July 29, 2011
PROF. FELIPE M. DE LEON, JR.
From a cultural perspective, eight majors factors seem to contribute to our lack of national unity and to Philippine under-development in general. These are, in increasing order of seriousness and importance:
- First: External interference in Philippine social, economic, political, cultural and religious life, especially from fundamentalist governments like that of the United States, which like to impose their will on economically and militarily weaker countries, or Islamic movements that would convert Filipino Muslims into Pakistani, Afghan or Arabic look-alikes.
- Second: Faulty development models, mainly from the West and basically do not apply to the Philippine situation.
All models of development are essentially cultural. They reflect a culture’s perception of the problems faced by the society, and they incorporate solutions to those problems based on that perception, and developed from the cultural resources of the society itself, in order to address the specific situation in the particular society. Although culture and development are inextricably linked, it is culture that plays the crucial role because it “is the sum total of original solutions that a group of human beings invent to adapt to their natural and social environment.” (Mervyn Claxton, “Culture and Development Revisited”) Culture is a society’s life support system.
That is why external models and techniques cannot be successfully transferred without adaptation. Throughout history, and across all cultures, a people’s culture has always been linked to its development. That link was broken in recent times, especially in African and other developing countries, because of the near universal application of the Western model of development, and because of the internalization of Western technology.
The general developmental effect of the failure to identify and isolate the non-assimilable cultural aspects of the Western development model is evident throughout most of the developing world, especially in Africa. African agriculture, for example, which is the most important economic activity in the region, engaging as it does 70 per cent of the population, is in crisis. FAO estimates that some 40 million people in the region are vulnerable to hunger.
One main cause of this crisis is the inappropriate application of Western agricultural techniques resulting in considerable environmental degradation. The introduction of monoculture, which is suitable for temperate conditions but highly damaging in tropical conditions, leaves the soil without cover for long periods, allowing the heavy tropical rains to cause splash erosion and the soils to harden under the tropical sun, thus causing laterization. African traditional, mixed cropping systems, which kept the soil under constant crop cover, have now been recognized as being more effective and more environmentally safe than temperate monocultural practices. But irreparable damage has already been done to the agricultural potential of Africa.
Tropical conditions favor a more rapid reproduction and proliferation of insect pests which attack cultivated plants than is the case in temperate countries. Crop rotation, practised in traditional tropical agriculture, helped control such pests because pests specific to particular plants were given less opportunity to multiply, in contrast to the planting of a single crop year after year as in monoculture. The practice of monoculture facilitated the build-up of insect pest populations which are responsible for the loss of up to forty percent of crops in tropical agriculture.
We need not look far for examples of inappropriate development. Fr. Brendan Lovett discovered that prior to their being subjected to the market system, the indigenous peoples of Southern Philippines and Mindanao had access to about 109 different food stuffs. Their food throughout the year had a richness associated with life in the tropical forest and a subsistence economy. But the moment they became part of the modern market system, their diet deteriorated to a mere 30 to 35 varieties of food stuffs.(Brendan Lovett, A Dragon Not for the Killing). The richness of their way of life suffered when they were forced to participate in a market system which made them market dependent, which they never were. They are no longer masters over their own destiny.
- Third: Inappropriate management, management that is not culturally-rooted and dysfunctional in a Filipino context. Imported management theories will not work.
Without an astute grasp of Filipino psychology and character, any manager, administrator or government official will have a difficult time answering the following questions.
What brings out the good, the best in the Filipino? How do you inspire or what inspires Filipinos towards positive, productive or constructive behavior/social action?
How do you get Filipinos to cooperate and work together harmoniously, happily, efficiently and effectively?
What are we most productive/creative at/in? What is the nature of the Filipino cultural genius (both local and nationally shared)?
How do you bring out honesty, sincerity, and loyalty?
How do you resolve conflicts?
How do you criticize one’s work or raise standards of excellence without arousing ill will and resentment?
How do you inculcate or promote discipline and dedication to one’s task? (The feeling of being taken advantage of; being exploited, abused; being treated unfairly, unjustly, or being demeaned, insulted —pinagsasamantalahan, minamaltrato, ginugulangan, nilalamangan, iniinsulto o binabastos – is especially abhorrent to the Filipino, it being a serious affront to one’s dignity as an ultimately sacred being.)
