"Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew, bless him, told us then we should rid ourselves of our colonial mentality of obeisance or servitude, or words to that effect, and address one another as Mr or Mrs. No more Sirs and Ma’ams. We are a nation of equals. No more kowtowing to the white men." - Rappler
I grew up thinking "Sir" and "Ma'am" were appropriate designations for people who are older or superior in position. But that thinking changed when I started working for the United Nations. Our Country Director, an American, arrived after a few weeks when all of us were already on board and working. The main office requirements were newly setup and almost complete, and we were all pioneers there working for the very first time with the new computers, while more equipment were just being ordered and regularly coming in from both local and international sources. Everything was new, top of the line and obviously expensive. We also had four other offices in different locations where our program operations is really implemented. I was in charge of ICT so I was very particular with the computers and all. I was tasked to plan, identify, purchase, install, maintain.,troubleshoot, etc., all ICT requirements of the offices.This required me to visit the other offices every now and then to setup their ICT infrastructure. Thus I was jumping on a plane almost every week.
I report directly to our Country Director so I frequently have to talk to her for many reasons. One time, after a few weeks of working with her, she finally had to say it, something that bothered her for the past weeks but she said she had to hold back as a sign of respect. She told me to just call her by first name after I've been calling her Ma'am for weeks, and explained to me that everyone in the office should be calling each other by their first name instead. She continues to say "We should treat each other as equals because we all have one common goal, and the designations are there to merely to describe our functions."
I told her that we usually say that to someone older than us. She said, "Now, you wouldn't want me to feel old every time you greet, right?"
Apparently, she had a point.
Below are more sentiments of the public taken from the same thread where I got the statement above. I picked a few of those that I feel substantial enough to be shared. Let them help you decide if you'll feel the same towards using the "Sir" and "Ma'am" designation.
"Whether the intention is good or not, I think habitual addressing of "sir / ma'am" in the workplace instills a sense of subservience and inferiority in the growth of individuals. While on the surface we want to exude our proud hospitable trait, unconsciously, we build into our psyches that we will always be subordinates and don't have the capability to be equals with our bosses if we work hard and smart enough with which the strong volition of Filipinos are fully capable of." - Noy Guerrero Barcelona
"It is not the white man who instilled in the Filipino a respect for his superiors. To say the Filipino race had no respect or courtesy prior to colonization is an insult to national identity!" - Charles Steins
"We Filipinos are train to respect our elders and superiors. Here in america, except in the military, they call everybody by first or last name. Sir and madam sometimes are sarcastic insult and you will be corrected head on. Sometimes it slipped out of my mouth but who care, I'm just a Filipino and my values are still in me!!!!!" - Lynne Benza Bardeloza
"True enough. I am in Europe and I hear little kids call older people by just their first names. And it surprises me because we Filipinos are really courteous to use 'manang, manong, ate kuya, etc' even with strangers and simple vendors.. and with that I can proudly say mabuhay ang pinoy. We were instilled with good moral values. I call older people here ma'am/sir, mr/miss. I can't quite swallow the fact of calling them just by their names alone. It's like adapting to their own culture, which I never want in the first place." - Keethe Justine
"It makes sense. The thing is a lot of Filipinos humble themselves so much to the extent of addressing people inappropriately with the use of maams and sirs. I bet nothing is more uncomfortable than being addressed as madam by an elderly 50 years older than me just because she happens to be a street vendor. It's very demeaning for her part but she chose to address people based on financial status and probably educational attainment just to comply with the norm in spite the apparent malarkey. Going back to our Filipino culture, we have high respect to the elders/nakakatanda therefore I believe it's better to address a person as maams or sirs by age rather than by their positions in their respective fields let alone, their nationality. - Angelica Sia Ignes
It is not also mean that you call a Mr. & Mrs.it has no respect at all, here in Germany is also Mr. & Mrs...mean Herr & Frau.. ...Respect for me it´s just not only on how the way we address to the person it is how you act.....to my Boss I adress him Herr mean Mr.not sir but I respected him as my Boss...." - Dinzkie Eltagon Glazer
"I believe sir/madame is just a way to show respect. All human beings deserve respect, don't they? I guess part of that is respect for culture. Either Filipinos respect the culture of Singapore or Singaporeans respect the culture of Filipinos. As Filipinos, do you bow to greet Foreign Orientals in the Philippines who practice it? Our answers will vary. Its a matter of how people perceive themselves and others; and how people respond to that perception." - Ahrk Ricardo
"I still wouldn't call someone older than me by his or her first name. Sir/Mam just happens to not have a direct Filipino translation, but in my sense it simply intends to afford respect not subservience." - Horeb Eliot
"Subservience and inferiority are a Mentality. "Sir" and "ma'am" are just more formal ways to address people... Stop making it into something it ISNT. Also HUMBLE and INFERIOR are not the same. HUMBLE means to value others enough to know that you are the same as anyone else regardless of station in life... And inferiority is just a plain lie that You tell yourself." - Kelly Liao
"Filipinos equate hospitality with the psychological feeding of the colonizers that we are an inferior race. We are misleading ourselves into thinking this way. SM guards call everyone who enters their mall "Mam" and "Ser", yet they manhandle us every single time we enter as customers by the way. Now are they being respectful, following the logic or argument of others here? - Dennis Reyes
"Proper way is to ask for that person's name and ask them how they wish to be addressed. Some would like to be called their first name others would rather have a Mr/Mrs + Last name. I really don't see anything wrong with it. Two different cultures, both neither incorrect or correct. Just learn to adjust how you should address people wherever you may be. When in Rome, be a Roman.
Thing is its 2way. Sir/ma'am from our perspective is respectand humility, and to the other person, might be capacity. Then again, I'd rather be thought off inferior and come out big than appear omnipotent but no regards. So, no thanks, i keep my mam/sir." - Ian Limbonis
"It's his country his rules . Does not need apply to all. Look at other progressive countries . It's not the inequality , like Japan -its the love of one's country and discipline / not being corrupt ; education will propel our progress/ be progressive." - Rose Torrifiel
"There should be a limit because people tend to abuse when you project equality. Filipinos should be taught equality with matching respect." - Qui Qay Quo
"Don't take it literally. It's just like calling you 'kuya', but you're not my brother anyway." - Jun Cruz