Eskinita: How living in less space can make your life more fulfilling

Dark. Narrow. Uneven. Convoluted. Scary. Necessary. Full of life! The cries ring out revealing the fact that people want to connect with you: “Hello.” “Good morning.” “Makiraan po!” “Where are you going?” “Where do you live?” Eskinita are the lifeblood of Pingkian, the area in which I live. You may not notice them if you aren’t previously aware their presence because it doesn’t even seem like anyone can fit down them. But without them, life in Pingkian couldn’t go on, and understanding this can help make your life more fulfilling.

Eskinita is a word that always reminds me of the English word “skinny,” perhaps because that’s what they are. In reality, it comes from the Spanish word meaning “corner.” Since land is at a premium, in perhaps the most densely-populated area of the world, houses are built as close to the property line as possible. The spaces in between are the eskinita. Pingkian is by no means the only place where this happens. I have walked eskinita in Manila, Ho Chi Minh City, and Hanoi. Because houses are so small, life is lived on eskinita. Without eskinita no one could get to their house. No one could go to work or school in the morning. But eskinta is more than simply a means to and end.

Eskinita is stepping over the curb then three steps down. There is an initial sense of invading someone’s privacy when you first enter, realising that people’s homes front, not onto the street, but onto the eskinita. Scootch over to the side as someone passes by. People pass carrying large water jugs. The sound of an engine warns of an approaching motorcycle, making one wonder how it can even navigate! Stopping at the crossroads to sure we each know where the other one is going before moving on. Laundry tubs hang ready outside doorways. A cement bench outside a home waits for someone to pass the day sitting there. An open door swings out into the eskinita temporarily blocking my passage. Two young boys sit in the corner playing Mobile Legends on their cellphones. A lady in an alcove buys something from one of the many variety stores in the area. Many people set up a small store — or sell things like Avon or Tupperware — in order to help make ends meet. Strings of sachets containing every known liquid hang from the ceiling, drinks of all kinds, ice cream if you are lucky. A vendor walks by, his bucket filled with foods prepared earlier that day and suitable for snacking on. A friend used to sell banana-que, which is a deep-fried banana, coated with caramelized brown sugar on a BBQ stick. Delicious! Having walked each one everyday, my friend was a eskinita expert. A bicycle, loaded with wares, is stopped in the middle as a woman decides whether or not to buy a piece of chain –  to use a leash perhaps? – a kargador waiting patiently to pass puts his load down; me, less patient, finding a way through.

Eskinita is bright blue PVC water pipes wind their ways along the ground, turning suddenly into the various houses — sometimes ending suddenly; cut off for who knows what reason? Rows of water meters silently recording consumption — when they are spinning fast it means a leak somewhere, when stopped it means they are turned off to save water from leaking. Dodging powerlines — more like interior wires strung up rather haphazardly, often just at head height — turns into an artform that you didn’t think you would ever need to master. Canals, or drainage ditches, sometimes along the edge, sometimes down the middle, sometimes non-existent carry water from various sources somewhere else. Videoke booms from somewhere near, accompanied by a voice — sometimes talented, often merely energetic.

Eskinita is sometimes cement, sometimes asphalt, and sometimes spongy ground beside a stream of black runoff that runs outside my friend Mang Pio’s house — evidence of the clogged drainage pipes hidden below. Mang Pio owns a fairly large chuck of land in the middle of a gaggle of houses. At 90 years old he is a fount of stories and jokes. I stop and chat with Edgar, who is doing laundry in a couple of 5-gallon pails in front of his place. Mang Pio, in his kindness, has allowed Edgar to stay on his property. He has a small place that the word “lean-to” wouldn’t adequately describe — more a hodge podge of various chunks of wood, plastic, and other light materials all precariously positioned to provide some semblance of shelter. Many homes along the eskinita are not like his, however. More and more I see multi-storey concrete structures, complete with all the comforts of home.

Eskinita is where animals abound. Dogs. Cats. Rats. Roosters. Chickens. Even the occasional rabbit. Sometimes caged but usually running free. The cats are perhaps the most resilient. Many times they may have seemingly fatal injuries but yet there they are, day after day, ekeing out a living. I guess that’s why they are said to have nine lives! The roosters (in reality fighting cocks) are the most cared for, receiving special feeds, daily grooming, and love from their owners.

