"One of the major controlling elements in Filipino society--undetected by most visitors--is hiya, a difficult word to define, though essentially it means a sense of shame. Hiya is a factor in almost all social situations. It is a sense of hiya that prevents someone asking a question, for fear he may look foolish. It is hiya that sees many Filipinos refuse to disagree openly, for fear they may cause offence. To not have hiya is a grave social sin. To be accused of being walang-hiya (to be shameless) is the ultimate insult. Hiya goes hand in hand with the preservation of amor-propio (the term literally means "love of self"), ie to avoid losing face. Filipinos feel uneasy if they are instrumental in making waves and exposing another person's fragile amor-propio to injury. If you ever wonder why a Filipino fails to broach awkward subjects with you, or to point out that your flies are undone, it is because hiya and amor-propio are at work."
--From "The Rough Guide to The Philippines", First Edition, Rough Guides September 2004, p. 57
I can't begin to tell you how often I've found myself in situations where I'm inexplicably, extremely uncomfortable in large groups of people, especially those which loudly or needlessly call attention to themselves. I have this archaic, strange, notional sense of due respect, like I'm constantly negotiating procedural and substantive due process, if you will--things have to be done just so, cutting corners is inherently sloppy, rigorous standards are the only guarantees of quality work, etc. etc.--and here I thought I was just weird.
Certainly, I'm weird. It just never ocurred to me that I might have been raised that way.
Why do I have to learn the crucial details of my indigenous culture through the Rough Guide to the Philippines? Understand that for me--someone who works in the Library, who prides himself on his talents of inventive, eclectic, tenacious autodidacticism--learning something so essential from a travel guide is roughly analagous to actually discovering the meaning of life through a fortune cookie.
"It is a sense of hiya that prevents someone asking a question, for fear he may look foolish."--I DO THAT!!! That's what I do! That's why I know the random crazy shit I know, because I never like asking questions and I've always made a point of eventually acquiring an authoritative grasp over that which may have at one point humiliated me. And trust me when I say I've experienced quite a good deal of humiliations. (I would say that in my case not having the answers felt like signs of weakness, not necessarily foolishness, but that's me parsing quibblings.)
T-19 Days to Philippines Expedition.