A Curious Case Study on Why Filipinos Have Inferiority Complex

Why we, Filipinos, get nervous in front of a foreigner especially to the white people?

We know how to speak the English language but why we still tend to get nervous in front of them like an accused criminal inside the court?

Scenario #1

I was sitting next to this old American guy as I was busily enjoying my hot chicken mami (noodles) at a noodle restaurant during one cold, rainy Saturday afternoon.

After folding his wet umbrella, he started to call the attention of the service staff. In a low tone, he spoke in a big, cracking voice: “Can I try a beef Miami please?” It sounded loud though not irritating to the ears.

He thought that nobody might have heard him so he repeated exactly what he just had said. Now, he spoke slowly again, sounding a little heavy: “Can I try a beef mami, please?”

Still, nobody responded and stood in front of him so I suddenly got confused. From a short distance, I could only hear some hiss and buzz from the crew. I don’t know if they were just pretending that they have not heard anything.

Until one crew initiated: “Puntahan nyo nayun (Someone needs to go there)”

The other one replied: “Ikaw na, Ingles eh. Ma-nosebleed pa ako.” (You better go to him. His English might make my nose bleed). I could see him laughing shamelessly after.

And for the third time, that man with a neutral American accent just repeated himself again. He now started to bang his table with frustration that has quickly risen to his face. With the same words again, authoritatively he shouted: “Can I try a beef mami, please.”

I guess his thick voice had shaken the three service staff. In just a click, one of them hurriedly turned to him to attend his need. The poker faced crew began servicing the foreign customer as if he was serving a prince after all that.

Scenario #2

I was at the backpacker hostel in Dumaguete few months ago when I got the chance to talk with some Polish girls I met.

Their story goes like this:

They were in Manila and were stuck at the LRT station that time. They were confused where to go so they tried asking the locals or whosoever they could encounter to obtain directions. But sadly, they ended up with unsatisfying answers and false hopes. They got more confused. Became more agitated. As they verbalized their disappointments, I went like a turtle trying to hide himself in his shell. I was speechless.

As far as they expected, Filipinos are well equipped when it comes to communicating in English compared to some prominent Asian countries. These two foreigners could reflect it through all advertisements (on TV, banners, posters) they saw around our cities, what they heard on the mainstream radio and every little written thing around. Almost everything was written, published and being said in English. This gave them an idea that Filipino people could speak this language very well too and that's an assurance that they’ll easily be  understood since English, as far as they knew, is a medium of instruction here in the Philippines. But what puzzled them the most is, why if they speak to locals whom they expected to give clearer instructions would just give them some nods, unsure smile, informal sign language and speechless gestures in return?

I just told them, the people that they have encountered must be a little shy—not used to interact with foreigners. After all, I couldn’t speak any other reason to defend my countrymen.

The Rise of a Cultural Deficiency

The Mestizos (Spanish) and the Indios (Filipinos)

I think these were some of the scenarios that have made my day sick and heavy. I ended up asking myself what could have been the reason why some of our folks just experience body shiver, cold sweat, anxiety, and nearly choking once a foreigner talk to them, asks them questions or makes some requests that require them to speak, as a matter of fact, just simple English. 

I think I could not say much about this. First thing, I am not a neuropsychologist to know how the body hormones and enzymes react during this anxious phase. But there could be some underlying questions on this that just have risen: Why we, Filipinos, get nervous in front of an American or a ‘white’ foreigner? We know how to speak the English language but why we tend to get nervous in front of them like an accused criminal inside the court?

This just reminded me of the blog post that I wrote a few weeks back on why Filipino’s can’t speak English better. I guess in this case, it would not just because of the same reasons again. This time, it’s more like slipping a coin through a crack which couldn’t be easily retrieved.

This is no longer all about language deficiency I think. It’s no longer about perfecting your structured English grammar and pronunciation because the truth is, it isn’t really required in all cases. I guess this more of a cultural avalanche—it’s an asymptomatic cultural deficiency.

The Filipinos and Inferiority Complex

The Filipino Inferiority Complex. This cultural disease has been existing over hundreds of years now. The disease keeps on progressing until it has now reached our modern generation. It has become incurable and continues to sicken the Filipino society.

This problem actually can be traced back as early as the Spanish colonization era here in the Philippines. They played a major role in bending our nativity and culture. We considered them as the only authority where we paid all the respect for 333 years! It was a long period of progression for naturally born Filipinos to become more submissive to their sovereign power. As a result, they named us Indio—a social class inferior to them.

