MALAYA: An examination *pagsusuri* of self

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June 10, 2021

Writers: Azie Libanan and Eula Mei Labordo
Editor: K Ballesteros
Researchers: Alvin Joseph Mapoy, Angelica Jane Evangelista, and Jerwin Regala
Graphics: Krystle Mae Labio
Tweet Chat Moderators: Eula Mei Labordo and K Ballesteros
Documentation: Angelica Jane Evangelista and Ian Stephen Velez
Spaces Moderators: Alvin Joseph Mapoy, Richardson Mojica, and Azie Libanan


Inasmuch as there are many islands in the Philippines, there are also different ways in which the Filipino culture is described: from the food we eat, to the clothes we wear, to things we believe in. We are a culturally-diverse nation owing to contact with  other cultures  through trade, migration, and colonial occupation.

Culture refers to  the shared patterns of behaviors and interactions, cognitive constructs, and affective understanding learned through a process of socialization. It enables people to identify themselves as belonging to a group (e.g. a nation), and thus allows them to distinguish themselves from another group  (Center, 2019).

Culture may also broadly be defined as a common heritage or set of beliefs, norms, and values (DHHS, 1999). It usually refers to the shared and largely learned attributes of a group of people. Anthropologists often describe culture as a system of shared meanings. People who are placed, either by census categories or through self-identification, into the same racial or ethnic group are assumed to share the same culture (Mental, 2001).The phrase “cultural identity” refers to the culture someone identifies with, and points to the system of meaning  a person uses  to  establish standards of behavior (Cooper & Denner, 1998).With the variety of ways to define a cultural group, many people may consider themselves belonging to multiple cultural identities (Mental, 2001).

A key aspect of any culture is its dynamism. Culture continually changes and is influenced both by people’s beliefs and the demands of their environment (Lopez & Guarnaccia, 2000). Culture therefore influences the way we think, behave, and perceive health and well-being. Well-being, as described by Diener and Suh (2000), is anchored on the values and standards people ascribe to in their lives, their success or failure in personally seeking and achieving outcomes and pursuits, and their ability to fulfill  their basic  needs (Mental, 2015).

Culture influences many aspects of mental illness, including how patients from a given culture express and manifest their symptoms, their style of coping, their family and community support, and their willingness to seek treatment. Cultural and social influences are not only the determinants of mental illness but it has overall impacts on patterns of service utilization covering help seeking, diagnosis, treatment, and service delivery (Mental, 2015).

The Biopsychosocial Model of Health

The biopsychosocial model views health and illness behaviors as products of biological characteristics (genes), behavioral factors (lifestyle, stress, and health beliefs), and social conditions (cultural influences, family relationships, and social support) (Introduction, n.d.). The model was developed by George L. Engel (1977), a psychiatrist from the University of Rochester. Engel posited that biological, psychological (which including thoughts, emotions, and behaviors), and social (e.g., socioeconomic, socio-environmental, and cultural) factors, all play a significant role in health and disease.

This view allows us to recognize that culture and the existing belief systems under which we live shape the way we deal with  daily stressors, and affect how we cope in general.

The image below shows a 2016 study on the cultural influences on coping strategies of Filipino Immigrant Nurses.

Culture as History (as Nick Joaquin would say)

Culture has so come to mean its loftier dicta (like literature and the arts) that we have had to be constantly reminded that the medium itself is the message. And the message is: metamorphosis. We are being shaped by the tools we shape; and culture is the way of life being impressed on a community by its techniques (Reyes, 1990).

According to Joaquin in Culture and History: Occasional Notes on the process of Philippine Becoming, the Filipino is the product of a particular history that began in the 16th century. According to Joaquin, the  Filipino identity is  chiefly formed by twelve great events in Philippine history. The way we responded to them determined our response to all subsequent events (Reyes, 1990) He added that history is not merely the conventional enumeration of events but an attempt to situate the different ways in which culture has reacted to the tools offered to it. Joaquin points out that all such tools, including  Christianity, are, after all, “media of communication”, and the complex relationship between these tools and the people has defined and determined the process of becoming (Reyes, 1990).

