A MATTER OF CULTURE

A MATTER OF CULTURE

BY Orlando P. Pena,  FIMC, DIPM 
 
The author was for several years  a  Board member and  Director  for Asia of the former  International Society of Intercultural Education, Training and Research  or SIETAR in Washington  whose mission was to provide the international community and educators with an understanding of people across cultures to promote peace and development  in the world.
He  is Chairman Emeritus of the People Management Association  the Philippines, PMAP and President Emeritus of  the Institute of Management Consultants of the Philippines, IMPHIL. He was  the Founding Secretary-General of the Association of Development Financing Institutions  in Asia and the Pacific and Secretary General of the World Federation  .  He served as a consultant and trainer for the UNDP, the ADB, the UN International Trade Center, Development Banks in Asia and the Pacific  and an expert resource in the area of Executive Decision Making, Executive Trainers Training, Business Strategy, Cross Cultural Training , Human Resource Management.   He is the Chairman  of the World Association of Trainers in Development the alumni association of the World Bank Economic Development Institute where he was a Course Director for many years      He is also President of Asia Business Consultants Inc of Manila. 
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The various conflicts around the world and in our country highlight tne aspect of humanity that is rarely perceived as a source of conflict. This is CULTURE.  The middle east conflict is an example of conflict between the Shiite and he Sunni for domination. They are both Muslims. The conflict between the Protestants and Catholics in Ireland, the conflict in Mindanao between the warring Muslim factions and the various Christian sects, the conflicts between the Blacks and the Whites in the United States, the conflicts between the Indians and the Pakistanis, the conflict between the nations of the United Nations are rooted  in cultural differences. The issue is cultural dominance. 
Among families, there are also cultural differences that make relationships difficult. Among ethnic tribes, there are practices which breed contempt.  Among people of different nationalities, politicians, businessmen and professionals there are beliefs and values which clash. 
It is a  practice to  eat dog meat in the Mountain Province, in Korea and in Switzerland.  When you say you eat dog meat  , you will evoke a feeling of uneasiness among your audience.  Dog Meat? YAK! But  dog meat is a warming food, dog meat is not the pet dog, dog meat tastes good, dog meat is acceptable.  Why the resistance?  Because of cultural differences.  
When you are offered the wife of the host to sleep with, this is the highest form of hospitality in some cultures where it is very cold. 
When you see the Japanese bow as many as 300 times a day, you might think this is servitude. This is respect. 
When  you  defame God’s name , it is sure death in some countries. 
It is acceptable in many societies to eat with your hands . Some  will make sure rice Is splatter all over their face to show to their host they are satisfied.
 How do you feel about all these?
In Western Management, we manage people to fit the jobs.  No job, no people.  We pay the job, not the people.  Jobs constantly change and so there is a perpetual mismatch when people do not change.  In  contrast, in Japanese management, titles are given  to people according to their rank, so they can be  transferred anywhere,  anytime. In the Army  for instance, a lieutenant can be transferred anywhere.  In business, the person cannot be just transferred to any job, without the appropriate  title. 
Language is very important to promote peace between a boss and a subordinate, between a husband and a wife, between neighbors,  between different cultures.  
Building a road over an ancestral burial place is taboo  in many cultures.  In some cultures it does not matter. 
Marriage between same sex is now acceptable in some societies , it is taboo to most of us.
Leadership styles vary according to ones orientation.  Some leaders can be harsh, some can be gentle, most prefer to behave like parents.  All have an unique way of expressing their status as the Boss or the Master, or the Shepherd or the Teacher. 
The United Nations is a manifestation of the different cultures trying to bridge each other’s differences.  The clash of cultures is what this Body is trying to prevent and manage. 
 
