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I. Summary of “A Damaged Culture: A New Philippines?

” by James Fallows

James Fallows is an American print and radio journalist. He has been a national

correspondent for The Atlantic Monthly for many years. One of his works is entitled “A

Damaged Culture: A New Philippines?” and it was written and published in the month of

November, year 1987, a year after the first EDSA Revolution. In his article, Fallows focused

on the dark view of Philippines - a nation without useful nationalism and without much national

pride.

Fallows illustrated the state of the Philippines when Corazon Aquino takes the responsibility

of President, after the country’s suffering under the ten-year rule of the Marcos Family. In the

United States, the Coming of the Cory Aquino Administration looked to make the Philippines

into a success story. After six weeks he stayed in the country, he realized that the view of the

New Philippines seems comforting is “not very realistic”. He compared Philippines with other

East Asian Countries like Korea, Japan, Singapore and others. He said that the countries that

surrounded the Philippines have become the world's most famous showcases for the impact

of culture on economic development. Also, he said that culture can make a naturally rich

country poor. He believed that the Philippines culture is possibly the hindrance to the country’s

development.

Fallows was not in the Philippines during the Marcos era. He can’t compare the atmosphere

firsthand, but everyone says that the bloodless dethroning of Marcos gave Filipinos new

dignity and pride. He mentioned that the Filipinos are famous for their love of religious icons.

A visitor would have to be blind not to see the religious element in Corazon Aquino’s public

role. Many Filipinos speak of Cory's goodness, patience, and religiousness in tones that

suggest they think of her as a secular, widowed Blessed Virgin, and as the only person with

even the potential to hold the country together. Stores sold small Cory dolls with bright yellow

dresses and round-rimmed glasses and displayed in homes and cars.

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He uttered that it looks like harassment for an American to criticize the Philippines. Seen from

Manila, the United States is strong and rich. Seen from anywhere, the Philippines is troubled

and poor. He said that the Filipinos’ ethic of delicadeza, is being careful what we say or the

avoidance of saying unpleasant topics directly or indirectly. Filipinos like to save their faces

from shame. They tend to have excuses and refuses to accept what really is wrong in the

disputes.

Just before the first anniversary of the EDSA revolution, Fallows spoke with Jaime Ongpin, an

intense, precise businessman in his late forties, who had become the new Finance Minister.

For the immediate future, Ongpin said, “the trends looked good”. The government was

breaking up some of the cartels run by Marcos’s “cronies” and exposing them to competition.

Many man-on-the-street Filipinos share a version of this view, which is that Marcos was the

source of all their problems, so his removal is itself a solution. Still, for all the damage Marcos

did, Fallows believed that it’s not clear that he caused the country’s economic problems, as

opposed to intensifying them. Most of the things that seem wrong with the economy e.g.

extremes of wealth and poverty, land-ownership disputes, monopolistic industries in cozy, and

corrupt cahoots with the government have been wrong for decades. Because previous

changes of government have meant so little to the Philippines, it was hard to him to believe

on that replacing Marcos with Aquino, will do much besides stopping the flow of crony profits

out of the country. He stated that the EDSA revolution should probably be seen not as a

revolution but as the restoration of the old order.

Fallows’ second trip to the Philippines, in the summer, many Filipinos told him that Cory Aquino

had become strangely inactive in office, acting as if her only task had been to get rid of Marcos

and ride out the periodic revolutions, rumored and real. He said that Cory was not feel driven

to do much else. One morning in summer, as he stared out the window, he listened to two

foreign economists describe the economic trap in which the Philippines is caught. Fallows

believed that these men had absorbed the ethic of delicadeza since the men had worked in

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the Philippines for years. The men ticked off the list of possibilities for Philippine development

and explained the problems in manufacturing, agriculture, services and other industries, and

resources.

Fallows expressed that the Philippine poverty seems more degrading, he illustrated the

reasons through the story of “Smoky Mountain”. The mountain is an enormous pile of garbage,

forty acres in size and perhaps eighty feet high, in the port district north of Manila, and it is

home to some 15,000 Filipinos. The living conditions would seem to be miserable. Still, People

live and work in the garbage heap said they feel lucky to do so. Smoky Mountain is the center

of an elaborate scavenging-and-recycling industry, which has many levels and many

specialized functional groups. The residents of Smoky Mountain are mainly Visayans, who

have come from the Visayas region of the central Philippines, over the past twenty years.

