Friday, September 04, 2009

Taking It Off, Boss?

One of the challenges of working in our increasingly inter-connected global economy is adapting to the different cultural values and attitudes in various countries. While the business world is coming ever closer together, there remain vast differences in cultural backgrounds that influence the way people work and view time off from work.

Through my job, I've been fortunate enough to work directly with people in Mexico, China, India, Singapore, Korea, Japan, the Philippines, the UAE, Russia, and the Netherlands. Among the many cultural differences that I've experienced through these interactions, one of the most striking is the manner in which national holidays are managed in the Philippines.

Just today, I received an e-mail announcing that September 7th and September 21st have been declared national holidays. Yes, this Monday, September 7th:

MANILA, Philippines--President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo declared September 7 and 21 as non-working holidays, Press Secretary Cerge Remonde said Friday night.

Can you imagine a US national holiday being declared on a Friday night for the following Monday?

Arroyo declared Monday next week a national day of mourning for Iglesia ni Cristo Executive Minister EraƱo "Ka Erdy" Manalo, who will be buried that day, Remonde said.

"All flags will be flown at half-mast," he said in a text message to reporters.

No one texts like Filipinos.

On September 21, the Muslim Filipinos will be marking Eid'l Fitr, or the end of holy month of fasting, Ramadan, according to Remonde.

While most of us are familiar with Ramadan and Eid'l Fitr, it should be noted tha Muslims comprise about 5% of the Filipino population. So 95% of the population has a holiday that has little or nothing to do with them personally.

I would guess that most of us are not familiar with Iglesia ni Cristo:

The Iglesia ni Cristo; Tagalog for Church of Christ; also known as INC, or Iglesia, formerly Iglesya ni Kristo, is the largest entirely indigenous Christian religious organization that originated from the Philippines and the largest independent church in Asia. Due to a number of similarities, some Protestant writers describe the INC's doctrines as restorationist in outlook and theme, but nothing can be found to connect the INC to the Restoration Movement. Felix Y. Manalo officially registered the church as a corporation sole with him as executive minister on July 27, 1914 and because of this, most publications refer to him as the founder of the church.However, the official doctrines of the church profess that Jesus Christ is the founder of the INC and that Felix Manalo was God's last messenger, whom he sent to re-establish the Christian Church to its true, pristine form because the original church was apostatized. They believe that the apostatized church is the Roman Catholic Church, and proclaim that Catholic beliefs shared by most Christians, such as the Trinity--which is according to the Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church as the central dogma of Christian theology--are proof of this apostacy. The organization does not believe in the Trinity, nor that the divinity of Jesus and the Holy Spirit are Biblical.

While the numbers are hard to pin down, it is estimated that somewhere around 2-3% of Filipinos are members of Iglesia ni Cristo. And 80% are Roman Catholic. So again, you have a public holiday which the vast majority of the country really has no interest in. Other than taking a day off I suppose.

Which sadly could more and more describe the way that Americans view many of our own holidays. Happy Labor Day everyone.

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