Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Vitaliano R. Gorospe, S.J.

WHAT WE FILIPINOS SHOULD KNOW: (Caution: Lest the reader might think I am taking a moral high ground, please note that I am not a christian; but I know about christianity learned in my youth and adulthood. Jesus is one of the great sages.)

Some of the church people always talk about the lack of morality, more appropriately social morality/responsibility as it applies to our perennial, national political-economic crises.

For 480 years and counting, most of us Filipinos have been taught or inherited the Catholic/Christian religion. For some reason/s, there obviously is something wrong in the inherited teaching (or method of teaching) since we have become superficial, truly nominal or "split-level" Christians. One can call it "hypocrisy".

Ignorant of the history and essence of christianity: we, like parrots, recite those various incantations/prayers we learned by rote; we, like robots, observe those religious holidays, church rites and other symbols of Catholicism without really understanding what they mean or stand for; we are more concerned about following the Catholic Church as an institution, its rules and teachings than the supposed ideas of Jesus which somehow gave birth to Christianity as a cult/sect, then grow into an institutionalized religion (would Jesus have wanted to be the object of adoration rather than the object of emulation?). []

It is long overdue that self-proclaimed Catholics and Christians of all variety learn, think and understand authentic Christianity. True Christianity is about consistency and honesty. It is consistency to the teachings of Jesus Christ, to one of two that I think is most relevant and important in society: christian love = love of neighbor (not the sexual healing kind).

This teaching has not been internalized, not made integral into the character of Filipino Christians. Therefore as applied to our homeland, and more specifically to those Catholics who are, economically and politically, in power and thus can do something about the predicament of the majority, it has not been applied; at worst, it has knowingly been ignored.

It is about christian love, not the lovey-dovey kind, but honest concern, decisions and actions FOR the impoverished majority. All other stuff about religion which we learned in the catholic schools, we can throw out the window.

Below an article that can help us understand ourselves; about our Filipino attitudes and behaviors, which we are all familiar with but not really analyzed and understood, especially as to their inconsistent relations to the self-proclaimed Christianity. Vitaliano Gorospe, SJ clarified this inconsistency so many years ago.

“I respect faith, but doubt is what gets you an EDUCATION.” - Wilson Mizner, 1876-1933, American Author

“The parable of the Good Samaritan teaches us a hierarchy of values: man comes first, and the Sabbath second. Public, social and ecclesiastical institutions exist for man, and not the other way round. We, like the Samaritan, must first of all see the man, his status in society notwithstanding, his splendid clothes or pauper's rags notwithstanding.” – Fr. Victor Potapov, Rector, Russian Orthodox Cathedral

"We receive and we give not to others. We praise generosity, but we deprive the poor of it. We are freed slaves, but we do not pity our companions who remain under the yoke. We were hungry, and now have a surfeit of possessions, but we ignore the needy. While we have God as a magnificent patron and provider, we have been stingy towards the poor and refuse to share the goods with them. Our sheep are fruitful, but more numerous are the people who go naked. Our barns are too small to contain all that we possess and yet we do not pity those who anguish." - St. Basil


A way of looking at the problem of morality in the Philippines is to consider the actual and prevailing norms of right and wrong among Filipinos. It is quite obvious that there is a conflict between what they say as Christians and what they do as Filipinos; between their actual Filipino behavior and their ideal Christian behavior; in short, between what is and what ought to be.

One norm of morality in the Philippines is based on "group-centeredness" or "group-thinking." One's in-group determines for the individual what is right or wrong. The individual who has not yet attained moral independence and maturity will ask: " What will my family, or my relatives and friends, or my barkada think or say?" "What will others say" usually determines Filipino moral behavior; it is "conscience from the outside." For instance, parents tell their daughter who is being courted: "Iha, please entertain your boyfriend at home. Do not go outside. What will the neighbors say? Nakakahiya naman." Shame or hiya makes the parents and the girl conform to the social expectations of the neighbors lest they become the object of chismis or gossip. Here again there is a conflict between the individual and social morality, between internal and external morality. The norm of morality should be internalized so that the mature individual should form his own moral "conscience from the inside."

