The Spiritual Nature of the Filipino Psyche

September 23, 2023
Emmanuel F. Silan, PhD
May the gods smile upon your journey wherever your path brings you.

The practice of Hypnotherapy, Neuro Linguistic Programming(NLP) and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) made me more aware and in awe of the power and associative ideas and memories that words evoke, both for the speaker, and more so for the recipient.

Consider the word lonely. Its translation in Filipino will most likely be “nalulumbay.” And when we use the word “mind,” its Pinoy translation evokes more than “kaisipan” or “kamalayan.”

More than this, it is also called “diwa,” which, when spoken in softer tone evokes not just "thoughts" but also touches the deeper, unconscious spirituality among many Filipinos.

Lamentation is “nanaghoy,” a Visayan word used in theFilipino movie by actor Cesar Montano entitled “Panaghoy sa Suba.” Even without seeing the movie, knowing the meaning of each word readily leads to images that evoke melancholy, the grief of a lost love, and the anguish about a life that quickly faded.

The phrase can then be more appropriately read as“lamentation along the river,” very much similar to the novel of Coelho’s “By the River Piedra, I Sat Down and Wept.”

And I wonder, to this day, how “mental health problems”manifest and experienced, if it is seen and understood as such, among indigenous Filipinos from different ethnic groups. How similar and different do they understand mental health issues as seen by other people living in urban places?

More importantly, I wonder what transformative experiences can happen if we focus more on the use of “diwa,” sense of “kalooban,” (innerworld), “pananaw” (worldview), and the connection of soul (kaluluwa) and the spiritual nature of most Filipinos - regardless of ethnic affinities – in the context of “healing” and psycho-emotional wellbeing.

To connect more with the Pinoy’s seeming intuitive sense ofspirituality and “kabutihang loob” despite the present-day stressors andproblems that many Filipinos experience. And when they say, “bahala na,”perhaps it is more of a faith in the gods and goddesses of past, present, andfuture; in the presence of unknown fate.

Tapping on the collective unconscious of our race, andforged by the celebration of life, despite natural and man-made calamities thatwe have experienced for thousands of years in the past.

Filipinos are truly a friendly, amiable, and ‘joyful” group of people. And it is reflected as much in our national anthem – “bayang magiliw...”

We greet each other “Mabuhay!” (be alive), and say goodbye with “paalam,” which, I would like to believe, means “let me know (‘alam’)about you wherever you are.”

And when Pinoys meet again, wherever fate brings them, theycherish that wonderful moment by holding each other together – “kadaupangpalad” (palms pressed together) and, perhaps, “pagniniig” – to have an intimate conversation.

May the gods smile upon your journey wherever your path brings you.

Hanggang sa ating muling pagkikita.




*Photo from National Geographic

About the author

Emmanuel F. Silan, PhD

NLP Coach and Counselor/ Human Behavior and Communications Specialist/ NLP Master Trainer (IN) and Coaching Master Trainer (ICI) / Organization Development Consultant/ Highly Experienced Team Building Facilitator/ Certified NLP Instructor and Master Practitioner/ has MA in Instruction Development and Technology/ PhD in Organization Development/ and currently taking Master in Counseling Psychology at  Ateneo de Manila University.