UNDERSTANDING THE FILIPINO PHILOSOPHY OF RESILIENCY: KATATAGANG-LOOB AND ITS PHENOMENOLOGICAL CONSIDERATIONS
JOSEPH ANTHONY NARCISO Z. TIANGCO
The paper necessitates the understanding that Filipinos do have their own philosophy of resiliency—the Volkgeist of the nation as reflected in its people’s sense of katatagang-loob. The explication of this indigenous concept shall be undertaken from a semantic and metalinguistic point-of-view. Aside from this, traditional Filipino sayings and proverbs will equally be examined so as to depict how these metaphorically reflect valuing for katatagang-loob. The second part of the paper takes into account corresponding frameworks that can be used towards further understanding the Filipino philosophy of resiliency. Within this context, the author argues that katatagang-loob is not necessarily a deeply held philosophy in itself, but instead, a deeper value reside within the phenomenology of being Filipino—that of pangangalaga sa sarili and kapwa. Lastly, the Filipino philosophy of resiliency in many ways reflects the Eastern Weltanschauung. Drawing from Chinese philosophers such as Mencius, Chuang Tzu, and Lao Tzu, the paper argues that Filipino worldviews are no different from their other Asian neighbors. It is hoped that a renewed understanding of the Filipino can be undertaken given that it is the people’s individual and collective strength of character that has kept them afloat, over and beyond much adversity.
The Philippines and the Filipinos are continuously confronted by insurmountable problems (Elwood 2001: xiv-xv). If one were to provide a “situationer,” a lethargic portrait best captures the events and circumstances that surround the Filipino way of life.
The present economic crisis, the steadily increasing prices of basic commodities, and disappointments over the failed efforts of the Philippine military to subdue the Abu Sayyaf rebels—these are the daily issues that confront the Filipino. Fear continues to grip the whole nation with the onset of renewed bomb threats in Metro Manila meant to destabilize the present government. Poverty, illegal gambling, violence against children and women, graft and corruption, kidnappings, and all other social ills linger relentlessly. It is perhaps correct, therefore, for James Fallows (1987) to regard the Philippines as having a “damaged culture” (in Gripaldo 2000). These concerns are actually national in scope, not to mention personal predicaments confronting each Filipino.
Albert Camus’s notion regarding suicide as the fundamental philosophical question seems apparent given the absurdities governing the lives of Filipinos. As a matter-of-fact, Estanislao (2001: 104) mentions, “…there is a cultural tendency in the Philippines to deny the presence of depression and to endure and to suffer in silence.” Despite such cultural determinants that seemingly predispose a Filipino towards self-annihilation and other destructive behaviors, the perception remains that Filipinos are indeed one of the happiest people in the world. Andres (1989: 12) even asserts, “The Filipino can maintain his patience and endurance in the face of adversity.”
Do Filipinos typify Camus’s (1955:44-45) “absurd man” who struggles against all odds with the pretense of hopelessness and tragedy? To what then do we attribute the perception of the Filipino’s undying resiliency? These questions give credence to a nation’s strength of character and its peoples’ courage amidst an indifferent world. The article attempts to provide a renewed understanding of a philosophy of resiliency—katatagang-loob—as a reflection of what Quito (1984: 74) calls diwa or the Volksgeist of the Filipino people.
The first part is a linguistic analysis of the concept of katatagang-loob explicating its use and meaning in the vernacular. As Enriquez (1976: 223) mentions, it is significant to unearth the philosophical implications in the use of indigenous concepts. Hence, a presentation of different analects and proverbs that reflect resiliency are also featured. For the second part of the article, I hope to argue for a framework that takes into account katatagang-loob vis-à-vis other values such as kawalang-karahasan (non-violence), kahinahunan (prudence), kakalmahan (calmness), determinasyon (determination), bahala-na attitude (fatalism) and pagsusumikap (hardwork) within the context of the Filipinos’ philosophy of survival and search for meaning. An analysis is done to look at the bipolar inclinations of katatagang-loob towards an understanding of its positive and negative implications. And lastly, imperative comparisons are drawn between elements of katatagang-loob and Chinese philosophy, particularly those of Mencius, Chuang Tzu, and Lao Tzu. This is to emphasize the point that Filipinos are no different from their Asian neighbors. Although, Asian philosophy is commonly conceived of as Hindu, Chinese, or Japanese philosophy (in Gripaldo 2000), Filipino philosophy shares more similarities than differences with the Eastern Weltanschauung. The efforts provided hope to argue for a Filipino Philosophy, even though, not as highly systematized as that of the West but rather typifies what Elwood (2001: v) regards as a philosophy characterized as a way of life. And in this connection, a philosophy as reflected in the way of life of the Filipino people.
