Sikolohiyang Pilipino

by E. San Juan, Jr.

On the Asiatic coast, washed by the waves of the ocean, lie the smiling Philippines [where] American rifles mowed down human lives in heaps.

–Rosa Luxemburg

The Philippine landscape is familiarly tropical and East Indian. But the world into which you have stepped is unlike anything of which you have yet had experience in the Orient.  It is Spain—diluted, indeed, distored, and overlaid with Americanism.
—Aldous Huxley

Were it not for the war on terrorism and Muslim or communist guerillas threatening American and European interests, Westerners in general would not know where the Philippines is found in the map. The tourist guidebooks recycle clichés about Filipinos being fun-loving, volatile, and fatalistic while another one describes Filipino culture as “a mixture of Malay, Madrid, and Madison Avenue” (Harper and Fullerton 1994).  In the past, except when a cataclysmic natural disaster strikes (an erupting volcano or earthquake), or a First Lady is discovered hoarding thousands of shoes, the Philippines is generally ignored by the international mass media. For U.S. investors, the Price Waterhouse Information Guide provides the seemingly eternal coordinates that any profit-seeking bloke needs to know:

The Philippines lies off the southeast coast of the Asiatic mainland. It is a chain of 7,1000 islands and islets stretching a thousand miles northward from Borneo to Taiwan.  It is just above the equator, between latitude of 40 23’ and 210 25’ N and longitude  1160 30’ E.  Bordering the Philippine coastline to the west and north is the China Sea; to the east, the Pacific Ocean; and to the south, the Celebes Sea and the coastal waters of Borneo.  With a total land area of 115,000 sq miles (297,850 sq km), the Philippines is about the same size as Italy or the state of Arizona (1981, 1).

Of late, the preemptive “war against terrorism” has elevated a small gang of bandits called “Abu Sayyaf” to center stage, with the country dubbed as “the second front of the war” after Afghanistan, before the U.S. conquest of Iraq. Not much is said about the long military occupation of the Philippines after the ferocious Filipino-American War (1899-1902), which cost over 1.4 million Filipino dead and over 8,000 American casualties (Constantino 1975). Seeking a gateway to the China market, the U.S. annexed the islands as its only Asian territory, and a neocolony after 1946.
After half a century of  U.S. direct colonial rule, and the brutal slaughter of World War II, the Philippines remains a dependent periphery where the local and global meet in the course of uneven development. How were the natives globalized and the cosmopolitan localized?  If “glocality” is a terrain of contradictions (Robertson 1994), the Filipino may have resolved some of the contradictions in a haphazard, aleatory fashion, epitomizing a hybrid type both familiar and ambiguous, even duplicitous. For example, the geographer Alden Cutshall describes the Filipino as a “gregarious, congenial person and a gracious host… The Filipino really lives two lives… One gets to know the Filipino when he goes beneath the surface, when he knows him in his family setting.” After a survey of diverse ethnic groups, Cutshall concludes that “Despite this general apparent homogeneity, the modern Philippines continues to be characterized by cultural, linguistic, and racial complexity” (1964, 24-25).
A recent handbook by Alfredo and Grace Roces, Culture Shock! expands on the unexpected and, to some, unpredictable duplicity of Filipinos. Often the Westerner is misled by “their Western veneer” and so find Filipinos enigmatic, “sometimes strangely Western, sometimes familiarly Asian, always neither one nor the other. In fact, even Filipinos themselves are in a quandary about their own identity” (1985, 1-2). Sample any tourist guidebook and you will find nuggets of banal curiosities that exude an air of knowingness, such as this one on “Filipino Traits”:

Filipinos are a gregarious, sociable lot: they are lively, friendly and hospitable. They sing and dance at the drop of a hat, laugh readily, and have a communal sense of fun. Some social characteristics have both plusses and minuses. For example, their attitude of bahala na (‘come what may’) enables them to meet difficulties and hardships with resignation, leaving it up to the Almighty to sort things out; but it can also result in overconfidence that things will work out in their interests, without much input on their part (Peplow 1991, 50).

By focusing on certain observed peculiarities deemed typical, the guidebook expert succumbs not only to stereotyping but also to a psychologizing reflex in its diagnosis of a putative “national character.” Can a personality configuration substitute for a whole sociocultural formation, a singular “life form”? What criteria are used to decide that certain qualities are typical and others not in representing a heterogeneous people/nation?
Psychological, symbolic, and cognitive anthropologists are prone to concentrating on a modal personality configuration, a repertoire of actions/speech-genres that supposedly function as the stable, energizing core of particular societies. During World War II, the Japanese were portrayed as “pathologically obedient,” the Germans as authoritarian, and so on. Marvin Harris (1979) disputed Ruth Benedict’s thesis that the Pueblo Indians were peaceful and non-competitive by alluding to their bloody messianic wars against Spanish priests and colonizers. By encapsulating a whole people in the code of a “national psyche,” the dominant power can schematize rules and operationalize disciplinary measures to regulate the movements of groups as well as the everyday life of their subjects. This reductive discourse and its institutional apparatus functions as part of a strategy of maintaining control over subject populations and ideologically legitimizing such control as appropriate to their postulated collective psyche.

