Saturday, January 12, 2008

Our Filipino Norm of Morality (Revisited)

"Many Filipinos are what I call Sunday-religious, that is they go to church every Sunday, take in confession and communion, but the rest of the week they bribe and do corrupt deeds..."
- Dr. Pura Santillan-Castrence

"To the degree that organized religion has decayed and the attachment to the Judeo-Christian tradition has become weaker, to that degree capitalism has become uglier and less justifiable. - Irving Kristol, 1979

WHAT WE FILIPINOS SHOULD KNOW: (Note: Bold, underlined words are HTML links. Click on them to open the linked posting/article. Forwarding the postings to relatives and friends, especially in the homeland, is greatly appreciated).

(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.)

Hi All,

Some church people and laymen 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 about or inherited the (Roman) Catholic Christian, or any Christian variety religion.

For some reason, there obviously is something wrong in the inherited or method of teaching since we supposed Filipino Christians have become superficial, truly nominal or "split-level" Christians (Fr. Jaime Bulatao, SJ seems to have coined it during the 1960s).

Ignorant of the history and essence of Christianity, as Catholics or Christians we: 

  • like parrots, recite those various incantations/prayers we learned by rote; 
  • like robots, observe those religious holidays, church rites and other symbols of Catholicism without really understanding what they mean or stand for; 
  • as clergy and laity are more concerned about following the Catholic Church as an institution, its rules and teachings; rather than living or emulating the supposed ideas and life of Jesus (which somehow gave birth to Christianity as a cult/sect, then grow into an institutionalized religion.

I wonder if Jesus would have wanted to be the object of adoration rather than the object of emulation? This fact seems to historically characterize great ideas or movements that became dominant or institutionalized. The formerly persecuted Christian minority became the dominant/official religion of the Roman Empire under Emperor Constantine (272-336 AD).

It is long overdue that all self-proclaimed Christians: be they Catholic Christians, mainline Protestants, Evangelicals, Pentecostals, etc. among us Filipinos, of all variety or spins of Christianity, learn, think and understand authentic (true) Christianity. And to realize that it is not all about memorizing one's Bible (which has many versions by various Christian sects) to the point of elevating a book to godliness or adoration; to the point of withdrawing from social justice and mainly concentrating on pure concern for "personal salvation" by "Praising the Lord."

Is that Lord (Jesus Christ/God) so selfishly insecure to want central attention at the expense of the perennially suffering poor; or we so-called Christians simply believe that these unfortunates deserve their status in life, in what they get or not have; seemingly like one local Chinese angrily wrote back to me: "they all are just mga palamunin!"

Authentic 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, though admittedly very pleasurable). It is consistency to his teachings on good deeds towards one's neighbor, in our homeland, those mired in poverty, thus illiterate, thus exploited, thus looked down on.

This essential teaching has not been internalized, not made integral into the character of the self-proclaimed Catholic Christians, of many Filipino Christians. Therefore as applied to our homeland, and more specifically to those native Filipino 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 or paid lip-service, call it then hypocrisy.

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 beliefs system, values, attitudes and behaviors -much of which characterize out Filipino culture, which we are all familiar with; but not really analyzed and understood, especially as to their inconsistent relations to the self-proclaimed Christianity.

Fr. Vitaliano Gorospe, SJ clarified this inconsistency in said article almost two generations ago (1966).

“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



Another 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 with 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." This 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.

See also:

Source: extracted from Fr. Gorospe's article on Christian Renewal of Filipino Values, 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

“RELIGION. A daughter of Hope and Fear, explaining to Ignorance the nature of the Unknowable.” - Ambrose Bierce, 1842-1914, American Author, Editor, Journalist, ''The Devil's Dictionary''


Anonymous said...

exactly that 480 years of inherited catholic christian religion, that
parrot-like reciting of incantations [do you mean the rosary?],
exactly this is the reason why we filipinos have acquired that sense
of morality we try to instill in our kids until now. with blind faith
we filipinos follow what we were taught, never to reason out and just
obey. i will blindly follow my shepherd. tell me the reason why
during the times when every woman who clutches the rosary going to
church, it was very rare you see promiscuity among young ladies. i
think the reason for the low in morality of our soceity these days
cannot be blamed on the catholic religion, but more on the growing
liberality on almost everything. how kids are now being brought up in
a too liberal way. i say to be able to learn to tolerate each others
religion is the first step we should do to be able to build some kind
of unity among our soceity. and after this unity, everything else
follows. let us avoid provoking our neighbors by demonstrating how
wrong his religion is, but instead tolerate it the way your religion
is beng tolerated too. you cannot destroy icons just to show your
neighbors how wrong they are and how right you. this attitude will
just show how violent your own religion is. behave correctly and this
way you'll be surprised how you can promote morality among your

- Rowena

Unknown said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
mrfr said...

not very interesting.

Unknown said...

I think we should follow japan education. Focus on teaching morality in the first four Level/grades. Sculpt them to be a good citizens