Balato – The Problem With Filipinos

Ok I know a title like is just begging people to take me down. For one, it can be deemed as generalizing, and any half – wit patriot with nary the time nor patience to read and understand can and probably would bash me in at even its mention. But regardless, this is what I feel, and thus, what I shall write.

I’m talking about the amazing capability of many Pinoys for an unhealthy dose of entitlement. Entitlement in the context of Balato – the absolute perfect word describing wanting more than you deserve.

The incident that moved me to write this happened last night, but I’ve actually felt this way for many many years before that, and there are, to my count, 3 reasons I can clearly point to.

First, is that cab ride I had to take last night because my car’s in the garage. See, I live in a far away section of Cainta. And to take a cab from Ortigas, you’d have to traverse all the way across most of traffic infested Ortigas Extension, and then left and up our mountainous village to the very end. This merits, about 90% of the time, grimaces from cab drivers, and many a groan of disgust. Often I have to go through 3 to 4 different cabs until someone says yes, and most of the time I get requests for up to 25% to 50% more than the metered amount, presumably to ‘pay for their trip back’, since they won’t be picking up anyone going there – an absolutely twisted concept of value for money since, really, although difficult the situation may be, this is NOT my problem. Since the trip can cost from p110 to as much as p160, this is not an unnoticable amount.

Now, I am seldom pissed off anymore, or at least, far less than I used to be when younger. This I attribute to the fact that I am older now, and hopefully, wiser.

But nothing and I repeat, nothing gets my goat more more these days than this attitude of asking more than the meter says, and implying, quite matter of factly mind you, that, because I live so far, I have somehow tricked, and taken advantage of them.

Which leads me to the 2nd reason, which is a recollection of the time Manny Pacquiao won a fight in Vegas last year. A roving news team was going around his native GenSan, the reporter reaching a common man on the street for comments re Manny’s spectacular win. Upon interview, the man was asked if he was proud of Manny, and his reply went, “Di ko alam. Basta sana ok ang aming balato!!”

And you can easily picture that guy, maybe a fortnight or so after Manny’s return, completely stone drunk on the street due to such, a happy recipient of his balato.

To which I have to ask, what then, does the word Balato mean that is of any good? It’s certainly not the same as ‘pasalubong’, which even if is still ‘asking’ can at least be attributed to, say, Christmas, or kids like I was, waiting for something nice my Dad would bring home from trips abroad. But ‘Balato’? To me it means outright cash, as in hand outreached, palms up, saying, give me money – I deserve it, in some way. Not ‘I need it.‘, but flat out, ‘You have money and I want it. It’s mine, I deserve it (and you get nothing in return.)‘.

I can work myself up about that, but now I have to get to my 3rd reason.

Years ago, after I heard mass at San Felipe Nery at Mandaluyong (the other end from Edsa of Boni Avenue), I was waiting for a jeep to stop so I can get in at the corner when an old woman, as in old, somewhat stooping, slow – walking old woman, elbowed, literally pushed me out of the way to get in. She was followed by a helper, a younger woman, whom by the actions of her elder I suppose, had found justification to do the same. What followed was a mass of other people just like them. Old people, mind you, and female mostly, jostling and elbowing, pushing and shoving their hurried way into the jeep. The only thing for me to do was to step back and let them do so, not as a sign of respect, but because if I didn’t I might actually get hurt, confused as I was at their blatant discourtesy at not just myself, but anyone else who thought they were in a proper line.

This happened jeep after jeep, and because there were so many people, it would go on for minutes on end. Any line or semblance of it was worthless as a bunch of church going old ladies, fresh from church and even smiling, place themselves right in front of you, on a line you thought was for the jeep, as if they had every right to be there, as if every person behind you didn’t matter, as if saying, ‘I am old, I deserve to be first, and you are wrong if you do not give me this privilege.’, and naturally you can’t do anything but get out of their way.

Many years later I would watch in horror and followed by some level of familiarity, the events that transpired at the Ultra stampede. Right there on TV was a bird’s eye view of what I experienced, and continue to experience to this day, back at that church at Boni many years ago.

For some reason these old ladies, by virtue, I think, of a presumption that society owes them the first place in a line, were jostling, elbowing and planting themselves in front of everyone else. Where there was someone in front, be it another old person, man, woman or child, he would have to be put behind you. Right there and then, despite one’s feelings of pity, was that ‘me first’ attitude in brazen display.

Last night, the cab meter read P145. I gave him P200, saying P50 would do as change. He took my P200.00, and declared that “Tama na ito, para sa lahat.“, waving the bills at me. At that point, I couldn’t help myself, and I took what he said the same way as I would if I caught a mugger on the street taking something from me. I asked him to explain to me, why the fuck I should pay him more than what the meter says. He then says to me, “Hindi naman ho, konsyensya mo na lang sana, kasi wala na akong masasakay pabalik.“, and I say, “Konsyensya? Bakit may kasalanan ba ako sayo?!“, “Wala naman po…“, etc etc.

Truth is, and I know many would do the same, I’d give him a tip no problem. But to ask it? DEMAND IT? As if it is already due him, makes me sick, sick to the deep ends of my stomach.

And this is what I feel is the problem with Filipinos. Not all of course, but for most, since this is what I see most often. Court cases I hear of. People swindling whoever and whenever they can. Headlines on the newspapers. Our very President deciding to take another term not due to her. A fellow journalist I recently overheard asking to borrow a car from a dealership not to review it, but because he had a wedding to attend in Baguio and didn’t want to take the bus. A relative forging our signatures so that she can sell something she does not own. People completely bereft of the concept of ‘Merit’. Of ‘Work’. Of an honest buck earned by the sweat of an honest day’s work. Of working to get what you want, and paying what you owe and not one peso less nor more.

Balato. What the fuck good is that word. We certainly won’t have less if we get rid of it.

3 thoughts on “Balato – The Problem With Filipinos

  1. RoGar

    You have summed up my frustrations in dealing with Manila/Makati cab drivers. And those cabs are coffins with wheels. Isn’t there a local authority that regulates the cab business?

    Even hotel taxis are a scam.

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