A CONCEPTUAL ANALYSIS
DANTE LUIS P. LEONCINI
Pakikisama or pakisama is a Filipino concept and trait. As a trait it is used as a facility to form and maintain good relationships. It can be conceived as one among many possible contributory ingredients of the moral life but not a necessary one. The concept of pakikisama is amphibolous because it lacks an unambiguous definition. Thus it is confused with other traits such as pagkakasundo, pakikibagay, and pakikitungo. Because it is considered a trait of value, there is a tendency to abuse it. Different ways of defining the concept are shown—from its etymology to the ways it is used—including the author’s way of defining it. Furthermore, two conflicting aspects of the trait—how it is abused (the negative) and what the trait really is (positive), are portrayed before the concluding remarks that show how the trait itself makes the Filipino good.
Pakikisama or pakisama is both a concept and a trait. Its concept, trait, and its derivatives expressed in words or phrases2 are important for the Filipinos.3 They take its application or practice in life with utmost seriousness. It is one important trait that equips them to form and maintain good, harmonious, and healthy personal relationships with others. If we are to conceive of the moral life in terms of everyday relationships as Paul J. Wadell4 argues, then we have to consider pakisama as one among the many possible ingredients of the moral life. However, in this sense, we ought to conceive pakisama as a contributory but not a necessary factor for living a moral life.
This paper is about the concept and trait known as pakikisama. This trait might exist as well in other cultures but herein we shall assume that it is a typical Filipino trait. Hence, pakikisama’s treatment will be in the context of Philippine culture. This paper is not concerned if it is gender-specific or if it is affected by any economic status. It aims to clarify some issues relative to pakikisama through conceptual analysis and discussions. Most important is the issue concerning the way it is defined and understood.
Another issue concerns the way the trait is abused (negative aspects) and what the trait is really supposed to be (positive aspects). Because of its conflicting aspects, pakikisama is considered an ambiguous trait. Another issue is whether pakikisama is a value.
Pakikisama is sometimes considered a norm or a guide to achieve or practice other values, such as pakikipagkapwa-tao, katahimikan (KTH)5, and Smooth Interpersonal Relations (SIR). In this sense we might think of it as one of the forms of either pakikipagkapwa,6 KTH, or SIR.7 It means that even without pakikisama, pakikipagkapwa, katahimikan, and SIR are still possible. It is sometimes considered a constituent or a part of a larger value, such as pagkakasundo,8 and again, pakikipagkapwa,9 and SIR. Still sometimes, pakisama is considered a value itself.10 When so defined, however, pakisama is conceived in many conflicting ways. This is due to the misconception of its concept. Misunderstanding the concept of pakisama leads to the confused and fragmented ways of viewing it as a trait. A concept that is not clearly defined is incapable of serving as a basis or foundation for describing its trait properly.
In his work “Kapwa,” Enriquez11 suggests something very instructive. What is instructive is that “the language of the Philippines is as good a starting point as any…for understanding Filipino behavior.” His purpose is broader than our own. Understanding Filipino behavior in general12 is his goal but we simply want to understand the concept and trait, pakisama. In our case, this applies in so far as we consider the Filipino language (the Tagalog language) as a starting point for understanding the key Filipino concept and trait of pakisama. But nothing stops us to seek the aid of other Filipino languages (Ilocano, for example) that possess concepts with meanings closer to the concepts of the Filipino language as compared to a non-Philippine language, such as English, so that issues of meaning may be clarified better.13 Enriquez (1986) states:
The problems with the token use of Filipino psychological concepts in the context of a western analysis that relies on the English language and English categories of analysis are many. It no doubt can lead to the distortion of Philippine social reality and the furtherance of the mis-education of the Filipinos…The Filipino language…provides conceptual distinctions among several levels and modes of interaction.
PAKIKISAMA AND INTERPERSONAL RELATIONSHIPS
George Guthrie (1970:64) attempts to explain Filipino behavioral patterns in terms of a few characteristics they behaviorally manifest or concepts they deem important in dealing with others. These behavioral patterns are amor propio [self-esteem], hiya [embarrassment], utang na loob [obligation], and pakikisama [getting along together/with others].14 These “four concepts have proven very useful in attempting to understand Filipino behavior patterns. Although they merge at many points they do have significant independent manifestations…Ordinarily implicit and unspoken, they have great influence on the ways Filipinos deal with one another” (Guthrie 1970: 60-1).
For Filipinos an interpersonal relationship is more than an individual matter. One’s reputation—and that of one’s family—is involved whenever one deals with others. One, including one’s family, practices pakikisama towards the good and loyal friend. The friend and the friend’s family do the same. This is the proper way15 of dealing with friends for Filipinos. This is why pakikisama is defined as the “Filipino value of ‘belongingness’ and loyalty to one’s in-group” (Gorospe 1988: 32). In the practice of pakikisama many things are unsaid. Mostly, things are implied in behavioral patterns. This is the typical way Filipinos relate with one another.
Filipinos feel more at ease when their relationship with others is personalized, like family.16 “Offense is taken, not only by an individual, but by his extended family too.17 More than one person is shamed or obligated. While good personal relationships are primary, success or failure in this domain is more than an individual matter” (Guthrie 1970: 60-1). This is why pakikisama is described as “a relatively persistent and consistent behavior pattern manifested in a wide range of circumstances” (Andres 1987: 75). Pakikisama forms part of what we call the ethos of the Filipinos.18 It is one way Filipinos actually behave within the context of their relationships. Without relationships, it would not be possible to practice pakikisama.
ETYMOLOGY AND USAGE OF PAKIKISAMA
The term pakisama is derived from two Tagalog words: the root word “sama, accompany, go along with” (Lynch 1963: 10) or come along with and the prefix paki, please or kindly. Its etymological definition and literal meaning is, therefore, “kindly or please accompany or come along with or go along with.” Its literal meaning derived from its etymology is clear. It actually implies the concept of companion or companionship. This becomes more obvious even in Ilocano/Ilokano,19 another Philippine language dialect.