Eskinita is where people are. Children playing hopscotch. Retirees passing the day outside their homes. Friends chatting. Men caring for their fighting cocks. People watering plants and/or the eskinita itself — one for growth the other to reduce dust. Small business owners selling fish of all varieties. Chicken. Pork. Rarely, beef. Vegetables. Barbershops. Internet cafes. Elderly women watching the world go by. And in the mornings mothers sunning their babies.

Eskinita is missing something, however. What is missing is space. Space that separates houses from one another. Space taken up by fences to ensure privacy. Space with garages, with doors that go up, then down, keeping occupants hidden from one another. There is no emptiness. No empty streets. No empty houses for most of the day while people are at work.

Eskinita is connection. A shared identity. A life living in proximity with others.

What do you notice about your community? Why not let the rest of us know in the comments below?

Remember sharing is what friends do.

Please also don’t forget to subscribe.

Image is was taken on my iPhone.

ECQ na naman! “Kailan ba Panginoon?” o “Nasaan ka ba, Panginoon?”

English

ECQ[1] na naman! Dahil kay Delta Variant ng COVID-19 itinaas muli ang ECQ sa QC. Ito ay para sa ating kaligtasan. Pero, nakakalungkot diba? Akala natin na ok na tayo dahil higit pa sa isang taong nag social distancing, naghugas kamay, nag suot ng facemask at shield, nag stay-at-home pa. At lahat tayo ay ready magpabakuna pag oras natin. Pero mukhang wala sa atin kamay ang solution sa problema nito.

Sa mga ganitong panahon, naalala natin ang sinabi ng Panginoon sa mga Israelita noong Jeremias 29:11, “Alam ko kung paano ko tutparin ang mga plano ko para sa kabutihan n’yo at hindi sa kasmaan n’yo, at plano para bigyan kayo ng pag-asa na magkaroon kayo ng mabuting kinabukasan.” Napatanong tayo kapag naalala natin ito ng “Kailan ba Panginoon?” o “Nasaan ka ba, Panginoon?”

Kinakailangan natin balikan ang konteksto nitong verse sa Biblia upang sagutin ang tanong natin. 
Sa panahon kasi ni Jeremias, hindi maganda ang kalagayan ng bansang Israel dahil sa kanilang mga kasalanan. Ang biling ng Panginoon kay Jeremias ay maipahayag sa mga taong bayan kung ano ang plano ng Panginoon sa kanila. Sabi kasi ng Panginoon na dadahihin sila sa Babylonia bilang parusa ng kanilang mga kasalanan. 70 na taon ang panahon ng kanilang pagkabihag na binigay ng Panginoon sa pamamagitan ni Jeremias. Pero ayaw maniwala ng mga taong bayan at ng mga ibang mga false prophets kaya sabi nila na hindi sila tatagal sa Babylonia. Mga dalawang linggo lamang ang panahon ng pagkabihag doon. 

Kahit pinaparusahan sila ng Panginoon, ok sa Kanya na mawawala sila sa Lupang Pangako for 70 years dahil kapag nasa Babylonia nasa kalooban pa rin sila ng Panginoon. Kahit tayo ay nasa ECQ or anumang antas ng restrictions, nasa kalooban pa rin tayo ng Panginoon!

Unang una, sasabihin ko sa inyo na kahit naniniwala ako na ang COVID-19 ay isang masamang bagay, hindi ako naniniwala na ang COVID-19 ay isang parusa ng Panginoon. Pero naniniwala ako na hindi normal ang pagkakasakit. Noong nilikha ng Panginoon ang sanlibutan hindi pa kasama doon ang sakit (Genesis 1:31). Ang sakit ay dahil sa kasalanan ng mga tao. Kaya may mga sakit ang mundo natin ngayon pero may darating din na panahon kung kailan mawala ang mga sakit sa mundo (Pahayag 21:4). 

Meron tayong pwedeng matutunan mula sa sinasabi ni Jeremias patungki sa mga bagay na hindi normal. 

Medyo kakaiba ang sinabi ng Panginoon sa mga Israelita. Imbis na maghintay lamang ang kanilang pagbalik, dapat makikisalamuha sila sa bago nilang lugar. Magiging bahagi dapat sila ng Babylonia — “Magtayo kayo ng mga bahay at doon kayo tumira. Magtanim kayo at kumain ng inyong ani. Magasawa kayo at nang nagkaanak kayo.”

Hindi tumitigil ang buhay kapag hindi normal ang ating kalagayan. Hindi pwedeng magsabi ng “pag maayos na ang buhay ko tsaka ako ako kikilos.” Sabi sa atin ng Panginoon, “Kumilos na kayo kahit hindi pa ayos ang kalagayan mo.” 

