(Part 11 of the “In Defense of the Filipino” series)

WHEN one resident opens a sari-sari (variety) store and then days later a neighbor also puts up a similar enterprise, anti-Filipinos claim that Filipinos are copycats—gaya-gaya, putomaya—and that they are good only when they imitate their neighbors. These are another wrong charges against Filipinos.

In the past, the Philippines had decades-old monopolies in a number of industries, like telecommunications and airline. Filipinos suffered from those monopolies. They would wait for up to ten years before they could have telephone lines, and ten more years of waiting for dial tones, because the telephone sector was controlled by only one firm, the Philippine Long Distance Telephone (PLDT) Company. Since there were no imitators, PLDT was dry in meeting the public’s wants and satisfaction.

The Philippine Airlines (PAL) Inc. was then the only airline company in the country; thus, were its Planes Always Late, If not cancelled, aside from having high fares.

Ten years of waiting for a telephone line and ten years more for a dial tone, or late planes, cancelled flights, and expensive air tickets—they were cruelties, weren’t they?

In 1994, President Fidel Ramos continued the dismantling of those monopolies in his efforts to push the economic reform programs that began during the term of his predecessor, President Corazon Aquino (1986-1992).

One of those deregulated sectors was the telecommunications industry. It resulted in the surfacing of new telephone entities. The worthy effect was that PLDT, fearing that its current and potential subscribers would shift to others, was forced to improve its services and to launch massive advertisements. And with the invention of mobile phones, it is now very easy to have communication with anyone, anytime, anywhere.

Today, telephone firms give both telephone lines and dial tones right after they are asked. If PLDT can do that now in just a few days, why could it not do such in the past? The answer is very simple: There were no competitors then.

As telephone companies compete and try to outdo each other through better services and effective campaigns, the customers finally have various options, after decades of being punished. They have now the luxury to choose the one that will immediately give them what they want.

New firms have also entered the airline industry since it was deregulated. Passengers also have more options now for airfares and flight schedules.

What if both PAL and PLDT still control the country today, and then stage a nationwide strike at the same time? One can easily surmise the colossal devastations that will be inflicted on the country’s transportation and telecommunications systems. Almost everything will be shut down—from the transporting of people, goods, and services to the transactions, trade, industries, investments, Internet, tourism—the entire nation. But if we have other airline and telephone companies, the damage will not reach injurious proportions.

If there is only one doctor in one place, anytime he could charge more for his services, raise prices of medicines, and be arrogant to his patients. But if another physician also sets up a clinic at the same place, he will then be cautious, for the patients might go to the one giving them due respect, better services, lower service charges, and lower prices of medicines.

If one or more persons imitate the enterprise of others, it is competition, and the people are the ones who benefit from it, for they have more choices for products, markets, and services.

If there is no competition, it will result in monopolies, and the people will surely suffer, like the sad experience with PLDT and PAL in the past.

American competitors have been invading for decades our minds, stomachs, bodies, homes, streets, and institutions: Columbia Pictures, Universal Studios, Paramount Films, Warner Brothers (films and television programs); Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Aquaman, Popeye (cartoon superheroes); Pepsi, Coca Cola (soft drinks); McDonald’s, Wendy’s, Burger King, KFC (restaurants); CFC, Kraft (processed foods); Colgate-Palmolive, Procter & Gamble (soaps, shampoo, hair conditioners, toothpaste, toothbrush, deodorant, napkin, cleansers, etc.); Levi’s, Jockey, Calvin Klein, Sara Lee (outer and innerwear); Panasonic, General Electric (household appliances); Kodak, Canon (camera and photo-film); Ford, General Motors (cars and trucks); Goodyear, Goodrich (tires and rubber); IBM, Microsoft, Macintosh, Compact (computer products); and more.

In Japan, if there is Mitsubishi in the automobile industry, there are also Toyota and Nissan. If there is Sony in the consumer and industrial products, there come also Sanyo, Hitachi, Toshiba, Hanabishi, and JVC. In photo-film, there is Fuji, as well as Fiji.

The rivalry of goods, stores, industries, professions, and services is not gayagaya, putomaya, but competition. Only the capitalists who don’t like competitors will say it is copycat because of greed (they want only themselves to profit), and the narrow-minded, for their narrow minds cannot think of the productive benefits all of us get from competitions.


  1. Mark Edward says

    So Filipinos really are copy copycats and that they thrive from the ensuing competition. right?

    I think this is only looked at on an economic perspective. but what of other aspects of Filipino culture, Filipinos copy almost everything from other countries especially on entertainment and music! Every time I tune in to a noontime program on ABS-CBN or GMA7 They always have to do their own lame versions of foreign songs which is never as good as the original.
    And so much of Filipino television is based on series that were originally thought-up abroad.
    I’m sorry to be so blunt, but Filipinos are such Ripe-offs when it comes to expressing themselves.

    I think that the impulse to imitate has to do with the Filipino’s self expression of a status. They do what other people in other countries are doing because that gives them a sense of entitlement in their minds of what their way of life should be, or aspire to be.

  2. Jon E. Royeca says

    @ Mark Edward

    Imitating others is an attitude that happens not only in the economic sector, but in all aspects of life, because it is a universal attitude.

    Children imitate their parents. Neighbors imitate their neighbors. Fans imitate their idols. Consumers imitate ad models. Professionals imitate their fellow professionals. Businessmen imitate their rivals.

    It is only natural for the human being to seek models that he could imitate (but not always ape).

    If you think that imitating others is done by one race and in one country only, that’s your way of thinking. Others can’t help you with that. They can only disagree with you.

    The point of this article is that we Filipinos don’t just ape others. We compete.

    If some of our entertainers imitate the foreign ones, well, not all Filipino entertainers are like them. Many do original. Listen to OPM, and watch Filipino film classics.

    Thank you for reading and for the comment.

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