Cultural Differences- helping strangers in an accident

This is from personal observation, experience, and hearing stories from other foreigners, not from anything I’ve read or from any lessons on culture.

This is one of the hardest things for North Americans to understand or, to be honest, to excuse.  Even the most culturally intelligent, sympathetic, and understanding westerners I know have a hard time accepting this difference.

I have mentioned before that when we were in Bukidnon, I saw more accidents in a week than I’ve seen in a year in Davao, and that I have nightmares.  Let me describe what I saw- not the gore, but the reaction.  We were in a small town and the bus was stopped, and traffic up ahead was stopped.  I was watching and looking out the windows ahead and to the side trying to figure out what was happening.  I noticed people outside the passenger window racing up the sidewalk, toward whatever the cause of the traffic stop was. They were racing, grabbing each other to join in, looking excited.   I peered ahead, and the bus inched closer I saw a huge crowd of people in a circle on the side of the road, and the crowd was growing quickly as more pedestrians raced along as fast as they could go to join the group. People had the cell phones out and were taking pictures.  I’m thinking minor (or major) celebrity sighting, a band, or something like that.

As the bus inched along further, I saw a motorcycle smashed and broken in the road, and then a pool of blood and then another fractured motorcycle and then I realized the crowd was standing around the victims of the accident.  Some of my fellow passengers stood up and took pictures just as I put my own cell phone away, feeling sick and disoriented.  Nobody seemed to be helping.  Nobody seemed to be using their phones to call for help- I realize I couldn’t see everything, so maybe somebody was, this was just my impression from a slowly moving bus.

It stayed with me, those images, and haunted my sleep but I didn’t talk about it with anybody right away.  Recently, I was with three missionaries who have been here longer than we have, two of them years longer, and they are all quite well versed in cultural differences and fairly immersed in the culture.  We were talking about driving and traffic stuff, and motorcycles- they drive cycles, and one of them said she felt perfectly safe driving a motorcycle around Davao but she wouldn’t do that in the US.  I agreed Davao was pretty safe, but said was that in Bukidnon I had seen an accident, and before I could say anything else, one of them cut in and described the scene as though she’d been there-  the racing eagerly toward the accident, the huge and growing circle, the cell phone cameras out- and nobody helping.  It’s so common they were able to predict what I saw without knowing anything more than that there was an accident.

One of the missionaries says her Filipino friends regularly post pictures of stuff like this to social media. Now, her friends are youngish, the 20 somethings, mostly singles.

We heard the story of an American who came across a woman who was pinned, trapped when she had a wall fall on her.  When he came by there was a large circle of Filipinos watching, but nobody was doing anything.   He got a couple people to help him move her to safety (there was a possibility the rest of the wall could still fall on her), and helped the ambulance treat her properly- and promptly became locally famous for a couple of weeks.   In the ensuing huge social media discussions, again and again people assumed the victim was his wife or girlfriend, and when people who knew would say no, she was a total stranger the response was, “Well then, why would he do that?”

There are social customs and assumptions and presumptions against being presumptuous, taking on more leadership or authority than one ought to have.  And in America, if you have an accident in a crowd of strangers or with just one or two people around, you are also more likely to get help quickly in the presence of just one or two people, because in a crowd everybody assumes somebody else is better able to handle an emergency than oneself.  But I have been in or witness to similar accidents and disasters in the US and the response is still very, very different.

In a lighter example of at least part of what I think is going on, a Filipina friend told me history had not make any sense to her when she was in college, because she couldn’t see why she should care since none of those people were related to her.  Plenty of Americans don’t care about history, either, but I was struck by that reason- ‘they are not my family, so why does it matter?’