UNDERSTANDING THE CONCEPT OF KATATAGANG-LOOB
Linguists have always taken into account the use of language as a reflection of the mind (Timbreza 1999: 6). The Lebenswelt is concretized through words as part of the process of giving meaning to everyday experiences. As Chandler (1994:1) comments, “We seem as a species to be driven by a desire to make meaning: above all, we are surely Homo significans—meaning makers.” Human beings concretize what is experienced through the use of language as one of the venues for symbolizing in the mind what is experienced from an externalized world (Kurcz 1984:154). Embodied in it and lived through discourse is the ethos of a people, the richness of culture, and history divergent in language.
Structurally, through a semantic analysis of katatagang-loob, the word can be broken down into two: katatagan and loob. The word, katatagan comes from the rootword tatag which means established or stability. As a verb, itatag means to build or the act of establishing. When used as an adjective, matatag or katatagan pertains to durability and endurance. Hence, the idea of strength (tibay) within the context of matatag or katatagan is characterized not as forceful strength or power but rather as a sense of stability, durability, and endurance.
Although some scholars interchange katatagang-loob with another indigenous concept, lakas ng loob, I argue that they have different meanings. Lakas literally points to strength which oftentimes connotes forceful strength, drive or power. Although the words tibay and lakas share certain commonalities, I emphasize that they should not be taken as entirely identical in meaning. For example, when a Filipino says, “matibay ang kotse ko sa baha”, the message being sent forth is the durability of the car when used during a flood. Hardly will one hear someone saying, “malakas ang kotse ko sa baha,” which as mentioned earlier connotes forceful strength and power. Hence, the tibay or katatagan (durability) of the vehicle under such a harsh circumstance (especially during the rainy seasons in the Philippines) is the focus of attention. Another example can be traced to the use of the word to describe friendship. Filipinos often say, “matibay/matatag ang aming pagkakaibigan, ang aming samahan” to describe a friendship that has withstood the test of time and the challenges that it has endured. If translated into English, the message asserted is that of a strong friendship or bond among friends. Given the worldview of the English language, the message is clear in referring to an enduring relationship which characterizes the strong friendship. But when backtranslated into Filipino, a literal translation of strong friendship into “lakas ng pagkakaibigan” falls short in fully capturing the essence of the idea being expressed. Thus, tibay or katatagan of the friendship rightfully espouses an enduring, and perhaps, a lasting friendship within the context of challenges that had been experienced to test such endurance. Furthermore, it is also understood that the friendship continues to flourish in spite of the challenges that it has faced. It can also be said that the relationship and the love between husband and wife, or simply between two lovers, is matatag/matibay, pointing out the same idea in the Filipino Weltanschauung.
In further differentiating the usage of the words tibay/matatag/katatagan from lakas/malakas, a Filipino may comment, “ang lakas ng tama ng Red Horse!” Literally, one is expressing that Red Horse is such a strong beer. Within this context, the message is not that of endurance or durability but rather of being overwhelmed, or in a sense, forcefully being overcome by intoxication. A Filipino may also assert, “malakas ang tama ko kay Donita Rose,” which on the other hand, connotes the force of attraction for the aforementioned Filipino actress.
Metalinguistic analysis of the usage of the word katatagan denotes the following conclusions:
1. katatagan is a quality possessed by an object or a value by the person said to be matatag/matibay. It seems to be an inherent trait or characteristic and in the case of the katatagan of a person, the trait is internally inherent and originative “within” such that another term, loob, is used. Hence, when put together the word, katatagang-loob, is thus, constructed;
2. as an element in the usage of the word, the occurrence of [a] certain circumstance(s) or event(s) elicit(s) the said quality of katatagan. Such apparently serves as an external stimulus which draws out the inherent quality of endurance and durability. In other words, some kind of challenge or test is presented to provide a venue for exercising the experience of being matatag/matibay;
3. the response of katatagan or being matibay does not denote force or power;
4. instead, katatagan, as a response, describes durability or endurance in overcoming the said challenges confronted by an object or the individual even when faced with much adversity;
5. in understanding the Filipino condition, I would want to argue that the valuing for katatagan is not an end-in-itself. The drive towards katatagan is motivated by a conscious or unconscious teleological aspiration giving meaning to one’s hardships and sufferings.
