The office of citizen: Developing an authentic & responsible model of Filipino citizenship

Published March 2, 2018, 10:00 PM

by Mario Casayuran and Vanne Elaine Terrazola

Dr. Jesus P. Estanislao
Dr. Jesus P. Estanislao

By Jesus P. Estanislao


Values education for “nation-building” has been a recurring theme in our local schools for the past several decades. The author’s most vivid memory of such an extra-curricular activity was participating in a multi-school student conference on the topic in high school. What made the event memorable was that most of the participants were focused during the event on networking and campaigning to get themselves elected as youth leaders to implement the action plan that the conference was supposed to draft and actually execute. Not surprisingly, after the election results were announced and the signing ceremonies were staged at the end of the conference, not one step of the “action plan” was ever achieved.

Such a conference perfectly describes what seems to be happening all these years as to the campaign by schools to instill “core values” students ought to apply in their daily lives. Indeed, for many if not most Filipinos, there appears to be a telling disconnect between the beliefs promoted by their education and their eventual behavior as citizens.

Any discussion on what should be our core national values should therefore necessarily also involve an investigation of why such a “disconnect” between belief and behavior exists. Are those who teach these values actually convinced that these are core beliefs Filipino citizens must hold to guide their daily behavior? Or is it more that we fail to provide sufficient guidance on how our fellow citizens can practice such values in their own individual contexts?

We need to craft a citizenship model that both works and resonates. It therefore has to be both robust and practical; robust in the sense that it can provide appropriate guidance for behavior in various contexts and practical in that it can be readily applied in everyday life. What characteristics would such a mental framework need to meet such objectives?

The model should be readily applicable through gradual practice by addressing all three dimensions of knowing, feeling, and doing that characterizes one’s life. Gradual practice refers to progressive mastery in applying the model from ignorance to mastery in four stages:

  • Unconscious Incompetence (not knowing what to practice).
  • Conscious Incompetence (committing oneself to apply the model).
  • Conscious Competence (deliberate and measured application).
  • Unconscious Competence (masterful application without conscious effort).

It should also be inherently Filipino in that it cherishes our own indigenous cultural traits, as these are lived out, instead of ignoring or attempting to do away with such. By doing so, we avoid the cultural dualism described by the late national scientist Dr. Onofre D. Corpuz (1965); which is having a religious and political superstructure obtained from the West despite continuing an indigenous cultural infrastructure in daily life. Teodoro M. Kalaw has already identified such core indigenous cultural traits in his work “Five Preceptives From Our Ancient Morality” (1951 English Trans.); in which he classified such to be courage, resilience, self-restraint, clan unity (namely an orientation towards the other), and courtesy (particularly a predisposition towards good conduct).

Finally, in terms of practical application, we need a model that is simple but not simplistic; particularly by focusing on no more than three character perspectives that would personally resonate with every Filipino and can be consciously applied until such becomes second nature.

Relying therefore on Kalaw’s perspective of our core indigenous cultural traits and summarizing such into no more than three components to maintain simplicity, a truly authentic model of Filipino citizenship that can be both practically applied and progressively mastered should be founded on each Filipino citizen seeking to eventually possess:

  • The courage to dream (“Knowing”; Kalaw on courage).
  • The discipline of commitment (“Feeling”; Kalaw on resilience).
  • The initiative to create lasting value (“Doing”; Kalaw on self-restraint, clan unity, and courtesy).

We need to focus more on these three components of a model for PH citizenship.