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REFLECTIONS: Scattered Thoughts on the 45th Anniversary of the Declaration of Martial Law

BACOLOD CITY (MindaNews / 21 Sept) — I write these reflections here in Bacolod City, Negros Occidental, on the eve of the 45th anniversary of the declaration of Martial Law (20 Sept). Incidentally, 3000+ psychologists and psychometricians gather here for the 54th Annual Convention of the Psychological Association of the Philippines (PAP).

This year’s national psychological convention’s theme is “Philippine Psychology in Challenging Times,” highlighting the psychological realities and the practice of psychology in the context of the Philippine national situation.

Here, one can find one’s self in a room full of academics and practitioners presenting scientific papers on the brutality, inhumanity and even the humanity of the “war on drugs,”; stories of resilience and recovery; learning sessions on EJKs, violent extremism, peace and security, traffic psychology, therapeutic communities, LGBT, trauma and rehabilitative justice among others.

While psychologists grapple with these issues on a professional plane, I share the observations of my colleagues in our discipline that we are indeed living in “challenging times.” The challenge, in fact, posed by the “challenging times” is not only disciplinal, but also very personal. While listening to a host of papers presented in the sessions halls of PAP, I had the moment to personally reflect on the question: “As psychologists and above all as human persons, how do we respond to the outcry of the Philippine society today?”


Thoughts overflowed like streams. I spared no space writing my scattered thoughts in the margins of the glossy pages of the conference programme.

Some scattered thoughts…

– In contrast to activists and advocates, psychologists’ raison d’etre is to produce and apply knowledge for the wellness and well-being of individuals. Directly or indirectly, as knowledge producers, we wield the power to influence and (re)direct State policies, most specially if these are inimical to the promotion of an enabling environment for total integral development of the human persons.

– Our national situation beckons us to rethink and reflect on the emancipatory implications of these “challenges” in “challenging times.” It appears that to vigorously engage the psychological features of these “challenges” in the broader spaces of our discipline is consistent with our commitment to psychological science.

– Speaking truth to power in these “challenging times” is to engage people in power with evidence-based policy and advocacy. It is injustice to psychological science when we have an arsenal of scientific evidence yet we remain silent in the face of fake news and legitimation of misogyny, violence and divisiveness.

– No, we cannot be dispassionate and detached to salient issues, such as the return of the Marcoses in the corridors of power, the inter-generational trauma caused by Martial law. Let us be reminded that today, 45 years ago, some of our distinguished colleagues were arrested and even tortured. Their trauma lives on; Some are yet untold.

– Yes, the very existence of psychological science is in itself a declaration that another world is possible and that “challenging times” are just but passing.

And finally, in these “challenging times,” let us find comfort in the words echoed once by Arundhati Roy:

“To never forget your own insignificance. To never get used to the unspeakable violence and the vulgar disparity of life around you. To seek joy in the saddest places. To pursue beauty to its lair. To never simplify what is complicated or complicate what is simple. To respect strength, never power. Above all, to watch. To try and understand. To never look away. And never, never to forget.”

We will remember….always.

(MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews.  Hadji Balajadia is a fulltime faculty of the Department of Psychology and former Assistant Director of the Center of Psychological Extension and Research Services in Ateneo de Davao University. Her research and policy advocacy are on peace and security)

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