NJCIE 2021, Vol. 5(2), 22–36


Intergenerational Learning and Sikolohiyang Pilipino: Perspectives from the Philippines

Czarecah Tuppil Oropilla[1]

Kindergarten Knowledge Centre for Systemic Research on Diversity and Sustainable Futures, Western Norway University of Applied Sciences


Jean Guadana

Western Norway University of Applied Sciences


Copyright the authors

Received 2 February 2021; accepted 21 May 2021


Research on intergenerational learning delves into both the reciprocal transfer of knowledge and learning relationships between different generations. However, as this is an emerging research topic, there is a gap in the information available from various cultures. This paper aims to present intergenerational learning through the development of non-western indigenous psychology via the lens of Sikolohiyang Pilipino (Filipino psychology) in order to broaden the existing perspectives and understanding of intergenerational learning, engagements, and programs. By utilizing the theoretical framework of Sikolohiyang Pilipino, notably as espoused by Virgilio Enriquez, indigenous Filipino values are identified as key to understanding the predominance of family and community as venues and arenas for intergenerational learning in the Philippines. This underscores the importance of using the philosophical arguments associated with different cultural perspectives to challenge current assumptions and biases in intergenerational research and of being mindful when applying concepts that predominate in one culture to another. Additional intergenerational research in the Philippines will benefit from the inclusion of Sikolohiyang Pilipino as a theoretical framework since this will enable a deeper understanding of educational concepts within Filipino culture.


Keywords: intergenerational; learning; engagements; program; research; Filipino; culture; indigenous psychology


Interactions among and between generations happen organically on a daily basis and are part of our everyday lived experiences. These interactions with other people, environments, society, and culture are crucial to learning, which Vygotsky (1998) asserts is a social process from which higher psychological functions develop. However, even though intergenerational interactions happen on an almost daily basis, there is a need to examine it with a more intentional and deliberate lens of bringing generations together. Adopting a notion of learning that is understood “in terms of the social organization of deliberate, systematic, and sustained learning activities, in which learners are organized by others or organize themselves for the purposes of communicating and acquiring knowledge, skills, and sensitivities” (Hake, 2017, p. 26), intergenerational learning indicates understandings that go beyond traditional views of education that usually happen inside formal school institutions. This broader view of learning situates intergenerational learning within the concept of lifelong learning (Boström & Schmidt-Hertha, 2017).

Intergenerational learning is an emerging research topic in education and pedagogy, as well as in gerontology studies (Oropilla, 2021). It can be categorized into two categories based on where learning among generations occurs—informal settings and formal settings with formal, non-formal and informal activities (Hake, 2017). In the context of the broader study to which this paper belongs, intergenerational programs refer to the formal initiatives bringing younger children and older adults together within and across institutions through various practices and activities. On the other hand, informal settings, such as gardens or community public spaces, with informal and non-formal intergenerational learning activities involving various cultural and community practices are referred to as intergenerational engagements. In this paper, both intergenerational engagements and programs are arenas where intergenerational learning occur. Subscribing to a broader understanding of learning can incite broader implications to teaching and learning. This paper aims to contribute to the notion of teaching and learning that happens beyond formal learning institutions. As an implication, this paper hopes to highlight other potential places and spaces where intergenerational engagements and programs can be planned and implemented, making space for future empirical research on a possible conceptualization and implementation of intergenerational engagements and programs in a country like the Philippines. Further, we argue for intergenerational engagements and programs that are intentional, relational, and glocal—culturally responsive initiatives propelled by both global and localized understandings that are deliberately designed to make opportunities for different generations to foster relationships within contextualized geographical places and physical and non-physical spaces (e.g. cyberspace, theoretical space). We believe that just because intergenerational interactions happen organically in everyday life does not mean we should leave these engagements to happen by chance.

As regards the problematization of the use of multi-generational vs. intergenerational learning, Watts (2017) proposed that multi-generational learning has meanings that more accurately reflects the reality of communities and daily lived experiences. While she makes a compelling argument, for the purposes of this paper, we have deliberately chosen to use intergenerational over multi-generational because to us, the former evokes meanings of intersectionality and relationality, also supporting and subscribing to Alanen’s (2014) work towards a relational understanding of generational order/intergenerationality, and the latter could mean mere parallel relations akin to co-existence without intersections or overlaps.