- Fourth: Mismatch of Filipino core culture and social
institutions, which are mainly imported from the West
Cultural identity is a sine qua non for becoming active in the world. Cultural identity is the fundamental source of social empowerment. Rob a people of their identity and they become passive, lost, indolent, uncreative and unproductive, prone to depression and substance abuse, and plagued by a pervasive feeling of malaise and powerlessness.
“In order to involve people as active participants, development
must be consistent with their fundamental socio-cultural
traits, world view and values, and cultural principles.
Only then can the enthusiasm and creative potential of the
people be mobilized.” (1990 Report, South Commission)
A culture-sensitive process of development will be able to draw on the large reserves of creativity and traditional knowledge and skills that are to be found throughout the developing world. Such enrichment will give development firmer roots in the society and make it easier to sustain development.
Such a process demands that social, political and economic institutions match a people’s core culture, which is the essential reservoir of indigenous knowledge, creativity, skills and practices. But in the Philippines, the highly relational, participatory, and holistic character of our culture is very much at odds with the highly impersonal, legalistic, bureaucratic, specialistic, and fragmented nature of our social systems and structures patterned after the West.
Take the case of democracy. Based on American individualist ethos, it fragments society into separate individuals and regards as sacred every person’s right to vote as a separate individual. But in our culture where togetherness or communal consensus is highly valued, groups tend to vote as one. How then can we expect the American system of democracy to work in the Philippines?
The mismatch of our core culture and the many alien social institutions in our midst effectively suppresses and weakens our cultural roots and successfully imposes an alien culture on the Filipinos, tending to reduce us into a passive, docile mass subservient to the power wielders of the alien culture. We lose our originality, native intelligence and skills, treasure troves of knowledge, accumulated wisdom, and creativity. We lose our collective will and vision of life. We become disunited, self-serving, indulgent and short-sighted.
This is why the first objective of a colonizing power is to erase the cultural memory of the conquered people, to induce a collective amnesia about their past and supplant it with the culture of the colonizers. In this lie the roots of Filipino derivativeness and inferiority complex vis-a-vis the West.
- Fifth: Lack of cultural awareness and education, lack of knowledge about the Filipino cultural genius and, thus, inability to harness it as a resource for nation building
Furthermore, since our educational system is highly Westernized, it follows that as one ascends the academic ladder, the more Westernized and alienated from his cultural roots the Filipino becomes. That is why the more specialized A Filipino’s education is, the more likely he or she will find his means of livelihood away from his community, perhaps in Manila or some other country. An Ifugao child who receives only a high school education is more likely to remain in his community than another who finishes college. And the reason for this is not just because the latter has greater work opportunities, but because his education is not culturally rooted in his community, especially if it is a rural, indigenous village.
Our educational system remains colonial rather than culturally appro-priate. Many of our schools do not produce people who are highly resourceful, creative and adaptable to a fast changing and extremely complex contemporary world. They encourage dependency, a job-seeking, employability mentality rather than originality of thought, entrepreneural qualities and self-reliance on native skills, knowledge and strengths.
Our colonial experience seems to have conditioned us to seek rather than create work opportunities, to adapt rather than to innovate, and to conform rather than to lead. The captive Filipino mind, having been alienated from its creative roots, cannot generate economic opportunities within its native settingbecause of this alienation. The needs and values it serves are external to itself. We borrow alien thought and value systems and forms of expression and produce mainly derivatives and clones, superficiality and mediocrity? We forget that we can only be truly productive using our own thought processes.
The Power of Indigenous Thought
Harnessing our own minds, understandings, definitions, categories and concepts is certainly to have confidence, power and control over our own lives. Economic power naturally follows from this. For instance, if we worship alien ideas of beauty, whose art works, music, fashion models and beauty products do we glorify and spend for?