Pakikisama suggests good company when I say of a friend, “I enjoy his company;”20 or simply stated in a situation when good company is necessary, “Just accompany me.”21 It also suggests being protective of another when one says of a friend, “He accompanied me until all the trouble subsided.”22
The trait pakikisama is taken to mean or understood in so many ways when either described or practiced. There is either one of two reasons why this is the case. First, the trait pakikisama either involves too many other traits or is so associated with the concepts of other traits and values that it becomes difficult to distinguish it from the others. Second, its concept tends to be confused with the concepts of other traits and values for it probably lacks a proper definition or meaning of its own. For example, instead of conceiving pakikisama as a norm that implies and/or is implied by doing other traits and values, there is a strong tendency to think of it no differently from those traits and values.
Consider the following examples that illustrate our point. Pakikisama implies consideration and cooperation when a father says, “It is not difficult to talk to my child, he gets along well.”23 It implies helpfulness when a man says of his neighbor, “He knows how to get along, he helped me when he saw me having a hard time carrying wood.”24 It implies leniency when a student says of a guard, “He gets along well because he allowed me to enter even without my I.D.”25 It suggests good nature and honesty when one does not take advantage of others (i.e., not an opportunist) by way of giving good and honest advice or suggestions. For example, a cyclist says of a bicycle storeowner, “Yoyoy knows how to get along well because he did not permit me to replace the gear changer of my bike that still works.”26
It suggests gratitude, utang na loob [debt of gratitude/obligation] for something valued—such as a past friendship—when one says of another, “I never forget the deep friendship we had.”27 It suggests other Filipino characteristics, such as amor propio [self-esteem] and hiya [embarrassment/shame]. Amor propio is implied when one says, “He cannot say anything with the way I get along with him.”28 Hiya, together with compassion, concern, or understanding is somehow implied when somebody says, “You show how well you get along with my relatives, I am embarrassed.”29
In the above examples, derivatives of the term pakikisama are used to imply other traits and values. It is through pakikisama that the practice of other traits and values is actualized. It is also possible to think that other traits and values imply pakikisama. It is through their practice that pakikisama is realized. If one is not careful in recognizing this fact, then one is bound to understand pakisama as no different from consideration and cooperation, helpfulness, leniency, non-opportunism, utang na loob, amor propio, and hiya. These examples show that pakikisama implies and is implied by other traits and values but it does not follow that pakikisama itself is the same as the traits and values that it implies or imply it. We will notice later that this is one reason why giving a definite meaning to pakikisama taken as a trait is difficult. Understanding pakikisama as a trait entails the understanding of other traits and values as well.
Earlier, Guthrie pointed out that Filipino concepts or traits “merge at many points [but] do have significant independent manifestations.” We definitely agree with this good observation. I believe identifying similarities is important; however, a serious study on Filipino behavioral patterns must include making distinctions. Making distinctions is an important philosophical tool especially when the concept or trait we are currently referring to has so much in common and so associated with other concepts and traits. Making distinctions will, therefore, be a good method to arrive at a clear definition of the concept pakisama so that it may be properly described as a trait.
VARIOUS MEANINGS OF PAKIKISAMA
So far, we have encountered many possible meanings of pakikisama and may have developed an impression of what it means. Frank Lynch (1963: 10) traces the etymology of the word and says its literal meaning is “kindly or please accompany or come along, or go along.” While discussing pakikisama as an important guide to understanding Filipino behavior, Guthrie (1970: 64) translates the term as “getting along together or with others.” The examples shown above follow Guthrie’s translation of pakikisama expressed as “getting along.” This translation is acceptable in ordinary parlance but let us try to improve it later on. The meaning Guthrie gives to the term is bound to confuse pakikisama with another trait called pagkakasundo that is closer to the notion of “getting along together or with others.”
While discussing personal relationships, we cited Vitaliano Gorospe (1988: 32) who says pakikisama is defined as the “Filipino value of ‘belongingness’ and loyalty to one’s in-group.” Gorospe’s definition suggests that pakisama is the same as the value called “belongingness.” His idea of “belongingness” is obviously derived from the concept of “companion.” But as he shows, the concept of belongingness leads to the concept of an “in-group.” I find it difficult to understand why it must be conceived of only as “loyalty to one’s in-group.” This conception is vague because he does not define what “in-group” means in this context. If by “in-group” he means “those who are very close to one” then he is limiting the practice of the trait to those close or dear to a potential doer of acts portraying pakisama. Truly, the trait is mostly observed when one deals with one’s close friends and relatives (in-group); but the practice of pakikisama is likewise possible when dealing with acquaintances. This concept does not suggest closeness or dearness but something less than that.30
Andres (1996: 148) says, pakikisama “is the ‘ability’ to get along with others in such a way as to avoid outside signs of conflict. (It) also refers to giving in or yielding to the wish of the leader or the majority, even when at times it contradicts one’s ideas or the common good.” By thinking of pakisama as “ability,” we might think of it as a skill or talent,31 something developed and learned. The defect with his way of defining pakisama as “getting along with others to avoid outside signs of conflict” is similar to the case of Guthrie.32 This is closer to pagkakasundo as we pointed out.
Another criticism with the way Andres describes pakikisama is portrayed by the statement, “giving in or yielding to the wish of the leader or the majority even when at times it contradicts one’s ideas or the common good.” This is closer to pakikibagay.33 This way, Andres makes pakisama appear as a trait that encourages passivity and submission. In an earlier work, however, Andres (1986: 43) tells us: “The worst thing that can be said about a Filipino is ‘walang paki’34 or he does not share or cannot relate or get along with others. The philosophy of ‘each man for himself (kanya-kanya) is the opposite of ‘pakikisama.’” He (44) adds that “Filipinos censor negative attitudes such as ‘matapobre’ (one who despises the poorer member of the community) and ‘wala akong pakialam’ or the ‘What the heck syndrome.’” In here, I agree with the way Andres defines pakisama by way of its antonym—“each man for himself.”
Aside from the etymology and literal translation of pakisama, how else should we define and understand its concept? I agree with the English translation Santiago and Enriquez (1986) present alongside the term pakisama. They say it is “being along with.” But I think “being with”35 is better (please see note for the crucial difference). If I were asked the English concept close to that of pakisama, I think it is congeniality. Being congenial, therefore, is close to may pakisama.36
Like may pakisama, being congenial implies and is implied, involves, and relates to a lot of possible behaviors described in the following ways and examples: agreeable, benevolent, companionable, cordial, empathic, friendly, helpful, pleasant, sympathetic, etc. Like pakisama, congeniality suggests being a good and nice companion. As pointed out earlier, a potential doer of acts portraying pakisama need not be a friend or relative (in-group) but an acquaintance knowing how it is to be a good and nice companion. The skill of being such a kind of companion can, therefore, be applied or practiced for the sake of and upon others who are not necessarily close or dear to one. In this sense, pakisama is less preferential than friendship. The notion of being friendly is not equivalent to that of being a friend. But being congenial and friendly, including acts portraying pakisama serve as tools for developing good friendships and presuppose good friendships. There is yet another view worth examining. Frank Lynch relates pakisama to Smooth Interpersonal Relations or SIR.