Rendering Subalterns Speechless

A colonized space in the Philippines became a unique laboratory for Cold War homogenization. In the fifties and sixties, during an upsurge of nationalist protests against the U.S. stranglehold, American scholars, in particular the culture-and-personality school of Frank Lynch and his colleagues based at the Ateneo de Manila University, inflated the saliency of value-orientation in regulating and preserving social coherence. They were echoed by the influential historian David J. Steinberg (1982) and a generation of experts whose impact can be gauged by the marketed appeal of Stanley Karnow’s In Our Image (1989). This Establishment epistemology summed up the unifying Filipino “value system” as one revolving around the centrality of the extended family and its network of  “smooth interpersonal relationships.” These relationships grvitated around hiya (shame), utang na loob (debt of gratitude), the influence of kinship and the compadrazgo system which reinforced the “we-they” framework of interpersonal behavior. In my recent book After Postcolonialism, I had occasion to criticize Benedict Anderson’s portrayal of “cacique democracy” in the Philippines as vitiated by its adherence to the functionalist culture-and-personality school with its over-valorization of primordial ties of kinship and family loyalty. I noted that “this adaptation of Parsonian structural functionalism ignores power relations grounded on property and the political economy of the uneven formation. In particular, it obscures if not hides completely the profound extent of U.S. control of the economic, political, and military institutions that determine elections and the techniques of governance” (2000, 201).
Since the sixties, the controversy over the interpretation of vernacular terms has become symptomatic of larger political/ideological engagements. We may take this conjuncture as the locus for the emergence of a place-based challenge to the logic of technocratic, developmentalist modernization. The neoliberal privileging of value-orientation as the key to unlocking a whole people’s history of underdevelopment entails the formulaic invocation of selected phenomena such as “hiya,” “utang na loob,” and “bahala na.” On this latter phrase, various glosses have been offered. The Roces guidebook noted earlier states that it literally means “Bathala” (god) will take care of us,”  “let the circumstances take care of itself” (1985, 204). This decoding ascribes to Filipinos a predisposition to fatalistic resignation, withdrawal, shirking of personal responsibility, passivity. It is supposed to betray a refusal to plan, a decision that ultimately determines the course of one’s life. The Cultural Dictionary for Filipinos defines it as meaning “God’s will, or “Let God take care of it,” a surrender to more powerful surrounding forces. Is it really fatalism or simply a temporizing maneuver, avoiding long and complicated decision-making due to the customary deference to superiors, kins, other people’s opinions, etc?
The respected psychologist Alfredo V. Lagmay (1977) departs from the prevailing doxa. Rather than fatalism, according to Lagmay, the expression reveals determination and risk-taking. When anyone utters the phrase, she is telling herself that she is ready to face with courage the difficulties of the situation and will do her best to accomplish her objective. It is a kind of morale booster, an anticipatory stance meant to empower Filipinos with “what they need to do in times of crisis” (Kintanar 1996, 637).  Meanwhile, the historian Zeus Salazar has pointed out an error of definition. “Bahala” does not mean “god” but “kapanagutan,” responsibility. When one says, “Ako ang bahala sa iyo,” it doesn’t mean that fate now has responsibility over you. Salazar contends that it means “I claim responsibility for you.” That is, we are anxious about someone we care for because our sense of responsibility extends to the situation in which a person is caught—we rely on ourselves, even though the situation seems hopeless. Salazar suggests that the correct deciphering of “bahala na” in English is: “Let’s cross our bridge when we reach it” and not “May God help me!” (1989, 54).
Now the natives have suddenly bolted from slumber, it seems, and have begun to interpolate their own translations and, in effect, represent themselves. What caused this turn of events, this rectification of misrecognitions?

Genealogical Speculations

From the start of U.S. colonization of the Philippines, the gospel of capitalist rationality has oriented the “civilizing” discourse of governance. But it was not the Enlightenment program of educating the Filipinos for genuine autonomy and national self-determination. Americanization of the islands installed and sustained a quasi-feudal economy with a comprador-bureaucratic elite in charge of the ideological state machinery and its coercive agencies. Amid periodic insurrections, the energies of a nascent civil society were stifled or canalized; a patronage system allocated resources on the basis of traditional kinship ties and religious authority. A native oligarchy thoroughly Americanized suppressed peasant-worker insurgencies and chanelled nationalist aspirations to safe, officially supervised electoral rituals. By 1946, when formal independence was granted in the wake of the war’s devastation of the infrastructure and economy of the islands, the Filipino elite and large parts of the pettybourgeois intelligentsia or middle stratum had become exemplary neocolonial subjects geared for waging the U.S. “Cold War” in Asia. Throughout the forties and fifties, anticommunist ideology and its repressive institutions reinforced the “deFilipinization” that historian Renato Constantino (1978) traced from the cooptation of the ilustrado at the beginning of the century to current President Arroyo’s sycophancy to the reactionary policies of the Bush administration. In sum, the constructed Filipino “psyche” was completely transformed into an agent of a globalizing business ethos obedient to U.S. dictates.
Complicit with the invading military, U.S. academics were appointed to implement the systematic “tutelage” of the Filipino subject. One example is Dean Worcester, professor of anthropology at the University of Michigan, who wrote one of the first sourcebooks of knowledge about the Philippines and its people. He participated in the first Philippine Commission in 1899 on the basis of his expertise on zoological speciments collected in the archipelago. As Secretary of the Interior for 13 years, Worcester became notorious for denouncing the “barbaric” practices of slavery and peonage of the Muslims, thus judging Filipinos unfit for being recognized as a people or a nation. Unfortunately, some journalists exposed Worcester’s ties to corporate interests that profited from the exploitation of the colony’s natural and human resources.  On the whole, to legitimize the rationality of its civilizing mission, U.S. colonial administrators operationalized a world-view of evolutionary progress. This paradigm of development required taxonomic and other classificatory mechanisms in order to hierarchize humans into categories deemed natural and fit for market/commodity exchanges. Up to the thirties and before World War II, when thousands of non-English-speaking Filipinos died defending U.S. sovereignty over the country, Filipinos were portrayed as “a very peculiar mass, a heterogeneous compound of inefficient humanity, a ‘jumble of save tribes’ that cried for order and pacification. Like the Negro, Chinaman, and Indian, Filipinos were ‘alien races…incapable of civilized self-government’” (Doty 1996, 37, 43).
It took the introduction of American-style structural-functionalist sociology to finally allow the Filipinos to emerge as a group susceptible to “free world” persuasion. At the height of Cold War McCarthyism and the suppression of the Communist-led Huk revolt of the fifties, the culture-and-personality scholars helped reinforce U.S. hegemony in the neocolony by instructing Filipinos on their code of ethical conduct. This code consisted of rules conducing to “smooth interpersonal communication” premised on the doctrine of contractual reciprocity signified by terms such as hiya, utang ng loob, pakikisama, and so on. In essence, the code prescribed a harmonious equilibrium of client-patron (that is, landlord-tenant) relation and its accompanying “terms of exchange” which “untold multitudes of Filipinos,” especially the exploited peasants, according to Jesuit professor Lynch, “have found both acceptable and desirable” (1979, 48), even though it impeded modernization, i.e., the conversion of all relations to the cash-nexus, the supremacy of profit-making via the unregulated exploitation of labor. In a neocolony administered by the U.S. and its local allies, it is indeed a long way from the “individual self-realization”  that Lynch’s collaborator, Mary Hollnsteiner (1979, 101), believes to be the role that modernization reserves for Filipino men and women.

