Tampo. Magtampo in full. If you are in an Australian Filipina relationship, you soon learn the meaning of tampo. This is the great sulk. Being in a huff. It’s a source of confusion and misery to many an unprepared Australian man.
What is a tampo?
I detest the Filipina tampo. I really do. Fortunately after many years of being a great husband and teaching-by-example my Filipina wife the benefit of free and open communication it rarely rears its ugly head these days, although I did just have to deal with a bad outburst from one of our extended family over the last few days so it’s not ancient history to me. I also live in the Philippines fulltime, so it’s never that far away.
So what exactly is a tampo, to the uninitiated?
It’s a way of NOT dealing with a problem, and of ensuring whatever the problem is? That it will never go away! It’s the human-interaction version of sweeping dirt under the carpet. The dirt remains, and the lump in the carpet gets larger and people trip over it.
It’s not the Filipino way to deal with problems and issues directly. It’s not usual for someone to react to something they don’t like, and less likely they will speak up and say “Hey, I don’t like that! Please stop doing it! It makes me feel bad, so please stop!” This is in fact the negative side to those perpetual Filipina smiles. Yes, definitely, Filipinos are generally happy and easy-going and pretty tolerant of imperfections and faults in others. However they are also human beings, and no one is that happy all the time. Please read my previous article on “onion skin” (being thin-skinned), which is a Filipino characteristic.
And fellahs? Be aware of that certain special time of the month where skins are extra-thin and tempers may be on-edge because of hormones. Often a time to be especially careful not to push boundaries and to watch your tongue.
So what happens is the pressure of un-fixed problems builds up, and it leads to an explosion. However it’s not a practical explosion. If it was an explosion of “Hey! You keep making fun of me in front of the neighbours, and it hurts my feelings. I want you to stop!” then it might even help! It might make that person see what they’re doing, and maybe things will get better. But that’s not how a tampo works. It’s never so practical and helpful.
Tampo is characterized by appallingly bad communication. The Filipina having the tampo does some or all of these things:
- Won’t talk
- Definitely won’t tell you what the problem is, as you should already know. May utter a few unhelpful phrases.
- Resists all attempts to fix the problem
- Will appear perfectly normal to others if answering the phone or greeting someone at the door, but will soon return to tampo when dealing with you
- May run off somewhere, possibly for several days
- Bang cupboard doors and slam things around
- May do a great deal of cleaning, or may retreat to bedroom, sometimes for days
This will remain until she gets over it. May apologise, or may not. Definitely will not discuss it, and attempts to say “Let’s talk about it” may trigger a recurrence.
How to deal with a tampo
How do you deal with a tampo when it happens?
To be honest? Not a whole lot you can do when she’s in mid-tampo. At this point all logic is switched off, and if you push too hard you will probably make it worse.
She may storm off in the middle of the night and put herself in danger. Dragging suitcases down the road and attempting to walk to the airport to fly back to the Philippines at 2:00am in the middle of winter? These things have happened! You may also end up both saying things that become hard to take back later. Think carefully before you attempt a proactive intervention at this point!
Most of the time, you will need to weather the storm and try not to make it worse! Not saying to ignore it. Just saying to delay until a more effective time.
Should you do malambing?
Malambing…..or lambing…..basically means “sucking up”. Being extraordinarily sweet and attentive. This is the usual advice given, and many a Filipina expects this.
My belief? NEVER do this! NEVER “suck up”, and NEVER apologise for something you don’t even understand. This is just reinforcing and in fact rewarding some very negative and destructive behavior. Tampo is not the behavior of an adult who is committed to her marriage. It’s spoilt-child behavior, and shouldn’t be tolerated let alone rewarded. And unless you did something where you really should have known better about, (ie. unless you cheated on her or acted like a complete pig) then you deserved for this to have been handled in a mature way…..not this way!
So yes, thinking about it, if she’s having tampo because you did something bad, then sure. Do all the malambing you can. And more importantly, apologise sincerely and try not to do it again. But not because you failed your mind-reading class at school!
But otherwise, what should you actually do?
- You should talk about this when she’s calmed down and a few days have passed.
- You should let her know that you are sorry she felt that way, but confirm that you had no idea that anything that you or anybody did was causing her hurt. And that had she simply explained it to you when it happened the first or the second time, you would have stopped it or done what was in your power to stop it.
- And help her to understand that while that may have been her way before, that this is no way for a committed married couple to behave. Either the tampos stop, or the marriage is basically doomed. They are cruel, hurtful and very destructive.
- You should encourage her to tell you what she thinks and feels about things on a daily basis. If she say “No, really I’m fine” then you should push a bit harder. Let her know that you want to know because you care about her. Let her see that telling you is actually easy, and that it leads to positive outcomes, ie. that nice feeling that comes from realizing someone actually gets you, plus seeing some problems and concerns actually get fixed.
- Make sure you do the same thing. Tell her your feelings too. The good AND the bad.
Make the time to talk at the end of the day, and develop some positive habits. And hopefully problems will get nipped in the bud rather than building up and being a source of misery. And work hard to make this a thing of the past, or you may well see the love slip away.