The next part of the semantic analysis focuses on the Tagalog word, loob. According to Ileto (1989: 25), the concept of loob can be regarded as an inner being associated with the notion of leadership, power, nationalism, and revolution (in Mercado 1994: 24). For the Tagalogs, the use of the word describes a sense of relative position. Literally, loob pertains to the position of being inside such that Filipinos may say, “nasa loob ng kahon” (inside the box) or “nasa loob ng aking bulsa” (inside my pocket). In Ileto’s definition of loob as inner being, one can infer the spatial dichotomy between inner being (loob) and outer being (labas), descriptive of the body. If comparisons are to be drawn between the Tagalog’s definition of loob and the concept of buot for the Visayan Cebuanos and nakem for the Ilokanos, all of the words befit the concept of consciousness and a philosophy of spirituality traditionally subscribed to by most Filipinos. As a matter-of-fact, Mercado (1994: 13) asserts that the Filipino philosophy of spirituality runs parallel to the philosophy of loob. Although this is the case, it is equally important to mention that the words buot for the Visayans and nakem for the Ilokanos do not make distinctions between loob and labas. The two words share the same concept with their Tagalog counterpart, but they also connote a deeper meaning of unity between mind and body. In the sense, such integration leads to an understanding of an embodied spirit further strengthening the thesis that Filipinos think in a holistic manner (Mercado 1994: 189-190; Timbreza 1999: 7).
Differences can be highlighted between the Filipino philosophy of mind and body with Western theoretical models that adhere to dualism. For Plato (in Phaedrus), the body is seen as a sort of prison of the soul. Quito (1991: 41) even asserts, “Only in death when the soul separates from the body does the soul realize its plenitude and fulfillment.” Another is the dualism of Descartes in approaching the mind-body problem. The body is regarded as the res extensa (an extended thing) and consciousness, the soul, or the spirit as res cogitans (a thinking thing). Duality in Western modes of thinking is evident especially as dichotomies are set to differentiate one category from another.
I agree with Ileto’s notion of loob as inner being, but I think otherwise, that it is an amalgamation of leadership, power, nationalism, and revolution. It is important to mention that the focus of Ileto’s study were the lives of nationalists such as Macario Sakay, Andres Bonifacio, and the other katipuneros. Perhaps by drawing from the experiences of these historical figures, the assertion that loob is such may mislead one into thinking that the concept relates well and is limited to an action-hero type of personification. In my opinion, the philosophy of loob is reflected in the lives of every Filipino basurero (garbage man) or katipunero (revolutionary). In the final analysis, I contend that loob is a subpart of the unifying act of being Filipino; better yet, the purest aggregate of being human that consolidates the phenomenology of both loob and labas.
What then is katatagang-loob? Simply put, it is the spirit of undying resiliency reflected upon acts of self-endurance and self-durability amidst challenges and adversity. As a valuing for self-endurance and durability, one need not assert power, forceful strength, aggressiveness, nor desire for revolution. Instead, such a Filipino philosophy of resilience—katatagang-loob—even maintains meekness, active-passivity, and non-violence in the face of an indifferent world.
EXPLICATING THE UNDERLYING VOLKGEIST
OF THE FILIPINO PEOPLE
The values mentioned are further elaborated in the succeeding proverbs and analects that form part of a tradition that seeks to continuously perpetuate this indigenous ideal—the Volksgeist of the Filipino people. The following are but few examples of traditional sayings reflecting the underlying virtue of katatagang-loob (in Mercado 1994: 110-125):
Ang tao’y punong kawayan ang kahambing.
Yumuyuko at umaayon sa bugso ng hangin.
Di-sumasalungat kundi nagpupugay,
Upang di mabakli ang sariling tangkay. (Tagalog)
[A person is like a bamboo, bending and yielding to the will of the wind. It does not go against but instead salutes, in order that its branches will not become shivered.]
Di ika magsabat sa sulog ti-baad ka ianod. (Bikolano)
Huwag mong salungatin ang agos ng ilog
upang hindi ka tangayin. (Tagalog)
[Do not go against the current of the river unless you would want to be swept away.]
Pagkatapos nin bagyo, katoninungan. (Hiligayon)
[After the storm comes fair weather.]
Ang tawo nga anad sa kalisud,
Maga-ani ug kalipay sa kaulahi-an. (Cebuano)
[A person inured to suffering will reap happiness at the end.]
Pag may hirap may ginhawa. (Tagalog)
[If there is hardship there is comfort.]
Sunod-sunod nga kasakitan
Sinyales hin kaupayan. (Waray)
[A series of misfortunes signals good fortune.]
Mapait ang magtiis
Ngunit ang bunga’y matamis. (Tagalog)
(To suffer is bitter but its fruit is sweet.)
Ang di marunong magbata
Walang hihinting ginhawa. (Tagalog)
(He who does not know how to suffer will
not obtain comfort.)