The Interruption

With the rise of nationalism in the sixties attendant to the worldwide protests against U.S. aggression in Vietnam and interference in Philippine affairs, a new generation of Filipino intellectuals entered the scene. Filipinos demonstrating against the subservient Marcos dictatorship were no longer behaving according to tried-and-true Filipino values of reciprocity and “smooth interpersonal relations.” In fact, the political mobilization of youth, women, peasants and workers by the millions in the late sixties and early seventies, together with the rebirth of the Communist Party of the Philippines and its armed wing, the New People’s Army, alarmed the U.S. and the oligarchy to the point that Marcos had to institutionalize military rule by 1972—until a “people power” insurrection overthrew him in 1986. Meanwhile, an intellectual movement called “sikolohiyang Pilipino” grew up in the interstices of workers’ strikes, student protests, brutal counterinsurgency campaigns, rampant impoverishment of the countryside, massacres of peasants, widespread prostitution of women and children, and the rapid dislocation and uprooting of millions of Filipinos from the seventies to the present.
Sikolohiyang Pilipino (hereafter SP), literally rendered as
”Filipino Psychology,” intervened at this period of intensifying crisis. I would characterize SP as a  multifaceted project by at least two generations of Filipino intellectuals seeking to invent a discipline/practice of psychological investigation of everylife life and individual personality opposed to the hegemonic episteme imposed by the United States and institutions like the World Bank, International Monetary Fund, United Nations, etc. It is a deliberate program of research and pedagogy consciously based on indigenous Filipino culture and history. It may be viewed as part of a worldwide indigenization movement that began in the sixties and proceeded in the next four decades as a response initially to the Cold War politics of containment and repression of nationalist “third world” insurgencies and, after the collapse of the Soviet Union, to neoliberal globalization. It is a Filipino response, in particular, to continuing U.S. interference in Philippine society, culture, and politics. In that context, SP coincided with the intensification of ethnic and national consciousness throughout the country immediately before and during the Marcos martial-law regime (1972-1986), the rise of Muslim/Moro separatism, and subsequent “people power” uprisings. So far it has achieved some kind of institutional respectability in the last two decades in several universities, aside from establishing contacts in Japan, India, Mexico, Russia, England, North America, and elsewhere in the Filipino diaspora of ten million citizens around the planet.
With the collapse of the metanarrative of neocolonial modernization under authoritarian rule, U.S. social science lost credibility. Given the durable tradition of subaltern resistance to U.S. hegemony, and the persisting “weak links” in the regime of capitalist rationality in a tributary system, critique emerged. From the national democratic mass movement germinated organic intellectuals who fertilized the ground for the growth of SP. The advent of a place-oriented psychology in a social formation experiencing profound social crisis with regional and even global repercussions, becomes an intelligible event in the worldwide process of re-discovering the efficacy of  laboring bodies in the body politic—or, as Merleau-Ponty puts it, the speaking body as a means not just of capital accumulation but also of re-opening time and thinking “according to others” (1969, 191). In this conjuncture, the local as a “site of resistance and liberation” (Dirlik 1997, 85), where grassroots constituencies can be mobilized for radical change, began to challenge U.S.-centered globalization.

Engaging the Other

From the perspective of transformative postcolonial theory, the process of searching or inventing a psychology appropriate for newly independent peoples is an integral part of decolonization. It can be viewed as a re-affirmation of a nation-inspired identity achieved in the process of the national-democratic struggle. Part of that collective identity may draw from indigenous sources, but it is not equivalent to nativization since it involves a radical political program to democratize the social structure and its undergirding fabric of norms, beliefs, and constitutive behavioral elements. It implies not just cultural recuperation but a thorough overhauling of the world-view imposed by imperialist dogma and authority. We are not simply engaged in a “strategic essentialism whereby the signifiers of indigenous (native) cultures are privileged in a process of negative discrimination” (Ashcroft et al 1998, 159).  Local knowledge becomes the matrix for inferring a universalizable concept of peoplehood rooted in a historically specific itinerary of struggle, a singular life-form.
Analogous to Frantz Fanon’s decolonizing of Freudian psychoanalysis and orthodox psychiatry, SP began as a repudiation of Western disciplinary paradigms as models for interpreting and judging Filipino everyday life, community, and personality. From the outset, SP staked out the privilege of a distinctly Filipino orientation in claiming “the study of diwa (psyche)”—obviously an indigenization strategy from within via a judicious translation of Western concepts and methods  into Filipino, the evolving national language.  This is accompanied by a versatile extrapolation of theoretical frameworks and methodologies from the experiences and lived cultures of diverse communities in the Philippines. I quote the summing-up of two major proponents of SP: “Much of the strategy for discovering SP is based on assessing historical and socio-cultural realities, understanding the local language, unraveling Filipino characteristics and explaining them through the eyes of the native Filipino…The principal emphasis of SP is to foster national identity and consciousness… “ (Pe-Pua and Protacio-Marcelino 2000, 51). SP is thus designed to be a psychology of, for, and by Filipinos, one appropriate and applicable to dealing with health, agriculture, art, mass media, religion, and other spheres of everyday life (the term “Filipino” being itself the target of inquiry and agenda for ongoing hypothesis-formation).

Pioneering  Intervention

Because of its now substantial and elaborate archive of research documents,  I will not summarize the achievement of SP to date, a task already performed by Pe-pua and Protacio-Marcelino. What I want to do here is to illustrate briefly SP’s foundational insights by citing key texts of its foremost exponent, the late Virgilio Enriquez, and posing some questions hopefully to provoke constructive exchanges.
Initially, Enriquez envisaged SP as an interdisciplinary humanistic-scientific endeavor. SP would try to demarcate its field of inquiry to encompass the study of emotions (kalooban), experienced knowledge (kamalayan), awareness of one’s surroundings (ulirat), information and understanding (isip), habits and behavior (diwa), and the soul (kaluluwa) as a means of understanding the people’s conscience (Enriquez 1989, 6). Despite this gesture toward catholicity, SP is anxious to establish its originality as an innovative science of praxis (thought/behavior) within the disciplinary milieu of a universal psychology.
One may take Enriquez’s monograph Filipino Psychology in the Third World (1977) as one of the primary texts that inaugurated the advent of SP. Antithetical to the atomistic individualism of liberal thought, SP locates identity in the web of social relations: knowledge of the psychology of the Filipino derives from “intimate knowledge” of experience. Ultimately, this experience is a response to colonial oppression, indivisible from the core of what constitutes indigenous axiology. Enriquez equates this core with paninindigan, conviction or commitment, consisting of such values as: paggalang at pagmamalasakit (respect and concern), pagtulong at pagdamay (helping), pagpuno sa kakulangan (understanding limitations), pakikiramdam (sensitivity and regard for others), gaan ng loob (rapport and acceptance), and pakikipagkapwa (human concern and interaction as one with others). All these values with their variable behavior correlates foreground democractic cooperation, egalitarian reciprocity, and collective empathy. Why this move?
As noted above, the ideological strategy of US neocolonialism was cooptative and disintegrative: the structural-functionalist stress on quasi-feudal and tributary rules of conduct simply buttressed the unequal relations of a hierarchical social positioning of citizens. American technocratic experts selected those features that sanctioned dependency and subordination, the substance of law and order. A binary but asymmetrical linkage of groups became the model of a functional Filipino society; its normalizing cement consisted of values that are enshrined in the tourist guidebooks and academic texts I quoted earlier: hiya (shame), pakikisama (yielding to the will of the leader or the dominant party), utang na loob (unilateral gratitude), amor propio (sensitivity to personal affront), and bayanihan (togetherness in common effort). Enriquez quickly discerns the rationale for such theoretical judgment: “To argue that utang na loob is a Filipino value is therefore misleading, to say the least and dangerous at best. Utang na loob would be convenient in perpetuating the colonial status of the Filipino mind” (1989, 5).
One may interpose here the highly motivated, interested uses to which the notion “hiya” has been deployed by Western scholars. It has practically become synonymous with an alleged Filipino mentality, or even habitus as socialized subjectivity (to use Pierre Bourdieu’s term that synchronizes agency and situation; 1992, 126). Hiya was usually construed to mean “shame,” or “the uncomfortable feeling that accompanies awareness of being in a socially unacceptable position, or performing a socially unacceptable action” (Lynch 1961, 5). Such construals fail to grasp the linguistic rule of affixations in Philippine languages that give delicate nuances of meaning to a root word, enabling a lexical item such as “hiya” to be used with either positive or negative connotations depending on the varying affixes, internal and external aspects, and contexts. Exposing the foreign experts’  ignorance of the vernaculars, SP practitioners suggest that “hiya” more accurately signifies “sense of propriety,” not “shame” exclusively.
Again, for SP, a psychology not cognizant of the cultural life-world of Filipinos will always misrecognize and superimpose alien interests. What Enriquez perceives as a deceptive if not fraudulent move by American social scientists is their insistence on a selective empiricism. This error betrays a narrow-minded temper if not wrongheadedness in not comprehending the multiple levels and modes of interaction in Filipino communication and behavior. Enriquez unveils a thesaurus of  concepts that departs from pakikisama which Lynch and others have invoked as the prime support for the status quo of “smooth interpersonal relations.” He perceives at least eight behaviorally recognizable levels and modes of social interaction: pakikitungo (level of amenity/civility), pakikisalamuha (level of mixing), pakikilahok (level of joining/participating), pakikibagay (level of conforming), and pakikisama (level of adjusting),  all with reference to outsiders. And on the level of insiders or “one-of-us,” we have three levels: pakikipagpalagayang-loob (level of mutual trust/rapport), pakikisangkot (level of getting involved), and pakikiisa (level of fusion, oneness and full trust). This domain of interpersonal relations as lexically and conceptually elaborated can be grouped, according to Enriquez, under the rubric of pakikipagkapwa (shared inner self), based on the superordinate concept of kapwa which embraces both the outsider and “one of us.” The prefix “pakiki” indeed can form numerous terms denoting a wide variety of group behavior, affording sophisticated distinctions of attitude, stance, subject-positioning and styles of performance. Quotidian public interaction as codified in the native language reveals basic concepts of Filipino personality, social psychology, world view and social philosophy.

