Indigenous Peoples Sunday

GOD’S WORD TODAY - Ruben M. Tanseco S.J. - The Philippine Star

Today, we are celebrating Indigenous Peoples Sunday. Let us focus on the native Filipinos, basically Malay, before the Spaniards and Americans came into the picture. In his book, History of the Filipino People, Teodoro Agoncillo wrote on some native Filipino traits that are worth focusing on which I am convinced are God’s special gifts to our people and are still very much alive today. I will choose a number of them and from other sources, so that our readers, especially our youth, may be deeply grateful for and live them in their daily lives.

1. Close Family Ties. For the typical Filipino, practically everything revolves around his/her family life. From children to parents to grandparents, and vice-versa. In fact, as I had mentioned it before, a scientific research some years ago came out with the conclusion that the greatest source of happiness for the typical Filipino is FAMILY. Many forms of loving sacrifices are embraced for the sake of family. Today, for instance, the number of Overseas Filipino Workers (OFW) has increased considerably, all for the sake of family. Due to the very serious problem of unemployment and poverty in our country, many husbands, wives, fathers and mothers are forced to separate because one stays at home with the children here and the other finds employment abroad, or at least in another province or city here in our country, but away from their families. Moreover, so many Filipino parents deprive themselves of their own personal needs for the sake of the educational needs of their children.

2. Hospitality. This is one of the most admirable qualities of the indigenous Filipinos. No matter how poor they are, they welcome strangers to their homes, especially foreigners who get lost while traveling, and also fellow-Filipinos, especially those who are even poorer than them. They treat them as they treat relatives and friends, serving them food, giving them clothing, and even space to sleep if necessary. This quality has stayed, not only with our indigenous Filipinos, but also with our Filipino-Spanish and Filipino-American mestizos. Poverty is not an obstacle to hospitality.

3. Respect for the Elders. This quality is something we should really hold on to, for it is deeply human and even spiritual in nature. The respect of children toward their parents and grandparents is admirable indeed.  Even when a parent or grandparent shows weakness of character – human as he or she is – the respect of son or grandson is a very Filipino quality. Placing the hand of an elder on one’s forehead or kissing it is a sign of respect. Listening to the opinion or value system of the elders is likewise a sign of respect. Even when one makes a decision different from the elder’s opinion, having listened and considered the elder’s conviction is a sign of respect for the elder. Lastly but not least, our language involves signs of respect for elders, like “po or “opo,” not to mention the use of the first person plural – “atin, natin, tayo,” and the third person plural – “sila, nila, kanila,” when referring to one’s elders.

4. Religiosity. Our indigenous Filipinos are basically God-oriented, whether they are Christians or not. Those who are not Christians, Muslims, Buddhists, or from no institutional religion at all, still live their lives with a strong belief in a Higher Power, whose presence they feel all around them and within them. Creation-centered spirituality. Those who are Christians are under the care of pastors, priests, and other religious leaders. Several of our inspired and devoted Jesuit priests, may I mention here, do there pastoral work with our indigenous Filipinos, particularly in Palawan and other parts of Mindanao. They have been converted to Christianity.

Somewhat connected with this quality of religiosity among many indigenous Filipinos is the attitude of fatalism. “Bahala na” is a very common way of dealing with difficult issues. I consider this as connected with religiosity, because what many indigenous Filipinos ultimately mean by that phrase is “Bahala na ang Diyos.” It is a way of surrendering one’s situation to God’s providence. This seems to be a common quality among both indigenous and non-indigenous Filipinos.

In connection with the celebration of Indigenous Peoples Sunday, there will be a Culion Tagbanua Leaders’ Summit the following weekend, Oct. 15-16, 2016. The Tagbanua leaders will articulate their community’s identity, strengths, weaknesses, issues, and challenges in terms of the following: Peace and Development, Leadership and Governance, Education, Health, Environment, Livelihood, Youth and culture. They also want to identity possible collaboration with neighboring communities and with other institutions. There are other objectives which I cannot articulate due to lack of space. What is most significant is to emphasize the positive efforts of this indigenous community – the Tagbanuas of Culion.

Allow me to end by focusing on our increasing Gawad Kalinga villages (GK) all over our country and in quite a number of countries abroad. The founder of Gawad Kalinga is Tony Meloto, a man of God whom we should not only admire but support in whatever way we can. I consider the Gawad Kalinga Villages as no less than living miracles. A British journalist, Thomas Graham, was so enamored by his visits and personal experiences with the many GK villages he visited all over our country, so that he wrote a very inspiring book entitled: The Genius of the Poor. A Journey with Gawad Kalinga. This was published in 2014.

Lord, please continue to guide us with your loving presence as we grow in prayer and action – your Filipino family. Amen.


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