In the 1960s and 1970s, no Filipino teacher of philosophy would ever have believed there to be such a thing as Filipino philosophy. At the time, Western thought was the only acceptable one.

But if philosophy begins in wonder as Plato and Aristotle claimed, then there is a Filipino philosophy, insofar as Filipinos also marvel at the mystery of existence. ‘All human beings by nature desire to know,’ as Aristotle famously observed.¹ The Greeks do not have a monopoly on the desire to know.

If philosophy arises out of human experience, as the existentialist and phenomenologist teach, then there is a Filipino philosophy inasmuch as there is a distinctly Filipino experience.

And if philosophy is found in every culture, as the sociologist and anthropologist have discovered, then there is a Filipino philosophy, since the Filipinos have a culture as rich as that of any people.

If, finally, thought and language are intertwined, with the latter embodying the former, as linguists and philosophers of language suggest, then Filipino philosophy exists because there is also a Filipino language—and in fact over 80 varieties of it, each of which reflects a different facet of human reality.

Our ability to philosophise, therefore, does not depend on our being Chinese, Greek, Indian, German, French, or Filipino. We do not need to become Westerners, nor speak English or French, to be awed by the mystery of life. It is enough to be born human with an indigenous experience, inherent culture, and a native language.  

Filipinos, too, have their own philosophical worldview, a picture of reality which provides a plausible explanation of human life. Filipino thought is more of a philosophy of life than a philosophy of being, just as it was for the Greeks. It’s still too young to have a metaphysics of its own, although Fr. Ferriols’ concepts of meron (being), wala (nonbeing), and pagmemeron (becoming) have taken initial steps in this direction.²

Filipinos have not devised a system of definition. Instead, they tend to use metaphors, analogies, and similes. It is the scholar’s arduous task to assemble these fragments of a philosophy of life into a coherent whole.

Some sinologists suggest that Confucius himself referred to his Lunyu, also known as The Analects of Confucius, as being based on a collection of wise sayings by the Chinese people’s ancestors.³ There is no reason that we cannot do the same thing with the corpus of Filipino myths, parables, legends, proverbs, and sayings we inherited from our own forebears.

Who else could articulate a Filipino philosophy if not the Filipinos themselves? It would be the high point of irony to leave this task to foreigners.

If the Western syllogism is taken as the norm, then Filipino logic is identical with it in its theoretical form. Yet, the latter is distinct and unique on account of six core differences. Unlike its abstract, impersonal, universal, and scientific Western cousin, Filipino logic is more metaphorical, concrete, personal, moralistic, rhetorical, and theological.

This can make Filipino reasoning seem faulty from the stance of Western logic. Fallacies of false premises or false cause are often committed. People are prone to jumping to conclusions, indulging in pure speculative arguments, taking items out of context, and assuming premises without proof.

However, Filipino logic should be understood in the context of the people’s mental framework. Western thought is logical and empirical. Every statement is supported by facts. Every conclusion should logically follow from its premises. Every pronouncement must be backed by proof. Every utterance must be verifiable and observable. Filipino thinking, on the other hand, is nonlogical and nonempirical. It is more intuitive than sequential, more functional than empirical, more practical than inferential.

The Filipino does not need to prove his statements. He does not need to define his terms; he does not need to justify his thought. He directly intuits the truth of statements. He seems to immediately apprehend knowledge of a practical kind about the nature of life, human nature, the world, etc. We see this, for instance, in the penetrating wisdom of the popular proverb, Ang taong nagigipit, kahit sa patalim ay kakapit, which means: ‘A man who is in danger will cling even to a knife.’ While it may formally prove nothing, its truth is obvious to anyone who has experienced all-consuming fear, loss, or despair.

Because we, Filipinos, have developed an indigenous philosophy and logic, it’s important that we philosophise with it, and not with that of other races. Thinking with another’s thoughts is like eating pre-chewed food. When we think through another’s thoughts, we become subconsciously subservient to their owner. This is one of the reasons many Filipinos still have a colonial mentality.

Until when shall we remain prisoners of other people’s thoughts? Why should we not articulate our own? If not now, when?

Reflecting on our culture and language can help us discern our philosophy of life, our values, and our Filipino identity.