Passage to Borderlines

We then arrive at what Enriquez posits as the fundamental principle of Filipino psychology. It arises from the need to negotiate the parameters of inclusion/exclusion, the problem of identity and difference. Instead of beginning from the methodical doubt of the Cartesian ego, we start from an apprehension of commonality, an immediate sense of what binds humans in an ecumene or common biosphere:

A person starts having kapwa not so much because of a recognition of status given him by others but more because of his awareness of shared identity.  The ako (ego) and the iba-sa-akin (others) are one and the same in kapwa psychology: Hindi ako iba sa aking kapwa (I am no different from others). Once ako starts thinking of himself as separate from kapwa, the Filipino “self” gets to be individuated in the Western sense and, in effect, denies the status of kapwa to the other. By the same token, the status of kapwa is also denied to the self (1992, 43).

So then the Filipino performs a mode of dealing with others as equals, treating others with full regard for their dignity and worth. This seems like an enactment of Kant’s Categorical Imperative, a humanistic agenda of unifying people in a collectivity that transcends boundaries of class, gender, etc., thus dissolving political conflict. We focus instead on sentiments of agreement,  felt affinities and other bonds of solidarity.What then distinguishes the Filipino from other collectivities or ethnys?
It becomes clear that Enriquez, despite a certain idealizing bent, refrains from absolutizing this template of harmonious fellowship, this model of reciprocity, because the language registers also the flow of circumstances and the changes of the natural and man-made environment, what C.S. Peirce (1958) would call the “Secondness” of reaction between perceptual judgments and the lived experience of recalcitrance, antagonisms, variations. In short, the dialectics of historicity and concrete ethical reasoning comes into play in the discourse of SP:

Aside from the socio-psychological dimension, pakikipagkapwa has a moral and normative aspect as a value and conviction. Situations change and relations vary according to environment. For example, pakikipagkapwa is definitely inconsistent with exploitative human transactions.  Giving the Filipino a bad deal is a challenge to kapwa ( -tao)…. If only to correct the impression that pakikipagkapwa as shared inner self is “other-oriented” just like the lower level of interaction in pakikisama, one must be reminded that the Filipino does not always concede. He knows how to resist even when he seems utterly powerless. As demonstrated in the People’s Power revolution of 1896, he knows that pakikibaka (joining a struggle) is a valid aspect of pakikipagkapwa in the face of injustice and adversity.
The complexity of interpersonal relations is recognized in the Tagalog proverb: “Madali ang maging tao, mahirap ang magpakatao” (It is easy to be born a tao [human], but it is not easy to be one.)  (1992, 45).

In my view, Enriquez’s viable contribution to SP may be this postulation of the concept of kapwa (shared identity) as the kernel of Filipino social psychology and value structuration. He thus opposes the functionalist school of Lynch and its variants that privilege “smooth interpersonal relations” as the prime stabilizing mechanism of Filipino society. For Enriquez, however, kapwa divides into two categories: the Outsider (Ibang tao) and One-of-us (Hindi ibang tao), a dichotomy that underlies the dynamics of social interaction. How is this decided and materialized? Evidently, by contexts and other markers of difference and similarity such as language, religious practice, and other modes of spatiotemporal embodiments. Pe-pua and Protacio-Marcelino (2000) tabulate the levels of communication accordingly.  If one is classified as an Outsider, the interaction can range from pakikitungo (transaction/civility with) to pakikisalamuha (interaction with), to pakikilahok (joining/participating), to pakikibagay (in conformity with/in accord with), and to pakikisama (being along with). For those considered One-of-us, the levels of interaction range from pakikipagpalagayang-loob (being-in-rapport with), to pakikisangkot (getting involved), to the highest level, pakikiisa (being one with).
Following this schematization of what I would describe as modalities of group communication, Enriquez reconceptualizes Filipino behavior and value motivations into two categories. These are the colonial/accomodative surface values such as hiya (propriety/dignity), utang na loob (gratitude/solidarity), and pakikisama (companionship/esteem); and the confrontative surface values which include bahala na (determination), sama/lakas ng loob (resentment/guts), and pakikibaka (resistance). Why surface values?  Because they presuppose the core and deeper values: kapwa and pakiramdam (shared inner perception) as the pivotal interpersonal value, and kagandahang-loob (shared humanity) as the connecting socio-personal value.  Associated with them are the societal values such as karangalan (dignity), katarungan (justice), and kalayaan (freedom). Given the paramount status of these societal values, we can infer that the initial division between Outsider and One-of-us predicated on cultural difference is eventually sublimated or surpassed when all humans are treated under one universal egalitarian standard. But we ask: how and when is this sublimation carried out, and by what agencies? Would not other markers of difference such as gender, class, race, sexuality, etc., interfere and get in the way of eliminating boundaries, the signifiers of difference?

