My co-trainers and I recently had an informal talk with an Australian manager whom they usually talk to during breaks. He asked them what motivates Filipinos to work, and why do Filipinos not have ambition (I don't remember anymore which was asked first.). As I can remember then, he is in the engineering or construction industry, and so I thought his background is more on technical than behavioral (which is the main function of management).
He asked if money would motivate Filipinos to work. I wish it were that easy, unfortunately, it is not the case. Filipinos are like every other people in the world that money alone would not motivate them to do work.
(When I say motivate, it's not just make them work, but rather internally drive them to work--without need of constant reminder of doing their work.)
A number of theories on motivation are present. My favorites are Herzberg's Motivation-Hygiene Theory and Maxwell's Leadership model (which is not a motivation theory, hehehe).
Herzberg's theory tells that workers' satisfaction and dissatisfaction are two independent ideas. A worker's environment has its inherent satisying factors as well as dissatisfying factors, which a manager can influence to motivate the worker.
Also called the Two-Factor Theory, the two factors in the Motivation-Hygiene Theory are (surprise!) motivators and hygiene factors.
Motivators are work characteristics that give positive satisfaction to do work. These are intrinsic conditions of the job itself. Examples of these are achievement, recognition, responsibility, and the joy of doing the work itself.
Hygiene factors, on the other hand, are organizational attributes that do not give positive satisfaction but dissatisfaction (hence, demotivation) arises from their absence. Examples of these are salary, company policies, procedures, and others.
How do we differentiate? Motivators are work based on the work itself, while hygiene factors are (generally) set by the organization (through the management or the leaders). Let's take money as an example.
For a long time, money has been held as a primary motivator for working better. According to Herzberg's theory, however, money is just a hygiene factor, meaning it is a requirement but is not enough to make people work more than what is required for them (which is a requirement for an organization to be competitive, according to Michael Porter, but that is another story...). People may be initially interested in a company that gives high salary, but they don't stay if the people or the environment is not supportive.
Does this apply to everyone? Meaning, do all people don't care about money? Of course not! That's ridiculous! The point, for me, is that people would not stay in a company and work more than what is expected of them simply based on money (which is the primary driving force of commissions in a sales environment). I remember a saying of General MacArthur, "Give me 10,000 Filipino soldiers and I will conquer the world."
Filipinos have a collectivistic culture, so it is hard to find people who can work on their own, driven internally. More are externally driven, meaning they need someone to say, "you're doing great!" or, "continue, you're doing a good job!" or, "we're here with you!" Salary is just for their needs, not for the work itself.
Going back to the other question, "why Filipinos don't have ambition?" Of course, that is a sweeping generalization. That's not true for everyone. I guess, though, that there is a cultural basis for that reality for the majority of the population.
Again, Filipinos are very collective. Besides that, we are also hierarchical and traditional. That means that we have a strong adherence to authority, be it based on law, organizational position, social status, or age. With this, ambition comes as a second idea only compared to keeping the status quo, minimizing conflict, not appearing to be arrogant, and not to mention that the word "ambitious" seems to have a negative connotation to most people (Heard of the expression, "Napakaambisyosa mo talaga!"?). Only people in authority have the right to have plans--ambitions. People who have plans are seen as deviants. Although there are a lot of popular culture adhering to change and innovation, it is still a long time before Filipinos would have an individualistic and equal-treatment behavior in a social setting (be it work or non-work related.
(I don't know what word to use for the opposite of hierarchical.... If you have an idea, I am open to it.)
So, what motivates Filipinos? You'll have to take each individual, although a good guidance is a sense of purpose (and money is not an end). Why do Filipinos have no ambition? Not all, but blame it to adherence to tradition--which is different from culture itself.