Government has attempted to move them off the mountain, but they have come back because

the money is so good compared with the pay for anything else they can do. The people of

Smoky Mountain complained about land-tenure problem and they want the city to give them

title to the land.

Fallows stated that in the Philippines the extremes of wealth and poverty are become “norm”.

He expressed that if the problem in the Philippines does not lie in the people themselves or in

their choice between capitalism and socialism, maybe it was the “cultural” and that it should

be thought of as a failure of useful nationalism. Individual Filipinos are at least as brave, kind,

and noble-spirited as individual Japanese, but their culture draws the boundaries of decent

treatment much more narrowly. Filipinos pride themselves on their lifelong loyalty to family,

schoolmates, compadres, members of the same tribe, or even residents of the same

barangay. Because the boundaries of decent treatment are limited to the family or tribe, they

excluded at least 90 percent of the people in the country. And because of this disintegration,

people treat each other worse in the Philippines than in any other Asian country he had seen.

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Fallow had felt a glimpse into the failures of the Philippines when he observed of Philippine

Society. These are the traditional corruption and cronyism, extremes of wealth and poverty,

the tribal fragmentation, the local elite’s willingness to make a separate profitable peace with

colonial powers, worst Philippine telephone system, and other bad manners situationally.

Fallows mentioned that Japan’s habits are more useful economically that those of the

Philippines, it’s obviously when the Spaniards took away Filipinos heritage, identity, and

unique culture, and left a destructive habit. The Spaniards successfully damaged Filipinos

culture like what they did with the Aztecs and other cultures they conquered. They successfully

injected negative attitude in the fabric of Filipino characters. Fallows believed that the America

prevented the Filipinos from consummating their rebellion against Spain. In 1898, the United

States intervened to fight the Spanish and then turned around and fought the Filipino

nationalists, too. Fallows believed that the America undeniably brought some material benefits

to the Philippines such as in schools, hospitals, laws, and courts. Many older Filipinos still

speak with fondness about the orderly old colonial days. Fallows believed that the American

rule intensified the Filipino sense of dependence. He also mentioned the heroically fought of

Filipinos against the Japanese, during the Second World War. after the war, the United States

gave the Philippines its independence and was in most measurable ways its benefactor e.g.

offering aid, investing in businesses and providing the second largest payroll in the country at

U.S. military bases.

Fallows believed that the America knows just what it will do to defend Corazon Aquino against

usurpers, like those who planned the last attempted coup. He added that the Filipinos should

start thinking ahead, to what we’ll do if the anti-coup campaign is successful, to what will

happen when Aquino stays in, the culture doesn’t change, and everything gets worse.

II. Summary of “Synthetic Culture and Development” by Renato Constantino

Renato Constantino was a Filipino historian known for being part of the leftist tradition

of Philippine historiography. Apart from being a historian, Constantino was also engaged in

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Foreign Service, working for the Philippine Mission to the United Nations and the Department

of Foreign Affairs. He wrote around 30 books and numerous pamphlets and monographs.

Among Constantino's well-known book is the Synthetic Culture and Development. It was

published by Foundation for National Studies in 1985. This book is sought to establish a kind

of philosophy of culture that reflects Constantino’s ideas on nationalism and its cultural

implications towards the discovery of new Filipino identity.

In his book, Constantino cited the important feature of neocolonial stage of capitalism which

is the evolution of the Transnational Corporations (TNCs). TNCs are the huge company that

does business in several countries. In addition to the TNCs, he also included transnational

banks that generated wealth through debt servicing. Despite competition and contradictions

among themselves, he said that they still keeping the countries securely within the system of

global capitalism by the influence of culture to achieve this target. He believed that the

countries should essentially considered the linkage of economic and cultural factors to assess

the problems of development. The Cultural values in any society strengthen the existing

socioeconomic status. With the passage of time comes, Cultural values promoted by

neocolonialism have become a material force forming part of the apparatus of control. The

relationship between cultural values and economic development is a dynamic one. He quoted

that one which meets the real needs of the people and not the narrow corporate interests of

the global corporations - finally take place.

