Filipino values inform and influence how we work and live. Discover who we really, and explore opportunities to live and work with us.
If you want Filipinos to become effective, there is no need to supplant Filipino values with western values. Filipinos already possess admirable values that when reinforce will create a great work culture. They work better when behave according to their values.
Filipinos value their community. Do not expect them to become a different person when they get inside your office. Instead, let them bring out their best where they are.1 Are you living by your values? This blog post tells us three ways.
Do you know that you can use bayanihan and pakikisama to reinforce collaboration and teamwork? Filipino values like malasakit, pagdadamayan, and kapwa-tao can help you train employees in customer service. Bahala na and kusang-palo are excellent values for intrapreneurship.
What are Filipino values?
Filipino values are assumptions and beliefs which are the basis of our response to facts, events, and situations. Our values serve also as our lenses on how we see things around us.
Often, we are not conscious of our values because we have internalized them in the process of growing up. We are swimming in values.
Values are the community standards of what’s valuable. They are the guiding principles of our lives.
We have personal values which are like lighthouses that tell us what to avoid and what to pursue. And we balance our personal values with communal values.
Since Filipinos are grouped into many islands, dialects, and ethnic groups, some values may be emphasized more in one group than others.
I will describe later 27 Filipino values. You will understand why Filipinos do what they do. Use these values to educate, empower, and motivate Filipinos.
I won’t attempt to be academic. I understand that the younger generation of professionals may find some of the values to be unfamiliar to them.
But they’ll surely recognize each when I show the asal (behaviors) that demonstrate each value.
Filipino Values in Training Leaders
I was in Cebu ten years ago. While waiting for my flight to Manila, I met two Americans. They were accompanied by a client. They were sent by their company to conduct leadership training based on Good to Great by Jim Collins.
They told me that their workshop participants found it difficult to understand the concepts. They said that everyone was quiet; no one wants to participate in discussions.
Since I had handled the same group before, I was sure speaking in English was not the problem.
If you have read Collin’s book, you know that no Filipino company was part of his study. His terminologies, not the concepts, are unfamiliar to Filipinos.
I have designed my version of the Good to Great program too. I shared with them the techniques I use for “Getting the Core Values Right” and “Mission to Mars”.2 Collins said that we don’t set our core values, we discover them. But I think we can change our core values too since core values are not like our DNA.
There are more engaging activities than what was provided in the book. Making participants choose from the values that they’ve been swimming since children is a lot more fun.
If only the two American trainers have an iota of understanding about Filipino values, they would have seen how creative and imaginative Filipinos are.
Here’s another example.
Kouzes and Posner talked about the Five Practices of Exemplary Leadership. I know that Model the Way is easy to understand. But being “uliran” will resonate with them. The meaning is deeper.
Because an “uliran” sets the standards. He walks the talk. He practices what he preaches.
People look up to an uliran.
Metaphors and saying could have helped. Stories of organizations familiar to us could have helped.
Learning about Filipino values can help you work more effectively with Filipinos.
27 Positive Filipino Values
If you want to understand Filipinos, start with our values. You can start with these 27 traditional Filipino values. Each of us carries with us a different set of values, and we may have a unique way of seeing and understanding each value.
We don’t study all of these in schools. Our parents taught us these as we were growing up. We learned them while playing with other kids. And we caught them while watching adults.
Amor Proprio: Loving Oneself
The greatest love of all, according to Whitney Houston, is loving yourself. Every line of that song tells us about Amor Propio.
Because the greatest love of all
Is happening to me
I found the greatest love of all
Inside of me
The greatest love of all
Is easy to achieve
Learning to love yourself
It is the greatest love of all
Amor Propio is a Spanish phrase. We use the phrase, but we did not inherit the value. That’s because Filipinos, like many Asians, value themselves. They have high regard for themselves. They respect themselves as they respect others (Kapwa-tao).
When the Spaniards went to the Philippines, they were looking for slaves. the Filipinos on the other hand offered themselves as allies.
During the American colonialization in the Philippines, there was an effort to paint love for self in a negative light.
Our ancestors were told that that too much of this is kayabangan (something that colonizers often say) and that our sense of hiya prevents us from reaching our potentials.