At hindi lang yun. Dapat din “Tumulong kayo para sa kabutihan at kaunlaran ng lungsod sa pinagdalhan sa inyo.” Ano ba’ng ibig sabihin?

  • Maging masunurin tayo sa mga batas patungkol sa pandemya kasi “para sa kabutihan at kaunlaran ng lungsod.” 
  • Mag hugas ang ating mga kamay, mag-social distancing tayo, mag suot tayo ng facemask at face shield, manatili tayo sa bahay kapag kinakailangan, at mag work from home tayo kung pwede. 
  • Magpa lista tayo sa pagpapapbakuna at pag dating ng panahon magpabakuna tayo. 
  • Ipananalangin natin ang mga taong namamahala sa COVID-19 response ng bansa. 
  • Tulungan natin ang mga taong nahirapan dahil sa pandemya. 

Pagkatapos ng sinabi nito, sinabi ng Panginoon, “Alam ko kung paano ko tutuparin ang mga plano ko para sa kabutihan n’yo at hindi kasamaan nyo.” Ibig sabihin, depende din sa atin pagsunod ang pagtupad ng mga plano ng Diyos. 

Meron kasing tao na binabaha ang bahay. Kaya umakyat sa bubongan nya at nagdasal, “Panginoon iligtas mo ako sa baha.” 

Meron dumaan na rescue mula sa baranggay. “Sakay na po kayo para maligtas kayo!” 

“Ok lang ako. Ililigtas kasi ako ng Panginoon” ang kanyang tugon. 

Meron dumaan na taong naka-banca. “Sakay na po kayo para maligtas kayo!” 

“Ok lang ako. Ililigtas kasi ako ng Panginoon” ang kanyang tugon. 

May dumaan na helicopter nang lumalapit sa kanya. “Sakay na po kayo para maligtas kayo!” 

“Ok lang ako. Ililigtas kasi ako ng Panginoon” ang kanyang tugon. 

Sa wakas nalunod sya sa baha at nag-puntang langit. Pagdating nya doon, nag-tanong sya sa Panginoon. “Lord, bakit hindi mo sinagot ang aking hilining sa iyo? Bakit hindi mo ako niligtas sa baha?”

“Ano ba?” sabi ng Panginoon. “Nagpadala ako ng rescue, ng banca, at ng helicopter pero ayaw mong sumakay!”

Minsan kasi naghahanap tayo ng milagro pero ang tugon ng Panginoon ay ang mga normal na bagay. 

Paano ka bang sinasagot ng Panginoon ngayon panahon ng ECQ muli? 

Palaging malugod na tinatanggap ang puna.

Ginagawa ng mga kaibigan ang pag-share. 

Larawan ni Erik Mclean sa Unsplash. 
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[1] Sa mga hindi nakakaalam, ang ECQ ay Enhanced Community Quarantine. ang ECQ ay ang pinaka-mataas na antas ng anti-COVID-19 measures na pwedeng ilagay ng Philippine Government. 

It’s ECQ again! “When, Lord?” or “Where are you, Lord?”

It’s ECQ [1] again! Due to Delta Variant of COVID-19 the ECQ was raised again in Quezon City. Even though it’s for our safetly, it’s sad isn’t it? We thought we were ok because for more than one year we have social distanced, washed our hands, worn a facemask and faceshield, and stayed-at-home. And we are all ready to get vaccinated when it’s our time. But it seems like things are out of our control. 

At times like this, we remember what the Lord said to the Israelites in Jeremiah 29:11, “I know how to carry out my plans for your good and not for your evil, and plan to give you of hope for a better future” (God’s Word). This makes us ask the question, “When, Lord?” or “Where are you, Lord?”

We need to go back to the context of this biblical verse to answer our question. In Jeremiah’s day, the nation of Israel was in a bad state because of their sins. The Lord’s command to Jeremiah was to reveal to the people what the Lord had planned for them. The Lord said that they would be taken to Babylon as punishment for their sins. The period of their captivity given by the Lord through Jeremiah was 70 years. But the people and the other false prophets did not want to believe so they said that they would not stay in Babylonia. They said the captivity there would only be about two weeks.

Even if the Lord was punishing them, it is ok with Him that they will be gone from the Promised Land for 70 years because when they are in Babylonia they are still in the will of the Lord. Even if we are on ECQ or any level of restrictions, we are still in the will of the Lord!