Another norm of morality in the Philippines is characterized by the "Don't be caught" attitude based on shame or fear of the authority figure. The authority figure may be a parent, teacher, priest or policeman. As one law student puts it:" What's wrong witrh cheating in the bar examinations as long as you do not get caught?" During the war, it is told that a prison official of Muntinglupa addressed his new prisoners thus: " Here there are no Ten Commandments. You can obey or break the rules as you please. But God help you if you get caught." Thisa norm of moral behavior also gives rise to a conflict in the individual between the "don'ts" of the authority figure and "what every else does" in the latter's absence. As long as a policemen is on duty, Filipino drivers will obey traffic rules but if there is no policeman, then everyone else tries make puslit or get ahead of the others often causing a traffic jam.

We find in the Filipino whose norm of behavior is purely external, a split between the ideal Christian norm of morality and the actual Filipino norm of morality. He will put on the externals of Christian moral behavior in front of the authority figure while at the same time follow in "real life" an inconsistent moral behavior when the latter is "at a distance."

The problem for the Filipino individual is to be "aware" that the two inconsistent norms of morality are allowed to coexist in his personality and life and that he must overcome this split if he is to become a mature Christian Filipino.

What can be done about the problem of morality in the Philippines? In this respect, the question of attitudes, whether on the part of the individual or on that of society as a whole, is quite relevant. The solution to a problem depends to a great extent on one's awareness of the problem and his attitude towards it.
Let us consider the various attitudes that the Filipino indiidual or Philippine society can take towards the problem of morality and religion.

The worst possible attitude is not to be aware of the problem at all. The person who is not aware that he has a cancer or heart trouble will not see the doctor. Another wrong attitude is complacency when one is aware but is not concerned. The individual who feels secure and comfortable with the status quo sees no need for change. Some individuals see the problem but it is too frightening. Hence they are afraid to make a decision and initiate change because it is painful and difficult. This is the attitude of timidity. Others try to escape from their real problems. They skirt confrontation with the real issue in their lives and hence raise up pseudo problems as camouflage.

Finally a very common attitude is rationalization. People who know they are doing wrong but do not want to change easily find excesses like "ako'y tao lamang" (I'm but human), "ganyan lamang ang buhay" (life is like hat), "bahala na" (come what may), or "eveybody is doing it." In this age of "passing the buck", another excuse for shrinking personal responsibility is the Filipinism, "I am not the one".

All these attitudes of mind are wrong and without the proper attitude there can be no solution to the problem. Filipinos will make no progress toward a Christian solution until they realize that the problem is serious and urgent.

(Source: extracted from Fr. Gorospe's article on Christian Renewal, 1966)

“You know your god is man-made if it hates the same people you do.” – UseNet

“Men never commit evil so fully and joyfully as when they do it for religious convictions.” – Blaise Pascal


Paulinecfny said...

I think that the moral crisis you are discussing can be directly related to two important factors -- poverty and corruption.

The attitude of "What will others say" does arise out of shame and group-thinking. However, if you look at it more closely, an individual yields to the group's expectations because it cannot be self-reliant if it needs to be. Because the individual, like the Filipino, lacks resources and leads a tenuous existence on a daily basis, it is vulnerable to group influence. If a Filipino were empowered by a democractic and fair system and by a government that follows the laws which protect its citizens from crimes and misdemeanors, it can defy a group's assault on it's morality and other intentions, because the society that the good government rules gives a fair chance for all its members and not just a few. It's citizens can depend on its leadership to guide and care for the institutions they rely on for their well-being. If a Filipino had job security, food on the table, a good education, accesible healthcare, etc., he or she can fully reason out the individual and diverse choices and decisions he or she makes in the society or community he or she lives in. The Filipino can move forward and go beyond a subsistence or survival mode, thereby able to confront accusations and delicate situations unencumbered by insecurities, hardship, hunger, etc. That is why in societies, like those in America for example, the problem you mentioned don't exist to the same extent. In fact, it prides itself in it's own expression of individual style and creativity. It is because America has a thriving business life which insures a majority of its citizens some good measure of security when compared to that of Filipinos. The focus of the community is development and expansion, because that is what the policy is of the government on some level. People don't have time to gossip as much because they have work, they go shopping, they study, they travel, etc. There are opportunities available to them that capture their interest and they grow into dreams and aspirations. Their minds are filled with thoughts of success because it is possible to earn enough to do all the things I mentioned before. Also there are opportunities for education which can broaden one's perspective in life, leading to change and enlightenment and greater awareness and higher levels of thinking that can discern forms of oppression and backward attitudes if confronted with them. What can one expect if the majority of people cannot put enough food on the table for all its family members? What can you expect if the Filipino mind cannot think beyond searching for a means to survive amidst poverty and degradation? What other thoughts can he entertain if he's picking food from the garbage dump, if he is weak and sick, if he has to borrow money all the time, etc., etc.?

