Self-knowledge by knowing others | Inquirer Opinion
Social Climate

Self-knowledge by knowing others

The holding of last week’s 2018 conference of the International Society for Quality of Life Studies in nearby Hong Kong made it feasible for five persons from Social Weather Stations to attend. My paper (“The Social Weather Reports of economic well-being in the Philippines”) was about the SWS surveys, but my colleagues all used the World Values Survey (WVS), on topics of their personal interest, different from their office assignments.

The 2010-14 wave of the WVS, of which SWS is a member, was done in 60 countries. SWS fielded it in the Philippines in 2012. The WVS waves have very lengthy, multi-topic questionnaires, and are stand-alone projects; their data are freely open to researchers (


For me, the value of cross-country surveys is not so much learning more about other nationalities of the world, as understanding us Filipinos in particular, by discovering our similarities to and differences from others. One should not presume to know these things from introspection alone. One should rely on data.

We Filipinos have relatively few social biases. Relatively few Filipinos dislike having neighbors who are: of a different language (31 percent), homosexuals (28), of a different race (22), unmarried couples living together (22), of a different religion (16), or immigrants (14). The three groups we dislike as neighbors are: drug addicts (96), people with AIDS (75), and heavy drinkers (69).


In contrast are Malaysians, who dislike six of the above as neighbors: drug addicts (74), heavy drinkers (68), immigrants (60), people with AIDS (60), homosexuals (59), and unmarried couples living together (52).

We have a relatively low regard for other religions. We mostly-Christian Filipinos agree with the statement, “The only acceptable religion is my religion,” by the substantial net score of +34. In this we are similar to the mostly-Muslim Malaysians (net +37).

On the other hand, the mostly-Hindu Indians (net +2) and the mostly-Buddhist Thais (net -3) are evenly divided. All other Asians deny that other religions are unacceptable: Japanese (net -27), Chinese (net -33), Singaporeans (net -50), Koreans (net

-52), and Taiwanese (net -69).

Interestingly, Mexicans (net -17) are more tolerant than we are, and Spaniards (net -45) are even more tolerant. Religious tolerance developed differently in the Philippines, Mexico and Spain, despite the trio’s historical Christian connection.

58 percent of Filipinos are interested in politics. That is above the 44 percent of Malaysians but below the 75 percent of Thais.

Fewer Filipinos than Thais have ever joined or might someday join in signing a petition, in attending a peaceful demonstration, in a boycott, and in a strike.


Filipinos are the only Asians that feel that respect for the elderly continues. The Philippines has the most youthful population in Asia, with only 8 percent aged 60+ (versus 33 in Japan). On the statement, “older people are not much respected these days,” all Asians agree, most of all Japanese (net +48) and South Koreans (net +64). Filipinos are the only ones that disagree (net -15).

Many more discoveries are possible.  Survey data don’t get depleted from use.

The SWS staff at ISQOLS were: Vladymir Licudine, “Exploring the Effects of Religion and Religiosity on Social Acceptance in Asian Nations”; Christine Torres, “Religious Tolerance among Selected Asian and Western Countries”; Michael Entoma, “Interest in Politics and Political Participation in the Philippines and Southeast Asia”; and Sheena Sabio, “Perceptions of the Elderly: Variations among Southeast and East Asian Countries.”

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TAGS: cross-country surveys, Mahar Mangahas, self-knowledge, Social Climate, SWS
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