[nMage Manila] Awakened and Mortal Culture / Mindset Concepts

Posted: November 14, 2012 by pointyman2000 in Articles, Campaign Design, Mage: the Awakening, Roleplaying Games, World of Darkness
Tags: , ,

One of the best ways to convey the feel of a setting is to actually work on the culture. While all of us here in this gaming group are natives to Manila, I figure it might be an interesting exercise to try and put forth a few cultural ticks that Filipinos have that might carry over to the mindset of the Awakened community as well. I’m a strong believer that a Mage is ultimately still a product of his human upbringing, and his biases and beliefs in his mortal days still hold a considerable grip on his outlook on life as an Awakened individual.

Take note that I’m no expert sociologist on the matter, but these are my attempts to explain these concepts as someone who lives within the culture.

  • Hiya – The social concept of Hiya, a word that literally translates to “Shame” shares a strong similarity with the East Asian social concepts of Face and Shame Culture. Filipinos share the same sort of  self-regulating methodology in which a person loses face for behaving in a certain way. Shame, rather than guilt is a strong deterrent, especially given how Filipinos are almost excessively social individuals. Common insults such as “Wala kang hiya!” (literally “You have no shame!”) point towards the importance of being able to behave in a manner that does not ruin your social reputation.
  • Crab Mentality – Ever hear of the phrase “If I can’t have it, neither will you?” Well, in the Philippines, that kind of thinking is something of a recognized cultural trait.  Envy plays a strong role here, as members of a group will find ways to demean or sabotage the success of one of their number rather than allow them to succeed. Needless to say this is widely considered to be a negative trait, and will play a strong role in my campaign. The reason why there is no Consilium in Manila lies with the fact that whenever a group seems to be on the way of actually forging one, the rest converge and destroy the offender.
  • Utang ng Loob – This concept is one of Reciprocity. Filipinos find it necessary to repay favors done to them whenever it is needed, whether or not it is asked for. This also plays a strong role in the campaign, as many of the Awakened community’s trade happens in favors done and returned.
  • Bahala Na – A concept of fatalistic passiveness, trusting everything to fate or god. This social concept is one that is prevalent and frustrating to deal with at times. Rather than apply their own personal agency to events and their environment, Filipinos essentially surrender and give in, trusting to some unseen force (whether fate or God) to bring them to where they should be. I can imagine a lot of Acanthus mages exercising this particular point of view, much to the annoyance of the rest of the Mages.
  • Kapwa – Kapwa or “Community” is perhaps the most core construct of Filipino psychology. The idea of a society is strong, and many of Filipino values revolve around their ability to harmonize with all circles of their society, from Family, peers, work to religion. It is in the act of belonging that the Filipino is at his best, which probably explains the reason why Filipinos are often very good at insinuating themselves in other cultures, as opposed to going out of their way to enforce a “Filipino” way of life on a foreign land.

Given these concepts, you get an interesting situation and interplay between the cabals. Mages tend to be very loyal to their cabal, being that these people are the only ones who share their understanding of the world. At the same time the eventual drift away from being able to relate to Mortals can be more painful for Filipinos in general as they feel themselves being uprooted from a social circle. While groups might not want to watch each other succeed, the concept of favors owed means that even opposing cabals might do favors to another just to repay a kindness done to them before.

This is admittedly the tip of the iceberg, but I’m hoping that this is the kind of insight that will help me run the game better, and perhaps aid other people understand the psychology behind the NPCs of the campaign.

  1. Hikikkomori says:

    On “Bahala na” and the Acanthus:
    Actually, depending on the mindset and disposition of the Acanthus, they can either revel in this mentality or even abuse it. Since at higher levels, Acanthus can grossly manipulate the Fate arcana. So this makes them very formidable in a society which leaves situations up to fate. They essentially have a very malleable population to work with.

    I believe this mentality was ingrained into the culture by the 3 countries that colonized the country prior to the Philippine’s independence.

    • Growing up in Saudi Arabia, I have heard this sentiment a lot there too. It’s been many many years, and I don’t think I can do the Arabic phrase justice, but quite often you would hear people just say, ‘If God wills it’ and shrug their shoulders.

    • There used to be a saying of “Nasa Diyos ang awa, nasa tao ang gawa,” (With God is blessing, with man is action), a saying very prevalent post WW2. God will provide the blessing but it’s up to man to do what is needed.

      Now it’s just “Bahala na”. It’s the whole mindset of why bother to do anything if God will either provide or take it away?

      • Hikikkomori says:

        Actually that still is applicable today. But as the same as with above, they still trust a supernatural power to “bless” them, even if its still up to them to complete the task needed.

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