Kapwa: Isang pagkilala

The Kapwa model, central to Sikolohiyang Pilipino, is a theory highlighting Filipino social interaction. It inherently aims to answer the overarching question: Paano nga ba makipagkapwa(-tao) (Clemente, 2008)?

Its assumptions include: (1) that in our interactions, we become aware that we are interacting with  hindi ibang tao (one of us) and  ibang tao (not one of us; outsider), and (2) the theory constitutes Filipino values that need to be considered when dealing with  hindi ibang tao and  ibang tao (Clemente, 2008).

Enriquez (1992) emphasizes that both the ibang tao and hindi ibang tao should be treated as kapwa. Which goes to say that — ikaw at ako ay magkapantay. This sense of equality emanates from the recognition of a shared identity, or a notion of a shared inner self (Clemente, 2008).

And this concept of self differs, in essence, from what the Filipino sociologist, Raul Pertierra, termed the “western monologic discourse”. This automatic ascription of the same meanings to the same label, concept, or terminology (e.g. the self) has been criticized for rendering static theoretic formulations and turning them into essentialized universal propositions (Gastardo-Conaco, 2005).

This old model of science overlooked the fact that psychology and the phenomena it studies are rooted in culture and local traditions. Asian psychologists, hence, felt that the universal practice of fitting all data into generalized concepts derived from a western and alien experience made knowledge meaningless, and invalidated actual, indigenous, and lived collective experiences (Gastardo-Conaco, 2005).

This relegation of indigenous psychology to the sidelines, and the eventual transformation of the hegemony of western schools of thought through globalization, led to the rise of what we call Sikolohiyang Pilipino.

Sikolohiyang Pilipino (Filipino Psychology, SP) refers to the psychology born out of the experience, thought, and orientation of Filipinos, based on the full use of Filipino culture and language. It was pioneered by Virgilio Gaspar Enriquez in 1971, using the ‘‘indigenization from within’’ approach, whereby the theoretical framework and methodology emerge from the experiences of the people from indigenous culture (Pe-Pua, 2000).

The principal emphasis of Sikolohiyang Pilipino is to foster national identity and consciousness, social involvement, and psychology of language and culture (Pe-Pua, 2000).

Through “lexical, taxonomic, discourse, and behavioral analysis (Enriquez, 1994),” Enriquez identified 12 values and then “provided a conceptual structure of [these] indigenous values (Church & Katigbak, 2002).”

Kapwa framework values:

  1. Kagandahang-loob (Pagkamakatao)
  2. Katarungan
  3. Pakikipagkapwa (KAPWA, pagkatao)
  4. Lakas ng loob
  5. Kalayaan
  6. Karangalan
  7. Pakikisama
  8. Pakikiramdam (Pakikipagkapwa tao)
  9. Utang na loob
  10. Pakikibaka
  11. Hiya
  12. Bahala na

The first column of the table presents Enriquez’s (1992) a priori categories. He divided the 12 values into 4 categories:

  1. surface values; can be further divided into accommodative and confrontative values
  2. a pivot value
  3. a core value, and
  4. a foundation of human values

Aside from the pivot value, there is also the linking socio-personal value (i.e., kagandahang loob), and the three human or societal values (kalayaan, karangalan, katarungan) (Clemente, 2008).

This value system is represented through a three-tiered structure with the surface values on the top tier; the pivot and the core values on the middle tier; and the foundation values on the bottom tier. The pivotal interpersonal value pakikiramdam underlies the surface values. While the core value is anchored by way of linking the socio-cultural value of kagandahang-loob to the foundation values below it (Enriquez, 1992; p. 74).

