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July 29, 2011

PROF. FELIPE M. DE LEON, JR.

No Sense of Nationhood

        Among many Filipinos, the sense of nationhood or feeling of being Filipino is weak or none at all. Until now many Filipinos identify only with their family, local community, province or region. Throughout our history, there have been so many forces that worked against the formation of a national consciousness, preventing us from identifying ourselves as Filipinos or becoming one with the Filipino people.

        From the Spanish colonial period to the present, a small elite minority has always governed our country and controlled our economy and resources. Hence, the culture of the bureaucracy, including the police and the military, and the private sector is more attuned to the needs and values of the elite than to the vast majority of Filipinos. As a result, there has developed a very strong feeling of mutual distrust and hostility between the elite-led government and the people.

        Who has effective power and control over the destiny of this country? For centuries now, it seems we always had a powerful minority lording it over a powerless majority.  We have a soft state (a state incapable of implementing its own laws) because of self-serving elite intervention and manipulation.  In other words, we have a captive state, one that is subservient to the machinations of the elite.

        This is one of the many factors that led to the disconnect between the majority of Filipinos and the nation. Many Filipinos do not feel they own their country. Having no feeling of connection, ownership or control over their country, Filipinos feel no sense of responsibility or attitude of caring towards it. If we don’t feel we belong to a household, how can we feel responsible for it? 

         Who, then, is responsible for this nation? This was the crucial question that Rizal asked through Padre Florentino at the very end of his novel El Filibusterismo. Who “owns” the filipino nation? Is it the Filipino people or the Spanish, American, or Chinese “mestizo” elites? Is it the “indios” or the descendants of the ruling class during the colonial periods?

         The answer, apparently, is no one. The elites are self-serving. The rich are too busy making money. The poor people feel a disconnect from the nation. And even if they assume responsibility, they have no effective means of exercising it. They are too busy struggling to make both ends meet. The middle class is too pre-occupied with professional advancement, seeking higher positions in government or private offices, and aspiring for awards of recognition in their fields of specialization.
         But a glimmer of hope often comes from the middle class, too. (or in exceptional cases, even from the upper class). Consisting of Filipinos who basically work with their minds, they are the class more likely to reflect on social conditions and the national situation. They are very literate and have enough leisure to ponder on matters beyond mere survival. Many of them become advocates of national consciousness and unity.

Putting Self Before Nation

        Not being able to develop a sense of nationhood, Filipinos will simply be working for their self-interest instead of thinking of the good of the nation as a whole. As a consequence, whoever gets into a position of power will be easily tempted to engage in corrupt practices. It is probably worse among those who have been made to feel so alienated from the nation by the abuses of the power elite or government arrogance so that whenever there is the slightest chance, they will try to get even.

 

Lack of pride in being Filipino

For the anthropologist Dr. F. Landa Jocano, Pride, commitment and excellence are inseparable. Filipinos who do not have a feeling of self-worth as Filipinos lack a sense of responsibility and commitment to the nation, resulting in a low level of achievement or even mediocrity. Lack of pride in being Filipino results in lack ofcommitment to the nation and, consequently, a low level of achievement or even mediocrity, the “pwede na ‘yan” mentality.

        Those who do not have a feeling of self-worth or sense of dignity as Filipinos will easily succumb to corruption. Having no sense of honor or kahihiyan, being corrupt does not bother them.

        Likewise, having no strong sense of identity and self-confidence as Filipinos, officials will not be able to stand up against political or economic pressure, especially if the stakes and personal gain are huge.

Un-Filipino Perspective

       The moment we began to view ourselves through Western eyes, what we held sacred suddenly became worthless, our virtues turned into vices, and our strengths began to be seen as weaknesses

        Anything indigenous became a source of embarrassment and uneasiness.  We would hide whatever is native sounding or native in origin.  Centuries of being regarded as backward and inferior by the white colonizers engendered in us this collective self-contempt, a psychic malady that afflicts all of us but most especially the elites.
 
Alienation from one’s cultural identity, especially language

       “Only English spoken here” schools with this admonition should be padlocked by the government, if possible, because they make the Filipinos hostile to Filipinos. Without realizing it they undermine our confidence in our cultural identity and engender self-contempt. Call centers have the same effect on our consciousness, making us less and less literate and confident about the wisdom of our own languages.

        LRT, Plane flights routinely use English even if all the passengers are Filipinos. Why not Cebuano, Ilokano. Or Tagalog?  We  have a false notion that development is not possible without English. Actually it may be the biggest impediment to development in our country. Formal education should use the local language as the primary language of instruction for real learning to occur.
      
Stifling Filipino Productivity

       The use of English, for instance, can stifle the Filipino mind, more so if we insist on thinking and speaking like the British or American, whose literacy and literary skills in the language will always be superior to ours (inspite of Patricia Evangelista) because English is their native language.