The American has also contributed a huge chunk to our cultural confusion when they came in the country during the First World War. They introduced the English language in all schools and has been used as a medium of instruction. In the 1920s, American has dominated the Philippines and has played a big part in influencing (read: brainwashing) the country’s religion, trade, politics, especially our language system.

The Philippines has been like a pail of clean water tinted with droplets of ink until it has become darker and darker. Our foundation of culture has become more indefinite and complex that we are now really having a hard time figuring out what we are and who we really are. We were heavily influenced by the mixed cultures from a dark past. We absorbed almost everything unconsciously.

Filipino inferiority I guess is now a part of our mutating society. It was the by-product of the past foreign colonization. As a result, we unconsciously classify white people (Caucasian, European, Australian etc.) as more superior—more powerful than us, Filipinos.


"Know your identity"

I could not blame anyone who is still experiencing this societal issue. The cause was undeniably deep-rooted, incurable and irreversible.

“A people without a sense of history is a people doomed to be unaware of their own identity.“, this is what Barth Suretsky has said in his article ‘Inferiority Complex: A Filipino Malady?’. True, it has been a long time ago that we have been battling against this identity crisis.

How could we accept our identity, if we don’t even know what should we need to be proud of? 
How could we be more superior, if we don’t even know where should we stand?


  1. It's as simple as we Filipinos lack nationalism. Which is the cause of our inferiority complex and corruption of some government officials. All of which results to never ending poverty - A cancer within the Filipino society that we all need to fix starting with ourselves.

  2. It is not about filipino only. Mostly asians are like that. These europeans ruled every country here and told us that they are superior because of their inventions.Anyways, no technology no advancement can beat asia's culture.

  3. Really poor article. Um not only Filipinos are like that as Nishant said there are far more worst countries than us when it comes to communicating with the white almost all Asian people are like that maybe because they are fascinated by white people and how they show their superiority

  4. Culturally, we are always closer to the Latin world than the rest of Asia. Many Filipinos might vehemently disagree on that and call themselves as "Asian" no matter what. But reality speaking... yes, we are indeed geographically found in Asia, but if you have a chance to converse with a Malaysian and a Mexican, you'll find a lot more in common with the Mexican person.

    The Spanish influence were not culturally the problem. Sadly, it is always forgotten or left out that without Spain, there would never be a "whole" Philippines. Everyone can accuse me of having no Filipino pride, but I would never put behind the fact that the Spanish Colonisation is the very thing that also gave birth to the Filipino identity (and which in turn gave way to the Filipino Nationalism). And for me, it is good to embrace it rather than deny it.

    Also, bad article... The Americans came into the Philippines during the Spanish-American war, NOT World War I.

    If there's something in our history that was real damaging to the Filipino culture, it would be the American Colonisation. The Americans had halted down of our main culture development by inserting their own and insisting their own language upon us. Not to mention all those wars they have made Filipinos caught in the crossfire.

    I am tired of reading in almost every local history book and some internet articles demonising and exaggeratingly evilising the Spaniards. They are not without fault but they also must be credited for the good things they had done and caused (which in the matter-of-fact, very plenty). On the other hand, I am tired of reading in the same history books that the Americans are the "heroes" who saved us from war and gave us education. Seriously, they can't be heroes if they were the reason that we had been in wars in the first place.

    And hadn't any of you noticed...
    Most Filipino poets, writers and artists actually flourished and were numerous during the Spanish times. What about the American period? A few to none.

    1. ¡Lo Cierto!

      Thisis be cause of the Propagand Negra in our Education System portraying the Spanairds as the gangster while the US as the Liberators but qithout knowing that part of the true History which the US will always deny is the "Genocidio Filipino" by the them hat killed 1/3 of the total Population at that time which 10M to 7M wer left alive.

  5. Well its a fact that the filipino wanted america gone so much at one point declared war on america and attacked americans, most people dont know of the filipino american war, google it, of course america won that war but years later during WW2 when Japan took Leyte and most of the Philippines the filipino did everything in there power to fight on the side of Americans for America to re take the Philippines and once again remain in control until we left for good but then of course after we left we still have until this very day sent anual millions of US dollars to build there country. Hell even just 2 months ago John Kerry was sending 40 million for the Phillipines Navy defence. We also provide training to there military every year under the name "exercise" So even to this day after being gone for decades who is still taking care of them? Before you call America the bad guy you better think about the bad guy is still saving your ass.

    1. cracker detected. shut your white ass you filthy land stealer mongrel.