Intrinsically, the Filipino mind is metaphorical in orientation (Timbreza 1999: 7). Symbolisms such as the bamboo, the wind, river, and a storm are utilized to reflect a naturalistic worldview. Hence, it can be asserted that the Filipino submits to the magnanimity of nature as reflected in the symbols characterized in their proverbs. Moreover, in analyzing the first three proverbs, it can be said that the metaphoric use of wind, river, and a storm underscores the spirit of harmony between man and nature. The following metaphors are nature-bound implicitly showing the perception and valuing of oneness with the enigmatic movements within the world. The Filipino principle of non-dualism (in Mercado 1994: 190) is again supported.
But underlying these metaphors, a greater understanding of life; better yet, a philosophy of life is revealed. Metaphorically, the wind, river, and storm connote challenges confronted by the Filipino, and in a deeper sense, these challenges also form part of the natural processes of nature. Therefore, the problems, hardships, and sufferings that one experiences are but natural features of the world and should not be frowned upon as a contradiction of “life.” Is a Filipino then an “absurd man”? Perhaps “yes,” on one hand, and “no” on another.
Albert Camus (1955: 44) views the “absurd man” as defiantly happy and is in conscious revolt against an indifferent world. The Filipino is “absurd” to such an extent as Elwood (2001: 66) mentions regarding the absurd man, “He can then ‘decide to accept such a universe and draw from it his strength, his refusal to hope, and the unyielding evidence of a life without consolation.’” At this point, I want to emphasize the aspect of drawing strength through the exercise of acceptance and negate from the notion of refusing hope and viewing life as without consolation. Once more, the proverbs can address this question of whether a Filipino is absurd amidst an indifferent world.
Clearly, the proverbs advocate acceptance of nature. In fact, the proverb regarding the yielding bamboo strengthens the thesis that acceptance and the willingness to conform to the blowing wind are necessary in order that its branches will not be shivered. In the same manner, going against the strong current of the river will just lead to being cast away. The underlying theme, therefore, is the wisdom of acceptance—conforming to the will of the wind and to the will of the water.
The proverbs, undeniably, do not advocate the use of force or even the act of a “conscious revolt” or defiance towards an indifferent world. As a matter-of-fact, the world is not even perceived as indifferent, as such is but its most natural disposition. Hence, acceptance of the world bears strength for the Filipino people and in accomplishing this, the Filipinos, in my opinion, are tasked to exemplify katatagang-loob.
On many occasions, the Filipino is compared to a bamboo. According to Andres (1989: 11-12):
The bamboo symbolizes flexibility, endurance, and harmony with nature; it does not fight the wind but outlasts the storm…the Filipino goes along with things, bends with fate rather than stand against things. He has the qualities of flexibility and endurance.
The words flexibility, endurance, and harmony with nature resound a people’s philosophy of resiliency that has become a source of strength even when faced with the most difficult of circumstances. But is this kind of strength, a refusal to hope, a view of life as without consolation? The remaining proverbs articulate the meaningfulness of life as the Volkgeist of the Filipino.
A theme recurs in relation to the cyclic movements between storm and fair weather, suffering and happiness, misfortune and fortune, and hardship and comfort. As Quito (1984: 74) mentions, there is credence in the transience of everything, which gives Filipinos the unexpressed disposition to take on a more favorable outlook on life. The Filipino sees the world as cyclic and holistic (Timbreza 1999: 7). The proverbs depict that neither suffering nor happiness lasts forever and this can be argued as an important consolation. Both form part of the mysteries of the cyclic continuum of the world.
With regard to suffering, the Filipino sees life not just as suffering, but rather, as a cycle of ups and down—a wheel of fate so to speak—which relates well with the Chinese worldview. For Buddhism, life is suffering (dukkha) which comprises the first noble truth in the Aryasatya and in Hinduism, Shankara espouses that the world is maya or an illusion.
It is also worth mentioning that the Filipinos seem to value suffering as a sort of prerequisite to the attainment of a better life. The proverbs depict the need for one to be inured to suffering in order to achieve happiness and comfort. A cyclic succession is then perceived between suffering and happiness or suffering and comfort.
Consciously or unconsciously, the Filipinos look upon suffering as a kind of purification of loob. It is rather contestable to assert that Filipinos deliberately bare themselves to suffering for the purpose of developing resiliency. Katatagang-loob, per se, is not deliberate but rather brought about by circumstance. Interestingly, Quito (1988: 46) comments about the Filipino:
Could he not perhaps be aiming, consciously or not, at the life in the hereafter where the last will be the first, the weak will be strong, the small will be great?