Research projects such as the European Map of Intergenerational Learning network (EMIL) and Together Old and Young (TOY) are involved with life-long learning and work with promoting intergenerational learning in European countries. Both projects have been conceptualized in response to changes in demographics within some European countries due to economic pressures and global competition that have led many families to migrate from their hometowns to places where there are available jobs. Consequently, they have found that generations are increasingly distanced or segregated from one another, which is particularly noticeable between children and the elderly (EMIL network, n.d.). Additionally, the TOY Project (2013) points out that people in Europe are having longer lifespans, presumably since health care systems for older adults have been set in place as a universal human right in most European countries. However, they have pointed out that older adults have less contact with young children in many countries because older adults live in retirement homes and many young children spend most of their time in daycare centers, pre-schools, and schools (TOY Consortium, 2013). The findings of EMIL and TOY projects speak of societies that have been seemingly fragmented by age. Barbara Rogoff’s (2003) work on the “Cultural Nature of Human Development” has laid out a history of when and how age-specific institutions in the United States came about. She has cited the work of Chudacoff (1992) that says that age only became a criterion for ordering lives in the latter half of the 1800s and increased in the 1900s in the United States and some other nations. Prior to this time, it was rare for people to even know their age, especially in rural areas where fishing or farming was, and still is, the main livelihood. This change in modern societies, particularly in North America and Europe (commonly referred to as “the West”) came with industrialization. Age became an essential tool for a nation’s development as nation-states established systems for registering citizens, new births, and human services, such as education and medical care. It also became a tool for sorting people into specialized institutions shaped by findings from research fields, such as developmental psychology and pediatric practice. Emerging simultaneously is the era of age-specific institutions such as older people’s homes/homes for the elderly as well as age-graded schools. Hence, children and older adults participated in activities specific to their ages- limited to participation in community endeavors that were considered appropriate for them. Children could not participate in “mature” activities that are meant for adults (Rogoff, 2003). Adults had to participate and contribute as part of the workforce with family productivity measured in terms of cumulated income. Everyone in the community had roles bound within institutions, and communities enlarged as profits increased. As these developments came about, learning became equated to education, with one needing to go to an age-specific place for it: the school.

In one of the TOY project publications, the following excerpt stands out, as it mentions a seemingly Western vs. non-Western world divide:

In the Western world, children live in a separate world from older people. Apart from family members, they don’t come into contact with older people. So this is a way of bringing them into contact with older people, other than grandparents. For older people it brings something new, brings life to them. —Leila, coordinator, “The Dice: young meet old”, the Netherlands (The Toy Consortium, 2013, p. 3)

This text excerpt stood out to the authors, as it seemingly speaks of an experience different from theirs—coming from a non-Western country (The Philippines) where less than one percent of older adults live in institutions (Philippine Statistics Agency, 2015) and the majority of older adults continue to live in co-residence or nearby their children (Cruz et al., 2016, p. 37; Cruz & Cruz, 2019, p. 36). In addition, our experiences resonate with Badana and Andel’s (2018) account of issues surrounding Filipino family dynamics in terms of caregiving that describes the central role of family in the care process for both young children and older adults. If we were to conceptualize, plan, and implement intergenerational engagements and/programs, or research in the Philippines to promote intergenerational learning in the future, we recognize the need for culturally sensitive conceptualizations. We realize that it would be somewhat different to Western experiences, but that we had very little academic texts to refer to highlights the lack of representation of Filipino perspectives, even though, in our experience, intergenerational exchanges and learning is ingrained in Filipino everyday lives. We also acknowledge the plurality of knowledge and intergenerational experiences that each Filipino has. Even between the two authors, we recognize the similarities and differences in our realities despite both being brought up in the capital of the Philippines. We are also aware that our own understandings are rooted from our unique backgrounds and cumulative experiences from participating in different practices in institutions and different cultures, which in turn also affect our interpretations. As such, in this paper, we do not aim for generalized conceptions of intergenerational learning from ‘the’ Filipino perspective, as if there is only one perspective coming from a homogenous society, but from Filipino perspectives—with an awareness of the plurality of local understandings representing the heterogeneity of the Philippines. For us, this awareness spoke of an open space for discussion and problematization to offer a non-Western understanding and analysis on a seemingly Western-centric discourse.