He underscored that in the last three decades, the TNCs become an important agent for

cultural change. The presence of TNCs in the different industries and sectors of developing

countries facilitate the transmission of developmental change. There products change

constantly based on the consumption patterns, priorities, and societal values. However,

Constantino believed that these TNCs distorted the consumption priorities of the affluent

societies from the advertising and sales campaigns. Although their targets are those elite and

middle classes, their advertising is freely heard in radios, seen on billboards and televisions.

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He stressed that in the Philippines, Drug TNCs, their control of the market has prevented the

development of a national drug industry. TNCs spend billions of dollars in advertising as a

stimulator of consumption, which resulted to their control over the communication industry.

Media can no longer exist without advertising, policies, and decisions affecting media are

therefore largely in the hands of advertisers.

Constantino mentioned that one author cited three major beneficiaries in this activity such as

foreign suppliers of the equipment, the financiers, and the local administrative elite. The means

of communication, aside from being owned by monopolists, are also dependent on advertising

income from other monopolies. Thus, through the control of the communications channels,

advertisers shape consciousness and are able to create new lifestyles and new needs that

not only sell their products but also they affect cultural norms, develop values, and instill ideas

that support the capitalist system.

He underlined that the culture has two categories- culture as behavior and thought patterns,

and culture as aesthetics - under the term spiritual culture. Culture is not only the product of a

refinement of social experience, it is in essence also social communication. Communication

is significant and crucial to societal development because it articulates social relations among

people. At an early stage of social development, communication was a link among equals but

as society developed and stratified, the means of communication became privately owned and

controlled and were used by its owners as a medium for reproducing the types of society

favored by ruling groups. So, communication was transformed into a channel of control. The

communications industry is now the main agent in the manufacture of a synthetic culture which

promotes the concept of a worldwide and permanent economic system that is not to be

challenged in any fundamental way. With the monopoly control of the communication

channels, culture itself has become a commodity. Media have become industries and have

been transformed into producers of "cultural commodities." Thus the Trans nationalization of

communications has almost completely horrified the cultural defenses of developing nations.

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In much of the Third world today, the Cultural heritage is in risk. The very existence of

indigenous cultures is threatened with massive modifications as Western culture is presented,

as the culture which every modernizing state must compete. Western Culture are

technologically greater, therefore admired and enjoyed by the local population. In the

development of the cultural and informational infrastructures, Contemporary capitalism has

fabricated a synthetic culture that has become the medium of perceptions and orientations of

masses of people. Even the socialist world has not been spared from the arrival of some

aspects of this synthetic culture. Perhaps the most important feature of this synthetic culture

is its consumerist philosophy. Those extravagances are regarded as needs such as Western

food and fashion, modem appliances, a TV set, a car etc., which twisting social priorities.

Products are no longer bought for their toughness and durability but for their style or for some

claimed modernization. Instead, the highest value is devoted to the newest and the latest.

These were directly promoted by advertisements, a more effective because subtle approach

is the consistent presentation in media, particularly TV as the most graphic and fascinating

promoter of the values and lifestyle of the "affluent society". In Philippines, some 30 to 50 per

cent of TV shows broadcast daily are canned programs mainly from the United States. The

influence of such imports programs, movie replays and others may be even stronger than the

figures generally aired on prime time. Local programs take their cue from such imports. He

added that the televisions become a means of social control. With information and opinion

neatly packaged together, viewers become mere receivers because they’re hardly has the

time to sort it all out and actively form opinions of his own. Thus, the popular culture as

dispensed by television and video tapes is generally consumed in isolation and has produced

a fragmented, escapist, bendable, and largely unthinking audience. Cultural products were

standardizing men and women into acceptable types of citizens and consumers who do not

question the system. This standardized culture with its international demand is essentially anti-

nationalist. The TNCs and the governments believed that the nationalist movements are

threats to their economic expansion and political control. Henceforth, Cultural penetration has

proven to be an effective tool to block such movements or pacified them. The governments

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are accepting TNCs’ desires by providing cheap labors and producing what the world market

demands. TNCs external forces are viewed as friends while internal counter-forces are

considered destabilizers.

Constantino described the colonization of American through massive transplantation of

American education as an assistant to military operations to pacified people in resistance.

