Biyaheng Juan-Sided

A FIlipino's Perspectives on People and Places

#APYF2016: Nico Jayson C. Anastacio, Philippines

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Who am I?

Before anything else, I would like to introduce myself. I am currently working as a university researcher in the University of the Philippines, the national university of our country. My tasks primarily includes research and extension project proposal to implementation. Since I graduated in college in 2012, I got the opportunity to be involved in different development and research work. Aside from being able to meet people from all walks of life, development and research work took me to different places in our country, which made me realized how fortunate we are, because of the vast natural resources we have. As  a travel blogger and photography enthusiast, I really am looking forward to see that these locally available natural wonders are conserved and sustainably managed. Thus, through my blogs and research studies, I am advocating how we could help as an individual and as a community in the sustainable management of our resources.

Here are some photos in our country:

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Pinatubo Crater Lake
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Tinuy-an Falls
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Province of Dinagat Islands
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Hundred Islands National Park
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Imelda Cave in Marcos Island, Hundred Islands National Park

Change Blindness and Causal Attribution in the Context of a Filipino Community: The Concepts of Pagbubulag-Bulagan and Turuan

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A trash along the beach

Engaging in community-based activities and processes is an established procedure in probing the results of a study concerning societal issues.  In doing so, we can comprehend or take hold of information based on actual experiences of people in the grassroots level, which will serve as a solid ground in the interpretation, and ultimately in the recommendation of a research. But it is not purely for research purposes alone that community-based level engagement can affect the researcher, but it may also affect his general perspective and realizations on the veracities of life, especially in rural communities.

In the course of our fieldwork, there were several occasions that I came across people who seemed not to know of the change that happened in their area even when the change was very obvious such in the case of degradation of a natural resource. Such phenomena can be related to the social psychology concept of change blindness or the difficulty to perceive changes, moved or disappeared, in a visual scene (Eysenck & Keane, 2005). However, in the context of a Filipino community, it may not entirely be the case. In the previous sentence, I would like to emphasize the word “seemed”, considering that most people will tend to fake their responses by pretending that they don’t notice the change even though it is very prominent. It is called pagbubulag-bulagan, or a Filipino concept of pretending not to see something even though in reality, they do.

In a short conversation with a local official, he mentioned that people in the community do not actually mind or even aware of the environmental degradation in their locality even though that it was something that was very noticeable. This statement of the official was proven true when I asked a local resident, who was then a swine operator, about the dreadful conditions of their immediate environment, especially the river systems. This change blindness may be attributed to the fact that the people in the area are too focused in the economic development (increased income level, employment, among others) brought about by an industry, without taking into consideration the foregone resources that their community was naturally endowed with. Another way to look at it, in lieu with the concept of pagbulag-bulagan, is that the local residents in the community actually know of such degradation was happening but in order not to take blame of not taking actions to resolve the problem, they just opt to pretend not to know these degradations. Also, some of them were not just aware of the environmental degradation, but were actually its cause, or benefitting from the activities that may have caused it. And when they were confronted about it, they would say that it was not their responsibility to take care this problem, but it was someone else’s.

This behavior can be seen as a case of causal attribution. Professor Scott Plous of the Wesleyan University, in a Coursera lecture (online courses provider), explains that causal attribution is the manner an individual interprets his and other people’s behavior which may have caused an event to occur. It is important to understand the causal attributions of the people because, as Professor Plous added, the way people views and interprets his or other people’s behavior will possibly determine the actions this person will take. Going back to the environmental degradation, the question who should be blamed and who should take responsibility was something that was actually hard to answer. In many cases during our queries, both formal and informal, people would have a tendency to put the blame into other people, saying that it was not their fault that the their environment was degraded and that it was not also their responsibility to solve this problem because they alone cannot solve it and the government officials should take full responsibility to solve this problem because it is theirs in the first place. This concept is dubbed as turuan or pointing fingers. One reason for this, as also determined by the causal attribution, is that people may see that the reason that their environment was degraded was not because they failed to their part, but rather, other people in their area did, or the government was not able to put stringent laws to prevent such event.

With these negative Filipino behaviors at hand, it will be very difficult to solve any problem, especially those which are related to environmental degradation and natural resource exploitation. We should not be bulag (blind) to the environmental problems that we have, but rather always keep our eyes open to such problems.  In the same way, instead of employing turuan in the process, we should take responsibility of what happened to our environment and gladly take part in solving the problem.

Alone, it is hard, but as a community, it is very possible. Always remember, a community that works together, keeps their environment safe forever.

References:

Eysenck, M. W. & Keane, M. T. (2005). Cognitive psychology: A student’s handbook. New York: Psychology Press Ltd

Plous, S. (2014). Retrieved August 2 from https://www.coursera.org/course/socialpsychology?from_restricted_preview=1&course_id=971871&r=https%3A%2F%2Fclass.coursera.org%2Fsocialpsychology-002%2Fquiz%2Fattempt%3Fquiz_id%3D105.

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