Diskarte: the Resourcefulness of Filipinos

 Many blogs and other sources of information kind of look down on the diskarte approach to life of Filipinos.

In this post I want to talk about diskarte from the standpoint of someone who is married to a Filipina and highlight the perks, as well as the downside, of the diskarte mentality.


But what is diskarte?

Diskarte has no exact translation in English. The closest translation is probably the ability to improvise in a difficult situation.

Etymologically, diskarte may be Spanish in origin (from descarte, descartar, meaning "to discard"), but it has since evolved into a Tagalog word having different meanings.

The primary way in which Filipinos seem to use this term is with regard to building or fixing things when there is little or no money or resources.


Often the diskarte approach doesn’t produce high quality labor, rather it only puts temporary “patches” on things or problems that need to be fixed based on the typical Filipino idea that pwede na iyan (it will already do).

And in the Philippines there are a lot of things like houses, vehicles and infrastructures that are very precarious.

In the Philippines there are a lot of what I call "patchwork" homes where whatever material is available (hollow blocks, metal sheets, bamboo etc.) is blended together to build homes that don't have a specific style but, nevertheless, provide "kahit papaano" (somehow) some shelter.

Another interesting thing about diskarte and pwede na iyan is the incredible number of vulcanizing shops that can be found everywhere in the Philippines where worn-out tyres are repaired ad infinitum by putting patches upon patches on them.

Another interesting thing about diskarte is the jungle of dangling electric wires that in the Philippines are found everwhere, not only in the countryside but also on every main street of any major city.

Here in Italy, as well as in the rest of Europe, electrical cables are situated underground.

If you visit the Philippines you cannot help but notice spaghetti-like wires that they have in their electric/phone posts within the cities and towns. More so in the busy and main streets of each town.

Messy overhead cables sometimes situated slightly above one's head are everywhere and they cause frequent blackouts, in fact I remember blackouts occurring at least once a week while in the Philippines, and I also remember being out of electricity for 3 days and not being able to recharge my phone.

Maybe the reason why they don't do the underground wiring is that floods and typhoons occur several times a year in the Philippines but wires could at least be arranged in a more orderly fashion.

Hanging wires make it much easier for people to illegally tap into the public grid.

So, because in the Philippines many things are built or fixed in a diskarte and pwede na iyan way the quality is what it is.


However, from a selfish point of view, being married to a Filipina has helped me to benefit from diskarte in many ways.

The fact that Filipinos were born and raised in a country where they are forced to find the way to build or fix things, even if they lack the resources, is such that almost all Pinoy men have a way with manual labor and can fix a little bit of everything.

And often this stands them in very good stead when they work abroad, because their employers are more than happy when their Filipino tagalinis or cleaners can also fix their cars, their appliances or a leaking sink or drain. Many rich Italian employers are rather stingy and they like it when they can pay only one person to do a thousand things.

So, under this aspect, Filipinos have the edge over other ethnic groups that work in my country.

And their ability to fix almost everything, even if sometimes it's nothing more than a pwede na iyan solution, helps me quite a lot.

I almost never go to a mechanic when I have an issue with my car and 90% of the time I bank on my Pinoy friends. Sometimes they fix my car's issues permanently and sometimes not but, nevertheless, I save big money.

For example, few months ago the left front headlight of my car blew out. I tried to replace it but, because the fuse box is way too close to the headlight, I could barely put my finger between the fuse box and the headlight and I couldn’t see a thing. In order to move the fuse box a little bit to make more room for my hand and to be able to see something I had to remove the battery first.

I did all this labor but I still found it difficult to replace the light bulb so I decided to go to a car electrician. It took him one hour to replace the bulb and he struggled to do it.

For some strange reason the light bulb blew out again but a Filipino friend of mine happened to be around.

Well, it took him 30 seconds to replace the light bulb!

The irony of it is that he managed to do it without having to remove the battery or anything else.

Since he was available he also changed the two ignition coils and the spark plugs.

Because, as I said, Filipinos were born and raised in a country where most people can't afford to take their car to a garage or to have a specialized professional build their house or fix their appliances or a leaking drain or anything like that, they are forced into learning how to do these things themselves.

Because building and fixing things properly requires expensive tools and materials, which most Filipinos have no access to, they use whatever means they can put their finger on to build or fix things no matter what.

So, as husband of a Filipina, not only do I benefit from diskarte when my car breaks down and the repairs that need to be done don't entail messing with the electronic components, but I can also bank on Filipinos to have my washing machine fixed, a leaking pipe, you name it.

Most Italians turn to a mechanic when their car has a problem (or to a plumber if their sink or their drain are clogged, to an electrician if they have an electrical issue etc.) as in this country we operate from the idea that each one is supposed to do his job and rules are far more strict than in the Philippines. You can't do an oil change on a public road and dispose of the old oil in the sewer. If you change your brake pads yourself and fail to do it right and have an accident as a result you are in trouble with the law.

And if you have to do and electrical installation or repair the roof of your house etc. everything has to be legally certified and done by meeting legal standards.

For this reason most Italians abstain from even trying to fix things themselves and turn to an expensive professional for help.

Obviously a highly specialized professional (and here in Italy we have many) does a high quality job but he will charge money that even in an industrialized country like mine is getting more and more difficult to earn.

And so Filipino diskarte definitely stands me in good stead.

I party agree with those who say that diskarte and pwede na iyan create crappy work and that a country where most things are built or fixed by resorting to diskarte can hardly grow and prosper.

On the other hand, as I said, even in countries where the standards of building and fixing things are high there is economic recession, unemployment and, as a result, people are not always in the position to pay an expensive professional and some flexibility and diskarte would definitely help.


So is diskarte a positive or a negative trait of Filipinos?

In an ideal world all kinds of things should meet the highest possible standards of building and fixing.

And there is no doubt that, because in the Philippines, way too many things are built in a diskarte and pwede na iyan fashion the country struggles to meet the standards of the more industrialized countries.

On the other hand, as I said, the countries where the standards of building and fixing are high are not immune from economical problems and, as a result, when people have to build or fix things they find themselves in the difficult position of having to spend money they don't have.

Because no country is the "ideal" world sometimes letting go of very rigid rules and standards and imitating the flexible Filipino sense of diskarte would help.


  1. When I was on Samar just before the pandemic I took a ride on a Honda 50 that must have been the first one ever made in Japan for export. It still ran but nothing else worked. No brakes or lights and it hardly even looked like the Honda 50's I knew years ago in Japan. But it was still rideable if you didn't mind not having any brakes.

    1. I still remember driving from One Hundred Islands to San Ildefonso Bulacan with almost no brakes...and in the middle of Bagyo Frank!


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