Dealing with the “Bahala-na” Attitude

I’ve already touched on the Filipino somewhat easygoing and casual approach to life. This attitude of taking things lightly is closely related to the “Bahala-na” philosophy.

I remember seeing a stall, while shopping at the Baliuag Shopping Mall in Bulacan, where they were selling those typical fancy Filipino t-shirts, that have funny slogans printed on them. One of those had a slogan that said “Bahala-na Republic”( instead of “Banana Republic”). That was just a funny play on words, but that expression actually conveys an accurate truth, namely that, although the Philippines is, by all accounts, a “Banana Republic”, due to its overall political and economical instability, it can also be defined as a “Bahala-na” Republic.

“Bahala-na” is some sort of attitude of passive not planning ahead and then expecting that somehow things will take care of themselves or that some divine entity will take care of the things that Filipinos are casual about.

Way too many Filipinos don’t have a budget, spend more than they earn, mess up their health, send a lot of money home without saving up for themselves for when age 65 rolls around and they will probably be too old to work and then…..”bahala-na”, somehow, someday God will see to it that things fall into place.

Chances are that in your Filipino spouse’s approach to life there might be some elements of “casualness” combined with a “Bahala-na” attitude.

How do I deal with it?

Again, I can’t stress enough that, with Filipinos, being direct and blunt and making them wrong, only gets them to become more reluctant to cooperate.

I operate from the idea that this is not a weakness of my spouse but, rather, one of those long-standing cultural traits of the Filipinos, the result of the accumulation of layers upon layers of cultural conditioning that have wired into the mindset of the Filipino the “Bahala-na” approach to things, a “casual” approach to things that often brings about “casualties” rather than resulting in a situation that gets resolved by itself or where “unseen” forces take over.

There are no easy answers or solutions to the dilemma of how to strike a balance between understanding the environment a Filipina comes from and preventing certain Filipino cultural traits from being a source of problems (like getting into debt for instance) but, as I said many times, there is a “common denominator” among the possible approaches to these cultural challenges that seems to work incredibly well and that is: shift from frustration to curiosity, to trying to understand what lies behind your wife’s behaviour, the cultural conditioning behind it and don’t just go about it “intellectually” but always try to build an emotional connection by trying to understand without becoming judgemental but rather looking for ways to always focus on what you could appreciate.

Is there anything you could learn to appreciate in the “Bahala-na” attitude?

Well, may be the fact that Filipinos don’t go through their lives with the degree of “heaviness” that us Westerners too often manifest.

Although I still prefer to take things very seriously, my life with a Filipina, and her “Bahala-na” attitude, has taught me to “let go” more and remove a little bit of the “heaviness” and the over planning and over thinking that has always characterized my life.

By following this approach of turning frustration into curiosity and appreciation, that has been my top cardinal rule in my relationship, I feel that I no longer need to explore the Filipino culture in all its countless manifestations to make it thrive.

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