 Philippines Language, Culture, Customs and Etiquette. Kwintessential icon

 Philippines Language, Culture, Customs and Etiquette. Kwintessential

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 Philippines - Language, Culture, Customs and Etiquette.” Kwintessential. http://www.kwintessential.co.uk/resources/global-etiquette/philippines-country-profile.html (accessed on 6 November 2007)

 “Alternative Concepts and Other Values of the Filipinos.” Livinginthephilippines. http://www.livinginthephilippines.com/philculture/alternative.html (accessed 6 November 2007)

 Quito, Emerito S. “The Ambivalence of Filipino Traits and Values.” Cultural Heritage and Contemporary Change. http://www.crvp.org/book/Series03/III-7/chapter_v.htm (accessed 14 November 2007)

 Gorospe, Vitaliano R., S.J. “Understanding the Filipino Value System.” http://www.crvp.org/book/Series03/III-7/chapter_vi.htm (accessed 14 November 2007)





Since the February 1986 Revolution(1), values development has been one major concern of the Department of Education, Culture and Sports (DECS). Undersecretary Minda Sutaria has publicized the second draft of the DECS Overall Values Framework, designed to assist teachers at all levels. This latest draft, basically similar to that proposed by Fr. Raul Bonoan, S.J. in "Paideia, Humanism, and Magpakatao: Values for National Reconstruction,"(2) bases its framework on the provisions of the Philippine Constitution of 1986.

If we are to discover our traditional values and make sure that they contribute to the "just and humane society" and "total human liberation and development" of which the Philippine Constitution speaks, we must ask some basic questions.

1) What is the philosophical basis of Filipino values?

2) What is distinctive about the Filipino value system?


A brief introduction to the philosophy of human values is necessary for an understanding of Filipino values and values education. A Filipino experiences family closeness and solidarity (pagpapahalaga sa pamilya), politeness (use of po or ho), hospitality (tuloy po kayo), gratitude (utang na loob) from "within", that is, subjectively and emotionally, unlike a non-Filipino observer, social scientist, or psychologist who studies Filipino values objectively from "without" or "from a distance". Such Filipino values as social acceptance, (pakikisama, amor propio, economic security, pagmamay-ari), and trust in God (paniniwala sa Diyos, bathala or Maykapal) find their philosophical basis in man's dynamic openness toward nature and the world (e.g., the value of hanap-buhay ng magsasaka), one's fellowmen (the values of paggalang, hiya, katarungan, pag-ibig), and God (the values of pananampalataya, pananalangin, kabanalan).

This dynamic openness of man is an openness to the possibilities of the future. That is why values are something to be realized. Take the value of peace. The Philippine situation is now characterized by insurgency; conflict between the NPA, the MNLF and the AFP; vigilante groups; hostility and division--in short, an absence of national peace and order. Human values are not merely private. All values have a social aspect. The government official who demands porsiyento, the fireman or policeman who extorts tong or lagay for a service which is his duty, all contribute to the worsening graft and corruption. We are all responsible for one another (tayong lahat ay may pananagutan sa isa't-isa).

Values are both subjective and objective. They involve a subject or person who values (e.g., a young girl) and an object or value to be realized (e.g., pagkamahinhin). Justice is objective because it is a value that should be realized by all. It also becomes subjective if justice becomes a value for me. There is an objective difference between value and disvalue, pleasure and pain, life and death, poverty and affluence, heroism and cowardice, truth and error, right and wrong, holiness and sinfulness. The difference is not only in the mind or a matter of personal taste or preference. Even if I close my eyes to the ugly poverty around me, the poor will not disappear.

Values are not objective in the sense that they are found in some static heaven: they are relational and embodied in person-value-types (ideal moral persons). For example, to a tipong-mukhang kuarta [an avaricious look] profit is more important than service; to a tipong-politiko [political type], pera [money], propaganda, politika [politics] are more valuable than honesty; tipong siyentipiko [scientist type] or tipong-artista [actor type] personify agham [science] and sining [art]; tipong madasalin [pious type] may exemplify kabanalan (piety). Cory Aquino embodied all that we wanted our President to be--credible, honest, just, with a strong faith in God and in our people. The ideal type or Filipino model during the "parliament of  the streets" was the tipong-maka-Diyos (religions), makatao (people-oriented), makabayan (nationalistic).

