Filipinos are Emotional?

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For news on Mariannet Amper : visit my entries at Suicide, Media and Mariannet Amper and Childhood and Adolescent Suicide Deaths in the Philippines

One of my proudest primetime adventure is speaking in a dialect that I am not fluent in TV or radio interviews. Though raised a Cebuana, my first language has always been English. My parents often spoke in Tagalog between themselves. I learned to understand basic tagalog but never spoke it at home. Same with Cebuano. I have been skirting from a certain radio station mainly because I just cannot speak tagalog properly. How will I ever explain grief as pagdadalamhati without getting my tongue all twisted up in knots? How does one translate the word denial in Tagalog? Or Depression?

Do you want to talk to my husband?, I bargained. He speaks fluent Tagalog.

The executive producer pursued “It’s alright to speak in English”. Yeah right, English is fine. The listeners will understand but what will they think of me? But I remembered that I am in an advocacy and I needed to hurdle my speech limitations at all cost. I asked for the guide questions and with the help of my husband, I praticed the tagalog definitions of most grief terminologies including pronouncing the tongue twisting pag-da-da-lam-ha-ti. The good news was I can do the interview via phone patch which meant that I can have a cheat list in front of me. Goodee. I clapped my hands.

Armed with a “Do NOT disturb” signage, I was up and about for the one-hour interview. Imagine if my husband yelling something at me at the background would be captured live for all the Philippines to hear.

emotionsNow one of the questions struck me. Are Filipinos emotional? Do you think that all the Filipino movies, telenovelas influence Filipinos to be emotional?

My thoughts immediately turned to my husband. During one of our spats as a newly married couple, I could see a “Christopher de Leon” emoting in my husband. Even the hand movement to emphasize a point, flipping back the head, and banging the door reeked of sappy Filipino movies. I was horrified.

Of course, I did not want to embarass my husband in live radio broadcast. Instead, I replied back to the host:

It’s okay to have and feel our feelings—all of them. It is okay to acknowledge and accept our emotions. BUT…we don’t need to allow our emotions to control us. Neither do we need to rigidly repress our feelings. It’s important to take care of ourselves emotionally.

I then gave a few examples.

Now, I don’t watch Tagalog movies or Korean Telenovelas so I have no idea how these actors emote a certain feeling. I wish these actors show their emotions then relate how they took hold of their emotions in a positive way.

For example, jealousy. How do actors portray jealousy. It’s normal to feel jealousy. Acknowledge that feeling, right? But what if the actors show the jealous wife throwing some acid on the mistress’ face? That’s very counterproductive. Healthy emotions allow us to move on to something positive. Instead of being incensed with the mistress, take care of yourself. Have a new hair style, new dress, new look, and new attitude.

What about anger? Feeling angry and sometimes the act of blaming is a natural part of accepting loss and change. How does the Filipino movie handle this emotion? Perhaps, a fist fight, a hair-pulling fight? Talking of self-responsibility and personal accountability not blame is a boring dialogue. Though surrender and self-responsibility are the only concepts that can move us forward, we may need to allow ourselves to feel angry and to occasionally indulge in some blaming.

Being emotional, whether one is a Filipino or not is not necessarily a negative trait. I’m open to the lessons my emotions maybe trying to teach me.

After I feel, accept and release the feeling, I ask myself what it is I want or need to do to take care of myself. Taking care of myself emotionally means I value, treasure, explore the emotional part of myself.

The radio interview opened my eyes to the reality that a majority of filipinos do seek self-help and outside support. My talk on grief opened the floodgates of emotions related to loss which were not death-related. Now, I need to brush up more on my Tagalog to share recovery principles because I ended up not using that tongue twisting pag-da-da-lam-ha-ti.

Noemi Lardizabal-Dado (1388 Posts)

You may contact Noemi (noemidado @ for speaking and consultancy services in the following areas: Parenting in the Digital Age (includes pro-active parenting on cyber-bullying and bullying) ; Social Business ; Reinventing One’s Life; and social media engagement. Our parenting workshop is called "Prep to Prime (P2P): Parenting in the Digital Age (An Un­Workshop)" P2P Un­Workshops are conducted by two golden women in their prime, Noemi and Jane, who have a century’s worth of experience between them. They are both accomplished professionals who chose to become homemakers. This 180­degree turn also put them on a different life course which includes blogging, social media engagement and citizen advocacy. They call their un­workshops Prep to Prime or P2P, for short, to emphasize the breadth of their parenting experience. They tackle different aspects and issues of parenting ­­ from managing pregnancies, prepping for the school years of children, dealing with househelp, managing the household budget, to maximizing one’s prime life and staying healthy through the senior years.