If we do not see the virtues of our systems of traditional healing and medicine, how much do we spend for imported drugs, medical technology and expertise? (Dr. Juan Flavier once reported during a Senate hearing that within the first five years of a serious health care program harnessing the resources of Philippine traditional healing and medicine, we could save as much as fifteen billion pesos in medical expenses). In the Philippines, the expertise of a psychiatrist schooled in Freudian thought has often been found to be ineffective for treating culture-specific mental distrubances that a local babaylan could cure in a matter of minutes. But we do not bother to investigate and document the basis for the babaylan’s effectiveness, so that the tradition she represents languishes and is often forgotten. The erosion of the vernacular medical knowledge means depriving people of cheap and well-tested methods of medical treatment and the implementation of new ones that most people cannot afford.
This reliance on our own traditions does not mean, however, that we become blind to new and perhaps better ideas from other cultures, but our traditions should remain as the foundation because they are in consonance with our psyche and our needs, containing wisdom tested through time. Likewise, ancient Chinese acupuncture, successfully blended with Western medicine, has been receiving a lot of worldwide recognition and scientific validation in recent times, earning for the Chinese not only prestige but a lot of income.
- Sixth: Monstrous divide between the elite and common people. The alienation of the elite from the culture of our people makes them feel no sense of responsibility to the people.
The colonial powers inevitably encouraged and supported the emergence of an elite class with whom it could easily collaborate. A serious consequence of this is cultural fragmentation. In the Philippines, this created the Monstrous Cultural Divide (Ang Dambuhalang Hati) between the Western-educated ruling elite and the more or less culturally indigenous majority. Without a shared sense of identity there is no common action. A culturally fragmented and atomized mass is the worst conceivable source material for the development process. We have a soft state because of self-serving elite intervention and manipulation. As a result, the culture of the bureaucracy is more attuned to the needs and values of the elite than to that of the vast majority of Filipinos.
We have so much to learn from other countries when it comes to unity, especially setting aside our differences in times of crisis,. “If there’s anything I envy abt. the Chinese, it’s their focus and ability to pull together as a people” (Belinda Cunanan, from “Political Tidbits”, PDI Nov. 10, 2001)
Shared Identity as the Basis of Development
Development is a cooperative venture requiring communication and deep understanding between people. All participants must have access to a common code of meaning or else the whole project will simply repeat the biblical story of the Tower of Babel. (Friberg and Hettne, The Greening of the World: Towards a Non-Determionistic Model of Global Process).
If development is envisaged as the result of voluntary cooperation and autonomous choices by ordinary men and women there is no way of escaping a cultural definition of the social unit of development. It is difficult for people to cooperate with each other politically when they are divided socially and culturally. Communities with a shared culture are much more basic units of development, because they allow for the forging of a genuine consensus among their members. Social cohesion can only be obtained where people share a framework of social reasoning. It requires a common universe of discourse.
The need to strengthen national consciousness and unity, however, should not be used as an excuse to weaken local cultures. The state should rather allow local communities to define and govern themselves and to develop separately while at the same time to see themselves as part of a larger developing entity.
Seventh: Low self-esteem bordering on self-contempt: This is what I call the “Dona Victorina” Syndrome, based on the name of a pathetic caricature of the colonized psyche in the 19th century novel “Noli Me Tangere” of Dr. Jose Rizal. Dona Victorina despises her race so much that she has to marry a white man, a Spaniard who is a scoundrel, just to raise her social stature. Instead of proudly wearing her brown skin and assert its rich dignity and beauty, she tries to hide it under a thick paste of white powder – just like what many Filipinos essentially still do today. This persisting Filipino social malady may be defined as:
- Doubt in the Filipino capacity for achievement
- Perverse delight among Filipinos to constantly belittle themselves
- Serious lack of respect or contempt for each other
- Instead of harnessing our culture as a vast resource of knowledge and wisdom for sustainable development, we squander it by wallowing in a negative self-image that is tantamount to a self-fulfilling prophecy.
The underdevelopment of Philippine society is fundamentally rooted in this chronic loss of Filipino self-esteem due to centuries of colonization and miseducation:
Doubt in the Filipino capacity for achievement, especially among the elites, causes blind dependence on foreign goods, concepts, techniques, approaches, and expertise (incurring a considerable drain on our economy). We perceive our limitations rather than possibilities, impeding our ability to rise up to great challenges and surmount difficulties. Instead, we lower our standards so much that we are simply satisfied with good enough (“puwede na yan!”).
