Filipinos are Brown. Their color is in the center of
human racial strains.
This point is not an attempt at racism, but just for
many Filipinos to realize that our color should not be
a source of or reason for inferiority complex. While
we pine for a fair complexion, the white people are
religiously tanning themselves, whenever they could,
under the sun or some artificial light, just to
approximate the Filipino complexion.
Filipinos are a touching people. We have lots of love
and are not afraid to show it. We almost inevitably
create human chains with our perennial akbay (putting
an arm around another shoulder), hawak (hold), yakap (embrace),
himas (caressing stroke), kalabit (touch with the tip
of the finger), kalong (sitting on someone else's lap), etc.
We are always reaching out, always seeking interconnection.
Filipinos are linguists. Put a Filipino in any city,
any town around the world. Give him a few months or
even weeks and he will speak the local language there.
Filipinos are adept at learning and speaking
languages. In fact, it is not uncommon for Filipinos
to speak at least three: his dialect, Filipino, and
English. Of course, a lot speak an added language, be
it Chinese, Spanish or, if he works abroad, the
language of his host country.
In addition, Tagalog is not 'sexist.' While many
"conscious" and "enlightened" people of today are just
by now striving to be "politically correct" with their
language and, in the process, bend to absurd depths in
coining "gender sensitive" words, Tagalog has, since
time immemorial, evolved gender-neutral words like
asawa (husband or wife), anak (son or daughter),
magulang (father or mother), kapatid (brother or
sister), biyenan (father-in-law or mother-in-law),
manugang (son or daughter-in-law), bayani (hero or
heroine), etc. Our languages and dialects are advanced
and, indeed, sophisticated! It is no small wonder that
Jose Rizal, the quintessential Filipino, spoke some
Filipinos are groupists. We love human interaction and
company. We always surround ourselves with people and
we hover over them, too. According to Dr. Patricia
Licuanan, a psychologist from Ateneo and Miriam College, an
average Filipino would have and know at least 300 relatives.
At work, we live bayanihan (mutual help); at play, we
want a kalaro (playmate) more than laruan (toy). At
socials, our invitations are open and it is more
common even for guests to invite and bring in other
guests. In transit, we do not want to be separated
from our group. So what do we do when there is no
more space in a vehicle?
Kalung-kalong! (Sit on one another). No one would ever
suggest splitting a group and waiting for another
vehicle with more space!
Filipinos are weavers. One look at our baskets, mats,
clothes, and other crafts will reveal the skill of the
Filipino weaver and his inclination to weaving. This
art is a metaphor of the Filipino trait. We are social
weavers. We weave theirs into ours that we all become
parts of one another. We place a lot of premium on
pakikisama (getting along) and pakikipagkapwa
(relating). Two of the worst labels, walang
pakikipagkapwa (inability to relate), will be avoided
by the Filipino at almost any cost.
We love to blend and harmonize with people, we like to
include them in our "tribe," in our "family"-and we
like to be included in other people's families, too.
Therefore we call our friend's mother nanay or mommy;
we call a friend's sister ate (eldest sister), and so
on. We even call strangers tia (aunt) or tio (uncle),
tatang (grandfather), etc.
So extensive is our social openness and interrelations
that we have specific title for extended relations
like hipag (sister-in-law's spouse), balae
(child-in-law's parents), inaanak (godchild),
ninong/ninang (godparents) kinakapatid (godparent's
In addition, we have the profound 'ka' institution,
loosely translated as "equal to the same kind" as in
kasama (of the same company), kaisa (of the same
cause), kapanalig (of the same belief), etc. In our
social fiber, we treat other people as co-equals.
Filipinos, because of their social "weaving"
traditions, make for excellent team workers.
Filipinos are adventurers. We have a tradition of
separation. Our myths and legends speak of heroes and
heroines who almost always get separated from their
families and loved ones and are taken by circumstances
to far-away lands where they find wealth or power.
Our Spanish colonial history is filled with
separations caused by the reduccion (hamleting), and
the forced migration to build towns, churches,
fortresses or galleons. American occupation enlarged
the space of Filipino wandering, including America,
and there are documented evidences of Filipino
presence in America as far back as 1587.
Now, Filipinos compose the world's largest population
of overseas workers, populating and sometimes
"threshing" major capitals, minor towns and even
remote villages around the world. Filipino adventurism
has made us today's citizens of the world, bringing
the bagoong (salty shrimp paste), pansit (sautéed
noodles), siopao (meat-filled dough), kare-kare
(peanut-flavored dish), dinuguan (innards cooked in
pork blood), balut (unhatched duck egg),
and adobo (meat vinaigrette), including the tabo
(ladle) and tsinelas (slippers) all over the world.
