Diwa-Kapwa Filipino management ethos: Emulating exemplary firms


Pandayan Bookshop, founded in 1993 by Ateneo alumnus Gerardo Cabochan, Jr., is a 40-store chain spread across Central Luzon, Cagayan Valley, CALABARZON, and northern Metro Manila. Since its inception, founder-CEO Jun has carved unique pathways for Pandayan. Let’s listen to a testimonial from Yves Orpiano, a probationary employee:

“Ang Pandayan ay isang bahay na huhubog sa katangian at personalidad ng isang individual o kapwa sa mas ikakayabong at ikauunlad.”

(Pandayan is a home that shapes one’s traits and personality, and enables one to thrive or flourish.)

“Isa siyang kaibigan na masasandalan mo sa oras na ikaw ay may iniisip na maaring nakababagabag  sa iyo.”

(Pandayan is a friend you can rely on when something’s troubling you.”)

“Isa din siyang silungan na aagapay sa iyo sa oras ng pangangailangan.”

(Pandayan is a shelter that will support you in your hour of need.”)

“Napakaganda ng environment. Ang lahat ng kapwa ay madaling mapakisamahan, madaling lapitan, at madaling makaintindihan. Magigiliw ang lahat at masayang magtrabaho.”

(The environment is good. All workers are easy to get along with, easy to approach, and easy to understand. All are cheerful and happy at work.)

“Wala namang madali na trabaho. Lahat mahirap pero pag nasa Pandayan ka parang ang gaan lang ng pagga-wa.”

(Work is really never easy. But when you work in Pandayan, work seems light.”

Jun was among owner-entrepreneurs and company executives who gathered recently to compare notes on Diwa and Kapwa, twin precepts of the Filipino management ethos that are being propagated by the People Man-agement Association of the Philippines (PMAP).

In 2009, PMAP joined hands with Samahang Sikolohiya ng Pilipinas in developing a conceptual framework that provides insights into the Filipino values affecting and shaping behavior in the workplace. In 2017, PMAP published two books that feature case studies of Philippine organizations that exemplify Filipino values emanating from the concepts that animate Spirit-led organizations.

Gawad Kalinga, one of the featured organizations, has since formed Gandang Kalikasan, Inc. (GKI), carrying the brand name Human Nature, a social enterprise based on the abundance of life principle. CEO Anna Meloto Wilk was among the resource persons who joined a meeting of leaders who believe in the Diwa-Kapwa advocacy. Anna shared that they have adopted a living wage policy on the belief that people could not live on the mandatory minimum wage. They believe in this principle: “We will always look at what our employees need to live, not what the business needs to be profitable.” Hence, they have taken it upon themselves to implement a marketing program that enables them to earn sufficient revenues to cover the payment of living wages to their employees.

GKI also guarantees security of tenure to regular employees. Their store is closed on Sundays, as this is the employees’ day of rest with their families and for worship, too. As the employees discern their employer’s malasakit (compassion and concern), they reciprocate in kind by rendering efficient and loyal service.

Lawyer Adrian Dimacali shared the experience of Mary Grace Café during the pandemic:

“We are guided by Diwa and Kapwa.  Our edge in this industry is really our people.  We saw that especially during the pandemic.  Do we open our stores?  If we do, rent will kick in if we open.  Will our people come to work, because then they will be exposed?  We opened a discussion with them because our business required face-to-face interactions when there was no vaccine yet.  We saw this bayanihan spirit where the people came together and figured out what we are going to do. They came up with their own internal systems, monitoring for health, shifts such that when a group member is infected another takes over.  We did not have an outbreak throughout.

“Infected ones got quarantine leave with pay.  We were able to continue serving our people and buying from our suppliers.  We opened more stores so that our people still had jobs, our suppliers still got paid.  Our goal was to get people to come back to work; so, no ghost kitchens, no e-commerce.”

Adrian shared how his mother Mary Grace went against the grain of conventional wisdom in founding the enterprise: “A lot of people told us not to go into the food business because of a lot of horror stories about people – magnanakaw, uutangan ka, etc.  We assumed differently. People are good-natured, may utang na loob (they recognize debt of gratitude) because this is our culture.  More stores were opened and more people were hired. Today, we have almost 3,000 employees. (We have) low attrition and zero labor cases.  The secret is that we are trying to change the narrative of the Filipino worker.

Adrian says further: “Hope that our story can be replicated by others in our industry and in other industries.  People can be your best asset.  Filipino culture can compete in the world stage.”