What does it mean to be a man, part 2? Masculinities in the Philippines

In a previous post, I introduced the idea of masculinities. In it I mentioned that masculinity should really be masculinities because there is not one standardized way to be a man. In this post I will expand on that in talking about how crossing cultures also increases the complexities surrounding the subject. Our specific focus will be on masculinities in the Philippines.

Masculinity in Filipino Popular culture.

Filipinos love to make puns and while humour is used to make people laugh, there is generally a hidden truth behind the humour (Maggay 2002). What is interesting is that the majority of these puns define men based upon their relationships with others, primarily with their wives (see Angeles, 2001, pp. 2-3).[1]

Some of these terms, such as Padre de pamilya [“Father of the family”] and Haligi ng Tahanan [“Pillar of the home”] refer to the key strengthening roles that men play in the home. While men may provide the strength within the home, the mother, as ilaw ng tahanan [“light of the home”], provides the spiritual direction. Does this imply an inherent spiritual role that mothers play that isn’t considered a part of the father’s role?

Other terms clearly depict the struggle for power within husband and wife relationships: Ander de saya [“Under his wife’s skirt”] describes a henpecked husband. Kumander is a common term used by husbands to describe their wives. For example, when asked if he would like to do something, a man will often reply, “Di ako sure kung pwede ako. Magpaalam muna ako kay Kumander.” [“I’m not sure that I can do that. I need to get my Commander’s permission first.”] Machu-machunirin [“obedient to his wife”]. This is a play on words based on “macho” and “masunurin” [“obedient”]. Rubio and Green (2011) see these puns as evidence of the greater-than-equal status of women in Philippine cultures.

Others connect masculinity to the ability to perform various tasks or act in certain ways. When performing certain tasks, particularly where strength is required, men will often be told, “Nakasalalay ang pagkalalaki doon” [“Your masculinity depends upon you being able to complete this task”].

One of my professors recalls that her mother would ask, “Wala ka ba’ng bayag?” [“Don’t you have any balls?”] of her brothers when they acted afraid. On other occasions I have heard mothers telling their crying sons that, “Tumigil ka. Hindi umiiyak ang mga lalaki” [“Stop. Men don’t cry”]. This provides some evidence that mothers share in the responsibility in constructing the pagkalalake of their children.

Formal pagkalalake studies in the Philippines.

One of the first studies of pagkalalake in the Philippines was Santiago (1977), who studied men in a Philippine village in Bulacan. Santiago identifies three ideal measurements of pagkalalake: lalaking-lalaki [“manly man”], tunay na lalake [“real man”], and mabuting tao [“good person”]. Lalaking-lalake identifies those few who achieve the katangian [“characteristics”] of pagkalalake, tunay na lalake identifies those few men who achieve the kakayahan [“ability”] to do the things men do, and mabuting tao identifies those few men who achieve goodness as humans.

She identifies three categories of pagkalalaki, namely “mga katangiang panlalake;” [“male characteristics”], “kakayahan sa pagganap ng tungkulin na initas sa mga lalake o inaasahan ng lipunan ng kanilang gampanana” [“Ability for men to perform the roles that either they or society expects of them”]; and “mga kilos at ugaling sekswal” [“sexual activities and behaviour”] (p. 168).

Santiago divides the measurement of pagkalalake into four areas, namely “ang dapat mangyari, ang mangyayari, ang hindi dapat mangyari ngunit nangyayari, ang nangyayari noong araw ngunit hindi na umiiral.” [“Things that must happen, things that happen, things that shouldn’t happen but still do, and things that used to happen but don’t anymore”].

She identifies three categories to pagkalalake as follows: “Mga katangiang panlalake.” This includes those thoughts, actions and emotions that are not seen in women. “Kakayahan sa pagganap ng tungkilin na initas sa mga lalake o inaasahan ng lipunan ng kanilang gampanana” (p. 168). This includes the ability to perform tasks that either he identifies or society identifes as male tasks. “Mga kilos at ugaling sekswal” (p. 168). Santiago admits that she didn’t gather a lot of information about this aspect of pagkalalake. She identifies two possible reasons: because 1) she, as a woman, wasn’t able to gather this information, or because 2) she didn’t have enough time to devote to this aspect of pagkalalake. She suggests that a male researcher may be able to gather more information on this category because “higit na palagayang loob ng mga lalake sa kapwa lalake” [“it’s easier for a man to open up to a man”] (p. 168). Note that Santiago’s study does not delve into the area of religion or spirituality.

Tan (1989) identifies fathers in the Philippines as either procreators or dilettantes. Procreators neither enjoy nor spend much time at fathering because their understanding is primarily biological. Tan identifies this with the Philippine understanding that all children have utang-na-loob [“a debt of honor”] to their parents merely “for giving them life” (p. 34). Thus, siring children is enough. The dilettante, while having a positive fatherhood experience, is not very “active” as a father. Tan identifies OFW fathers as fitting into this “… supporting role to the main caretaker, usually the mother” (p. 30). Note that Tan’s study does not delve into the area of religion or spirituality.

