Independence versus Interdependence

Filipino society is based around the needs of the community, especially the needs of the extended family. The needs of the many will always outweigh the needs of the individual. Filipino people live in very close proximity to each other, and are interdependent on each other rather than independent.

Filipino society is not a society of rugged individualists. Australian society, much like American society, evolved from brave and independent men who headed over the hills into the unknown, complete with axe, crowbar, shovel, rifle, horse and wife. They tamed vast mega-acres of harsh wilderness and raised families to live these same values. They did it by themselves, and they did it without relying on the help or charity of others. That independence became part of the national psyche, and it remains today.

Filipino society is based on interdependent family, extended family and pseudo-family kinship social groups. They descended from Malays who arrived in large boats known as balangay, and these small municipalities are still know as Barangay today. If somebody is in need, they go to their neighbours and ask for handouts which are mostly given willingly. And in turn, when somebody has an excess of something, they tend to share it with family and neighbours. Borrowing incurs an actual and a social debt known as utang na loob (or just utang), which is taken very seriously.

Favours, loans and general acts of kindness are never forgotten. All acts of giving contribute to utang, and thus the complex web of societal interdependence is woven. This includes acts of kindness and giving within families, even to parents for the act of raising their kids. This is why Filipinos feel a sense of duty to take care of parents and other family members who have done good things for them over their lives. An older brother or sister who paid for a university education, for example, is higher “up the rung” when it comes to choosing whom to help in later years when opportunities arise. Everyone remembers who did what for whom and when. In a western society, we feel shame at accepting charity. In Filipino society the shame comes from not remembering acts of charity.



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