This article presents the author’s viewpoint and opinion that “Bahala Na” together with “Malasakit” and “Pakikisama” are positive Filipino-Christian values and cultural tools in confronting corruption, crime and poverty with the integrated value and best practice being “Bayanihan”.
As a member of the BCBP, an evangelistic community, I am challenged by its avowed advocacy to “Be Honest, Even if others are not, Even if others will not, Even if others cannot” and its campaign in “Confronting Corruption” in the marketplace and in democratic elections. I also feel energized and empowered by its current battlecry “Be Brave, Be Bold!”. My response, and I believe it is a good response, is: “Bahala Na!”
How can we Filipino Christians confidently overcome the perennial evils associated with corruption, crime and poverty, and enjoy the blessings of integrity, peace and abundance? How ? “Bahala Na!” Intertwined with “Malasakit” and “Pakikisama”, this cultural value empowers and transforms problem solving and decision making as a Christian way of life.
Today, when facing personal struggles and critical problems, we tend to resort to a mysterious inner strength and courage or “lakas loob” by readily invoking “Bahala na”. Too often we use this term with passive fatalism, revealing either our laziness to act or our desire to ignore the situation, ‘come what may, I don’t care’. However, this attitude should reflect an active, expectant faith. Positively, this Filipino value must be viewed and appreciated according to its original intent and spiritual empowerment, namely: God’s Will be done.
“Bahala na” has its roots in “Bathala”, a Tagalog or Filipino word for God. Thus “Bahala na” means “Ipasa-Diyos” or “God’s will be done.” This cultural value of “Bahala na” has its historical origins in the Holy Scriptures. In the Garden of Gethsemane, after his soul-searching agony and prior to his self-sacrifice on the cross, Jesus prayed faithfully in humble obedience to God, saying “Father, Your Will be done!” (Matthew 26:42)
SPIRIT OF GETHSEMANE
Watch and Pray
In the Garden of Gethsemane, our Lord Jesus exhorted his apostles, saying “Watch and pray.. The Spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.” (Mark 14:38). We need to stay awake and keep our eyes open, to be aware and conscious of what is happening to us, inside and out. Christ our Lord exhorts us to have knowledge of the realities of life, the truth about God and human nature. Without this knowledge of truth, enhanced by wisdom and understanding, we would be weak and prone to sinful deceit and evil influence. In heart-deep humility, we need God, we need to pray to God who is loving and merciful and say “Abba Father”.
God’s Will be Done
With faith and love, Jesus Christ humbly subjugated his humanity and freely accepted his spiritual mission of self-sacrifice on the cross, saying “Father, not my will but yours be done!” (Luke 22:42) Without this decisive Spirit, the redemptive image of the holy Cross would have been absent from our human history. This personal commitment of Jesus’ “Bahala na” in the Garden of Gethsemane is a critical turning point in history of spiritual salvation, confirmed by the cross, ever since the sinful fall of mankind from the garden of Eden or Paradise. Thus, we share in this salvation when our human will is faithfully united with God’s plan.
Let’s Do It
After Jesus obediently consented to experience the cross, an angel from heaven appeared to give him strength . Subsequently, he said with confidence, “Get up. Let us go.” (Mark 14:42) Thus, faith inspires action and empowers people with courage and fortitude amidst the threats and intimidation of sinful men – those who betray and obstruct the mission of the cross and the will of God. Faithful courage and other gifts of the Spirit are revealed and endowed invariably to believers, to strengthen them in carrying their daily cross and doing God’s will.
No More Sin
At Gethsemane, the Lord Jesus warned the people against violence saying “Put the sword back into its sheath, for all who take the sword will perish by the sword.” (Matthew 26:52) “No more of this… Then he touched the servant’s ear and healed him.” (Luke 22:51). Sinful crime, violence and rebelliousness violate God’s Will and commandments. Yet our merciful God provides hope for peaceful reconciliation and healing. Thus, faith inspires lasting peace and order through personal discipline and obedience of God’s commandments. Such faith invites repentance and conversion according to God’s Will.
Let My People Free
Invaded by a mob of wicked men, our Lord Jesus Christ readily stepped forward and said, “If you are looking for me, then let these men go!” (John 18:8) Such spirit of fearless self-sacrifice liberates mankind from the tragic bondage of selfishness and greed to the new life of freedom and liberty. Aligned to God’s will, such freedom brings hope to attaining the “fullness of life” (John 10:10) and highest potential of a human person, realized in a lifestyle founded on love and honest concern for the general welfare or the common good. Such person’s character is liberated and saved from the evil trappings of corruption, crime and poverty.