de Castro (1995) follows the common gender discussion of distinguishing between sex (physically male) and gender (socially constructed) but also moves into the ethical aspect of the gender debate. According to de Castro “ang pagkalalaki … ay walang aspetong etikal. Wala itong kinakailangang implikasyon para sa dapat at hindi dapat; walang itinataguyod na tama o mali” [“masculinity … has no ethical aspects. It has no necessary implications for what should or shouldn’t be; nothing is right or wrong”] (p. 141). de Castro proposes introducing the term pagkamaginoo in order to achieve the ethics that are missing from the other terms. Ethics seems to mean proper interpersonal relationships between people, regardless of their gender: “ipinamamalas ng magulang na naghahanap-buhay, nagtitiyaga sa pag-aalaga ng kanyang mga anak, nagmamalasakit para sa kanilang kapakanan at nagpapakita ng katagan sa oras ng kagipitan o sakuna” [“this is demonstrated by both parents in working, they both patiently take care of their children, they both care for their interests and show stability during times of emergency or disaster”] (p. 141). While this does provide perhaps a glimpse into how maka- Diyos might fit, it is a primarily theoretical argument based upon imprecise data.[2] This study wants to find out what Filipinos actually believe rather than simply exploring possibilities of what they can believe. Note that de Castro’s study does not delve into the area of religion or spirituality.

Aquiling-Dalisay et al (1995) identify three categories of Filipino males, namely pagkalalaki [“manhood”], tunay na lalaki [“real man”], and ganap na lalaki [“perfect man”]. Note that Aquiling-Dalisay et al’s study does not delve into the area of religion or spirituality.

Pingol (2001) perhaps comes closest to identifying Filipino masculinities. In a series of fifty interviews in Ilocos in 1997, she develops a Filipino notion of male identity, which she categorizes as “Prominent,” “Ideal,” “Other,” and “Lesser extent.” Prominent among the responses were: the “Ability to provide for the family” and “Success in the workplace;” the Ideal responses included: “being a good leader with intelligence and expertise, being principled, being helpful, being decent, being law-abiding, being trustworthy, and being understanding;” while the Other” responses included: “virility, physical strength, and good looks; and the “Lesser extent” response was: “the capacity to take risks, as in gambling or illicit affairs, and yet remain responsible to one’s family.” (Pingol, 2001).

What is disappointing is that she then applies Connell’s (2005) concept of hegemonic masculinity to the Philippines rather than using definitions drawn from her interviews. Pingol does, however, go on to discuss two sub-aspects of Ilocano masculinity, namely kinalalaki and malalaki. Each is seen as a culturally legitimate way of gaining masculine power in society but kinalalaki does this by means of the “ideal typical traits of the responsible husband” while the malalaki does the same through “the machismo of rogues and daredevils or malalaki” (Pingol, 2001, p. 4).[3]

Filipino Male Spirituality.

While some studies have been conducted on Filipino masculinity very few if any have been conducted on the connection between masculinity and spirituality. “Ang Manifesto ng Tunay na Lalaki” [“The Manifesto of a Real Man”] declares that “ang tunay na lalaki ay hindi nagsisimba” [“a real man doesn’t go to church”] (Xyxo Loco, 2009).

Filipino Male Spirituality plays a rather small role in Pingol’s study. I was surprised to initially find a rather negative tone to her comments. At one point, after describing how she had to politely decline the religious advances of three “evangelists,” she commented, “I had to make them feel that their religious mission was as valid as that of others” (p. 23). Her conclusion, however, points to the help that some of her informants, both male and female, did receive from their religious beliefs as they sought to reshape their masculine identity. She does note, however, “[t]urning to the Bible is not something men in the locality automatically do in times of crisis” (p. 252). I was further puzzled by the discovery that when she did a similar study of female migrants in the Middle East that religiosity was front and centre in her study. Does this indicate that perhaps religiosity is not part of Filipino male identity but is a very large part of Filipina identity? Or perhaps it indicates a change in the researcher herself.

In spite of the dearth of information on male spirituality or religiosity, there were some evidences of husbands following a moral code that helped them cope with the departure of their wives. The men interviewed showed varying abilities to cope with the changes brought about by the migration of their wives. In her discussion on changes in the sexual dynamics of the relationship, Pingol refers to a “masculine code” that some of the men chose to keep that ensured the marriage bed would be kept pure (p. 228). She connects this “code” with the concept of kinalalaki (p. 105).

This distinction between two categories of masculinity, however, while not pointing directly to spirituality, at least hints at a kind of morality that makes behaving properly worthwhile. Is this perhaps a hint of Filipino male maka-Diyos?

Rubio and Green (2011) develop a psychological instrument for use among Filipino men called the “Filipino Adherence to Masculinity Expectations scale.” Based on a study of students at St. Louis University in Baguio City, their instrument “takes into account indigenous and non- Western conceptions of masculinity in the Philippines” (p. 78) To this end, they identify seven “Filipino masculine dimensions,” namely Responsibility; Family Orientedness; Respectful Deference to Spouse, Women, and the Elderly; Integrity; Intelligence and Academic Achievement; Strength; and Sense of Community (p. 82). Once again there was no component of this masculinity framework that included maka-Diyos.

What are your thoughts on this? Do you recognise the unique features of the masculinities within your own cultural milieu? If so, what do they look like? Please put them in the comment box below.

Remember, sharing is what friends do.

Read Part 1.