I’ve blogged before about the importance of relationships in this culture, and it is a beautiful thing.  Relationships are incredibly important. But that also means that where you have no relationship, you also have no responsibilities (or few).  More than once I have had a discussion about adoption with people from other cultures- Japan, Korea, and here in the Philippines.  A Japanese Christian told me the Japanese can’t really adopt because the adopted child would always be the stranger, the guest, and would always have to be served first and given the best and that would be unfair to any biological children.  Koreans do not really understand why it makes me flinch when they learn the Cherub is adopted and they ask if any of our children are really ours (this is the way to say it in Korean- the children are adopted or they are our ‘real children.’)  Filipinos more than once will comment on how often and how readily Americans adopt.

Now, adoption is complicated issue. There are a lot of problems with that on the American side- we created poverty orphans and a blackmarket in other people’s children, and there have been abuses and victims and all kinds of problems and we have leapfrogged over solutions which would involve helping families stay intact-  and that’s incredibly important and I don’t want to make light of it.  But also, in many cases, in the beginning, there were children who would not be growing up because they country was in the aftermath of a devastating war, they had thousands of war orphans, and even if they hadn’t been struggling to feed themselves,  their culture did not have a strong culture of taking in or caring for other people’s children.  If you were an orphan or abandoned by your family, that was your fate , possibly even your fault (particularly in belief systems which include reincarnation), and not somebody else’s responsibility. There are still cultures where that is true.  Americans don’t really have a longstanding cultural practice of sitting back and accepting fate for themselves or for others.  Sometimes that means we act like the world’s police force and stick our noses where they don’t belong, and scoop up other people’s children instead of helping families stay intact, but culturally, it also means we are more likely to help in an accident than to run to watch and take selfies with the bleeding, unconscious victims.  Generally speaking, that is. I read about the youtube creep who visited Japan’s suicide forest to take pictures of the suicides.  He’s been shamed around the world, but I think he still has a pretty large youtube following.  And cultural practices shift more rapidly in the global age.

Not helping can also be an artifact of experiences and knowledge- people who know what to do, who have some background knowledge that might apply are more likely to step up and use it.  My husband has pulled a man out of a burning truck while a crowd watched, but my husband has had red cross training. The friend who pulled the woman out from under the wall had previous first aid training. Possibly such training is more common in the U.S. than in the Philippines, I don’t know.  Possibly also there’s a connection to the cultural differences between a being and a doing culture, but that is also just me guessing.

It’s not that Americans are perfect here- there are lots of articles written about bystander effect and that research started with a notorious incident in America.  But I think perhaps one difference is that in a more individualistic society vs a more collective, group oriented society, you are more likely to get somebody in the group who steps forward and shakes people out of their shock.  And I am writing this as an American, so I am more uncomfortable with this reaction to accidents than somebody from a more collectivist culture would be.

The bystander effect seems to be true in every culture, but perhaps it’s more pronounced in some than others.  All the articles I found cite the Kitty Genovese case in New York and  they cite the version that has been debunked, but it is the Kitty Genovese case that started the research on bystander effect.

The studies done on this are quite interesting. Here’s another:

““I would claim there is a predisposition in some people to help whenever the opportunity arises,” said Oliner, who contrasts this group to bystanders. “A bystander is less concerned with the outside world, beyond his own immediate community. A bystander might be less tolerant of differences, thinking ‘Why should I get involved? These are not my people. Maybe they deserve it?’ They don’t see helping as a choice. But rescuers see tragedy and feel no choice but to get involved. How could they stand by and let another person perish?””

Culturally we may have just as much trouble with the bystander effect.  However, I am pretty sure the majority of North Americans would not assume that the only reason a person would pull somebody out of a burning car or out from under a teetering wall is if they were related to the victim in some fashion, because nobody would do that for a stranger.

And that is a cultural difference that is really hard for me to wrap my head around.

Posted in Davao Diary | 2 Responses

Facebook’s privacy issues

Facebook does pay attention to the pictures and messages you send via not so private messenger. They recently admitted the data of nearly their 2 billion users has likely been scraped by outsiders.

Zuckerberg has been planning a future presidential career, according to people who pay attention to these things. The latest revelations about FB’s abuse of our data may put a crimp in that. I hope so.

