Saturday, February 18, 2006



Any child in a society learns from his earliest moments to conform to cultural expectations as to how he should behave. He is rewarded for following the rules by a measure of approval, and punished for ignoring the rules by the measure of social disapproval. Signs of approval may range from his mother’s smile to a medal pinned on his shirt by the school principal; social disapproval may run the gamut of a frown to physical punishment in the form of a severe beating administered by an angry parent. Conformity is thus imposed on the individual in all societies. The range of deviation permitted, however, differs from one society to the next.

This research is an attempt to have a closer look on one of the Filipino attitudes of not being in conformity to these existing norms, whether be it in the family, in a certain rural community or in the whole society. This undesirable status given to a nonconformist is PILOSOPO.


The Filipino sees himself as a member of a group and channels his behavior in terms of that group. If he is to remain part of it, he cannot exhibit independence of it. One of the attitudes which support this system in our society is the commitment to pakikisama. The friendly person who constantly goes along with the wishes of the group even when he may have a conflicting duty to some importance to take care of is termed magaling makisama or one who gets along well with people. However, if one deviates from the ideas of the group and his principles would not conform to the norms practiced or followed by the members of the society is branded as a pilosopo.

The pilosopo is one of the undesirable statuses given to a nonconformist. The pilosopo in a rural community is the person who questions prevailing ideas or opinions and is not readily willing to concede the wisdom or accuracy of another person’s statements. He tends to have all the answers regardless of the extent of his knowledge of the subject under discussion, and takes on the role of local critic on events in the barrio and news filtering into it from the outside world. He not only frequently refuses to participate in group events, but also finds innumerable objections as to why anyone else should participate in them. He is not revered as a person of knowledge, but rather laughed at as an obstructionist par excellence, a person who argues merely for the sake of argument. He is referred to as pilosopo behind his back, for to call him that to his face is tantamount to insult.

By derivative then, would be any one who persistently pushes his ideas or beliefs, who remains a holdout refusing to bend to the group’s opinions might be termed pilosopo. If a person tries to make a point which differs from the prevailing group idea, his listeners may accuse or tease him with “namimilosopo lang” (“just being pilosopo”). This implies that his argument stems from any intrinsic merit he sees in an idea, but from the desire to be different, to be an obstructionist, and perhaps to hear himself talk. In this type of cultural milieu, it is easy to see how creativity and a new idea can so easily be stifled in favor of compliance with the group’s opinions and will.

A a pilosopo, for many, has a negative connotation especially to the oldies. A pilosopo is considered to be someone who is out of his mind. However, there are also pilosopo’s who deviates from the group’s beliefs and ideas due to reasonable causes. One instance is not practicing the so many superstitious beliefs of our parents or grandparents. Giving them our explanations of not doing such is risking ourselves being called a pilosopo.


The pressure for conformity described above is difficult for the lone individual to resist. Yet, if Philippine society is to keep in step with new needs, it must provide channels for legitimate deviation. Although some channels already exist, more people must be freed, not from all the old familiar norms, but from those traditional patterns which have become dysfunctional in a developing society. How can this be achieved?

A sociologist once has stated; “ The more a member values an activity incompatible with conformity, and the more valuable are his sources of social approval other than the conformers in his group, the less likely he is to conform: a companion in misery is still a companion”. The implications of his statement for the Philippine society are clear. If we are to develop Filipinos who dare to deviate from norms, which do not seem to fit in the twenty-first century context, we must make sure these deviants get their reward of social approval by helping them find others of their own kind.

The agricultural graduate returning to the barrio must have the company of people like himself. If he is the first of his kind there, he will often find disheartening the process of trying to influence some of his barriomates to adopt his new agricultural techniques and attitudes. He should therefore be encouraged to seek out his counterparts in the neighboring area in an effort to develop closer personal ties with them. So, too, must the scholar returning from studies in Metro Manila or abroad and the like.

Banded together into a new barkada, or in-group, by a set of common, non-traditional but necessary values, these badly-needed deviants will reward one another for their new type of behavior by giving their companions the social approval they seek. Each can now afford to ignore the pressures for conformity to certain old ways and to risk the disapproval of his former in-group by finding security in this new breed of Filipinos. He will not have to forego the invigorating reward of social approval so necessary to every man. Rather, he will receive it from the few people like himself with a personal commitment to the need for change stemming from conviction that their country will be the better for it.

Being a pilosopo is not always a bad Filipino status. As long as one gives his ideas and principles with the end view of helping others, the members of his in-group, and not to intentionally contradict the reasonable norms of the group by being an obstructionist.


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