       Contrary to what most Filipinos think, our advancement in science and mathematics is actually hampered by the use of English. Well-documented studies have shown that the sciences and mathematics are best learned in the native language or vernacular.

        Here are excerpts from an article written by educator Dr. Isagani Cruz, entitled “Math, English and War” (Philippine Star, April 10, 2003):

“Anyone who thinks that mathematics is best taught in the English language either does not know math or does not know English.”

“In 1995, the best-performing countries in mathematics were Singapore, South Korea, Japan, Hongkong, Belgium, Czech Republic, Slovak Republic, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Slovenia, Bulgaria, Austria, France, Hungary and the Russian Federation. (This list is not in order…)

“In 1999, the best-performing countries in mathematics were Singapore, South Korea, Chinese Taipei, Hongkong, Japan, Belgium, the Netherlands, Slovak Republic, Hungary, Canada, Slovenia and the Russian Federation.”

“Guess how many of the best-performing countries use English as their medium of instruction in mathematics classes. Guess how English-speaking countries are generally regarded in the field of mathematics. Case closed.”

“The Executive Order that the English language shall be used as a primary medium of instruction in all public institutions of learning at the secondary level “Show… ignorance of both mathematics and linguistics”

        At the tertiary level the leading universities in mathematics in the country are the University of the Philippines and De La Salle University – “both use Filipino to teach Algebra. Surely, these two leading universities know best how to teach Filipino students.”

Filipino Derivativeness or Gaya-gaya Mentality

        Our misplaced belief in the superiority of English and other foreign modes of thinking surely explains our lack of leadership and assertiveness in the world. In this lie the roots of Filipino gaya-gaya mentality and inferiority complex vis-a-vis the West.

       The more entrepreneural Chinese would rather dominate English with their own thought patterns. Here’s a sample of Chinese English taken from the instructions for use of a whitening lotion product:

  • Efficacy: This product by use of natural plant Vitamin B3, Vc and mulberry extraction distillate, availability wipe off face die cell, restrain melanin, strengthen cell renovate, restr in melanin and blemish, skin whitening, look brand- new.
  • USE:  Days for sub-two, first shall face wetness, and weild the product gently knead, then with cleanly water washing.
  • Notice: avoid into eyeball, if immodesty, shortly washing for cleanly water.
  • As a result, Chinese productivity does not suffer.

An Elite or Authority-Centered Bureaucracy Goes Against the Very Essence of Participatory, Egalitarian Filipino Culture

         Our bureaucracy tends to be disabling rather than enabling, using rules against people rather than for them. Too much power at the top, can generate much sense of insecurity, fear and ill-will among the subordinates because their security of tenure is too dependent on what could be one person’s good graces, whims or prejudices, thus setting up situations ripe for corruption. One solution to this problem could be a review committee that evaluates in a collegial manner decisions made at the top.

         In many government corporations, there exists a very wide gap between salary of CEOs or top officials and ordinary employees, engendering in the latter feelings of envy and hostility leading to corruption. We must not forget that the demand for equality is at the very heart of Filipino culture.

Monstrous cultural divide between the elite and common people

        The colonial powers inevitably encouraged and supported the emergence of an elite class with whom it could easily collaborate. A serious consequence of this is cultural fragmentation. In the Philippines, this created the monstrous cultural divide between the Western-educated ruling elite and the more or less culturally indigenous majority.

        Having no shared sense of identity, the Western-educated ruling elite, who basically run the government, and the culturally indigenous majority distrust each other. The alienation of the elite from the culture of our people makes them feel no sense of responsibility to the people, with notable exceptions, of course.

       Without a shared sense of identity between the ruling class and the people there can be no real and sustainable development. It is difficult for people to cooperate with each other politically when they are divided socially and culturally.  Without a shared notion of being, there is no common, unified action.

Effects of Bureaucratic Indifference or Hostility

        Having been a victim of this hostility for a long time, the ordinary Filipino tries to get even whenever the opportunity comes. When he gets into an official government position he takes advantage of his power (The slave of today becomes the tyrant of tomorrow – Rizal).  Also, having been at the receiving end of arrogant displays of power from bureaucrats, he tends to indulge in power tripping himself once given any degree of authority. Most often, however, the average Filipino will resort to the easiest kind of coping mechanism to save himself from being a victim: grease money, bribes, padulas (Jocano)

Filipinos Should Be Made to Feel That They Are Worthy Citizens of The Nation

         Having been entrusted the serious task of representing and serving the Filipino people, making Filipinos feel that they are worthy citizens of our country is primarily the responsibility of government. Unfortunately, it is the government which our people perceive as the one that least fulfils this responsibility, and has been regarded more as a hostile than helpful agent in Philippine life. To offset this perception a very strong people-orientation or people-friendly culture must be instituted and established by all government agencies.

“You made us decent Tito, you gave us hope.”
 From Tony Meloto of Gawad Kalinga:

“I recall a particular visit to Gawad Kalinga Baseco last December that made me realize the profound value of giving hope to the poor by giving them homes that are their own.”