This is why when a person is shy, he is called mahiyain. A criminal is walang-hiya (shameless) and kahiya-hiya (shameful).
But hiya means self-regard.
In the workplace, Filipinos do not want to be embarrassed. They resent being shouted at. And they also do not want to embarrass others.
Awa : Compassion for Others
Because we value others, Filipinos tend to be compassionate. When the Covid-19 pandemic hit the Philippines, Filipinos took care of the most vulnerable groups in our society.
Many Filipino managers, for example, have to think twice before they let go of employees. Western companies consider it a good business decision to let go of people to maximize profits. If one employee can do the work of two persons, they’ll let go of one.
Most Filipino managers are people-oriented. They do understand that employment means a lot to Filipino workers.
Being let go means that they will stop supporting their family.
So, we find ways to keep someone in the job.
As a result, we have loyal employees. They’ll do everything to help your organization. Employees consider this generosity which they have to pay somehow.
Bahala Na: Inner Strength to Dare and Take Risks
Bahala na is a quality shared by most entrepreneurs. It is almost equivalent to the western concept of risking forward. American entrepreneurs typically say that to succeed one has to embrace the unknown instead of standing still.
Bahala na is like that and more.
Bahala na means that Filipinos consider all possible solutions. And when it seems that there is only one solution left, though they don’t have all information they need, they’ll risk forward.
They run away from safety to get something that will make them free. This is the same quality we admire among heroes.
It may seem safe to be in prison but freeing oneself outweighs everything.
But, just like what I said, Bahala na is more than that!
Bahala Na is an expression of courage and faith. It was like David facing Goliath. Bahala Na means I believe that I will win because God is with me. Bahala na is a 100% commitment to succeed.
But make no mistake, like the Biblical David, Filipinos will use everything they have to win.
Bayanihan : We Are Heroes to Each Other
We are Filipinos and we value bayanihan. We are nation-loving people. We support our countrymen in times of need.
Because what happens to some of us, happens to all of us.
You will notice that Filipino values are very much connected. When we speak of Bayanihan, for example, we will notice that it has something to do with malasakit, pakikipagkapwa-tao, pagdadamayan, pakikisama and utang na loob.
Hospitality: Be Our Guests
Filipinos are excellent hosts. This is because of their sense of pakikipagkapwa-tao and hiya.
They want you to get the best experience when they host you. They want to show their best all the time.
In most organizations, we talk about the western concept of customer service. We preach the idea that the customer is king.
You should use our Filipino sense of hospitality when you talk about creating a delightful customer experience. Because that’s what we do naturally.
We find it difficult to consider our customers as kings. We are not their slaves. Teach instead that customers as guests. For we do want to make our guests feel at home. We Filipinos want our guests to know that they can trust us because we want the best for them, as we want the best for ourselves too.
We serve, not because we get paid, but because we want to give and add value.
Delicadeza: We Value Our Reputation
We often say that we lost our sense of delicadeza when we talk about our politicians who are kapit-tuko. They grip to their posts like a gecko.
Filipinos value delicadeza. When there is controversy, we expect them to resign from their posts, not because they are guilty but to shield their company or organization from further embarrassment.
Our sense of justice, of course, requires that at least they take a leave of absence or avoid conflict of interest.
A local executive, for example, with delicadeza will not appoint his relatives to government posts. Filipinos do not value nepotism in the government. It is common for us to recommend our relatives to the government, but not to the same office that we are leading.
We do not want to put ourselves in a position that will make people question our agenda.
When a President appointed his people from the city where he was the former mayor, we consider the actions lacking in delicadeza.
It is not illegal, but it is not appropriate. When he used his power to give favor those who supported his election campaign because of utang na loob, we felt that he abused his power.
Talk about delicadeza if you want people to observe good governance.
Makapamilya: Family First
More important than self is family. Filipinos are willing to sacrifice prestige and even happiness for the sake of family.
It is because of our love for family that many Filipinos choose to work abroad. They are not doing this to achieve personal success. They do this to ensure that their children get a good education.
An employee, for example, may leave work to take care of a mother or father who is sick.