PAKIKISAMA AND SMOOTH INTERPERSONAL RELATIONS
Lynch (1963:10) defines SIR as “a facility at getting along with others in such a way as to avoid outward signs of conflict.” He enumerates some outward signs of conflict and then describes how SIR is used as a facility or tool at getting along with others:
[SIR] connotes the smile, the friendly lift of the eyebrow, the pat on the back, the squeeze of the arm, the word of praise or friendly concern. It means being agreeable, even under difficult circumstances, and of keeping quiet or out of sight when discretion passes the word. It means a sensitivity to what other people feel at any given moment, and a willingness and ability to change tack (if not direction) to catch the lightest favoring breeze.
The examples Lynch enumerates show that SIR is closer to pakikibagay [fitting-in or tuning-in], pakikitungo [civility], and pagkakasundo [getting along]. I have been pointing out that the conceptions of pakikisama shown so far are closer to other traits, like pagkakasundo, pakikibagay, and pakikitungo. I hold an opinion crucial at this point. I think these traits may be practiced without pakikisama;37 but these may serve as preludes to the practice of pakikisama. Also, these may be interpreted as acts showing pakikisama when companionship has been established. This way, I am lead to think that pakikisama implies them but not the other way around.
It appears that Lynch thinks the other way around. If we take SIR as equivalent to pagkakasundo, then this can only be possible with the presence of pakikisama and two other requirements he mentions, namely, euphemism and the use of a go-between. He (1963: 10) thinks “SIR is acquired and preserved principally by three means: pakikisama, euphemism, and the use of a go-between.” If SIR is acquired and preserved by the three means enumerated, then that means pakikisama is considered a norm or a guide so that SIR may be achieved.38 Lynch (1963: 10) adds: “At times the word pakikisama is used as synonymous with what I understand by SIR; when so employed, the word is very frequently (almost predictably) translated as ‘good public relations.’” I think “good public relations” is close to the concepts of pagkakasundo, pakikibagay, and pakikitungo. And we said these are possible even without pakikisama but pakikisama is not possible without any one of these. The absence of at least one among them serves as a good reason why one may refuse to practice acts of pakikisama.
Lynch taking SIR and pakikisama as synonymous has its origin in the way he translates pakikisama as “getting along,” meaning pagkakasundo. SIR as he describes it is close to pagkakasundo, including pakikibagay and pakikitungo. This shows one thing significant. The concept pakikisama has a clear definition being the concept of companion. But defining pakikisama as a trait is difficult for it is always understood in terms of other traits and values.
Lynch also distinguishes SIR from pakikisama. He (1963: 10) believes “the term pakikisama is more commonly used with a meaning narrower than SIR. In this more restricted sense it means ‘giving in,’ ‘following the lead or suggestion of another;’ in a word, concession. It refers especially to the lauded practice of yielding to the will of the leader or majority so as to make the group decision unanimous. No one likes a hold-out.” Understanding pakisama as concession solicits the same argument hurled against Andres. If pakikisama is used with a meaning narrower than that of SIR then it might be, in this sense, a component or part of the larger value SIR.39 SIR is realized through pakikisama or concession. In case he considers SIR a value, as Enriquez implies, then pakikisama might be seen as a “lesser” or “weaker” value.
Whether the trait pakikisama is considered a norm to practice a value, a component of a larger value, or a value itself is less important than the fact that it definitely is of value. It is a trait worth having for a Filipino. Filipinos appreciate people who possess this trait. We can say there is a degree of excellence attached to the trait itself—not necessarily for ethical reasons but in the way one relates to or with others. Pakikisama is an important facility or tool intrinsically desirable and valuable in our interpersonal relationships not only because of itself, also because of the other traits and values it implies and that imply it. A relationship where pakikisama is practiced is of better quality compared to one where no traces of the trait are observed or seen. It is good enough if there is pagkakasundo, pakikibagay, or pakikitungo but better if there is pakikisama for it includes at least one of these.
Andres (1987: 75) says, “pakikisama is an important facility or tool in getting along with others, in maintaining harmonious interpersonal relationships within the confines of the home as well as outside of it. It is through pakikisama that one becomes socially accepted.” This is agreeable but would be better said as “facility or tool to be with others” (“being with others”) instead of “getting along with others.” It is precisely for this reason that the trait tends to be abused by others. They rely on the argument that one becomes socially accepted if one has pakikisama. This now leads us to the ways the trait is abused.
ABUSE OF PAKIKISAMA (“negative effects”)
The abuse of pakikisama as a trait is the result of misunderstanding its concept. Some misunderstand the concept of a good and nice companion. The trait’s abuse is sometimes based on the premise that one wants to maintain good relations with others. The others, knowing this desire that one has, take advantage and abuse the trait.
More than anything else, the Filipino wants to get along well with everyone whom he considers as very necessary to maintain good relations in order to feel that he belongs and to be socially accepted. Human relations is pakikisama to Filipinos. Unfortunately, this Filipino value has not been fully understood; in fact, it has been used many times in a negative way (Andres 1996: 148).
Some people abuse others by taking advantage of their effort to be on good terms with them. In the process the trait pakikisama acquires an irreverent meaning. The distasteful practice of abusing and taking advantage of the other in the name of pakikisama buries and hides its real intrinsic value and worth. One good example showing how the trait is abused is given by Gorospe (1988:32). The example is that of a sabungero40 who wins in a cockfight.
He is expected by his group to spend all the money he won on his bet so that he can give a “blow out” to the whole group. If he refuses or tries to save some of the money for his family, he is called mayabang (proud) or kuripot (stingy). In other words, he is regarded as a very bad sport (masamang makisama). So he yields to social pressure even to the point of being in debt again or dead drunk on basi41 or tuba42 just in order to have mabuting pakikisama. This example will suffice to show the wrong understanding and use of pakikisama.
