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If you’re a man, you probably say the wrong thing to your wife or girlfriend occasionally. As a result, if your significant other is a Filipina, you most likely will face a classic cultural phenomenon, tampoWikipedia defines tampo as a behavior in which an individual withdraws their affection from a person who has hurt their feelings.

Testy Tampo Moods in the Philippines

Your better half’s cheery disposition will change faster than a speeding bullet. It’s more powerful than a locomotive.

Open mouth. Insert foot. Welcome to the club, brother.

Been there.

Done that.

After all, I’ve been married to a patient, loving, beautiful Filipina for over 20 years. In addition, I’m close to 70 years of age. Hence, I’m an old geezer that’s not only been around the block, I’ve been around the whole town. A couple of times.

Frankly, I can’t remember how many times stupid things have come out of my mouth. I’ll have to check with God during the Final Judgment.

The “Silent Treatment” Rules

Wikipedia states that in English “sulking” or “to sulk” is the closest translation of tampo. Furthermore, the term the “silent treatment” may also apply. The expression of tampo is almost entirely nonverbal.

“Silent treatment?” I can relate. My loving asawa’s record for not speaking even one word to me is three consecutive days. During that time, she would not have even spit on me if I were on fire. That incident occurred when we were living in the States.

Remember, I’m an old goat. I have no idea what I said to trigger my wife’s tampo reaction.

Old goat courtesy of Pixabay

Since retiring to the Philippines over 11 years ago, I’ve also managed to have my spouse give me the “silent treatment” for two consecutive days. However, again, I cannot recall what I said to prompt that particular tampo episode.

If memory serves me correctly, (which it usually doesn’t) on a couple of miraculous occasions, my wife’s tampo outbreak only lasted a few hours. However, those are indeed the exception. At least that’s been my personal experience for over twenty years.

Wikipedia lists several symptoms of tampo:

  • Resisting expressions of affection
  • Not talking to the person concerned, or to people in general
  • Being unusually quiet
  • Locking oneself in his or her own room
  • Refusing to eat
  • Not joining friends in group activities
  • Withdrawing from the group
  • Simply keeping to oneself.

I’ve endured the first four tampo manifestations listed above.

These are usually efforts to get the offending party to make amends. Consequently, if these behaviors do not work, one might choose to escalate them. Foot stomping, door slamming, or muttering are possible alternatives.

My wife has never resorted to foot stomping or door slamming. Muttering, on the other hand, is a familiar tactic used by my spouse along with cursing at me in her native Ilonggo language. I don’t know the native lingo. Ignorance serves me well. It’s worked for me for decades.

With my lovely asawa at “The Ruins” outside of Bacolod City

What Sets Tampo Apart from Sulking

As a Westerner, tampo sounds like “sulking.” In contrast to our Western beliefs, there is an underlying cultural reason that sets “tampo” apart. Westerners have a negative view of sulking. However, tampo is quite acceptable among Filipinos.

Tampo originates from the non-confrontational nature of Filipino social interaction. Tampo offers an acceptable means of expressing hurt feelings. Direct expression of anger or resentment is discouraged.

Saving Face

The withdrawal behaviors of tampo are indirect ways of expressing hostility. Tampo is a means by which Filipinos save face.” “Saving face” is a common trait among many Asian cultures. Westerners, in particular the Americans I know, would rather address any problems head on. In addition, as a U.S. citizen, I may be more prone to express myself more loudly than the “average bear.”

Direct confrontation is usually a threat to the “smooth interpersonal relationships” (SIR) deeply valued in Philippine society.

Filipinos believe strongly in saving face. This is why a Philippine affirmative response to an invitation may actually mean “maybe” or even “I don’t know” instead of “yes.” Filipinos often have difficulty in bringing themselves to respond negatively.

Happy Face ketchup at Johnny Rockets in Manila

Saving face, a unique Asian cultural feature

My First Encounter with Tampo

While I used to try to apologize and console my wife right away, I’ve learned that a brief “cooling-off” period is essential. Years ago, when I was processing my wife’s spousal immigration visa to get her to the United States, I encountered my first case of “tampo.”

My wife had successfully passed her interview with Immigration officials in Manila. She had received word that her immigration papers were on the way. With that paperwork, she could get her ticket to the States. We had been waiting for over nine months for that day.

However, a wicked typhoon hit the Philippines, halting all delivery services. Consequently, my wife attempted to make it to the delivery company to pick up her paperwork herself, to no avail. The storm made all public transportation virtually impossible.

She called me to let me know she wasn’t able to pick up the documents.

My Stupid Reaction

I was pissed.

It had been a long, painstaking process over nine months and while the end was in sight, Mother Nature interfered. Of course, I had no reason to be angry. I was frustrated and took out those frustrations on my poor wife.

Consequently, my asawa went into “tampo” mode and hung up on me. Immediately I tried to call back. Of course, I received no answer. It took almost 24 hours for her to respond to my calls. I apologized profusely.  I had never experienced a typhoon. Moreover, when I saw TV coverage of the typhoon from Manila, I realized I had made a serious mistake in getting upset with my wife.

Thankfully, my spouse forgave me. She received her paperwork the next day. She was on a flight to Los Angeles, her port of entry, two weeks later. Testy tampo moods in the Philippines? She was entitled to that one.

my lovely asawa dons a hardhat for underground river tour palawan

My asawa knows that dealing with me requires a hard hat

What We Have Here is Failure to Communicate

In addition, not reaching out to the offended party may cause relations, especially romantic ones, to deteriorate. Again, from Wikipedia, here’s some advice on how to deal with tampo. These tips come from the “Asawa Guide to Fil-West Relationships” authored by Bob Lingerfelt:

  • “Tampo is mild and controlled and is the direct result of some perceived offense of a minor nature.”
  • “Apologize for your bad behavior. Whether or not you’re guilty of the perceived ‘crime’ is irrelevant. The important thing is that your girlfriend or wife desires to be consoled.”
  • “She has been wounded emotionally and requires emotional solace.”
  • Intellectual objections will have little effect, and may actually aggravate the condition….
  • “After you apologize, allow the Filipina to lift the tampo slowly, at a respectable pace. Do not expect instant results.”
  • “Do not continue apologizing, again and again, in an attempt to speed the tampo’s demise. This will only make you look foolish, and it won’t work.”
  • “Keep your dignity, and let her keep hers…. The old standbys are still effective: a romantic card, chocolate, jewelry…”

Testy Tampo Moods in the Philippines Conclusion

Finally, in many countries, conflicting parties use communication to resolve conflicts, irrespective of who is at fault. Without communication by both parties, conflicts can escalate or be extended. Thus, we have two opposing conflict resolution methods used in a Filipino/non-Filipino relationship.

In conclusion, culturally, the Filipina will try to resolve a problem with non-communication methods (‘Tampo.’) The non-Filipino will try to resolve the problem with communication. Hence, we have a conflict within the conflict resolution process itself. Furthermore, the partner may perceive the tampo (silent treatment) as emotional abuse (isolation.)

Finally, let me close with “The Man’s Prayer” from the “The Red Green Show.” Bow your heads with me, please, guys:

“I’m a man, but I can change, if I have to, I guess.”

(Lead image and above photo courtesy of pixabay)

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