SIR: Tigpataliwala

It’s Tuesday, so let’s get back to my SIR series!  For today’s installment, let’s look at a different area of SIR, Tigpataliwala, or the “Go Between”.  The go between is critical in the day to day functioning of Philippine society, so it is important for us foreigners to learn about it and understand what it is all about.

Here is what my study materials have to say about the go between:


The use of a go-between or mediator is a common means of restoring or preserving smooth interpersonal relations.

Common situations where a go-between would be used: an embarrassing request, a complaint or a difficult decision to be communicated.

I think that most of us who have been around the Philippines even a little bit have heard of the go-between and how it is used to approach people in difficult situations.  I have been thinking about this in preparation for this article, and I don’t remember any specific example of using a go-between myself, although I am sure that I must have done so in some situation.

The funny thing about this is that just a few days after I received these study materials, I was actually called upon by someone to act as a go-between in a difficult situation.  Having not been trained (formally or informally) on how to handle this situation, I just thought it through, and used my common sense to act in a way that I could try to remain neutral in the situation, listen to the situation from one party, and pass it on to the second party without interjecting my own feelings into the situation.  I am not 100% certain that I handled the situation as a Filipino would, but I can report, happily, that the situation seems to have been resolved between the two parties.  I am happy about that, and I feel some success was achieved in my first experience in acting as the go-between.

For us (foreigners), we don’t tend to use the go-between much, I think.  We are direct people, and if we have something to say to somebody, we just say it.  Sometimes, I feel that that the direct approach is more successful, other times, it might be better to use a go-between.  I would say that if we have a problem with a Filipino, using the go-between is the best way to handle the situation with a minimum of hurt feelings, and a maximum possibility of success.

How about you?  Have you ever used a go-between to keep your relationship on-track?  Have you ever acted as a go-between?  Let me know, I’d be interested in hearing about your experiences.

Post Author: MindanaoBob (1353 Posts)

Bob Martin is the Publisher & Editor in Chief of the Live in the Philippines Web Magazine. Bob is an Internet Entrepreneur who is based in Davao. Bob is an American who has lived permanently in Mindanao since May 2000. Here in Mindanao, Bob has resided in General Santos City, and now in Davao City. Bob is the owner of this website and many others.

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  1. Steven says

    Hi Bob – I once had a problem with a landlord a few years ago who either took her sweet time fixing things in my rented house or did nothing. Being exasperated I probably said things to her that would be perfectly appropriate back home but not here. So she reported me to the Barangay. It was there that I presented my case as did she. The landlord so embarrassed herself with one lame excuse after another and I won the mediation which in this case was arbitrated by the Barangay himself. Even after this incident I would caution all foreigners to keep their temper in check and never take on a Filipino head on. Unfortunately (even with the Barangay) we really have no rights in the Philippines that unfortunately is so full of inequality for us despite being a democracy.

    • reality says

      Not exactly true when you say there is no “rights”. There are several cases of foreigners taking Filipinos to courts and winning the case. It has nothing to do with Visas. I have friends who were conned, took the Filipino head on and took them to court. If you were a forgiener, you had a daughter, and some Filipino came and touched her, to do something bad, you would sit silent and say , “I have no rights” ? You have no rights when ti comes to certain political issues or land, but under the law, all are treated same. Please stop assuming things.

  2. Steven says

    A good friend of mine was recently incarcerated for 51 days based on completely unsubstantiated claims being made about him. There was zero evidence and even the accusers never showed themselves. He was arrested based on an email to the police. Amazing huh. They finally let him go.My friend is a very popular and likable person in the place he is living in the Philippines and there were some jealousy issues by others against him. This Tigpataliwala you speak of Bob is just the kind of thing we as foreigner need to protect ourselves here or at least get a fair shake but many would just try and deport us instead. Hey look at your friends Klaus situation with his neighbor.