The heroes of EDSA placed the good of the Filipino people before the safety and security of their families. They were willing to risk their lives for God and people. Value-ranking or the priority of values is not merely arbitrary or subjective. There is an objective ranking of values based on existence or reality and other objective criteria. Using the criteria of permanence, ability to be shared, and depth of satisfaction, Max Scheler ranked human values from the lowest to the highest as follows:(3) sense values like sensual pleasure are exemplified by the lakuatsero or pabling; utilitarian values like profit and efficiency by the businessman and technocrat; life values, by the doctor and the hero, e.g., Dr. Bobby de la Paz and Emilio Jacinto; cultural values, by the genius and the artist, e.g., Jose Rizal and Francisco Balagtas; religious values, by the saint, e.g., Mother Teresa or Lorenzo Ruiz. Moral and religious values are pre-eminent and claim the highest priority in the objective scale of values because they are absolutely necessary in order to become fully human (magpakatao).



What are Filipino values? What is distinctly Filipino in our value system? The Filipino value system arises from our culture or way of life, our distinctive way of becoming human in this particular place and time. We speak of Filipino values in a fourfold sense.

First, although mankind shares universal human values, it is obvious that certain values take on for us a distinctively Filipino flavor. The Greek ideal of moderation or meden agan, the Roman in medio stat virtus, the Confucian and Buddhist "doctrine of the Middle", find their Filipino equivalent in hindi labis, hindi kulang, katamtaman lamang.

Secondly, when we speak of Filipino values, we do not mean that elements of these Filipino values are absent in the value systems of other peoples and cultures. All people eat, talk and sing, but they eat different foods, speak various languages and sing different songs. Thus, we easily recognize Filipino, American, Chinese, Japanese or any other foreign food, language or music. The difference lies in the way these elements are ranked, combined or emphasized so that they take on a distinctively Filipino slant or cast. For instance, in China, honesty and hard work may rank highest; Chinese and Japanese cultures give great value to politeness and beauty; American culture to promptness and efficiency; and Filipino culture to trust in God and family centeredness. In this sense of value-ranking and priority of values, we can speak of dominant Filipino values.

Thirdly, universal human values in a Filipino context (historical, cultural, socio-economic, political, moral and religious) take on a distinctive set of Filipino meanings and motivations. This is true not only of the aims and goals, beliefs, convictions, and social principles of the traditional value system of the lowland rural family(4) but also of what Fr. Horacio de la Costa, S.J. calls the Filipino "nationalistic" tradition (pagsasarili, pagkakaisa, pakikisama, pakikipagkapwa-tao, and pagkabayani.(5)

A Filipino value or disvalue does not exist alone, in isolation or in a vacuum. Filipino values like bahala na, utang na loob, hiya, pakikisama, pakiusap are clustered around core values like social acceptance, economic security, social mobility, and are always found in a definite context or set of circumstances. Both positive values and negative disvalues together form a characteristic constellation in school (aralan at dasalan [studying and praying], kuwentuhan at laruan [story telling and game], inggitan at tsismisan [envying and gossiping]), which differs from the configuration found in government offices (pagkakaisa [unity] , pagkabayani [heroism], intriga [intrigue], palakasan [show of power], sipsipan [bribery], palusot), in business firms (palabra de honor [word of honor], delicadeza [finesse], "commission", "kickback", padulas [grease money], lagay [bribe]), or in the barrio barangays (paggalang [honoring], pagdadamayan [comforting], bayanihan [cooperation], bahala na [come what may], utang na loob [gratefulness], hiya[shame]/pakiusap[appear], palakasan [show of power]). To change a framework of values, it may be necessary to change the constellation and context of those negative values that hinder Filipino and Christian development.

Fourthly, we can speak of Filipino values in the sense that the historical consciousness of values has evolved among our people. The Filipino concept of justice has evolved from inequality to equality, and to human dignity; from the tribe, to the family, and to the nation(6). Filipino consciousness of these different values varies at different periods of our history. It is only in the last two decades that the Filipino people have become more conscious of overpopulation and family planning, environmental pollution (Kawasaki sintering plant) and wildlife conservation (Calauit Island), and the violation of human rights (Martial Law), active non-violence and People Power (1986 non-violent Revolution).