“Finally, in 2016, Facebook changed its Securities and Exchange Commission financial disclosure statement to allow for Zuckerberg to take “voluntary” leave to serve in a “government position or office” — and yet retain control of Facebook.

Imagine the ability to both be president and control the world’s most powerful data mining platform at the same time. That amount of power in the hands of one individual could be truly dangerous for more than just the 200 million Americans active on Facebook, but for all of us.

Related: Can People Ever Use Facebook Again Without Fear?

That’s the publicly available information. Here’s what the scandal has revealed.

In March, news broke that Facebook had allowed a data firm to farm the private information of more than 50 million users without their permission — and then use that information for political purposes. This only made news because the information was used by a firm hired by the 2016 Trump campaign.

But Facebook can’t feign ignorance here. It allowed the exact same data sharing to be done for the Obama campaign in 2012. But back then, the media hailed the move as genius.

A former Obama staffer, Carol Davidsen, admitted via Twitter that Facebook knew what it was doing in 2012 and “allowed us to do things they wouldn’t have allowed someone else to do because they were on our side.””

If you’re going to delete facebook, try poisoning data before you do.

“For Facebook, which accounts for about 40% of all referral traffic on the internet, you can only begin to imagine the replication, scaling, redundancy and other strategies that are employed across multiple geographically redundant data centers that Facebook operates.

What does this all mean?

This means that even by conservative assumptions, your data never really disappears permanently if you deactivate and delete your Facebook account. If your lucky enough to live in the European Union, then you might have better chances with the right to be forgotten. In North America, I dont see any reason to assume that your data is actually permanently deleted when you delete your account. It might even be safe to assume that this data is held and transparently linked to any new accounts you might open in the future, either by connecting phone numbers associated with accounts or by algorithmic statistical analysis”

Save your pictures and posts before you go. Or just because you want to, even if you’are staying (I’m staying for now, mainly due to inertia)

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Of the Goose and the Gander

Sheryl Attkisson (and some of her readers) suggest some terms she suggests President Trump should set forth if he decides to be foolhardy and appear before Mueller:

1. An exoneration letter is drafted in advance.
2. Immunity is given to top Trump aides (and they’re allowed to sit in on interview).
3. Interview isn’t recorded.
4. Lead official….
5. #2 official’s family has received large donations from Trump political friends.
6. Prior to the interview, lead official meets privately…
7. Main interviewer has expressed disdain for Trump’s opponents, such as discussing an “insurance plan” with higher-ups to undermine them….

10. Trump aides should be permitted to destroy subpoenaed or relevant public records and wipe relevant servers with a cloth or something.

It’s irrelevant if any laws were broken or how many. All that matters is if a political crony determines whether or not he meant to.

The interview will occur comfortably in Trump’s own home, and not only will it not be recorded, no notes will be taken at that time.

See her full thread here, and with reader comments included here.

Naturally, a few die hard Hilary fans are still trying to claim the emails were nothing burgers (they contained classified information were found on Huma Abedin’s husband’s unclassified laptop because she sent them to him, and Hilary removed the C for classified from some of the emails and then claimed she thought the C stood for copies). And they like to call this what-about-ism, for obvious reasons, although that is even more obviously an admission that ‘yep, we’re hypocrites but so what?’ I prefer what’s good for the goose is good for the gander.

Meanwhile, how about that Uranian One deal? New revelations make it look even more appalling than previously.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Bukidnon trip, continued, because look at these pictures

Reminder/backstory: We took a bus from Davao City, where we live and work volunteer, up to Malaybalay in Bukidnon province for spring vacation.  It was gorgeous.

On the bus ride going up and coming back down, there was a long stretch where there was always smoke off in the distance.  I probably took over a hundred pictures trying to catch it, but the bus was moving at a pretty quick clip,  and suddenly my view would be blocked by another shanty on the side of the road,  a stand of trees, another hillside, or a passing truck. When I did get the image I wanted in my lens, the resulting picture still would be too blurry, my finger was in the way, or we hit a bump and I got a nice closeup of the curtain or overhead rack instead.  I wasn’t sure I ever got any pictures with the plume of smoke until we got home and I started going through them, and I found two or three.

