My wife is Filipina and she comes from a culture that is all about togetherness or pakikisama in Tagalog.
Im a strong introvert and I have always felt ill at ease in large and noisy social gatherings.
I love carving out for myself quality pockets of solitude to read, journal and meditate and when I do associate with others I definitely prefer being with few selected individuals to being in a large get together.
The bright side of large social gatherings
Yet, since I am married to a woman who comes from an environment where togetherness is one of the most cherished values, I cannot afford to march to the beat of a different drummer and I have to figure out ways to balance my desire to either be alone or with an intimate circle of few selected individuals, where I enjoy quality conversation and more meaningful interactions, with the need to build rapport with Filipinos.
Filipino social gatherings are pretty large and the advantage is that no one is left out, as being left out creates tampo (offense or stumbling). So in order to minimize tampo Filipinos generally organize those large social gatherings where as many people as possible are invited.
This is without a doubt something that I have learned from Filipinos because I used to be way too selective in my choice of whom to associate with.
Social gatherings that are too large keep communication at a shallow level
On the other hand, although large social gatherings create a very happy and cheerful atmosphere, they are rather noisy, and being able to drown out some of that noise and engage in quality conversation with someone in particular can be difficult so conversations tend to be rather shallow.
Another aspect that characterizes those large gatherings is the K.K.B. philosopy or kanya-kanyang baon, meaning that each participant is supposed to bring some baon or, basically, bring some food that becomes part of a giant buffet.
The great advantage of the K.K.B. approach is that it saves a lot of money and it doesn’t put a heavy financial burden on the shoulders of the host family.
Social gatherings that are all about food take away time and energy from quality togetherness
The problem is that Filipinos just cannot fathom the idea of preparing baon that is not elaborate and that doesn’t take hours to prepare and so food is the main focus of those gatherings and this, of course, gives meaningful social interactions a back seat, as everyone is busy with the preparation of elaborate dishes.
This reminds me of an incident that is recorded in the gospels where Jesus of Nazareth said to a woman who was way too busy preparing tons of food that she’d better take a more minimalistic approach to food and focus on having deep conversation with her guest and on receiving some uplifting.
The advantages of smaller social gatherings
I believe that by organizing smaller social gatherings where food is not the main focus there is still a way to both minimize the expenses and avoid causing tampo while creating a better environment to enjoy quality togetherness.
On my part I am trying to share with my Filipino friends the idea that if, instead of always having huge gatherings and spending entire days preparing lumpya, pansit, adobo etc, Filipinos tried inviting one family at a time on a rotational basis, to have deep conversation over a simple meal, no one would be excluded, there would be no tampo (because by inviting people on a rotational basis in the end everyone gets invited), there would be no need to spend a lot of time and money and that would free up precious time and resources to take the spirit of pakikisama to the next level.