At this point, it is important to note that the use of the Western / non-Western dichotomy in this paper has been inspired by the works of Reagan (2018). He discusses that while the use of the dichotomy is often problematic and over-simplistic in its reduction into a seemingly simple, geography-relative, yet bias and assumption-laden, contrast, he also points out that “the biases inherent in the terms are a significant and telling component of the phenomenon that we are concerned with studying. [And if] The assumptions and stereotypes that need to be challenged are already present, and if our language reflects them, then it may be useful to recognize the biases that are inherent in the language we use” (Reagan, 2018, p.10). As exemplified by the above excerpt from the TOY Project, which has used the concept of a “Western world”, there is an underlying notion of a non-Western world within the discourse of intergenerational learning. Through this paper, we raise awareness of having a largely pre-dominant Western or Eurocentric pool of knowledge on intergenerational engagements, programs and learning, among various academic fields. We argue the need to recognize local and indigenous concepts and methods from the peripheries (when compared with the so-called established centers of the West) where indigenous learning systems have historically been overlooked. In this paper, we use the terminologies local and indigenous alternatively and concurrently with each other. We subscribe to Stewart’s (2018) definition of indigenous as referring to a “place-based human ethnic culture that has not migrated from its homeland, and is not a settler or colonial population…and is therefore by definition different from being of a world culture such as the Western or Euro-American culture” (p. 740). This definition is congruent to Reagan’s (2018) notion of indigenous as “belonging to a particular locality or culture” (p.7), but with an understanding that it “somewhat a ‘loaded’ term” (p.7) and as such warrants careful considerations and acknowledgment.

In this, we hope to contribute to the call for decentering and diversifying perspectives and knowledge (Lan, 2011), but subscribe to a non-oppositional and rather a complementary position to knowledge production and utilization from the West and the non-West. Having identified this, it will be used as a springboard to our discussion of a “non-Western” view to intergenerational learning.

This paper aims to present the development of a non-Western theoretical framework from the Philippines through the works of a prominent Filipino scholar and psychologist, Virgilio Enriquez, on Sikolohiyang Pilipino (Filipino psychology, henceforth referred to as SP). Concepts from SP will be used to contextualize intergenerational learning in the Philippines. It will be drawn upon to broaden the perspective and understandings of intergenerational learning beyond formal school settings—that it is deeply ingrained in Filipino culture as part of everyday life and participation in the community. In doing so, we also bring awareness to the need to de-center the Western-centric tendency of understandings of intergenerational learning through the introduction of SP as a representation of the non-Western perspective in de-centering the discourse of intergenerational learning.

We would like to clarify, however, that in this paper, we do not seek to offer a rigorous problematization and discussion of the non-Western and Western dichotomy, nor do we seek to provide a complete outline of what Sikolohiyang Pilipino is. Our suggestion to combine SP with intergenerational learning is the scope of the paper that is still at its preliminary stages, and we recognize that it warrants further exploration and validation through data generation and systematic review of literature.

In the following section, we expound on the position to decentering intergenerational learning through characterizations from a non-Western perspective, leading to a presentation of an intergenerational research in Asia focusing particularly on the Filipino context. Afterwards, Virgilio Enriquez’s work on Sikolohiyang Pilipino (Filipino Psychology) relating to intergenerational learning will be presented and discussed. Implications to future intergenerational work and research will be discussed in the conclusions.

Decentering Intergenerational Learning

In an account of colonial Southeast Asian histories, the Philippines was controlled by Spain starting from the late 1500s, later the United States, and briefly by Japan. Other countries within the region like Cambodia, Laos, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, Singapore, and Timor also have a history of being colonized by Western countries, including Japan, at different points in time (Cotterrell, 2014). As Western colonizers settled in these countries, they brought with them their cultures, including economic, social, and religious ideologies, to share with indigenous communities, whether by force or in amicable terms, leading towards cultural change (Rogoff, 2003). Education was used as a colonial tool for their foreign missions and territory expansion (Rogoff, 2003).

Colonizers generally failed to acknowledge that there had been indigenous learning systems in place within communities during pre-colonial times, such as religious schooling, apprenticeship training, and initiation lessons through formal and informal learning, imparting wisdom about practical and specialized knowledge (Akinnaso, 1992). As such, although formal schooling seems to have Western roots, Akinnaso (1992) argues that schooling did occur in [pre-colonial communities], but “scholars have hardly acknowledged this because they [Western colonizers propagating Western concepts of formal education] are unwilling to recognize schooling as a variable cultural practice organized in a variety of ways for a variety of aims” (p. 69).