  3. Steven says

    Surprised you didn't hear about it. Google "Richard Holden Philippines" . Very interesting indeed. All 100% untrue. fortunately, he is out and back to building boats and enjoying life.

  4. Phil R. says

    Yep I've been there too Bob , but not me, my wife , a lot of family members like to use my wife as a go between..but she don't like to do it ..she says sometime someone gets mad at her ..??…Phil n Jess

  5. says

    Hi Bob, this seems to touch on one of the main differences between RP and the west; interconnectedness.
    At least where I am it seems normal to have 'just in case' go betweens at the ready. Most established adult locals will have a friend in the Barangay Committee, the Police Station, the Municipal Office as a matter of course.
    This is something few westerners do these days. For many of us it would be normal to not know anyone in any of these positions until we needed or were forced to be involved with them.
    We are outsiders here anyway; we should acknowlege the way it is here and go out of our way to meet these important people; before we are alienated and in need of help.

  6. Ed Griffin says

    Chris, very good suggestion! I'll save your comments for future reference once I am living here. One never knows when he may need help from a friend in high places. It appears that one doesn't have to seek trouble as sometimes trouble seems to find you.

  7. Aldel says

    Go betweens are great when meeting people of the opposite sex. Prior to a formal meeting with a woman of interest, a go between can be used to convey flattering messages which usually turns into a positive response from her. See how the advantages there?

  8. says

    The art of argument is in appearing impartial as the art of choosing a mediator is in choosing one capable of the same? (whilst maintaining your position ultimately). Tongue in cheek Bob! Compromise is something more familiar to Filipino than westerners, as is tigpataliwala.
    Is this a phenomenon of Filipino culture specificly? It seems a lot of the cultural niceties are based on ancient traditions in a lot of places. At least they have a familiar ring to them even with only a western upbringing; as with the courtship traditions which have died out in most of the modern world but are alive and well in the Philippines.

  9. Steven says

    Hi Bob- I was just mentioning to you about the case. I actually have all the facts and know that it is all contrived, made-up, etc.. The perpetrators of this (false accusation) crime against Richard are now known to the authorities and they will have their rude awakening. Unfortunately, for them their time in jail will be much more than 51 days so perhaps there is justice in this country. It remains to be seen. Looking forward to hearing your Barangay story.

  10. says

    Your words are prophetic Bob;
    twice in one day I have experienced this. My wife's sister phoned early, she usualy texts. She was mediating to recover a gifted phone from he sister for their uncle. This evening; out for dinner with some very senior members of the community; I was asked to introduce suitable foreign batchelors to the daughter of one family there.
    I had to respond "I'm sorry but the only single men I know are scoundrels, especially Australian's, just ask my Mother in law!"
    One thing may be true of many South East Asian cultures, in Australia it's called 'Taking the Piss'. I think it's called mocking in old English. I will ask my wife the Tagalog word. Being able to take the proverbial out of oneself is another rare gift in relationship building I am yet to discover here. (or in the USA)

  11. Preben says

    Hi Bob.
    Off topic, I have just read an articel in TIME (dec. issue), of geothermical power which is beeing investigated at the island of Biliran. The work and knowhow is done by engineers from Iceland, where they since 1970 have used geothermical power. Is there any of this in local news?

  12. Danny says

    Kamusta Bob,

    Another good story on your series about SIR. But I am surprised that you haven't encountered this in your almost 10 years of living there. Maybe Feyma has done this for members of her family? Or maybe for you, but in different situations maybe concerning business? Not a conflict, but translator maybe, or giving a filipino view of a situation between a possible business contact there..not sure..but just fishing around for ideas of a "go between".
    I know you mentioned you had done this recently, but maybe most of your friends, family there, may think that you don't want to be used for this type of "nonsense" and/or "petty" arguments between others that has nothing to do with you. Just curious about that, for you being there so long, and making so many friends, foreigners and filipino.
    My friends here, know I don't get myself involved with other peoples petty arguments, and that I don't enjoy "drama" in my life, and especially don't try to create it in my life, like some people do.
    I also understand, that when I say "petty", or "nonsense" about these types of things, that these are important situations to the filipino people there, I guess depending on what the situation is…and what problem has occurred between two or more people will tell the severity of the situation. Just my two cents and thoughts…..actually I find this interesting. But when there in Southern Leyte…I will keep my nose out of other peoples business, unless it really warrants my attention. Especially when it comes to family matters.

