Wednesday, January 4, 2012

The Decaying Filipino Culture

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Religious fanaticism of the Filipinos has its roots in the Spanish occupation of the Philippines. For more than 1000 years the Philippines was colonized by the Spanish and instilled in the Filipinos their values and religion Christianity, which resulted in the deeply rooted sense of spirituality of the Filipinos. This fanaticism has paved the way for the Filipino’s current state of fanaticism. This fanaticism was emphasized because of the recurring disasters and tragedies which bombarded the Philippines and the Filipinos. Some sign of vindication from these tragedies was needed to keep the Filipinos’ hopes up. They need something to believe in and would give them hope. This search for hope became the foundation for cults and different religious sectors to appear and channel out all the anxiety and troubles that came knocking everyday. These cults however were not purely on the good side, these cults and religious sectors became a source of quick and false hopes; and in the long run hindered the cultural and societal growth of the Filipinos. Leaving the Filipino society in the slums, and making their dreams just a figment of imagination; division among the Filipinos settled in as their fanaticism to their religious sectors became more and more evident. This division hindered the Filipinos, making them just a fragment of what they yet ought to become.

"They do not have much in life unlike the rest of us, that is why they resort to all out fanaticism with hopes that one day, or another, they will be redeemed from whatever hell they are in. At the end of the day, though, I reckon that tree-trunk-worshipping is a hundred leagues better than constantly whining about the nation’s inhumane poverty, hellish traffic, and corrupt officials." (Redulla, 2001)

The Filipino people embody every characteristic that can be considered spiritual in any sense. They go to mass every Sunday; pray before and after every meal; and they let their religion affect almost every major decision in their lives. What they lack however, is the right sense to stop and think when their faithfulness has led to fanaticism. Take the co called ‘Agoo Marian apparition’ as an illustration. Back in 15, a girl named Judiel claimed that the Virgin Mary appeared before her and gave her a message to tell all Filipinos. The town of Agoo suddenly became a tourist attraction and established itself in the map. People from every corner of the Philippines traveled to Agoo to witness this ‘miracle’. Reports of this incident went far beyond the news papers and airwaves of the Philippines. Only later found out to be a hoax. Filipinos in that incident preferred to consider it something magical and spiritual, this was because the Filipinos refused to accept scientific explanation for the reason that they believed Judiel and that was enough for them. The Filipinos were humiliated because of their narrow-mindedness.

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The Filipinos people also blame their religion when something unexpected happens. Let us take into consideration our current political situation. The past administration, Erap’s, as critics and non-critics emphasized was mismanaged and disorganized. However, further examination of the current administration is no more organized. I quote one journalist in a newspaper

"…nagkakalat si President Gloria Macapagal- Arroyo, have we run out of presidential material from among the present leaders? They’re all birds of the same feather…" (Cruz, 2001)

Filipinos however were geared to think that the Macapagal Administration is better and more efficient than the former. Critics blame and despise the Catholic Church for feeding to the Filipinos their opinions, thus making them think that way. A good example of how Filipinos blame religion is when something disastrous happens, they always say something like “Yan kasi, hindi madasalin.” I can clearly recall one of my aunts commenting about the death of one of her friends resulting from a car crash “Yan kasi, pa-palit palit ng asawa, hindi makuntento sa isa, pinarusahan tuloy ng diyos.” Her friend was coming home from Baguio when her car collided with an incoming truck. Everyone aboard the vehicle died except for their youngest son.

Robin Padilla was and still a famous actor, he was very well known and labeled as a having a bad boy image because of his looks and onscreen attitude. Filipinos did not however spurn the fact that he had a handful of mistresses. He was also arrested for illegal possession of firearms. This was not new to him because of also his off-screen bad boy behavior. This arrest led to a very controversial and talked about court trial. He was sentenced to be imprisoned for the rest of his life. During his sentence however, he was by some sort of force, took a 180 degree turn for the better. While he was inside prison, he converted himself into a Muslim and started to somehow preach to his other prison mates. After a while, he married his mistress. In light of this transformation, his sentence was reduced and he served for just a little over years. Mr. Padilla’s case is not isolated, I used him as an example however because his is the most popular. Although most Filipinos do not make this drastic a transition of religion, they do jump from one religious sector to another. Filipinos believe that they can get in touch with their inner-self when they find the right religion. Thus they keep switching religions until they are satisfied. When did religious fanaticism start anyway?

