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Carl Jung and the Philippine Presidents

Prof Frederick V. Rael has been teaching for almost 20 years in various local colleges and universities in the Philippines.


Carl Gustav Jung, a famous Psychologist, said “Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves.” This quote would remind us of how we tend to project on others what we love or hate on our inner self. During this heated political season, we must be careful of expressing our admiration or hatred toward a political candidate because such behavior would tell us something about our inner self, which might surprise us.

I have learned so much about Carl Jung as I continue my doctoral degree in Applied Cosmic Anthropology. I have been fascinated by many of Carl Jung’s concepts specifically the collective unconscious and the archetypes. In this blog, I would like to apply these concepts to understanding the common patterns of the Philippine Presidents from Ferdinand Marcos to President Rodrigo Duterte. I would like to remind the readers that this essay is a result of my honest analysis as a teacher of history and vast experience as a voter.

Who is Carl Jung?

Carl Jung was an avid follower of Sigmund Freud. Although some of his concepts emanated from the Freudian perspective, Carl Jung made his mark by introducing his insights and intriguing concepts such as the persona/shadow, collective unconscious, archetypes, and many more. For Carl Jung, the collective unconscious is the deepest part of the human mind in which many of our darkest, unpleasant images, knowledge, beliefs, perceptions, or anything that influences our behavior are buried or suppressed. For Freud, the unconscious mind contains images or ideas that emanated from personal experiences. But, for Carl Jung, the collective unconscious contains archetypes that were inherited from the past collective experiences of the human race. These archetypes are shared collectively from one generation to another. As the term suggests, we are not aware of these archetypes unless we go through the process of individuation (which is another term for another essay or discussion).

Archetypes, on the other hand, refer to the concepts or images that are universal frameworks of people that characterize common behavior or personality. Archetypes influences behavior because they are ingrained in the subconscious mind of every person. We possess these archetypes and we also want to see them in other people, which Jung called projection.

My Encounter with the Philippine Presidents

When Ferdinand Marcos Sr. rose into power, I was a grade school pupil. As I remember it right, I hated President Marcos simply because he removed Voltes V from the regular TV programming. I found out later on by reading many studies about the adverse impacts of watching TV that President Marcos was right that children should not watch too many cartoons because they may acquire bad study habits.

When EDSA People Power 1 happened, I was in high school. It was the time when I was still busy going out with my friends and trying to enrich my social life. In other words, I did not care so much about politics but the media fed me with facts that contributed to my slight increase in political awareness. After several years, President Fidel Ramos was elected. I was already a development manager officer/researcher in one of the attached agencies of Malacanang, an agency that caters to the rebel returnees. So, I could say that I have some insights into the behavior and leadership qualities of President Ramos and how he managed the government bureaucracy. When Joseph Estrada, Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, Benigno Aquino III, and Rodrigo Duterte became presidents in their respective periods of Philippine history, I was already teaching social science subjects in college.

What is the archetype that Filipino voters want in a president?

The main question that I want to address in this blog is,” What is the archetype that Filipino voters want in a president?”What did we see in Ferdinand Marcos, Cory Aquino, Erap Estrada, etc.?” By briefly examining the collective unconscious of the Filipino psyche, we would be able to reveal the reasons what qualities that we Filipinos are looking for in a leader. We, Filipinos, are most of the time criticized for voting for the wrong leader. Foreign experts would often say that Filipinos have always fallen into a trap of choosing incompetent or corrupt leaders. Perhaps, it is not our fault but the qualities that we see in ourselves (collective unconscious) tend to project on the president or presidential candidate that we choose.

Let’s begin with Ferdinand Marcos, who was a strong-willed and intelligent leader. He was a lawyer, a soldier, and a known dictator because he implemented Martial Law in the 1970s to subjugate the insurgency problem and urgently install some institutional reforms to fast-track the economy. A leader who was too focused on achieving results that manifested into many large and useful infrastructure projects in the Philippines.

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Cory Aquino, his predecessor, and close rival was a gentle and wise widower. She immediately became popular because of the death of her husband Benigno Aquino Sr. Despite her lack of political experience, she became the symbol of democracy and a perceived heroine because she played a major role in the ousting of Ferdinand Marcos.

