The “Palalo” and “Pakikipagtalo”: Arguing and Debating Among Filipinos

Political propaganda in the Philippines is often done by means of giant “karatulas”

As husband of a Filipina one of the things I have noticed about Filipino people is that they become very emotionally charged when discussing about religious or political topics and, more in general, when they are convinced that they (or their family) is right and someone else is wrong.


One of the things that I have repeatedly mentioned in my blog is that Filipinos easily get carried away and lose their cool.

A popular Tagalog expression for this tendency is mainit ang ulo, which basically means that many Filipinos are rather hot-tempered.

I have written an article about how to deal with a Filipina who is mainit ang ulo and has buwanang dalaw (menstruation): when these two things occur simultaneously a Filipina’s husband really needs to hide (or go out to walk his dog….or have a Red Horse beer…or two).

So Filipino people are leaning toward high emotionalism and, therefore, when they discuss a topic, whether this happens in family relationships, in politics or in religion, they can become very palalo or mahilig sa pakikipagtalo (inclined toward arguing).


Filipinos have a strong sense of hiya or shame and so, when someone proves them wrong, their amor propio or self-esteem gets seriously wounded.

I once heard a very interesting expression: “the religious person wants to argue while the”spiritual” person wants to share”.

Speaking of religion and spirituality, there is an interesting passage in the New Testament that says that “the slave of the Lord does not need to fight but to be gentle toward all”, so, even from a biblical perspective, there is no point in arguing.

Now, whether you are spiritual or not, religious or not, my point is that it is not about WHO is right but, rather, it is about WHAT is right.

What’s the point of proving someone wrong? The point is simply to gloat over the fact that one is right while the other is wrong and what’s the use of that gloating? Can one pay the bills with it or eat it for breakfast?

And yet Filipinos take things very personally and often get completely carried away.


What I have noticed in my interactions with my wife or with the extended family is that a discussion may get very intense and, after a short while, fizzle out and be followed by a peaceful massage with Omega Pain Killer or Efficascent Oil (two ointments that are very popular in the Philippines and that kill all kinds of pains), which, again, tells me that, more often than not, it was not about the issue.


I think that this tendency that Filipinos have to get very intense when arguing, and more in general, their emotionalism, is the product of the fact that the Filipino society does not encourage inner work, introspection and being internally grounded.


Filipinos would rather do things that cater to the desire to be masaya, or on a high, than things that promote being maligaya or being fulfilled internally.


Also Filipinos are very social and spend very little time alone to reflect and meditate, which are the very things that fuel inner peace. Everything in the Philippines is all about pakikisama or togetherness, as I have abundantly mentioned in my blog.

So, given the very little time left for lonely contemplation and inner growth, it is not surprising that the Filipino society is the sum total of people who are, by and large, very emotional.


Not only do Filipinos argue and debate verbally but, often, pakikipagtalo leads to awayan (quarrel), patayan (killing), suntukan (punching), barilan (shooting) which, of course, is something that massively contributes to keeping the country stuck.


So, as husband of a Filipina (and neutral observer of the habits and traits of Filipinos), my conclusion is, as I have said many times, that, in order to become less mainit ang ulo, less emotionally charged and less mahilig sa pakikipagtalo, Filipinos need to veer a little more toward less pakikisama and more inner work and a little more toward being maligaya rather than always wanting to feel a shallow sense of masaya, as these things get in the way of inner peace and without inner peace there cannot be peace without.

This is my personal perspective as someone who has been in a long-term relationship with a Filipina.

I would like to conclude this article by quoting the famous psychologist Dr. Wayne Dyer who, talking about self-esteem or the thing Filipinos call amor propio, said that no one can really wound your self-esteem because self-esteem is located in the “self”, otherwise we would call it “someone else’s esteem”.

There is really no point in debating and wanting to be right, both in personal relationships and in more public ones.

In the end it is not about WHO is right but about WHAT is right and what we can humbly do to find out what it is, align with it, and peacefully share it with others.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s