Notes:

1. There are several popular conceptualizations of pagkalalake in the Philippines. Both Aquiling-Dalisay et al (1995) and Rubio & Green (2011) provide good overviews of the discourse surrounding Philippine masculinity, both from the perspective of psychology.

2. de Castro has apparently no hard data to show that this is what Filipinos actually believe. See his use of “halimbawa” [“for example”] with no citation (p. 142). Even his use of “ayon sa ilan, tanda ng tunay na lalaki ang pagtupad sa pangako” [“according to some, the sign of a real man is carrying out his promises”] (p. 142) is supportive of a constructed masculinity that is at odds with what he is proposing.

3. There does not appear to be an equivalent Tagalog gloss for these two Ilocano words. The closest might be perhaps pagkamaginoo and macho.

References:

Angeles, L. C. (2001). The Filipino Male as “Macho-Machunurin”: Bringing Men and Masculinities in Gender and Development Studies. Kasarinlan Journal of Third World Issues, 16(1), 9-30.

Aquiling-Dalisay, G., Nepomuceno-Van Heugten, M. L., Sto. Domingo, M. R. (1995). Ang pagkalalaki ayon sa mga lalaki: Pag-aaral sa tatlong grupong kultural sa Pilipinas. Philippine Social Sciences Review, 52.

de Castro, L. D. (1995). “Pagiging lalaki, pagkalalaki, at pagkamaginoo.” Philippine Social Sciences Review, 52.

Connell, R. W. (2005). Masculinities. 2nd Ed. Los Angeles: University of California Press.

Pingol, A. T. (2001). Remaking masculinities: identity, power, and gender dynamics in families with migrant wives and househusbands. Quezon City: UP Center for Women’s Studies.

Rubio, R. J. & Green, R. (2011). Filipino men’s roles and their correlates: Development of the Filipino adherence to masculinity expectations scale. Culture, Society & Masculinities, 3(2), 77–102. doi:10.3149/CSM.0302.77

Santiago, C. E. (1977). “Pakapa-kapa: Paglilinaw ng isang konsepto sa nayon.” In R. Pe-Pua (Ed.), Sikolohioyang Pilipino: Teorya, metodo at gamit (pp. 161-170). QC: Surian ng Sikolohiyang Pilipino.

Tan, A. L. (1989). Four meanings of fatherhood. Philippine Sociological Review, 22(1), pp. 27-39.


Image of Jose Rizal by Jim Stapleton on Unsplash.


Emic vs Etic: Understanding how insider & outsider perspectives interact when doing theology. An example from the Philippines.

Cross-cultural interactions are a part of my everyday life. Is there a theology of cross-cultural interaction? There have been many. Unfortunately they don’t always have good results. Take for example the whole residential school debacle in Canada that started from faulty theology codified in the doctrine of discovery but stemming from long-seated ideas of cultural superiority.

Churches quite often have deep seated assumptions about “the world” that aren’t in fact true. Case in point. When I was in Grade 5 our class received a Gideons New Testament (is that still a thing). Afterward we were all talking in the boot room about the NT and I said to one of my classmates, “What are you going to do? Rip it up?” He looked at me like I was crazy. What possessed me to say that? I had been told my whole life in Sunday school that the world was opposed to Christians. Guess what? That wasn’t true after all. It seems that I as a Christian had assumptions that were untested.

So how can we move away from assumptions towards actual empirical data about the world around us? Last week I wrote about how the church can partner with the world in things like this. Some commented that the post was short on the “How” so I thought that I might give a more concrete example. We need to develop ways to better understand the world to make sure that we are asking and answering the right questions – to make sure that the message we exegete from the Bible is presented in a relevant way to those who are not yet followers of Jesus Christ. Anthropology can help us understand that. 

The following comes from planning some conversations I had with Filipino men about their masculinity and religiosity. I had heard that men are less religious than women but wanted to find out for myself if that was true. I decided to plan some research that tried to discover what is called the insider viewpoint.

Because many religious systems in the Philippines are from external sources, and because male participation in those systems is universally identified as being lesser than that of women, it is important to discover how Filipino males have constructed their understandings of pagbabalik-loob, pagkalalaki, and maka-Diyos. This calls for an emic approach to the problem rather than an etic one. Oxford defines emic as “studying or describing a particular language or culture in terms of its internal elements and their functioning rather than in terms of any existing external scheme.” Etic is defined as “studying or describing a particular language or culture in a way that is general, non-structural, and objective in its perspective.” Thus, an etic approach looks at the problem from outside, while the emic approach looks at the problem from inside. 

Origins of the Emic/Etic concept. Pike (1967) defined the terms etic and emic as “etic viewpoint studies behavior as from outside of a particular system,” while the “emic viewpoint results from studying behavior as from inside the system” (p.37). Pike wanted to move from etics to emics.

There is a debate about the validity of using an emic approach in seeking to understand a culture on its own terms. In fact, this debate is behind the development of ethnoscience worldwide.  What is often missed in the debate is the reality that all forms of science are emic in that whatever frameworks or structures are developed are developed from the emic perspectives of a specific culture. They merely become etic once applied to another culture.  

Bennagen (1980) discusses the “Asianization” of anthropology “to help strengthen Asia’s rightful claim to its heritage as well as to its visions of man, society and culture” (p. 1; see also Mendoza, 2016).  