It is to your company’s advantage to be family-oriented. Create programs for the family. Know the members of your employee’s family.
When the family is loyal to your company, you get a loyal employee
Kasiyahan : Joy & Humor
Our superpower is our ability to smile even in the most challenging situations. This does not mean that we take things lightly. Smiling in most difficult circumstances allows us to be centered and in control.
To have humor is a human thing.
We stay in companies where we can find meaning and joy. Filipinos can survive the most challenging tasks, but not the most psychologically toxic environment.
Create an environment of fun and fellowship because that’s how Filipino workers thrive.
Kagalingan : We Pursue Excellence
We look up to people who show extraordinary talents and excellence in what they do. We take pride in having the kinds of Lea Salonga, Manny Pacquaio, and our beauty queens.
If politics isn’t involved, the country would have celebrated Maria Ressa, the first Filipino Nobel Prize laureate. She will eventually be recognized, of course, when politics is no longer an issue.
If you want to promote excellence at work, make it social. Let everyone know that you are after excellence.
More than the incentives, Filipinos love the honor of being known as excellent workers.
Aside from having top ten employees, you may also improve awards like Most Improved, Most Customer-Friendly, and Most Creative, and Most-Value-Adding Employee.
You may not be able to double the salary of your people to make them more productive, but always remember that they value excellence.
We value dangal (honor) as we value our lives. Even the poorest among us dreamt of sending kids to school. It is our honor to have done everything for those we love.
An uncorrupted public official honors her family. A great and selfless teacher honors her community. A world champion in math honors her school.
Someone who does something great does not only honor himself but those who surround him.
Because of these, we keep our integrity intact.
Katapatan : Sincerity, Loyalty
Tapat may mean sincere, open, honest, faithful, and true.
By loyalty means we will not lie to you. We will not betray you. We will do what’s good for you.
In the Philippines, we believe in the suki system. That means that our loyal clients stay with us because they know that we won’t cheat them.
Filipinos are loyal employees. So do not break their trust. Do not break your promises, and if you have to, you be open and honest about it.
Kusang-Palo: We Take Initiative
Kusang-palo is an idiom for taking initiative. It means that we do not wait for someone to tell us before we act. Filipinos value being proactive.
A beast of burden, like the carabao, moves when hit with a stick. There is no need for someone to supervise us, or hit us before we move.
The best time to fix a leaking roof is when it is not yet raining. Becoming proactive means we have to get things ready before they are needed.
This will make more sense to you as we move on to the next value, maagap.
Maagap : Promptness Is Best
Filipinos are hardworking people. But more than hard work, they value promptness. They go to the rice fields before sunrise. They go to the sea before the cock crows.
We often say, “daig ng maagap ang masipag”.
We value punctuality and the colonial definition of Filipino time does not make sense to us.
The only reason for a Filipino to be late is to do it deliberately. Politicians during the American period tried hard to imitate their former Spanish colonizers. Being late in meetings is very un-Filipino.
Unfortunately, our American miseducation made us believe that we are the opposite of maagap.
We show many ways of respecting people. Our house helps, for example, are often called Ate and Kuya. We want our children to know that those who are with us deserve our respect.
If we don’t know people on the street who call them sir or ma’am. Or in the case of tricycle drivers, boss.
If we buy something, we say thank you. And the seller will say “thank you too.”
We address people in the ways they want to be addressed.
I think it has something to do with our concept of dangal. We don’t want to offend people. At all times, we want to show that we do respect them. And anything that violates this value we condemn.
You can build a better workplace if you find time to ask people what made them feel respected. They will appreciate it.
In some companies, there are efforts to westernize their culture. Calling people by their first name, absent the honorifics madam or sir, may seem a good idea.
But it does not mean that it is much better than respecting the culture of the place.
People do not leave their cultural values when they enter your company. Do not force them to live double lives.
Magpasalamat : Gratitude
When I was in college, people often go to the store of Mister Salamat. His surname is not Salamat. Students gave him that name because he always says thank you to everyone.
Even if you just stay in his store and don’t buy anything, he’ll be thankful to you for dropping by. This made the students love him. And yes, they go to his store if they want to eat or buy school supplies.