In this case, it is the group that abuses a member in the name of pakisama. We must also consider a case where one abuses the others in the group. For example, a man prepares food and drinks for his friends who pay him a visit. After eating and drinking for several hours, the others ask their friend’s permission so they may leave. Now, the host refuses them to leave even if they are drunk and exhausted—and late. Instead, he convinces them to drink and eat some more even when he no longer has any money left. It is time for his family to rest and sleep but he obligates his wife to cook some more and sends his children to purchase more drinks from a near-by store on credit. He goes to that extent so that his friends will consider him as one who has pakisama. As mentioned, he is not the only one obligated to treat his visitors well but also his family. We understand he is not the only one shamed, but his family too, if his visitors are not treated well. But the circumstances show that he is overdoing it. Taking more alcohol and food than one can handle coupled with exhaustion is not pleasurable. The pakisama shown by the host is enough to ruin the others’ evening and moods.
Pakikisama is also abused when one is consistently giving in or yielding to the will of the leader or the group. This is bad enough, but giving in or yielding to the will of the leader or group is worse if it is against one’s will. This usually happens for the sake of pakikisama—for uniting the wills of a group’s members. Miranda writes something relevant to this. He (1993: 155) says, “taken in this sense, in fact, pakikisama becomes a misnomer for itself, since pakikisama contains a hint of forced cooperation or accommodation.” What follows is the way Andres (1986: 42-3) explains it:
Many times, “pakikisama” becomes the practice of yielding to the will of the leader or to the group as to make the group’s decision unanimous. Conformity to the group’s norms is rewarded with cooperation and assistance while non-conformity is punished by withdrawal of support. Sometimes, “pakikisama” leads to “small-group centeredness”—the feeling and loyalty to a small primary group. Its resulting negative effects are “small group thinking,” “kami” rather than “tayo”43 is the goal, lack of a sense of national unity, regionalism, selfishness and “walang bigayan—walang lamangan”44 mentality.
This passage from Andres easily assists us into thinking that pakisama entails an element of blackmail (Miranda says “forced cooperation and accommodation” while Lynch calls it “concession”). Its description also manifests narrow-mindedness on the part of the members of the group.45 Pakikisama is here portrayed as a reason for a group’s decision to be consistently unanimous. Conforming to the will of the leader or group has its rewards, such as, cooperation and assistance or support. This is also relative to the concept of utang na loob. The group has a debt of gratitude or obligation to the member who always conforms but failure to do so means the withdrawal of support. This suggests that pakisama invokes the fallacies known as appeal to force and appeal to advantage46 for the purpose of aligning wills.
This is probably true in the case of groups that practice pakisama in an extremely abusive way or groups consisting of narrow-minded members. Let us qualify certain points. Assume that members of a group are always obliged to conform to the will of the leader or group or at least to arrive at a consensus just so the group’s decision is unanimous, then the leader or group ruins the spirit of true pakikisama. This is because the trait is not properly practiced. Consistently imposing one’s will upon another and obliging another’s will to conform to one’s will in the name of pakikisama is not pakikisama but coercion.
It can be different for the case of other groups. There are numerous instances too when the leader or the group “gives in” to the wishes of at least one member. For example, if one member—not necessarily “the leader”—thinks more reasonably and saner than the rest. Or, there are other acceptable reasons, such as, studying for an examination instead of joining the group’s activities. We need to point out one more thing. Insinuating that a group ought to always have a leader is misleading, unless we talk of gangs in its literal sense. The concept “leader” should not be conceived of as one who consistently leads and ought to be obeyed at all times. Ordinarily, members of a group share equal importance being human beings involved with each other. In one particular occasion one may stand out as compared to the rest; but, this is the case for each and every one of them every once in a while or from time to time.
There is some truth to the claim that support is withdrawn when one consistently refuses to cooperate with the aims and purposes of the group without good reason. In this case, one is not (“not being with”) acting the way a member of a group must. But this is not necessarily true for long-standing friendships where one understands the other’s eccentricities and mood swings. In good friendships, eccentricities, mood swings, even fetishes, are sufficient to serve as good reasons!
In History of the Filipino people, Agoncillo and Guerrero (Andres 1996: 148-9) clarify the matter by way of a loose translation: “In its original connotation, pakikisama may be translated loosely as the intensive signification of camaraderie or the spirit of comradeship, the main elements of which are unselfishness and good faith. There is, therefore, no element of deceit, or dishonesty, or subversion of justice attached to the term.” I agree with this view and I think this is one good way of explaining pakisama as a concept and trait. The phrase “intensive signification of comradeship” is obviously compatible with the concept of “companionship.”
There is a general assumption and a misconception suggesting that one who does not practice pakikisama is a masamang tao [bad person].47 The assumption is a corollary to the notion that the trait pakisama is necessary for living a moral life. This assumption is false. Very often, this misconception is actually the opinion of individuals who do not receive the favors they ask from others. This practice of claiming that a person does not have pakikisama when one does not get one’s request or want is so prevalent that it has become a cultural practice. This is one way of justifying the importance of one’s demands or needs. One making such a claim is arguing from insufficient evidence.48
One may not give favors asked by another because of legitimate reasons. But these reasons fail to be understood. Being the case, there is no other inference possible but perceiving the one refusing to give favors—with good reasons—as having no pakikisama, hence, a bad or evil person. One does not have to cooperate or fraternize with others as long as one has reasons. In this sense, pakikisama gives way to paninindigan [conviction].49 It does not follow, however, that one is uncooperative at all times and with everyone. Miranda (1993:156) describes the person without pakikisama:
He is unwilling to contribute of himself and his goods; he cares only for himself; he shares only for the sake of his private interests; he has no paki[ki]sama because he has no damay (sense for the whole, solidarity). Conversely, one must challenge the uncritical cultural assumption that one who has no paki[ki]sama must be masamang-tao; we have seen that this is simply not the case, and in fact violates the deepest logic of the culture.
However, there are situations which lend truth to the cultural assumption and practice that one who does not have pakikisama is a masamang-tao. One does not have pakikisama if one intentionally refuses to make some situations less tedious for others. For example, I see my neighbor’s two-year old daughter playing in a busy street and likely to be hit by passing vehicles, but I do not inform my neighbor nor bring the kid home to her house. This is one way of showing I have no pakikisama because I show no concern, pagpapahalaga sa kapwa. Mostly, it is the gravity of the situation that serves as the basis whether the cultural assumption or practice holds truth or not. On the other hand, we may argue that under certain circumstances involving menial favors, one who does not practice pakikisama is not necessarily a bad person. Under these circumstances, however, one possibly fails to be socially accepted.
