Our skin colour is at the center of human racial strains. This point is not an attempt at racism, but just for many Filipinos to realise that our colour should not be a source of or reason for an inferiority complex. Not for a culture that has over a thousand years of written history and nowadays some 12-million of us living, raising families and working as educated and productive members of societies in other countries of the world.
The truth is that while a few number of us pine for fairer complexions, our Caucasian counterparts in the northern hemisphere are religiously tanning themselves, under the sun or artificial light, to approximate our own golden-brown 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’s shoulder), hawak (hold), yakap (embrace), himas (caressing stroke), kalabit (touching with the tip of the finger), kalong (sitting on someone else’s lap), and so on. We are always reaching out, always seeking interconnection.
Filipinos are linguists. Put a Filipino in any city or town around the world. Give him a few months and in some cases, 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: a local dialect, Pilipino, and English. Of course, a lot others of us speak an added language be it Spanish, Chinese or, if he resides or works abroad, the language of his host country.
The Filipino national language – Pilipino, whose base root stems from a major dialect called Tagalog, is not ‘sexist.’ While many ‘conscious’ and ‘enlightened’ people in other countries 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.
Pilipino 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), and more examples to speak of. Our native language and its numerous derivative dialects are advanced and indeed sophisticated, to put it mildly!
Filipinos are social animals or ‘groupists’. We love human interaction and company. We always surround ourselves with people and we hover over them too. According to a well-known psychologist from the Jesuit University of Ateneo in Manila, Dr. Patricia Licuanan, the average Filipino would have and know at least 300 relatives and probably double that number in acquaintances and friends.
At work, we live by the code of bayanihan (mutual help). During play, we prefer having a kalaro (playmate) rather than a 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? Well, it’s called kalung-kalong (sitting on one another). No one would ever suggest splitting a group of Filipino mates and wait 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 which our Māori brethren here in Aotearoa call ‘Whāriki’.
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). One of the worst labels a Filipino will avoid at all costs is to be known as being walang pakikipagkapwa (unable or an inability to relate).
We love to blend and harmonize with people, we like to include them in our ‘tribo’ or iwi, our ‘pamilya’ or whānau – 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) or older brother kuya, and so on. We even call strangers tia or tita (aunt), tio or tito (uncle), tatang (grandfather), and so on.