Are Filipino values good or bad? The truth is that Filipino values are ambivalent in the sense that they are a potential for good or evil, a help or hindrance to personal and national development, depending on how they are understood, practiced or lived. They can be used in a good or evil context, e.g., pakikisama sa kabuktutan or sa kaunlaran. Filipino values have both positive and negative aspects depending on the context in which they are found. In a social system or atmosphere of extreme insecurity, the positive qualities of the Filipino take on negative and ugly appearances. For example, utang na loob can lead to pakiusap, nepotism and "cronyism". Pagmamay-ari ng kapangyarihan (the possession of power) and their abuse could lead to class distinction or the "malakas-mahina system". Hiya can become pakitang tao or gaya-gaya; machismo (tunay na lalake) is partly responsible for the "querida system" and the doble kara morality.

To show the ambivalence of Filipino values, one example will suffice. Take the well known but ambivalent Filipino bahala na mentality. On the one hand, this Filipino attitude could be the root of the positive value of risk taking, entrepreneurship, and social responsibility. Prof. Jose de Mesa, in a pioneer book on the Filipino and Christian meaning of bahala na, stresses the positive meaning of this virtue of risk- taking, enterprise and joint trust in both human effort (bahala tayong lahat) and divine Providence (bahala ang Maykapal)(7). A people's will to take chances and risks, no matter what difficulties and problems the future entails, is necessary for a nation's growth and destiny. Bahala na could be a genuine faith and trust in Divine Providence that also presupposes a self-reliance (pagsasarili) that took the form of People Power in the EDSA revolution. Bahala na was a positive and nationalistic virtue for Jose Rizal, who believed that Filipinos could no longer rely on the Spaniards, but only on themselves and on God.

On the other hand, in the past the negative aspect of bahala

na which dominated Filipino life meant a false sense of resignation (ganyan lang ang buhay), a superstitious belief or blind faith (malas/suwerte, tadhana, kapalaran), or escape from decision-making and social responsibility. As such it may be the root cause of national apathy (walang pakialam) and collective paralysis of action (bakit pa kikilos) to solve both local and national problems. Everything is already predetermined or fated. Negatively, bahala na could engender a false sense of security with God as insurance or a security blanket. For example, if God wants Filipino families to have plenty of children (anak ay kayamanan), God will take care of everything. Bahala na could be the cause of the absence of national initiative and of that discipline required for national growth. When negative bahala na prevails, nothing ever gets done. Potholed roads, uncollected garbage, countless unsolved murders, carnaping and smuggling remain year after year. How many have ever been arrested, convicted or jailed for wanton murder or for notorious graft and corruption? A sense of national frustration, helplessness, and despair grips the nation and the people no longer care. Nothing is going to happen--Bahala na, come what may.

From a Filipino perspective, what social reforms are necessary to transform bahala na positively? No society will long endure unless there is justice; that is, unless a system of reward and punishment exists and is effective. If in Philippine society lying and stealing people's money are rewarded and truthfulness and honesty are punished, what else can one expect but a badly broken political will for national reform? The present government should therefore prioritize an effective system of universal sanctions for those who hold power. From a Christian perspective, the Christian doctrines of divine Providence, creation, stewardship of land and property, and the conservation of our natural resources remain the challenge and task of parents, educators, and Christian evangelizers.

Split-level Christianity or double-standard morality, the immorality and hypocrisy of many so-called Filipino Christians, is a scandal to both Christians and non-Christians alike.(8) It is important to distinguish between pseudo Christianity in all its varied forms and authentic Christianity; between bad and good Christians. We must also take into account the ambiguity of any religious commitment, which is not something made once and for all, but a life-long process which demands constant conversion and renewal. We must also distinguish between Filipino actual and normative behaviour (between what is and what ought to be). Filipino values are not static, i.e., they are not simply what they are, but dynamic, i.e., they become. From a historical perspective, the question to ask about Filipino values is: Ganito kami noon: paano kayo ngayon? How are we to know towards what goal or direction Filipino values ought to move or become?

