Tracing the History of the Bayanihan Culture

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Historically speaking, ‘Bayanihan’ is an ancient Filipino tradition in which the rural communities engaged in community work, especially in helping a family to relocate. The male members lent a helping hand in shifting the personal assets and belongings of the relocating family. However, their chief task was to assist the family in transferring the entire house from the old location to the new one in one piece.

Uprooting and lifting a house and thereafter installing the same in a different place are by no means an easy task but the task was rendered so primarily because of two reasons. Firstly, homes in the pastoral Philippines were constructed out of nipa leaves and bamboo poles making them more lightweight in comparison to concrete houses. Secondly, since almost all the healthy males from the community contributed towards making the relocation successful, the errand seemed lighter.

The word or expression ‘Bayanihan’ is derived from the Filipino word ‘Bayan’ which stands for community, town or nation and therefore the terminology in the extrapolated sense implies being involved in a ‘bayan’ or in community service. Those who volunteered to help the family relocate used to tie bamboo posts in order to raise the stilts. A maximum of 15-20 volunteers were sufficient to carry the house on their shoulders supported on bamboo poles.

After the transfer was complete, the family served a wholesome meal to those who had helped make the transfer possible out of gratitude. Although the practice has now stands forsaken as more and more rural regions are becoming concretized urban jungles, the traditional Bayanihan spirit of helping others spontaneously still lives on. Filipinos are strongly of the opinion that it is their duty to help fellow countrymen (kababayans in Filipino) in every way possible. This spirit of fellow-feeling that Filipinos have for one another is brought to the fore when an earthquake or tornado strikes.

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