The Filipino Psyche

By Tin Bartolome

Posted at Jun 05 2015 02:09 PM | Updated as of Jun 05 2015 10:09 PM


In Greek mythology, Psyche was a beautiful princess, a mortal who incurred the ire of Aphrodite but won the love of the god of love, Eros. She endured suffering and humiliation but was eventually reunited with Eros and later became immortal.

Today, Merriam-Webster dictionary defines it as the soul, mind, or personality of a person or group. So, when we say the “Filipino Psyche," what exactly do we mean?

Many have criticized Filipino ways—values, morality, belief systems, and culture in general. Some believe that ours is a “damaged” culture. These statements are often sweeping and, in many cases, are observations of a certain group within a specific period.

How many scientific studies have been done to prove—or disprove these assertions? And how culture-sensitive are these studies?
It’s like evaluating an apple using orange standards. Apples can never ever measure up to oranges anymore than oranges can to apples!

A professor from the University of the Philippines, Dr. Virgilio G. Enriquez made such an observation and began what is now known as Sikolohiyang Pilipino.

For some 40 years, a growing number of professors and students have been studying and teaching Filipino psychology or Sikolohiyang Pilipino. They have shed light on uniquely Filipino ways and traits by explaining these from a Filipino perspective—the proper perspective.

Through the years, they have been looking into the Filipino culture and experience and have developed measures, approaches and methods much more useful and appropriate to our culture and in our own language.

And because Sikolohiyang Pilipino is about the Filipino psyche, it is multi-disciplinary. This means that it is available and useful for other disciplines or areas, those using foreign assumptions, measures, approaches and methods.

While it encourages the use of the Filipino language, it does not reject English or any other language for that matter. The use of Filipino and other Philippine languages becomes inevitable in the quest to understand the Filipino psyche because many ideas and concepts meaningful to us are expressed in words that have no direct or adequate translations in other languages— like sayang, hiya—and especially, kapwa.

The late Dr. Enriquez says that kapwa is a core concept in Filipino psychology for which there is no foreign term or concept that quite captures its rich meaning. Fellow or fellowmen does not evoke the same feeling or emotion while “other” loses its essence.

Brethren in the religious sense may seem close but it still refers to brothers who are “others” while kapwa includes the self and therefore means “shared identity” so that the terms pakikipagkapwa and pakikipagkapwa-tao evokes so much, much more than simply relating to our “fellowmen."

Understanding these enables us to see Filipino ways in a different light. Once evaluated and explained from our own perspective, we are able to take pride in our positive traits and improve/reframe the negative.

Hopefully, as more people outside the academe understand and embrace this, we will no longer regard our culture as “damaged,” nor our language inferior. Perhaps, we will come to appreciate the value of using our own language in teaching math and science, of understanding and embracing our uniqueness, our psyche.

Looking at ourselves, from our own experience, languages, culture and history is key to understanding our own psyche.

Disclaimer: The views in this blog are those of the blogger and do not necessarily reflect the views of ABS-CBN Corp.