Last week, I introduced the new series about Philippine Culture called “SIR” which means “Smooth Interpersonal Relations.” After that, we talked about the first tenet of SIR, which is called “In Group” or Kita. Today, it’s time we move on to the second major tenet of SIR, “Pakig-Uban.” Pakig-Uban is derived from the root word, “uban” which means to accompany or go along with.
So, how is this related to SIR? Pakig-Uban generally means “good public relations,” and in relation to SIR it means going along with the group, and adjusting to the group norms.
As I said in the previous article about In Group, pointed out that Filipinos really have a need to be part a larger group, and do not like being alone. To remain part of the group, it is important for each group member to conform to the group, and to take on the group values. If the person bucks the group norm, the person will not remain in the group for long. But, by conforming to the values of the group, the person gets “backing” from the other group members, they will be behind this person through thick and thin.
How about some examples of this, by looking at the foreigner’s viewpoint of a subject, and then how the Filipino will view it:
- American/Foreinger View: The individual manipulates his environment. Man studies the laws of nature and takes advantage of them.
Filipino View: The individual has to placate the powers that be. There is no individual control of what happens in life.
Wow, how interesting. As an American, I could never bring myself to think along the lines of the way that Filipinos view this. It simply is so far outside my way of thinking that it is incomprehensible. See what I am saying about the group – the individual Filipino fees that he must conform to the group because it is only the group that would have enough power to have any control of any situation. Even the group, though, would not have control over something as large as life itself.
- American/Foreigner way: Open to change, flux and movement.
Filipino way: Follows the traditional way.
For the Filipino to even breach the topic of changing the way something is or should be done, it breaks with the group thought. Filipinos, as a large group, have done things a certain way for generations, and to think of a new way would be to say that the old way of doing it is wrong, so it is not natural for a Filipino to bring new ideas to the table.
- American/Foreigner way: “My fair share”. The American or Foreigner wants to make sure that he (and his family, of course) always get their fair share. If something is to be divided, it is important that he gets (at least) what is due to him.
Filipino way: “Everyone’s fair share”. Instead of looking out for himself, the Filipino is interested to see that everybody involved gets his fair amount. It would not be fair to the entire group, after all, if one person in the group got more than he should, because that would mean that others in the group did not get what they should have gotten.
- American/Foreigner way: Work hard to keep up with the Jones family.
Filipino way: If the “Dela Cruz” family has a stroke of luck or fortune, they should share it with the rest of the group.
This a major difference between our cultures. It is also something that causes a lot of heartache among us foreigners. When you have more than the others, you are expected to share the wealth. Filipinos who get a raise at work or get promoted to a better job will often throw a big party for their group of friends, and will spend a huge amount of money. To do less would be to abandon the group.
These are just a few examples of how Filipinos must defer to the group, and always uphold the values of the group. Most of us westerners would have long since told the group where to go if the group expected conformity from us. That is not the Filipino way, though.
It’s just one more part of SIR. Don’t take me wrong about SIR, I am not saying that we should all live our lives by SIR, I could not do it. I can, though, accept parts of SIR into my life, while not conforming with others. Even if we don’t conform, it is still useful and helpful to understand it so that we can make an easier life for ourselves in the Philippines.