Human empowerment through faith involves an inspired process of personal decision making and self-fulfillment. Every step in this 5-step decision-making process is enlightened by prayer and scripture.
In this process, the first step is to know the truth. We need to “stay awake, keep watch and pray.” For without true and good information, the evils of deceit and darkness would engulf our heart and mind. We need to know the truth about our human identity. Who am I? By experience, we know that our human nature is prone to weaknesses – sinfulness, desires of the flesh, death. Indeed, we are sinners. Then, we are enlightened by the Good News: “God so loved the world that He gave His only Son that everyone who believes in Him might not perish but might have eternal life.” (John 3:13) Through prayer and scripture study, we are empowered to claim a spiritual identity founded on God as “Our Father in heaven”. As believers and followers of Christ, we need to renew our mind and heart to the primordial legacy that mankind was created unto the “image of God.”
Love God First
The next step involves a free choice between either a positive or a negative commitment of faith in God. And to follow God’s will is to obey His commandments: “First, you shall love the Lord your God… The second is: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Mark 12:28) . Therefore the commitment of “Bahala na” becomes positive when it is motivated by or dedicated to love of God. “No man can serve two masters… You cannot give yourself to God and money.” (Matthew 6:24) And we are warned that godless “love of money is the root of all evils”. (1 Timothy 6:10)
Charism and Talents
The third step is inspired action. St Paul said: “I have the strength for everything through him who empowers me.” (Philippians 4:13) Nothing is impossible with God Almighty. By God’s grace, various spiritual gifts or talents (charisms) are endowed and distributed to the faithful for the up building of the Church — according to God’s will. We need to pray for and utilize personal talents and spiritual gifts that will empower our private and community life committed to God. God’s people are empowered with various talents and gifts of the Spirit, or charisms. Charismatic persons exercise inspired abilities such as knowledge, wisdom , understanding, teaching, faith, healing, miracles, prophecy, discernment of good and evil, and interpretation. (1 Corinthian 12:7) Of these talents, the Lord Jesus said, “To everyone who has, more will be given and he will grow rich; but the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away.” (Matthew 25:29)
Church & Fellowship
The fourth step is the growth of spiritual fellowship among mankind, as a measure of mission accomplishment. As believers, our mission is to follow the Spirit of Christ, consummated in his loving sacrifice on the cross. In turn, He commanded his followers thus: “He must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” (Luke 9:23) Specifically, Christ commanded us to “Love one another as I have loved you.” (John 15:12) This love for fellowmen, for the glory of God, empowers the up-building of the Church as the growing community of the people of God. And spiritual fellowship needs to start with the family as the basic unit of Church power.
Spirit of Joy & Fulfillment
The final process of faith empowerment is the spiritual reunion of God and mankind, the sharing in heavenly joy and eternal life, the fulfillment of God’s Will. This enjoyment of the grace and glory of God is the highest of human motivations. This is the vision of hope for a renewed life that inspires commitment, action and self-sacrifice. Even now, the presence of God’s grace and glory is manifested by fruits of the Spirit, namely: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, faithfulness, meekness, self-control. (Galatians 5:22) Indeed, a life in the Spirit is a taste of heaven and true freedom from the bondage of sinful humanity, even though we are presently here on earth.
“Bahala na” reflects a great challenge of faith to all Filipino Christians, to each one of us. Positively, “Bahala na” is our greatest response and commitment to the greatest commandment: “You shall love the Lord your God will all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind and with all your strength. And you shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Mark 12:30) As obedient followers, we need to develop and empower our self-image and transform our cultural values into spiritual values rooted in love.
What is the image and identity of the renewed Filipino? The Philippine Constitution aims to “promote the common good.” And yet, daily media publish our interminable crises of corruption, crime and poverty. “Imploring the aid of Almighty God,” we envision a renewed Filipino committed to a new Life in the Spirit founded on faith, hope and self-sacrificing love. Thus, we must pray for an inspired culture, rooted in the victorious spirit of the cross and resurrection. Focus on the Risen Lord will reinforce our spiritual self-image, the prime empowerment of our Filipino “Bayanihan” and “Mabuhay” culture.
