Bayanihan at Pamayanan

Welcome remarks delivered during the Awarding Ceremony of Bayanihan sa Pamayanan Awards
(11 March 2010 at ISO Ateneo de Manila University)

When I was in elementary school, which was not long time ago (unlike Sir Ed Chavez here), I learned about Bayanihan. I learned that it is “derived from the word bayan meaning town, nation, or community in general. ‘Bayanihan’ literally means, ‘being a bayan,’ and is thus used to refer to a spirit of communal unity and cooperation.”

Recollecting what that meant to me and my classmates then, I remember that my classmates and I found it so cool that a whole house could actually be moved. That was its only significance to us. Then, Bayanihan’s meaning of cooperation and community spirit for us was so remote, a tradition, a thing of the past. 

We could blame this to poor social studies education in public elementary school. But reflecting deeply, it was not because of that. I thought our teacher did as much as he could to teach Bayanihan’s true meaning. 

Our appreciation was so superficial largely because even at that time, we were not seeing it happening in our community. Even as early as about two decades ago (just revealed my age), Bayanihan spirit was just a tradition, a thing of the past. 

We drifted away from that tradition of community action as a people, embraced a more self-centered way of living and veered away from anything public or political. We got alienated from our community. We lost sight of what Albert Einstein’s call the interdependence of the self and the community. 

The spirit of Bayanihan is what this project tries to revive, the spirit of being part of a community, of cooperation, of caring for others. This is what we try to reclaim—the meaning of Bayanihan that has evolved from a simple act of neighbors carrying a whole house of a relocating family to a process of nation-building through people’s empowerment and good governance. 

This is a message that says everything is not lost after all. There are shimmers of light, patches of green, light at the end of the tunnel or however you call it that means there is hope. EDSA 1 and 2 were acts of Bayanihan. The fights against social injustice are acts of Bayanihan. And though sporadic, they continue even up to present. 

What we celebrate today in particular is the Bayanihan that is happening in the barangays. How people empowerment has been able to overcome patronage-based politics that breeds dependency and disempowerment and how it has been able to deliver good governance that benefits the people. I congratulate the winners and on behalf of the steering committee, I welcome you all to this celebration of community empowerment. Welcome to Bayanihan sa Pamayanan Awards!