Now that we have regained our democratic form of government once again and have arrived at a privileged historical kairos, how do we transform Filipino values to build a more "just and humane society" (Preamble, 1987 Constitution)? We need both external structural and internal cultural change. It is here that the Christian faith should, in the last analysis, point the way to the kind of values education needed for national reconstruction.

Ateneo de Manila University






Much has been said about so-called negative Filipino traits. They have been blamed for the weak character of the Filipino; they are the culprits, the scapegoat of our failures, or at least, the explanation for lagging behind more successful Asian neighbors.

I propose to take a second look at these so-called negatives in the Filipino psyche to determine whether there might be a positive aspect, a saving face, a silver lining behind the dark clouds. In attempting to see an ambivalence in our traits, I will use oriental yardsticks to measure success or failure for it would be unfair to use Western standards to evaluate our Filipino traits. For example, is a materially comfortable life with physiological ailments more successful than a materially deprived life without physical ailments? Is the image of Juan Tamad waiting for a guava to fall such a reprehensible, if not scandalous, picture? Is the similar image of Sir Isaac Newton, also resting under a tree, more refreshing?

It is very Filipino to stress our minus points, to find fault in our behavior, to compare us unfavorably with Westerners by using Western standards. It is common to hear such names as Bertong Bukol, or Ipeng Pilay or Huseng Ngongo. It seems that we take pleasure in underscoring our weaknesses, faults, defects, etc. Our standards are smallness, averageness, mediocrity; grandeur or grandness is not in the Filipino vocabulary. The West, in contrast, evokes: Alexander the Great, Julius Caesar, Der Führer, Il Duce, El Caudillo, Elizabeth Regina. We seem to enjoy being humble and meek, or what Friedrich Nietzsche called "the morality of slaves."

There is something strange in the very way we look upon success. A person is not supposed to exert effort at the expense of sanity. We ridicule a person who teaches himself how to think and label him Tasio, the philosopher. We warn persons not to learn too much lest they be like Jose Rizal who was executed at the Luneta in 1896. Assertiveness is frowned upon because it smacks of pride and ruthlessness. Success to the Filipino, must come naturally; it should not be induced or artificially contrived. One should not be successful at an early age because that would mean exertion and hard work. Success must come very late in life, if it is to come at all.

Filipino traits must be understood in the above context. Hence, they are considered negative only according to other yardsticks.

The following Filipino traits show an ambivalence of positive and negative aspects.

Hiya (shame)

Negative, because it arrests or inhibits one's action. This trait reduces one to smallness or to what Nietzsche calls the "morality of slaves", thus congealing the soul of the Filipino and emasculating him, making him timid, meek and weak.

Positive, because, it contributes to peace of mind and lack of stress by not even trying to achieve.

Ningas-cogon (procrastination)

Negative, by all standards, because it begins ardently and dies down as soon as it begins. This trait renders one inactive and unable to initiate things or to persevere.

Positive, in a way, because it makes a person non-chalant, detached, indifferent, nonplussed should anything go wrong, and hence conducive to peace and tranquillity.

Pakikisama (group loyalty)

Negative, because one closes one's eyes to evils like graft and corruption in order to conserve peace and harmony in a group at the expense of one's comfort.

Positive, because one lives for others; peace or lack of dissension is a constant goal.

Patigasan (test of strength)

Negative, because it is stubborn and resists all efforts at reconciliation. The trait makes us childish, vindictive, irresponsible, irrational. Actions resulting from this trait are leaving the phone off the hook to get even with one's party line; stopping the engine of the car to prove that one has the right of way; standing one's ground until the opposite party loses its patience.

Positive, because it is assign that we know our rights and are not easily cowed into submission. It is occidental in spirit, hence in keeping with Nietzsche's "will to power."

Bahala na (resignation)

Negative, because one leaves everything to chance under the pretext of trusting in Divine providence. This trait is really laziness disguised in religious garb.

Positive, because one relies on a superior power rather than on one's own. It is conducive to humility, modesty, and lack of arrogance.

Kasi (because, i. e., scapegoat)

Negative, because one disowns responsibility and makes a scapegoat out of someone or something. One is never to blame; one remains lily white and has a ready alibi for failure.

Positive, because one can see both sides of the picture and know exactly where a project failed. One will never suffer from guilt or self-recrimination.