Such an assertion is not far-fetched since the observation regarding the parallelisms between the philosophy of loob and the philosophy of spirituality have earlier been made apparent. In a country where Christian religiosity flourishes, perhaps Filipinos are equally challenged to take up their own cross and suffer like Jesus Christ. In a way, as a nation and as a Church, they have long been conditioned to the meaning of suffering and the rewards that can be received hereafter.
Another way of looking at it is to elaborate on Renato Constantino’s notion of psychological control, earlier by the Spaniards and later on by the Americans, that has led to the development of a colonial consciousness (in Gripaldo 2000: 162). A by-product of the development of a captive consciousness is a consciousness inured to suffering. The Filipinos habituate in suffering as a result of historical conditioning, and perhaps even, as a coping mechanism held by the collective unconscious of the people. Katatagang-loob, therefore, strikes deep into the consciousness and even the unconscious of a subdued people. It can be argued that katatagang-loob enabled the Filipinos to embrace with open arms their sufferings out of a desire for self-preservation when in the grip of their colonial oppressors. According to Andres (1989: 12), “Resiliency made the Filipino people such a hardy and indomitable race that they survived the soft and insidious corruption and patent inadequacy of their colonizers and neo-colonizers.”
Is katatagang-loob then a drive for self-preservation? Does it mean nothing else but a response to conditioned suffering? Why prolong the suffering and not just commit suicide to end one’s misery? I argue that meaning is in every way important. As Elwood (2001: 66) mentions:
Although the world is absurd and reason is feeble, there is no need to resign ourselves to suicide or hedonism or otherworldly hopes. There may be no ‘ultimate meaning,’ but that does not mean that there is no meaning at all for the human person.
In this connection, I want to assert that katatagang-loob is motivated by a teleological aspiration, other than seeing one’s suffering as an end-in-itself or as a conditioned response to insure self-preservation. Although factors such as the influence of Christian religion, the experience of a captive consciousness, and the Filipinos’ philosophy of survival may have formed causes leading to katatagang-loob, the phenomenology of being Filipino ultimately resounds the inherent capacity to create meaning to motivate one’s self in spite of strife. Each Filipino then has the capacity towards katatagang-loob as part of the culture’s diwa or Volkgeist. As a matter‑of‑fact, often unexpressed, such an attitude is already lived as part of most Filipinos’ everyday experiences. For example, a mother abandoned by her husband and working as an Overseas Contract Worker (OCW) to support her three children, exemplifies the value of katatagang-loob. Enduring the hardships of work in another country must be difficult for a mother separated from her beloved children. How about the labandera (a woman who washes clothes for a fee) or maid who is struggling to send her children to school and is also taking care of an alcoholic husband who spends most of his time gambling? Another example are the street vendors, who often have no land of their own, and everyday patiently try to earn a living beneath the scorching sun. How about the farmers? The poor fishermen who harvest the seas? These people live a hand-to-mouth existence which Filipinos call “isang kahig, isang tuka.” Even De La Salle University students are not exempted from exercising katatagang-loob. The trimestral system strikes like a storm bringing along with it a hail of projects, term papers, quizzes, and examinations. Not to mention, all students carry within them their own personal problems and burdens from family, friends, and significant loved ones. Imagine the hardships that students endure for the sake of receiving a college degree that does not guarantee success or satisfaction later on in life. Beneath it all, amidst the hardships, sufferings, and tribulations, the Filipino philosophy of resiliency is always there to carry the Filipino through. As Quito (1984: 74) avers regarding the Filipino:
Why does he smile at the height of a typhoon or flood? Why can he laugh off annoying brownouts and potholed streets? Why can he even joke of the present political order that curtails basic human freedom?…What gives Filipinos this unexpressed optimism even in the face of tragedy and misery? It is the belief that everything is transient and, in the last reckoning, things will fall into their proper places.
Resiliency is the unsung note that characterizes the strength of a great people. Negative Filipino traits have always been focused on and even attributed to the country’s economic regression as compared to its Asian neighbors (Quito 1988: 42; Andres 1989: 7). It is about time to bring out the inherent positiveness in the Filipino character. As Andres (1989: 12) mentions, “His resiliency helps to maintain his good-naturedness and good sense and ability to achieve a measure of recovery and progress under the most discouraging barriers.” Perhaps, the challenge now is to bring out the best and make the Filipino realize that he can make a difference.