In the Philippines, we are one of the most culturally diverse people.  The non Muslim Filipinos  will accept  any person as a friend,  marry any one, live and enjoy each one, eat all kinds of food,  live in any country and  yet  will  not forget ones cultural origins.  The  indigenous Filipino will  always  look for pinakbet,  adobo, sinigang,  lolo and lola and pasko.  The Muslim Filipino’s have their own family value system originating from their religious beliefs. 
 The current Filipino President has cross cultural origins. Hence, is able to portray a culture of promoting unity  among the Filipinos. He has Chinese, Maranao, Malay, origins . He was educated in a Catholic school, became a lawyer trained on the American legal system,  and  being from the south, he has imbibed the cultural biases  of his homeland.  Even his cussing   is typical of a conqueror’s  expression of frustration or disgust.i.e.,  Punieta and conio  were inherited from Spain,  SOB  and  F you from the Americans,  PI from the locals. 
Despite  racial and tribal diversity,  the Filipino is the most acceptable person in the world. There is a Filipino in every country , in every large multinational  company, in every global construction, in every Catholic mission, in every profession,  in every international organization. There is even a planet named after a school teacher from Iloilo. A Filipino friar was part of group that discovered Los Angeles, reputedly the first documented Asians in the US are from New Orleans,  and it was this group that introduced what is now the parade  float used in American celebrations.  The inventor of the Pontoon Bridge of the US Army and the designer of the Lunar vehicle were Filipinos. The father of the modern Thai  rice farming was a Filiipino who became Thai  and so was the founder of the Bangkok Bank.  Early on, during the Spanish regime,  the Filipino intellectuals headed by Jose Rizal were educated in Europe and became writers, painters, artists and revolutionists . The only Filipino general who did not surrender to the Americans, was General Ricarte who became a Japanese.  
To   paraphrase the problem of culture, it was Lawrence of Arabia, an Englishmen who said when meeting the Arabs for the  first time.  “What of them can I change to better relate to me, what of me can I change to better relate to them, and what of me cannot be changed because it is me?.” To a great extent this is the challenge that cross cultural and intra cultural education seeks to address,  
In SIETAR, various  researchers, scholars, teachers, practitioners involve in cultural studies and  cultural orientations gathered once a year to exchange expertise and information on how best to address the problems of cultural differences  in the workplace, in education, in diplomacy, in government, and every phase of life.  The Church and religion are the main instruments of managing the differences among persons and among families.  A Philippine SIETAR or a similar organization  should spur this movement not only to reduce  conflicts but to  improve the quality of life of the people through better understanding  and to improve the local and global competitiveness of the Filipino work force.   
The study on CULTURE includes  very important components of ethics and values  which govern behavior in the home, in the workplace and among people in various communities. 
Communication, another important dimension of CULTURE, addresses the fundamental concepts of understanding  among people and how they react to what is SAID and SEEN.  Dr Pierre Casse, eminent psychologist gives four principles of communication which is the basis of misunderstanding  and  conflict, as follows: 
WE COMMUNICATE ALL THE TIME
WE SEE THINGS THAT DO NOT EXIT 
WE DO NOT SEE THNGS THAT EXIST
WE PERCEIVE DIFFERENTLY
MEANINGS ARE NOT IN WORDS, THEY ARE IN PEOPLE
Application of these principles in diplomacy, in work, in day to day relationships, in letters and in every aspect of relationships among people and among nations have to be learned.  
Because of our mixed cultural orientations,  Dr.F. Landa  Jocano advocated a  strong cultural education on  GOOD CITIZENSHIP with focus  on the uniqueness and achievement of the Filipinos in the shaping of our  national history,  geography,  government , politics, arts and culture.  As a background to our historical roots, Dr. Jocano  who once lived among a lost tribe in an Island of the Visayas  discovered a unique  EPIC  describing  the ancient life of  people of  the Philippine islands  before being named after King Philip II of Spain , proving the claim that there is an original  Filipino race and  disproving  the claim of historians that we are a hodge podge of races, i.e.,  Malays, Indonesians, Polynesians, Mongolians, and Chinese.
With the leadership style and language of President Duterte, the racial conflict in Mindanao, the larger war for cultural dominance in the middle east, and many other difficulties caused by cultural differences in mixed marriages, migration, and other forms of interactions,   it is perhaps  time to recognize the importance of CULTURAL EDUCATION  in every function of our life to better live in harmony with one another and have peace.  
Footnote 
A national SIETAR was in the process of organization  , when its  principal mover Dr. Jocano, a renown Filipino anthropologist, passed away. Those who are interested in reviving  the organization of  the PHILIPPINE SIETAR may contact me at [email protected]