Filipinos are excellent at adjustments and
improvisation, managing to recreate their home, or to
feel at home anywhere.
Filipinos have Pakiramdam (deep feeling/discernment).
We know how to feel what others feel, sometimes even
anticipate what they will feel. Being manhid (dense)
is one of the worst labels anyone could get and will
therefore, avoid at all cost. We know when a guest is
hungry though the insistence on being full is assured.
We can tell if people are lovers even if they are
miles apart. We know if a person is offended though he
may purposely smile. We know because we feel. In our
pakikipagkapwa(relating), we get not only to wear
another man's shoe but also his heart.
We have a superbly developed and honored gift of
discernment, making us excellent leaders, counselors,
Filipinos are very spiritual. We are transcendent. We
transcend the physical world, see the unseen and hear
the unheard. We have a deep sense of kaba (premonition)
and kutob (hunch). A Filipino wife will instinctively
feel her husband or child is going astray, whether or not
telltale signs present themselves.
Filipino spirituality makes him invoke divine presence
or intervention at nearly every bend of his journey.
Rightly or wrongly, Filipinos are almost always
acknowledging, invoking or driving away spirits into
and from their lives. Seemingly trivial or even
incoherent events can take on spiritual significance
and will be given such space or consideration.
The Filipino has a sophisticated, developed
pakiramdam. The Filipino, though becoming more and
more modern (hence, materialistic) is still very
spiritual in essence. This inherent and deep
spirituality makes the Filipino, once
correctly Christianized, a major exponent of the
Filipinos are timeless. Despite the nearly
half-a-millennium encroachment of the western clock
into our lives, Filipinos-unless on very formal or
official functions-still measure time not with hours
and minutes but with feeling. This style is ingrained
deep in our psyche. Our time is diffused, not framed.
Our appointments are defined by umaga (morning),
tanghali (noon ), hapon (afternoon), or gabi
Our most exact time reference is probably
katanghaliang-tapat (high noon), which still allows
many minutes of leeway. That is how Filipino trysts
and occasions are timed: there is really no definite
A Filipino event has no clear-cut beginning nor
ending. We have a fiesta, but there is bisperas (eve),
a day after the fiesta is still considered a good time
to visit. The Filipino Christmas is not confined to
December 25th; it somehow begins months before
December and extends up to the first days of January.
Filipinos say good-bye to guests first at the head of
the stairs, then down to the descamo (landing), to the
entresuelo (mezzanine), to the pintuan (doorway), to
the tarangkahan (gate), and if the departing persons
are to take public transportation, up to the bus stop
or bus station.
In a way, other people's tardiness and extended stays
can really be annoying, but this peculiarity is the
same charm of Filipinos who, being governed by
timelessness, can show how to find more time to be
nice, kind, and accommodating than his prompt and
exact brothers elsewhere.
Filipinos are Spaceless. As in the concept of time,
the Filipino concept of space is not numerical. We
will not usually express expanse of space with miles
or kilometers but with feelings in how we say malayo
(far )or malapit (near).
Alongside with numberlessness, Filipino space is also
boundless. Indigenous culture did not divide land into
private lots but kept it open for all to partake of
The Filipino has avidly remained "spaceless" in many
ways. The interior of the bahay-kubo (hut) can easily
become receiving room, sleeping room, kitchen, dining
room, chapel, wake parlor, etc. Depending on the time
of the day or the needs of the moment. The same is
true with the bahay na bato (stone house). Space just
flows into the next space that the divisions between
the sala, caida, comedor, or vilada may only be
faintly suggested by overhead arches of filigree. In
much the same way, Filipino concept of space can be so
diffused that one 's party may creep into and actually
expropriate the street! A family business like a
sari-sari store or talyer may extend to the sidewalk
and street. Provincial folks dry palayan (rice grain)
on the highways! Religious groups of various
persuasions habitually and matter-of-factly commandeer
the streets for processions and parades.
It is not uncommon to close a street to accommodate
private functions. Filipinos eat. sleep, chat,
socialize, quarrel, even urinate, nearly everywhere or
"Spacelessness," in the face of modern, especially
urban life, can be unlawful and may really be
counter-productive. On the other hand, Filipino
spacelessness, when viewed from his context, is just
another manifestation of his spiritually and communal
values. Adapted well to today's context, which may
mean unstoppable urbanization, Filipino spacelessness
may even be the answer and counter balance to
humanity's greed, selfishness and isolation.
So what makes the Filipino special? We are brown,
spiritual, timeless, spaceless, linguists, groupists,
weavers, adventurers. Seldom do all these profound
qualities find personification in a people. Filipinos
should allow - and should be allowed to contribute
their special traits to the worldwide community of
men- but first, we should know and like ourselves.