TOWARDS A CONCEPTUAL FRAMEWORK FOR
The Filipino philosophy of resiliency—katatagang-loob—correlates with other values such as kawalang-karahasan (non-violence), kahinahunan (prudence), kakalmahan (calmness), determinasyon (determination), bahala na attitude (fatalism) and pagsusumikap (hardwork) within the context of the Filipinos’ philosophy of survival and teleological aspirations. Katatagang-loob, per se, is an internal value similar to what Quito (1983: 35) calls a secondary level value. By being secondary, it can be characterized as internal and originative “within,” but it falls short in fully taking into account the phenomenology of Filipino behavior. The Filipino philosophy of resiliency, in itself, is not the conscious or unconscious prime motivator that moves the push and pull dynamics of Filipino personality. Instead, in my opinion, a deeper value resides within the Filipino that consolidates the loob and labas, which can be regarded as a core value. Two core values seem to penetrate deep into the psyche of the Filipino people: pangangalaga sa sarili and kapwa.
THE PHENOMENOLOGY OF SARILI AND KAPWA
The Filipino term sarili refers to the self. According to Mercado (1994: 32):
Sarili points not to man (tao) but to his being a man (pagkatao or personhood). The self is not separate from personhood since man is holistic as shown in emotions. When sarili is used for action, the meaning pertains to the person.
Hence, the word sarili functions like an umbrella concept that takes into consideration the totality of being, the totality of the Filipino’s personhood. As an umbrella concept, sarili encompasses both loob and labas in the phenomenology of being and becoming Filipino. Pangangalaga, on the other hand, pertains to preservation. When combined, the indigenous concept of “pangangala sa sarili” literally means self-preservation, but to my understanding, it connotes the deeper sense of survival. Thus, a philosophy of survival emerges as a core value of the Filipino. In critically assessing this assertion, is it not the case that the instinct for survival is held not by Filipinos alone but by other human beings or living species as well? As Andres (1989: 4) avers, “…the Filipino is like all other men in that he partakes of the universal human nature.” Correlatively, human nature partakes in the physical and metaphysical mysteries of the universe.
As a core value, valuing survival or pangangalaga sa sarili influences the secondary level value of katatagang-loob. Within this context, the meaning of survival changes from the Darwinian dictum of “survival of the fittest” that denotes strength, virility, and aggression to katatagang-loob that presents the surface level values of kawalang-karahasan (non-violence), kahinahunan (prudence), kakalmahan (calmness), determinasyon (determination), bahala-na attitude (fatalism) and pagsusumikap (hardwork). In a sense, the Filipino has made a rendition of the phrase “survival of the fittest.”
The next core value is that of kapwa (others). The Filipino does not stop at valuing one’s self but instead also values others. According to Mercado (1994: 34):
…being conscious of oneself implies consciousness of others, the world, and the environment in which one lives. The sarili also affirms the value of the others (kapwa). By recognizing the others, sarili also shows co-responsibility. By recognizing the others, it transcends the self. Self implies the sakop philosophy because the Filipino is not individualistic.
It demands altruism. The human self finds fulfillment in its interrelationships with others: selfhood then implies the collective self of society.
Kapwa espouses a longing to see oneself in others. Interrelationships are valued over individualism, a fact which is apparent in Filipino culture. Moreover, the concept of kapwa is further strengthened if the “other” is someone loved such as a parent, relative, a nationalist’s regard for one’s countrymen, and most evident between mother and child. Hence, the emotional-psychological proximity between the self and kapwa fortifies the bond that exists between the two.
The meaning given for resiliency is personal such that it is a meaning-for-me (Bedeutung-für-mich) borne out of a lived experience (Erfahrendesleben). Meaning is important as it sets the direction, the teleological aspiration that a Filipino aspires to realize. There may be no universal meaning but there is always meaning sought by the human person. This sense of attribution, other than the instinct for survival, is what determines the resiliency of the Filipino. From the Darwinian notion, teleology is exercised by the species as an act of adaptation detached from deistic belief (Blackburn 1996: 374). As a teleological aspiration by the Filipino, once again it goes beyond mere adaptation since human beings create personal meanings.
Often times, the sarili sees kapwa as enough justification for having katatagang-loob such as in the experience of the OCW mother working hard for her children or even a struggling vendor supporting his family. To the extreme, a nationalist fighting for a cause and enduring hardships because of love for his people and country displays the valuing of sarili for kapwa which enables him to have katatagang-loob. Hence, the sarili is not valued alone as kapwa gives further meaning to one’s existence.
It is, therefore, the dynamics between the two core values—pangangalaga sa sarili and kapwa, that largely determines the formation of secondary level values such as katatagang-loob. On the other hand, katatagang-loob influences the development of positive surface level values such as kawalang-karahasan (non-violence), kahinahunan (prudence), kakalmahan (calmness), determinasyon (determination), bahala-na attitude (fatalism) and pagsusumikap (hardwork). These surface values, in my opinion, are more behavioral in orientation. Non-violence, prudence, calmness, determination, fatalism, and hardwork are overt actions that a person manifests given a particular circumstance or situation. Following through Gripaldo’s (1977: 11-118; 1999: 20-21) “Circumstantialist ethics”:
The logic of the situation will demonstrate that the best alternative is the only alternative possible relative to that situation and therefore the other alternatives are reduced to pseudo-ones and are simply blotted out. They ultimately cannot serve as (the) alternative(s) to the better or best one.
