GINHAWA/BREATH: Wholeness and Wellness in the Filipino¹ and Filipino American Experience
By Leny Mendoza Strobel with Professors Elizabeth de Castro and Violeta Bautista (University of the Philippines)
I have been wanting to articulate or expand on the concept of wellness and wellbeing in Filipino culture called GINHAWA. But where to begin? In the Filipino language this word is related to our breath/hininga; to the feeling of being at ease in our body, mind, and spirit. Where to find or how to access (in the diaspora) the scholarly works that articulate what our bodies already know implicitly or tacitly?
I first heard a scholarly presentation about this Filipino concept from University of the Philippines (UP) Psychology Professor Violeta Bautista at the KAPWA Conference held at UP Baguio in 2012.² As a psychotherapist, Prof. Bautista talked about Ginhawa in the context of her psychotherapy and counseling practice and her clients’ expressions of (lack of) wellbeing. However, it wasn’t until June 2018 that additional research materials came to my attention via Prof. Elizabeth de Castro (who is in the same department as Prof. Bautista) when she and Prof. Tony de Castro visited the Bay Area.
When Prof. de Castro told me they were coming to the U.S., I immediately thought of asking her to give a briefing or update about the status of Sikolohiyang Pilipino (Filipino Psychology) in the Philippines. She had just completed a report on a year-long research project about “mental health issues in the aftermath of natural disasters” — a study about various psychosocial interventions made by mental health service providers during super typhoon Haiyan (2013) to relieve mental suffering and stress in the aftermath.³ I organized a symposium in June 2018 so she could share this important research to Filipino American mental health practitioners in Northern California. And because both Beth and Tony de Castro are also involved in organic and sustainable farming with the indigenous communities of Agta and Dumagats in Tanay, we requested a briefing about this as well, since both their academic and sustainable/organic farming interests intersect and are grounded in Sikolohiyang Pilipino’s indigenous knowledge systems and practices (IKSP).