Geertz (Geertz 1973b) championed what some have called an “actor-centered view is central to Geertz’s work, however, it was never developed into an actual theory or model” (Hudson et al, 2009). 

Harris (1976) adapted Pike’s terms. For him, emic was the focus on a single culture while etic was the “comparison of two or more cultures as a means of identifying common characteristics” (Olive, 2014). Harris saw emics and etics as equally valid – there was no advantage to be gained from an etic approach and thus no need to try to discover the emic.

He has an example the difference between an emic and an etic understanding of male to female cattle ratios in India. Approaching the issue from an emic perspective, Harris says that locals identify the causes of higher mortality of male calves is due to a variety of naturally-occurring causes. Approaching the issue from an etic perspective, however, causes Harris to ascertain that higher male calf mortality is due to the locals’ manipulation of naturally-occurring events that are economically determined. Harris’ conclusion is that by relying solely on an emic approach, the researcher misses the etic realities of what he calls “bovicide.”  

I suggest that another factor may be at play here. Harris’ emic reasons for the ratio include “that males ate less than the females…. because they were not permitted to stay at the other’s teats for more than a few seconds” (p. 33). I find the words “not permitted” to be telling because here we have the locals themselves giving the reasons for why the male calves die. It seems that Harris didn’t follow up on this clue to discover what else the locals might want to tell him about this process.  

An indigenous approach here might be helpful. Enriquez (1994) discusses pakikipagkapwa, or Filipino interpersonal relations, as divided into two categories — Ibang-Tao [“outsider”] and Hindi-Ibang-Tao [“literally “not-‘other’-person” and therefore an insider”] each in turn divided into several other stages (see also Pe-Pua et al, 2000; Lapiz, 2010, refers to these as Tagalabas [“From the outside”] and Tagaloob [“From the inside”], respectively). Information passed from one person to another varies based upon the relationship between the two parties. If the two parties are in the Ibang-Tao category the informant will seek to pass on information that they perceive to be what the researcher wants to hear. If the two parties are Hindi-Ibang-Tao, then the information passed on more accurately reflects the reality. Pe-Pua et al recommend that “the first level under Hindi-Ibang-Tao, which is pakikipagpalalgayan-loob (level of mutual trust, understanding, rapport) should be reached, at the minimum, in order to be assured of good quality data” (Pe-Pua et al, 2000, p. 59).  

Another hallmark of Filipino communication is pahiwatig [“hint”], or indirect communication. According to Maggay (2002)ang pahiwatig marahil ang pinakalaganap at maaaring masabing pinakabuod ng ating kulturang pangkomunikasyon” [“the hint is perhaps the most widespread and possibly the best summary of our culture of communication”] (p. 24). It is also defined as “hindi tuwirang pagpapahayag sa isang bagay, idea, o saloobin” [“a thing, idea, or thought is not revealed in a direct manner”] (UPDF) or as “di tuwirang pagpapaabot ng mga mensahe” [“messages are not delivered in a straight way”] (Maggay, 2002, p. 24). Information is revealed over a period of time and is not given all at once. The pahiwatig is an invitation for the researcher to dig deeper to find out the truth that is not yet fully revealed. Jocano (1999) speaks of a multilevel process of communication starting with pahiwatig [“hinted at”], moving through pabatid [“informed about”], and finally into pahayag [“revealed”]. Thus discovering truth in the Philippine context is an extended affair as layer after layer of truth is slowly revealed as the relationship between the researcher and the researched draw ever closer together. 

Now granted, Harris’ example is from India that may have different cultural norms from the Philippines, but that doesn’t belie the fact that there was “truth” in the emic investigation that Harris perhaps didn’t explore fully. Harris’ own example shows that the locals did reveal the cause of the ratio (i.e. “males …. not permitted” to eat) but there is no evidence that Harris pursued the conversation to it’s fullest extent.  

Thus in Harris’ example above, the farmers themselves are revealing the reality behind the ratio differences in an indirect way and inviting him to discover more through further communication.  

I argue that an indigenous approach to the issue would have led to Harris’ realization that the locals were in-fact telling him the reasons for cattle ratios but that his framework was unable to adequately aid him in this discovery. Thus his use of an etic framework allowed him to see a disconnect between the ideology (killing cattle is prohibited) and economy (cows are more economically advantageous than bulls) of his subjects in India. Imagine the study Harris could have had in discovering in partnership with the locals their strategies for dealing with the needs of both their ideological system and their economic system!  

The emic approach and Philippine studies of masculinity. The emic approach is common in Philippine studies.  

Pingol (2001), in her study of Ilocano men, states that she want to focus “more on emic rather than etic – the men’s understanding of themselves, how they construct themselves, how they remain men in their own eyes, or as viewed by their relatives and their community” (p. 16). 

Zialcita (2005) also takes an emic approach because it “looks at the data from the point of view of the actor; it seeks to understand in their own terms the reasons advanced by the actor for his thinking and acting” (Kindle location 1924).  

Mojares (2006), in his discussion of trying to recreate the way early Filipinos thought, struggled with the pull of emic and etic. He talked of trying to find a middle ground between “a facile universalizing and the exoticizing of difference; between the location out of which we are speaking and that ‘nation’ we are moving towards; between the need for political constructions and the awareness of their fictive character; between the claim to moral ascendancy and the practical requirements of power; and between the importance of the ‘native’s point of view’ and the dangers of turning it into a fetish” (p. 7)  

Moving into our present study, Houtman offers insights into understanding religiosity without using the frameworks developed by organized religions.  