The Quest for Organizing Principles

While SP strives to “Filipinize” ideas borrowed from the West, one of its overriding tasks is to salvage what is autochtonous in the legacy of the past and in the contemporary situation. Its partisan project to demarcate indigenous from colonial identity foregrounds itself when Enriquez links “kapwa” with the struggle for justice, freedom and dignity. Filipinization requires a recovery of  Filipino “personhood,” pagkataong Pilipino, which for SP inheres in language. Are we witnessing a revival of the famous Sapir-Whorf thesis?  Enriquez explicitly affirms SP’s linguistic orientation: “What makes sikolohiyang Pilipino different is its intense pursuit of developing the indigenous national culture and its program of using the indigenous language in its conferences, research, teaching, and publication” (1992, 57). This linguistic approach is not just heuristic but constitutive (Enriquez and Marcelino 1984/1989). In the process of inquiry, Enriquez discovers the organizing concept of kapwa with its family of cognate terms and their nuanced usages. He also uncovers a crucial mediating mode of apperception, namely, pakiramdam (heightened sensitivity and awareness, feeling for another), which is considered as “the pivotal value of shared inner perception.” Without pakiramdam, an emotional a priori, one cannot understand an ambiguous, complex situation in order to plan and execute an appropriate response. In other words, pakiramdam serves as the sensorium or apparatus that enables one to distinguish levels of interaction, aspects of time and kalooban (inner self), and other surface values tied to the core value of kapwa (see Table I attached).
Following the protocols of Peircean semiotics (Rochberg-Halton 1986),  I would describe Enriquez’s procedure in this way: he connects the immediacies of perception with reactive judgments through categories and symbols that link core value and behavioral patterns, using four sets: surface values, pivot, core, and foundation. In this final schematization, pakikipagkapwa is re-codified as pakiramdam and the foundational value of the four-tiered structure becomes kagandahang-loob or pagkamakatao (shared humanity).
In this hypothetical organon of the Filipino personality, Enriquez’s version of SP is definitely an integrated structure or synthesis that risks being “deconstructed.” We seem to witness here a reclamation of the Enlightenment ideals of freedom, dignity and justice which, for Enriquez, make up the sociopolitical constituents and grounding of the national value system, with “kagandahang-loob” (shared inner nobility) as a basic principle of action. What complicates this schema is the Filipino ideal of social justice acting as the rallying point for the system delineated in Table I. Enriquez, however, does not elaborate on the elements defining the concept of social justice such as human rights, equity, fairness, truth and reason, law as distinguished from administration of law, justice as unity or consensus, and peace. We move from a psychology of personality to a network of metaphysical categories that Enriquez discusses in his essays on the theory of indigenization and on the linkage of national culture and liberation psychology.
The complicity of power and knowledge, in particular Western imperial hegemony and its monopoly of media and information, has been exposed by SP in its analysis of the machinery of ideological manipulation and conditioning. I assume that Enriquez is cognizant of what Bourdieu (1991) has called symbolic capital and symbolic violence in the operations of commodified/commodifying knowledge-production. But Enriquez seems to desire a reconciliation of antagonistic schools of thought promoting indigenization. He certainly opts for indigenization from within,  more precisely cross-indigenization, with key indigenous concepts and methods as the point of departure, then moving to semantic elaboration, re-codification, systematization of implied theoretical frameworks, and application. He estimates the worth of assimilating western imports as a form of repressive modernization.
In his critical discourse, Enriquez does not employ the anthropological categories of emic and etic; in fact, he believes that SP should avoid the debate between the nomothetic and the ideographic, the nomological and hermeneutic. Obviously, he crafts a hermeneutic analysis and emic critique of Western knowledge and disciplinary regimes that pretend to be value-free. He endorses the view that SP should attempt to realize three major objectives: indigenization (pagsasakatutubo), science (pagka-agham), and appropriateness to Filipino identity (pagkapilipino). In maneuvering among these alternatives and avoiding the need to prioritize, has Enriquez not muddled the lines of political forces and so fostered eclectic opportunism? It may be a pedagogical ruse or unintentional omission. Even if in the last analysis, he calls for “shared cultural responsibility” in the practice of indigenous methods, it is difficult to see how the local and the global, the immanent and the transcendental, can meet and communicate so as to achieve the goals of justice and liberation that Enriquez posited as paramount societal values in SP’s reckoning.

Toward a Provisional Inventory

Let me situate the heuristic and pedagogical worth of SP within the thematics of this conference. We are well advanced into a late or post-modern age in which two constitutive trends of global reality seem entrenched: the homogenizing or commodifying trend of transnational business, and ethnic/cultural fragmentation. Jonathan Friedman comments on this twin phenomenon of “being in the world”: “The dualist centralized world of the double East-West hegemony is fragmenting, politically, and culturally, but the homogeneity of capitalism remains as intact and as systematic as ever” (1990, 311). Taking the imperialist world-system as its point of departure, SP positions itself as a place-based intellectual/cultural movement that seeks to overcome the limits of Eurocentric neocolonial knowledge by indigenization and cultural re-validation. It strives to attain knowledge of the Filipino psyche by displacing Western epistemes with testable hypotheses based on the life-world and competencies (to use symbolic interactionist terms) of Filipinos in all walks of life, including diverse ethnic groups. Pe-Pua and Protacio-Marcelino emphasize the political project of SP to rectify “Philippine psychology’s colonial character as a captive of an American dominated, English-speaking world” (2000, 67). This form of collective therapy, however, does not reject the scientific character of psychology, only the claim of a regional or one civilizational psychology to be universal. Aside from broadening its data base, according to Enriquez, psychology if it aspires to be universal needs to take into account “Asian experience and perspectives.”
Despite its localization, SP is neither ethnocentric nor exclusivist. Its dialectical vision is somewhat obscured by its polemical temper, which is understandable given the deep and thoroughgoing subjugation of the Filipino body politic. SP acknowledges the imperatives of universal science but it also appreciates “the value of affirming the peculiarity and distinctiveness of man as a sociocultural being” (Enriquez 1992, 27). From its angle, universals can be approached through cross-indigenous and cross-cultural modes of research, making possible the recovery of hidden histories and a retelling of the story of the Filipino subject “from the bottom up” (Hall 1997, 184). The rigorous scientific study of culture need not prohibit SP’s goal of using psychology “to develop a national culture which [though Western-dominated] considers the aspirations of the Filipino….Through the discovery and use of indigenous concepts and methods, SP is contributing to a truly universal psychology which is based on a new set of principles: diversity and equality” (Pe-pua and Protacio-Marcelino 2000, 67).
This pluralist, liberal standard, while commendable on pragmatic grounds, betrays SP’s awareness of its position as an emergent yet beleaguered social movement. SP welcomes diversity and equality, diversity in that psychology is drawn from the particularities of distinctive cultures, and equality in that all these various psychologies (whether materialist or idealist in philosophical principle)  are equally valid. SP not only tests hypotheses based on Western theories but also tries to generate its own set of hypotheses and corpus of falsifiable knowledge—meaningful not only for Filipinos but also for other Asian cultures—by rescuing from marginality and revitalizing indigenous concepts and methods. This is  certainly a strategy for winning hegemony, realistic and astutely flexible, but also burdened with inconsistencies and vulnerabilities. For example, SP’s attempt to reconcile the colonial and indigenous aspects of Filipino personality reveals not a dialectical mode of mediation but a dualistic process of generating a hybrid and indeterminate species, as evinced in this formulation: “The Filipino is a blend of East and West. The Western influence can be seen more in external ways—dressing, liking for hamburger and other food, Western music and dance, etc. However, the internal aspect, which is at the core of his pagkatao (personality), is Asian—deference for authority, modesty/humility/ concern for others, etc.” (Pe-pua and Protacio-Marcelino 2000, 56). We are back to the commercial commonplaces of the baedekers.
There is no doubt that SP is highly critical of the positivism, functionalism, and abstract empiricism of Western psychology, especially its use as a political and ideological apparatus for imperial oppression and exploitation. As an alternative, SP deploys a hermeneutical mode of assaying the vernacular as organic speech-acts conveying meaning or significance through contexts and historically embodied agencies. Social reality for SP is not independent of agents who exercise competencies to produce coherent and significant social events in cooperation with others. Following the example of ethnomethodology and other phenomenological approaches, SP highlights the competence of agents as grounded in their recognition that actions and utterances are indexical—that is, social actions display specific meanings in determinate contexts. It seems to me that SP has implicitly benefited from the postmodern emphasis on language-games and from the Bakhtinian idea of dialogism and utterance. But in relying on language or discourse removed from historical-natural contexts, SP has a tendency to lapse into a fatal nominalism whose implicit relativism and communitarianism (for a critique, see Harvey 2000, 238-91) entails a subjectivist idealism that eschews the testing of truth claims by a universal logic of inference. If society is founded only on beliefs expressed in specific linguistic forms, beliefs not substantiated by reality because beliefs don’t represent reality, then we are led to an instrumentalist use of beliefs for purposes as narrow as those advanced by a sect, ethnic tribe, racialized community, or even a militarist nation-state seeking world supremacy by means of preemptive violence. This is surely the opposite of critique (Bensaid 2002) whose vocation is the demystification of absolutisms and the interrogation of what appears natural, right, and immutable in the face of its negations and contradictions.

