By Glemir Sordilla & Joshua Villalobos
In Merlie Figura-Hammer’s recent HAPI article titled “Science and humanism will get us through this pandemic”, she stated that humanist beliefs emphasized the potential value and goodness of human beings, highlighting common struggles and providing a rational way to solve global problems. It is worth asking how well the Philippines embodies that. Does a country that was ruled by different colonizers (including centuries of Spanish occupation) and is among the most religious countries in the world, have a distinct humanist tradition that its people practice?
In fact, it does! Here are three humanist traditions deeply embedded in Filipino culture:
Bayanihan is one of the practices that many Filipinos are proudly known for. It is purely defined as helping someone without expecting anything in return. The term originates from the good ol’ days when Filipinos used to move their houses and relatives or neighbors would volunteer to actually carry the home on their backs. Afterward, the host family would show their gratitude through a meal that everyone shares.
Nowadays, Bayanihan is not just associated with the house-moving tradition. It has lived on with Filipinos coming together to support and give aid to their fellow countrymen through donations when natural disasters occur.
Most recently, we have seen the perfect example of Bayanihan in our country in the form of the community pantries. Operating under the principle of “Magbigay ayon sa kakayahan at kumuha ayon sa pangangailangan (Give what you can and take what you need),” the Bayanihan spirit was once again ignited and spread through the whole Philippines like wildfire. Ultimately, Bayanihan is embodied in civil efforts that uplift the community and assist those who are caught in a dire situation.
- Being Hospitable
Our hospitable nature is one of the qualities that Filipinos are known for. It’s almost like our second nature to accommodate and give the most comfortable service we can, whether it be towards a guest or a stranger just asking us a question. This “feel at home” trait of ours is truly exceptional and goes back even to our ancestors. For the longest time, we have been fond of asking “Have you eaten yet?” to visitors every time they come by. It demonstrates our willingness to help and offer what we have on our tables to guests without expecting to get anything in return.
This hospitable spirit has also effectively helped in the development of our economic growth through the rise of tourism in the country, with some of the campaigns done by the Philippine Department of Tourism emphasizing the country’s warm hospitality.
Humanism is defined by Andrew Copson as “building a more humane society through an ethic-based and other natural values in the spirit of reason”. The hospitality of Filipinos shows how naturally that comes to them.
As one of the most vulnerable countries to climate change and sitting along the Pacific Ring of Fire, the circumstances that the Philippines has had to face in the past forced us to be resilient.
In some cases where the country has not even recovered from the wrath of a typhoon yet, PAG-ASA would announce that another storm approaches again. But that has never pushed us to cower in fear and feel defeated; we’ve been known to always wear bright smiles even as half of our bodies are submerged in a flood.
Nevertheless, the “Filipino resiliency” must not always be so romanticized. In most cases, the suffering of the vulnerable sectors could be traced back to a lack of government action; sugarcoating this situation with “resiliency” tends to erase accountability from our duty-bearers.
Though it cannot be denied that the Philippines is a highly religious country and most of our traditions are anchored on Christian and Islamic teachings, one thing is innate in us: we are kind people. Regardless of our economic standing, we are people who are willing to help when we see other people are in dire need.
Time and again, it has been shown throughout our history that even the most neglected and vulnerable sectors of our country – our fellow Filipinos in the rural areas – would willingly ship their produce and donate to their fellowmen who are in need of food during the lockdown.
While science will of course bring us to the end of this pandemic and to the “normal” we used to know, our values and traditions rooted in the belief that every human being will help us create a better Philippines and will let us bounce back stronger and more thoughtful than ever.