Emic, Etic and our Problem. Houtman (2014) suggests that the study of religion can benefit from an emic approach. Rather than focusing on general definitions researchers should instead “let those under study decide whether and how religion is ‘real’ or ‘unreal’. It is they who can tell researchers in what sense they consider themselves ‘religious’ and/or ‘spiritual’, what exactly this means for them, and whether and how all this drives their behavior beyond the strictly private realm” (p. 20).  

There are in existence in the Philippines a variety of sets of preconceived notions of what it means to be a man or to even be a godly man. These have been formulated in the various world religions that have taken hold in the Philippines, especially Christianity and Islam. Christianity can be further subdivided into two sometimes-opposing conceptualizations that need to be understood on their own. A look at the intersections between maka-Diyos, and pagkalalaki would benefit from an emic approach. However, this study’s desire for an emic approach to the issue of Filipino male spirituality[1] is not so much a desire to ignore external structures and definitions and to favor indigenous structures and systems. Rather it is based on a desire to discover what, in fact, these indigenous emic structures and systems are. To date there has been very little work done to develop a philosophy or a theology connected with Filipino male spirituality. 

Criticisms of Emic-Etic approaches. There are no pure cultures and thus no pure emic-etic divide. All cultures use their own frameworks to evaluate the things they experience and sometimes these frameworks are in an etic form and sometimes in an emic form.

As Guillermo (2003) said, having too much focus on the emic removes any reason for interpretation to begin with. “The complete unification of the consciousness of the social scientist with an increasingly transparent object of analysis would be none other than the end of hermeneutics itself.” Which raises the question of for whom is the interpretation? It implies a cross-cultural facet that is essential to the process. Certainly someone within the culture is in no need of a hermeneutical framework but also someone who is completely outside of a culture can use no other framework than the one she brings with her. Of course, this is beside the point that no culture is pure or unsullied from outside influences. The key is finding a balance between the two that allows each side to see the other’s perspective and perhaps gain some understanding on their own. Thus, there must be a dialogic aspect to research. 

But the fact that there is cultural relativity (ala Franz Boas) implies that some level of hermeneutics is needed in understanding what one sees. For example, the sight of two men walking down the street hand-in-hand has different meanings in different parts of the world. Growing up in Canada two males holding hands was undeniable evidence that the two were in a homosexual relationship. However in the Philippines best friends not only hold hands but walk unashamedly down the street with their arms around one another shoulders. It is only through dialogue between etic and emic actors that one can determine the hermeneutical key. The goal of balancing the emic with the etic guides this research into a specific series of frameworks. 

I propose that seeking the insider view is a key part of church ministry. Only by having conversations with others can we discover our own blind spots and find ways to connect in meaningful ways with others.

Feedback is always welcome.

Sharing is what friends do.

Image by Brett Jordan on Unsplash.


1. The history of term Filipino is long and storied and beyond the scope of this paper. Coupled with this is the terms’ grammatical gender: Filipino refers to males and Filipina refers to females. Thus the term “Filipino male spirituality” is technically redundant. However since this redundancy is not necessarily seen nor understood outside of the Philippine context, for clarity this paper will use the term Filipino to denote people from the Philippines, regardless of their gender. 


References:

Bennagen, P. L. (1980). The Asianization of AnthropologyAsian Studies, 18, 1-26.

Enriquez, V. G. (1994). Pagbabangong-dangal: Indigenous psychology and cultural empowerment. Quezon City: Akademya ng Kultura at Sikolohiyang Pilipino.

Geertz, C. (1973). Religion as a cultural system. In C. Geertz, The interpretation of cultures: selected essays. London: Fontana Press.

Guillermo, R. (2003). Exposition, Critique and New Directions for Pantayong PananawKyoto Review of Southeast Asia, 3.

Harris, M. (1976). History and Significance of the emic-etic distinctionAnnual Review of Anthropology, 5, 329-350. doi:10.1146/annurev.an.05.100176.001553

Houtman, D. (2014, September). Pure religion and real sacrality: Authenticating Religion beyond Institutions and Traditions. Paper prepared for the summer seminar: Religion and Culture in a Globalized World, Questioning our Research Frames, University Centre Saint Ignatius Antwerp (UCSIA) University of Antwerp.

Hudson, S., Smith, C., Loughlin, M., and Hammerstedt, S. (2009). Symbolic and interpretive anthropologies. In Anthropological Theories, Department of Anthropology, The University of Alabama. 

Jocano, F. L. 1. (1999). Working with Filipinos: A cross-cultural encounter. Quezon City: PUNLAD Research House. 

Lapiz, E. (2010). Pagpapahiyang: Redeeming culture and indigenizing Christianity. [Manila: Christ Strengthening Ministries.]

Maggay, M. (2002). Pahiwatig: Kagawiang Pangkomunikasyon ng Filipino. Quezon City: Ateneo de Manila University.

Mendoza, S. L. (2016). Doing “indigenous” ethnography as a cultural outsider: Lessons from the Four SeasonsJournal of International and Intercultural Communication. doi:10.1080/17513057.2016.1154181

Mojares, R. B. (2006a). Reconstituting the mental life of sixteenth-and seventeenth century Philippines. Philippine Quarterly of Culture and Society, 34(1), 1-10.