They reciprocated his goodness.
There are many ways of expressing our gratitude. In the workplace, that means going the extra mile.
I often tell my clients that if they want employees to be grateful, they have to express their gratitude to employees often.
Malasakit: We Care for Others Caring for Others
Aside from bayanihan, malasakit is the most popular value to Filipinos. Malasakit means caring or concern for others. We expect every Filipino to care.
A good leader, for example, is expected to show malasakit. Leaders cannot be public servants if they don’t care for people.
We expect business entities to show malasakit. They must take care of their employees – and to a certain extent be concerned about their families too. They must not create products that will harm communities.
Often, companies manifest malasakit through their Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) initiatives.
Because of malasakit, you will hear of teachers who spend extra hours teaching students. They use their own money to buy school supplies too.
Because of malasakit, you have employees who work the extra mile to serve their customers.
Because of malasakit, we hear of a movie star who sold her luxury car for charity.
When you work with Filipinos, remember that they care for people. They help those who are in need without expecting anything in return.
You will find it easy to sell a social business to Pinoys as they are always ready to do meaningful work.
What makes Filipino thrive is their ability to come up with solutions. We are inventors and innovators.
We seek opportunities and when we don’t find them, we create them. One excellent example is Rags2Riches which helps a lot of women while recycling textile waste.
Mapamaraan : Resourcefulness
One lesson I learned from my grandfather is this: kapag may gusto may paraan, kapag ayaw may dahilan. Those with desire find ways and those who have no desire have excuses.
Filipinos don’t expect you to give excuses. If you want something, you’ll find ways.
Though we lack resources, we should not lack resourcefulness. Our resourcefulness helps us do extraordinary things with what we have.
Find out how you can leverage the resourcefulness of Filipinos. Those who have the passion to work with you and make your business successful will certainly find ways.
Masikap: Diligent Worker
We believe that work feeds us. Work provides for our family. Work sends our kids to school. Work make us achieve what we want in life.
We believe that whatever we earn must come from the sweat of our brow. That whatever we feed our children must not come from stealing other people’s money. We work with honor.
I wonder how your employees will work if you start giving Masikap Award. I think by doing so, you will emphasize the value of stick-to-itiveness and doing our job like a vocation. That we are not selling our hours for pesos.
Matino : Sensible
A sensible person is matino because he aligns his actions to accepted principles. He does not do anything that will compromise his integrity and the welfare of the people he serves.
Judges are matino if they are fair and just. They don’t favor anyone who has connections or money.
Students are matino if they pay attention to their studies. Teachers are matino if teach set themselves as models to students.
We expect our leaders to be matino. But often, because of our electoral practices, we elect the incompetent and the corrupt.
At work, Filipinos try very hard to be deemed matino. They avoid doing anything that will tarnish their reputation.
Be clear about your work expectations because Filipinos will strive to abide by them.
Pakikipagkapwa-tao : High Regard for Others
When I was young, a popular TV program was “Kapwa ko, Mahal Ko’. It was hosted by Orly Mercado, who later became a senator. The program provides help to those who are in need. Many viewers give financial assistance too.
Kapwa means “of the same nature” or “of equal status”. It is like saying that kapwa is your other self. You ought to love your other self, right?
In the workplace, this means that no matter what your station in life is or your place in the organizational chart, remember that we are both humans. I respect you, and I expect you to respect me.
Filipinos will follow you because you are the boss. But don’t you dare insult them or make them feel inferior.
I often conduct workshops on interpersonal relationships and on building interpersonal communication skills. If you begin with pakikipagkapwa-tao, interpersonal relationships will make more sense to Filipinos.
For us, pakikipagkapwa-tao is not a means to survive. We aim to have harmonious relationships with our other-selves.
We often go to a lamay (wake) to show our pakikiramay. We want to show the bereaved family and friends our sympathy. It is also an occasion when relatives and friends who have not seen each other for a long time meet again.
This value is not for the dead but the living.
If you are a manager, pakikiramay is the quickest way to relate with your employees. Pakikiramay shows that you have empathy. It shows that you care for them.
Pakikisama : Fellowship
Filipinos value being part of a group or community. Events that make us together energize us.
