‘Bayanihan’ as the national ethos | Inquirer Opinion

‘Bayanihan’ as the national ethos

With the overhaul of our entire political system possibly just beyond the bend, I am reminded of a question posed by Gregorio J. Tingson, then chair of the Committee on Preamble, National Territory, and Declaration of Principles of the 1986 Constitutional Commission (Con-Com):

“Is it possible to capture in a few words the soul of our country? I doubt it very much, Madam President.  But if it were possible, then I say that those words should form the Preamble to the Constitution we are writing.” (Record of the Constitutional Commission, Volume 1, June 11, 1986, p117)


While the constitutional text itself is a means to establish a national ethos, it is commonly through the preamble where it is articulated. Notably, one source of pride for the members of the 1986 Con-Com is the inclusion of the word “love” in the Preamble of the 1987 Constitution. It is an unconventional insertion which obviously came from the “high” caused by the immediately preceding bloodless revolution.

But a good example of a preamble expressing a state philosophy is the constitution of Indonesia. Pancasila is the acknowledged foundational belief of the Indonesian state. It encompasses five principles that are deeply connected and expressed this way: “…a constitution of the sovereign Republic of Indonesia which is based on the belief in (1) the One and Only God, (2) just and humanity, (3) the unity of Indonesia, (4) democracy guided by the inner wisdom of deliberations amongst representatives and (5) the realization of social justice for all of the people of Indonesia.”


For Filipinos, the impending charter change effort is a chance to redefine the country’s national ethos. Interestingly, for Bishop Teodoro Bacani, the prime proponent of including “love” in the current preamble, this word meant “pakikipagkapwa-tao.” This is a fundamental sociocultural tradition all Filipinos are familiar with. Indeed, we more often refer to this as “bayanihan.”

Every Filipino has been taught that bayanihan is the indigenous cultural phenomenon of community solidarity. It is the “bayan” demonstrating the will to work together to achieve a task. It is the manifestation of one’s innate capacity to see oneself as merely a part of the larger whole. Indeed, it is the spirit that pushes one to freely act for the benefit of the group.

As Apolinario Mabini advised in The True Decalogue: “Always look on your countryman as more than a neighbor: you will find in him a friend, a brother and at least the companion to whom you are tied by only one destiny, by the same happiness and sorrows, and by the same aspirations and interests.”

Officially recognizing bayanihan as the national ethos can deepen community empathy in today’s Filipino. Correspondingly, an outlook underscored by social responsibility can put an abrupt end to the antisocial behavior often displayed in the public sphere (i.e., littering and counterflowing, just to name a few).

More profoundly, though, incorporating bayanihan in the new charter’s preamble can countervail the entrenched self-centered mindset in Filipino society. This reformative disruption can in turn facilitate the strengthening of every Filipino’s resolve to be a responsible citizen. The inevitable outcome here then is a robust nation-building effort which can bring the country out of its current sorry state.

The most familiar illustration of bayanihan is the image of a bahay kubo being carried by the community. However, I think a more authentic representation would be the Banaue Rice Terraces.

This wonder of the world is testament to a community singular in its goal to thrive. The mastery of the mountains is a result that no single individual can lay claim to. Indeed, it is incontrovertible proof of the power of collective action.


As the President proudly asserted in his second State of the Nation Address, “For as I saw it then as I see it now, there is no problem in the world which can stop the march of a people with unflinching and tenacious determination.”

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Michael Henry Ll. Yusingco, a practicing lawyer, is the author of the book “Rethinking the Bangsamoro Perspective.” He conducts research on current issues in state-building, decentralization and constitutionalism.

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TAGS: 1986 Constitutional Commision, Bayanihan, Inquirer Commentary, Michael Henry Ll. Yusingco
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