Understanding The Filipino Through Meta-Mythology
De La Salle University
he treatment of the supernatural is terrain that leaves much exploration in philosophy. Yet, a society’s concept of supernatural beings constitutes the earliest stage of its method of knowledge acquisition: Before science was organized to answer the questions of the world, tales involving otherworldly entities provided our ancestors with detailed explanations for why certain things existed and why the processes of nature took place the way they did. One may even go so far as to posit the supernatural world as early science, because its constituents were systematically used to determine causes in the world. But unlike science, the concepts laid out by the panorama of the supernatural provide a clearer reflection of the worldview of its people of origin. While both science and mythology arise from the need to answer the questions of what, how, and why, their methods of arriving at the answers are radically different. Science bases its claims on the results of processes designed to eliminate or minimize subjectivity, while mythology incorporates the cultural components of the people of origin. While science aims at uniformity in understanding phenomena, mythology is too tightly enmeshed in culture that no two mythological systems can be identical. Thus, the supernatural can be used as a text in the hermeneutics of a people. The cultural approach is one of the three perspectives taken in the study of Filipino philosophy (the other two being the traditional and national approaches). It seeks to cull points of points of identification of the Filipino people from different expressions of culture: the arts, literature and folklore, language, religion, and even food. One might say this method lifts off character traits of the Filipino from unsuspecting elements of nationality. Yet, one may also vouch for the effectiveness of this approach by arguing that observing what someone does spontaneously is an excellent way to get to know his character. The storytellers behind the myths did not think of what others would read between the lines of their tales. With no other means of arriving at answers to their cosmological questions, early societies
constructed their worldview around their mythology while the latter served as a concretization, even a record, of the former. One may argue, and with good reason, that this is a circular process, but it is nonetheless a dynamic one, with worldview and mythology both feeding on and drawing from each other. Though mysticism would eventually be dispelled as empirical verification became increasingly possible, the worldview that had developed along with mythology had already embedded itself into the people and their culture.
Though the number of Philippine supernatural beings is incalculable, there are common themes pervading Philippine mythological consciousness. This paper aims through meta-mythological examination of the most commonly occurring themes in the folklore of the Philippines to derive an understanding of the Filipino from a philosophical perspective. Asserting the uniqueness of the Filipino is not the principal aim of this paper, though such may take place as corollaries of the discussion. The conclusion may arise that this paper makes absolute and inflexible declarations about the Filipino psyche; this is not the case, for any hermeneutics seeks not to pronounce categorical judgments but to attain understanding of its object of study. This paper is inductive in nature, and being so does not focus on exceptions but on generally observed trends. Throughout this paper the Filipino people will be referred to as “the Filipino” rather than “Filipinos,” as the latter gives the impression of being an impenetrable universal. The Philippines is a composite of...