Pronounced like "buy-uh-nee-hun," bayanihan is a Filipino word derived from the word bayan meaning town, nation, or community in general. "Bayanihan" literally means, "being a bayan," and is thus used to refer to a spirit of communal unity and cooperation.“Bayani” as part of the word bayanihan also means “hero”. This heroic philosophy of the Filipino refers to the fundamental value of service through united cooperation.
The term Balikatan is a Tagalog word, which means shouldering the load together and is often used as a military philosophy in the Philippine army. “Balikat”, meaning shoulder, characterizes the philosophy and intent of the exercise; solidarity by standing “shoulder to shoulder”.
A Foreword for Brave Discussions
Facing the world with Grace and Truth
A Letter to our Kababayans
On June 12 2020, we celebrated Philippine Independence Day (or Araw ng Kalayaan). “Araw ng Kalayaan”, is about recognizing our inherent value as liberated individuals within society. As diverse as the beauty of each individual island that composes the Philippine Republic as a collective state; we recognize that this exact diversity of individual identities within its people, though complex, is what makes the beauty and strength of our collective identity as Filipinos rooted to understand the inherent value of our kapwa.
To our lovely Kababayans,
I invite you to enter into a brave space! To progress further in our minds and in our spirits and build on the foundations laid out by our national heroes as they fought for liberation and independence. To look within ourselves, so that we may build a better future for the generations to come.
Over the last weeks, there has been a lot of turmoil in what I see is great fight between unseen forces of light and darkness; from the Covid-19 catastrophe and the Cargill outbreak, to the protests on racial injustice, and to the radicalism emerging from what seems to be in every corner of the world; our nation Philippines included. When looking at problems in its magnanimous effects, it is much easier to look away and pretend that the problem doesn’t exist at all, to simply smile and move forward. For the purposes of this letter, I will focus on the problem of racial injustice and its far-reaching effects within the Filipino community today. Racism is a broad term, and for some, it might even be a difficult concept to comprehend in relationship to its deep effects on the Filipino mindset. For the purpose of clarity, I would like to speak on “colourism” within the Filipino community.
Colourism by definition; is a prejudice against individuals with dark skin tones, typically amongst people of the same ethnic or racial group. Colourism is an ingrained system of belief within the Filipino community that devalues the beauty of the diversity of the complexions of our skin; elevating to the European standards of beauty instead of embracing ours. This is evident in our culture today simply by walking down the aisle of any Filipino grocery stores to see the line-up of skin-whitening creams that are stacked on the shelves. We would see it by the over representation of light skinned mestizos and mestizas in mainstream Filipino media. We would see it in junior high and in high schools with the devision of the “patatas” (potatoes) and the “fobs” (fresh of the boat). We would see it with the preferential choice of dating a white man over a brown or black man.
Colourism devalues the hard work that is stamped on our skin, while we worked and broke our backs under the scorching heat of the sun. Colourism is a parasite in our psyches; it is also an invisible prejudice and survival tactic that we’ve build within ourselves through centuries of fighting the dominant Eurocentric thoughts, thoughts which invaded our country and our minds for more than 300 years. Thoughts which made us second class citizens in our own lands, demeaning and demonizing the brown skinned Indios in preference to look more like the “civilized conquerors” of the land; whilst exiling the First People, the Itas and numerous Indigenous Tribes, to the outskirts of the archipelago.
Are we brave enough to have this very real discussion with our children at the dinner table today? To the older generation Filipinos in the diaspora, the hard-working knowledge keepers; the young people are in dire need of your wisdom in those dinner tables today. In the fast-paced evolution in the digital era; emotions are high and volatile and guiding knowledge and principles are lacking. A revolution is inevitable; but without the wisdom and guidance of the knowledge keepers…such revolutions can lead to death.
This is an invitation for a brave conversation within our community; a challenge to start those conversation within your families. For when we know better, we do better. If we’re talking about racism, it’s important that we face the issues we have head on within ourselves and our immediate circle of influence first and foremost and have conversations ripple outwards from there. We have to be self-aware as an individual first, because when we know ourselves, we’ll be better equipped to interact with the world around us. When we know ourselves, we can work on building empathy and seek to understand how we affect our “kapwa”, and how the negative ideologies rooted in our subconscious affects our “pagkatao” as a collective narrative of people representing a community or a culture.
There is no easy solution, but in order to enact on one, we must look at the problem and the capacity of its ripple effects to destroys lives. To enact on solutions for the problem, we must sharpen the focus on the problem that needs to be solved. We must do so thoughtfully, methodically, and with precision. We must look within ourselves as individuals and face the truth of what evil we are capable of. We must challenge our discomfort and face the truth with grace and openness to understand. It’s not an easy conversation, but it’s possible when we root it in love, grace, and honour for our fellow man.
Hithertho, in response to the Black Lives Matter Movement, the team and I at Tribe of Ktizis, as the creators of the Perlas Project, would also want to take this opportunity to recognize and to honour the African American heroes who fought alongside with us with that Bayanihan and Balikatan spirit during the Spanish American War of 1898. To the children of those unnamed war veterans, we see you and we thank you for your family’s service and sacrifices. Their revolutionary act of bravery and service to fight through a war that was not theirs, was also a stance for justice and liberty not just during the Jim Crow laws, but for our liberty as Filipinos too. For that we thank them, and we honour them. We stand united not by what victimized us; we stand united through love, faith, and through our hope for a better future. We stand together knowing that greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.
June is Philippines Heritage month. On June 30th 2020, my team and I at Tribe of Ktizis will be releasing the inaugural episode of “Perlas: A collection of stories about immigration, integration, and rediscovering identity.” The first episode is a music video to a song entitled, “Beautiful Child” written and performed by Ryan “Rubix” De Guzman and myself, Krizia Canvas. The song is out now on Spotify and all streaming platforms, and it is a gift of encouragement for our Kababayans. We hope that #perlasproject serves to encourage and empower our community. We hope that it serves to bridge the generations to dialogue over difficult conversations. We hope that this song can remind us to never lose sight of the light in our spirit as Filipinos.
With radicalism happening in every corner of the world, we continue to urge everyone to stand your ground and to fight the good fight of faith with love, honour and dignity. The greatest liberty is the one that is of the mind. Let us continue to step to liberate our minds away from the parasitic colonized thought that the darkness of our skin determines our inherent value as people. We are and have always been more than that. Our spirit and our culture is one that is of innate beauty and diversity, and it must be seen and valued as such. We are the Pearls of the Orient; we are our nation’s greatest treasure.
Let us continue to build momentum through dialogues and release the narratives of false religions and colonized ideologies. We urge our Kababayans to brave these difficult conversations around your dinner table amongst your families, friends and your loved ones about what is happening in our world today. We urge the elders and young people to talk and gain wisdom from each other. We urge your spirits to wake up from its deep slumber; and allow the “bayanihan” and “balikatan” spirits to be released. Enlighten your soul and your spirit and remember who you are...You are warriors of light. You are warriors of love. You descended from both Lapu-Lapu and Humabon, The Filipino Twins.
View the journal article "Lapu Lapu and Humabon: The Filipino as Twins" here
We plan to have more intergenerational dialogue in the future. Please, follow us on our social media page to keep posted.
Beautiful Child- Rubix ft. Krizia Canvas is also now available on Spotify and all streaming platforms.
Read our June Issue here