A perverse delight among Filipinos to constantly belittle themselves not only among each other (“Ang mga Pinoy talaga….”) but worse, even in the presence of foreigners or through the media, damages Filipino and international expectations of Filipino ability. Particularly unfortunate is the tendency of media to insult our leaders instead of offering constructive criticism. The loss of economic, political and social opportunities that this negativism brings about is incalculable.
A serious lack of respect or contempt for each other that almost bordering on hostility causes Filipinos to pull each other down, to get ahead at the expense of the other (especially in our driving behavior or tendency to put down a fellow Filipino just to ingratiate oneself to somebody, especially a foreigner), and makes Filipinos highly abusive and exploitative of each other.This makes many Filipinos bad managers of Filipinos, with notable exceptions. The Filipino elites, especially, usually in connivance with foreign interests, simply take advantage of their own people (e.g. paying foreign consultants inordinately higher than would be paid to a local consultant, non-remittance of SSS or GSIS collections by agency heads).
Filipinos are perhaps the worst self-bashers in the world. We are blind to our own capacities and idealize those of others, especially Westerners. If something is poorly made it must be Filipino. If it is well made it must be foreign. If it is a negative trait, it must be Filipino. If it is a positive trait, it must be non-Filipino. Even negative qualities that are universal human failings are claimed by Filipinos as distinctly Filipino, e.g. crab mentality, graft and corruption, greed, lack of discipline, etc.
But what could be more corrupt, hypocritical and immoral than some foreign banking systems that guard in great secrecy the hidden wealth of tax cheats (for example, tax avoidance in Switzerland is not considered a criminal offense making its banks a magnet for tax evaders), the deceitful behavior of the American government when it pretended to be helping Aguinaldo win the war against Spain but in reality was secretly negotiating with the Spanish government for the purchase of the Philippines, or its imposition of military dictatorship and curtailment of freedoms during their colonial rule purportedly to teach us the meaning of democracy and freedom?
We can never erect a viable nation upon the notoriously self-deprecating and false concepts of ourselves that we habitually entertain in our minds. For there is a definite correlation between pride in one’s cultural identity and level of achievement.
- Eighth: Lack of pride in being Filipino results in lack of commitment to the nation and, consequently, a low level of achievement or even mediocrity, the “pwede na ‘yan” mentality. For the anthropologist Dr. F. Landa Jocano, pride, commitment and excellence are inseparable.
There have been many instances when Filipinos would even deny their nationality, passing themselves of as Hawaiian, Malay or Indonesian because of a feeling of shame or embarrassment about being Filipino. How could we ever unify as a people with such a negative attitude, a strong repelling force that cannot but fragment the nation?
In contrast, Koreans are very proud of themselves. They always prefer their own products. Despite the Korean war, which flooded the countryside with American goods, the Koreans bought Korean goods whenever these were available because it seemed so natural for them to do so.
Social Self-Images As Self-Fulfilling: The Need to Develop a Strong Shared Vision
Instead of harnessing our culture as vast resource of knowledge and wisdom for sustainable development, we squander it by wallowing instead in a negative self-image that is tantamount to a self-fulfilling prophecy.
“A people’s image of themselves tends to become a reality”(Kenneth Boulding, The Image). If in our minds we think we will be defeated, we have already lost. If people fear the imminent collapse of a bank, they all run to the bank to withdraw their deposits and really cause the bank to collapse. If wealthy Filipinos or public officials lose faith in their own economy and stash away their savings in foreign banks or put all their investments in other countries, their loss of faith is likely to be validated. Widespread expectation of an impending rise in the prices of goods drives people into panic buying and actually cause a drastic increase in prices or an artificial shortage of goods.
It is the image a people create of themselves that is the psycho-cultural basis of their strengths and weaknesses, triumphs and failures. If we think we are an inferior people, we will tend to lower our standards and be satisfied with good enough. Negative self-images, whether individual or collective, can cause untold social, political and economic damage.
