Filipino shallowness

I was scrolling my feed on Facebook and chanced upon a post that shared F. Sionil Jose’s article dissecting the ‘whys and hows’ on the Filipinos’ shallowness. While the article was published seven years ago, the opinions ring a bell as we still encounter such in our daily lives today.

There are two striking things in the article that highlight the lack of depth or critical thinking among Filipinos. First, he attributed it to our “educational system which has diminished not just scholarship but excellence. There is less emphasis now on the humanities, in the study of the classics which enables us to have a broader grasp of our past and the philosophies of this past.”

In a previous article in this column, it was said “the problem stems from the rote memorization pedagogy of schools which has been present in our educational system. Graded recitations and examinations reward students who memorize lessons which do nothing more than temporarily storing information on their brains.”

This system encourages memorization and doesn’t at all push students to learn how to synthesize, develop insights and opinion which results to weak mental baseline. To persist later on is the decline of critical thinking among Filipinos due to the lack of capability supposed to develop during a person’s formative primary and secondary schooling.

Since our education system didn’t change (except for the K12 structure), among peoples of the world, we are now the third “most ignorant” about key national issues after South Africans and Brazilians. This ranking is showcased via the Perils of Perception 2017 study done in 38 countries to survey thousands of people on a wide variety of topics. Topics include public and personal safety (terrorism, murder and suicide rates), social issues such as teenage pregnancies, public health (alcohol and sugar consumption), religion and digital habits such as social media platform and smart phone usage. Simply put, Filipinos ranking third in this study meant we didn’t really have much to say about these talking points and much less able to synthesize the events behind them.
Secondly, Jose said Filipinos are shallow because “our media are so horribly shallow. Every morning, I peruse the papers and there is so little to read in them. It is the same with radio — all that noise, that artifice.”

We thrive in content from all media platforms (TV, radio, social and digital) that give us nonsense and mindless entertainment. For example, beauty pageant segments in TV shows that ask silly questions that of course has silly answers; primetime TV shows that are running for the last couple of years with no end in sight simply because ratings are at an all-time high and advertisements just keep pouring in, never mind that the storyline becomes loopy and confusing at the same time; we love content that doesn’t allow us to think but rather permits us to sit back and relax instead as if watching or streaming has been the only way to decompress after a long day’s work. I lived in Singapore for years. There, the local content doesn’t have any noon time shows for that matter. It was mostly news especially during prime time. Any superficial content for relaxation was usually shown after children are put to bed.

Further studies also reveal that the lower the critical thinking skill, the more emotional a person is. This is supported by Gallup’s 206 Global Emotions Report where Filipinos placed fourth in the world and first in Asia as being the most emotional people on the planet. One might say: “What critical thinking do we need? We’re all about love!”. There, my friends, is the reason why our progress has been so delayed that our dear neighbors in the region are laughing their way to the bank.

These two issues explaining why we’re considered shallow boil down to the urgent need to improve the quality of education in our country. It’s not the sole responsibility of government but all sectors as well.

Media companies should produce and expose our people to meaningful content, opening them to analysis and debate. We should have internet connectivity more accessible and affordable to all barangays in the archipelago for people to access these types of quality content.

Kay Calpo Lugtu is an executive of a multinational business process outsourcing company. She is likewise Co-Founder of Caucus, Inc. and Deputy Director of Global Chamber Manila. Her advocacies include data privacy, financial literacy, and nation-building. The author may be reached at or, to the more cautious now, at