There was no concept of age-specific segregation into institutions in communities (Chudacoff, 1992). Consequently, if one were to take definitions of intergenerational learning, one must surmise that intergenerational learning had been happening long before its supposed conceptualization and propagation in age-segmented societies in the West. During these times, those who were considered older, often referred to as elders, held positions as knowledge transmitters or teachers/mentors, high positions in communities where they were responsible for imparting wisdom to those who needed it (Akinnaso, 1992). Practical and specialized knowledge was passed on to younger people through informal everyday discussions alongside community ceremonies and meetings that functioned similarly to conferences (Akinnaso, 1992). Children learned practical knowledge alongside peers and community members through participation in community practices and traditions (Rogoff, 2003). Children even commonly participated in what is regarded in the West as “mature” roles only meant for adults, such as taking care of fellow children, working in the rice fields, or fishing in the ocean (Rogoff, 2003).

The concept of family as a single independent unit was non-existent and embedded within the community—in this, communities were families, from which the famous phrase speaking of community interdependence “it takes a village to raise a child” originated, which also applies to caring for older people. The concepts of nuclear and extended families came much later—alongside the conception and realization of age-ordering of societies through national registries, with led to a reduced role of the family and community in children’s learning and education (Rogoff, 2003; Akinnaso, 1992).

While the role of families and communities in children’s learning in non-Western countries similarly declined due to the propagation of age-specific institutions for formal learning and education, a strong sense of community and family interdependence persists in Asian families through what is currently known as nuclear and extended families (Mehta & Thang, 2006). In particular, data from some Asian countries indicate that the responsibility for the care of younger children and older adults largely remains with the immediate family (Thang et al., 2003). Researchers have found that when concepts such as intergenerational learning and programming are discussed, it is primarily understood in the context of the family social unit (Thang et al., 2003). In order to fully grasp this phenomenon, it is necessary to explore what constitutes a common Filipino view of intergenerational learning, which has roots in Sikolohiyang Pilipino (Filipino psychology) concepts and values.

Intergenerational Learning in the Philippines

In their paper examining intergenerational programs in Asia through a conference where Asian representatives were present, Thang et al. (2003) made the supposition that “although intergenerational programming as a tool to meet human needs, build community, solve social problems, and so forth has gradually been recognized in North America and Europe, so far, the concept of intergenerational programming seems to receive little scholarly attention in this part of the world” (pp. 52-53). They surmised, however, that having positive statements on intergenerational thrusts in policies at the federal level of some Asian countries suggests a growing readiness of these countries to embrace the concept of intergenerational programming (Thang et al., 2003). In the Philippines, there has been a tendency to emphasize the family unit, as strong family ties are perceived as an asset to the establishment of intergenerational programs (Cabigon, 2002, as cited in Thang et al., 2003, p. 65). Even as the Western concept of learning and education was firmly set in place across recent generations, learning within the family is still given high regard (Rogoff, 2003). Indeed, although by no means homogenous, the Filipino family unit is widely considered a cornerstone of social relations and identity (Root, 2005, p. 322). The Filipino family is the focal point for cultural values, where knowledge and learning are transmitted—hence where Bildung, herein understood as cultural self-formation, develops with certain conditions and mechanisms for individuals to act, be, do and think (Ødegaard & White, 2018) and participate in social practices and institutions of culture (Good & Garrison, 2007). Although a concept that has European roots and history, Bildung has parallels in the Filipino context, which Rogoff (2003) has linked to learning by being integrated within a community setting—cultural formation through everyday habitual participation. It is within the family that young Filipino children first learn from elderly relatives—always intergenerational in nature as multi-generational households are commonplace (Thang et al., 2003; Root, 2005). This necessitates an understanding of intergenerational learning as part of the Bildung process. This is something that Root (2005) emphasized in her chapter on understanding Filipino families, where she discussed cultural nuances passed on within families, particularly via therapy programs. Although young children attend age-specific institutions, it is within the family that Filipino children first learn the complexities of society—social dynamics within and outside their kin, how to respond appropriately to people depending on their status and age, how to communicate, what to expect from people and institutions, and how to maintain social relations among others (Root, 2005). Traditionally, older adults impart the knowledge and wisdom they are often viewed as repositories of in addition to providing financial, material, and emotional support (Marquez, 2019, p. 163). Younger generations, on the other hand, reciprocate and show gratitude by taking care of the older generations, whether providing resources (Marquez, 2019, p. 164) or new knowledge necessary to adaptation in new times (Ogena, 2019, p. 143). It presents intergenerational learning as a series of exchanges that occur over time in not just a unidirectional transfer. This creates a ripple effect that endures for generations, even in recent years when there have been changes in demographics and family constellations brought about by industrialization and Western influences. In this light, the Filipino values utang na loob (gratitude) and respeto sa matatanda (respect for the elderly) could easily be misconstrued as filial piety, a concept whereby young people are taught to respect and care for their parents and grandparents in old age—suggesting a hierarchy of relations:

The Filipino value of ‘Utang-na-loob’ or gratitude is most appropriately applied to the gratitude of children to their parents, which includes expectations that parents will live with their children when old age comes. From the viewpoint of the elderly, the living arrangement may be a realization of their expected benefits from having children. Assistance in old-age is one of the most important values attached to children (Thang, Kaplan, Henkin, 2003, p. 57).

Such illustration of intergenerational learning in the Philippines situates it within everyday life contexts—a more informal setting than a formal programme within institutions. It also illustrates intergenerational relations as a dialogue between generations, as explored in a media review of a Filipino song (Oropilla, 2020). Rather than merely a general description of cultural tendencies, it is also important to understand how these concepts are formally promoted from within the culture being examined. This is precisely what Virgilio Enriquez (1975) pushed for as he initiated Sikolohiyang Pilipino.

Virgilio Enriquez and Sikolohiyang Pilipino

Virgilio G. Enriquez is considered the father of Sikolohiyang Pilipino (Filipino psychology), and his views were clearly shaped by his life story. The importance of being able to communicate and express himself in his mother tongue was instilled to him by his father early in his life (Pe-Pua & Protacio-Marcelino, 2000). Virgilio had a long history of teaching in the field of Psychology in different universities in the Philippines since 1963 (Pe-Pua & Protacio-Marcelino, 2000). He taught his psychology classes using the Filipino language—an unusual practice as the University of the Philippines was modeled after the American educational system. Further, Virgilio urged his students to write their papers in Filipino to contribute to the growth of the national language and to hopefully discover important ethnic Filipino concepts (Pe-Pua & Protacio-Marcelino, 2000).

The development of Sikolohiyang Pilipino (SP) could also be seen as part of a worldwide movement that began in the 1960s as a response to local neocolonial formations linked to capitalist globalization from Western countries (San Juan, 2006). From the Philippines’ long history of being colonized and ruled by Western thought and systems, the emergence of SP represented a path towards an indigenous and decolonized psychology from within despite Virgilio’s education and training in the USA:

While in this foreign land, amidst foreign theories, he watched the disenchantment of young student activists in the Philippines over the deteriorating political and social conditions of the country. The stream of nationalism was starting to have an effect on the teaching of different courses at U.P. Through his correspondence with Lagmay, Enriquez learned that the matter of teaching in the Filipino language was being taken up eagerly. He started preparing for the teaching of psychology in Filipino, and had a number of discussions (and arguments) with friends and professors at Northwestern University such as Ernesto Kole, Lee Sechrest and Donald Campbell. Enriquez returned to the Philippines in 1971, bringing with him a wealth of Western knowledge which he did not impose on his Filipino colleagues and students. His Western education actually drove him to be more Filipino-oriented in his teaching and research in psychology (Pe-Pua & Protacio-Marcelino, 2000, p. 51).

SP is a deliberate research framework anchored in Filipino thought and experience, as understood from a Filipino perspective, based on indigenous Filipino culture and history (Enriquez, 1975; Pe-Pua & Protacio-Marcelino, 2000; San Juan, 2006). It is a response to centuries of Filipino everyday life, community, personality, and behaviors studied, analyzed, interpreted, and judged in the light of Western theories of dubious relevance, which had arguably led to distorted and inaccurate understandings of Filipinos (Enriquez, 1975; Pe-Pua & Protacio-Marcelino, 2000). Hence, SP is “designed to be a psychology of, for, and by Filipinos, one appropriate and applicable to dealing with health, agriculture, art, mass media, religion, and other spheres of everyday life” (San Juan, 2006, p. 54). In this sense, SP could be considered a theoretical framework that maps out Filipino values system with cultural and historical roots manifested in practices, traditions and behaviors in everyday lives.