They distorted the history of the early period of their occupation, and portrayed in the schools

as noble benefactors whom the Filipinos had welcomed with open arms. Thus, succeeding

generations forgot their people's record of resistance, their history of struggle. Today, World

bank funding for educational programs is aimed not only at producing the TNCs’ manpower

requirements but also to fulfilled the long-term objective developing in the youth values and

attitudes supportive to neocolonial status quo. These westernized groups were created and

fabricated by the colonial power in all colonized countries to turn their victims into defenders.

Constantino quoted that the communications revolution has arrived even in the Philippines,

but the magic twisted by computers, telephones, telex machines, video recorders, etc. is

controlled by a narrow urban elite. He provided some solutions to these derived from the

MacBride Report submitted to the UNESCO in 1980. As the MacBride Report briefly cited it.

“Communication can be an instrument of power, a revolutionary weapon, a commercial

product, or a means of education; it can serve the ends of either liberation or of oppression,

of either the growth of the individual personality or of drilling human beings into uniformity.”

Constantino also talked about the concept of national culture. He said that a true national

culture is inseparably linked to the people's needs, ideas, emotions, and practices.

Constantino emphasized that Filipinos are in need for re-education of history, an urgent task

to correct the misconceptions, to expose the facts previously buried in Philippine history and

in present reality, and to reveal that the original basis of Philippine "special relations" with the

United States was a dishonesty. The hope of re-learning lies in workers’ organizations, peasant

groups, and youth associations. In the last part of his book, Constantino stated that Filipinos

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must be a nationalist first, share the goals of other peoples for a better life, in effect making

one a real internationalist who have a feeling of empathy with the peoples of the world, not

with their leaders or their governments.

III. Critical Analysis

In the article of Fallows, he blames the Philippine underdevelopment at the feet of

culture. When I read his article, I began to consider some of his interpretation of poverty arises

in the Philippines during his stayed in the country for “six weeks”. However, his stayed for a

short period of time was not enough to witness those other places improving here and now.

Simply, his methods aren’t really promising. He should be a resident or tourist stay for 6

months so that he could have enough basis and confirmation of what he observes.

Moreover, he was not totally captured the profound meaning of Filipino culture of delicadeza.

In the context of Philippine culture, if Fallows really need to say something ruthless, he should

have asked permission from his Filipino readers or apologized for his judgement, whether that

was all factual. Thus, he should have at least exercised or applied delicadeza on himself.

Likewise, Fallows is an American writer who come from a position of authority consider it

normal to take or give the right to determine what is valuable for a people, and label those in

lower positions. His remarks of Philippine “Lack of useful nationalism” seems insufficient to be

confirmed. What he was perceived about the Philippines is partial illustrations of Philippine

society. Perhaps, some Filipinos may not be nationalistic.

But then again, Fallows’ article could possibly awaken of those who are still in denial in the

real condition of our country. He was right that Filipinos should think ahead if the culture of

accepting extremes wealth and poverty as “norm” will not change. Filipinos should not depend

on the political figure’s promises and plans single-handedly, instead help them to resolve

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conflicts and uphold set agendas. They should escape or at least minimize resisting to

progressive change. These problems will hinder Philippine development if we will not end it.

On the other hand, Renato Constantino explained evidently that the culture could hamper the

country’s development. The cultural heritage is in peril because of the western colonization.

The consumption priorities of the civilizations distorted by the TNCs, in different channels of

communications. The arguments of Fallows supported some of Constantino’s point of view in

politics, society and culture. Perhaps, Fallows read the article of Constantino as a basis how

he concluded and described the dark view of the Philippines. Both articles were talking about

the cultures, colonization, and nationalism. Constantino certainly reacted to how Filipinos

colonized by western countries and how Filipinos’ cultural norms, develop values, and lifestyle

were affected. Synthetic cultures, as mentioned by Constantino, help publics understand any

new culture unfamiliar with them, and more systematically. However, it is also a means of

social control. Cultural products homogenizing publics into acceptable types of citizens and

consumers who do not resist with the system of global capitalism.