The Filipinos, as every culture, were inherently religious. During the Pre- Spanish era, the Filipinos already had a form of hierarchy. They even had diplomatic and commercial relations established in China, and other countries in Asia

“From scanty records that have come down to present, it is known that the Philippines had some commercial relations with neighboring countries, particularly with China. Trade relations with the latter started in the 1th century when some Arab traders who were barred from the Central China Coast found an alternative route starting from Malacca and passing through Borneo, the Philippines, and Taiwan.” (Agoncillo, 10, 4)

Although the Filipinos were religious, they did not become fanatics until the Spanish era. The Spanish did not in anyway try to conquer and establish a colony in the Philippine by force, at first. What they did was they tried to establish relations with the Filipinos and offered them their religion. Filipinos refused and sparked a meaningless bloodbath in Mactan, Cebu. The Spanish came back later in the middle part of the century and eventually managed to conquer the Philippines. When occupied, the Filipinos were reluctant to accept the religion of the Spanish, nevertheless a few decades later the Spanish friars got the Filipinos feeding our of their palms. The church threatened the people with church sanctioned punishments. This 2000 year colonization of the Philippines left the Filipinos with a wrong set of values and a false sense of spirituality

“…and the cross does not pertain to the individual alone. Right now, the human family encounters a lot of crosses and trials, he said. There are so many lures and pseudo-values that threaten the very life and existence of the Filipino family…” (Sin in Nocum, 2000)

This false sense of spirituality, as Cardinal Sin says, has turned into fanaticism, and is very much evident in the Filipino’s lives. Almost every big decision doesn’t pass without praying and consulting god asking for a sign of what they should do. The Filipinos believe that if you are religious you will be blessed, and damned if you are not. I will refer to my example earlier, about the car crash and the remark of my aunt. When she made that remark, she clearly and distinctively established a line between and the religious. She made a point clear that her being not religious was the sole cause of her being involved in the car accident.

I remember a friend of mine during and outing saying “Guys mas astig parin tayong YFC kaysa Opus Dei, ang weirdo nung sa kanila eh, may pa-chant chant pa na parang, basta corny.” Every religious group in the country claims that their spiritual orientation and faith is more valid than everyone else’s. This in turn divides the Filipinos. Filipinos, believe in their religious orientation deeply and will not take any comments and remarks of the others sitting down. The example about my friend is at a very shallow level. If Filipinos however have disputes in the same religious orientation, what more with Filipinos with different religions? Christians and Muslims in the Philippines have been feuding for the past century. Christians of different factions also regularly cross paths and end up having a heated debate over who is who, what is what, and just that should be declared as the superior group. Given this situation, the Filipinos naturally became biased and each religious sectors isolating themselves from one another.

To sum it all up, the Filipinos were inherently spiritual and religious. This spirituality however was emphasized and misled by the Spanish when they conquered and instilled in the Filipinos Christianism. The friars misled the Filipinos using Church sanctioned rewards and punishments. After the Spanish have gone, this false sense of spirituality remained with the Filipinos, which is clearly evident in their everyday living. Most of their decisions and initiatives are based on their religions, hence welcoming cults and religious sectors to establish themselves firmly on the Filipinos vulnerable sense of holiness. This had divided the Filipinos as more and more religious groups continue to settle in and infest the minds of the people. This division has settled in and has influenced almost every corner of the country. This division has denied the Filipinos of their capability to establish growth in every aspect economic, spiritual, moral, and most importantly social. This is why the growing number of cults and different religious sectors in the country is a sign of a slowly regressing and decaying culture. To further understand and enhance your knowledge about this topic, a good source of references and readings would be the publications of the church, and of course the bible.

Agoncillo T.A. History of the Filipino People. Quezon City, Philippines. Garotech Publishing.

Cruz N.H., 2001 Available http//

Nocum A.N., 2000 Available http//

Redulla B.G., 2001 Available http//

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