These were cropped to focus more on the mountains and the smoke, but otherwise are unedited.


Oh, look- there it is, although from here it could be a waterfall or a cloud or almost anything.  It’s a large plume of smoke, that’s what it is.

There are people who live in these mountains and hills.  Some of them are still reached best on foot, over single path foot bridges, on dirt bikes.

I was told that an organization here that translates the Bible into other languages considers their work here in the PHilippines essentially done, they have translated the Bible into all the dialects now.  But then we were told by professors at the seminary where we stayed that there is at least one large tribe in this area where their dialect has not been written down and the Bible has not been translated.   The professors told us the tribe is hostile to outside influence, but they are working on trying to build a rapport with them.

Collectively, most of the tribes of this area are called the Lumad, a name they agreed on just a few years ago.  Within the Lumad are an astonishing array of dialects, customs, and beliefs.  Mainly what they have in common is that they are indigenous and they never converted to either Islam or Christianity- and thus, Catholic Spain and Catholic Philippine government gave away much of their lands to immigrants from the northern island of Luzon in order to keep Mindanao island from becoming Muslim.  At one point the Filipino government encouraged relocation of farmers and other workers from the northern island of Luzon down to the southern island of Mindanao in order to keep political control of the Philippines as a whole and impose the government of Manila on the island. This caused a lot of bitterness, understandably.*
On the other side, I’m currently reading a history of the area written by a local scholar, and a hundred years ago at least one of these groups were still practicing human sacrifice and several of them were engaged in enslaving each other whenever they could. One tribe had a warm and kindly practice of providing a wet nurse if the mother was unable to nurse, but if the mother died in childbirth, then they buried her child with her. Another welcomed twins, but if there were triplets they killed them by stuffing the babies’ mouth with ashes because it was believed triplets would kill their parents. So… there might have been a better way to alter these cultural practices, but some of them surely did need changing.

 Here’s a basic over-view of this collection of tribes.

The Talaandig are one of the people groups living in this wider area.  I don’t know anything about them firsthand, and even second hand my information is limited to the fact that they exist, they are IPs (indigenous People) who have been left out but the government and some Filipino missionaries are trying to reach out to them  , but this missions website has some information.  There is also some information here.  They have an interesting flood story you can read here.

Somewhere in these mountains as well, there is a former mission compound where many of my current friends and colleagues once lived.  When their work there was finished, they cleaned up their houses and buildings and turned it over to the government, which used the property for a school for IP children.  Recently, a handful of the missionaries who formerly lived there had a chance to make a spontaneous visit.  They just happened to be in the area and wanted to visit for nostalgic reasons.  They found approximately a couple dozen children playing in the compound.  The buildings were dilapidated.  There were some shabby garden patches the children were supposed to tend themselves. The only adults there that day were two security guards, who informed their foreign visitors that the reason the place was in such poor condition was because that is how the former missionaries had left it and the government was trying to clean it up but it was hard.  They didn’t realize they were speaking with those same foreign missionaries who knew they had left their homes and workplaces in perfect condition.

The children live there.  There are supposed to be four teachers there for them- one is supposed to live there with them, and the other three allegedly commute in.  However, on the day that my friends were visiting, there were no teachers in sight at all and no classes were held. We don’t know if it just happened to be a vacation day for the teachers, but the impression of one of the people I spoke with, a missionary teacher of considerable experience, was that the children are not really being taught, they are left largely to themselves.  Culturally speaking there are a number of reasons this is not terribly surprising, but it is no less heartbreaking.



Attached to the side, but cut of by the conflict between the curve of the road and the bus window, is a motorcycle.  This is another form of public transportation, but also sometimes private transportation.



No kidding.  The response to road accidents or similar physical disasters here is like nothing I’ve ever seen before, and it is probably one of the most deeply jarring and disturbing contrasts between American and Philippine culture I have yet to observe.  But that’s a whole other post.

