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AITOpinion, Mae Valdez

Kapwa: How We Start Change

Mae Angelique Valdez | Opinion

Last Wednesday, I met with my friend at the AIT lobby to get her readings for a subject that she took last semester and which I’m currently taking up. Before she headed to her class, she handed me a brown envelope with the readings that I asked for and some readings for another subject that I have and which she had also finished last semester. It also included a token from her Hong Kong trip, and I was touched. What thoughtfulness! I know that giving pasalubong is a common tradition to us Filipinos but I was moved by how she minded to give not only the readings that I asked for but also included some extras which I could actually use. This is one great example of pakikipag-kapwa, a cultural orientation very evident in Filipinos.

I know the term kapwa. My mother used to explain to me that I should be good towards my kapwa when I was in grade school. I often hear it in church too, during the sermon. But is the common perception about the term enough for us to appreciate its essence? It was only in Prof. De Leon’s Tourism and Philippine Culture class (Tour 113) where I got to understand and appreciate the true meaning of the term kapwa and its importance in terms of our being Filipinos.

"Hapunan" by National Artist Carlos "Botong" Francisco. Photo courtesy of

Kapwa is “shared identity”; a core value of Filipino personhood, according to the Father of Filipino Psychology Virgilio Enriquez. Having this cultural orientation, Filipinos tend to view other people not different from themselves. It signifies oneness with others and the environment at large. This explains why we are so inclined to reach out to people, even to foreigners.

We are familiar with how Filipino hospitality is famous around the world. We give our visitors the best of what we have, even to the extent of bearing with inconvenience (just how many times did we sleep on a banig so that our visitors could sleep soundly in bed?). But we’re happy to be of service to our guests and we ourselves enjoy VIP treatment when we visit other places because our hosts treat us like a member of their own family.

I am very proud of this kapwa orientation we Filipinos have, but there are times when I wish it would become more evident. Times when I wish some person would offer a seat to an old lady in a packed MRT ride; people won’t make “singit” in lines; tricycle drivers won’t charge double and taxi drivers won’t use “batingting” to cheat on fares. If we could only be more conscious with this kapwa orientation, there would probably be no more corruption and greed in our social system because we would be living for one another, not for material things that are replaced every month. We would be more concerned on how to fill in one another, than our own wallets and bellies. What a fit and healthy society we would have then.


About aitsalimbay

The official newsletter of the UP Asian Institute of Tourism.


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