The Societal Shadow in the Philippines

Reflections on some social issues.

Carl Lorenz Cervantes
3 min readOct 9, 2022


Photo by Andrey Andreyev on Unsplash

The Shadow is the part of us we’d rather avoid. As we grew up, we were taught what the ideal self should look like, and thus we suppressed those traits that were inappropriate.

The Shadow can be a manifestation of the traits suppressed by entire societies. This is called the Collective Shadow. In Philippine society, it manifests in various ways. Here are some:

  1. Our Collective Shadow manifests in our relentless desire to conquer nature, regardless of the consequences. For the longest time, the Sierra Madre mountain range has been a powerful defense against super typhoons. Under the guise of creating a solution to water problems in Manila, a 12-billion peso dam is to be built that cuts through the forest, causing irreversible environmental damage and displacing the indigenous people who live there. Environmentalists call for alternative solutions, including repairing existing dams, rehabilitating watersheds, and exploring technology that could recycle water. Read more here, and here.
  2. Our Collective Shadow manifests in our workplaces that alienate and dehumanize its desperate work force. “Family”, “service”, and “duty” are words that cover up and excuse exploitation. The term “Endo” refers to the practice of contractually hiring someone for less than six months, to prevent them from acquiring a regular or permanent status. These workers are packed in places with limited rights, and because they are not actually regular members of the workforce, they don’t get the full benefits as required by law. Presidents have promised to end labor contractualization, and we are yet to see action. Read more here and here.
  3. Our Collective Shadow manifests in the hollow promises of mental health care. In Philippine culture, discussions on mental health concerns are often avoided because of the stigma of being called “crazy”. Oftentimes also, when people share that they are going through something, they are told that they lack prayer. Despite being the third most prevalent disability in the country, little economic support goes into organizations that craft and implement mental health policies. We do have a Mental Health Act, but until the lived experience of Filipinos no longer rely on “resilience”, this act might just be a facade. Read more here.
  4. Our Collective Shadow manifests when we use our power to control or exploit others. Institutions that promote holistic development and uphold strong moral values can have dark rooms where abuse can happen. Lines are crossed, and some of those entrusted to guide and care for the younger generation use their position to violate them. When school officials won’t listen, survivors go on social media to report their experiences. Investigations should be done with sensitivity and empathy, and if the integrity of prestigious institutions are to be trusted, they must live out the values they preach. Read more here.

If we want to meet our Shadow in order to realize its creative potential, we must slow down and listen. These issues come up over and over, hidden underneath fragrant promises. Pinabango lang. If we are to promote healing and growth, we must be genuine. The Shadow is not the enemy. By acknowledging it, we also acknowledge those who have been living in the darkness.

For further reading: Zweig, C. & Abrams, J. (Eds.) (1991). Meeting the shadow: The hidden power of the dark side of human nature. Jeremy P. Tarcher/Penguin.

Originally published at on October 9, 2022.



Carl Lorenz Cervantes

Writer, researcher, and teacher.

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