What Are You Made Of?
The Role of Faith in Social Identity
What are you made of? This is truly a difficult question to answer if one would really take the time to ponder it. How would you arrive at the conclusion of describing who you are and the things you believe in? What are the things that made you as an individual? Inevitably, there will be several social, spiritual, and political issues that one may have to battle with to arrive at a sound conclusion. Life is complex and that is a certain fact. The complexity life offers for various people with different political affiliations, religious views, and socioeconomic status may be one arena of conflict. How will these differences be reconciled by the government who must develop national consciousness among its citizens? How will the Philippines become united amidst of these cultural differences? It is also the same question for the people, are they willing to compromise their values and beliefs for the unity of the country? These are questions which have no certain answers. For years now, there have been efforts made by the government and educational institutions that are geared towards resolving this conflict. However, it will take time before the country would experience such desired changes. The Philippines is a largely diverse country. Not only is the country multicultural, it is also multilingual. This situation makes it all the more difficult for the educational system to cater to the different needs of each sector. On the national level, the Department of Education has issued memorandums pertaining to ‘generic’ programs addressing these issues. However, the lack of material resources and the lack of interest from stakeholders are the factors responsible for hampering envisioned improvements. While on the community level, there are also initiatives from the teachers themselves who make their own changes and adaptations depending on the needs of their students. By the age of four, most Filipino children go to school to study. They learn about their own identity and the roles as expected from their identity, their being Filipino and duties of citizenship, the community they live in, and certain cultural beliefs and values. All these form the foundation of their beliefs about their identity and the country at large. This ‘indoctrination’ goes on until college. From here we can see that the life of one student is virtually fashioned inside the school. Thus, the school can be said to be a ‘breeding ground’ where various social identities are shaped. And so the question now is, “How will schools mold Filipino identity?” and at the same time reconcile it with other social identities such as ethnicity and religion without marginalizing cultural or religious beliefs. This process of molding holds much importance for educators because I think that one of the most significant functions of Philippine education is to inculcate Filipino identity and nationalist consciousness. As a teacher, I believe that a person’s religion bears so much importance in how that person thinks and behaves in the social context. It serves as the guiding light or reference point as to which decisions regarding experiences are based. Seeing that the Philippines has several religions, it becomes one social divider in the nation. Believers of certain faith have their own teachings that should be strictly adhered to regarding the political system and cultural beliefs and practices that may sometimes coincide with the rules of the state. For instance, believers of Jehovah’s Witnesses do not pledge the Panatang Makabayan because they believe that they should only place their faith or for that matter, state their allegiance in the god that they serve. Moreover, I believe that religion really matters for the majority of the Filipinos. And this is the root of conflicts, discrimination, and prejudice between Christians and Non-Christians that are manifested in different areas such as the political and...
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