Reflecting the Spirit of Christ, “Bahala na” is a faithful commitment to the “Kalooban ng Diyos” (Will of God). Accordingly we must rectify or overcome the culture imperfection and temptation of “bahala na” as fatalism – its belief in inevitable fate, fortune and destiny. Such impersonal fatalism causes the evils of passive resignation, indifference and unproductive behavior. Founded on positive “Bahala na”, a perfect culture is community life in the Spirit – reflecting a Spirit of Faith, Hope and Love.
In view of faith empowerment, “lakas loob” is more than inner human strength. It is a God-inspired strength, personal talent and human resource. Inspired talents are developed into skills, abilities and competencies that produce goods and services for the benefit of fellowmen – and the up-building of the church as a community of God’s people. As such, inspired “lakas loob” develops dedicated workers, professionals and businessmen. Meanwhile, creative talents and technologies generate an abundance of services and treasures that help free people from poverty and human suffering. These renewed people infused with courage and fortitude are charismatic disciples of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Faithful “pakikisama” means oneness in Spirit, or unity and cooperation. Such oneness is spiritual obedience, following God’s Will and commandments. Godly “pakikisama” inspires cultural values of “bigayan, tulungan, damayan, bayanihan” as well as the positive attitudes of discipline, professionalism and teamwork. And godless “pakikisama” or negative cooperation leads to sinful crime, violence and disorder. We need a kind of discipline founded on moral integrity and selfless dedication. Truly, a family that prays together stays together as one Spirit. Positive “pakikisama” builds peaceful and harmonious relationships, respect for the environment, compliance with good laws, and gratitude to the Almighty and loving God.
“Malasakit” is self-sacrifice and manifestation of love of neighbor. True “malasakit” transcends heroic love of country and love of family. Its highest form is the Spirit of Love and the Cross, exemplified by the self-sacrifice of our Lord Jesus Christ, saints and martyrs. Godly “malasakit” is the antidote for selfish greed and corruption. Moreover, “malasakit” inspires the sharing of graces and benefits for the love of God and fellowmen, particularly the poor and needy persons. “Malasakit” for the common good and general welfare is the highest potential and dignity of public service.
“Bahala na” or “Bathala na” means “God’s Will be done.” This represents inner strength (“lakas loob”), courage (“tapang”) and faith in Almighty God (“tiwala sa Makapangyarihang Diyos“. This inner strength is a means to an end, a resource to empower action with intended result and motivation. Such dedicated action requires obedience, discipline and teamwork (“pakikisama”). And what is the end-benefit or motive — selfish greed or selfless love? The positive option is self-sacrifice and concern for others, or “Malasakit”. Thus, “Bahala na, Pakikisama, Malasakit” rooted in Faith, Hope and Love are the core values of Filipino Christian living.
This Filipino Christian Spirit is manifested is a local culture called “Bayanihan”. With prayer and work, I believe Christian “Bayanihan” is our hope for solving the perennial problems of poverty (lack of strength), crime (lack of obedience) and corruption (lack of love).
REFLECTIONS ON MY EXPERIENCES
Personally, in my life I have experienced, and are currently experiencing, trials big and small that have in one way or another tested my self-confidence and my faith in God. I would like to share several of these life challenges with you.
A few years back, my wife was diagnosed with breast cancer. Her left breast was removed and she has undergone chemotherapy and hormonal treatment. She researched and admitted that there is no 100% cure for cancer, there are only cancer survivors. Meanwhile, I felt humbled and virtually powerless by such ill health and by the cost of hospitalization. I prayed to the Lord, “Bahala na!”.
Another test involves ageing or growing old. While I savor past memories of my youth, I am now experiencing a decline in energy and difficulty in walking upstairs, carrying weights and even sports and travel. As a senior citizen, I delight in statutory privileges but feel discriminated against from HMO insurance and even bank loans. Humbled by nature and adverse situations, I again resort in prayer to the Lord, “Bahala na!”
Moreover, my faith and patience is tested by my work and service that entail constant exposure and encounter with various personalities and interests. Admittedly, I experience a mixture of pain and joy in dealing with and adjusting to different characters and environments. In hope and trust and to simplify, I pray to the Lord, “Bahala Na!”
Bottom line, whenever I feel stressed by situations, I always lift my concerns and pray to our Lord Jesus Christ, “Bahala Na!” Mysteriously, I always feel the inflow of peace, joy and power of the Holy Spirit for which I praise and thank God.
— The New American Bible (NAB/ 1984)
— Wikepedia: “Bahala Na”
— De Mesa, Jose. “And God Said: ‘Bahala Na’”