The logic or unsoundness of a situation is not brought about by the circumstance in-itself. It is the choosing agent that determines reason and logic within the circumference of a meaning in a given circumstance. This logic, then, inherent and unobservable can only be moved by the value system held by the valuing agent choosing to commit oneself to a particular action given a particular situation. Hence, the core values actuate the secondary level values, thus, resulting in the surface values enacted upon by a Filipino in a sort of unchained series of melodic events. The surface values, as observable actions or even as the best alternative response to a given circumstance, stem from an adhered logic or worldview. The resulting task now is to go deep into the value system of the agent —breaking through the husk so to speak—and understand from within the phenomenology of being that impels surface values that depict katatagang-loob.
Within this framework, it is equally important to mention the dynamics of Filipino personality. Filipino philosophy is in every way a product of both culture and history. Historical considerations are important in providing a backdrop for understanding the causality of being descriptive of the Filipino people. As Gripaldo (2000: 1) mentions:
There is Filipino philosophy in the historical sense, rooted in Filipino historical experience and articulated by its thinkers. Specifically, Filipino philosophy is rooted in the people’s colonial and neo-colonial experiences.
The Filipinos cannot escape the haunting grip of their colonial and neo-colonial past. At the same time, it cannot also be concluded that as a people they are largely determined by it. The capacity to give meaning to lived experiences connives with both present and future. Hence, Heidegger’s (1927, 1962) assertions in Sein und Zeit (Being and time) are then realized as part of the universality of human nature as it interacts with history.
The past has formed the causes providing the dynamics of “pull” into the Filipino’s personality and philosophy. In the same manner, the future beholds the dynamics of a “push” that motivates the Filipino towards conceived goals or aspirations. And undeniably, the Filipinos are living in the present valuing katatagang-loob in response to one’s predicament. In the framework below, Figure 1, I articulate the organization of the value system held by the people as specific to katatagang-loob.
It should also be noted that the Filipino value system is bipolar in orientation (Andres 1989: 8). For each value, a counter-value co-exists along with it. The values so far outlined have two inclinations: a positive and a negative polarity. Both depict the possibilities that the value system of the Filipino can undertake. Therefore, the values of a people are not always towards the positive nor is it negativistic in nature. Possibilities exist in a value system instead of asserting that a people are largely determined by a specific value inclination. In Figure 2, the bipolarity of the core values, secondary level value, and surface level values are further described.
Lastly, it can also be concluded that katatagang-loob, as a value per se, has an equally bipolar disposition. The exercise of a healthy form of katatagang-loob entails that the person must have some kind of proactive strategy for dealing with the difficulties being experienced. The Filipino philosophy of resiliency acts as a buffer whenever a stressful situation is encountered. As a buffer, katatagang-loob is meant to reduce the stressful impact of a difficult event or circumstance that can damage one’s mental health. Therefore, the aspect of managing one’s emotions, in my opinion, is salient in the attainment and maintanance of katatagang-loob.
The surface level values may indicate the immediate response of an individual but such values do not necessarily point to the resolution of the said problem. As mentioned, resiliency acts as a stress buffer allowing the experiencing agent to creatively and proactively find a solution to one’s predicament. Although earlier, katatagang-loob was described as a form of acceptance for one’s predicament, it does not mean that a posture of extreme passivity towards the problem is adopted. Part of the task in seeking a creative and proactive response to the problem is by finding ways to release one’s negative emotions through venues such as a support group composed of friends, family, other relatives, and through creative activities.
On the other hand, extreme passivity to the problem as though the experiencing agent is acting like a sponge absorbing negative emotions is not a healthy exercise of katatagang-loob. Indulging in self-pity is not a form of resiliency. A Filipino may think and feel sad about one’s problems and hardships in life. But to be preoccupied by it and feel that life has no meaning is again not a manifestation of resiliency. Moreover, deriving pleasure from suffering in a sort of masochistic way is also not characteristic of resiliency. Hence, a form of active-passivity typifies katatagang-loob in its positive polarity and not the extremes of accepting one’s predicament wherein the experiencing agent gives up and says, “bahala na!” in a rather negativistic manner. Laziness and extreme fatalism are committed given such an attitude, which is in contradiction to the positive polarity of the Filipino’s philosophy of resiliency.
