ALFREDO LAGMAY: BATHALA NA!
DANCING WITH THE COSMOS
The way Filipinos use the expression, “Bahala Na!” is being interpreted by some social scientists to demonstrate our fatalism and being happy-go-lucky. But “Bahala” which means “care” and “responsibility” actually has sacred undertones. The ancient inscription separates the term into “ba” (babae) for “woman” and “la” (lalake) for “man.” “Ha” (hangin) means “breath” or “wind” or, in a larger sense, “spirit” and “God.” “Ba-ha-la” was then interchangeable for “Ba-tha-la” which means “God” for the ancient Filipinos.
Dr. Lagmay salvaged “Bahala Na!” from its fatalistic reputation into a Filipino value. From
“devil may care,” it became “determination in the face of uncertainty.”
“Bahala-na stimulates action, not inaction; it is not used in order to avoid or forget problems; It implies perseverance and hard work; it gives a person courage to see himself through hard times; it stimulates creativity,” noted the eminent psychologist and National Scientist.
In blurting this expression, we are actually accepting the presence of Nature in our dealings; that we must also acknowledge Nature and not just conquer it to achieve our means. Like water, we can change our paths but leave our mark just the same.
“Bahala Na!” is also a way of drawing inner strength even while we remain cool. Such momentary detachment helps reduce situational stress. It makes one accept one’s feebleness or folly while pushing towards finding a creative solution for the problem. It frees us from following rigid rules all the time.
Lagmay even compared “Bahala na” to inviting someone to dance with you, whether it is Nature or God: “Life is full of complicated situations and opportunities while you do what you feel like doing. It is like dancing. Your movements are determined by the movements or steps of your partner. The same happens when two people are talking— none can determine where the details of their discussion will lead to,” he said.
Freedom to dance or play is what “Bahala na” means to a culture bearing artist. Freedom to play is not irresponsibility. It is the freedom to create, to invent, to innovate and follow one's daloy (inspiration) rather than getting caught in a consumerist maze.