As we mentioned in one of our food experience articles, Ilonggos are a sweet bunch. They are affectionate, and they speak softly and with an accent that is unmistakably affectionate. We also mentioned that Ilonggos are a compassionate and caring lot. That is why when you've lived in Iloilo for a while, you tend to expect that other people from other cultures and regions would be as kind and gentle.

The Ilonggo's gentle ways certainly makes him an ideal team member. While he definitely will work to the best of his ability and even seek to please his team leader or boss beyond the call of duty, he will also make sure that he won't be the cause of conflict. Thus, when taken to the extreme, you'll note that an Ilonggo teammate or employee will delay or avoid confrontation or even speaking up as much as possible.

In short, Ilonggos hate confrontation. They so hate confrontation, this aversion to confrontation could be detrimental to team communications. Most Ilonggos would prefer to keep their feelings and opinions to themselves. This is not because they are apathetic. Rather, it stems from an innate emotional sensitivity, even the social ill of being "balat-sibuyas." And since an Ilonggo wouldn't want to be offended by careless, tactless, offensive speech, he would rather tiptoe around a difficult situation than to take the bull by the horns and start a confrontation.

That's why the Ilonggo can be branded as either passive-agressive, or passive, period.

It is such a pervasive cultural trait that even teachers are plagued with students who barely speak up. That's why if you're a teacher assigned to Iloilo or its outlying towns, don't be surprised if you are met with a silent room even when you ask questions.

In corporate situations, the Ilonggo won't be the one you could count on to expose an errant teammate. Rather, you could count on him to be the worker who will work excellently but will choose to be the last person to rock the boat.

History teaches us that the Ilonggo wasn't always this reticent or passive. In fact, one of the first people to free itself of its Spanish yoke has been the Ilonggo. The Ilonggos were such fierce fighters that Bantayan in Guimbal, along with the other church bastions in Iloilo's Southern towns (from Molo to San Joaquin), were crucial points of victory in the battles against Moro invaders. How and why the culture of passivity and meekness arose, is a mystery to me as yet.

It is always a choice to be courageous. It is always a choice to move out of passivity and reticence. I believe that as long as you assure the Ilonggo that he will remain accepted, or that his job is secure, he will feel safe enough to speak up. Given the right motivation, courage will be brought out in the Ilonggo. Unless you can provide that, I guess the Ilonggo will remain in his meek, sweet shell.