PRIOR to this piece, we discussed how we might popularize the concept of culture since Asean 2015 is meant to bond us ten member countries together. This means, we expect to have increasing social dynamics with the rest of Asean nationalities along of course with their respective cultures. Not only do we have to be aware and know that we have differing lifestyles, but to understand much better why we differ and be sensitive to what may be acceptable or not acceptable, norm-wise, to our Asean neighbors. This business of knowing other cultures could better begin with us by investing enough time and effort to better know ourselves as Filipinos.
Who are we? Such a question can be answered from different lenses. Let’s confine our conversation to the Filipino values system. What is our values system and how does it work? This may not sound new because we are characteristically known as hospitable, loyal, patient, resilient (so said also some foreign observers after Hainan in Tacloban). We rely on the goodness of God, we say bahala na. Wrongly or right, we believe in fate, in luck or suwerte at diyos na ang maglalaan etc,
In my experience, teaching a graduate course on Philippine Values System and the Filipino Personality, I found out several times over that we may not be aware of some basic dimensions of our values. For instance, my students who grew up as Cebuanos – a generic name for those who grew up in Mindanao and in the Visayas speaking the language of the Sugbuanon–were not aware that Cebuanos have specific terms for each of the two kinds of hiya. We Kapampangans, coming from Luzon, have only one term for hiya. Not that I am saying we in Luzon have less hiya than do the Cebuanos. For Cebuanos, hiya or ulaw is of two kinds. Hiya felt by a person of a lower status relative to another person of a higher status is termed in Cebuano as ka-taha. The hiya or ulaw felt by a person relative to another person but who is of equal status is termed as ka-ikog. Both terms are a refinement of the term ulaw. For an in-depth discussion on hiya please click: http://www.philippinestudies.net/ ojs/index. php/ps/article/download/2603/5225.
Let’s engage on the dynamics of our values as a system rather than dwelling on each value singly. Beforehand, let’s admit that values – the mainsprings of action — are not easily understood since they are abstract in nature. We can only “feel” values or realize what specific values we are witnessing when these are manifested in a culture. Let’s suppose the governor of our province helped my son to have a better-paying job. Pay from this job has made possible for the younger sister to enrol in piano; for otherwise she would have to stick only to her academic pursuit. Come fiesta, our family invites the governor. Naturally we want to show our gratitude. We lavish our guest and his staff with expensive wine – something too much for us to spend on.
How do we explain our action? What values are the mainsprings of our behavior? We justify our digging deep into our pockets this fiesta by the fact that our son’s new job has given a better life for our family (familia). We owe (utang na loob) this to the governor. It’s a shame (hiya) if we don’t invite him and treat him as well as we can (smooth interpersonal relations or pakikisama). This example shows that we can better explain our behavior not by referring to a single value but rather to our values system. Jesuit Filipinologist Fr. Jaime Bulatao lists four major Filipino values — familia, hiya, utang na loob and pakikisama. All the rest of the values in the values system are secondary to these four major ones.
Examples of values secondary to the four major values are hospitality and the round-about or circumlocutory manner a person asks favors from a friend who may have bailed this person out of difficulty many times over. Under such circumstances, such as too much utang na loob makes a person hesitate (mahiya) to ask for additional favor.
Since culture is dynamic, values change to certain degrees. Once in Manila to attend a conference, I noticed that the driver of the taxi I took was a young Chinese. In the more than thirty years I travel back and forth the capital, I have never had a Chinese as taxi driver.. So I asked, “Na-nang kaba?” He replied “yes.” I rejoined “ako rin” and told him my great grandfather who was Chinese later was naturalized a Filipino. I asked him why he was driving a taxi and were the oldies in Binondo not helping him have a good start (meaning lending him funds to start a business of his own). He answered that I was his first passenger that day; he having just visited the Australian Embassy to check when he and his wife and two kids could finally leave for Australia. Referring to my question about the Chinese community in Binondo on their usual caring stance to their kins, he said that he resolutely but politely refused the funds being lent to him and convinced the senior generation that he was determined to sweat out success with his family in their future life down under. This illustrates that values do change overtime. To be continued.
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Teresita Tanhueco-Tumapon, Ph.D., is one of the Philippines most accomplished educators and experts on institutional management in colleges and universities. Her studies have included not only education and pedagogy but also literature. She has studied not only in the topmost universities in the Philippines but also in Germany, Britain and Japan. She is now the Vice-President for External Relations and Internationalization of the Liceo de Cagayan University (in Cagayan de Oro) after serving as its VP for Academic Affairs for six and a half years concurrent to her ten years as dean in the Graduate Studies of the same university. She holds a Lifetime Professional Achievement Award from the Commission on Higher Education.