The “Isang Kahig isang Tuka” Mentality

Filipinos use the expression isang kahig, isang tuka that literally means “one scratch, one peck”.

Because mahirap ang buhay or “life is tough” Filipinos go through life “scratching and pecking” to earn a living.

In the Philippines wages are low and circumstances are really tough and natural calamities make things even more difficult so, often, there is no alternative to scratching and pecking.

However, being married to a Filipina who has been living overseas for over 20 years and being constantly in touch with Filipinos who live in my country or in other European countries, has given me some insight into why even Filipinos who could have got past the “scratch and peck” way of life still find themselves scratching and pecking, barely making it through the day and endlessly living from paycheck to paycheck.

Don’t get me wrong, living from paycheck to paycheck is not wrong in and of itself. There are people who choose to live a simple and minimalistic life to be able to focus on other things such as religious and voluntary work for example.

So a simple life is not bad in and of itself. I am an advocate of a minimalistic lifestyle which, in my experience, leads to greater happiness. But a financially minimalistic life is no excuse for lack of planning ahead, getting into debt to buy the latest electronic gadgets or supporting tons of relatives who have many wants rather than real needs. And I think this is the real problem of expatriate Filipinos who often live a life of unnecessary striving. Some even share an apartment with another family to be able to buy a mansion in the Philippines that they only inhabit once in perhaps 5 years.

A poor personal organization and having one’s priorities messed up create a life of scratching and pecking and get in the way of a truly simple life.

Filipinos find themselves constantly out of money and working hard to make up for their lack of money which, while in the Philippines is the result of difficult circumstances, in the West is often the result of poor choices.

It breaks my heart to see expatriate Filipinos living in a constant state of financial emergency and having to scratch and peck and resort to diskarte to cope with the hirap (difficulties) they often are the ones to create.

Life is tough but sometimes Filipinos make it unnecessarily tough.

Much of the hirap could be avoided by making better decisions upstream.

12 thoughts on “The “Isang Kahig isang Tuka” Mentality

  1. Thank you for sharing your thoughts. I shared them with my parents over dinner. They were surprised they had never thought of this mindset , and they said this isang kahig, isang tuka mentality could be one of the underlying root causes why Philippine society is like this. I think we can also connect this to Filipinos’ “Bahala Na ” way of thinking. It simply means, ” come what may.” Another is over-population. The irony is, the poor just keep on having children… 5 minimum. A long time ago, having more children was an advantage. They got more help to work in their farms ( assuming they owned the land.) The problem is, majority were mere farmhands, and their work was seasonal. So, off-seasons were the most difficult time for them. This is such a vicious cycle I don’t even know where to start.

    Anyway, thank you for your insight.


    1. Salamat sa iyong komento. Ang napansin ko ay na kahit sa ibang bansa hindi nagbabago ang Pinoy mentality at ang kanilang buhay ay nagiging “isang kahig isang tuka” kahit sa mas mayamang bansa.
      May mga Pilipino dito sa Italya na gustong magkaroon ng mga anak kahit wala pa silang resident permit o disyenteng trabaho at pagkatapos nahihirapan sila sa pinansyal
      Anyway salamat muli sa iyong bisita sa post ko


  2. You have deep insight into the Filipino psyche, thanks to your teacher (kudos, Filipina wife)!

    My husband and I were randomly looking through some job offers given to Filipinos and it broke our heart to see that many of our kababayans need to sell themselves short. They would agree to receive very low wages from foreign employers who are looking to hire VAs. While it is true that Filipinos have practices that aggravate their state of poverty, there are opportunists also who take advantage of this for selfish gains. This is injustice! — I hope our VAs receive a living wage commensurate with the work they do. But then again, I ask — Filipinos take these jobs because of the isang kahig, isang tuka mentality — parang kapit sa patalim para matustusan ang mga hilig.

    Filipinos work hard (some, because some don’t like to work, they like to wait for the bayabas to fall) however, I would rather that we work smart, and live smart, too. Filipinos love God but many of us don’t read His word. Because of your post, I went here. Binging on showbiz and worthless trash on TV should stop. Filipinos need financial literacy, the lack of which is symptomatic of spiritual poverty.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. I agree. My best wishes go out to the VAs who must work for foreign employers who pay low because of dire need. Life is tough in the Philippines, but as you said, it shouldn’t be unnecessarily tough. It’s a blessing that many FIlipinos are taking advantage of the quarantine to educate themselves, learn new skills, and even do business and employ creative solutions para hindi sila magutom. I love my fellow Filipinos — kaya natin ito! Babangon tayo, pero dapat talaga, baguhin ang mentalidad na kolonyal at luma, at harapin ang bagong umaga nang may pananampalataya at kasipagan at katalinuhan. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

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