Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Definitions - Pakikipag-Kapwa (Shared Identity)

In her talk Indigenous Filipino Values: A Foundation for a Culture of Non-Violence" prepared for the forum "Towards a Culture of Non-Violence," Katrin de Guia defines several key concepts which underpin babaylan practices.


The core value of Filipino personhood is kapwa. This idea of a “shared self” opens up the heart-doors of the I to include the Other. It bridges the deepest individual recess of a person with anyone outside him or herself, even total strangers. Here, it is not important if you are rich or poor, or status in society. “People are just people in spite of their age, clothes, diplomas, color or affiliations” said the Visayan artist Perry Argel.

Kapwa is the “unity of the one-of-us-and-the-other”, according to 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. Such a position was “definitely inconsistent with exploitative human interactions,” he insited. 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.”

Today, most people who hear the word “kapwa” think of their neighbor. But standard Tagalog dictionaries like Vito Santos’ render kapwa as “fellow being” and “other person.” And older, Spanish dictionaries translate kapuwa as “both” and “the one and the other”, or “others.”

From all these, Enriquez concluded that the original Filipino idea of “others” was inclusive. He wrote: “The English “others” is actually used in opposition to the “self,” and implies the recognition of the self as a separate entity. In contrast, kapwa is a recognition of a shared identity, an inner self shared with others.”

He also said: “A person starts having a kapwa not so much because of a recognition of status given him by others but more so because of his awareness of shared identity. The ako (ego) and the iba-sa-akin (others) are one and the same in kapwa psychology.”

This Filipino linguistic unity of the self and the other is unique and unlike in most modern languages. Why? Because implied in such inclusiveness is the moral obligation to treat one another as equal fellow human beings. If we can do this— even starting in our own family or our circle of friends— we are on the way to practice peace. We are Kapwa People.

Katrin M. de Guia performed her pioneering research on the Filipino culture-bearer artists all over the country while earning her PhD in Filipino Psychology (Sikolohiyang Pilipino) at the Unversity of the Philippines. She will be a featured speaker at the Center for Babaylan Studies 2010 Conference

Link accessed 6/24/2009

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