Approximating a Utopian Trajectory

In charting the vicissitudes of SP’s critique of Western psychology, we cannot do away with the issue of representation and the problematic dualism of subject/object, of appearance/reality. Aware that I have not fully surveyed the entire archive of SP (which, to be sure, is not my purpose here), I venture the following tentative observations.
One of the symptoms that indicate the inability of SP thus far to negotiate the agency-structure bifurcation, the etic-emic polarity, may be seen in Enriquez’s comment on the difference between the nomothetic and the ideographic style of research. Enriquez holds that SP is not committed to any one style. However, as a matter of necessity, SP elevates the native informant to the status of reliable judge of the adequacy of the observer’s descriptions and analyses of the informant’s culture. Emic analysis is able to generate statements that the native accepts as meaningful and appropriate, whereas etic analysis employs categories and rules that are not necessarily meaningful or appropriate to the native but that can be tested by procedures universally accepted by the community of inquirers. Now, as Harris observes, to be objective is not to adopt an etic view, nor is it subjective to adopt an emic view: “It is clearly possible to be objective—i.e., scientific—about either emic or etic phenomena. Similarly, it is equally possible to be subjective about either emic or etic phenomena. Objectivity is the epistemological status that distinguishes the community of observers from communities that are observed. While it is possible for those who are observed to be objective, this can only mean that they have temporarily or permanently joined the community of observers by relying on an operationalized scientific epistemology” (1979, 34-35).
So what is problematic is not whether SP is emic- or etic-oriented, but rather whether the strategic program prioritizes culture (language; conventional usages) as an arbitrary code that provides in itself the rationale or explanation for difference. Or else it seeks the determinant coordinates of mental and emic difference in something else to which it is related as cause/effect in a mediated, concretely dialectical way. In short, is the Filipino psyche (personality configuration) unnecessarily essentialized in SP’s discourse?
We fully appreciate the methodical manner in which Enriquez has skilfully excavated the shared cognitive orientation and belief systems of  the majority whose grammar and syntax clarifies the complexity of Filipino behavior and attitudes. But can this closed finite set of rules for social interaction—the moral and ethical consensus articulated in Table 1—account fully for significant sociocultural differences? How do we explain the multiple conflicts (Muslim separatist rebellion, peasant insurgency, military abuses, etc.) going on throughout the Philippines today? How do we elucidate the causes and direction of profound social transformations now occurring? Or is the anatomy of the Filipino psyche made more adequately intelligible by first, or simultaneously, elucidating the social relations of production and reproduction that shape the cultural control mechanisms and behavior stream of Filipinos in a global setting? In short, the nature and function of culture in Philippine society need to be more adequately theorized and critically analyzed in its various historical periods and geopolitical locations.
My final reservations, despite SP’s historic gain in its salutary effort in articulating an indigenous psychology of/for/by Filipinos, center on an uneasy compromising move by Enriquez concerning the “great cultural divide.”  In analyzing Filipino personality, Enriquez (1992) classifies society into two: those who enact a mass-oriented outlook who speak Filipino and a regional language, and those who subscribe to an elitist worldview who speak English.  Thus it is not regionalism that divides Filipinos but their diverse culture. In another article, Enriquez agreed with another psychologist on the ambiguity of the referent of “Filipino”—is it the mainstream urbanized citizen or the “unsophisticated” provinciano? For Enriquez, both are Filipino and there are many Filipino psychologies contingent on the cultural and ethnic diversity of the Filipino people. He adds: “[R]eference to cultural distinctions within Filipino society does not imply a fragmented Philippine society. Rather, the distinctions in the culture of the people provide a challenge to psychological research and a rich base for a truly national culture” (1981, 195).
But why deny fragmentation in a neocolonial formation that everybody knows is saturated by commodity fetishism and reification reproduced through the anomic bureaucratic institutions and the indoctrinating efficacy of the transnational corporate media? Symbolic and actual violence pervades the whole society. This drive to posit a unitary society based on a supposedly uniform physiognomy or national character that transcends class boundaries (class is figured in Enriquez’s discourse as the distance between the lifestyle of the masses and that of the elite) betokens a kind of unwarranted populist idealism that discourages critical inquiry. Another question interjects itself which SP has not yet addressed, as far as I know: What historical and environmental factors explain this division between the masses and the elite?
Here I sketch a hermeneutics of suspicion for SP. What is so far lacking in SP, in my view, is the theory of a differentiated and dynamic totality of Filipino society without which the concrete variables of experience cannot be meaningfully assessed. However, as Fanon and others have argued, this scheme of inventing a totality called the “Filipino psyche”  defined by value orientation risks eliding many invidious differences—one of which is the sexist ideology inhabiting local folkways or mores (Estrada-Claudio 1995). It risks a nativist valorization of the mechanical solidarity found in feudal or tributary societies, thus obviating the need to anchor the analysis and critique of culture in the underlying mode of production and reproduction, together with the complex division of labor, that delineates the limits and possibilities of long-range social transformation (Godelier 1986). On the other hand, if this indigenization strategy of SP can mobilize the energies of the national-popular body, the emergent agency of the Filipino masses, toward revolutionary transformation and thus alter consciousness in the process, why worry about the risks?


