Returning to Our Ancestral Indigenous Worldview

Posted on Jul 26, 2009 in A Holistic Approach

We need to remember and understand the indigenous worldview of our Philippine ancestors, and maybe even embrace it again. It was one where there was a respect for all of life because of the belief that all things had a soul and meaning.

In order to understand the deeper meanings of Baybayin symbols and to accept that they are NOT just one-dimensional letters in an alphabet, we Filipinos need to rediscover in what ways our ancestors thought. The best way to start that is to examine our western thinking and to investigate indigenous thinking.

European and American colonizers of the Philippines brought the alphabet, western thought and colonial mentality. Somehow, these are all related in changing, through hundreds of years, how Filipinos perceive the world, their culture, history, ancestral inheritance and themselves.

I invite you to ask yourself the following:

  • How has the adopted western writing system effected your way of perceiving the world?
  • How has Western thought affected your ability to experience and perceive metaphorically and spiritually?
  • How has colonial mentality or colonizers’ mentality rendered the honoring of ancestral indigenous ways?

Most Filipinos of today tend to think like our historical colonizers. But we can attempt to let go of our programmed thinking and begin again to think like our indigenous ancestors.

For those of us who grew up in the developed worlds of literacy through reading and writing, we have a different way of perceiving the world. We tend to think and make sense of our world linearly and sequentially, as in the way letters are arranged in order for them to make sense. We also tend to think that things hold more weight and are in fact true if they are be found written in a book. We tend to accept more readily the beliefs, traditions, religion, facts that are recorded in books. We also tend to demean native spirituality and mysticism—relegating those experiences to quackery and superstition.

For those who have grown up in indigenous worlds of knowing through oral traditions and symbolism, they can perceive the world in a different way. They tend to think and make sense of the world wholistically, simultaneously and with tacit knowledge or katutubong kaalaman (indigenous knowledge). They do not need books to accept their realities and can rely on experience, feelings, intuition. They also use their metaphorical perceptions and do not discount archetypal sight, dreams and transcendent experiences.

A holistic, simultaneous, synthetic, and concrete view of the world are the essential characteristics of the feminine outlook; linear, sequential, reductionist and abstract thinking defines the masculine. Although these represent opposite perceptual modes, every individual is generously endowed with all the features of both. They coexist… with no feature superior to its reciprocal… together, they form a unifed whole that is stronger than either half. First writing, and then the alphabet, upset this balance. Affected cultures, especially in the West, acquired a strong yang thrust. (Source: The Alphabet Versus the Goddess: The Conflict Between Word and Image, by Leonard Shlain, 1998)

Western thinking can be said to be mostly left-brain thinking(masculine). Indigenous thinking can be said to be mostly right-brain thinking(feminine). And it is possible to balance both sides within ourselves. It just takes an openness and willingness to exercise that ability. To embark on this journey of balancing our Westernized mind and our indigenous Filipino mind is to awaken, grow, expand, decolonize—heal from the crippling effects of patriarchal programming and the systemic wounding of colonization upon our people.

“The truth is, a great mind 
must be androgynous.” 
—Samuel Taylor Coleridge, 1832

Be sure to read Intro | Shifting One’s Perception


Other Recommended Reading:


  1. This is beautiful Perla! Thank you for creating all of this/making this info. available. Blessings…

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  2. Venus! finally we met at the conference. it is a delight to be able to explore and share all this. i welcome yours and everyone's thoughts, findings and discoveries.

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