I, Pinoy

By: Anjji Gabriel

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

                                    Matthew 5: 3 (New International Version)

“Sir, can we have a copy of your PowerPoint materials?” is a usual request I get from participants whenever I facilitate a course or give a lecture.  Over the years, I have become wiser and have readied a stock answer to this request.  Here is how it goes, “OK.  I guess that the reason you wanted to get a copy of my presentation materials is that you will restudy them when you get home.  Believe you me.  You will take it home.  Keep it but never study them again.  So here’s the deal.  I will not give you a copy of the materials so that you will listen attentively to my presentation and you will learn more.”  More often than not the participants will agree.  I have the right to do that because I am the facilitator or the teacher and they are the students.

Why do I know for a fact that when a participant brings home a facilitator’s presentation materials he will not even bother to study them again and just keep them?  After a while they will forget all about it and the stuff remains untouched until it accumulates dust and later on discarded?

I used to be that kind of student or learner before and I have accumulated quite a huge file of good materials from many seminars and trainings that I have attended either as a participant or facilitator. 

One of the good things during this pandemic and being quarantined for more than a year now is having the opportunity to clean up or get rid of these materials that I have accumulated over more than 30 years of my professional work-life.  And usually before I discard any good or interesting materials I will read them. 

I came across an article written by Dr. Violeta V. Bautista entitled, The Socio-psychological make-up of the Filipino.  It was a 12 page-article but was really interesting that I read and reread it.  I will save you the time of Googling and reading it for yourself so I will summarize here what I learned from that article. I find it so true of myself and many Filipinos like you, if you are one.  If you are not a Pinoy reading this, you will understand the Filipino better and why they behave how they behave.

The author focused on the four most important characteristics of the Filipinos.  They are:

  1. Being relationship-centered
  2. Preference for subtleties
  3. Weak nationalistic consciousness
  4. Unhoned cognitive skills

I would like to look closely on our being relationship-centered which is one of the more evident value system of the Filipino.  Relationships are very important for us. The Filipino word for relationships is “pakikipagkapwa”.  

We can graphically illustrate the segments of this Filipino value system in this way: 

“Pakikipagkapwa” as a core value demands that one treats another as his equal, irrespective of the person’s background.  One who lives out this value views relationships as important and demands that he attends to all rules of propriety as a clear sign of his good will.

I have an American friend who is younger than I am who calls me Kuya Anjji.  I told him that in the Philippines everyone is a brother and a sister to everyone.  We normally address even a person unknown to us as either Kuya (elder brother) or Ate (elder sister) as a form of respect.   So my American friend has become my instant brother!

When I travel and meet a Filipino who is either a waiter or a sales attendant who recognizes that I am a Filipino like him, he will address me as “Tatay (father), how can I help you?”

These are evidences of the Filipino’s being relationship-centered where everyone is related to everyone.  That is why we have words like kapuso, kapamilya, kaibigan, kaopisina, kaklase, etc.

“Hiya” (shame) for the Filipino has a more positive meaning than it’s more popularly thought of interpretation (but I think wrongly though) as overly shy or lacking in character and backbone.   When seen in its more positive interpretation based on its more frequent usage and based on my own personal experience, the Filipinos are a people who are moved more by concern for others’ welfare than by fear of group censure.  Isn’t this behavior more like what Jesus preached in his inaugural sermon (the Beatitudes) when He said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven”?  I think the poor in spirit are those humble people who think more of others and less of themselves.  So “hiya” as a Filipino trait is more akin to humility.  This is the more appropriate and positive interpretation of “hiya” for a Filipino like you and me!

“Utang na loob” (gratefulness) is an attitude of gratitude, which is why we Filipinos are labeled as one of the happiest people on earth.  Why?  Because a person with an attitude of gratitude has a positive spirit and always look at the brighter side of life. 

Isn’t this what the word “blessed” means? In fact the word “blessed” is also translated in Scriptures as “happy”!

“Pakikisama” (affiliative) is the Filipino’s considering a foreigner as his friend when he can eat a “balut” (boiled duck’s egg with its young chick in its early stage of gestation) or when he is willing to wear a barong Tagalog, our national costume.

Intrusion is a value that comes from the belief that true intimacy demands that one keep no barriers between him and his friends.  You may have noticed when a Filipino, similar to other Asian culture, casually asks a foreigner (from the West) questions like, “How much is your salary?” or its indirect version, “Do you get a huge salary from your employer?”  And when the foreigner responds with, “Excuse me”, the Filipino will just smile and maybe, scratch his head and wonder.  End of conversation!