In the closing decade of the last century, an effort to rectify and expand the disciplinary scope and reach of SP was initiated by Dr. Madelene Sta. Maria of De La Salle University, Manila, assisted by the historian-ethnologist Dr. Zeus Salazar and other colleagues. This pioneering collective project, publicized under the rubric “Sikolohiyang Panlipunan-at-Kalinangan” (SLK; literally “Social-Cultural Psychology”) recently published its preliminary delineation of the field (Salazar 2004) which promises to be a provocative scholastic inquiry. To some extent, the project advances and elaborates some of the insights of Dr. Sta. Maria’s 1993 doctoral dissertation for the University of Cologne, Germany, entitled Die Indigenisierungskrise in den Sozialwissenschaften und der Versuch einer Resolution in Sikolohiyang Pilipino.
My impression is that SLK tends to resort to an eclectic and synthesizing approach, although it claims to be dialectical. One of its master paradigms, however, postulates a “dialectical interaction of individual and totality” in which “totality” signifies culture (language, tradition, customs), or it refers to society comprised of system, structure, and classification (2004, 89). One may ask: Is the individual an autonomous point of departure or an end-result? What specific time/space historical coordinates are involved? Relying heavily on phenomenology, cognitive/symbolic, and other idealist-oriented ethnologies as the privileged mode of knowing, SLK seems to downplay the sociohistorical process, in particular the mode and relations of production which determine the structure and development of any society or culture and shapes all social forms of consciousness (Bloch 1983). And while it advances SP in tackling the unresolved controversy over the Tasaday and suggests the heuristic value of analyzing current events (the Estrada presidency, coup d’etat, immigration, U.S. war on terror, etc.), it is still confined to the Philippine milieu as somehow insulated from the capitalist world-system and its globalizing thrust, although there is an avowed intention to engage eventually in comparative and international studies at the end of the primer. Indigenization after all is a dialectical reflex of globalizing capitalism.
What distinguishes SP from SLK is the former’s programmatic commitment to national liberation and popular sovereignty. My comment on SLK applies more centrally to SP, assuming its early practitioners have not abandoned the ethico-political imperatives of their inaugural principles. Since SP claims to commit itself to an emancipatory ideal—the affirmation of a genuinely sovereign Filipino national identity—it cannot evade the task of a historical and materialist critique of culture as a determinate field in which the conflict of opposing political forces, together with their symbolic and material representations, are played out. This is the “political unconscious” that SP may be invoking when it discovers the importance of pakiramdam as “feeling for another,” a request to feel or be sensitive to the circumambient stratified milieu. It is the foundational principle of reciprocity inscribed in the inalienable right of any nation to self-determination.  This in turn leads to a rich and fertile repertoire of methods of empirical research that still needs further refinement and elaboration, among them, “pakapa-kapa” (groping and probing into a mass of random data), all of them generated by the central bifurcation of society into the Outsider (Ibang tao) and One-of-us (Hindi-Ibang-Tao) and its possible overcoming on the level of pakikipagpalagayang-loob, the level of mutual trust, understanding, and rapport.  Bridging that gap is the imperative, evoking the presence of foreign bodies and strangers’ voices in our midst (Lingis 1994). May we symbolize our dialogue here (communicative action among inquirers) as the passage from the domain of the Outsider to the liberating circle of One-of-us?


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Behavior Patterns and Value Structure: Surface, Core and Societal

Surface Value

Behavior Pattern

Surface Value
Pivotal Inter-
Personal value


Linking Socio-personal value
hiya               utang na loob           pakikisama
(propriety/     (gratitude/solidarity)  (companionship/esteem)
biro                lambing                   tampo
(joke)            (sweetness)          (affective disappointment)

bahala na       sama/lakas ng loob      pakikibaka
(determination)  (resentment/guts)      (resistance)
Pakiramdam (Pakikipagkapwa-tao)
(shared inner perception)
KAPWA                             (Pagkatao)
(shared identity)

Kagandahang-loob (Pagkamakatao)
(shared humanity)
Associated Societal Values

karangalan          katarungan          kalayaan
(dignity)               (justice)                (freedom)
“social acceptance” “social equity”  “social mobility”

ABSTRACT for E. SAN JUAN, “Toward a Decolonizing Indigenous Psychology in the Philippines”

An indigenous decolonizing style of doing psychology has recently emerged in the Philippines. This essay examines the nature, genealogy, and limitation of this unprecedented intellectual and social movement among Filipino intellectuals called, in the national language, “sikolohiyang Pilipino.” Translated into “Filipino psychology,” this trend seeks to invent a discipline of psychological research and analysis of everyday life and personality of the individual Filipino. Its concepts and terminology are to be derived from indigenous customs and practices from various groups and communities throughout the islands. The synthesis will be the foundation for an evolving nationally-rooted world-view. This movement may be seen as part of a worldwide indigenization movement that began in the sixties and proceeded in the next four decades as a response to capitalist globalization in general, and to the crisis of the local neocolonial formation in particular. While it has achieved a measure of academic legitimacy in the Philippines—an offshoot is a new trend called “Sikolohiyang Panlipunan-at-Kalinangan” (“Social and Cultural Psychology”)—it still has to achieve international recognition.  Meanwhile, events in the Philippines are determining new directions for both these trends in the light of the U.S. hegemonic “war on terror,” pushing psychological theory to reckon with its crucible in the revolutionary practice of the masses fighting national oppression and imperialist incursions.


E. SAN JUAN, Jr. is currently director of the Philippines Cultural Studies Center in Connecticut, USA. He was recently visiting lecturer at National Tsing Hua University, Taiwan, and Fulbright professor of American Studies at Leuven University, Belgium. Among his recent books are After Postcolonialism (Rowman & Littlefield), Racism and Cultural Studies (Duke), and Working Through the Contradictions (Bucknell). He is on the advisory editorial board of Nature Society and Thought, Left Curve, Atlantic Studies, Amerasia Journal, and Cultural Logic.


Sikolohiyang Pilipino (hereafter SP), literally translated as “Filipino Psychology,” is a project by Filipino intellectuals to invent a discipline of psychological research and analysis of Filipino everyday life and individual personality based on indigenous Filipino culture. It is part of a worldwide indigenization movement that began in the sixties and proceeded  in the next four decades as a response to neoliberal globalization and the rise of ethnic and national consciousness in the Philippines during the Marcos “martial law” regime (1972-1986) and the subsequent “people power” uprisings. It has gained institutional foothold in the nineties in several universities in the Philippines and also sponsors in Japan, India, Mexico, Russia, England, the United States, and elsewhere . In synchrony with the rapid growth of the Filipino diaspora, SP has also gained a following in the United States, particularly in California and other states where Filipinos have settled and organized associations and intellectual networks (check the Internet for entries on the subject). In the light of these developments, any cultural studies based in Asia that claims to be knowledgeable and contemporary has to reckon with this unique phenomenon of the birth of a nationally-oriented psychology in a country experiencing serious political and social upheavals.

