Sunday, December 1, 2013

Sikolohiyang Pilipino: 50 Years of Critical-Emancipatory Social Science in the Philippines

Sikolohiyang Pilipino: 50 Years of Critical-Emancipatory Social Science in the Philippines


Narcisa Paredes-Canilao
University of the Philippines Baguio

Maria Ana Babaran-Diaz
University of the Philippines Baguio


Sikolohiyang Pilipino, or efforts of Filipino psychologists and social scientists to indigenize Psychology in the
Philippines started in the 1960s, further crystallized into a distinct movement from the mid-1970s and continued to flourish in the 21st century. Using the broad outlines of critical-emancipatory social science, we argue in this paper that Sikolohiyang Pilipino since its inception in the works of V.D. Enriquez, was meant and has proven to be a liberated and liberating psychology (literally malaya at mapagpalayang sikolohiya), and may therefore be a unique type of criticl psychology in the Philippine setting. We first examine the academic and cultural circumstances that led to the movement of Sikolohiyang Pilipino, then describe its aims, methodologies, advocacies and theoretical contributions and how these resulted in the establishment of professional organizations, research programs, and circular offerings.

The movement from the traditional academic psychology as taught in the universities was brought about by
dissatisfaction with too much emphasis on Western theories particularly on the tendency for quantification to
emulate the scientific method to examine human phenomena. The end of the colonization period in the Philippines brought with it the beginning of a post-colonial psychology that focused on indigenous knowledge, practices, and methods.

Key words: Critical-emancipatory social science, critical psychology, decolonization, indigenization, indigenous psychology, mainstreamed psychology, liberated and liberating psychology, mainstreamed psychology, pantayong pananaw, Philippine Psychology, pilipinolohiya, Sikolohiyang Pilipino.

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Indigenization, because for the proponents and advocates of SP, decolonization is to be sought side-by-side with the constructive work of proposing indigenous psychology as alternative to Western Psychology. Seminal texts of its founders coming from different disciplines were all engaged in laying down the parameters, empirical base, and directions of the ‘indigenous’.

Indigenous, as described by Pe-Pua (2006, p. 110), is to be distinguished from ‘Western’, or ‘exogenous’ and will try to understand Filipino traits and values from the insider’s point of view. Indigenization of psychology, however, does not mean the total rejection of anything Western.

Thus Enriquez has often made the distinction between the forms of indigenization: indigenization from without, and indigenization from within. The first one is the appropriation or adaptation of foreign psychological concepts that are applicable to the Philippine context, while the latter is the search and recovery of traditional traits and values that are native to the Filipinos (Enriquez, 1995a; Pe-Pua & Protacio-Marcelino, 2000).

The site of emergence of SP was the academe – in the 1960s the Community Development Research Council of the University of the Philippines started to question the applicability of Western concepts, theories and research tools to Philippine context. Filipino psychologist Virgilio G. Enriquez started around this time to initiate the double movements of critique-reconstruction and decolonization-indigenization in his psychology classes, and started using Filipino as medium of instruction. SP gradually gained following as it became a multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary approach with support from the historian-ethnologist Zeus Salazar and the anthropologist Prospero Covar.

SP, in the beginning was an intellectual movement. SP formed together with Pantayong Pananaw and Pilipinolohiya, ‘the indigenization movement in the Philippine academy’ (Mendoza, 2002). At the outset it is important to note that SP was not a singular or isolated unidirectional phenomenon.

SP is seen to be both a response to socio-political and economic events as well as an effective perspective for confronting current problems brought about by globalized capitalism and natural disasters.

‘Sikolohiyang Pilipino was essentially a form of resistance to the hegemony of Western paradigms. Its ultimate agenda was the liberation of psychology from its Western origins’ (Bautista, 1999, p. 392).

The problem that was mainly the target of SP to eradicate was ideological in nature – academic dependency,  educational neocolonialism (Alatas, 2003, 2006; Altbach, 2003; Apfelbaum, 2002). In this sense  SP is ideology critique, which called for the emancipation of subjects from subjection to limiting or constraining knowledge held by a superior class (colonizers, the elites) as a means to perpetuate their power.

SP as was discussed earlier, was a continuation of the decolonization struggle for independence from colonial mentality, academic dependency and neocolonial education, all after independence has been granted formally. Thus Alatas (2006) wrote: ‘the critical tradition initiated by Rizal continued in the Philippines in the form of indigenization movements that influenced the three areas of psychology, historiography and Philipinology’ (p. 35). Second, indigenization or cultural recognition per se was not its end objective; it was always crucially integrated with the critique of Western colonialist constructions of Filipino identity or character.

Conclusion: Sikolohiyang Pilipino as a Critical Psychology in the Philippines 

Psychology is an academic discipline that seeks to develop frameworks, perspectives, and methodologies that are appropriate to the understanding of differences in individuals and groups, their relationships and interactions, their self-definitions, their capabilities and potentials, their coping and adjustment mechanisms.

Sikolohiyang Pilipino believes that there should not be one, uniform psychology to be taught in the classroom (the Western positivist one), and to be used for social research and services. Each cultural setting has developed psychological knowledge endemic to its contexts, experiences, and challenges, before, and outside of academic psychology. This psychological knowledge is embedded in the lifeworld, in worldviews, in the way people view themselves in relation to others and the environment. Academic psychology in different cultural settings should thus draw from this-pre-academic, or outside-the-academy
psychological knowledge, discourses and practices.

Sikolohiyang Pilipino is by far what would come closest to being a critical form of psychology in the Philippines, because of its attempt at theoretical critique and reconstruction, such theory
having encompassed curricular, institutional, and ethodological reforms. It was shown in the discussion of the history of academic psychology in the Philippines, that Marxism and poststructuralist Marxism did not affect psychology as much as political science, sociology, and anthropology.

Sikolohiyang Pilipino was a multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary movement, having been part of a three-pronged decolonization-indigenization program in the University of the Philippines – from history – Pantayong Pananaw, and from Anthropology – Pilipinolohiya. As reactions to the universal and objectivist and scientific pretensions of the positivist social science paradigm, these movements tended to favor the phenomenological-interpretative approach coupled with sociolinguistics, or the close study of local languages as clues to a people’s culture.

The PAP or the Psychological Association of the Philippines may be considered to carry the  mainstream banner, however, the lines dividing SP and Philippine mainstream psychology has been gradually blurred because of the very strong advocacy, social service and policy component of PAP members though their research. Further blurring the difference is the recent move of PAP members away from scientific-experimental to more hermeneutic and interpretative approaches. The comment has been – that the only difference in the two groups is their membership in one rather than the other group, and the language used.