Amor propio: Improper for Filipinos?

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Thursday, 29 October 2015 - Last Updated on February 6, 2017


Amor propio is about self-worth and self-respect which stem from loving one’s self. When other people do and say things deemed offensive, the amor propio is hurt. Relationship problems may then arise.

Meanwhile, the offender is made to feel shame from what he said or did and is expected to apologize or retract. If he does not, he becomes a “persona non grata.” Favors previously granted will be withheld. It often takes a long time for the incident to be forgotten.

Remember how some foreigners who visited the Philippines wrote about Manila’s “gates of hell?” Remember how the Pinoys bristled, went up in arms and declared these tourists unwelcome, even if deep in their hearts, they complain of the same things.

Amor propio has been so deeply ingrained in the Philippine culture that even members of the younger generation brought up in the modern ways of parenting have adopted this tendency.

Filipinos are not a confrontational people. They are sensitive to their feelings and those of other people. They believe that in the other person’s place, they would not want to bear the shame of being chided or ridiculed. However, social media sites have made it possible for people to hide behind virtual personas. Thus, the rise of offensive and out-of-context trial by social media outrage, with videos and screen caps being shared virally.

Most Filipinos seem passive when it comes to facing issues and, more often than not, will rely on third parties to help settle disputes. This is one of the main jobs of barangay officials: to mediate between parties looking for an equal and peaceful resolution to issues to interpersonal conflicts.

It is probably amor propio that makes us want to be polite and tactful when dealing with other people especially in public places because we put premium on face value. By being polite, we implicitly say we expect the same courteous treatment, too.

Amor propio and the feeling of “hiya” or shame affect Filipinos in different ways.

Amor Propio makes way for pride. Pinoys would rather suffer in silence than admit they need help. Someone who lacks money to enrol her child on time for school would rather get a loan from a friend than from a family member because of amor propio. It is amor propio that prevents Pinoys from telling a friend about the snot on his shirt or the mote on his eye. Pinoys do not want to be the one to initiate opening up something perceived as bringing shame.

Amor Propio prevents people from apologizing for their mistakes. They would rather play “deadma” – that is, feign ignorance — than admit they fell short of good behavior.Worse, they may even play the “snob.” Even when caught red-handed in something illegal or improper, Pinoys would often deny responsibility “to the death.” Thus, the tendency to make “palusot.”

Pinoys who work overseas will try to send everyone back home a little something during special occasions because of amor propio. He does not want to be called thoughtless or, worse, “kuripot.” These same OFWs are averse to directly confront family members about how they spent the money they sent. For who would want their relatives put under a shadow of doubt?

Pinoys who have lent money to friends are often reluctant to collect the debt even if they need the money for themselves because doing so may offend or shame the debtor.

When amor propio has been violated, Pinoys tend to sulk or make “tampo.” The offended party avoids seeing or stops talking to the person who trampled upon his/her amor propio.

In some parts of the country, a wounded amor propio is reason enough for violence. What often comes next is retaliation, triggering an unending cycle of violence, until a third party steps in.

It is also perhaps amor propio that accounts for Filipinos’ love of cosmetics, especially skin-whitening products. There are those who wear dental braces that were not even prescribed by dentists just so they look unique, even if it means their dental health is being sacrificed in the name of vanity. And is it amor propio, too, that led to Pinoys to the top of the selfie-taking world?

Amor propio is one of our ways to save face. We would rather avoid confrontation by submitting to what the elders tell us to do even if we do not completely agree.

Amor propio can also be interpreted as personal pride, which prevents us from giving out and accepting constructive criticism. However positive our reason for pointing out someone’s fault, this could be misunderstood and lead to relationship kinks. Because we want to avoid this, we keep our mouths shut.

Seen at its most positive, amor propio can lubricate relationships and make the home or work venue a pleasant place for everyone in it. As with anything good, beware it is not carried too far, lest it become an instrument for needless self-immolation.

Julie Fuertes-Custodio (33 Posts)

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