We have to begin celebrating our genius as a people and not continue to wallow neurotically in our defeats. According to astute social commentators, Filipinos tend to celebrate their defeats – like the Fall of Bataan and the Death of Rizal – whereas other peoples celebrate only their triumphs. Abraham Lincoln was also assasinated but nowhere do we find his body being depicted as he was falling down. Instead, we find him at the Lincoln Memorial seated with dignity, majestically presiding over the destiny of his nation!
The positive utilization of Filipino cultural strengths for effective governance and management, higher productivity, and promotion of social well being is conspicuously absent in our institutions, whether public or private.
If are to become one nation, we have to begin deconstructing the very negative self-images we have imbibed through centuries of colonial misrule and miseducation, especially among the elite who are the power wielders and thus have the greatest responsibility to serve and be one with the people.
A foundation of this transformation is education through cultural awareness: a workable, effective program of education that can make Filipinos more responsive and sensitive to Filipino dignity, needs, values, and cultural potentials and assets.
If social self-images are self-fulfilling, we have nothing to lose by discovering and constructing the most exalted and inspiring images of ourselves.
The key to Filipino social transformation is rooted in Filipino social psychology, in discovering, understanding and harnessing the strengths of our most profound values as a people. What is the deepest source of the well-known positive qualities of the Filipinos? All over the world, we are recognized and appreciated by those whose lives we have touched as a highly relational, participatory and creative people. We are especially admired for our strong nurturing and caring orientation. Can we construct a most noble and inspiring Filipino social self-image derived from the ultimate psychological source of these Filipino qualities?
The possibility is great and the psychological axiom that seems to have the richest potential as the ultimate basis of this construct is the concept of kapwa.
Tapping the Filipino genius
In Philippine culture, there is an underlying belief in the psychic unity of humanity. Individual existence is only apparent and relative. For we all exist within a cosmic matrix of being at the deepest center of which is a creative living principle or energic process. All human beings – and to a lesser degree even animals, plants and minerals — share this innermost sacred core. This is the kalooban from whence all individual human psyches emanate. Every one of us is ultimately grounded in this common core of being. The other person is also yourself. Ang kapwa ay sarili din.
A paradox arises. In every person is a divine essence that seeks fulfillment in imaginative, creative endeavors. At the same time, the interdependence implied by a shared matrix of being seeks affirmation in a celebration of togetherness.
A synthesis of these twin motivations produces a culture that is highly creative not in the generation of mechano-technological inventions, objective, scientific concepts or commercial products but in interpersonal relations and communication. In this culture, there exists a “symphonic” wealth of techniques for connecting to people, so that loneliness, alienation, ennui, depression, and emotional repression hardly exist. Togetherness is happiness. A sharing, nurturing orientation ensures emotional and mental well-being.
If there is no concept of the “other” in the other person, if the “other”(kapwa) is also yourself, then Filipinos will necessarily tend towards trust and harmony. This makes Filipinos a highly relational and essentially non-confrontational people, as monumentally demonstrated in the peaceful, original “EDSA Revolution” (“If there is no ‘other’ there is no war” – Milojevic).
But the primordial restlessness of the creative living principle in each individual also craves for tangible expression, resulting in a highly participatory tendency in Philippine society. In this society, there is essentially no notion of audience or spectator. Everybody is a participant with an irresistible passion for creative spontaneity in everything one does, including, of all things, governance and social planning. The apparent chaos that emerges becomes a paramount challenge to the leadership – who needs to be strong, brilliant and decisive and yet, caring, trusting and compassionate – to be able to steer society towards an ordered and disciplined but creative and productive existence as well.
The Filipino ‘scientific’ genius, in other words, is in the fullest and deepest exploration of the social possibility, the myriad ways of connecting with and achieving harmony with others. Philippine culture is highly inventive of new social structures, experimenting with all kinds of social roles, identities, interactions and relationships with others. Interpersonal intelligence and the capacity for personal services is most highly developed. At its most profound, it is a celebration of the mystical unity of humanity through an intimate union with the one creative living principle at the innermost core of our shared being.
