what is sikolohiyang pilipino?

The time is right to scale-up Sikolohiyang Pilipino. As a profession and academic discipline in the Philippines, mental health in general and psychology in particular are seen as extensions of the West. There is now a very real opportunity to question unchallenged assumptions and to prioritize indigenous Philippine psychology.

Feelings, thoughts, and behaviors are inevitably culture-bound. Western theories have dominated—and continue to do so—the ways in which the Filipino experience is analyzed and interpreted. Western theories are taught in local schools, are used in clinical training of psychiatrists, psychologists and other professionals, and are viewed as the model for policy and programming planning. While Western psychology has indeed made important contributions to the mental health field in general, an unchallenged assumption is that they depict a true depiction of the Filipino since they are prioritized over indigenous concepts.

This is far from accurate and has inadequate or unfair implications. An oft-cited example is bahala na. In the West this is usually defined as fatalistic, a sign of resignation, or withdrawal. However, in indigenous psychology it is far from giving up. Rather, it is determination, it is not avoidance or forgetting of problems. It also suggests perseverance and courage (lakas ng loob) as well as creativity to solve a problem. These opposing views are a byproduct of prioritizing one viewpoint over another, with the Philippine context diminished or lost.

It is time to bring back the local context. Sikolohiyang Pilipino is rooted in Filipino thought and experience, with a core value of shared identity or kapwa. It encompasses the entire range of psychological phenomena from awareness to motives to behaviors that are found in other cultures, including the West, but with emphasis on the Filipino orientation. Sikolohiyang Pilipino is thus fundamentally about fostering a national identity and consciousness, social involvement, as well as language and culture through the lens of the Filipino experience.

The opportunities are numerous to take this indigenous psychology from its academic tower onto the wider public. Its concepts have been applied in a treatment and rehabilitation program for Filipino children, including those in armed conflict and street children. It has been used in local industry to market specific products and understand Filipino consumer behavior. Sikolohiyang Pilipino has been applied by non-governmental organizations in their grassroots leadership formation. Its uses are many because it covers the entire ‘psyche’ or diwa of the Filipino.

Sikolohiyang Pilipino is an opportunity for growth, reach, and impact.