Katapatan sa Kalikasan: On Being True to the Environment

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The undeniably vulnerable human condition in the face of climate change and its often devastating effects invites us to reflect upon how we human beings might stand in relation to the environment in a way that prevents mutual destruction. Proceeding from the Heideggerian insight that it is language, above all, that tells us the nature of things, this paper proposes to inquire into how the Filipino primordial experience of katapatan (honesty, fidelity, etc.), which is often taken within the context of interpersonal relationships, might also be extended to the relationship between human beings and the environment. Expressions in ordinary language, such as nature fights back, or the call to listen to nature, seems to indicate an awareness that nature, or the (natural) environment, is not just a passive entity, but, in many instances, can be said to be acting directly in response to human activities (e.g., excessive anthropogenic carbon emission). Katapatan offers one possible model of such a mutually sustaining and mutually respectful relationship. Its root word tapat (adj., "true", "loyal", "faithful", "fair"; adv. prep., "in front", "across", etc.) and its cognates, for instance tapatan vt, to offer something fair in exchange for something or as a sign of gratitude, tapatin (v.t., "to confide") - to name only a few - all point to a mutually sustaining and respectful relationship, one that, when applied to humans and the environment, might yet offer a path that will lead, not to annihilation, but to the flourishing of both.