This is an affirmation of the essential joy and meaningful-ness of existence.
Certain propositions may be derived from the above assumptions:
I. The world is a non-finite, multi-leveled and multi-dimensional whole where everything interconnects with everything else and exists in a timeless present. Thus, Filipinos are highly relational. They feel connected to the world, God and nature, but most of all to people.
- Filipinos will be most happy, efficient and effective being together – when they eat, sleep, work, travel, pray, create, or celebrate. We have a very minimal sense of privacy.
- Filipinos are open and trusting
- Filipinos achieve maturity through social integration
- Filipinos are masters of interpersonal skills
- Filipinos are adept in pakikiramdam and non-verbal communication
- Filipinos, because of their genius in interpersonal
communication and a nurturing, caring attitude, excel in the
service professions and industry
- Filipinos effectively bring people together by endowing an activity, presentation or product with as many different possible meanings, functions and qualities (note multisignificance in food, trad. medicine, art, use of space, etc.)
II. The world is a bipolar yet unitary, energic, creative living process. Hence, Filipinos have a holistic, creative and participatory nature.
- From a Filipino perspective, matter and spirit are an integrated whole. The dichotomy of objective and subjective is a fallacy. Matter is not divorced from mind and spirit. There is a continuity of consciousness from the elements of nature, to plants, animals and humans. To believe that matter is cut off from spirit is to desacralize nature and sanction plunder of the environment.
- The Western stress on objective truth leads to alienation from human feeling or soul, a sense of isolation and depression, meaninglessness and despair, manipulative attitude, an overly technological approach to life, aggression and violence (Thus, the most industrialized societies often have the highest rate of mental illness and suicide)
- A holistic orientation endows Filipinos with a calm, relaxed disposition; a superior sense of rhythm; an innately poetic, musical temperament.
- Filipinos are essentially unitive, harmonious, non-confrontational
- Filipino notion of time is mythical, nonlinear, celebrative – the convergence of past and future into an eternal present, where everything occurs all at once, thus our tendency to do many things at a time and our genius for celebration (celebrative time is a synchronicity of many time levels)
- Filipinos excel in bipolar logic. An intuitive logic vastly superior to the either/or of mechanistic cultures is Filipino (or Taoist) bipolarity. In bipolar logic, it is axiomatic that if a thing is true or valid, then its opposite must also be true and valid.
- The belief in the unity of matter and spirit promotes a healthy, life-affirming attitude towards both the visible and invisible worlds, making the traditional Filipino devoid of malice towards the human body and sexuality
- Filipinos are highly participatory. We demand collective, equal participation in the creative process, decision-making and self-determination. In Filipino society, everybody is a participant/performer. Nobody is a mere spectator/audience.
- The deepest social aspirations of the Filipino are freedom, justice and dignity. Monopoly, dictatorship and the curtailment of choices is anathema. Development to the Filipino would be the proliferation of options or multiplication of choices.
- The optimal condition for productivity or creativity among Filipinos is providing a wide range of materials, forms, techniques, ideas and possibilities to allow for and promote a broader collective and democratic participation.
- Because of a holistic attitude, Filipinos prefer mediation to confrontation. Bridging differences or conflict resolution are most easily achieved through consensus and other subtle techniques like pakiusap, pahiwatig, pakikibagay, pakikisama, pakikipagpalagayang loob, pakikisangkot, and pakiisa.
- Extemporaneous or on-the-spot creativity comes naturally to the Filipino who has the finest artistic yet improvisatory traditions such as duplo, balagtasan, balitaw, tultul, kulintang, kuntao and okir. Creative spontaneity is highly valued.
III. The world is permeated by a sentient, conscious, psychic, spiritual intelligence that underlies all of manifestation and emanates from an innermost sacred core (implicit in the concept of kapwa, which suggests a divine inner core, ubod ng kalooban, from which all individual human psyches emanate). Together with the Filipinos’ highly relational, holistic and participatory creativity, this image of the world promotes among us deep sensitivity, expressiveness, intuition, strong psychic abilities, and a great capacity for the celebration of life.