PHENOMENOLOGY, CHINESE PHILOSOPHY,
According to Quito (1991: 77), the Chinese mind is one of the oldest human cultures from which most Asian philosophies draw its substance. One of these Asian philosophies is Filipino philosophy which is at the crossroads between East and West. In fact, the worldviews reflected in both Filipino and Chinese philosophies are in more ways similar rather than different (Co 1988: 28; Mercado 1994: 193). Because of this, tracing family resemblances between them is an exciting philosophical undertaking. Imperative comparisons are organized around the following themes: (a) the Chinese and Filipino way of looking at nature and life, and (b) Chinese thoughts in the context of katatagang-loob.
First of all, it is important to highlight the Chinese and Filipino way of understanding the phenomenology of being. Earlier, discussions revolved around the Filipino concept of sarili which is taken as an umbrella idea that consolidates loob, labas, and kapwa. Simply, it describes the plenitude of a Filipino’s sense of being. The theories provided by Mencius comes close to the assertions made. Specifically, the notion of Mencius regarding mind and matter is that both share an inextricable oneness (Quito 1991: 84). Loob and labas also pertain to the same oneness. As Quito (2001: 59) mentions, “The human person is not just soul but soul and body and their operations…The body is part and parcel of the human person.” In this regard, oneness between mind and body is emphasized over bifurcation. Moreover, the principles of chung (conscientiousness to others) and shu (altruism) typify the same regard of sarili towards kapwa.” According to Mencius (VIIa, 1.) in the Hao Jan Chih Ch’I, the practice of chung and shu entails the “extension of one’s own scope of activity to include others” (Fung 1966: 76). Filipinos equally value others (kapwa) in their different undertakings. No bifurcations are set between the two. Hence, parallelisms can be drawn between the Filipino and Chinese mind pertaining to their respective views on the philosophy of person.
The next similarity depicts the Chinese and Filipino views on a metaphysical world. Both see life as cyclic in orientation (Mercado 1994: 193). The Filipino proverbs depicting katatagang-loob view life as a series of ups and down or flux between suffering and happiness or suffering and comfort. The Chinese also believe in such cyclic movements similar to the movements of a pendulum (Quito 1991: 77). As Timbreza (1999: 7) avers, the Filipino people see things as cyclic and holistic instead of being linear. The progression of life follows the yin-yang movements of nature (Fung 1966: 138). Although the two opposing forces symbolize bipolarity, it is also understood that both strive towards harmony with one another. As Mercado (1994: 193) mentions, “Yin Yang and Filipino philosophy have several things in common. Both, in broad terms, support the goal of harmony with oneself, with others, with nature, and with the other World.”
In this regard, Chuang Tzu challenges each and every one to have a deeper understanding of the mysteries of life. For both the Chinese and Filipino, life and nature are always seen as perpetually enigmatic (Co 1988: 33). The cyclic progressions of nature cannot be easily foretold or reduced into scientific reasoning. As such, when harmonizing with yin-yang, Chuang Tzu asks everyone to follow the path of the nature of things and in the identification of man with the universe (Fung 1966: 109). Furthermore, in Book XIX, 1, Chuang Tzu mentions, “He who understands the conditions of life does not strive after what is of no use to life, and he who understands the conditions of Destiny does not strive after what is beyond the reach of knowledge” (in Quito 1991: 90). A deeper understanding of nature will lead to a “Happy Excursion,” which is one of the chapters in Chuang Tzu’s book that dwells on the subject matter of searching for absolute happiness (Fung 1966: 109). Given this, Quito (1991: 89) asserts, “Happiness comes from conformity with tao; sadness and frustration proceed from non-alliance with nature.”
The Filipino philosophy of resiliency— katatagang-loob—is exercised as an act of harmonizing with an invariable nature. The core value of survival is not intended as an aggressive assertion of virility or power over nature. Instead, katatagang-loob advocates active-passivity in following the path of nature —following the will of the wind, flowing with the will of the water. Simply, both Filipino and Chinese surrender themselves to a higher force in overcoming the challenges that they confront in life (Co 1988: 33). Lao Tzu’s principle of wu-wei (actionless-action) best exemplifies such a posture. In a sense, the Taoists regard this as following the way of nature (Co 1988: 33; Timbreza 1988-1989: 29). Similar to the bending bamboo and gliding along with the strong current of the river, such a posture conforms to nature or commits to acts that are natural. Furthermore, the wisdom of acceptance of life—a kind of acceptance that reflects hope and consolation are also shown through acts of selfless resiliency. Hence, Filipinos who display katatagang-loob enact a philosophy of resiliency that transcends egoistic survival in favor of altruistic aspirations.
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