ETHICAL AND POLITICAL PHILOSOPHY IN THE IBALONG EPIC
Jose Ramon E De Leon
Philosophy is generally linked to the nations of the West as progenitors and masters of the discipline. Western philosophical thoughts have invaded the world of ideas and overshadowed the equally brilliant and promising wisdom from the Asian or Eastern regions. Territorial and cultural expansionism and technology were the driving force and instrument in the spread of Western philosophy. Nonetheless, Asian philosophic thought has its native origin and intelligence, which until today, has remained unadulterated from the influence of external culture. The last statement just expressed may be too general, and there is a possibility that a philosophy called Asian may be actually Western thought in disguise. But this is what philosophy is all about – a quest for truth in a passion-free manner.
The prominent Asian thoughts are the Hindu and Chinese philosophies. Owing to being recognized as the earliest wisdom, and supposedly earlier than the Western thoughts, the Hindu and Chinese philosophies take the center stage in academic courses and public fora compared to the equally rich philosophies from other Asian countries like the Philippines. This is a challenge to Filipino scholars, and the gargantuan task of organizing the fragments of Filipino thoughts into a philosophic system is right now, in fact it has started. Timbreza1 has blazed the trail towards a Filipino philosophy, and Gripaldo2 has pursued the task of organizing the philosophical works of contemporary Filipino scholars.
The fact that the Filipino nation is multi-cultural with a colonized people, an inquisitive person cannot avoid asking the question: Is there a Filipino philosophy? Timbreza’s remarks say it all: “Philosophy knows no race, it knows no culture, and knows no language as well … knows no gender…and truth is truth for all.” (2008:xxiv) Timbreza traced the roots of Filipino philosophy “in the various strands of the people’s literature and oral tradition” (2008: xxi). This intellectual heritage takes various forms, and one of them is the epics. Written in verse or poetry, the Filipino epics shared the common stories of the adventures and exploits of folk heroes, endowed with superhuman abilities and powers against the monsters and other evil forces. To the undiscerning reader, the epic is a mere story of magic and enchantment intended for entertainment. Thus, the valuable messages and ideas in the epic are lost in the resplendent imageries of the stories. The fact remains that amidst such a splendor there are philosophical thoughts in epic stories. Disclosure becomes an imperative. Disclosure is a philosophical task of extricating the meaningful yet subdued thought or of intensifying the evident yet ignored idea.
To disclose the philosophical insights from Filipino epics, the researcher utilizes the Ibalong epic of the Bicol Region. The discussion proceed by (1) narrating the Ibalong epic, (2) extricating the ethical and political philosophy expressed therein, and (3) showing the implications of the Epic.