Similarly, the "Don't be caught" attitude stems mostly from lack of economic resources and a corrupt government. Why does a law student have to cheat at the bar exam? Why does he have to be a lawyer and cheat? Perhaps maybe because being a lawyer is one of the few ways to make a respectable living, financially and otherwise. Because a teacher cannot provide food on the table. So those who can cheat will cheat. The opportunities are measely and the government allows cheating. Hunger can turn people to immorality, that is a fact. What can you do? You have to eat. If the economy was good, do you really think Filipinos will still prefer to cheat and lie? I don't think so. It takes a lot to give up your good nature and dignity.

So the bottom line is that poverty stemming from a corrupt leadership leads people to do the unthinkable, because they have to stay alive. The reasons for choosing to be a lawyer in the Philippines are different from those of other societies. The implications are different. The experience and motives are different, because Filipinos are in reality forced to become desperate, and look at opportunities for survival through a different lens, through their hardships mixed with the challenge of realizing dreams based on what they see in successful societies whose members can easily enjoy a good lifestyle and plenty of good opportunities. Given the right leadership and government, Filipinos will opt to do what is right and dignified.

Pauline Santos

Bert M. Drona said...


Thanks for your feedback, which has a lot of validity and truth.

Based on common sense, Marxist analysis or Maslow's hierarchy of needs, economics heavily influences our priorities and attitude and behavior.

Our inherited culture does too. Cultural value, i.e. shame (hiya) is common in the Asia and can be traced to the belief systems/religions in the region.

Of course, the sequence of needs is not water tight. They can overlap or even change depending on the individual's conscious awareness, ability to afford to do so.

But the tragic thing is the fact that those who can, do not want to. And that's where christian integration fail.

Bert M. Drona said...

I add that having a sense of shame is not necessarily good or bad. It becomes good or bad depending on the issue at hand or where it is experienced or not.

Anonymous said...

Finally a very common attitude is rationalization. People who know they are doing wrong but do not want to change easily find excesses like "ako'y tao lamang" (I'm but human), "ganyan lamang ang buhay" (life is like hat), "bahala na" (come what may), or "eveybody is doing it." In this age of "passing the buck", another excuse for shrinking personal responsibility is the Filipinism,

All these expressions: "ako'y tao lamang" (I'm but human), "ganyan lamang ang buhay" (life is like hat), "bahala na" (come what may), or "eveybody is doing it", "I am not the one" are usually heard in communities that are experiencing daily hardship as a rule, who cannot foresee any way out of the hardship even in their children's children's future. They are often only conscious of their weakness as a human being, because the part of them that can be strong and empowered are not developed or not realized because of the hardships imposed upon them. So to develop your strong part, you need to know what is causing your hardship. If you only know that the hardships you experience are precisely meant to weaken you because it benefits the agenda of a particular group or person, you would look at the problem in a different light. You will not feel weak and helpless. In fact, this awareness will give you the clarity of mind, the strength of spirit, and the resolve which will guide you to the right actions and reactions that will lead you to the solution to your problem.

