Institute of Philippine Culture’s Study on Philippine Values

Values are innate and important human concepts. Anthropologists and sociologists define values differently. John Macionis (2006, p. 481) defines values as culturally defined standards that people apply to evaluate prestige, goodness, and attractiveness and serve as basis for social living. Jaime Bulatao (1963, p. 50) defines value as “an object of a positive attitude” or “a goal or vision of which motivates him to action.” According to Hunt, Green, Espiritu, and Quisumbing, (1998, p. 95), values are important motivators of behavior that indicate what society considers as important. They also provide the course of action that can be taken when confronted with choices. For Fr. Frank Lynch (1963, p. 2), values are “standards used in the making of a decision.” They can be classified as aims or goals toward something that an individual strives for. They can also be defined as a belief, conviction, or structural principles by which “statuses are distinct and unequal in prestige.”

In the Philippines, Filipino values have been shaped by different factors. They are also influenced by the country’s history, traditions, and beliefs through time. According to Lynch, some of the value systems in the Philippines focus on principles, aims, and convictions of Filipino society. It must be noted that one should not consider every value as uniquely Filipino because there are notable differences in the individual values of persons based on their social ranking and emphasis on life. Lynch(1963, p. 3) argues that two Filipino value systems are considered different from each other because of the “peculiar way in which the individual values are weighted and combined in each system.”

Filipino values are considered as desirable conceptions but are not uniquely found in the Philippines. Most of the Filipino values discussed in this lesson contain certain elements in the total value system of other countries and societies. Filipino values can be divided into many themes. One theme expresses conditions of human existence that is considered not only attainable but highly desirable. These are values that aim to attain a good life. These include are the following:

  1. Acceptance by one’s fellow for what one is, thinks oneself to be, or would like to be, and be given the treatment due to one’s station;
  2. Economic security (e.g. freedom from debt)
  3. Movement to higher socioeconomic ladder 


Social acceptance is an important Filipino value. Two values help attain social acceptance. These are (1) smoothness of interpersonal relations (SIR) and (2) shame and self-esteem or amor propio.

Smooth Interpersonal Relations (SIR)

Filipinos are known for pleasantness in communicating with other people. These values can be seen in our smooth interpersonal relations or SIR. Lynch (1963, p. 8) defines SIR as “means being agreeable, even under difficult circumstances, and of keeping quiet or out of sight when discretion passes the word. It means a sensitivity to what other people feel at any given moment.”

SIR is very important in Filipino society. It is easily observed and practiced in almost all human encounters of Filipinos. SIR is acquired and preserved in three different ways. These are through (1) Pakikisama; (2) Euphemism; and (3) through the use of a go-between.

Pakikisama or in English, “accompany or go along with,” refers to the practice of accepting the decision of the leader or the majority of the group so that it will appear that the group’s decision is undivided.

Euphemism refers to the respectful or polite manner of presenting a serious subject or an unkind opinion or request. This value is highly prized in the Philippines because the use of harsh, insulting, and negative speeches are frowned upon in Filipino society.

The use of a go-between is another common way of preserving or restoring smooth interpersonal relations. This is done by a third party who is called upon to appease someone, mend disagreements, or prevent conflicts. A go-between is needed in a number of common situations. These include the following:

  1. When an embarrassing request is made;
  2. Complaint; was made against a person
  3. Decision often communicated through a middle-person to prevent shame or hiya;
  4. Traditional marriage negotiations through the use of spokespersons or mediators for the two parties;
  5. Remedy an existing state of conflict or tension by acting as mediators to bring about reconciliation like family disputes or political conflicts;
  6. Interdependence during times of need by seeking help from relatives as support system or allies when disagreements occur with outsiders.

Shame and Self-esteem

Contrary behavior to social acceptance are given social sanctions in Filipino society. There are two ways in which contrary behaviors are sanctioned. They are through the (1) general and universal social sanction of shame (1963) or hiya and (2) amor propio.

Lynch defines hiya as an uncomfortable feeling that accompanies awareness of being in a position that is considered socially inappropriate or performing an action that is unacceptable to society. Hiya or shame can be shown in different ways:

  1. One feels hiya when one is in a socially undesirable role that an uncomfortable response inhibits further action
  2. Violation of a socially approved norms of conduct, hence making that person commit merit condemnation or called as “walang hiya” or a feeling of shamelessness

Amor propio or self-esteem is a special defense against severe interpersonal unpleasantness. Amor propio is manifested by being sensitive to personal insult. It is considered as being sensitive not for the attainment of social acceptance but to retain one’s social acceptance that he/she already has.


Economic security means that Filipinos have the ability to meet ordinary material needs without borrowing. He/she want economic security through his/her resources. Filipinos also value advancement in the socioeconomic ladder. They always hope to move up to a higher economic class.


Reciprocity is an important value among Filipinos. It refers to a situation when Filipinos ensure that every favor or request received or asked must be eturned. According to Mary Hollnsteiner (1963, pp. 23-41), there are three classifications of reciprocity in the Philippines. These are (1) contractual reciprocity; (2) quasi-contractual reciprocity; (3) utang na loob or debt of gratitude.

Contractual reciprocity, according to Hollnsteiner (1963, pp. 23-24), refers to a voluntary agreement between two or more individuals to behave in a particular manner in a specific time in the future. This form of reciprocity is strictly contractual in nature and the reciprocity arrangements are clearly defined and established beforehand. Contractual reciprocity has the following arrangements:

  1. Participants in the said transaction are aware and knowledgeable of what is expected of him and his expectations of the others as well.
  2. Participants are not compelled to do more than any other member because it is not expected of them to do
  3. Obligation is narrow in scope and emotions are not involved. 

Quasi-contractual reciprocity regulates balanced exchanges and the terms of the repayment are not implicitly discussed before any contract or agreement is drafted. In this form of reciprocity, the terms of the agreement are implied in situations in which culture dictates or recognizes. In this classification, reciprocity is automatic without the need for any particular prior arrangements. Repayment is done always and failure to respond or reciprocate brings about the contempt of the person.

A perfect example of this classification of reciprocity is the abuloy or money given to the relatives of the deceased person. When a person in a community or family dies, it is customary for Filipinos to give an abuloy. Whether the deceased person is a relative or just a member of a community in which the person belongs to, he/she must give a sum of money to the bereaved family. The family accepts the amount and records them in a notebook which contains the name of the person who gave the abuloy and the amount that he/she gave. The reciprocal abuloy must be repaid until someone from the donor’s family passes away.

Quasi-contractual reciprocity can also be seen in the borrowing of certain household articles. In this transaction, both the lender and the borrower know that the article must be repaid as soon as possible in the same amount and quality. 

According to Hollnsteiner (1963, pp. 28-29), utang na loob reciprocity is generated when an exchange of goods or services take place between individuals who belong to different groups. In this transaction, the recipient is compelled to show his gratitude properly by returning the favor with interest to ensure that he does not remain in the other’s debt. Utang na loob is characterized by the unequal repayment with no prior agreement, whether implicit or explicit.

Institute of Philippine Culture’s Study on Philippine Values Values 



Smooth interpersonal relations



Use of go-between 

Social sanction

Hiya or shame

Amor propio or self-esteem

Aims and goals 

Social acceptance

Economic security

Social mobility




Utang na loob (Debt of gratitude)