Primarily initiated by one academic, Dr. Virgilio Enriquez (who died in 1996), SP acquired doctrinal formulation in the writings of Enriquez collected in his book From Colonial to Liberation Psychology:  The Philippine Experience (University of the Philippines Press, 1992). Three earlier pamphlets focus the disciplinary and pedagogical thrust of what I would call SP’s research program:  Filipino Psychology in the Third World (1977) by Virgilio Enriquez, Neo-Colonial Politics and Language Struggle in the Philippines (1984) by Virgilio Enriquez and Elizabeth Protacio-Marcelino, and Ang Sikolohiyang Malaya Sa Panahon ng Krisis (Free Psychology in a Time of Crisis; 1991) by Virgilio Enriquez, Sandra Herrera and Emir Tubayan. Two substantial anthologies in the nineties confirm the viability and relevance of the field: Sikolohiyang Pilipino: Teorya, Metodo at Gamit (Filipino Psychology: Theory, Method and Application, 1982), edited by Rogelia Pe-Pua, and Sikolohiyang Pilipino: Isyu, Pananaw at Kaalaman (New Directions in Indigenous Psychology, 1985), edited by Fr. Allen Aganon and Sr. Ma Assumpta David.

By the nineties, SP has become firmly established as a consensual paradigm of Filipino academics in the field of psychology. It has become a new orthodoxy despite its attachment to the problematic position of Filipino, the emerging national language. Nonetheless it still has to be tested by the scientific principle of falsifiability. Because of the social circumstances of its emergence in the seventies, SP could only thrive in an academic environment where personalities command attention and prestige. A cult of personality (focused on Enriquez, and after his death, on Prof. Zeus Salazar) and the aura of an in-group have prevented a thorough critical self-reflection among its participants. So far I have not seen a systematic assessment of its findings, except in sporadic comments by friendly observers. Those who disagree with the aims and principles of SP simply ignore it rather than launch an objective inquiry and critical judgment of SP’s theoretical framework, methodology, and conclusions.

I find myself in a mediated, detached by also involved, position. I consider psychology as a contested field (as Pierre Bourdieu construes “field”), an arena of ideological and political struggle for worthwhile goals. While initially skeptical of SP’s somewhat naive dependence on lexicon as a mystical emblem of authenticity, I am wholly sympathetic to Enriquez’s aim to root psychology in the historical specificity of the Filipino experience. I also appreciate Enriquez’s sophisticated grounding in Western psychological concepts (Freud, behavioral and clinical psychology, etc.) and his desire to re-orient such concepts in the direction of a liberatory or empancipatory direction(.i.e., he is “against a psychology used for the exploitation of the masses”). I also value highly Enriquez’s profound empathy with the plight and needs of ordinary Filipino citizen. I share Enriquez’s belief in the redemptive power of knowledge (including indigenous knowledge) if and when this is appropriately espoused and organically rooted in communities with participatory democracy. However, there are certain questions that I want to raise in the course of this project based not only on a thorough reading of the published works mentioned earlier, but also on the experiences and situations of researchers in SP. The following questions can situate my research project for this fellowship and launch perhaps the first comprehensive and informed critique of SP:
Enriquez locates the core value of the Filipino in “kapwa” (shared identity) and the linking socio-personal value in “kagandahang-loob” (shared humanity), basing its singularity in the Filipino language. Is this not a form of essentialism or a reification of putative characteristics in terms of lexical items or meanings devoid of ambiguities and contextual nuances? This reliance on isolated notions attached to selected words from the vernacular in order to generalize certain social habits or customs removed from the constraints of class, sexuality, gender, ethnicity, locality, etc. is easily refuted when we apply the notions to, say, the Muslim community in the island of Mindanao and Sulu where an Islamic framework obtains.
Likewise, the use of field methods extracted from native linguistic cues, such as pakikiramdam (shared inner perception) or pakikipamuhay (living with), may allow the psychologist an insider status. But how can this claim to legitimacy be susceptible of proof intelligible to outsiders?
One other central issue is SP’s position as an indigenous Asian psychology to the mentalism-behaviorism issue. Enriquez states that SP admits both (1992, 29), though greater importance is attached to kamalayan (psyche [a more precise translation is “consciousness]) and “subsidiary importance attached to ulirat (lower level of psychical consciousness).” The Filipino lexicographer defines ulirat as “consciousness, sense.” How and why Enriquez can make the distinction between kamalayan and ulirat is unexplained. This exposes the major weakness of SP, its terminological arbitrariness and its fetishizing of certain notions not grounded in social and historical practices.  Lacking any adequately argued and consistent theory of the psyche (the “unconscious” is not theorized at all), SP claims to downplay individual experience in favor of “greater emphasis on the collective experience of a people with a common bond of history.” Here the question of culture as a collective and/or individual form of life becomes crucial. SP does not deal at all with this issue except in vague general terms.
Aside from the concept of “culture” and “psyche,” other key categories used by Enriquez and his colleagues, such as “subject” or “subjectivity,” “colonial,” “neocolonial,” “self” in the phrase “shared inner self,” and other corollary terms, are not given any precise and consistent formulation. That is, they are either under-theorized, or not theorized at all. Consider this paragraph from Enriquez’s essay on “Kapwa and the Struggle for Justice, Freedom and Dignity” in From Colonial to Liberation Psychology:

The concept of kagandahang-loob (shared inner nobility) [literally, “beauty-inside”], once again, displays the characteristic internality/externality dimension of Filipino psychology that confuses so many American-oriented social scientists.  The concept is manifested through an act of generosity or kabutihan. Thus, one sees kagandahang-loob in the act of lending utensils to neighbors or graciously accomodating a guest. But to qualify as kagandahang-loob, such acts of generosity must spring spontaneously from the person’s goodness of heart or kabaitan. A display of kagandahang-loob must have no motive save that of kindness and inherent graciousness. (1992, 45)

Aside from unquestioned assumptions of motivation and question-begging premises, this description of an authentic Filipino personality trait exemplifies how SP deploys vernacular terms to postulate psychological characteristics that are alleged to be innate or even ethnically genetic. Such characteristics of generosity and kindness are also found in other societies and cultures, so what differentiates the Filipino “brand” or style?

These are some of the questions I would raise in studying the historical genesis and development of SP as an indigenization movement of enormous significance to the Philippine social formation, and by extension of immense exemplary value for Asian social formation and other dependent, peripheral formations in the current globalized South.–##


About philcsc

E.SAN JUAN, Jr. directs the Philippines Cultural Studies Center, Washington DC, USA and lectures at the Polytechnic University of the Philippines, Manila, Philippines.
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