Kapwa is the Filipino core value, and the other values (e.g., hiya, lakas ng loob, pakikiramdam, pakikibaka, etc.) emanate from this core (Clemente, 2008).

The value of values

What then is a value? According to Schwartz and Bilsky (1987), values are concepts or beliefs about desirable end states or behaviors that transcend specific situations, guide selection or evaluation of behavior and events, and are ordered by relative importance (Clemente, 2008).

To say that a value is a principle that guides behavior clarifies its measurement. An important assumption in values research is that values are explicit, and thus, can be expressed or articulated (Oyserman et al., 2002). In other words, people know what they think is desirable and thus, can report on what they value (Peterson, 2006).

It has been repeatedly emphasized that the study of values is a very effective way of unpacking the influences of culture on one’s behavior, thought, and affect. Values can be, and have been linked to very important social issues in the Philippines, like leadership, national identity, and influences of socialization agents (Clemente, 2008).

Kalayaan, Kasarinlan, at Kamalayan

Kalayaan (freedom) is one of the core values that the Filipino still holds true today. Perhaps this is because of the long history of colonial conquests that the Filipino, as a nation, has been subjected to. Araw ng Kalayaan was originally celebrated to commemorate independence from colonizers — but what significance does this hold today? What does freedom really mean, and how can we say that the Filipino is truly free?

There have been multiple debates as to the meaning of freedom, but to answer these questions, we may borrow the wisdom of writer Allison Weir and philosopher Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel. Weir argues that identities are [also] sources of values, of connections to ourselves, to each other, and to ideals; as such, they are enabling conditions for individual and collective freedom. In the same way, Hegel discusses that freedom is a kind of belonging, and it is developed in and through our identities and identifications. (Allen, 2014)

These suggest that freedom can be achieved through self-consciousness (kamalayan), and it is with the same approach that Enriquez established Sikolohiyang Pilipino.

Enriquez provided  a definition of psychology that takes into account one’s surroundings (ulirat), information and understanding (isip), habits and behaviour (another meaning of diwa), and the soul (kaluluwa) which is the way to learn about people’s conscience (Enriquez, 1976 as cited by Pe-Pua & Marcelino, 2003). Sikolohiyang Pilipino may therefore be a bridge that enables us to connect to our roots and a vehicle to unlock Filipino consciousness.

Consciousness: A Nation Divided

According to Renato Constantino, the existence of a Filipino nation is a fact, but the existence of a national consciousness is only a presupposition, if by national consciousness one means that sense of oneness which comes from a community of aspiration, response, and action (Constantino, 1976).

He adds that, for Filipinos, the question of nationality has become a question of identity but not of a consciousness of common aspirations and goals. This same disparity between identity and consciousness has been responsible for the ambiguity of Filipino behavior, for the Filipino’s east-west ambivalence, and for our marginal participation in the historic struggles of other colonial peoples (Constantino, 1976).

Consciousness in the Philippine experience

Consciousness is the manner by which a society, in its development, explains the world and views itself.  It is also the recognition of the changing nature of social forms, and is therefore an awareness of the necessity of  basic and evolutionary change (Constantino, 1976).

In the Philippine experience, Constantino points out how national consciousness (or the lack thereof, of a developed form) was responsible for the backwardness and the spiritual emptiness of the people. This explains why the Filipinos have lagged behind their neighbors in the development of a liberating consciousness (Constantino, 1976).

For Constantino, three historical influences — the level of social and economic development attained before colonization, the nature of Spanish rule, and the impact of American domination — must be examined to isolate the factors which, operating within the realm of consciousness itself, have constantly undermined the efforts of Filipinos to develop a highly liberating national consciousness (Constantino, 1976).

Truly, it is a conscious examination of these influences, that we will be able to understand the complexities, the richness (or the poverty) of the nuanced shared identity (pagkatao), and self-consciousness (kamalayan) of the Filipino.