We are arguing that the wrong practice of pakikisama is actually based upon the misconceptions of the concept itself. If one, for example, conceptualizes pakikisama as a trait that implies forced cooperation or submitting to the will of the group or its leader, then one’s practice of the trait would definitely manifest this misconception. To conceive of a companion as one who must always submit to the will of the group or its leader is to misunderstand the concept of pakisama. The misconceptions of pakikisama as a concept brings forth the wrong ways of practicing it as a trait. We then see the trait abused and perceive its malpractice as its negative aspects or effects. Andres (1996: 149-150) correctly points out that:
Today, however, due to the lack of Filipino values education there are people who do not understand the art of pakikisama. To them it’s a matter of being sip‑sip to the boss, to the people who work around them and to the management. They get along well with others even if they go beyond their limits. The feeling that they are accepted by people, especially by those with authority, makes them feel like a ‘10-foot’ man. There are also people who are misguided and have a misinterpretation of pakikisama. They say that it is the way to use people in order to achieve personal goal. Thus, the feeling of being used and abused is the effect of pakikisama. Due to the inroads of Western civilization, particularly politics and materialism, the term pakikisama, according to Flordeliza Geronimo-Cruz, has been debased into an attitude that makes a crook well-liked or at least admired. For a person to be described as mabuting makisama, he must be dishonest mentally or otherwise, or unjust, or unfair, or unprincipled by subordinating justice in order to be in good graces to many naïve people, or to use the badly battered cliché—‘to have a good public image.’ He is mabuting makisama if he helps a politician fellowman by stealing from the public toll in order to practice bogus philanthropy. A secretary is mabuting makisama with her boss if she tells his wife when she calls up that the boss is in conference when in fact he is out dating his querida; a driver is mabuting makisama with the boss when the former delivers a gift or message to the latter’s sweetheart; a worker is mabuting makisama if he punches in for a late co-worker.
Misunderstanding the concept of and the malpractice of the trait pakikisama just described leads us to think that we must act according to the hypothetical imperative.50 That means we must only practice the trait because of the privileges and rewards that we shall receive as a consequence. The abuse of the trait, seen as its negative aspects, is the result of misunderstanding its concept. Misunderstanding the concept leads to the malpractice of the trait. It is incorrect to claim that pakikisama has negative aspects or effects. Some people have a misconception of what it really is and so practice the trait the wrong way. We may say that people practice the trait the wrong way because they misunderstand the real essence of pakikisama. But is it not correct to say, for example, that it is not pakikisama that they practice but the violation of the trait itself? It is not the trait that has negative aspects or effects. Its concept is ambiguous because its definition is open to many interpretations (amphibolous). To make this worse, the other concepts that its concept entails, such as, amor propio, consideration and cooperation, empathy, friendliness, helpfulness, hiya, leniency, non-opportunism, sympathy, utang na loob, etc., are misconstrued—either intentionally or not—only for the sake of satisfying the needs and wants of one party. In this sense, there is some sort of special pleading51 committed. Finally, the trait is practiced the wrong way and abused as a result.
Although pakikisama is misconceived and practiced the wrong way, the value of pakikisama either as a concept or trait remains. If others think that pakikisama is without value or worth, this does not necessarily mean that pakikisama is without value or worth. If a couple decides to end their marriage, for example, it is not marriage that loses value or worth. Its value remains. It is the couple that ruins the value of marriage, probably thinking that marriage is useless and worthless, therefore, ending their marriage in the process. The way they think of marriage and behave as a result of the way they think is not in accordance with the real essence of marriage but in accordance with violating the concept of marriage itself.52 What then is the real essence of pakikisama? The real essence of pakikisama is what pakikisama really is and this refers to the proper way of practicing the trait, often referred to as its positive aspects or effects.
WHAT PAKIKISAMA REALLY IS (“positive effects”)
Inquiring about the real essence of pakikisama is inquiring what pakikisama does to make the Filipino good. Pakikisama can, indeed, make the Filipino good whether we consider it a trait or norm towards a value, a part of a larger value, or a value itself. When properly directed and understood, pakikisama leads53 to very positive results. For example,
[Pakikisama] leads to pakikipagkapwa-tao, that is, treating and dealing with people on equal terms and respecting another person’s right and winning his respect for you. It leads to pagpapahalaga sa kapwa or concern for others. It makes the Filipino group-oriented and to think together. It makes the Filipino community-oriented (tayo mentality). There is mutual or community sharing among them. Pakikisama cannot be divorced from paggalang sa kapwa-tao, pagdadamayan, and utang-na-loob. It makes the Filipino makatao. To be makatao, one should have that concern and feeling for others. To be makatao is sharing one’s talent and time with less fortunate members of the community. Some sayings that extol this value are kung samasama, kayang-kaya, and abot kamay para sa kasaganaan (Andres 1986: 43).
Gorospe (1988: 33), on the other hand, insists that the real essence of pakikisama is realized if it is applied not only to one’s small group but to the larger community to which one really owes a deeper utang na loob. He continues by writing:
It makes the individual realize his oneness with the community and his personal commitment and loyalty to the community in return for a debt that he can never repay. For his own good is so bound up with the good of the community that without group identity he really has no self-identity. This is what Fr. Eugene Moran, S.J. means by ‘community development,’ namely, that the individual does not come as an outsider to improve the community but rather becomes part of the community and gets himself involved with the community interests, convinced that only by developing the community can he develop his own personality. The positive value inherent in the Filipino concept of pakikisama can be reoriented not only towards nation-building but also towards the renewal of the Church in the Philippines.
Andres (1986:45) equates pakikisama with bayanihan or doing things as a group and relates this to the community.
Bayanihan for the Filipino is the genuine concern for every member of the family, as well as the community in which we live. It is many hands and minds working together, each one contributing his share, doing his best for the attainment of a common goal. It is the sharing together of the fruits of our own common toil and sacrifice. It is working together to our utmost to get the job done; it is to share together in the harvest in good or bad weather.
