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Indigenous Social Work Knowledge and Approaches
Midgley (1997: 176) describes a process in the 'Third World' whereby social workers and academics realized the limitations of imported individualized, remedial forms of practice, designed for Western urban settings, and instead set about designing methods which had more to offer for development in contexts where lack of food and mass illiteracy (often in rural areas) were more typical social problems. This section considers the extent to which social work in the Philippines has undertaken 'local' research and developed indigenous social work theory and methods for practice.
One form of indigenization of social work in the Philippines, though driven by an international agenda of development, was the aforementioned shift towards a generalist form of practice or what was known as the 'integrated method'. Practice which engaged at the individual level was not encouraged, as this did not easily support a development perspective. A response to poverty was seen as a community issue and social workers facilitated access to resources, fundraised, motivated members of communities to participate, and trained local people to coordinate projects. Developmental social work uses a range of approaches to build capacity, self-sufficiency, and prevention in communities. Though areas of specialist practice exist (such as medical and forensic social work), many workers are in generic contexts and roles and adopt appropriate methods of intervention which draw on community social work theory and aspects of social pedagogy.
Weiss and Welbourne suggest that one indicator of the development of social work as a profession in a particular country is the development of 'country-specific knowledge', pointing out that most 'developing' countries come to identify the
Noting the gross inequalities between urban and rural areas in income, facilities and opportunities, the thrust of rural development needs to be social justice and working towards a just society. The method best suited is that of social actioncommunity organization. (1976: 89)
Though urbanized areas are expanding rapidly, approximately half of the Philippine population still live in rural areas and almost three-quarters of the poor live in those rural areas. Indigenous social work knowledge and forms of intervention are needed and, to varying degrees, evident.
Indigenous texts and journals which seek to explain social work in the national context certainly exist and have done so for many years (De Guzman, 1971; Glasser, 1970). However, they typically include theories and approaches which were mostly developed in the United States or United Kingdom. Whilst case studies and examples of agencies in the Philippines are employed throughout, to 'localize' the concepts presented, there is often little which might be described as 'Philippine social work theory'. There is evidence of a considered and welldeveloped knowledge base in terms of social conditions and issues in the Philippines (David, 2001, 2004; Landa Jocano, 2002).
Whilst there is also a literature engaging with structural factors such as poverty and gender, the social work literature does not appear consistently to be conceptualized in terms of social divisions or issues of power or anti-oppressive practice and a critical account of history is very often absent. Lee-Mendoza deserves much credit for writing a text for social work students and practitioners in the Philippines (2008). It was one of the very first to seek to account for social work in a Philippine context, to 'indigenize' Western practice models and to provide culturally recognizable case material and examples. The third edition was published in 2008, some time after Yu's previously discussed analysis had emerged (in which Lee-Mendoza is one of those authors whom he criticizes). Yet it retains an apparently 'neutral' (if not positively disposed) account of welfare development under Spain and the United States (and, for that matter, of the years of martial law in the 1970s and 1980s).
Lee-Mendoza is not alone in her take on Philippine history and the place of social work. Viloria and Martinez (1987) and Landa Jocano (1980) paint a similarly benign picture. Although Viloria and Martinez offer some critique of the long period of Spanish domination, highlighting the 'appalling rise in destitution' and the pain caused by 'The Sword and The Cross' (1987: 23), this is tempered with a somewhat grateful acknowledgment of the growth of education, of Christianity, and of charitable support for, 'the poor, the sick, the aged, the mentally ill and
In the Philippines, the cost of books is prohibitive for many students and university libraries to maintain stocks of current literature, and access to knowledge is certainly affected by limitations on resources. Having said that, a good number of local texts have been published and are reflected in the bibliography for this chapter. A number of social work and related journals are also published – albeit intermittently – within the Philippines (Philippine Journal of Social Work; Social Welfare and Development Journal). Finally, the various social work associations do hold conferences and other events at which research findings, theories, and practice issues are shared and debated.
It would seem fair to argue that social work in the Philippines has gone some considerable way towards developing unique areas of indigenous knowledge (Gray et al., 2008; Zhang and Huang, 2008; Veneracion, 2003) and methods for practice (Cordero et al., 2000a, b; Lee-Mendoza, 1999) but that the pervasive influence of global social work theory and limited resources for research and academic endeavor mean that there remains (as, of course, there always is) room for further development.
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