Toward a Filipino Bayanihan culture

Published July 15, 2021, 12:15 AM

by Sonny Coloma


Sonny Coloma

Beyond the pandemic, Filipinos envision a long-term future where they would “enjoy a strongly rooted, comfortable and secure life” (matatag, maginhawa at panatag na buhay). 

 Such aspiration is framed in AmBisyon Natin, a 25-year development plan crafted by the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) then chaired by President Benigno S. Aquino III.

The macro-level vision for the country is: “By 2040, the Philippines shall be a prosperous, predominantly middle-class society where no one is poor. Our peoples will enjoy long and healthy lives, are smart and innovative, and will live in a high-trust society.”

On the level of individual Filipinos, it is envisioned that “In 2040, all Filipinos will enjoy a stable and comfortable lifestyle, secure in the knowledge that we have enough for our daily needs and unexpected expenses, that we can plan and prepare for our own and our children’s futures. Our families live together in a place of our own, yet we have the freedom to go where we desire, protected and enabled by a clean, efficient, and fair government.”

Three pillars form the framework of AmBisyon 2040: “malasakit (i.e., enhancing the social fabric), pagbabago (i.e., inequality-reducing transformation), and patuloy na pag-unlad (i.e., increasing growth potential).

In the strategic framework for attaining this long-term vision, the primacy of social cohesion is underpinned.  High trust among peoples must be established; in turn, the people must trust public institutions and dedicate themselves to the attainment of the common good.

To attain this lofty objective, Philippine Development Plan focuses on the important “basic mission of culture and heritage to strengthen values and identity, and enhance the quality of life.”

Across a diversity of ethnic cultures, a National Values Formation Program propagates the Filipinos’ shared values that include discipline, persistence, and grit, that are known to enhance goal attainment.

Ambisyon 2040’s Malasakit pillar on empathy and compassion is evident in times of peril and calamity.  Witness the flowering of community pantries everywhere that demonstrate the solidarity of Filipinos in helping each other ease the pains of hunger, joblessness and desolation brought on by the prolonged lockdown.

The concept of Kapwa is written large in this initiative.

In 2017, this author co-edited a book on Kapwa: Filipino Management Ethos for Workplace Excellence and Global Competitiveness.  The People Management Association of the Philippines (PMAP) and the Samahang Sikolohiya ng Pilipinas collaborated on an in-depth study on excellence in leading Philippine corporations.

Top-performing Philippine corporations have attained sustained productivity and profitability because they have tapped into the wellsprings of indigenous values that are rooted in the Filipino concept of kapwa: the primacy of the person, dignity of work, concern for others, integrity, and commitment to national development.

Kapwa, when projected into the larger spheres of corporate involvement, is magnified into Bayanihan.

United Laboratories, the only winner of the Philippine Quality Award (the Philippine counterpart of the Malcolm Baldrige Award in the US and the Deming Prize in Japan) is the leading exemplar of bayanihan, the Filipino value on communal solidarity which demonstrates that “competence blended with compassion — basic tenets of the kapwa culture — engender higher levels of motivation that raise performance levels.”

Gawad Kalinga (Filipino for ‘to give care’) is a movement that mirrors the vision of Ambisyon Natin 2040 to enable Filipino families to build their own homes through the power of community action and with the support of global Filipinos and corporate benefactors.  The logo of the Gawad Kalinga Development Foundation established by Antonio Meloto depicts communal home-building that evokes the image of National Artist Carlos ‘Botong’ Francisco’s iconic mural aptly titled Bayanihan.

Creative excellence in culture and the arts (pagkamalikhain) is also identified in Ambisyon 2040 as a source of national pride and competitive advantage.

According to the Global 101 Innovation Index by the World Intellectual Property Organization, the Philippines moved up by 26 percentile ranks (25 to 51.2) from 2016 to 2019 in creative outputs. In cultural and creative services exports, however, the country slipped from 52nd in 2016 to 92nd in 2019.

The economic downturn triggered by COVID-19 has led to budget cuts for the country’s cultural agencies under the aegis of the National Commission for Culture and Arts (NCCA).  The National Museum deplored the zeroing out of its capital outlay in the 2021 national budget.  The Cultural Center of the Philippines’ artists, cultural workers and production staff have been sidelined due to the suspension of indoor mass gatherings under existing quarantine protocols.

This is the context of the proposal for the establishment of a Department of Culture as a separate, Cabinet-level entity that would merit a higher priority in national expenditures.  In some ASEAN countries, there are ministries of culture and information that perform the work of agencies involved in cultural development in addition to overseeing the government’s public communication infrastructure. Whether or not this model should be adopted by the Philippines deserves serious consideration.  (Next week: A separate Department of Culture?)