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The Filipino Ways: Our Beliefs and Divisiveness (Part 2)

In a certain point of view, Filipinos beliefs and the differences between them, is what divides us as a society.

For sale Sto. Nino and other statue of saints and Jesus Christ are shown in this photo. It is a religious tradition, a belief system engrave in the Filipino Catholic's minds.

In the Philippines, you would be surprised if beliefs varies from towns to towns, cities to cities. While we speak a common language, the Pilipino or natively known as Tagalog, we still think in different dialects - about 180 of them. When one speaks in his tongue, it could mean different on the other tongue. Putting it another way, our wide mixes of dialects and languages is putting a barrier to our unity. The same goes true with ethnicity. Our manners and actions somehow differs from one another. With about 175 ethnic groups now blending together in major cities, there occurs misunderstandings. The ways of one could mean an insult to the other.

To the curious eyes, those truths are easily noticed. Filipinos themselves treat Mangyan, Aeta and Badjao people differently when they are in the city streets.

But those are just the numbered facts and visible to they eye reality of our times, and of little to none implications on the way we treat each other here in the Philippines. Deeper into our thoughts and values there lies more complicated issues. It is the intention of this post to give awareness in light of a goal to change what is unethical or unacceptable.

Politics and Religion

First is religion, of who’s the true God.

There comes a time when a basic belief or religious practice erupted into a chaotic war of words even leading to hatreds and then violence. The Christian-Muslim war that happens in Mindanao up these very days is a centuries-old effect of colonialism dating back the 1500s. Meanwhile, the existence of a huge number of religious sects, denominations or types, depending on where you want to look at it, has something to do with beliefs - that each has a God superior to the others.

This is a procession of Jesus Christ statue, a tradition held in many towns and cities in the Philippines.

A religious group promoting the use of Bible or Holy Scripture is being escorted by a Police car as a sign of respect to their religious beliefs and practices.

Next is politics.

The politicians we support and the politicians that others support are dividing us into groups. Technically speaking, not the political personality per se, but the culture and system of politics we have is dividing even killing us in certain ways. The period of Martial Law is something many Filipinos could never forget. Many thinkers of the present-day society consider those days as a serious response of a government threatened by rebellions and wars. On the other side, many political leaders oppose those claims, instead say that the Marcos’ regime is the darkest days in the Philippine political history. Today, a political candidate would spend thousands to millions to win a seat, and alarmingly, would even kill a foe to secure it.

A finger marked with indelible ink captured in front of a news channel broadcasting the 2019 National Election in the Philippines is shown here.

Both in politics and religion, you would always hear or see two versions, at the very least. That's a clear indication of divisiveness linked to our loyalty to a belief system.

The Stories of our Divisiveness
Then here comes the different views in life - about laws, lifestyle or personal side of every issue. Our view of climate change, for example, that for some it is just a propaganda in the ambition of money and fame of the elites, contradicts that view of others that the consequences of such phenomenon are really felt not only in the Philippines but in many parts of the world. Disagreement, hence, leads to divisiveness among Filipinos.

Shown here are Filipinos from many parts of the Philippines are queuing up at the Department of Foreign Affairs office in Manila to apply for passports, a proof a their national identity wherever ethnic groups they belong.

And so what if we are divided? If you would look at it, the Philippines society continue to exist - maybe good, maybe bad, depends on how you look at it - economically, socially, politically, etc. We can continue this way if we want to.

But there are some intriguing questions that I want to raise about the sad reality of divisiveness.

  • Are there groups or individuals benefiting from our being divided?
  • Are we Filipinos still under the influence of the stigma of colonialism and we behave this way?
  • Will there still be a cure to our cancerous society?

Let me answer these questions by digging out a bit of the pasts.

Many, and it’s true, still cannot move-on from the oppressions we felt during the colonization of three major nations namely Spain, United States of America, and Japan. There were substantial claims about the abuses of Catholic leaders during the times of the Spaniards, abuses related to slavery during the American rules, and sexual abuses during the invasion of the Japanese.

Stories from our grandparents are relayed from mouth to mouth and most of them are believable though there are no concrete records or evidences. The pains brought about by capitalism resonates to many Filipinos up to these days and you would observe it in terms of rallies and protests denouncing the US intervention in our sovereignty. Some brave individuals speak up against the Catholic Church’s oppressions to these days. Many elderly Filipinas whom were once called “Comfort Women” are still voicing their anger and frustration regarding the unjust compensation for the evil things did against them by the Japanese soldiers.

Still not included here are the thousands of Filipino lives lost during these eras of colonialism. Our long list of national heroes is enough justification that abuses, killings and discrimination happened in our soil. 

A wall painting depicting Catholicism in the Philippines

We cannot move-on. We really can’t.

But, here’s the story of the modern days.

Today, many claims “they stand for truth”. Others suggest false claims should not be tolerated. And yet the societies of different views tend to co-exist. Why so? I mean, a neighbor who’s a Catholic living next to a Born Again Christian, is just living his days as ordinary days. They greet each other in the morning. Perhaps you’ll notice in the workplace, everybody is most welcomed, whether he or she is a supporter of the LGBTQ community or not, of the Death Penalty or not, of the Federalism government or not. People tend to be defensive when it comes to their beliefs yet there comes a point where giving way or letting go just happens unnoticed.

Divided in terms of beliefs, united in terms of social functions - are we, really?

Imagine a community or barangay consisting of families from various parts of the Philippines. They speak different dialects. They worship different Godly names. And they vote different political candidates. But then as a community, they abide by the rules and ordinances and laws. Peace and order is observed in general. Violators if there are, are being apprehended. One continues to do her daily functions, as a worker, as a law enforcer, as a student, as a political leader.