“Upon entering one of the first of nearly a thousand homes we had already built in the area for fire victims, I was overwhelmed by the beautiful interior that I saw – tiled floors, glass-topped furniture and a fragrant toilet.  I  remember just a year earlier moving the family from a shanty made of plastic, rusted GI sheets and old wood from the nearby canal.” 

“I asked the mother of the house, Malou, who now looked clean and confident, what brought about the dramatic change in such a short time.  Instead of telling me that she and her husband are now working and earning, which they are, she simply said  Kasi ginawa mo kaming disente Tito… binigyan mo kami ng pag-asa.’”

Sense of Hope Leads to Productivity

“In simple language she was telling me a fundamental principle – that economic activities and benefits are natural consequences when the poor start to dream and to work for that dream.”  

“In the same community, no major crime was reported last year among the over 5,000 residents compared to the 28 murders and homicides reported in 2003, the year before we entered the area.” 

“Values are put on the ground even before the houses are built.  Responsibility, accountability and stewardship  are effects of an occupancy agreement of no gambling and no vices.”  

 

Need for culturally-rooted management and governance

       Inappropriate management is management that is not culturally-rooted. Management that is not culturally-rooted becomes dysfunctional. Coming from an alien culture, imported management theories will not work in the Philippine setting.  Without an astute grasp of Filipino social psychology a manager may not be able to inspire Filipinos toward constructive or productive behavior. Knowing intimately the way our people think, feel and perceive the world will always make for effective management and governance.
  
Filipino Psychology is the Exact Opposite of Western Psychology

       There is no concept of the “other” in the other person in Filipino culture. The “other”(kapwa) is also yourself. “Ang kapwa ay sarili rin”. This concept makes Filipinos a highly trusting, relational and non-confrontational people. Skill in mediation rather than confrontation works better in our culture. Bridging differences or resolving conflicts through consensus and other subtle techniques like pakiusap, pahiwatig, pakikibagay, pakikisama, pakikipagpalagayang- loob, pakikisangkot, and pakiisa brings faster and more lasting results.

Trust-based Governance, With Minimal Legal Guarantees

       In our cultural context, resort to legalities is taken to mean concealing lies, dishonesty and bad faith. This is not to denigrate the law profession but we should realize the ineffectiveness of a purely legal approach to governance in our culture.  Instead, a trust-based accountability, not only one that is on paper, might work better

Mismatch of Filipino core culture and social institutions

       In the Philippines the highly relational, participatory and holistic character of the culture is very much at odds with the highly impersonal, legalistic and fragmented nature of social systems derived from the West.  Thus, most of our Western-derived social institutions that are based on the idea of the “other” person, and who, therefore in principle, cannot be trusted, are dysfunctional in Philippine society.

      The sooner they are replaced with kapwa-based institutions, those that can inspire the Filipinos to become active participants in the development process, the faster we can get out of the conditions of underdevelopment, social stagnation and corruption.

 

In summary, the basic sources of corruption in the Philippines are:

  • Lack of national consciousness
  • Elite-driven bureaucracy rather than egalitarian and participatory
  • Inappropriate management and governance
  • Mismatch of Filipino core culture and Philippine social institutions

 

      The sooner we Filipinize our own hearts and minds; systems of management and governance; and social, political and economic institutions, the more we can hope to minimize, if not eradicate, corruption in this country.

 

Recommendations:

Basic Filipino Education

Basic Filipino education must be able to strengthen every citizen’s sense of con-nectedness to our people through a study of

  • Peoples of the Philippines (Philippine cultural geography)

       especially the genius, strengths, indigenous knowledge systems, skills    
       and  practices of Filipinos throughout the archipelago

  • Philippine history from its ancient origins to the development of the Filipino nation
  • Filipino world view/s, values, psychology, and forms of expression

Anything positive about themselves always unites a people

       If are to become one nation, we have to begin deconstructing the very negative self-images that have been ingrained in us by centuries of colonial misrule and miseducation, especially among the elites who are the power wielders and thus have the greatest responsibility to serve and be one with our people.  We can never erect a viable nation if we continue to denigrate ourselves, even in the presence of foreigners.

Social Self-Images As Self-Fulfilling: The Need to Develop a Strong Shared Vision

        It is the image a people create of themselves that is the psycho-cultural basis of their strengths and weaknesses, triumphs and failures.  For a nation’s self-image tends to be self-fulfilling (Kenneth Boulding, The Image).  If in our minds we think we will be defeated, we have already lost.  If we think we are an inferior people, we will tend to lower our standards and be satisfied with good enough.  Negative self-images, whether individual or collective, can cause untold social and cultural damage. 

        We have nothing to lose by creating and working for the most exalted and inspiring images of ourselves, especially because we are a highly relational, holistic, participatory and creative people with a strong nurturing and caring orientation.