Pakikisama makes the Filipino makapamilya or family-oriented. There is bayanihan in the family because of pakikisama. Bayanihan as actually applied in the family, is looking after the welfare of the lowliest and youngest members; equitable partaking of the fruits of the family’s labors; reciprocal material and moral support in times of crises and emergency; guidance and training of the weaker members and encouragement and due recognition of the strong members (Andres 1986: 44).
Andres (1986:44) emphasizes his point by saying, “The true meaning of pakikisama or bayanihan is community orientation, community thinking and community action. Thus, there is abuloy (the act of giving and asking donation) for someone who died in the community. There is pagkamakabayan or nationalism.” Gorospe, on the other hand, explains pakikisama as bayanihan in relation to human dignity to distinguish it from forced labor. He (1988: 32-33) writes:
To be secure the individual needs a sense of belongingness to a group of one’s own kind and the price of security is loyalty to one’s in-group. To belong to a group demands a spirit of cooperation, an attitude of give and take, a sensitivity to the feelings of others. These positive aspects of pakikisama are better expressed by the word bayanihan or togetherness. It is the true spirit of pakikisama that has given us one of the eight wonders of the world, the rice terraces of Banawe. It is interesting to note that the great pyramids of Egypt were built at the expense of human dignity and freedom….But the Banawe rice terraces will not only remain a wonder of the world but a lasting monument to human dignity and freedom since they were built so that human beings could be free from hunger and want and maintain their dignity and creativity.
“Pakikisama makes the Filipino basically good” (Andres 1986: 44). This is one reason why I am sometimes inclined—if not tempted—to think that pakikisama is a value. Although I am totally convinced it is a trait exhibited by means of other traits and values, it might serve us some good to conceive of it as a value for now. Truly, many examples exhibit that pakikisama is either a norm or guide to achieve a higher value or a part of a larger value still. But one possible way we can argue that pakikisama is a value is to make clear that it is a personal value to achieve an end value. If we claim that pakikipagkapwa-tao, pagpapahalaga sa kapwa, being community-oriented, and being makatao are end values (the higher value), then these can be realized with or without pakikisama. Nevertheless, they may be achieved through pakikisama just as well. This is the case because people may practice pakikipagkapwa-tao, etc. whether or not they possess pakikisama as a personal value.
We might also see it as a value but a “lesser” or “weaker” value. In this case, pakikisama is necessary to practice or realize the “encompassing” value. If we may consider makapamilya (family-oriented) and pagpapahalaga sa kapwa (concern for others), pagdadamayan and utang na loob as “encompassing” values, then we view pakisama as the “lesser” or “weaker” value necessary for the others’ sake. This view suggests that these values are not possible without pakisama. Being family-oriented and concerned for others, being involved or sympathetic and obligated are possible only if we “are with” others as a companion. Lastly, if we consider belongingness and loyalty to one’s in-group as values and equate these to pakisama as Gorospe (1988:32) does then it is logically valid to say that it is a value. This time, however, the argument we used to signify that pakisama is of value works against us. It does not mean to say that pakisama is a value just because we think it is!
Ultimately, we must say that pakikisama not only brings out the best in Filipinos but is also among the best that is Filipino. Andres (1996: 150) reveals,
Pakikisama is the act of reaching out to people and trying to know them, and understand them in their need to develop in themselves as potential members of the group and as assets to the organization…It is a symbiotic relationship of give and take that eventually leads to understanding. Pakikisama if applied just like what the ‘People Power’ did at EDSA when Filipinos put their hands, hearts, and minds working together, doing the best and the right thing, then there’s no reason for us not to be united. Pakikisama embodies the best that’s Filipino if we a) work together for a common purpose, b) move forward together, c) help friends, neighbors, and the needy, and d) love our country.
Pakikisama is both a concept and a trait. Defining its concept as “being with” or companion finds it origin in the method prescribed by Enriquez. More or less, the prescription’s advice is to start with the use of the Philippine language to understand concepts of Filipino traits and values. This we did to examine the concept of pakisama. And this we did by seeking the aid of another Philippine language, the Ilocano. The method is actually an application of Enriquez’s advice if we wish to see it that way. We are forced to give a “precise” definition of pakisama’s concept by way of its etymology and literal translation, so that we may be able to think of it in a clear and concise way.
We have argued that without a clear understanding of what the concept of pakisama is, without a clear definition, the concept is incapable of serving as a basis for describing its trait properly. Defining the trait pakisama remains a difficulty because its practice is tied up with other traits and values. The concept of companion, like that of being congenial, also includes many other concepts used to describe what it really is. In this essay, however, certain distinctions are made to give us a clearer viewpoint. It has been made clear that the trait pakikisama either involves many other traits or too associated with the concepts of other traits and values that it becomes difficult to distinguish it from the others. We have pointed out that being the case, there is a strong tendency to think of pakikisama as no different from or similar to the traits and values that it either implies or imply it. Understanding pakikisama entails the understanding of other traits and values as well.
Most important and interesting part of the paper is the issue about the way the concept pakikisama is defined and understood. There have been some side trips made along the way which delve into issues. For example—is pakikisama a norm or guide so that other traits may be practiced, or is it a component of a larger trait, or is it a value itself? We have also examined why people think it has negative aspects and it has been argued that this impression is formed only because the trait is abused. Some think the trait has positive effects and we argued that this impression is borne out when we determine what the trait is really supposed to be.
Whether it is a value or not, pakikisama is of value and it holds so much worth for the Filipino. It is culturally enforced starting within the environment of the family. In the case of Filipinos, it is difficult to imagine interpersonal relationships that do not include either the concept or trait of pakikisama. It is a trait worth having for the Filipino. Filipinos take its concept seriously and a degree of excellence is attached to the trait. As Andres says, pakikisama makes the Filipino basically good. As a concept and a trait, it invites us to do good by responding to the call of the others so that we may practice one’s ability that all relationships depend on—the ability to be a good and nice companion.
1. This paper was delivered with the same title at the Ariston Estrada Seminar Room, De La Salle University, Manila on 13 March 2002 for the Claro R. Ceniza Lecture Series. It has been revised extensively for the purpose of publication.
2. Examples are: ayos/di-marunong/mabuti/magaling makisama, makisama ka/tayo, may pinagsamahan (kami/kayo/sila), pakisamahan mo/natin, pakikisamahan ko/mo/natin, and walang pakisama, etc.
