    3. Debra Pritchard on

      As an American, (whose national trait is to divert entire rivers if they don’t match our desire for a landscape), I have loved the trait of “acceptance” here on Palawan. Accepting the good and bad of something and letting it be. However,as with most things, outside of moderation, positives can become negative. This trait is to me the most undermining of the entire culture and allows graft and corruption not only to exist, but to flourish. And, as you note, it starts at the individual level with an inability to admit a simple mistake, which then leads to an inability to call someone else out on a mistake – and to follow through on a course of action that would benefit not only the individual, but the community and the nation.

    4. Justaskingseriously on

      What’s the rationale behind Roman Catholics? Have you ever availed yourself of the sacrament of reconciliation? Or are you even one of the Roman Catholics? Can anyone claim “stuff” for a heap of which one is not a member? Understandably, your matter-of-fact statement reflects the common misconception about instant forgiveness. The person representing the Church in reconciling persons with debts to the Church community is definitely adamant about restitution before granting reconciliation. Did you know that? Much like the State reps who demand serving time when you do the crime. Absolute pardons are reserved for Heads of State.