Personalism is a value that we Filipinos, like our Asian brothers, naturally involve our whole person in any kind of activity.  We regard our professor not only as our mentor but also as a father.  We look to our classmate not only as a fellow learner but at least a friend or a brother.  Personalism as a Filipino value is clearly demonstrated by the language we use for classmate as “kaklase” who is also our “kaibigan” or “kapatid”.

How about the Filipinos’ preference for subtleties, weak nationalistic consciousness, and unhoned cognitive skills?  What do these characteristics mean?

I don’t need to belabor the fact that we Filipinos are very sensitive and expect others to be sensitive as well.  A classic example of this, which you yourself may have experienced or witnessed, is when a Filipino visits the house of a friend or a person he does business with and inadvertently arrives around lunchtime (maybe because he was caught in traffic) and was asked, “Did you have your lunch already?” his answer would be, “Ahh, yes!” even though he is very hungry and has not eaten yet.  While responding yes, he was thinking to himself, “Why are you even asking that?  Didn’t you know my circumstances that I would have not had an opportunity to get lunch because of so and so…  You wanted me to be here as soon as I can. Why don’t you just invite me for lunch. Wala ka bang pakiramdam? (are you numb or that is very unsensitive of you)”

We Filipinos are fond of “pakiramdaman” and “pahiwatigan”, especially in our way of communicating with others.

Our weak nationalistic consciousness is very evident among Filipinos who live overseas or even here in our country.  We join or form affiliations like, Samahang Ilocano or Bicolano or Bisaya, etc.  I have yet to hear an affiliation like, Samahang Filipino. 

Our history boasts of a La Liga Filipina, a group formed by our national hero, Jose Rizal.  But this group was formed because of the circumstances that they were in during the oppressive Spanish rule during that time.  They needed to be united so they can pursue their aspirations to be freed of their oppressors.

But even now that we have gained independence from our colonizers, we Filipinos are still very regionalistic.  We find it difficult to unite as one nation and one country.  This is a real challenge for our national government leaders today.

We have unhoned cognitive skills.  A study in 2019 of average IQ among Asean countries put the Philippines at the bottom with an average IQ of 86.  Indonesia and Myanmar has averaged 87 while Singapore was on top with an average of 108.

I recently watched on YouTube a presentation by Cielito Habito, an economist who served concurrently as the Director-General of the National Economic Development Authority and Socio-Economic Planning during the Ramos administration, where he points to the possible root cause of this very poor showing of the Philippines in the average IQ.  He said that because of our country’s chronic poverty problem, many children are malnourished.  This is the reason why they have poor and unhoned cognitive skills and therefore averaged poorly in IQ assessment.  He cited a study that a child’s cognitive skills are developed in the first 1000 days from his conception.  He suggested that there should be a maternal health care program for mothers during the critical 1000 days of their pregnancy.  I can only hope that his suggestion would be taken seriously by the socio-economic planners in our government.

Reading and rereading Dr. Bautista’s article on the socio-psychological make-up of the Filipino and based on my actual experience working with Filipinos and even with other nationalities, I conclude that I can be proud as a Filipino and we have a value system that will help us grow and flourish, as individuals, as a family, as an organization, as a community and as one nation under God.

I can be proud of our national heroes like Rizal, Bonifacio, Jacinto and Mabini.  It will be instructive here to cite an essay by Pablo S. Trillana III entitled, “Filipino Cultural Identity: We are Soul People”.  He spoke of the moral values that underlie the moral authority of these great Filipinos as: unbending adherence to the truth, hard work, discipline, family, responsibility, the spirit of the community and nation, and a constant sense of the Divine.

I can be proud of great Filipino diplomats/statesmen like Carlos P. Romulo and Claro M. Recto.

I can be proud of a Filipino politician in Ninoy Aquino who risked his life for us and died a hero’s death because he believed in his heart that the “The Filipino is worth dying for”.

I can be proud of the thousands of Filipinos who joined the protest March in EDSA because of the assassination of their hero in Ninoy Aquino. His untimely death on that fateful day in August 1983 led to the birth of the peaceful movement now known as “People Power Revolution” or “EDSA Revolution”. This historic event  toppled the government and freed the Filipinos from decades of oppressive and autocratic rule.

I can be proud of a young mayor in Vico Sotto who is an emerging servant leader who pronounced boldly during his first 100 days in office, “Politics is done.  Today it is governance.”  May his tribe increase!

I can be proud to say I am a Filipino.

I, Pinoy, am proud to be a Filipino! Are you?

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