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- Category: Philippine Culture
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Critics of the 1960s values studies maintain that concepts such as pakikisama, hiya, amor propio, and utang na loob have been inappropriately generalized from vernacular terms associated with specific behaviors and situations into all pervading, organizing values and trait complexes (Lawless, 1969). They have been perceived as a central core of fundamental culture traits that create and define an almost stereotypic Pilipino character and have further been accepted as valid by scholars, foreigners, and Pilipino in general (Okamura and Agbayani, 1991).
As one of the most outspoken critics of studies of Philippine values, Enriquez (1987, p. 30) argued that most of these studies (which were presented in English) employ the colonizer's perspective and colonial language rather than making use of indigenous concepts available in native Philippine languages. Thus, the organization and logic of the value system from a Pilipino perspective is lacking. He further contended that the four values described in the literature represent only surface values that derive their significance from the core value of kapwa (shared identity).
Studies of Pilipino values have focused on significantly less abstract concepts. One of the most comprehensive studies of Pilipino character traits and values was conducted by a Philippine Senate commissioned task force in 1988. The study identified the following major strengths of the Pilipino character: pakikipagkapwa-tao (having a regard for the dignity and being of others), family orientation, joy and humor, flexibility, adaptability and creativity, hard work and industry, faith and religiosity, and ability to survive (Licuanan, 1988). Each of these characteristics was summarized by Okamura and Agbayani (1991) and has been consistently identified by Church (1986) in a review of other studies on Pilipino personality values or ideals.
Pakikipagkapwa-tao is manifested among Filipinos in their basic sense of justice and fairness and concern for other's well being. Filipinos recognize the essential humanity of all people and regard others with respect and empathy. This orientation instills a heightened sensitivity to the nature and quality of interpersonal relationships, which are the principal source of security and happiness. The related family orientation and interdependence among Filipinos was previously detailed.
Filipino's sense of joy and humor is evident in their optimistic approach to life and its travails. The ability to laugh at themselves and their predicament is an important coping mechanism that contributes to emotional balance and a capacity to survive. This characteristic is complemented by flexibility, adaptability, and creativity that are manifested in the ability to adjust to often difficult circumstances and prevailing physical and social environments. Filipinos have a high tolerance for ambiguity that enables them to respond calmly to uncertainty or lack of information. As resourceful, creative, fast learners, Filipinos often improvise and make productive and innovative use of whatever is available. These qualities have been repeatedly demonstrated in their capacity to adapt to living in any part of the world and in their ability to accept change (Okamura and Agbayani, 1991).
The related capacity for hard work and industry among Filipinos is widely recognized. Filipinos are universally regarded as excellent workers who perform well whether the job involves physical labor and tasks or highly sophisticated technical functions. This propensity for hard work, which often includes a highly competitive spirit, is driven by the desire for economic security and advancement for oneself and one's family. This achievement orientation is further accompanied by typically high aspirations and great personal sacrifices.
Each of these characteristics strengthens the Filipino's ability to survive and endure despite difficult times and often little resources. Moreover, these characteristics cluster around distinctly religious beliefs and a deep faith in God. This faith is evident in Filipinos, ability to accept reality (including failure and defeat) in terms of God's will and to adopt a philosophical/religious attitude that cushions them from disappointments. Pilipino faith is related to the concept of bahala na (It's up to God or Leave it to God), which has tended to be incorrectly equated with an expression of fatalism and a passive acceptance or resignation to fate. Bahala na can instead be viewed more positively as determination in the face of uncertainty or stressful, problematic conditions. Although it is an indication of an acceptance of the nature of things, including one's own inherent limitations, bahala na operates psychologically to elevate one's courage and conviction to persist in the face of adversity and to improve one's situation (Enriquez, 1987; Okamura and Agbayani, 1991).
Apart from the more fundamental Pilipino personality characteristics and values are those related to physical appearance. As briefly noted at the outset of the chapter, centuries of Spanish and American colonial rule reinforced the Pilipino tendency to equate light complexion with high social status. White meant everything associated with the ruling classes: worth, beauty, desirability, and power. The lighter skinned Pilipino usually has either Chinese or Spanish blood in the family line, but having Spanish ancestors is likely to be a point of pride (Gochenour, 1990).
Similarly, for many Pilipino Americans, white Americans constitute a very powerful reference group. Many may not only equate being light completed with being beautiful or handsome but also think that to be American is to be white. This perception or value is often unfortunately transmitted to the children and may contribute to feelings of inferiority and second class status. Corresponding negative self concepts based on skin color are further reinforced by the growing realization that other brown ethnic groups and people of color do not enjoy the same social and economic status as their white counterparts (Santos, 1983).
Status is further integrally linked to education. Filipinos view education as a passport to good jobs, economic security, social acceptance, and as a way out of a cycle of poverty and lower class status, not only for their children, but for the whole family (Santos, 1983, p. 146). Education, then, is not an individual but a family concern and considered to be an economic investment toward which family members must contribute significant effort and often personal sacrifice. Once successfully graduated and employed, the individual is expected to assume the responsibility of helping his or her parents finance the education of the next child. The next child is then responsible for the next, and so on.
This practice reflects the value of utang na loob in which the debt of gratitude incurred to the whole family ensures the graduate's contribution to the family welfare, which takes precedence over individual economic and social mobility (Santos, 1983). Thus, degrees, diplomas, certificates, good grades, and academic honors are much sought after symbols. Such achievements are typically recognized with great pride and significant attention by extended family, friends, and the larger community. Moreover, if one is well educated, Filipinos expect that person to talk, act, and dress the part (Gochenour, 1990).
The preceding review of traditional Pilipino values reveals complexity as well as contrast among such values and those corresponding to more individualistic, Eurocentric cultural orientations. There also are apparent contrasts between various Pilipino values and observed behaviors among Filipinos. These contrasts can be expected between immigrant and American born Filipinos and among those of varying social class, generation, and degree of acculturation. Thus, as is the case with other Asian ethnic groups, awareness and appreciation of such contrasts and complexity are critical to determining the relative influence of traditional values among families.