To conclude this post, let’s just practice observation.  Just look, and make a list of what you see.  Dont’ draw conclusions about it, just try to notice.


You can try to right click and save to another tab and maybe enlarge there to see more.  Or maybe some of these close ups will help:

I confess to a minor bit of conflicting feelings about some of these. I wasn’t taking pictures of people deliberately- in the larger shot here, it was that pile of Rapunzel’s hair I hoped to catch.  But people do interest me, so the closeups I made by enlarging the shot and focusing on different spots sometimes include people.

I always wonder about the people I pass in a vehicle- who are they, how do they live, what are their hopes, dreams, fears, struggles, successes…  I wonder about people who pass by me in trains and cars as well- where are they going, what are they thinking as they drive past the farmland around my house back in the U.S.?

Agatha Christie felt this, too, and said it was really the whole point of Archeology- ‘come, tell me how you live.’  That was the title of a book she wrote on it.


I often think of a little ditty I used to recite, sing song, to my oldest grandsons while playing peek-a-boo. It goes something like this:

Dwa dwa diddy

Diddy dum dum dee

I can see you but you can’t see me.

I thought of it while speeding past in my air conditioned bus.  And I wonder, do I?  Do you? Do we?  What does it mean to see them, to see each other, to really see another human being?  I think it’s probably at least half the attraction of blogging and reading blogs, isn’t it?  Tell me how you live. Show me. Let me look at you.

I’m trying to see.

Dwa dwa diddy

Diddy dum dum doo.

You can see me but I can’t see you.

To see, and to be seen, it sounds simple, but it isn’t really.

I’ll keep looking, wondering, thinking, pondering- and tentatively, cautiously, trying to see and to be seen.


*The material in this post is either my personal observation and experience or it’s simply me relaying what somebody else told me, or what I thought they told me.  It’s true to the best of my knowledge, but that doesn’t make any of it solid enough for somebody to use in a school report, so be careful out here, kids.

Posted in Davao Diary | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Just one of those things

1. What was last thing you drank?
Water. Before that, raspberry kombucha

2. Worst pain ever?

Physical? Broken ribs.

3. Last thing you ate?
Chicken curry broth.

4. Favourite place you’ve eaten?
Mongolian BBQ in Japan

5. How late did you stay up last night?
3 a.m.

6. Last book you read?
Feast of the Elfs, by John C. Wright

7. The last time you cried?

8. Favourite flower?
Currently, Plumeria. I picked up a blossom off the ground at Bukidnon two weeks ago, pressed it between a folded piece of paper in a book and brought it home and I can still smell its wonderful, sweet, haunting scent.

9. What’s your favourite season?
Where I live now, there’s rainy season and rainier season. Currently I am told we are in the middle of summer. If I don’t have to go outside anywhere between 10 and 4 I have adjusted to the heat and can handle it. Oh, favourite season… Probably autumn in the U.S. but strawberry season is also amazing.

10. If you could have any choice of profession what would it be?
I like what I have done and am doing. I guess if I could work from home I’d love to be a researcher of some sort- the person who does fact checking for books and movies, background research for authors, that kind of thing. I also like speaking on home education, books, and CM’s philosophy.

11. Favourite childhood TV show?
Hogan’s Heroes, Batman, and Twilight Zone- oh, and Lost in Space.

12. Thing you’re afraid of?

13. If you could travel anywhere, where would it be?
Heh. Look at me, here in the Philippines.
Also, I’d go to Korea, and it would be fun to see Ireland.

14. Favorite animal?
The late, great, Zeus. The later, much lamented Curly. Both great dogs the likes of which will not be seen again on this earth.

I like animals in theory more than in my house, to be honest. I hate dog hair on the floor and I also hate sweeping it up. But if we are not talking about animals with personal connections, I’d have to say the Cephalapods.


Posted in Uncategorized | 6 Responses

  • Amazon: Buy our Kindle Books

  • Search Amazon

    Try Audible and Get Two Free Audiobooks

  • Brainy Fridays Recommends:

  • Search: