Why Filipinos Ask Personal Questions
Why do Filipinos ask personal questions?
It’s a tender spot in the mirror when you question yourself , why you’re still single or why your last relationship didn’t work out. Why look in the mirror and ask a question you can’t answer yet?
And yet, out of the blue, the question pops up like a Philippine tornado ready to lift the roof off your bungalow home. You reply with a smile and mumbled to yourself, “how rude,” and your Filipino/x conversation turns superficial after that.
Why does your Tita, your mom and your other Filipino loved ones greet you by asking a question? How about a hello, kamusta first?
If you prefer to take a listen to the Pinoy Love Language Podcast, episode #32: Why Filipinos Ask Personal Questions, click here.
HINDI IBANG TAO VS IBANG TAO
There are a myriad of reasons why a Filipino may be concerned on gauging whether someone is hindi ibang-tao ( in my in-group) versus ibang-tao (in my out-group). This is not unique to Filipinos.
Collectivistic cultures and mammals do this to afford a sense of belonging, safety and a protective mechanism to save face lest they reveal themselves too quickly by mistake.
Ancestral Filipinos are deep into sensing each other and their environment. Before verbal words were used by early humans, sensing and being attuned (pakiramdaman) to each other’s movement, breathing, changes in facial expression are some ways we communicated. There is a theory that the palms of our hands evolved to be lighter in color (than the back of your hands) so that early humans can communicate in the dark because they used gestures and their hands for talking.
If you’re interested in learning more about the Art of Pakiramdam. Check out the Masterclass below.
Perhaps due to a mixture of colonization, our complex socio-political history, and even our geographical location, it is important that Filipino know where he stands. He gauges his position or make it known to others by asking questions.
When he qualifies someone to be hindi ibang tao, or someone in his in-group, he relaxes and warms up.When someone is ibang tao, he remains superficial, smiling, and at times, overly cooperative. I see this pattern when speaking to non-Filipino nurses who asked me why their Filipino patients seem cooperative during their visits but end up non-compliant with their medications.
Many explanations are possible but its also possible that not enough rapport has been established. The non-Filipino nurse qualifies as ibang tao. If and when the Filipino warms up to her, it may not change how complaint he is or he isn’t but that he wouldn’t appear as “cooperative” during the visits. He will probably joke around or directly tell her what he thinks about his medication protocol.
Asking a question for a Filipino is like an unspoken initiation, he wants to know-
- Are we attuned to each other?
- Do you get me?
- Can we connect deeper?
- Can I allow myself to be real with you?
If not, it’s fine but-
- I’ll just stay cordial with you
- I won’t share with you delicate information
- When you leave is when I show my real personality with others I see as hindi ibang tao.
- I’ll appear cooperative to make you feel comfortable
Listen to Why Filipinos Ask Personal Questions here.
ART OF ASKING QUESTIONS: FILIPINOS VERSUS AMERICANS
There is a real difference in the intention of an American versus a Filipino when asking questions. When I say American, I mean more the culture rather than an American persona.
In the Pinoy Love Language podcast #32: Why Filipinos Ask Personal Questions, we will explore-
- the cultural function of asking questions for a Filipino
- difference between task oriented and relationship oriented questions
- the downside of social support groups
- how to be culturally ambidextrous rather than rigid
Here’s a cliff-hanger, do you asks questions to get an answer? The Filipino begs to be different. Listen to the episode here.
Filipinos in the Philippines are one of the top consumers of social media platforms like facebook and tiktok in the world. Cultural contexts are lost in translation with a feed, an image a few characters that twitter will allow.
When you begin to see culture from one lens, you begin to lose your ability to be curious of others. When this happens, you operate from a standardized locus of what is appropriate and what is not.
As such things need to be changed and grow from, my hope is that you maintain an eye for curiosity, that is, what you think you know, you may not know yet. And what think will never be known to you, you know.
Did I confuse you?
Exactly the point, your beginning is someone else’s end and your end is someone’s beginning.
Seek to understand as to be understood.
Roanne has been a Psychotherapist for more than 15 years. She has frequented at least 500 Filipino homes and counting. She is the author of the Ebook: 5 Pinoy Love Languages and the creator of the presentation entitled: Filipino Core Values & Considerations in Culturally Responsive Care. To access self-paced courses and other resources, enter the Kalamansi Juice Academy.
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