In the article of Fallows, he wrote: “Americans would like to believe that the only colony we

ever had—a country that modeled its institutions on ours and still cares deeply about its

relations with the United States—is progressing under our wing. It’s not, for reasons that go

far beyond what the Marcoses did or stole.” Fallows believed that the America undeniably

brought some material benefits to the Philippines. Of course, Fallows as an American writer

will enlighten his readers about the good endeavors of his state. As I mentioned, he was

originated from a position of power, and he believed that the United states shaped the

Philippine economy under his state’ regulation. In contrast, Constantino said that Filipinos

should re-study the history, to correct the misconceptions, to expose the facts previously

buried in Philippine history and in present reality, and to reveal that the original basis of

Philippine "special relations" with the United States was a dishonesty. With TNCs, mostly

Americans, cornering as much as three-fourths of the airtime for advertising were shaping

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public opinion and paradigm, it is not surprising that Filipinos mimic American culture and

standards. As it is, whatever is foreign is regarded as superior to anything that is local.

If we’re talking about the past years, Fallows and Constantino presented the idea that their

opinions were truthful. But, There articles were now outdated for the reason that: First, the

Philippines today is one of the emerging markets and is the sixth richest in Southeast Asia by

GDP per capita values, after the regional countries of Singapore, Brunei, Malaysia, Thailand

and Indonesia. Second, too many oppositions, political parties or other organized groups, are

now resisting to the Government, and even in the United States and other countries. Filipinos

are more open and strongly face the truth of status quo, or simply applied what is Fallows’

understanding of the delicadeza (even it was not totally captured it in the context of Philippine

culture). Lastly, great number of Filipinos are now recognized and received the rank and title

of National Artist, as proclaimed by the President of the Philippines, and as proven that

nationalism have been in practiced and devoted contrary to Fallows’ opinions. Yet, his remarks

were mostly gathered destructive view of the Philippine society, these can be a guide in the

formulation of fully integrated social and economic policies, plans and programs to achieve

the objectives of sustainable economic growth coupled with an equitable distribution of income

and wealth and to improve the welfare of all. Development leading to the attainment of the

above mentioned goals is in need of maximum participation by and consultation with

concerned private sector groups, community organizations, and beneficiaries and local

government units in order to ensure that priority needs are incorporated into.

IV. Issues/Concerns and Explanations

Fallows and Constantino discussed that the Philippine culture was colonized by the

western countries, and possibly hindered the country’s development about the past years.

They were described different problems of the Philippines still suffering hitherto. In the article

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of Fallows, he mentioned that Filipinos bind themselves greatly on families, tribes, and

compadres which resulted to the evolution of nepotism in the Philippine Government. Fallows

met my interpretation that if these weren’t like this, probably, there would be no graft and

corruption and politicians would purely dedicate his/her works to the country. But, the political

dynasties are become typical to publics, and worst practices of politicians of the past were

channeled to their relatives and families up till now. There personal interests remained while

in public services. In effect, traditional corruption and cronyism, extremes of wealth and

poverty, and the tribal fragmentation still encountered by their constituents.

Moreover, Fallows and Constantino agreed that the system of capitalism was possibly the

cause of the Philippine underdevelopment. In other Asian countries, its style of capitalism has

led to trade surpluses and they become Asia's first real middle class. This system provided a

market reforms to them which steered a better welfare for most its society. But why would its

Philippine record so different to them? Definitely, the style of capitalism in the Philippines is

not for the interest and welfare of its peoples, instead capitalists operate to realize high profits

from peoples’ paying a lot for goods that are poor in quality. They’re pursuing their own

interests to the ruination of everyone else. In fact, Constantino cited a sample situation in the

Philippines, He stressed that the Drug TNCs, their control of the market, has prevented the

development of a national drug industry. These monopolistic industries in cozy have been

wrong for decades which affected the socioeconomic status. Some of them paid to the local

government for safeguards in their set-ups, and some of the public officials were also a worker

of monopolistic activities. Up to now, most of the politicians seated were pursuing their careers

in government to defend their businesses, and the businesses of their families, schoolmates,

compadres, members of the same tribe and etc.

As Fallows quoted, “When a country with extreme geographic, tribal, and social-class

differences, like the Philippines, has only a weak offsetting sense of national unity, its public

life does become the war of every man against every man.” he was right that because of this

disintegration, people treat each other worse in the Philippines than in any other Asian country.

