Monday, November 11, 2013

After 35 years, Sikolohiyang Pilipino gets world respect

After 35 years, Sikolohiyang Pilipino gets world respect
By Vincent Cabreza
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 11:08:00 12/29/2010
Source -
Filed Under: Children, Culture (general)

GOOD SAMARITANS have started reaching out to children who are caught in a violent conflict or a debilitating cataclysm, using a psychological tool designed by a Filipino 35 years ago.

Dr. Rogelia Pe-Pua, head of University of New South Wales School for Social Sciences and International Studies in Australia, says donors used to ship toys to these children to help them cope with trauma.

But the toys were often too strange to them. Pe-Pua says many ended up tucked in shelves or wrapped in closets because they are too expensive to be smashed at play time.

Some foreign experts shrugged off this phenomenon, suggesting instead that the donors teach the children how to play with them, she says.

According to her, there are even stories about a Japanese expert who injects the children with happy enzymes.

Those days have passed.

Trauma programs

The United Nations Children's Fund (Unicef) now uses a program framework that puts value in culture, indigenous identity and the environment to help explain or define behavior that is peculiar to a certain country or race, Pe-Pua says.

Elizabeth Protacio-De Castro, a Filipino consultant, reviewed the trauma programs of 16 counties before coming out with a template that tells Unicef who the child beneficiary is, how culture shapes him, how the environment abuses him and what he truly needs to help him cope.

Pe-Pua says Unicef uses a mechanism known to the teachers and students as Sikolohiyang Pilipino, a 35-year-old academic movement that is not simply a Filipinized-version of mainstream psychology.

When psychologist Virgilio Enriquez founded the movement in 1975, he encouraged students to write in Filipino to help them discover indigenous perspectives about life, scientific knowledge and social relationships, which are lost when behavior is couched in a foreign language or theory.

The country's psychologists learned that their counterparts abroad had started adapting Enriquez's methodology when they assembled in November for the 35th Sikolohiyang Pilipino conference at the University of the Philippines Baguio.

Indigenous psychology

The world now interprets Sikolohiyang Pilipino, or simply SP, as indigenous psychology, which allows professionals to see the world from the perspective of the people they serve, says Pe-Pua, one of the founding members of the Pambansang Samahan sa Sikolohiyang Pilipino (PSSP or the National Association for Filipino Psychology).

Pe-Pua, a former UP professor, conducted a two-month study of 20 academics this year to determine the progress made by the SP. She discovered that the methodology had become a multidisciplinary tool for various professions in the country as it was originally intended.

An essay, published online by the National Historical Institute, states that Enriquez defined Philippine psychology as the embodiment of the scientific study of ethnicity, society and culture of a people and the formal application to psychological practice of core knowledge rooted in a people's ethnic heritage and consciousness.

According to Enriquez, the captive Filipino mind is sold to the idea that Filipinos do not have any indigenous religion and that the religion of the country was borrowed from Spain and America. He further explained that denying the facts of a people's history is tantamount to denying their memory. A people without a memory of their past is also deprived of their future, it points out.

Community advocacy

Pe-Pua says her survey indicates that the SP helped a prominent psychologist excel in community advocacy. "Once you become part of a community you intend to serve, you can't help but search for native concepts and explanations which you must use to understand behavior and phenomenon in a village," she says.

The SP helped another academic design intervention programs for maternal health and reproductive health, which value a client's cultural background and pakikipag-kapwa (sense of community) and treat participants as kapwa tao (fellow beings), she says.

The Unicef framework for children caught in conflict areas or cataclysms best defines how far the SP has reshaped world view, she says.

The shift in perspective may mean that donors will soon send typhoon-displaced children basketballs, dolls and yo-yos that they know how to play with rather than toys that require engineering backgrounds to put together, she says.