3. The term “Filipinos” must be understood as “most Filipinos” or “Filipinos in general.” The examination of some Filipino concepts and traits that influence their everyday life and relationships has led some to believe that there are supposed Filipino national values and supposed regional values (Cf. Enriquez 1986).
4. Cf. Wadell, Friendship and the moral life (1989) and The primacy of love (1992). In the former book, his insight on the moral life and friendship can be stated as: “The moral life is the seeking of and growing in the good in the company of friends who also want to be good. Friendship is the crucible of the moral life, the relationship in which we come to embody the good by sharing it with friends who also delight in the good” (xiii). In the later work, he argues, like Thomas Aquinas, that “the primary concern of ethics is not just good decisions, but good persons” (4). I thank Fr. Daniel Kroger for bringing these works to my attention.
5. Dionisio Miranda (1993: 155) writes: “pakikibagay and pakikisama are accepted as valid norms to the extent that they intend authentic KTH.”
6. Enriquez (1986) says, “pakikisama is a form of pakikipagkapwa but not the other way around.”
7. We shall see the different views Frank Lynch presents regarding SIR later.
8. Miranda (1993: 155-6) writes, “pakikisama exists for and in the name of pagkakasundo.
9. This is the case with Florentino Timbreza (1982) who writes, “Ang susi sa magaling na pakikipagkapwa-tao ng Pilipino ay ang magandang pakikisama” (The key to the good way of recognizing others as fellow-human beings is good/nice pakikisama.)
10. Enriquez (1986) says this of Lynch: “Perhaps he was successful in penetrating and reaching the highest level of interpersonal relations in the ibang-tao category, thus making him believe that pakikisama is a value.” And Miranda (1993: 155) says, “To imply that pakikibagay and pakikisama are values by themselves apart from ethical KTH is to suggest that Filipinos are inherently incapable of perceiving morality at all…”
11. He states:
Language is not merely a tool for communication. One need not agree with the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis to be convinced of the clear connection between language and culture. Given this, one is understandably led to believe that meaningful concepts for understanding a society can most probably be identified in its indigenous language. While this belief is admittedly wrought with uncertainties, it is quite reasonable to infer that the language of the Philippines is as good a starting point as any, if not better than most, for understanding Filipino behavior. In any case, I would find it logical to look for a key concept for understanding Filipino behavior in the Filipino language without discounting the possibility that such a key concept might be found in a non-Philippine language or that it may not even exist in any other language.
12. I hold the opinion that he has made his word true with ‘Kapwa’ when he uses the concept to understand and give credence to the other Filipino behavioral patterns or traits.
13. Florentino Timbreza is one among the few who examines Filipino behavior by citing sayings in different Philippine languages and dialects. His method relates to what Enriquez (1986) says:
In spite of the American orientation in the Philippine social sciences, and the minimal use of the Filipino language in research, teaching, and publication, some supposedly important concepts in the understanding of Filipino behavior have already been identified in a number of Philippine languages.
For Timbreza’s treatment of “pakikisama,” cf. Chap. 19, Pilosopiyang Pilipino (1982).
14. Others have different concepts in mind. Some social scientists may add Bahala na (“come what may”) or bayanihan (togetherness in common effort) as key concepts for understanding Filipino behavioral patterns (cf. Virgilio G. Enriquez, “Kapwa: A core concept in Filipino social psychology,” in Philippine worldview, 1986). In that paper Enriquez claims it is the Filipino concept of kapwa that serves as the core value or the substructure of all Filipino values. I currently agree with this view.
15. “The proper way” need not be understood thru the moral terms of good and evil. Later, we shall show that one without “pakisama” need not be an evil person. This leads me to think that “pakisama” is closer to the concept of manners rather than that of values, related more to terms like “proper/improper” rather than to terms like ”good/evil.” This is why we claim from the start that “pakisama” is a contributory but not a necessary factor for living a moral life.
16. Guthrie (1970: 60) says, “familiar family-style affair.”
17. Different traits and values—including pakikisama—are culturally reinforced and learned within the context of the family. The family serves as the training ground for the development of interpersonal traits. For discussions see Lynch (1963: 10), Guthrie (1970: 60), Andres (1986: 42; 1987:74-75; 1996:54-55).
18. This is exactly Miranda’s (1993:155-6) point when he says, “In sum, pagkakasundo is the ethic of the culture; pakikisama is the ethos of the culture.”
19. Companion is kasama and companionship is samahan in the Filipino language (Tagalog). In Ilocano, companionship is translated as panakikadwa. The concept of “pakikisama” is translated as “makikadwa.” “Maki” suggests the “activity of being involved” and the root word “kadwa” means “companion.” The literal translation derived from its etymology in Ilocano is, therefore, ‘being involved as a companion’. In both cases, the concept of companion (“kasama” or “kadwa”) presupposes the idea of the “good companion.”
20. “Masarap kasama (makisama) yan.”
21. “Samahan mo lang ako.”
22. “Sinamahan (pinakisamahan) niya ako hanggang sa matapos ang kaguluhan.”
23. “Madaling kausapin ang anak ko, ayos makisama iyan.”
24. “Marunong makisama ang taong iyan, tinulungan ako noong nakita niyang hirap ako sa pagbubuhat ng kahoy.”
25. “Maayos makisama iyan kasi pinapasok niya ako kahit wala akong I.D.”
26. “Marunong makisama si Yoyoy kasi hindi siya pumayag na mapalitan ang maayos pang ‘gear changer’ ng bisikleta ko.”
27. “Hindi ako nakakalimot sa malalim nating pinagsamahan.”
28. “Wala siyang masasabi sa paraan ng pakikisama ko sa kanya.”
29. “Sobrang pakikisama ang ipinapakita mo sa aking mga kamag-anak (partido), nakakahiya sa iyo.”
30. Acquaintances are neither friends nor relatives. One simply knows them either by face or name.
31. In Andres’s work (1996: 149), he says, “Today, however, due to a lack of Filipino values education there are people who do not understand the art of pakikisama. To them, it’s a matter of being sip-sip [gain good graces or ‘lick-ass’] to the boss. They get along well even if they go beyond their limits…” [also see quotes from Andres (1996: 149-150) on p. 74 of text]. Andres, like Guthrie and Lynch, thinks pakisama is culturally reinforced and learned within the context of the family, as we have pointed out earlier. I totally agree with this view. “The Filipino has been culturally brought up to value ‘pakikisama’ or harmony” (Andres 1986: 42). This concept of harmony is closer to pakikibagay [fitting in] or to pakikipagpalagayan [being in rapport], or even pakikiisa [being one with].
