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Tampuhan ("Sulking"), an 1895 painting by Juan Luna depicting a Filipina in traditional traje de mestiza dress.

Tampó, in Filipino culture, refers to a behavior in which a person withdraws his or her affection or cheerfulness from a person who has hurt his or her feelings.[1]

In English "sulking" or "to sulk" is often considered the closest translation of tampo and there is also the term the silent treatment.[2] The Malay-Indonesian equivalent is merajuk.


Tampo usually is manifested in the withdrawal of affectionate or cheerful behavior, and its expression is almost entirely nonverbal. These manifestations may include:[2]

  • 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

These are usually efforts to get the offending party to make amends, and if these behaviors do not work, one might choose to escalate them, perhaps to foot-stomping, door-slamming, or muttering.[3]

Cultural context[edit]

While these external manifestations may indeed sound like "sulking" in the western sense, the underlying cultural reason for them is what sets tampo apart. While sulking has strong negative connotations in western countries, tampo is quite acceptable among Filipinos.[4] In fact, tampo has positive connotations for the Filipino, quite aside from the obvious negative ones.

As a cultural behavior, tampo springs from the nonconfrontational nature of Philippine social interaction. Tampo offers an acceptable means of expressing hurt feelings in a society in which direct expression of anger or resentment is discouraged.[2] The withdrawal behaviors of tampo are indirect ways of expressing hostility.[1] Tampo may also be seen as a means by which Filipinos "save face",[1] as direct confrontation is usually a threat to the "smooth interpersonal relationships" (SIR) deeply valued in Philippine society.[5]

Responses to person manifesting[edit]

The basic expectation of one who engages in tampo is that the offending party will woo or cajole him or her out of the feeling of being unhappy. The Tagalog word for this is amuhin or pagsuyo.[2] This wooing and cajoling is done in a loving and tender way, a gesture called lambing.

For the offending party, the typical Philippine way of dealing with tampo is to respond to the offended party with friendly overtures or expressions of concern, after a short "cooling-off" period. Not to do this may cause relations, especially romantic ones, to deteriorate. In most instances in which tampo is engaged in, healing the inner, emotional relationship between two people is usually more critical than resolving the issue itself.[1][3]

Per the Asawa Guide to Fil-West Relationships written by Bob Lingerfelt, tampo "is a mild behavioral reprimand that verges on role-playing. Tampo is mild and controlled and is the direct result of some perceived offense of a minor nature. It is short in duration.... 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.... Similarly, don't accuse a Filipina of tampo – that will embarrass her, and would be a breach of etiquette on your part. Her job is to execute the tampo as best she can, and your job is to play along and make her feel better.... The old standby's are still effective: a romantic card, chocolate, jewelry, a proper rogering..."[6]

Related cultural traits[edit]

Like other Asians, 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, so one who issues a dinner invitation may wish to confirm it several times to ensure that the invited Filipino did not respond affirmatively simply because he could not find a proper way to say "no"). Tied to saving face are amor propio, or "self respect", and hiya, or "shame". A Filipino would be considered lacking in amor propio if, for example, he accepted criticism weakly or did not offer honored guests proper hospitality. Hiya is felt by those whose actions are considered socially unacceptable (one of the strongest insults in Philippine society is to be labeled walang-hiya, or "shameless"). Each person is expected to have hiya and to win the respect of others by conforming to common behavioral norms. Those who change allegiances for personal convenience are seen as double-faced, or balimbing (after the many-sided fruit).[1]

Usage of the term[edit]

  • Nagtampo: past tense form of the word
  • Nagtatampo: present participle form of the word
  • Magtatampo: future tense of the word, generally employed as an affectionate threat
  • Tampuhan: a lovers' quarrel, often manifested in total silent treatment or not speaking to each other[2]
  • Tampururót: a humorous variant, it is a portmanteau of tampo and pururót, or diarrhoea. As a verb, it refers to uncalled-for, excessive tampo; as a noun it refers to a person who uses tampo easily and frequently (i.e. like bowel movements caused by diarrohea).

Additional effect on Non-Filipino partner[edit]

The effect of the traditional Filipino tampo on non-Filipino partners breaks the normal Tampo/Lambing cycle. Traditionally, a Filipina (female) will initiate the 'tampo', with the Filipino (male) responding with 'lambing'. However, non-filipino partners of filipinas have been raised with their own culture's traditions, which do not include the Tampo/Lambing cycle. This is irrespective of whether the couple live in the Philippines, or not.

In many countries, it is considered normal that 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. Culturally, the filipina will try to resolve a problem with non-communication methods ('tampo'), while the non-filipino will try to resolve the problem with communication. Hence, we have a conflict within the conflict resolution process itself.

This additional conflict layer will result in the original problem (which may have been small, or even non-existent, and just perceived), getting worse. The filipina will perceive the attempted problem resolution communication by her partner as worsening her tampo (as no lambing is taking place). The non-filipino will perceive the non-communication by the filipina as also worsening the problem, as the tampo (silent treatment) may be perceived as emotional abuse (isolation) by the partner.


  1. ^ a b c d e Love, Courtship In Filipino Culture
  2. ^ a b Compare Prices and Read Reviews on Culture Shock!: Philippines at Epinions.com
  3. ^ http://www.sito.org/cgi-bin/egads/showart?show=jaf.0016&idonly=JAF
  4. ^ Philippines - Social Values And Organization
  5. ^ Lingerfelt, Bob (2004). The Asawa Guide to Fil-West Relationships (12th ed.).

External links[edit]