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Sikolohiyang Pilipino or Indigenous Filipino Psychology is also known as Kapwa Psychology. Kapwa Psychology draws from folk practices as much as from modern theory. It perceives no essential contradiction between indigenous folk beliefs and modern psychological concepts and scientific norms. It includes in its study the IKSP of healing from the babaylan and arbolaryos (native shamans and healers), as well as the religio-political approaches of Filipino mystics and folk heroes and other ancestral ways of knowing. Kapwa Psychology implies a call for social action. Scholars and students are encouraged to go to the villages to learn from the people and in turn serve them with the gained knowledge.


The core of Filipino personhood is kapwa. This notion of a “shared self” extends the I to include the other. It bridges the deepest individual recesses of a person with anyone outside him or herself, even total strangers. “ People are just people in spite of their age, clothes, diplomas, color or affiliations” saysthe Visayan artist Perry Argel.

Kapwa is the “unity of the one-of-us-and-the-other,” according to the late Virgilio Enriquez, who declared the concept as a Filipino core value. He upheld that kapwa implied moral and normative aspects that obliged a person to treat one another as fellow human being and therefore as equal—a position “definitely inconsistent with exploitative human interactions.” But he also foresaw that this Filipino core value was threatened by spreading Western influences, when he wrote: “…once AKO starts thinking of himself as separate from KAPWA, the Filipino ‘self’ gets to be individuated as in the Western sense and, in effect, denies the status of KAPWA to the other.” (Enriquez 1989)


Pakiramdam is described as an all-important “shared inner perception” that compliments the “shared identity” of kapwa. It is an emotional a priori that goes with the Filipino personhood. Pakiramdam operates behind all Filipino values. This steering emotion triggers the spontaneous voluntary actions that come with the sharing of the self. It is the keen deep inner feeling that initiates all deeds. Because of kapwa, Filipino feeling, or pakiramdam, is a participatory process, where emotions are experienced mutually. Enriquez called this shared perception –the “heightened awareness and sensitivity” of Filipinos. His student Rita Mataragnon saw in pakiramdam the “emotional a-priori” of Filipino people. She noted that both, the emphatic “feeling for another,” or the talent of “sizing up each other” were active emotional processes that involved great attention to subtle cues. Filipino are good in sensing cues (magalingmakiramdam), she upheld.

Heightened sensitivity is the survival tool in a society where much social interaction is carried on without words. Here, only carefully feeling out others helps in navigating the ambiguities one encounters—like knowing when to join a group or how to blend in with people. Pakiramdam provides the tacit leads how to act appropriately in such situations and may well be regarded as the cognitive style of Filipinos—a unique social skill that is intrinsic to the Filipinos personhood.


The way Filipinos use the expression, “Bahala Na” had long been misinterpreted by foreigners as demonstrating the fatalism of a happy-go-lucky people. But Bahala has sacred undertones. Its ancient Filipino inscription divides the term into “ba’’ for woman and “la” for man. “Ha” means breath or wind—in a larger sense, spirit or God. Bahala then is the word that pre-Christian Filipinos used for the deity.

Sikolohiyang Filipino salvaged “Bahala Na!” from this fatalistic reputation into a value. “Devil may care!” was transformed into “determination in the face of uncertainty” –a value that stimulates resourcefulness and the creativity to survive:

“Bahala-na stimulates action, not action; it is not invoked to avoid or forget problems; it implies perseverance and hard work; it instills the courage to see oneself through hard times,” noted the late Alfredo Lagmay. “It drives a person on even beyond his/her own frailties and limitations, to find a creative way out.”

Lagmay attributed the dynamics of courage and determination to this notion of “Bahala-na!” which calls for risk taking in the face of possible failure. Its origin lies in a social structure that challenges people to exercise their ability in coping with constant change. This flexibility developed as a response to living along the earth’s “fire-belt” where erupting volcanoes, tidal waves, and tropical storms—an ever-restless environment— has taught its inhabitants to be resourceful and creative in order to survive.

“Bahala-na!” then, signifies an improvisatory skill. It is a strength that helps

Filipino to access the “deep source in man” where solutions to anything can be had. But the security offered by “Bahala Na!” is quite different from the static security of the sigurista, a person who always makes sure that everything is  under control. Lagmay traced the dividing line between a people who love to follow rules and others who prefer to walk out on limb: “We plan everything to the minutest detail and act according to the blue-print of fixed specifications. This is what the administration wants. It is in contrast to the attitude of someone, who does not know what life will bring, one who will not try to predict the future. For someone like this, the needed information will arrive at its own time and only when necessary.” As it challenges “the intolerance of ambiguity in psychology,” said Lagmay, such an attitude is intrinsically subversive.


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