Filipinos are a touching people. We have lots of love and are not afraid to show it. We almost inevitably create human chains with our perennial akbay (arm around another shoulder), hawak (hold), yakap (embrace), himas (caress), kalabit (touch with the tip of the finger), kalong (sitting on someone's lap), etc.
We are always reaching out, always seeking interconnection. Filipinos are linguists. Put a Filipino in any city, any town around the world. Give him a few months or even weeks and he will speak the local language. Filipinos are adept at learning and speaking languages. In fact, it is not uncommon for Filipinos to speak at least three: his dialect, Filipino, and English. If they work abroad, many speak an added language, the host country's language.
In addition, Tagalog is not 'sexist.' While many "conscious" and "enlightened" people today are just now striving to be "politically correct" in their language, in the process, bending to absurd depths to coin "gender sensitive" words, Tagalog has evolved gender-neutral words since time immemorial - asawa (husband or wife), anak (son or daughter), magulang (father or mother), kapatid (brother or sister), biyenan (father-in-law or mother-in-law) , manugang (son- or daughter-in- law), bayani (hero or heroine), etc. Our languages and dialects are advanced and, indeed, sophisticated! No wonder Jose Rizal, the quintessential Filipino, spoke some twenty-two languages!
Filipinos are "groupists." We love human interaction and company. We always surround ourselves with people and we hover over them, too. According to Dr. Patricia Licuanan, a psychologist from Ateneo and Miriam College , an average Filipino would have and know at least 300 relatives.
At work, we live bayanihan (mutual help); at play, we want a kalaro (playmate) more than a laruan (toy). At socials, our invitations are open and it is common even for guests to invite and bring in other guests. In transit, we do not want to be separated from our group. So what do we do when there is no more space in a vehicle? Kalung-kalong! (sit on another's lap). No one would ever suggest splitting a group and waiting for another vehicle with more space!
Filipinos are weavers. One look at our baskets, mats, clothes, and other crafts will reveal the skill of the Filipino weaver and his inclination to weaving. This art is a metaphor of the Filipino trait. We are social weavers. We weave theirs into ours, so that we all become parts of one another. We place a lot of premium on pakikisama (getting along) and pakikipagkapwa (relating). At almost any cost, the Filipino will avoid the two worst labels, walang pakikisama (no comradeship) and walang pakikipagkapwa (cannot relate).
We love to blend and harmonize with people, we like to include them in our "tribe," in our "family"-and we like to be included in other people's families, too. Therefore we call our friend's mother nanay or mommy; we call a friend's sister ate (eldest sister), and so on. We even call strangers tita (aunt) or tito (uncle), tatang (grandfather), etc.
So extensive is our social openness and interrelation that we have specific titles for extended relations like hipag (sister-in-law' s spouse), balae (child-in-law' s parents), inaanak godchild), ninong/ninang (godparents) kinakapatid (godparent's child), etc. In addition, we have the profound 'ka' institution, loosely translated as "equal to the same kind" as in kasama (of the same company), kaisa (of the same cause), kapanalig (of the same belief), etc. In our social fiber, we treat other people as co-equals.
Filipinos, because of their social "weaving" traditions, make for excellent team members.
Filipinos are adventurers. We have a tradition of separation. Our myths and legends speak of heroes and heroines who almost always get separated from their families and loved ones and are taken by circumstance to far-away lands where they find wealth or power.
Our Spanish colonial history is filled with separations caused by the reduccion (hamletting) and the forced migration to build towns, churches, fortresses or galleons. American occupation enlarged the space of Filipino wandering, including America , and there are documented evidences of Filipino presence in America as far back as 1587.
Filipinos now compose the world's largest population of overseas workers, populating and sometimes "threshing" major capitals, minortowns, and even remote villages around the world. Filipino adventurism has made us today's citizens of the world, bringing the bagoong (salty shrimp paste), pansit (sauteed noodles), siopao (meat-filled dough), kare-kare (peanut-flavored dish), dinuguan (innards cooked in pork blood), balut (duck egg embryo), and adobo (meat vinaigrette), along with the tabo (ladle) andtsinelas (slippers) all over the world.
Filipinos are excellent at adjustments and improvisation, managing to recreate their home, or to feel at home anywhere.