Because the root problem is not obvious, you cannot see it amidst the confusion. For one reason, because you don't know that your hardships are intentional, you can only attribute your plight to God's wish upon you to suffer and make sacrifices and you look at your life as virtiuous because it is made of suffering. Furthermore, you really would never think that something like intentional hardship on a mass scale can actually exist. No matter if people say that Filipinos are being oppressed, they still don't believe that their president or mayor doesn't care about them. Surely their hands are tied. Surely they are trying their best to help us. Surely they cannot be the perpetrators of our hardships. Hindi lang nila alam kung papano. You can never quite grasp the intensity and reality of the bad itentions they have on your existence. You can never really accept the truth that the president and those in government are withholding the bounties of your country and blocking progress in your communities. You think that no one would ever do that to a people, would they. So in the end, you give them the benefit of the doubt. You don't take action and you let them stay and give them another chance.

Because you are hungry and plagued by all sorts of problems and worries, you can never sit down and analyze the situation. You are surrounded by facts, but you don't know how to put two and two together because you don't have the tools to do so. You know that in your government is made up of the "lagay" system. In America, "that" doesn't happen. If you want to open a store, you just get the proper licenses. You don't have to "lagay" just to get an application. The "lagay" system is wrong, corrupt and immoral. But that is the system the government promotes. And yet you still place your faith in the system, because you sympathize with the corrupt leaders. "Tao lang naman sila," you say. "Ganyan talaga ang buhay," etc. etc. You cannot make sense out of the confusion and chaos so you don't want to blame anyone.

Filipinos also believe that they are, as a people, unlike other people, truly incapable of progress, of solving problems, of creating wealth. They believe they are not as good as the Americans, for example. They have accepted the judgment that they are inferior and that they don't have what it takes to make it in this world. They don't consider other scenarios, that perhaps they are being blocked on purpose and with great success because they don't know what's being done to them by whom. They don't know to what extent, the length and breadth, the depth of schemes and plots to cheat and betray them. They don't even know they have rights. And why is this? Because you still think of them as "family." And families don't do that to family.

So Filipinos remain weak. And they say "bahala na" instead of continuing the fight against corrupt leaders. Because you are weak, because you cannot accept the truth about your own people, because you never developed, because you were never given a chance, because you don't have confidence, because you don't know your potential, because you don't know you're just as good, because you don't know you are better, because you don't know you are being framed, because you don't know they are stealing your ideas, etc., so you give up.

Yes, the proper attitude comes from healthy societies where there is freedom and democracy, where the leaders are scrutinized and accountable to the citizens by virtue of and established by law. Proper attitude exists in places where people are not confronted on a daily basis and in perpetuity by poverty, by lack of money, lack of jobs, by scarcity, by failures, by lack of protection, etc., etc. So in a way, it really is not hypocricy. To be pushed to the limit of human existence and suffering can be truly unbearable and can lead you to compromise your integrity as a human being. You can really lose your way and it can render you helpless and inept.

In my opinion, Christ died for us to show us that it is possible to suffer so much and die for the sake of goodness. That you don't have to give up your integrity despite hardship. He prooved that he can do it. He showed that his faith was complete, that he believed in the goodness of man, not in his evil. He did not bow down to Pilate, to the Roman soldiers, to the Sanhedrin. He bled and was made a mockery and betrayed by his own people, but he never gave in. What would Christ be now if he gave up the fight. If His story was different. What would we have now? Who would we pray to. He is a symbol of goodness and faith and hope. He made himself noble and worthy and good for your sake. Hold on to it and understand the true meaning of his sacrifice and purpose on earth.

Pauline Santos

Anonymous said...

you're blog is a treasure to all Filipinos. however, some of your commentaries are very emotional, for the lack of a better word, that sometimes you appear to be immature in your writing. everybody could cite their beliefs since after all these is a blog, like an online personal journal. but you are making bold commentaries that i think need a more logical presentation apart from having so much emotional content. this is truly a treasure for my research, but then, sometimes you don't appear to be persuasive, and all of these great observations of yours would then be wasted.

paul e.

Anonymous said...

I think ( not think i know it because i live in the RPH) that your culture is totally rotten...damaged , deluded and not to repair. Simply never to repair and to change because the Filipinos dont want any change. Stealing, lies and rip off are standard of this culture. Now every Filipino can start to excuse and attack my comment...or you can swallow it and see the truth in it.