Filipino Ethics: A Closer Look

What seems to be correct in a Filipino perspective? Ethically speaking, where lies the boundary between what is right and wrong? As a Filipino myself, it is quite difficult for me to see that, because everything seems to be very subjective. Every Filipino could justify his or her action regardless of what it is. Nothing seems to be intolerable, and everything could explained as long as someone dares to do so. This makes the Filipino society chaotic and disorganized in a way. Nothing seems to be a standard way of evaluating actions and decisions. Ethical theories would not be sufficient even to explain the Filipino ethical standards. However in this blogpost, an attempt to put this relatively subjective threshold into an objective framework is to be made.

Familiarity and consensus

Change is something everyone of us would like to avoid. Filipinos takes risks when the available options are too few, but in general, most Filipinos would not want to change anything that is part of tradition, religion, familiar routines and what seems everyone accepts to be usual and normal. Whatever is within the familiar and usual is considered ethically correct. Whatever is unusual even correct is evaluated as something incorrect ethically. For example, corruption should nevee be tolerated in any means, but it is common and somehow accepted as part of the normal, so when one makes any transaction with anyone, it is already expected that bribes maybe given, exchange of favors may occur and worse, nepotism is an expected part of the process. 

Emphasis on family

Family is most important for a Filipino. Moreover, most Filipinos that blood is indeed thicker than water. A neighbor is expected to behave better than one own child or family member. Moreover, anything is justifiable as long one does it for the family. For example, an adolescent could be dictated by the whole family what study he or she should take in college, even against their will. The younger family members seems to accept their lives are owned by their parents, such that making a decision contrary to their parents is strictly prohibited. This is to say also that anything the family can not tolerate is considered outwrightly wrong. For example, teenage pregnancy could mean rejection if the family is conservative enough not to tolerate it. Some Filipino families however are more open but still there are things not acceptable, especially those revolves around personal freedom and will.

Ability to touch one's heart

One of the most dramatic is perhaps Filipinos. Everything is about feelings both positive and negative. Ethics is not important as long as the emotional appeal is sufficient. Corruption maybe justified because of an ill old mother needing treatment and hospitalization. Petty crimes could be tolerated because of hunger and extreme poverty. Jealousy and love are used often excuses for irrational actions. Religious organization invest so much on personal testimonies told in a heart-breaking way to recruit members and eventually support the organization economically. The "pity card" is always the last resort. If one is able to make another sympathize with him or her then the actions he or she made maybe considered forgiveable and socially-acceptable.

Resilience and grit

One of the most characteristic Filipino trait is resilience. Filipinos are perhaps very tough to cope well even after calamities and stressful situations. Moreover, even in challenging times, Filipinos exhibit grit, which is simply the trait to focus more on long-term goals inspite of the difficulties. The ethical problem lies when resilience and grit are used as alibi or justifications for actions that should not be tolerated. For example, it is acceptable in the society to do anything as long as one survives or able to meet one's goals. One could hinder another just to allow himself or herself to meet one's goals. Survival is the utmost concern so nothing should hinder it in anyway, even ethics. Therefore, the tough competition among Filipinos for resources and opportunities makes it more difficult to for Filipinos to distinguish what is right and wrong. Filipinos often use the excuse, "Come what may." The consequence is not so important as long as the result is fine and beneficial. As long as one survives, then that is the most correct thing to do regardless of what it takes to do so.

Double morality issues

What appies to oneself is not what applies to others, especially when it applies to someone one knows or familiar with. This is the most difficult aspect of Filipino ethics that is difficult to understand. Worse, there is a big difference on how people are evaluated on their actions, especially across socio-economic differences, gender preferences and even age. There is a different standard between men and women. Sometimes men could so something wrong and tolerable, but not women; worse for those who belong in the LGBT and certain vulnerable social groups. The most obvious difference is between the rich and the poor. It is a general rule is that when money talks everybody listens regardless of whether it is worth it. There is also minimal discrimination between the young and the old in terms of ethical evaluation and standard.

As a Filipino, I could honestly say that these five aspects of Filipino ethical standard do not include everything. The objective of this blogpost is to initiate discussions on this topic. This is because a society with extremely vague ethical standards would have difficulty moving forward. This blogpost does not intend to force an idea or standard to anybody. No one is perfectly ethically correct always, but one should be aware of the need to have some ethical standards that would serve as guide to the members of the Filipino society. This would be crucial in putting some order into a society, which is characterized extreme diversity in culture, moral standards, tradition and background. I think this is an important step forward for the Filipino nation.


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