Some companies conduct fellowship sessions as part of their team-building efforts.
Company initiatives will succeed if Filipinos feel they belong. Policies that are imposed on them do not often succeed. Make a project a communal effort, and people will support it.
An initiative like 5S, a lean manufacturing methodology, often becomes successful in the Filipino workplace when you sell it as a community project. It is good for the company.
Get leaders that employees trust to champion the concept, and you’ll have everyone follow the system in no time.
Pakikisama, like other Filipino values, is often presented in a bad light when we were still a colony of the United States. Your grandparents and even your parents have likely been miseducated about it.
But be that as it may, pakikisama is an enduring belief. We want to belong.
Pananampalataya: Faith in Supreme Being
Filipinos are known for their faith in the Supreme Being. Even those who do not consider themselves religious would say that they have faith in God.
It is this faith that makes us say “Bahala Na”. I will do it because God is with me.
Some believe that what they do for your company is service to God. And when you do things that do not help the community, they think of themselves as selfish.
Some Filipino companies have chapels and allow Bible study sessions. Somehow, they believe that allowing Filipinos to have time for spiritual growth help in building good relationships and improving work performance.
Tibay ng Dibdib : Fortitude
Filipinos dare to fight even when the chance of winning is tiny. We often associate it with puso (heart) or the will to go on until we win.
Fortuna favet fortibus. Fortune favors the brave. We adhere to the same principle.
We love the underdog for we are always the underdog. Give Filipino challenging projects and they’ll likely take on the project. Even if it is their first time.
We often succeed because we find ways to make things happen.
We value hard work. Quietly we do what we ought to do. Our younger generations have been fed with the idea that they don’t need to work hard if they can work smart.
Working hard does not mean we don’t work smart. Filipinos dare to do the job, no matter how hard. Our overseas Filipino workers are often praised for their excellent work attitude.
When I was young, I was told again and again that “kapag may tiyaga, may nilaga”. Those who have patience have something to stew.
We keep working, no matter how hard, because it is the smartest thing to do.
Quitters won’t get anything.
Instead of calling Filipinos lazy (an insult to us), encourage them to have patience. Say instead, “Tiyaga lang, uunlad din tayo. ” Let us be patient for we shall succeed.
Utang na Loob : Debt from Within
Filipinos are intrinsically motivated to give back what they have received from you, even though you don’t expect anything in return. It involves reciprocity. People do not pay utang na loob with money.
If you give Filipinos money to do something for you, we call it payment. If you give money so they’ll violate policies and procedures, we call it a bribe.
But when you help them when they need help the most, we call it utang na loob. It has no price tag. We intend to repay you soon.
Filipino workers consider it utang na loob you do good to them. An employee got promoted because you had coached and mentored him. That promotion allowed him to send his children to college.
You consider it your job, but he considers himself indebted to you.
Never look down on your Filipino subordinate. Support them. Don’t talk about how much money you pay them. Talk about what their work can do for their families.
Negative Filipino Values
Some experts claim that values are neither positive nor negative. Others say that values are inherently positive, and negative values are simply behaviors that violate positive values.
We can choose to debate about these things. We can also agree that we name values as positive or negative so that we can have a common understanding of how we call them.
Nationalism, for example, is often expressed in many ways. But there were wars between countries because of nationalism. Imperialists believe that it is their right and responsibility to govern other countries for the sake of their nation. Imperialism is the extreme side of nationalism.
I have mentioned Bayanihan as an antidote to kanya-kanya and tayo-tayo.
We have bayanihan because we unite for a common cause. 3 I discuss the role of bayanihan in our life. We can say the same for kanya-kanya and tayo-tayo. One group of people unite against others.
This means that some values are more important and beneficial to humanity than others. A value system is negative if practicing them harms others.
- Filipino values influence how we live. We give more significance to some values more than others. When working with Filipinos, it is beneficial to consider the values that influence how they make decisions for themselves and others.
- When you conduct training sessions, explore how you can incorporate Filipino values. By beginning with what’s familiar to them, you will make it easy for them to apply new concepts, strategies, and principles.
- Come up with initiatives that celebrate Filipino values.