Olive, James L. (2014). Reflecting on the Tensions Between Emic and Etic Perspectives in Life History Research: Lessons Learned [35 paragraphs]. Forum Qualitative Sozialforschung / Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 15(2), Art. 6.

Pe‐Pua, R., & Protacio‐Marcelino, E. A. (2000). Sikolohiyang Pilipino (Filipino psychology): A legacy of Virgilio G. Enriquez. Asian Journal of Social Psychology3(1), 49-71. doi: 10.1111/1467-839X.00054

Pike, K. L. (1967). Etic and emic standpoints for the description of behavior. In K. L. Pike, (Ed.), Language in Relation to a Unified Theory of the Structure of Human Nature. The Hague: Mouton de Gruyter, 37-72. doi: 10.1515/9783111657158.37

Pingol, A. T. (2001). Remaking masculinities: identity, power, and gender dynamics in families with migrant wives and househusbands. Quezon City: UP Center for Women’s Studies.

Zialcita, F. N. (2005). Authentic Though Not Exotic: Essays on Filipino Identity. Quezon City: Ateneo de Manila University. Kindle version.

Church and Crisis Today: How Philippine Religious Consciousness can better inform how the rest of the world does church?

So, let’s talk about the church. What does church really mean? When it comes down to the idea of how we respond to COVID we have to realize that we’re talking about different aspects to church. We can look at the church as both gathered and scattered. Sometimes the church gathers together and sometimes the church is scattered and spread apart. Sometimes the church has both gathered and scattered aspects existing simultaneously. For example, sometimes a church has a Sunday-morning gathering, a weekly small group – known by various names including cell church, small group, Bible study, the life group, discipleship group, and more – as well as members who spend most of their time in their respective physical communities as well as their workplaces, homes, and selected third spaces. Sometimes the concept is explained using cells with single shell churches meeting Sunday mornings but multiple cell churches meeting anytime throughout the week. What all of this means is that there are multiple ways of understanding the concept of church.

But perhaps the most traditional model is the single cell model of a church that gathers on a Sunday morning in what is often called a congregation. This is actually not a traditional Philippine way of worship. Spain’s introduction of the concept of church to the Philippines involved a lot of reengineering of Philippine society. Spain used a colonial system called reducciones where they would gather scattered people into communities, called Poblacion or plaza complex in the Philippines. Here you have the church, the municipal Hall, and the market with people living in the surrounding blocks. The distance that you could be away from the church was restricted by the sound of the church bell. This is called baja de campana, or under the bell. If you could hear that bell ringing that would call you to mass then you were baja de campana. This identified you as a person submissive to the system. While the term baja de campana isn’t used as much today, this concept is still seen in the Parokya or parish where the church bell and mass are broadcast to the community on loudspeakers.

A New Normal, 500 Years Ago!

While this is normal in the Philippines today, 500 years ago it was a new normal. Prior to this, people lived wherever was convenient to them: Fishermen lived near their favorite fishing cove and farmers lived near their fields.

Spain came in and brought their system for not only colonization but also for evangelization, because the two are not much different.[1] Today we have other issues coming in, including public health concerns such as the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic. These issues are creating a new normal that governs how society operates. Because of the public health crisis, we have developed this idea of virtual or online or live stream churches, whether these are services that we’re broadcasting, whether it’s praise and worship, that we’re broadcasting, whether it’s a new way of doing church online, or whether we’re just doing the same thing and recording it and broadcasting it, whether we’re using Zoom, Facebook Live, YouTube, Vimeo, or other things, and there’s a variety of other ways to interact where does this fit this virtual online church? Is this the church gathered? Is gathering a part of this online community when we’re gathered together on zoom? Is that a gathering? When we’re all watching doing a watch party together? Is that gathering? Is that scattered? Because the church can be gathered scattered? Is this cell a single cell or is it multiple cell? How does this all interact and work with each other? What does it all do?

Then you get to COVID-19 times where people can’t gather together. And we love to gather together. And it’s the gathering together in a sense that it’s the community of believers, in a sense, makes up the church, but we’ve conflated that with the facility within which we gather.

And so, when it comes to the point of gathering together, not being able to gather together for COVID, all of a sudden, the discussion goes to “Oh, well it’s religious persecution,” or some other kind of an issue. As if the only way that we know how to connect with God is inside a church building. But if we look at biblical and church histories of the way people have gathered, we realize that that’s not entirely the case.

It just means that our way of doing things may go through changes, just like the change from walking in the garden, to having to build an altar, to having to go to a tabernacle, to then having to go to a temple, to then doing a synagogue or a church. It’s just part of the transition and there’s been lots of “new normal” over time.

Philippine Religious Consciousnesses and Crisis Today.

Religious Space.

