The Importance of Building a Wider Community
A young woman from the Philippines advocates for the importance of creating a sense of citizenship in the community
Kyla (not her real name)
A young writer from the Philippines, who's passionate about caring for her community
Going Beyond Family Circles: Reaching Out and Caring For the Greater Community
As someone who spends three hours a day commuting to and from work, it is easy to get caught up in my own little bubble. There is barely any energy left at the end of the day to attend to cooking, preparing for the following day, and the like, much less turn my attention to the needs of others.
With so many others in similar situations, focusing on surviving the day-to-day, the dilemma of Filipino citizenship is created.
The Filipino conceptualization of citizenship is “an identity defined by a bundle of rights and duties and by an awareness of others in a similar position.”(1) This identity-centric nature of Filipino citizenship leads us to tend to be indifferent to problems of social injustice, especially when they don’t directly concern us.
“It doesn’t affect me, so why should I care?” Strong familial ties and a weak integration of civic education in schools breeds such a mentality. It feels like Filipinos pay little mind to political participation - as evidenced by an ailing political party system - because of the lack of civic foundations growing up.
This is further hampered by the large sense of responsibility Filipinos have towards their family. It creates a dense barrier between oneself and others in the community rendering it difficult to identify with – and eventually, care for – them.
Well, we should care because “care” precisely forms the foundation of our citizenship. Care - as it often does - starts in the family. My siblings do not care much for politics. They recognize the sadness of our country's situation but have become so jaded as to accept it as a way of life.
As the bunso (youngest child), I also never really felt that it was my place to talk about such matters. I’ve always thought that it was sad that they were that way, now it can’t just end at “how sad”; it begins with asking why they feel this way in the first place and try to find a common understanding that would help us all care beyond ourselves.
The next logical step is to go beyond the family and into my peers. I’ve been lucky enough to have friends who strongly identify with the larger Filipino community. Still, it would be remiss to assume that everyone is like that.
Lastly, would be to venture even farther to people I don’t necessarily know. A concrete way would be to strike up a conversation with my Grab driver or even go house-to-house in remote areas of my local community.
What may seem like a complex and difficult problem to address really boils down to the will to reach out to others. It is about having genuine conversations with these people to make them aware of their membership in a larger Filipino community. Eventually, the membership will be internalized and hopefully would create a ripple effect.
To be more direct, to better live out Filipino citizenship is to strive to be more present in the community and move others to better identify with the general public. Identity-centrism and personal care are not inherent obstacles to citizenship, these have the potential to serve as great cornerstones for active citizenship. After all, the personal is political.
1. Marie Diokno, “Becoming a Filipino citizen: Perspectives on citizenship and democracy,” in Democracy and Citizenship in Filipino Political Culture. Quezon City: Third World Studies Center (Quezon City: University of the Philippines, 1997), p.20.
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