Central to SP is the use of national language in the study of the Filipino psyche: “what makes Sikolohiyang Pilipino different is its intense pursuit of developing the indigenous national culture and its program of using the indigenous language in its conferences, research, teaching, and publication” (Enriquez, 1992, p. 57). In the study of SP, researchers unravel Filipino characteristics and explain them through the eyes of the native Filipino (Pe-Pua & Protacio-Marcelino 2000, p. 51). As such, the main aims of Sikolohiyang Pilipino as part of decolonization of psychology and other fields in the Philippines are four-prong—1) it pushes forth the development of own identity and national consciousness; 2) it encourages social awareness and involvement; 3) there is a focus on national and ethnic cultures and languages and 4) it creates the basis for development and implementation of culturally appropriate methodologies and strategies in fields that have been dominated by Western theories such as health and medicine practices, mass media, art, education, agriculture, religion, among others (Enriquez, 1992).

Be that as it may, SP has received its share of critiques.  Clemente (2011) has conducted a review of three decades worth of literature involving SP and found criticisms of SP as being “based largely on knowledge about the publishers of the paper and the affiliations of the authors” (p. 2).  Ong (2016) also identified SP’s seemingly lack of critique of gender issues such as patriarchy, and empirical research problematizing social inequalities and systemic social structures within the Philippine society. In addition, San Juan (2006) asserted that SP still has a lot of ground to cover in terms of issues needing to be addressed such as multiple conflicts within the Philippine society, and considerations of environmental, geopolitical and historical factors in explaining societal fragmentation to fully encompass and represent the dynamic totality and diversity of the Filipino society. In many ways, SP is still in its infancy stage that warrants further validations and clarifications.

As a formalized and intentional indigenous psychology applicable also to other disciplines, Virgilio Enriquez identified the following concepts as the subject matter of study to understand people’s conscience: kalooban, or the study of emotions and feelings, kamalayan or consciousness, including both emotive and cognitive experiences or experiences knowledge; ulirat or awareness of one’s immediate surroundings; isip, referring to knowledge, information, and understanding; diwa, including one’s habits and behavior; and kaluluwa or psyche, which translates to the soul of a people (Enriquez, 1974). Through this work, Enriquez envisioned Sikolohiyang Pilipino as an “interdisciplinary humanistic-scientific endeavor” (San Juan, 2006).

Virgilio’s work also highlighted the relational and interactional nature of Filipinos through the concept of kapwa, arguably the core concept of Sikolohiyang Pilipino (Enriquez, 1978; 1994; Clemente, 2011; Yacat, 2013; Pe-Pua & Protacio-Marcelino, 2000). He conceptualized kapwa as a recognition of shared identity and what he referred to as “the unity of self and others” (Enriquez, 1978, p. 11). It is a concept that, if translated to the English language, does not encapsulate the true meaning in the Filipino context, as it is reduced to the word “others” that usually connotes a separation of self from the other—the complete opposite of the essence of kapwa. He argues that kapwa starts from the self and not from the presence of others:

A person starts having kapwa not so much because of a recognition of status given him by others but more because of his awareness of shared identity. The ako (ego/ [self]) and the iba-sa-akin (others) are one and the same in kapwa psychology: Hindi ako iba sa aking kapwa (I am no different from others). Once ako starts thinking of himself as separate from kapwa, the Filipino “self” gets to be individuated in the Western sense and, in effect, denies the status of kapwa to the other. By the same token, the status of kapwa is also denied to the self (Enriquez, 1992, p. 43).

As such, the concept of kapwa posits that Filipino relations focus on “sentiments of agreement, felt affinities and other bonds of solidarity” (San Juan, 2006, p.56), and most noteworthy that it illustrates relations that are forged by treating other people as equals with full regard of their worth and dignity (San Juan, 2006). To further emphasize kapwa as the core of Sikolohiyang Pilipino, Virgilio conceptualized an elaborate system of values deriving from kapwa, which includes the Filipino values utang na loob (debt of gratitude rather than filial piety) earlier linked with intergenerational relations in the Philippines. He has also associated the core of kapwa with paninindigan, conviction or commitment, interspersed with paggalang at pagmamalasakit (respect and concern), pagtulong at pagdamay (helping), pagpuno sa kakulangan (understanding limitations), pakikiramdam (sensitivity and regard for others), and gaan ng loob (rapport and acceptance).