There’s no concept of religious space in the Philippines system because all space is religious space. This helps us particularly when we talk about issues of issues of religious liberty. Do I have the right to practice my religion and if the government tells me not to meet together, does that mean I’m not being able to practice that? these issues are sort of put aside, because there is really no specifically religious space. We’re used to worshiping in a church, but quite often in society, you’ll see a variety of different religious spaces that are used. You know, whether it’s a procession, where you’re going down the street and so the street becomes a religious space as you bring your as you bring your statue around the community. Even there’s what’s called the pabasa. During Holy Week. When the, the story of Jesus passion is, is, is, is sung in various parts of the community and so these homes and these different places become religious space because of the usage. There’s even the Stations of the Cross where religious spaces are temporarily set up in various parts of the community as people go around and pray as they remember Jesus’ passion. So religious space in the sense of here’s where we do religious activities and this space we don’t is not a concept that exists in the Philippines.

The first point we need to remember as we as we try to create a theology of crisis is that any space can be religious space — we don’t need to be fixated on a church building.

Church Leadership and the Filipino Family.

I guess the second point is that typically the pastor is seen as being in charge of the church. They provide leadership there, but what about inside the home? Who is the one who provides leadership there? It certainly isn’t the pastor.

As the story goes, the pastor visited a home at lunch time. In an effort to honour him they mother invited him in to eat. She had prepared a fish for lunch and the kids worriedly watched the pastor through the window as he tucked in to the meal. All of a sudden one of the kids yells, “Mom, he flipped the fish over!”

While the pastor may be a visitor to the house really the leadership of the home is provided by the father and the mother. And this leadership extends not simply to who feeds the kids and who does the laundry but it goes beyond that. Ultimately it is Who sets the rules? and Who shapes the future for the family? It’s the parents.

One way forward in the midst of crisis is to encourage, train, and empower parents to be the spiritual leaders of their families.

Dambana, or the family altar.

The third aspect would be the idea of dambanaDambana is a is an old Filipino word that talks about a place where you encounter the divine, you know whether this is whether this is a space like a, like a building, whether this is an altar. But, but typically within a house, you know a lot of houses have the altar inside their house so there’s this religious space inside the house, that is that is devoted towards the worship of God and the connection proper connection and relationship with God. Quite often, of course in Filipino homes you’ll have a, you’ll have a, an image that’s that is in that spot, but you’ll also notice in many homes you’ll have other religious artifacts such as Bibles and other things that are there. And these are these are just to remind everybody that God is always present with us. And so within, within each house you have this religious space.

We can use these concepts. As we move towards developing a theology of crisis, a theology of lockdown a theology of pandemic. Rather than trying to find theological reasons for convincing the government to let us reopen our church buildings, we can help encourage and empower families to be responsible for their own spiritual development inside of their homes. During this time, and maybe this will expand them beyond that into the time after the pandemic whatever it will look like.

Notes:

1 Vince Rafael talks about this at length in his Contracting Colonialism.

Image by Varun Gaba on Unsplash.

“Why are you kicking against the goads?”: How do I know when God is trying to get me to change?

A few weeks ago we needed to vaccinate some calves against black leg. It was quite the process. First we had to round up the cows and calves in the pasture and gather them in a temporary corral. Then we had to move them through the farm yard and across the road into another corral — this one with three sections. We then had to separate the cows from the calves. The final step was to run the calves through a chute four at a time (a process that involved a lot of shoving). At the end of the chute they were locked into a smaller space so that they could be vaccinated. Eventually they were all released into another pasture to continue on with their lives.

None of this would have been possible without a goad.

I actually had to take a look at my Oxford Thesaurus of English to get an equivalent modern word for “goad.” Here are a few: Stimulus, incentive, encouragement, stimulant, stimulation, inducement, fillip, impetus, impulse, spur, prod, prompt; incitement; motive, motivation.

Basically, a goad is a tool used to get cows to move.

We had a variety of goads. Some were long thin whip-like instruments made of fibreglass. Others were old hockey sticks with the blades broken off. The most scary of the bunch, for the cows that is, was a plastic shaker that made noise when moved. All of these tools are used to make sure the cows go where you want them to go.

Jesus used the word “goad” in his encounter with Paul on the Damascus Road when he asked, “Why are you kicking against the goads?” (Acts 26:14). It was him saying, “I have been trying to get your attention for so long. Why are you not listening?” The way the question is asked implies that God had been trying to get Paul’s attention for quite some time.

What were the goads that Jesus used to convince Paul? While the list is not explicit in scripture, I could think of these possibilities:

  1. Paul knew the scriptures and the scriptures point to Christ — road to Emmaus. yet Paul didn’t see this yet. 
  2. Paul heard Stephen’s testimony about Jesus, but still approved of his death. 
  3. Paul knew the teachings of the Jesus followers, which is why he persecuted them. 
  4. Now Jesus takes matters into his own hands and personally appears to Paul in a very dramatic way!

We can be grateful that Paul finally yielded to the goads and chose to follow Jesus but the real question is, “What goads am I kicking against?” And perhaps, “How do I know when God is trying to convince me of something?”

[I thought about including a list here but then that might be goads you are kicking against and not ones that I am kicking against!]

Feedback is always welcome!

Image by Ekrulila on Pexels.

What should be my place in the church’s pecking order?

My wife and I have spent the past week on a farm and one incident reminded me of the common saying, “Pecking order.” There were a bunch of eggs in the incubator waiting to be hatched and our arrival at the farm was the due date. One by one the little chicks pecked their way out of their shells and began the next phase of their lives. Which is when we noticed an interesting occurrence. Those chicks who hatched first began to peck at the chicks born later. This is the famous pecking order that determines who gets to peck whom?

