Philippine economy

[Edgewise] Love me legal tenderly

Rene Ciria Cruz

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[Edgewise] Love me legal tenderly

Guia Abogado/Rappler

'If more Filipinos are openly preferring practical buying power to other symbols of affection, it’s due to widening scarcity'

This should give anyone who cares about the evolution of our national character an achy-breaky heart. Filipinos prefer money over love and gifts of flowers or candies, according to a Social Weather Stations survey timed for last Valentine’s Day. 

We’re no strangers to the link between love and money. After all, the dowry (bigaycaya) was a traditional marriage requisite in the agricultural past. But its necessity has long been eclipsed by modern values that put a premium on human feelings in conjugal relations.

It’s therefore a bit startling to see many a Filipino today frankly preferring the pecuniary to the amatory: You want to show me tender love? Make it legal tender. 

What’s happening to our dreamy Filipino way of romance? The kundiman yearning? The I who have nothing/I’m just no one with nothing to give you/but, oh, I love you?

Unless the survey respondents were just pulling a prank – like American high school students claiming they can’t identify the United States on the world map – it appears that more Filipinos are becoming materialistic, at least as shown by 16% of 1,200 survey respondents. 

Not that they’re becoming philosophically materialistic, embracing the view that ideas are reflections and products of physical realities and processes that exist independent of our consciousness (that falling tree in the forest makes a sound even if no one’s there to hear or see it). 

They’re going instead for the “We’re living in a material world/And I’m a material girl” materialism that says, “The boy with the cold hard cash is always Mister Right.” Yes, Madonna, not Marx.

Well, cash is harder and harder to come by. If not for the remittances of our OFWs – who must pay the cost of long separations from loved ones with broken hearts – there’d be even fewer “Mister or Miss Rights” today.

So, forget offering your hunka-hunka burnin’ love if you want to melt my cold, cold heart; show me the money. 

Can’t say I blame today’s paramours, and I shouldn’t have been surprised. The Valentine’s survey is also some kind of economic indicator. Fact: the incidence of poverty among Filipino families is at 16.4%, burdening 4.5 million families. 

However, that nearly 50% of Filipinos consider themselves poor suggests an added dimension. 

Popular culture is loaded with images of the lifestyles and values of the comfortable and wealthy – from the middle classes’ newly acquired houses, cars, and fun vacations to celebrities’ designer handbags and clothes, glam travels, chic dinners out, etc., all signifying material success.

Constantly seeing how well-off the few are makes the many achingly realize how poor they are. It makes even the slightly better off feel poorer than they should. 

And everyone is convinced that the only the way to a higher rung on the proverbial ladder is to somehow clamber up this obstacle-strewn “natural order of things.” Thus, a society’s prevailing cultural and moral climate at a given time both reflects and reinforces its existing socio-economic hierarchies. 

If more Filipinos are openly preferring practical buying power to other symbols of affection, it’s due to widening scarcity. 

Sure, we don’t live by bread alone; love and spirituality are also life necessities. But currently the crucial word is “bread,” or rice, which has yet to come down to P20 a kilo per presidential election promise. 

A time of sharpening wants not only induces unapologetic pragmatism in love, but it also sadly makes more people take matters into their own hands – to each his own game.

The Philippines is now earning a dubious reputation as Asia’s worst for online shopping scams. There are also phone scams, relationship scams, religion scams, inheritance scams, money transfer scams, credit card fraud, you name it. 

And then there are scams larger in scale, with direr national implications. The perpetrators are the country’s dynastic elite rulers who cloak themselves in the mantle of democracy and “national unity.” 

Exploiting widespread destitution, they casually – no, smugly – offer legal tender for your votes, legal tender for your “people’s initiative” signatures. They’re not after your affection; they’re after your souls. 

The takers will only wake up to find wider gaps on the social ladder, the obstacles to a better life more formidable in this so-called natural order of things. –

Rene Ciria Cruz is an editor at He edited the book A Time to Rise: Collective Memoirs of the Union of Democratic Filipinos (KDP), (UP Press), and was’s US Bureau Chief 2013-2023. He has written for the San Francisco Examiner, San Francisco Chronicle, Pacific News Service, and California Lawyer Magazine.

1 comment

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  1. ET

    Thanks to Rene Ciria Cruz for this realistic article. It made me both angry and sad. It made me angry because he made me realize how “romantic love” has become “materialistic love.” In addition, his analysis also includes a national scope, which is more damning. In the end, it also made me sad. This is because of the consequent feelings of powerlessness, helplessness, and hopelessness.

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