In unfolding the concept of kapwa, Virgilio Enriquez (1978;1994) reflected on the different levels of interaction, and the intricacies one engages with when relating to other people:

There are two categories of kapwa: the Ibang-Tao (outsider) and the Hindi-Ibang-Tao (“one-of-us”). In Filipino social interaction, one is immediately “placed” into one of these two categories; and how one is placed determines the level of interaction one is shown. For example, if one is regarded as ibang-tao, the interaction can range from pakikitungo (transaction/civility with), to pakikisalamuha (interaction with), to pakikilahok (joining/participating), to pakikibagay (in-conformity with/inaccord with), and to pakikisama (being along with). If one is categorized as hindi-ibang-tao, then you can expect pakikipagpalagayang-loob (being in-rapport/understanding/ acceptance with), or pakikisangkot (getting involved), or the highest level of pakikiisa (being one with) (Pe-Pua & Protacio-Marcelino, 2000, p. 56).

Through his work on Filipino concepts and values, he has come to realize that Filipinos are not just most concerned with maintaining smooth interpersonal relationships, but intent on treating the other person as kapwa, a fellow human being—aptly coined pakikipagkapwa (Pe-Pua & Protacio-Marcelino, 2000), which could also be understood as human concern and interaction as one with others (San Juan, 2006).

Sikolohiyang Pilipino and Intergenerational Learning

In many Asian countries, including the Philippines, cultural values underscore that the well-being of the family inevitably contributes to the well-being and the happiness of the individual, and might even be interpreted as suggesting “the welfare of the family is valued over that the individual” (Root, 2005, p. 322). As such, in the cultural context of the Philippines, Sikolohiyang Pilipino could be the means to understand further the findings of Thang et al. (2003) on intergenerational learning, engagements and programs in the Philippines, as it is firmly weaved with cultural values that need to be understood in their entirety and intricacy.

From its conception as a framework for understanding Filipino behaviors and experiences, academic texts that bring SP and education are few and far between. One such attempt discusses emergence of interpersonal values during transgression in teaching Filipino psychology and values education in university students (Rungduin et al., 2014).  They have used the concept of kapwa, and the implications of relationships formed, and the value of forgiveness to map out teaching the two subject courses. Another such attempt focuses on the integration of the concepts of SP and Filipino teachers’ effective delivery in their classes with the aim of developing an instrument to measure teaching effectiveness and investigate how students evaluate charisma of a classroom teacher (Torio & Cabrillas-Torio, 2016). However, these attempts characterize learning in formal and institutional settings and do not relate to intergenerational learning, characterising a gap in the pool of literature. In putting together intergenerational learning and Sikolohiyang Pilipino, we highlight possibilities of using a local and indigenous lens to understand the dynamics of intergenerational learning and to inform Western-centric literature of considerations when designing intergenerational engagements and programs. This necessitates consideration of local voices and perspectives from within the culture being investigated.

The Filipino value of utang na loob (gratitude) plays a large role as to why formal intergenerational programs as conceptualized by “the West” located within age-specific institutions is not popular, particularly homes for older people or in other age-based institutions. One reason includes a perceived cultural stigma to place older adults in elderly homes (McBride, 2006). Older adults who dwell in nursing homes in the Philippines foster feelings of abandonment by their family members (De Guzman et al., 2012). Caring for family members is “a part of the very fabric of the Philippine society” and failure to provide for needs and resources is culturally frowned upon because of seen as shameful (hiya) and lacking gratitude (walang utang na loob) (Badana & Andel, 2018) but to engage in intergenerational learning within the family is malaking utang na loob (great gratitude). The value of utang na loob brings to light social relations that are built on reciprocity and looking for opportunities to pay it forward and return the favor, which even the next generation honors and respects (Enriquez, 1977; Pe-Pua & Protacio-Marcelino, 2000).  This explains the prevalence of multi-generational households in the Philippines (Philippine Statistics Authority, 2015)—arguably the setting where most Filipino intergenerational learning occurs. In addition, in having the concept of kapwa at the core of Filipino relationships, SP highlights the effect involving emotions and feelings that interactions evoke, more than the traditional lessons and learning outcomes. With this knowledge, design and conceptualization implications should manifest in designing intergenerational engagements and programs that would put value on how it would make the participants feel throughout the whole process, rather than what the participants will learn.

