In ancient times it was said a merchant was not one of the more respectful and noble occupations. And until the Global Financial Crisis (GFC), the motto of “greed is good” was the prevalent and widespread business approach. Still, it is not a shame to earn an income from a decent and honest livelihood. Most of us have to do this unless we had someone else to provide our needs (like parents or spouse or having inherited wealth from either) or simply on charity to survive in this material world (if only we can be like St Francis of Assisi). But we don’t live on bread alone and also aspire to do work that will help provide for a better community.
And so as I embark on the next journey of my life by doing a startup in the Philippines I would like to do it in the Bayanihan spirit. The following is a brief description of what the Tagalog word means with the beautiful painting that illustrates how is shown in action in a traditional Filipino setting.
Pronounced like “buy-uh-nee-hun,” bayanihan is a Filipino word 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.
Although bayanihan can manifest itself in many forms, it is probably most clearly and impressively displayed in the old tradition of neighbors helping a relocating family by getting enough volunteers to carry the whole house, and literally moving it to its new location. They do this by placing long bamboo poles length-wise and cross-wise under the house (traditional Filipino houses were built on stilts), and then carrying the house using this bamboo frame. It takes a fairly large number of people — often 20 or more — working together to carry the entire house. All this is done in a happy and festive mood. At the end of the day, the moving family expresses their gratitude by hosting a small fiesta for everyone.
Bayanihan has been a favorite subject of many artists. The picture above is from a mural by Filipino National Artist Carlos “Botong” Francisco, commissioned in 1962 by UNILAB founder Jose Y. Campos, and currently on display at UNILAB’s administration building in Manila. It is used here with permission from UNILAB.