First of all, I will tell you that even though I believe that COVID-19 is a bad thing, I do not believe that COVID-19 is a punishment of the Lord. But I do believe the illness is not normal. When the Lord created the world, disease was not included (Genesis 1:31). Sickness is due to sin. So while there are diseases in our world today there will also come a time when the diseases of the world will disappear (Revelation 21:4).

We can learn something from what Jeremiah says about things that are not normal.

The Lord said something different to the Israelites. Instead of just waiting for their return, they should socialize in their new place. They were to be part of Babylon: “Build houses and live in them. Plant and eat your crops. Get married and have children.”

Life does not stop when our condition is not normal. It is not possible to say “when my life is in order I will act.” The Lord tells us, “Act now, even when things aren’t perfect.”

And that’s not all. You must also “Contribute for the good and prosperity of the city to which you are brought.” What does that mean?

  • Let us be obedient to the laws regarding pandemics because “for the good and development of the city.”
  • Wash our hands, wear a facemask and face shield, stay home when necessary, and work from home if possible.
  • Let’s make a list of vaccinations and when the time comes we will be vaccinated.
  • Pray for those in charge of the pandemic restrictions, that God may continue give them wisdom. 
  • Find ways to help those who are in need because of the pandemic. 

After saying all of this, the Lord then says, “I know how to carry out my plans for your good and not your evil.” That is, the fulfillment of God’s plans also depends on our obedience.
There was a man whose house was flooding. So he climbed on his roof and prayed, “Lord save me from the flood.”

Soon after that a rescue vehicle came from the local government unit. “Get in and be saved!”

“I’m fine. The Lord will save me” was his response.

Someone passed by in a small boat. “Get in and be saved!”

“I’m fine. The Lord will save me” was his response.

A helicopter passed by as it approached him. “Get in and be saved!”

“I’m fine. The Lord will save me” was his response.

He finally drowned in the flood and went to heaven. When he got there, he asked the Lord.

“Lord, why didn’t you answer my request to you? Why didn’t you save me from the flood?”

“What?” saith the Lord. “I sent a rescue vehicle, a small boat, and a helicopter but you want to get in any of them!”

Sometimes we want a miracle but the Lord’s response is something more normal.

How is the Lord answering you now during this ECQ repeat?

Feedback is always welcome.

Friends do the sharing.

Photo by Erik Mclean at Unsplash.
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[1] For those who don’t know, ECQ is Enhanced Community Quarantine. ECQ is the highest level of anti-COVID-19 measures that the Philippine Government can put in place.

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.

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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.

Do I pastor a church or a community?

Photo by Mauro Mora on Unsplash.

Several diverse ideas helped shape the approach I take to pastoring.

A key Bible story for me is the story of the Father and his two sons (often called the Prodigal son) that is found in Luke 15:11-32. One of the key parts of the story for me is the fact that there are only three characters, which for me means that in God’s perspective all people are a part of his family. Some — like the prodigal — leave the family and then return, while others — like the older brother — appear to initially have everything together but then end up outside at the end of the story. Note that the father extends every effort to welcome both sons back home. This has shaped how I feel God views everyone in the world — they are all his children who he wants to return home.

Dwayne Harms was a friend I had growing up who ended up being a pastor at Midale Baptist Church in Saskatchewan, Canada. I had a chance to visit him after he had been there for a few years and he said something that has stuck with me since then. He talked about how being the Baptist pastor in a small town meant that he was more than just the Baptist pastor, he was the town’s pastor. This has also helped shape my philosophy of the church and it’s connection with the community.

David Fitch a few years ago said, “There is no dividing line between the church and the world. The church may precede the world today, yet it is only living today what the world itself is ultimately called to in the future. The church in essence bleeds into the world ever calling it to its true destiny. As a foretaste of the renewal of all creation, the church cannot be discontinuous with creation. It cannot be discontinuous with the world because the church is in the process of becoming that very world renewed in Christ. Neither can it merely blend into the world for then all Mission and renewal is lost. Its presence will be in, among and for the world even as it will be distinct from the world. This is what it means to take on the incarnational nature of Christ. It is this very incarnational nature that requires the church to be a discerning community which at times both refuses conformity with the world while at other times joining in (with what God is already at work doing).”

All of this helped me when my wife and I moved to Pingkian (a small community in Metro Manila). I must admit that it took me a long time to come to terms with the fact that I wasn’t simply a pastor with Metro Manila Bible Community or Pingkian Family Worship but that I was in fact the pastor of Pingkian! It has certainly shaped the way that I interact with the people who live around me.

If it’s true that we pastor communities like we pastor churches, what does that look like?