It’s the most basic form of relationship and while I can’t begin to try to understand the way a chick’s mind works it does illustrate the way some relationships are oriented around power and domination.

Sometimes the same thing happens when people come to faith. Those who come to faith first set the rules for the next who come to faith. There are countless examples in the Bible, perhaps the most famous being the Pharisees and the prodigal son’s older brother.

Acts 15 is a great example of how the pecking order was challenged and a new way of relationship was hatched. Apparently some of the early Jesus followers decided that non-Jews also needed Jesus and so they began to proclaim Jesus to others. The first stage was Peter’s encounter with Cornelius, who was a Jewish proselyte. Others, however, went further and began to talk about Jesus with people with an entirely different worldview. This of course created turmoil in the early church as people accused both Peter and these other Jesus followers — now called “Christians” — of violating God’s laws.

Peter’s rebuttal is simple: The same Holy Spirit that guides us also guides these new Jesus followers.

The result was the order issued by the early church leaders that is recorded in Acts 15 that outlines how these new Jesus followers could be folded into the church.

This was a reversal of the pecking order concept where the old timers get to set the rules. Now the newcomers could create their own rules. In fact, it was the very rules themselves that lost their ability to shape culture. Rather, the Holy Spirit would somehow intervene in the lives of these others and help them to reshape their own cultures for Jesus.

Jesus says, “Be the one who gets pecked. It’s ok to be pecked because I have been pecked, too.”

So what other pecking orders exist within the church? What does the Bible have to say about these pecking orders?

Intergenerational pecking orders. But Jesus said in Matthew 19, “Don’t stop children from coming to me!” and also a few verses earlier in Matthew 18, “I can guarantee this truth: Unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever becomes like this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoever welcomes a child like this in my name welcomes me.” What does this mean? Sometimes people whose faith is fresher have a better approach to faith.

Favourite Bible Translation pecking orders. It is interesting that most of these debates are about English translations of the Bible, even though English is not one of the original languages. It doesn’t make sense if we are happy accepting other language translations but are only happy with one English one. What is important is that God says in Isaiah 55, “My word … will not come back to me without results.” What does this mean? God’s word works.

Favourite preacher pecking orders. Paul in 1 Corinthians 3 — “some of you say, ‘I follow Paul’ and others say, ‘I follow Apollos,'” — talks about the teamwork involved in church ministry. What does this mean? Be a team player when it comes to church. Listen to a variety of voices. Engage in conversations rather than monologues.

Theological pecking orders. People love to fight about theology. I can remember to this day some of the theological arguments that I had more than 30 years ago — and I loved debating because I knew that I was right! That is the problem with theological debates because the goal is to find out who is right and who is wrong. The bible advises us to “work out your salvation with fear and trembling” (Philippians 2:12). What does this mean? Be prepared for the reality that you may not always be right!

Hermeneutical pecking orders. Hermeneutics is the study of interpretation and for many years one hermeneutical system has reigned supreme: the grammatical-historical method. The problem is that this isn’t necessarily the default hermeneutical system used either in the Bible (eg. take a look at how Peter interprets scripture in at the end of 1 Peter 3) nor in various parts of the world. What does this mean? Sometimes other people know how to make sense of things too. It’s best to dialogue with them rather than condemn them.

Where is your place in the pecking order? How can I embrace being pecked rather than pecking others?

Note: A few days later I happened to see all the chicks huddled together because it was cold. I guess a common problem is more important than pecking each other! Is that why persecution sometimes makes the church stronger?

Pagkalalaki at Maka-Diyos: A Dialogical Look at Masculinity and Religiosity among Filipino Males | A Zoom Webinar

In November 2020 I was invited to give a lecture for the 60th Anniversary of the University of the Philippines, Diliman’s Asian Center. My lecture was based on my 2019 PhD Dissertation that was entitled “Pagkalalaki at Maka-Diyos: A dialogic look at Masculinity and Religiosity among Filipino Males.”

My study, conducted as part of my time in the UP Tri College PhD Philippine Studies program, examined how Filipino men understand and express religiosity (maka-Diyos) and masculinity (pagkalalaki) and how these two concepts inform our understanding of religious change (pagbabalik-loob). Central to this research is how the dynamics between pagkalalaki and maka-Diyos is mediated by factors such as family status, gender, class, national advocacy, religious congregation, age, chronotope; and how these, as a whole, shape the lives of Filipino men.

I used a Bakhtinian dialogic framework mediated through Walls’ transmission and appropriation concepts and de Mesa’s pagbabalik-loob and cultural appreciation in examining Filipino male perceptions of pagkalalaki and maka-Diyos.

This study debunks popular misconceptions about the Filipino male’s lack of maka-Diyos. Men’s identity as Filipinos is not in danger due to lack of maka-Diyos and men reveal an understanding of maka-Diyos that informs national discourse. Men are active in regular religious activities. They see these concepts as important. They have a complex epistemological process that includes ancient, communal, revelatory, and empirical sources. This leads them to believe in and respond to the supernatural. They understand what their pagkalalaki means and how to express it, but concepts of religion and religiosity may or may not play a role in these beliefs. It also leads them to find solutions to the problems and challenges that they face in the world.

You can’t sign up anymore because the event is over, but you can watch the lecture here.