32. According to Guthrie (1970: 63-4),
It can involve extravagant praise of another, the use of metaphorical language rather than frank terms, not showing one’s own negative feelings or depressed spirits, smiling when things go wrong, and above all, never expressing anger or losing one’s temper. Avoiding stressful situations can be made easier by keeping things vague and by letting ambiguities stand. One makes commitments with the implicit understanding that either party to the agreement may seek to have matters changed if circumstances change. The common element in many activities is the desire to maintain good feelings and non-stressful relationships. It should be added that there is difficulty in a society where competition for status and drive for power are also very strong.” This shows once more that Guthrie confuses pakisama with the concepts of pagkakasundo, pakikibagay, and pakikitungo [civility].
33. Santiago and Enriquez (1986) define pakikibagay as “in conformity with or in accord with.” We can also take it to be close to the idea of “fitting in,” “tuning-in,” or “acting appropriately in the context of one’s relation with others.”
34. This refers to the “Who cares?” attitude or the “I don’t care” syndrome.
35. I think the difference between the concepts “being with” and “being along with” has to do with physical presence. “Being along with” would necessarily be true to the concept of companion as one who is physically present with someone else. I hold the opinion that “being with” includes physical presence and other types of presence. For example, we can think of “being with” in terms of the spirit (mind) like, “I am with you in spirit” meaning “I am thinking of you” or in terms of support, such as, emotional, financial, and moral. This will necessarily imply that pakisama can be practiced even without one’s physical presence. I can still show acts of being a good and nice companion even if I am not physically present. This is the case with friendship. A friend can always show friendly affection, for example, even if s/he is not physically present.
36. Webster defines “congenial” as “having the same nature, disposition, or tastes; existing or associated together harmoniously; pleasant; especially agreeably suited to one’s tastes or outlook; sociable; genial.”
37. For example, if I intentionally block an intersection in heavy traffic resulting to the delay of vehicles crossing the road, this may be seen in different ways. I can be seen as one who is inconsiderate, one without pakikibagay (cannot tune- or fit-in). But if I left the intersection open, then they may see me as considerate and one who knows how to tune- or fit-in but not necessarily one who has pakisama. If other drivers, however, see me more as a companion in the street, then they may see me as one with pakikisama.
38. Guthrie follows this tradition. He (1970: 63) says, “pakikisama or getting along together has been described by Lynch (1964) as the Filipinos’ desire for smooth interpersonal relations, a value and its related activities which he has abbreviated to SIR.” Guthrie’s reading suggests that Lynch considers SIR as the value and pakikisama appears to be the guide or norm in guise of a desire. This desire is manifested by one’s way of acting so that the practice of a value, such as, SIR may be realized. Guthrie continues by writing:
Filipinos place a high value on good feelings and sacrifice other values such as clear communication and achievement in order to avoid stressful confrontations. The result is that they agree with what another says and keep their reservations to themselves. They see frankness and outspoken expressions of opinions as rather uncultured and ostracize someone who behaves this way. Frankness is the characteristic (that) they may fear most in Americans and other foreigners. Because of their respect for another’s feelings, they may never let a non-Filipino know how much pain his candor causes. It is quite clear that SIR is a sort of reaction against sensitivity. It is as if a Filipino reasons, “The best way to avoid slighting another is to make him feel good.”
I think this is one reason why foreigners get the impression that Filipinos are hospitable. Or, we can see it another way. Because pakikisama is culturally reinforced, foreigners interpret acts showing pakikisama as hospitality.
39. Enriquez sees it differently. He (1986) writes:
Lynch  proposes the construct of ‘smooth interpersonal relations’ as acquired and perceived through pakikisama, euphemism, the use of a go-between. Perhaps, he was successful in penetrating and reaching the highest level of interpersonal relations in the ibang-tao category, thus making him believe that pakikisama is a value. However he did not take cognizance of the importance of the other levels of interpersonal relations beyond pakikisama, making his observation valid to a point but definitely inadequate. [Also see note 10]
40. One who gets involved in cockfighting.
41. Sugarcane wine popularized by the Ilocanos.
42. Coconut or palm wine popular in the Visayan regions.
43. “Kami rather than tayo” literally means “we, excluding you, rather than tayo or all of us.”
44. Roughly, this means “no giving/sharing so no one gets more.”
45. Little do they know that their group would be a lot more interesting if they were so different from each other!
46. Claro Ceniza (1994: 24-26) teaches that appeal to force (argumentum ad baculum) as the fallacy committed when one appeals to force or the threat of force to cause the acceptance of a conclusion. Appeal to advantage, on the other hand, is the fallacy committed when an appeal is made to a person or group to adopt a belief or policy that the person or group will not accept unless an advantage preferred were given.
47. That means, a bad or evil person.
48. Ceniza (1994: 29-30) teaches that this fallacy is committed when one arrives at a conclusion with undue haste, especially, if one possesses a bias of such a conclusion.
49. This also happens in the realm of values. When Kant discusses the categorical imperative, the values that clash in his example are truth telling and the preservation of human life. As in the case of values, the trait deemed more important for the occasion is the trait preferred. Kant, of course, uses the method of elevating a maxim to a universal law. Filipinos seldom do that. More important for them is the one deemed more proper for a particular situation.
50. The opposite is known as the categorical imperative popularized by Kant. Roughly, the categorical imperative states: “Act only according to a maxim that you can at the same time will that it should become a universal law.” Cf. Kant’s Metaphysics of morals.
51. Ceniza (1994: 33) teaches that it is committed when one (“pleads”) only evidence in favor of or against a case and suppressing evidence contrary to it.
52. I thank Florentino Timbreza for bringing this to my attention.
53. The idea of Andres herein invites us to make an analogy with the ideas of Wadell in (Friendship and the moral life, 70-119) when he argues that friendship must be seen as a “school in Christian love.” Friendship is preferential compared to altruistic Christian love but it is one relationship that teaches us how to love everyone eventually. It also reminds us of the lessons learned by Socrates from Diotima in Plato’s Symposium. More or less, Diotima tells Socrates that the beauty we see in the person we desire or love will eventually teach us to see beauty in everything else.
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