Further, because intergenerational relationships and opportunities for intergenerational learning are woven into everyday lives in community and home settings in the Philippines, the dynamics are so complex that there is considerable space for research to be conducted to understand these complexities in both formal and informal settings. Research that would use tenets of Sikolohiyang Pilipino is recommended to unpack these complexities. One topic that comes to mind is a problematization of the terminology “intergenerational”—what does that mean? Its root word is “generation”, pertaining to groups of people most times sorted and categorized by ages with a prefix that signifies a positionality, even hierarchy, and relationships between the root word and essentially pointing to one’s relation and position to “kapwa”. Is there a direct translation to the Filipino language? In searching for the most appropriate term, one word stands out, and that is “salinlahi,” which translates to “generation” that refers to groups based on age and order in English. If one were to unpack the Filipino word salinlahi, it is composed of two words—“salin” which means copy or transfer, and “lahi” which pertains to race, ethnicity, lineage, or ancestry. When combined, this translates to “copy or transfer of race, lineage or ancestry” which is a characteristic of intergenerational learning through interactions. Another word that is appropriate is “saniblahi,” with “sanib” translating to overlapping, joining, or coalescing—which, we find, is the most suitable concept to understand intergenerational relations in the Philippines. It is not a big breakthrough and it is just the first step, but these conceptualizations of intergenerational relationships using a Sikolohiyang Pilipino lens could prove to be beneficial in planning and implementing intergenerational programs that would thrive in the Filipino context.

Conclusions and implications: Space for further research

In culmination, implications of our attempt to combine Sikolohiyang Pilipino and intergenerational learning are four-pronged. These implications point to considerations for further research and conceptualization of intergenerational engagements and programs:

- Glocal view: Combining SP and intergenerational learning supports a glocal view that offers an indigenous and localized lens contributing to an arguably global call for intergenerational solidarity through intentional engagements and programs. This supports the work of Ødegaard (2015) where she reiterates that local conditions can be upheld in developing models and programs in a particular context. Doing so demands both a global and local awareness, knowledge and perspectives.

- Intentionality: Perusing a glocal view that combines SP with intergenerational learning necessitates deliberate and intentionality in designs and conceptualizations. Intentional designs bring cultural responsiveness and sensitivity to the forefront of the discourses, informing Western-centric literature of considerations when designing intergenerational engagements and programs.

- Relations in places and spaces: With an understanding that intergenerational relations happen in everyday lived experiences in the Philippines, initiatives for both formal and informal settings should both be addressed in future research or planning. SP offers a theoretical space for understanding of the places where it would be most effective to foster intergenerational learning—community and more informal settings would be key places to consider. Geographical bound places as well as artefacts within those environments are rooted in histories that will have to be taken into consideration. On the other hand, theoretical and digital spaces may also be considered as a response to the specificity of the individual circumstances of actors and participants.

- Time: Combining SP and intergenerational learning also highlights the changes that the passing of time bring. As discussed, cultural values have historical underpinnings that are temporal in nature and susceptible to frequent transitions and transformations brought about by both global and local events (e.g. pandemics, wars, etc.). These have to be taken into account in planning and implementing intergenerational engagements and programs.

These have been further elaborated in a paper presenting a conceptual framework for understanding intergenerational engagements and programs, particularly in the field of early childhood education (Oropilla & Ødegaard, 2021).

This article has offered an addition to the non-Western view of intergenerational learning not to suggest that there is an underlying cultural ethnocentrism, that is, manifestations of tendencies to see one’s cultural group or practices as superior to others (Reagan, 2018), behind projects such as EMIL and the TOY project, but rather, to show that non-Western thought might often be overlooked or misinterpreted in favor of Western thought, and that perhaps it is reasonable to look to the non-Western world for insights in this field. This paper merely opens a discussion rooting from what Reagan (2018) identified as a seemingly false dichotomy of Western / non-Western thought from which emerges “an effective way of challenging and reforming racist and ethnocentric assumptions and biases” (Reagan, 2018, p.10) by offering a space for non-Western thought, in this case through Sikolohiyang Pilipino, in the discourse of intergenerational learning. Through this paper, we articulate a space for understanding of intergenerational learning as having cultural-historical groundings that necessitates both global and local interpretations (Oropilla & Ødegaard, 2021), and the importance of examining cultural concepts within societies being examined (Enriquez, 1975). As earlier indicated, this suggestion warrants further exploration and validation with empirical data as it is still in its conception.

Through this paper, we found that indigenous Filipino values, intertwined with other historical, political and economic factors, are part of why intergenerational learning in the Philippines could thrive in family and community settings why these should continuously be taken into account when designing intergenerational engagements and programs in the Philippines. Offering this non-Western view on intergenerational learning invites others to examine the concept of intergenerational learning with a glocal view of their own such that programs developed in the future would be context-specific and would account for the local nuances of the culture wherein the programs would be developed in and is intended for.


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[1] Corresponding author: czarecah.oropilla@hvl.no