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Filipino Behavior And Personality

It is a finding of all workers that the Filipino exhibits polarities in his behavior and personality. Of these contrasts, he is mostly unaware. The inconsistencies escape him; he has learned to live with them and feels no inner discord over them.

Some of these diametrically opposite states are the following (Bulatao 1963; Guthrie 1961; Hollnsteiner 1963; Lynch 1964; Sechresr 1967a):

1. Emphasis on smooth interpersonal relations vs. high levels of hostility.

2. “Hiya” vs. predilection for status and rank, tendencies to extravagance and boastfulness.

3. Strong dependency wishes vs. attraction for power.

4. “Bahala na” attitudes vs. avowed desire for economic security and advancement.

5. Egocentricity vs. other-directedness.

6. In women, “hiya” and modesty vs. strong achievement and aggression needs.

7. In men, tendency for dominance vs. that for abasement (Probably related to No. 3).

8. A tendency to view people as superior or inferior vs. social control mechanism, aimed at equalizing statuses and relationships in a group.

One could go on and cite similar antithetical observations, perhaps nor as diametrically opposite to one another as the above, but enough to point to some incompatibility.

Frank Lynch (1964), in discussing the use of euphemism, says: “the highest value is placed on the pleasant word except when the change is between good friends or sworn enemies. Under these circumstances, however, one may hear forthright speech that is exceedingly direct, even b standards.”

Pleasantness and friendliness are emphasized along with guardedness against criticism and ridicule by others. Guthrie (1961) notes: “Filipinos practice extreme cleanliness with respect to their bodies,  their clothes and their personal environment. This is in sharp contrast to many streets, sidewalks and the areas around many buildings.” Sechrest, Flores, and Arellano (1968), in taking linear measurements of social distance among students noted various situations wherein great distance was observed. They remark, however, that these expectations of distance are valid only when the situation is seen as controllable by the parties involved.

In matters of child-rearing, contradictory attitudes by Filipino parents cannot but produce confusion in the child. Sechrest (1967a) comments that the training of children seems oriented toward the denial or suppression of hostility, and yet there is an incompatible tendency toward arousal of hostility produced by the certainly discussion of sex are taboo in families, yet babies arrive of children.

At the risk of being called careless and unscientific, one can stretch the point even further to include many other observations. Thus, while famous for their hospitality, Filipinos like to erect may be a valid rationalization attitudes towards strangers are inconsistent and unpredictable. “A need to maintain distance from strangers” is the description of one writer (Bulatao 1.963). Outgoingness towards them to the point where “even a complete stranger may be a recipient of Filipino hospitality” is the observation of another (Gurhrie 1961). For some reason, there has been nothing formally written to bring out inconsistencies in the Filipino woman’s reputed modesty an reservedness, One wonders if predicaments she may get into which would compromise her decorum are blamed on others or on other factors.

Take the Filipino’s reputed attachment to home and family. One may indict economic factors as responsible for the Philippine’s overwhelming contribution to the brain drain to the United States, but it certainly challenges the Filipino’s claim to unflagging steadfastness to family ties and loyal attachment to home. The phenomenon of the Ilocano husband who goes to Hawaii, who is separated. from his wife and family for decades, content to send a check faithfully each month, is well known. While it is true that, in each situation, a complexity of motives and circumstances come to bear on the resulting decision, there is enough disparity along the given axis of behavior to raise questions about which is more in keeping with true Filipino character. Perhaps the on-going economic revolution in the Filipino’s life style will crystallize which are his core traits and which are merely defensive; it will not be surprising to see many myths about his personality finally laid to rest.

Bulaeao (1966) gives an illuminating expose of such inconsistencies in behavior. He presents as a hypothetical explanation for the abundance of these contradictions the peculiar historical experience of Filipinos. Malayan in the marrow of his bones, the Filipino through exposure and expediency has grafted upon the more superficial layers of his personality certain Western ideals, notably democracy, autonomy, and freedom to doubt and investigate, to question authority. Even the Western influence in the Philippines has to be “split” further to delineate that which is traceable to Spain and to America. A newspaperman once remarked that Filipino women have spent four centuries in a convent (Spanish influence) and forty years in Hollywood (American influence). This may be an over-simplified, over-generalized statement but it contains more than an ounce of truth. Becoming a nun is still a common fantasy among young girls, whether they go to a nun’s school or not. The leading box- office Filipino movies at this time still depict this “nunnery” complex. At the same time mini-skirts, “house of beauty” establishments, and torrid cinema sex have become very much part of the scene.

In my opinion, there is a significant correlation between these contradictory attitudes, as they exist in the culture and the psychological ambivalence which played a key role in the emotional disorders in this study. In the patients, illness grew our of ambivalence in relation to dependency conflicts, guilt over success, tenuous controls over aggression and, in women, an inability to accept fully her sexual role. Although the themes are similar and the possibility of their mutual derivation is strongly suggested, the lines of correlation are neither clear nor direct.

Cultural studies with more detail and depth dealing with hostility and aggression in the Filipino male and sexuality in the Filipino female would be greatly relevant to the kinds of psychological conflicts encountered in this study. By singling out these areas,

I am neither excluding nor minimizing others, but merely regard these two as predominating.

Sexuality in the Filipino male, for example, is not always settled issue, as must be the case whenever there is a constant need to affirm it. No significant degree of conflict about it was perceived from this study. Without doubt, the problem of aggression, which he handles less expertly, is linked in some way to his sexuality so that instead of the two instincts being fused into a unified, harmonious whole, what results are the separate primitive and direct expressions of each one. One wonders how much of his sexuality is really carried out in a spirit of aggression and how much of his aggressive acts give him an erotic thrill. When a society becomes industrialized and manliness is measured in pesos and centavos, aggression is also usually sublimated into “anal” activities (building, achieving, preserving, accumulating wealth); one wonders if and when such a shift occurs in the cultural ideal of virility, from that of one with the qualities of a stallion to one who can build the biggest pile, how well equipped is the Filipino male?

Similarly, the problem of sexual fears, distortions, and repressions in women, which emerges as a predominant area of conflict in the female patient in this study, may indicate only that it is her most vulnerable point. Her problems most likely begin much earlier. For example, her dependency, regardless of social and cultural sanction, does not seem to be always psychologically edifying. How much of an inchoate protest against dependency goes into her increasingly obvious competitive achievement and aggressive drive is an interesting question. As a result of her aggressive thrusts, is her relationship with men in her culture undergoing change and if so, in which direction? Is her pursuit of achievement the sublimation of masculine strivings, engendered by envy for him who is awarded more freedom and prerogatives by the culture?

Culture studies, in endeavoring to answer some of the above questions and others which are related to them, will indicate the manner in which culture has contributed to psychological disorder. Using cultural changes as the framework of reference, one might rephrase the questions and ask: Were the patient’s individual needs and aspirations out of step with cultural realities? Have cultural realities and styles of living changed, but not psychological attitudes? Have changes in the economic scene conspired with changes in people’s goals to render previously acceptable inconsistencies and ambivalence no longer tenable? Is there a cross-generational gap so that the cultural cues, symbols, and guidelines provided by a past generation of parents are no longer useful in the culture of today? Certainly many of these patients gave the impression that they would have been happier in their grandmother’s time or in the era of caciquess and carruajes. Natives of this place, they were, however, strangers to this time.



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