Wednesday, November 04, 2009


"The Filipino looks at himself as one who feels, as one who wills, as one who thinks, as one who acts, as a total whole—as a 'person' conscious of his freedom, proud of his human dignity, and sensitive to the violation of these two."

I am borrowing the kilometric line above from Mercado (1976) as he summed up what constitutes a Filipino individual. While it is true that the voluminous sentence does not appropriately encapsulate the Filipino-ness of a Filipino. It is a relatively good identity label to satisfy the question "What is a Filipino?"

The sentence above is of course one of the conclusions he derived from a study he carried out more than three decades ago, when globalization was not an in thing yet and Internet was quite unheard of.

His study paraded an extensive word list that would later direct him in reaching his theoretical assumption that Filipino "like his Oriental neighbors, has a total way of thinking which is non-compartmentalized." This is further strengthened with his critical investigation of the human anatomical nomenclatures of the Filipinos. Although he quickly pointed out that this is "by no means uniquely Filipino."

This concept of a Filipino to see himself as one seamless being is expressed in his very own social life. The wholeness is not superficial. It comes all the way from a Filipino's desire to be whole—in Sam Milby's words "To be complete."

This wholeness has been very much expressed in his dealings with other human beings in the realm of his very own society. The religious rite of Baptism for instance becomes a communal celebration by making sure that practically the entire neighborhood could take part of the banquet.

However, his assumptions as regards the Filipino identity, despite his transparency in making his readers informed as regards the research methodology he used brought out more haunting questions than pacifying answers in me.

Now that we have at our fingertips the "elements of Filipino philosophy," what comes next? More than thirty years ago since they had been carefully thought of and enumerated, did we become better people? Will this translate to a developed Philippines?

I know that it is important to make us conscious of our roots as a people. Not merely because of any sentimental reasons, but simply because this trait forms the kind of race that we are.

With the diverse influences passed on to us by other countries, it is wise to hold on to our basic identity as a people. This awareness leads us to value these characters greatly and not to throw them away especially because we owe our future generation some explaining if we end up becoming Filipinos-that-we-are-not thanks to the guidance of the Western culture.