- The basic perceptual mode, and thus the memory mode, of the Filipinos is feeling, a holistic, keen and penetrating way of knowing akin to intuition. Feeling knows at once while intellect can only move step by step.
- Pakikiramdam, knowing through feeling or participatory sensitivity makes the Filipino especially compassionate, affective, malambing, gentle and kind.
- Filipinos love to feel, literally touching their way through life. Rich textural qualities, biomorphic shapes, tasty foods, lush sounds and social clustering make life exceedingly warm and intimate
- Filipino sensitivity in the tradition of the babaylan, endows the Filipinos with a magical, healing touch. Our traditional rituals are a way of connecting to the divine or sacred. Through touch people get healed. A “magical” transference of vital energy occurs in many levels, physical and metaphysical
To sum up, we shall cull from the above discussion a few of the gems of the Filipinos genius that can be easily harnessed for social well -being, productivity and development of the Filipino nation. These are the following:
- Highly relational
- Most active in the exploration of meaning in relationships as seen in our prolific affixation system, said to be the richest in the world
- Promotion of togetherness through activities, practices, and creations characterized by multiple functions, values and qualities
- A highly caring, nurturing orientation
- Strong family values
- Genius in interpersonal skills
- Excellence in service industries
- Highest in religiosity
- Superior in mental health
- The phenomenon of EDSA and other manifestations of our genius in designing social institutions
- Highly participatory, consensus-builders
- Preference for human scale in social organization, including size of political constituency (governance with a face)
- Giving everybody an active role. Decision-making is a collective activity
- There is no separation of participant/performer/creator and observer/audience/spectator
- The assumption that all of humanity are rooted in a common core of being (loob), a creative, living and divine goodness
- A contagious joie-de-vivre and optimistic attitude, a great capacity for happiness
- A highly adaptable, versatile, flexible, creative and expressive people
- Gifted psychic healers and medical practitioners
- Passion for freedom, justice, dignity (kalayaan, katarungan, karangalan)
- The notion of life as an integrated whole
- The absolute equality of man and woman, at least theoretically if not in actual practice
- Non-sexist languages
- Knowledge-oriented, strong educational orientation
This extensive recital of Filipino potentials will remain just that, possibilites, if not translated into practical guidelines or precepts for the conduct of our social lives, especially for sustainable development and nation-building. Hardly any government official in our vast bureaucracy, for instance, governs or manages his constituency with wisdom and foresight simply because of cultural ignorance.
But knowing intimately the way our people think, feel and perceive the world will always make for effective governance. The best kind of governance is culturally-rooted governance. Filipinos are a highly trusting people. Trust, cooperation, goodwill and harmony, which are all manifestations of kapwa, always bring out the best in us. The opposite, distrust and any system built upon it, such as bureaucracy; the American form of democracy that thrive in competition, argumentation and debate; anything legalistic, impersonal, official, formal, and highly technical in impact and structure are all anathema to the majority of Filipinos, and can only bring out the worst in us. In our cultural context, resort to legalities is taken to mean concealing lies, dishonesty and bad faith. Is it any wonder that oftentimes, with so many lawyers in the government, our society seems to be in a rut? This is not to denigrate the law profession but to simply point out the ineffectiveness of a legal approach to governance in our culture.
We may remember that the peaceful, original EDSA “revolution” baffled observers everywhere because it occurred outside of the known parameters of any formal political and legal framework but capitalized on the outpouring of faith, trust and goodwill made possible by the tulay principle or tradition of mediation in our culture.
Most, if not all, of our Western-derived social institutions based on the idea of the “other” person, and who, therefore in principle, cannot be trusted, are dysfunctional in Philippine society. The sooner they are replaced with kapwa-based institutions, those that can inspire the Filipinos to become active participants in the development process, the faster we can get out of the conditions of underdevelopment and social stagnation.
But for this to happen, we must first have leaders who understand deeply the Filipino psyche, and can thus inspire us towards excellence. For is this not what leadership is all about?
*This paper was read on June 24, 2004 at the “Pagkataong Filipino: Looking for the Filipino Among Filipinos – The Theory, Practice and Value of Filipino Personhood” Conference held at the U.P. Film Center, June 24-25, 2005.