Fidel Ramos, the anointed one of Cory Aquino, was a strong and highly experienced military leader. He was an enabler of the Martial Law enforced by Ferdinand Marcos because he was the Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces and Secretary of National Defense. Ironically, he was also instrumental in the ouster of his Commander in Chief Ferdinand Marcos that catapulted Cory Aquino into power. He was a known peacemaker as shown in the several programs that he implemented that benefited the rebel returnees and other insurgents during his administration.

President Ramos was succeeded by Joseph Estrada, who was a famous actor or action star in the Philippine cinema during his time. He is a strong, generous, sincere, and caring leader. Although he was criticized for being a womanizer and a college dropout, President Estrada acquired enormous support from the Filipino masses because of his slogan,” Erap para sa Mahirap” or “Erap for the poor”. Indeed, Filipinos tend to be seduced by such an appealing slogan since it touches our inner core, particularly our deep sympathy for the poor.

After a strong and caring leader, Filipinos brought to power Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, an economist, through another people power or EDSA 2. She is the second woman president of the Philippines and the daughter of former President Diosdado Macapagal. She was an intelligent and strong-willed leader who was willing to make unpopular choices for the sake of the country. While she was working silently and effectively at a government agency as a vice president that provided social services for the poor, she was launched into power when Filipinos became disoriented with President Estrada’s Administration through another Filipino version of “people power.”

For some karmic reasons, Gloria Macapagal Arroyo was also accused of corruption and was replaced by Benigno Aquino III, the son of Cory Aquino. President Benigno Aquino III was a well-educated, simple, gentle, and passionate leader. He was also known as an anti-corrupt leader. His leadership qualities were not so much a factor in his bid for the presidency but the death of his mother became his key to occupying the highest position in the Philippines. Again, we would observe that Filipinos have the habit of putting leaders into power through sympathy votes.

After a gentle leader, the next leader who has risen into power was President Rodrigo Duterte. He is a strong, decisive, popular but at the same time a controversial strong leader. He was able to ravish his opponents during the debates of the 2016 national election through his wittiness and machismo behavior that were appealing to the masses. As an unknown player on the national scene, he was able to mesmerize the Filipino voters through his slogan,” Change is coming.” Indeed, Filipinos are thirsty for change. His platforms in fighting illegal drugs, corruption, and criminality reflected his personality, a strong-willed crime fighter. He is a leader who would never back out of any commitment despite the strong criticisms of some local politicians and international observers.

Archetypes of Filipino Leaders

So, what type of a leader that Filipinos are looking for? Based on the analysis presented above, we like a leader who is strong-willed, decisive, and intelligent but also caring, passionate, and gentle. Simply put, we prefer a Zeus-like leader with a heroic appeal to the masses. We like to worship those who would appear to us as our savior. Someone like Zeus who will give us hope and is capable of solving all of our problems in a snap of his lighting volt. A leader with heroic traits who can make the ultimate decision for the sake of all.

By using Jung’s theory of mythology, we could surmise that Filipinos have always been looking for a hero to save them. Most of us believe that poverty, unemployment, and other social problems that we encounter in our society can be immediately solved by a leader, a hero. Our frustration tends to escalate after we observe that the leader that we admired during the campaign period doesn’t exhibit the traits that we projected onto them. In short, our expectations are far from the reality, which leads to the overthrowing of the leader that we are supposed to worship.


Maybe, it is about time that we admit to ourselves that the presidential candidate will not magically save all of our personal and social problems. Leaders are effective with the help and strong support of the people. We should refrain from projecting a Zeus or hero-like version of a leader so that we would not be frustrated after the election.

Let us remember that our leaders (regardless of their enormous popularity, high level of education, admirable intelligence, and other blinding positive qualities) are mere mortals. No one leader (strong-willed or not) could save us from our dismal conditions. Our leaders are there to guide our nation toward the common good and unity. They have their shares of flaws, bad track records, as well as admirable traits. We must do something with our lives by tapping our inner strengths so that we will not rely so much on our leaders. The coming May 9 election in the Philippines is about our welfare as a nation and not about the presidential candidates. We must cast our votes intelligently by digging into our inner selves instead of allowing ourselves to be influenced by external factors such as social media garbage, political propaganda, misleading campaigns, baseless accusations of political rivals, and dirty politics.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2022 Frederick V Rael

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