Filipinos have pakiramdam (deep feeling/ discernment) . We can feel what others feel, sometimes even anticipate it. Being manhid (insensitive) is one of the worst labels on anyone, to be avoided at all costs. We know when a guest is hungry though he insists on the contrary.
We can tell if people are lovers even if they're miles apart. We know if a person is offended though he may purposely smile. We know because we feel. In our pakikipagkapwa (fraternizing in oneness), we not only get to slip into another man's shoes, but also into his heart.
We have a superbly developed and honored gift of discernment that makes us excellent leaders, counselors, and go-betweens.
Filipinos are very spiritual. We are transcendent. We transcend the physical world, see the unseen and hear the unheard. We have a deep sense of kaba (premonition) and kutob (hunch). A Filipino wife will instinctively feel her husband or child is going astray, whether or not telltale signs present themselves.
Filipino spirituality makes him invoke divine presence or intervention at nearly every bend of his journey. Rightly or wrongly, Filipinos are almost always acknowledging, invoking or driving away spirits into and from their lives. Seemingly trivial or even incoherent events can take on spiritual significance and will be given such space or consideration.
The Filipino has a sophisticated, developed pakiramdam. The Filipino, though becoming more and more modern (hence, materialistic) is still very spiritual in essence. This inherent and deep spirituality makes the Filipino, once correctly Christianized, a major exponent of the faith.
Filipinos are timeless. Despite the nearly half-a-millennium encroachment of the western clock into our lives, Filipinos -- unless on very formal or official functions -- still measure time not in hours and minutes but with feeling. This style is ingrained deep in our psyche. Our time is diffused, not framed. Our appointments are defined by umaga (morning), tanghali (noon), hapon (afternoon), or gabi (evening).
Our most exact time reference is probably katanghaliang tapat (high noon), which still allows many minutes of leeway.
That is how Filipino trysts and occasions are timed: there is really no definite time.
A Filipino event has no clear-cut beginning or ending. We have a fiesta, but there is bisperas (eve) and the day after the fiesta is still considered a good time to visit. The Filipino Christmas is not confined to December 25th; it somehow begins months before December and extends up to the first days of January.
Filipinos say good-bye to guests first at the head of the stairs, then down at the descamo (landing), the entresuelo (mezzanine), the pintuan (doorway), the tarangkahan (gate), and if the departing persons are to take public transportation, up to the bus stop or station.
Other people's tardiness and extended stays can really be annoying, but this peculiarity is also the charm of Filipinos who, governed by timelessness, show how their brothers elsewhere how to find more time to be kind and accommodating rather than prompt and exact.
Filipinos are space-less. As in the concept of time, the Filipino concept of space is not numerical. We will not usually express space in miles or kilometers but with feeling in malayo (far) or malapit (near).
Alongside numberless-ness, Filipino space is also boundless. Indigenous culture did not divide land into private lots but kept it open for all to partake of its abundance.
The Filipino has remained avidly "space-less" in many ways. The interior of the bahay kubo (hut) can easily become receiving room, sleeping room, kitchen, dining room, chapel, funeral parlor, etc. depending on the time of the day or the needs of the moment. The same is true with the bahay na bato (stone house). Space just flows into the next space, so that the divisions between the sala, caida, comedor, or vilada may only be faintly suggested by overhead arches of filigree. In much the same way, Filipino concept of space can be so diffused that a party may creep into and actually appropriate the street! A family business like a sari-sari store or talyer (production or work area) may extend to the sidewalk and street. Provincial folks dry palay (rice grain) on highways! Religious groups of various persuasions habitually and matter-of-factly commandeer the streets for processions and parades.
It is not uncommon to close a street to accommodate private functions. Filipinos eat, sleep, chat, socialize, quarrel, nearly everywhere or just anywhere!
"Space-lessness, " in the face of modern, especially urban life, can be unlawful and really counter-productive. On the other hand, when viewed from the Filipino's context, it is just another manifestation of his spiritually and communal values. Adapted well to today's context, which may mean unstoppable urbanization, Filipino spaceless-ness may even be the answer and counter balance to humanity's greed, selfishness and isolation.
So what makes the Filipino special? We are brown, spiritual, timeless, space-less, linguist, groupist, weavers and adventurers. Seldom do all these profound qualities find personification in a people. Filipinos should allow - and should be allowed to contribute their special traits to the world-wide human community - but first, we should know and like ourselves.