Tingi-tingi and mediocrity in Philippine society

By Joshua Corcuera


The Philippines is definitely a small country, in both its geographical features and the way of living of the people. As one can see, the Philippines cannot be easily seen on the world map in the eyes of a random person despite being an archipelagic nation.

Moreover, the prevalence of the so-called tingi culture would also be realized in Filipino streets and shops when we dig deeper into Philippine society. Also, the food that we eat in fast-food chains such as burgers are small in size and quantity compared to most foreign nations, and even the average height of Filipinos pales in comparison to that of foreigners.

We have been used to small things, and though it can help give people simple lives with peace of mind, it’s not necessarily a good thing. With this, it’s important to ask whether this heritage of smallness has always dominated Philippine society and what is its implications for the nation’s future.



Since time immemorial, we have limited our room for growth. This idea is proven by the pre-Hispanic inhabitants in the Philippine islands. These people settled as small groups ranging from a few dozen to a hundred families.

To survive, they traded with neighbors such as Brunei and China using small rowboats intended for short-distance travel. It has remained this way for centuries as they were unwilling to go further or explore new horizons. As a result, a lack of innovation and growth has become apparent and society seems to be stagnated.

While other civilizations, such as European kingdoms and Chinese dynasties, developed new technologies and discovered new trade routes making improvements on their quality of life possible. In other words, our neighbors didn’t settle for less allowing new opportunities for growth to be within their reach.



As we live in the 21st century, Filipinos still tend to be satisfied with small things. In our everyday lives, the so-called tingi culture is alive and widespread. A good example of this would be sari-sari stores which are ubiquitous in our society. These stores would offer to sell canned goods, cigarettes, soap, shampoo, and many more products in small quantities.

As to why we consume in this manner, it is because many aim to merely survive each day. Filipinos tend to buy what they need rather than buying more than they need since we often pay for what we can only afford daily. Even though buying a whole bottle of shampoo saves money in the long run, many would prefer buying sachets due to their financial circumstances.



With our satisfaction for simplicity, we can deduce that we have — intentionally or unintentionally — limited our room for growth and progress. Other nations who dreamed bigger and aspired to be extraordinary managed to surmount the problems they once faced such as poverty. Take South Korea for instance, they were among the poorest in the world after the unofficial end of the Korean War in 1953. However, their ambitious dreams — despite a lack of natural resources — were achieved through sheer determination. At present, some of the most renowned global corporations today originated from South Korea such as Samsung and Hyundai.

Here in our own land, mere mediocrity caused households to have what is merely needed for a single day with uncertainty for what there is for tomorrow. This reveals that simple ambitions limited our prospects for growth and development. Hence, as Philippine society deals with the challenges of the 21st century, we need to dream bigger, aspire to be extraordinary, and not settle for less, if we genuinely aspire our country to grow and reach great heights.