Bullying: A Part of Filipino Culture?


Bullying became a hot topic in Norway today after a young teenager died of emaciation due to eating disorder that was primarily linked to anxiety from bullying at school. This was quite taboo in this Scandinavian country, given the nation is very keen on respecting socio-cultural differences and on protection against any form of discrimination. Discussions have been made on how to handle and prevent bullying and who takes the responsibility in these cases, whether the family, school or the State.

Personally, I was not reacting in anyway as my mind says the concept is remote and almost impossible to happen in the Philippines. Perhaps, I was referring it to death, but not to bullying. However, after several days I was quite uneasy on the topic and further asked myself if I was ever bullied before and what it has caused me in the long-term basis. To my surprise, bullying was a crucial point in my childhood. My coping skills allowed me to hide in my consciousness what had happened and the outcomes associated with it. Yes, I was bullied in school at the age of 8.

I remember that some of my new classmates in the second grade used to call me names and were very observant about the akward behavior I had. I honestly did not thought such behaviors were deviant to social norms, given that I barely had an idea of what is socially-accepted or appropriate in the Filipino community. I remember their faces and who they are and how they acted. I kept quiet because most of them came from rich families and somehow, I managed to accept the fact as part of the reality. Furthermore, I was able to build an effective shield of my ego for me not to be affected by words and actions of what other says. Then, I suddenly became stoic and passionate in making myself different and better than others. The history began when I gained several academic achievements, worthy of respect from others. That time I could observe those who bullied me was quiet and somehow ceased to be indifferent towards me, or perhaps they somehow matured and learned what was right from wrong. However, the fact remains I was bullied and it left a permanent mark in me.

From what I have experienced, I was wondering whether bullying has become part of the Filipino   culture. If it has been, then how did it even develop and does it somehow continue to these days. Just in social media, Filipinos are fond of bashing each other from simple comments to a mores systematic way of inappropriate, excessive criticism. This reflects a hybrid form of bullying that has evolved and influenced by the change of times. However, this clearly depicts that bullying has well permeated in the roots of the Filipino culture. In this blogpost, I will try to examine why bullying has become part of the Filipino culture.

1. Insecurity and the need to be different.

It seems there is no place for everybody. One must fit to the society, rather than people actively and joyfully live in a society. This results to a need to compete to gain a status one thinks he or she deserves. This mentality has created insecure individuals, not focusing on their own happiness but on what others would say to them. For these insecure individuals, proving one's worth is a constant struggle and that the only way to do this is to study the weakness of others, while improving one's strength. That should not be the case. We are all different and that there is no way to compare one with another. We can coexist without showing force or dominance on others. We must feel secure inside, without having to worry about how we fair in comparison with others.

2. The machismo culture and culture of being strong and powerful.

"Never allow yourself to be bullied. Stand up and speak up." This is a usual Filipino advice to youngsters. Somehow, it would seem that the advice only speaks of fighting for one's rights but that is not the case. People are teaching children to play as predators in social ecosystem to survive. Yes, life is hard but teaching these values to our children is counterproductive. They will see strength as a better value than diligence and hardwork. This means one could be feisty alone to succeed, rather than work hard out from a problem or situation to succeed. There is no fight required to win. One could be happy and successful without exerting effort to be stronger and more powerful than another.

3. Non-recognition of the existence of the problem.

Many Filipinos think bullying does not exist. It is considered only a common quarrel or fight among children that adults should not intervene in. Bullying is unwanted, aggressive behavior towards another, which has a potential to be repeated and resulting to real or perceived power imbalance. In layman's term, bullying happens when one unnecessarily asserts his or her dominance towards another. In play, there is a winner and a loser, but one needs not to use dominance in any form to win or secure the other's failure. When a child feels disadvantaged and down emotionally after confrontation with another that could form the minimum requirement to call it bullying. No one should feel down in a child play because of another's actions or words. It is allowed to be sad due to failure but not because someone acted behaved indifferently against another.

Bullying should not continue. People should not play deaf and blind on the social issue. It has created both negative and positive consequences, but the act itself should not be tolerated. No one should not just say that it is only a matter of the child, that parents should not involve in. Once bullying is identified, both the one bullied and the person bullying should undergo frequent counseling for months. They should understand the seriousness of the problem, such that one could just get away of it easily. There is a problem and we should see it seriously for no one deserves to be bullied in a free open and modern society. Stand up against bullying!

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