    daghang salamat ,

  13. Paul says

    Hi Bob – Back in the states, now. :sad:

    Always use a Tigpataliwala (our maid) whenever buying anything at the "chenda" (palengke) in order to avoid paying the "puti" (white) tax! 😆

  14. says

    Hi Bob;
    your comment on 'Puti' is spot on from my experience. Any time I go shopping on my own Hana asks what I paid for whatever I bought. Occaisionally I have paid a little too much for trinkets like 100 pesos for something which should have been 50; (these vendors are invariably extremely poor) but in the market they are always fair to me. I think they are a little intimidated by my wife; Hana is small but very sharp!

  15. says

    Hi Steven – Your story about the landlord, and how it ended up in Barangay court is interesting, and I had a similar event in my life here too. Thank you for reminding me of it, I will write an article about that soon, because there are a number of lessons there for people to learn from.

    You are so right, as foreigners we have few if any rights at all, and thus we have to be careful in the way we treat people.

  16. says

    Hi Steven – Wow, it is shocking to me that your friend was jailed for nearly 2 months with no evidence! Even the way things work here, it just shocks me!

  17. says

    Hi Steven – Ah, OK, I have heard some about that, but I didn't know that is who you were talking about. I don't have any first hand knowledge about the case, so I don't know for sure that the thing is all made up. Whatever happened, I hope that justice is served.

  18. says

    Hi Phil R. – I can understand your wife's feelings. Being the go-between is a delicate place to be. If both parties are friends, you risk the possibility of losing one friend or the other, or even both. It can be a tough spot to be in!

  19. says

    Hi Chris – I would tend to agree with your observations about having friends on the standby. The only difference I would inject is that in many cases, you are not dealing with a police matter, city government matter or whatever, just a difference of opinion between friends. On those, it might be harder to have a person on standby, because you would choose the go-between depending on who you were having a problem with.

  20. says

    Hi BrSpiritus – Hmm.. not certain that I understand what point you are trying to make? Is it possible that you can explain it a bit?

  21. says

    Hi Chris – Pretty much so. I think, though, that the last part of your statement might not be right on. I would think you are looking for a person who is fair and can smooth over the problem, impartial. Maybe not necessarily that they are likely to agree with you. I think it is not about being right, it is more about setting things straight to keep the relationship alive.

  22. says

    Hi Chris – Yeah, I think that the go-between is not specific to Philippine Culture, what do you think? It is certainly part of the culture here, but it is elsewhere too, I think.

  23. says

    Hi Steven – I'm glad to hear that things worked out for your friend, and it appears that justice will prevail.

    I'll probably hold off on my Barangay court story until after the New Year. This time of year, people are traveling, and web traffic for all sites is down a bit, so after the New Year people will be back to a more normal life. I feel that the story about that incident is kind of important and informative, so I'd rather hold it for a couple of weeks.

  24. says

    Hi Danny – I don't mind being the go-between, as a matter of fact, I believe that being asked to act in that capacity is an honor, a sign that the people respect you greatly.

  25. says

    Hi Paul – Sorry you had to go home so quickly! When you live here full time, I think you will find that there really won't be a puti taxi. When local vendors realize that you are living here, almost all of them will give you the local price. That's my experience, anyway.

  26. says

    Hi Chris – I'm glad to hear that your experiences are similar to mine. As you live here longer, you will get more of this kind of treatment too. Also, the more that you learn the local language, the fairer that pricing will be for you!

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