Self-conscientiousness: a substratum of self-love

There have been many perspectives on the expression of self-love. Recent trends in social media include rewarding ourselves, manifesting our desires, and taking breaks. These perspectives are valid, but what is self-love and how does a Filipino express self-love from the viewpoint of Sikolohiyang Pilipino? How do we strengthen our expression of self-love that encompasses our identity as a nation?

Self-love is a state of appreciation for oneself that grows from actions that support our physical, psychological, and spiritual growth (Brain, 2020). Before we are able to appreciate ourselves, we must first learn to be self-conscious. It is when we are able to grasp our identities better that we are able to appreciate ourselves further.

This brings us back to the questions: What is a Filipino? What is the core of the Filipino identity?

Enriquez came up with an answer: (Pakikipag-)kapwa. Pakikipagkapwa means treating the other person as kapwa or fellow human being. (Enriquez, 1978 as cited by Pe-Pua & Marcelino, 2003).

Pakikipagkapwa: the pinnacle of pag-ibig

How then do we exemplify pakikipag-(kapwa)? One example provided from the Kapwa model suggests that pakikipagkuwentuhan (story-telling) is consistent with the core concept of Enriquez’s kapwa psychology. One can use pakikipagkuwentuhan in practically any given situation in the spirit of pakikipagkapwa (Orteza, 1997 as cited by Pe-Pua and Marcelino, 2003).

In addition, there is also pakikiramdam, a request to feel or to be sensitive to each other. Pakikiramdamis “feeling for another”: exercising great care and deliberation (Mataragnon, 1987 as cited by Pe-Pua and Marcelino, 2003).

Pakikipagkuwentuhan and pakikiramdam can be demonstrated by lending an ear to a friend, or joining support groups and communities that cater to our well-being.

As the Filipino concept of self constantly evolves, so do our identity and expressions of self-love. We need to develop the Kapwa model as a representation of the Filipino psyche, guiding us as we search for thorough answers to the question, “what is a Filipino”. This is especially important when we are in the middle of a global pandemic, and we are constantly beset by existential crises, systemic inequities, heightened and prolonged experiences of anxiety, fear of the future, vulnerability, and uncertainty.

Perhaps this can be the thread that weaves together the fragments of the Filipino identity — one that will strengthen our cultural fabrics of Kagandahang-loob/ Pagkamakatao (shared humanity), Pakikisama (companionship/esteem), Pakikiramdam/ Pakikipagkapwa tao (shared inner perception), Pakikipagkapwa (shared identity), so as to help us achieve a shared sense of Katarungan (justice), Karangalan (dignity) and true (liberty) Kalayaan.


  1. What are your values/ What do you value? Ano ang mahalaga (mga bagay na may halaga) para sa iyo?
  2. Who do you consider your KAPWA? Sino ang maituturing mong KAPWA? How do you show/practice Pakikipagkapwa?
  3. How do you define freedom (Kalayaan) ? Paano mo masasabing ikaw ay malaya at mapagpalaya?


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Center for Advanced Research on Language Acquisition. (2019). What is Culture? Retrieved from: https://

Constantino, R. (1976). Identity and consciousness: The Philippine experience, Journal of Contemporary Asia, 6:1, 5-28, DOI:10.1080/00472337685390031

Clemente, J.A., Belleza, D., Yu, A., Catibog EVD, Solis G., Laguerta J. Revisiting the Kapwa Theory: Applying Alternative Methodologies and Gaining New Insights. PHILIPPINE JOURNAL OF PSYCHOLOGY (2008), Vol  41 No 2, pp. 1–32. Retrieved from:

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Reyes, S.S. (1990). Book Review: Culture and History: Occasional Notes on the process of Philippine Becoming. By Nick Joaquin. Philippine Studies, Vol. 38, No. 1 (First Quarter 1990), pp. 121-124. Published by: Ateneo de Manila University. Retrieved from:

The Biopsychosocial Model 25 Years Later: Principles, Practice, and Scientific Inquiry. Retrieved from:

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