That is the ideal view of a community today. But buried underneath the heart and soul of many are wrong acts and evil intentions.

We do our role, but do we do our part?

We rally. We condemn wrong doings. We express our anger on social media for corruptions and abuses. Yes, we do that. But are we really into the right and acceptable things?

Being functional in a society is not only limited to what we do individually. You work in the factory and that’s it. No. You watch after law violators and that’s it. No. You drive your jeepney to earn a living and that’s it. No. Not because it is your job, your day starts and ends with it. We have a so-called “Social Responsibility”. Filipinos, obviously, is lacking a lot of sense about it.

What is Social Responsibility
For a society to thrive, to function, to be sustainable, it needs people who shares what they have or exchange what they possess, as free as possible. In other words, we must help each other in exchange of nothing. “Salamat Po” is enough. And from helping each other is where respect of beliefs becomes automatic.

A signage reminding Filipinos to take care of the environment

That kind of help, however, is not present in most of the Filipinos’ minds. Thus, we fail to become united; and divisive instead.

Look on the streets. You will see beggars, junk collectors, children as young as two selling stuffs, families with no permanent homes. Doesn’t all of these proves that we are divided, that we are dysfunctional as a nation?

Filipinos walking to and from their respective workplaces

As to who would help them is always a chicken and egg question. It’s the government. No. It’s the parents. No. Leave them as they are. Where is social responsibility then?

The Changing World
Let’s look into social media. Facebook is one of them and we Filipinos are really into it. Can’t skip an hour without scrolling down to the posts of our friends, family, colleagues, neighbors, workmates, celebrities, political leaders, even of our enemies. By all means, we want to get updated with the so-called “social news”. And of course, we want to create the news, as much as we could, for most us seeks attention, if not sympathy or fame.

Filipinos inside the bus leaning towards their smartphones to check for social media news and updates is shown here.

Is this helping the community to thrive? Or is it dividing us more?

The spread of the news is too fast, that we labeled it “viral”. And if an act or scenario is something unusual, it then becomes contagious. Others even tend to mimic it. And it’s fun – well, not for all. Here comes a situation when “bashers”, as they labeled it, become the protagonists. And you probably know where the story would lead. This is how the digital era is disrupting the Filipino culture. And it is so sad to see that the candle we chose to light up is melting too fast. The supposedly light to our lives can't last.

I would give here my honest opinion as tentative answers to the questions I raised earlier.

Now, despite the fun or bashing or news that is going on, Facebook gains money. And we are just talking about Facebook; there are tens of social media platforms out there.

Despite the fact the there are beggars on the streets, politics goes as usual - laws are created from time to time. And for every law enacted or denied is money to compensate our nation’s good lawmakers and law executioners.

News about violence and TV programs about immorality are aired as usual insensitive of the viewers reactions, sadly, for revenue sake. And for every advertisement in between programs are money.

Aren’t these facts enough to state about those benefits out-of-divisiveness?

Inside the bus are passengers paying attention to the morning local news.

The scandalous truths are next.

We no longer love our brown skin. We no longer like to wear native hats. We no longer feel comfortable about saying “Mano Po”. What we are inclined too are the expensive whitening products, explicit prints in western-inspired shirts tagged as “imported”, and the shout-outs of disgust and frustrations when we play MMORPG games. Many of you can relate to that for sure. We are under the influence of the Western World! And it is dividing us long time ago.

This is a blame to no one.

Many of us are victims of deceiving promotions, speeches and schemes, or maybe, of the changing world. Suspects even want to defend themselves that they do evil things as a way to skip from poverty, from the poor situations they have. And those are claims we cannot just judge as invalid or immoral. Even a holy saint committed mistakes and sinned against others before they become one. Robinhood is good in the eyes of the people to whom he had showered the money he stole, but not to those whom were stolen of. No one can claim he or she is clean.

Our divisiveness today is the effect of what we've done in the past.

Filipinos lining up in a train stop

What are we going to do now?
I’m excited to see a Philippine nation where “bayanihan” and “respect of beliefs” exist. But I feel bad for I now it would not happen if we continue to thrive this way. Guns and roses cannot make us united. Not even ribbons of different colors. Religion is not enough, even belief in God. We were created in flesh consisting of earthly elements. With need sources of physical energy other than prayers. We may not agree on that but that is what my God told me. There is no best or perfect type of government and there could never be a greatest-of-all-time (GOAT) political leader who can transform the Philippines into a wonderland.

What all of us need is a thinking heart and a lovable soul, joining forces as ONE. In a straightforward manner, we need to let go of our past and restart. You as an individual need to do something about your country right now.

The point here is simple - extend your hands to others in need.We must help and respect each other no matter what their beliefs are. If we do that, it would end divisiveness among us.

This photo shows members of an Emergency Response Team standing by for assistance during the Holy Week break.

Time to move-on and start all over again. You can go on with your beliefs, practice your religion or support your political leader, and at the same time do acts of kindness to others in exchange of nothing, in consideration of no religious or political beliefs. Stop the blame. Stop the hate. Show love, care and respect.

About this Post
This post highly considers the differences in our beliefs, both in religion or politics point of views. It has no intention at all to single out one person or religion or country or political group. While major religions in the Philippines were mentioned, as well as countries who colonized the county, those are for references only. The author of this post expresses his respect to all belief systems.

If you feel that this post will encourage unity among Filipinos, please feel free to share it. If you have questions or concerns, please don't hesitate to leave a comment below or send the author an email.


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