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Making sense of Smart-Shaming in the Philippines

Ikaw na matalino! Edi ako na bobo. Nosebleed ako, may pa-English English pang
nalalaman. If you are the type that puts an original idea in conversations then you’ve
probably heard these expressions before. It seems that for a lot of unique thought that
you have will be answered with a sarcastic self-depreciative statement or a quick
dismissive “edi wow” that effectively closes any further discussion of the idea; not only
does it discourage thoughtful conversation, it can also serve as a ridicule to a person
who thinks differently. Or at least that’s how people who find themselves in the receiving
end of these expressions feel about it.

A quick search on the internet will lead you to various news sites and blogs1 that
seek to discuss anti-intellectualism in the Philippines. It neither starts nor stops at the
personal accounts shared by individuals in their blogs. Miriam Defensor-Santiago, a
woman who is highly educated with an excellent political career and plenty of awards
and honors to show for it—yet many still consider her “baliw” for her quirky attitude.
Pilosopo Tasyo, in Jose Rizal’s timeless novel “Noli Me Tangere”, is a well-learned old
man who is a philosopher and a wise adviser by the educated but considered crazy by
the ill-learned.

From ‘entertainment promoting stupidity’, sensationalism of the news, poor


education, and history; there are plenty of reasons attributed by bloggers to have
caused the phenomena of anti-intellectualism in the Philippines. One of the major
suspects pointed out is the shallow entertainment brought by the television; to call the
plot of common telenovela is subpar is an understatement; the mainstream local TV
game shows requires little to no amount of thinking; plenty of the top grossing films are
self-admitted mindless humor; and rumors, gossip, and intrigue fit for tabloid is too
commonly seen in the headlines. The education system isn’t off the hook; plenty of
textbooks are out-dated and badly written, not to mention that money ensures

1
As a groundwork for this essay, I have sourced opinion pieces from News sites Rappler (Sison, 2016) and GMA
News (Romana, 2016), and blogs Da Pinoy Cronicle (2013), Making it Fun in the Philippines (2015) and Laon Laan
(2015) which has initially covered the core topic of "Smart-Shaming" in the popular writing fora.
graduation regardless of competence. Another possible reason for the distrust
intellectuals is the history of the Philippines itself.

The Spaniards, for instance, have severely limited the education of the common
Filipino. Under the supervision of the religious orders, schools have emphasized
secondary and higher education for a few than promoting primary education for the
masses. For the great mass of Filipinos, it is either that they’ve received no education at
all or learned only the mechanical processes of reading and writing without much
contribution to one’s ability for independent thought as it is observed that students
where tended to speak only what they have heard or memorized.2

On the other hand, the smart and infamous dictator Ferdinand Marcos may have
contributed to the distrust in intellectuals as well. At the latter end of the 20 th century,
there has been a trend in Philippine politics involving the use of the word ‘intellectual’ as
an insult to those running for public office. Politicians had also been known to downplay
their academic and career achievements in order to appeal to the masses, not to
mention that there are politicians that have reportedly been known to celebrate their
ignorance.3

This begs the question,is our culture, the Filipino culture, anti-intellectual? At a
glance, it is very easy to say yes; however, if we look through the lens of Kapwa
Psychology by the father of Filipino Psychology, Dr. Virgilio Enriquez may shed some
light into the phenomenon. According to him, Kapwa is a core concept of Filipino Social
Psychology which, for the most part, is concerned with pakikipagkapwa (treating
another person as kapwa or a fellow human being) that could range from civility,
conformity, and to unity. 4

So how does Kapwa Psychology contribute to smart shaming if it seems so


contradictory? Before that, what we must not forget, when talking about the

2
A detailed report and evaluation on the state of public education under the Spanish Rule could be read from the
Reports of the Philippine Commission of the United States Government's Bureau of Insular Affairs published on
1904.
3
Sta. Romana's GMA News Opinion Piece (2016)
4
As detailed on Pe-Pua and Protacio-Marcelino's "Sikolohiyang Pilipino: a Legacy of Virgilio G. Enriquez" (2000).
phenomenon of anti-intellectualism in the form of smart shaming in the Philippines is
that 25% of the population is below poverty line, and 54% of the population have never
finished high school (2010).5 From that, we can imagine the environment the common
Filipino has in its day to day lives: it is glaringly clear that the Philippines is lacking the
proper environment to establish intellectualism to the common folk.

So where is this all boiling down to? That it is not because of animosity nor distrust
does a Filipino say “edi wow” or “masyado kang nag-iisip” but rather simply because
that’s the only way they know how to respond to alien ‘intellectual’ content, without
realizing that it is considered offensive by a lot of ‘intellectuals’. In fact, it is more likely
that the Filipino who openly say “wag ka masyado mag-isip” to have good intentions; it
is because they want the ‘intellectual’ to fit in more with society and not come out as a
weirdo.

5
2010 Census by the Philippine Statistics Authority.
References

Akizuki, S. (2015, February 23The Philippines' Problem of Anti-Intellectualism


Prevailing in Society. Retrieved May 8, 2016, from
http://makingitfuninthephilippines.blogspot.com/2015/02/the-philippines-problem-of-
anti.html

Da Pinoy Chronicle: Anti-Intellectualism is More Fun in The Philippines. (2013,


February 19). Retrieved May 8, 2016, from
https://dapinoychronicle.wordpress.com/2013/02/19/da-pinoy-chronicle-anti-
intellectualism-is-more-fun-in-the-philippines/

Madrazo-Sta. Romana, J. (2015, July 6). Smart-shaming and our Pinoy culture of
anti-intellectualism.
Http://www.gmanetwork.com/news/story/517026/scitech/science/smart-shaming-and-
our-pinoy-culture-of-anti-intellectualism#sthash.RMj8jMWg.dpuf. Retrieved May 8,
2016.

Philippine Statistics Authority. (2013, January 10). Retrieved May 14, 2016, from
http://www.census.gov.ph/content/educational-attainment-household-population-results-
2010-census

Pe-Pua, R., & Protacio-Marcelino, E. A. (2000). Sikolohiyang Pilipino (Filipino


psychology): A legacy of Virgilio G. Enriquez. Asian Journal of Social Psychology, 3(1),
49-71. doi:10.1111/1467-839x.00054

Reports of the Philippine commission, the civil governor and the heads of the
executive departments of the civil government of the Philippine Islands (1900-1903).
(1904). Washington: Govt. Print. Off. Retrieved June 18, 2016, from
https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=uc2.ark:/13960/t6qz2b90j;view=1up;seq=1.

Reven, E. (2015, January 16). Grow Up Philippines. Retrieved May 8, 2016, from
http://laonlaan.blogspot.com/2015/01/grow-up-philippines.html

Sison, S. (2015, October 15). What's up with the smart-shaming? Retrieved May
8, 2016, from http://www.rappler.com/views/imho/109333-smart-shaming