“The grass is always greener on the other side.” A commonly used phrase pertaining to how other people’s situations are better than yours. Although this mindset has been discouraged, whether consciously or unconsciously, this type of thinking has been deeply integrated in Filipino culture. This figure of speech embodies how Filipinos tend to view other cultures, nationalities, or countries better than their own, often called colonial mentality.
“Colonial mentality refers to a form of internalized oppression among Filipinos and Filipino-Americans,” says researchers David and Ozaki. After centuries of colonialism, it is no wonder that Filipinos think less of themselves and their own culture. Filipinos faced discrimination and have been conditioned to think that they were the “inferior race.” During the Spanish rule, the colonizers encouraged segregation and exclusivity/privilege through racial hierarchy, and white supremacy advocacies were slowly assimilated into society with the help of the Americans. Treated as a second-rate citizen in their own country, Filipinos have learned to think highly of imported products, discourage supporting local products, and prefer foreign or Western physical features, like fair skin, a pointy nose, and straight hair. Filipinos view their own culture and identity as an embarrassment – underprivileged – to the point that they discriminate against fellow Filipinos who aren’t “Westernized” enough.
This type of mindset has a large effect on society and the economy of the country. Being unhappy with their physical features, Filipinos resort to different beauty and skin whitening products; however, research shows that this discontentment may lead to lower self-esteem, depression, and anxiety. Not only does colonial mentality affect the mental health of the people, but it also affects the culture and language of the Philippines. Believing that being fluent in English shows superiority and intelligence, Filipinos – particularly the younger generation – have developed a lower level of proficiency in their own native language. Filipino culture is also slowly being washed away, with the downplay of native arts like handweaving, carving and ornaments, along with the glorification of imported products. This has greatly impacted the economy and livelihoods of people. The Philippines has more imports compared to exports, with 64 percent of external trade being imports as of January 2022. Less exports and more imports mean less job opportunities for the citizens. Colonial mentality has also pushed Filipinos to seek more job opportunities outside the country, with many pursuing to live the “American dream” or thinking that “life is better anywhere but here.”
“For many Filipinos, the colonial mentality is so deeply rooted in Filipino culture that it can be difficult for many Filipinos to identify it as an issue,” says the University of California. According to the Colonial Mentality Implicit Association Test (CMIAT), 56 percent of Filipinos have a strong tendency to associate Filipino culture and heritage with inferiority. Colonial mentality continues to prevail in the present age, a “normal” mindset of an average citizen, affecting their mental health and perceptions of life and beauty. With the continued rise of the Internet and many social media platforms, society has grown more dependent to foreign cultures and ideas; however, social media have also paved the way for the youth to bring awareness and encourage cultural pride.
Colonial mentality creates a domino effect in the country, negatively influencing the economy, society, and potential of the Philippines. Many unique local arts and products are lost and remain underdeveloped. For example, Davao cocoa and different local kinds of coffee are usually not popular or favored amongst Filipinos despite it being of premium quality. Thus, Filipinos as a community need to develop and integrate cultural pride, especially among the youth. Although changing the culture and mindset of a nation won’t be easy nor will it be instant, every journey must start somewhere. Supporting local products helps build a nation. Remember, the grass on your side will only be greener if you water it.
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