The Problem With Modern Day Filipino ‘Pakikisama’


“Wala kang pakikisama, pre. Kelangan mo tutunan yan.” (You lack a sense of camaraderie and you need to learn it.)

These were the words of one of my senior co-workers when I once again declined my team’s invitation to spend a night out with them drinking. It was the same thing again. A sense of guilt and alarm engulfed my system knowing that this was my first job and I needed to make a good impression if I was ever to advance further into this well-known company.

He would ask me again with a look of disapproval. “Are you sure you don’t want to go out with your co-workers? You never seem to go with us during our nights out?”

“No. thanks. I have plans for tonight.”I replied trying my utmost best to keep my composure while inside my head I was arguing with myself whether that was the right move I made.

“Suit yourself.” He would reply with a look of criticism I’ve grown used to.

A little background on my situation, I was a year without alcohol during this time. I’ve quit alcohol for personal reasons. My job during that time was quite demanding wherein working overtime was very much the culture of the company. It’s culture also highly encouraged drinking especially after office hours.

Now, I seldom join up with my teammates during their nights out after work not because my co-workers were horrible people but because I simply didn’t really like spending my already limited personal time doing something I didn’t really enjoy. These type of conversations I had with my senior co-worker felt like a “pick your poison” type of choice. It was either I gave up my principles for a chance to get better opportunities at the company or keep my principles and burn down possible chances for a promotion in the future.

I chose the latter and up to this day I’m very thankful for the decision I made. During my college days, I’ve grown to be selective of the people I spend time with. It may sound a tad bit arrogant but that doesn’t mean that I will place people in a pedestal below me. The mindset simply was that I would respect you for who you are and I would also expect respect to be given back. However, in my situation, I didn’t feel that sense of respect reciprocated. Instead, what I got was “You’re such a killjoy,” or  “Why are you so anti-social?” and the absolute worst:

“What kind of man doesn’t drink?”

I think the purpose of camaraderie or pakikisama in Filipino is to provide a more united mindset among individuals. I believe the main goal of the concept of it is to unite individuals towards a common goal regardless of their differences. However in modern days, I believe the meaning of the notion has run adrift from its original agenda. Pakikisama has now developed into an unholy alliance of crab and sheep mentality (Off topic: We can call it Creep Mentality because wow, that was a convenient blend word.).

Basing from my experience, instead of finding common ground, it airs a sense of conformity wherein you are forced to convert your preferences and beliefs into what the group believes is acceptable. It threatens that if you think differently from the group then you can be considered an outcast. It promotes the mindset of “If I can’t be myself, neither can you.” It’s basically high school.

If you’re not into what’s trending then you’re not one of the cool kids and if you’re not one of the cool kids then that must mean you’re a loser and we don’t want anything to do with you.  It’s quite distressing how a notion that’s supposed to inspire a sense of respecting individual opinion despite different opinions has evolved into just doing something for the sake of simply looking like you belong.

Anyone who has forfeited their individual thinking for the sake of a delusional mentality of group harmony would naturally feel a sense of intimidation and possibly bitterness for individuals who choose to walk their own path. How could they not?

These loners are breaking barriers and forging their own path. They are introducing necessary chaos in their own lives in order to grow and adapt to the reality that is the disarray of the world. Maybe, it’s because they themselves see the inevitable that their pakikisama leads them nowhere.

Maybe, they unconsciously know that the only end result of this mindset is that they remain on their comfort zone indefinitely, never attaining knowledge apart from that pondered by what’s socially acceptable.

And how does this affect the so called lone wolves? While people really shouldn’t be guilt tripped for choosing to use their free time for themselves, it’s quite unavoidable to feel a strong sense of guilt especially in a culture that constantly promotes group mentality instead of individual independence. It’s an added difficulty in your path in finding yourself when you are constantly being judged for being different from the crowd.

Yes, you can argue that you always have the option to decline the offer but the consequences of that would be a feeling of depression, remoteness and isolation. What’s even more alarming is that a lot of people who are called by their lack of pakikisama tend to turn a blind eye to their own individual convictions and rather than stand up for themselves. In the old tale, the wolf was always considered devious and manipulative while the sheep were considered as timid and incapable. It’s kind of ironic today that the roles are reversed.