Saving Face

Negative, because, being closely related to hiya and kasi, it enables a person to shirk responsibility. One is never accountable for anything.

Positive, because one's psyche is saved from undue embarrassment, sleepless nights, remorse of conscience. It saves one from accountability or responsibility. This trait enables one to make a graceful exit from guilt instead of facing the music and owning responsibility for an offense.

Sakop (inclusion)

Negative, because one never learns to be on one's own but relies on one's family and relatives. This trait stunts growth and prevents a person from growing on one's own. Generating a life of parasitism, this trait is very non-existential. Blaring music, loud tones are a result of this mentality. We wrongly think that all people like the music we play or the stories we tell. This mentality also makes us consider the world as one vast comfort room.

Positive, because one cares for the family and clan; one stands or falls with them. This trait makes a person show concern for the family to which he belongs.

Mañana or "Bukas na" (procrastination)

Negative, because one constantly postpones action and accomplishes nothing. This aggravates a situation, a problem grows beyond correction, a leak or a small break becomes a gaping hole. This arises from an indolent mentality that a problem will go away by itself.

Positive, because one is without stress and tension; one learns to take what comes naturally. Like the Chinese wu-wei, this trait makes one live naturally and without undue artificiality.

Utang na loob (indebtedness)

Negative, because one overlooks moral principles when one is indebted to a person. One who is beholden to another person will do anything to please him, thinking that by doing so he is able to repay a debt. One condones what the other person does and will never censure him for wrongdoing.

Positive, because it is a recognition of one's indebtedness. This trait portrays the spirit behind the Filipino saying, "He who does not know how to look to the past will never reach his destination."

Kanya-kanya (self-centeredness)

Negative, because self-centered; one has no regard for others. So long as my family and I are not in need, I do not care about he world. Positive, because one takes care of oneself and one's family: "Blood is thicker than water."

At the end of our exposé of the positive and negative aspects of the Filipino psyche, one asks the question: What after all, is its ideal of personality, activity and achievement?

Regarding personality, if the ideal is a personality without stress and tension, then Filipino traits contribute to this. The contention is that success necessarily means hypertension, ulcers and sleepless nights. Could there exist a state of success without these physical aberrations?

Regarding activity, if the idea is that one should engage in a whirlpool of activity or if the work ethic is workaholism, then the Filipino indeed is in very poor estate. But is this not more of the Occidental or Western concept of activity? In contrast, the Oriental emphasizes conformity with nature; hence, one should never exaggerate or overact.

Regarding achievement, if the ideal is that one must achieve an earthly goal, then the Filipino, as a race, will occupy a low rank. But again, is this ideal not more Occidental or Western, according to which one must always set a goal and accomplish it? Setting a goal is not wrong in any culture, but the manner of achieving it which can be questionable. Does one have to expend one's total energy in the pursuit of an ideal which, after all, is a personal, earthly goal?

If for the Filipino smallness, meekness, and humility are ideals, could it not be that he is not this-worldly? Could he not perhaps be aiming, consciously or otherwise, at the life in the hereafter where the last will be the first, the weak will be strong, and the small will be great?

De La Salle University


^ SOURCE: ANOTHER WEBSITE: [http://www.crvp.org/book/Series03/III-7/chapter_xvi.htm]





In most living rooms in the Philippines, a visitor is bound to find an altar on which are enthroned, not only the plaster images of Christ and the Virgin Mary, but very significantly the photographs, usually framed in gold, of the family's children, proudly showing off graduation caps, hoods, and togas. Education undoubtedly continues to be held in high regard among Filipinos today, despite the fact that only a few select can afford education beyond the primary and secondary levels.

As it is in every household, so is it in the larger society. Many Filipinos is still hope in an educational system that disgorges graduates by the hundreds of thousands every October and March. All this because there is a prevalent notion that the diploma alone is the key to economic uplift and social mobility.

But if the present state of the nation is viewed as partly the product of the country's educational system, Filipinos have no recourse but to reevaluate the present educational thrust. For while our numerous schools, colleges and universities have produced innumerable graduates, massive unemployment persists and worsens. The national economy still must recuperate, while the national psyche remains confused and debilitated, continuously drugged by colonial and escapist values and attitudes perpetuated by the mass media.