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Some public officials assumed that those in opposition of the system are threats for their

political controls and businesses. These destructive traditions are not useful to the economic

growth.

Fallows also mentioned that the Philippine government has attempted to move residents off

from the enormous pile of garbage, but they have come back because the income is so good

compared with other jobs. But why? Certainly, the government housing programs have no

supported educational and livelihood programs. Hence, poor planning and ineffective

implementation of the government’s programs and projects may be the causes.

Constantino also revealed other Philippine dilemma in the past, or possibly encounter until

now. He emphasized that the Philippine movies imitate American movies in their obsession

with escapism, sex and violence which are fed also to the American audience because these

are commercially profitable, and majority of them are no longer in search of answers to social

problems. Fallows believed that the sex businesses, Filipino entertainers which are common,

are visible throughout in Asia. It comes in my mind; this misdoing is the product of long

monopoly of American films, as the key western influence. If during that period, the

government leaders were terminated these sex industries through regulating the material

goods which Americans produce, Children today will not at risk into sexual exploitations.

Same with Constantino’s view, Fallows argued that the Philippine Culture has less firm

commitment to nationalism that could eventually yield to foreign domination. Constantino

believed that the Filipinos before are captivated into believing that the path to progress is that

modernization or a culture heavily oriented towards western science and technology. Until

such time, Western Countries continued influencing the Philippine Culture into the concept of

internationalism. Thus, Filipinos should be a nationalistic citizen that take into consideration

the welfare of one's own people before being able to help others. Also, the government should

strengthen the advocacy campaigns of “Tangkilikin ang sariling atin”, “It’s more fun in the

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Philippines”, and other thoughts that will boost the social status of Filipinos and soon will affect

their cultural norms, develop values, and implant ideas that support the useful nationalism.

Constantino cited also that TNCs changed the lives of whole communities in the Philippines.

For instance, the operations of Dole, Philippines and Del Monte have caused massive shifts

from small-scale rice farming to contract-growing of pineapples and bananas. However, Self-

sufficient small farmers were transformed into a contract-growers who eventually became

burdened with debts as a result of difficult contracts he could hardly delivered. Many have

ended up as landless laborers in the TNC plantations or as migrants who have increased the

squatter communities of the cities. This problem is because of the opportunist who abuses

circumstances to gain immediate advantage from them rather than being aided. For example,

Some Government and private lending institutions providing for agriculture production,

equipment and machine loans with high interest rate as sometimes result of bankruptcy for

small-farmers since they were not able to produce enough crops and high profits. This problem

could also affect the supply in the market since small-farmers were shifted to other industry

as failures to repay a loans, laborers of agricultural crops were reduced since they preferred

a jobs that offers high income, and farm lands acquired by TNCs were become privatize.

These problems might be resolve if we begin working now to achieve national pride and unity,

if politicians’ self-interest were set aside to provide better public services, if communities were

participated for countries development rather than point the finger at, if Government were

constantly creating plans, programs and projects and efficiently and effectively implementing,

if discipline were executed habitually, if Philippine culture possibly hindrances to

socioeconomic development were evaded, and if the government do a lot of things to make

sure that the country’s economic performance will leave no one behind and that all Filipinos

will enjoy a “matatag, maginhawa at panatag na buhay”.

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References:

Constantino, Renato. Synthetic Culture and Development. Published by Foundation for


Nationalist Studies, Inc. 1985.
Fallows, James. A Damaged Culture. November 1987 issued. The Atlantic Monthly.
Aspili, Alleli (2002, May 2). A Damaged Culture Critique. Retrieved from
https://www.scribd.com/doc/92048547/A-Damaged-Culture-Critique.
Yao, Cybelle (2011, Feb. 16). A Damaged Culture (Reaction Paper). Retrieved from
https://www.scribd.com/doc/48960360/A-Damaged-Culture-Reaction-Paper.
Resurrecion, Angelita B. (2013, October 9). A Damaged Culture: A New Philippines? A
Critique of James Fallows’ article on Filipinos. Retrieved from
http://www.passionforperfection.net/blog/2016/4/15/a-damaged-culture-a-new-philippines-a-
critique-of-james-fallows-article-on-filipinos.

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