  • For some reason, Asians really are more emotional in terms of the outward expression of grief. The West seem to be keen on keeping a dignified front when in public and despite a few tears here and there, what they do will be nothing next to what ever Asians do.

    We wail like crazy during funerals and burials. It’s an all out noise fest that sets off a gloomy mood that engulfs everyone in attendance. I don’t know if there are social pressures that somehow “encourages” this type of behavior.

  • Yes, for me, Filipinos are emotional people. We are more open about our feelings more than any other race. And I would like to think that this ‘quality’ helps most Filipinos face a lot of obstacles in life.

    • camille martinez

      who loves reading? im looking for readers and followers at my blog…. exclusively for those who can understand tagalog language… this is my website: .thanks readers..

  • @Benj- I’ve had 5 deaths in my family but not one of them turend hysterical or noisy. We just teared or sobbed. However, a few relatives would wail and faint right in front of the coffin. I sometimes wonder if social pressures made them do so. Think “Crying Lady” movie.

    @xixi- we are passionate people and are honest with our feelings though sometimes it isn’t verbalized openly.

  • cheers! a pat on your back for not being held back by your limitations for the things that matter the most. kahanga-hanga (can you say kahanga-hanga without getting your tongue all twisted? that’s easier than dalamhati 😀 hehehe!)

  • I am not emotional. WHen hubby and I fight we dont speak to each other(cold treatment) .The first one who speaks surrenders to the fight.

    Its funny but when my mother died(because we were at peace with her death since she was bedridden for 5 yrs), at the interment nobody was crying so my father suddenly burst out in a loud cry and wailing. After the funeral we asked him why he was over acting and suddenly cried loudly. He told us ” kasi walang umiiyak sa inyo” Then we all laughed.

    See u in SIngapore ha!

  • Noemi, I also believe Pinoys are emotional. Sometimes, when I nag/fight with my hubby, he would comment nakuha mo na naman yan sa tele-novela…Btw, when I was so bored in my recent Cagayan trip, I saw your tv guesting with one show together with the nun, I excitedly tell my friends, I know her….(parang feeling fan ako), he he.

  • I agree that Filipinos are truly an emotional race. We can feel the whole gamut of emotions when needed or even when not needed. Case in point : when my father died my Polish brother-in-law noticed how heavily we were crying. More like wailing. In then after an hour we were guffawing like we weren’t in grief. And then in the next hour we were wailing again like crazy. He said that in Poland they tended to grieve in private and silently. Not like us.

  • @ladycess- I need to focus really well to pronounce tongue twisting repetitive syllabic tagalog words.

    @Betty- l am like you hehe. Butch is kind of emotional. See you in Singapore too.

    @Rowena- hehe funny. Actually there was a time I stopped in my tracks to tell my husband, “Oh my god, you got that line from that movie”

    @Kongkong- In the end, it’s always good to release emotions. It’s a like a pressure valve that needs release. IS it any wonder that the Compassionate Friends has so many chapters in the Western world? In the philippines, there is only one chapter which I started. We’re the only ones in Southeast asia.

  • it’s hard to say, because all the filipinos i know aren’t that emotional… it also has to do where you grew up and your surroundings…


  • I remembered reading something about guide to conducting business in the Philippines. It’s about Filipinos being too sensitive. Alot of people I know take criticisms at work too personally. So dealing with a non-Filipino and Filipino is not the same when it comes to personnel management. I have observed this my self.

    Filipinos tend to have that thing on “tampo.”

    I find it refreshing here in the US that you can be frank with each other and not have to course your message via somebody else. I have been exposed to non-Filipinos when I was growing up and I appreciate the fact that if they have a problem with me, they will tell it to me and not to my neighbor so that I can correct the problem.