Clearly, this is not the education we want for our society. But what indeed should education be? What should our schools produce? What is a truly educated person?

The definition of education given by philosophers of education is as idealistic as it is unequivocal: the ultimate goal of education is the common good, and in democratic societies this is reflected in a society in which justice, equality and democratic practices prevail. In this view, education is expected to develop a citizenry of free men who are able to express their will, fight for their rights and be responsible for their actions. Moreover, it should nurture a citizenry of creative men able to respond to the needs of their society and to offer creative solutions to problems their society may face.

In other words, more than a citizenry of doers, the educational system must be able to produce thinkers and creative persons in order to preserve society and ensure progress. In this the importance of creativity cannot be underestimated, for men who are bound by conventional world-views and timeworn procedures are doomed to lead their society to a state of stagnation. It may be well to remind ourselves that the stunning discoveries in the history of civilization that brought progress and comfort to mankind--from the simple wheel to the complex flying machine--were made by men who explored and pushed their imagination beyond the limits of what was known, or even allowed, during their time.

Problems in Education

Can we say that our educational system encourages the development of such a citizenry? In a study published by the Center for Research and Communication,1 a panel of Philippine scholars2 presented an appraisal of the educational system in the Philippines today. It pinpoints several inadequacies in the areas of educational planning, structure, teaching and learning methodology, socio-economic aspects, educational financing and non-formal and informal education. This paper focuses on what I consider to be the most basic inadequacies of our educational system. The first is seeming misdirection of goal; the second, inadequate teaching and learning methodology; and third, undue bias for formal or schoolroom education.

First, to many Filipinos who want only more food on the table or clothes on their back, the primary goal of education has come to be training that will ensure employment after graduation. Hence, the proliferation of students in courses such as those in commerce, teaching, secretarial and vocational subjects that not only have the lowest tuition fees, but also are expected to enable one to land a job easily. In non-formal education dressmaking, hair science or beauty culture seem to be the favorites. In this concept of education, education itself becomes optional if a person already has a job. "Tutal kumikita na naman, bakit kailangan pang mag-aral."

Ironically, society can only absorb a limited number of these  graduates, so that in the end many find themselves among the increasing number of the "educated unemployed." More importantly, this pragmatic and short-sighted view misses the broader point of education--the development of the person, the maximization of his or her potential and capacity as a thinking and creative individual able to harness and shape his environment, and not the other way around.

The second point concerns the teaching and learning methodology prevalent in our school systems, which is best illustrated by the physical layout of a typical Filipino classroom: rows upon rows of students looking up at a teacher who stands on a platform, framed by blackboards crammed with information which students must copy word for word. This teaching and learning method is what Paolo Freire in his book, Pedagogy of the Oppressed, refers to as the "banking" method. Here, the teacher is the supreme authority who dishes out "facts" and data, which the students accept as gospel truth, and return to their teacher undigested, in exams and classroom recitations.

Needless to say, this system can only develop data-oriented automatons predisposed to rote-memorization rather than to critical thinking, parrots who are as docile as they are passive and complacent. Small wonder that many Filipinos continue to accept the stereotypes of man as provider and woman as homemaker, and never question the rule of the traditional elite. Small wonder, too, that we fall easy prey to advertising messages that facilitate continued domination of our economy by foreign powers.

Thirdly and finally, there is an undue bias for formal or classroom education, a system tending to favor only those who can afford it. Because the poor cannot afford the tuition fees demanded by a sustained program requiring more and more cash outlay as one rises to higher levels, the gap between the educated and the non- or less educated continues to widen with serious socio-economic repercussions, such as the monopoly of vital information by those who are articulate in English; the cornering of economic opportunities by those armed with diplomas; and the manipulation of the illiterate by the "enlightened" who hold the reins of political power. The end result of all this is not only the turtle-pace of national progress and development, but a democracy without substance, a virtual aristocracy of the educated few.

But how can education respond to the needs of our society? How can it serve the imperatives of national progress and development? Clearly, these questions cannot be answered satisfactorily in one paper. But I would like to concentrate on the following options:

1) the development of the creative mind and imagination among the citizens, and

2) the use of the arts in this task.

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