Pakikisama: What It Means to Be a Friend in the Philippines

Pakikisama: What It Means to Be a Friend in the Philippines

Social acceptance is highly valued in our society. We are branded “KJ,” or “kill joy,” if we decline being a part of a peer group activity. For example, if everyone except you wants to see a movie, but you have responsibilities at home, you have to choose whether or not to neglect your responsibility. It is a hard decision because we Filipinos really care about what others think of us. We even have a name for this dilemma; Pakikisama.


In their book, Society and Culture, Isabel S. Panopio and Realidad Santico Rolda write:

Pakikisama is the folk concept of good human relations and implies giving in or yielding to the wish of the majority even if it contradicts one’s own ideas. It is going along with others even if one is not interested in their suggestion or plan. (2000, p. 76)

Pakikisama is not always bad. Sometimes peer groups can influence us to do good things. Here is an example: the majority of our friends want to attend a livelihood seminar but a few of us want to play video games. The larger group insists, and we don’t want to be the killjoy, so we go with them to the seminar. Pakikisama, in this case, benefited us. Pakikisama can be beneficial if we have surrounded ourselves with good and moral friends.

On the other hand, many families have fallen apart because of pakikisama. I knew a father who always came home drunk, and was violent with his wife and children. This father sold their property and livestock just to buy booze for his barkada so that they would think highly of him. In this case, pakikisama was destructive.

Are you going to die if you don’t go with them?

What can we do if we find ourselves surrounded by friends who want to do something immoral? Can we stand our ground? If we cannot, poor self-image might be the reason we yield and give-in easily.

In the book, The Friendship Factor it says: “When someone is uncertain of himself, always needing approval and support of others and being unduly depressed by their criticism…his center of gravity is not in himself, but outside in other people.”(Alan Loy McGinnis, 2005, p. 153)

I remember what my father used to say when my barkada would ask me to go out with them and I still had responsibilities at home. He would ask, “Son, are you  going to die if you don’t go with them?”

When I ask myself that question, I put the activity in its right place. I think about whether it truly is worthy of my time. If it’s not, then I don’t need to go. I might disappoint my friends, but there are more pressing things I need to do. When we know that what our friends want to do is wrong, and we are bound to be labeled as the killjoy, we just have to live with that.

How far should we go to keep people as friends?

How far should we go to keep relationships that aren’t going well? American newspaper columnist Walter Winchell said, “A friend is one who walks in when others walk out.” This means we need to try to save the friendship. We need to be patient with people and not let go easily. Some of them are acting this way because something happened to them that they don’t know how to handle. However, others know what they are doing in bad and yet they still keep on doing it. With these people, we need to cut our ties.

We need to set boundaries on our friendships to protect ourselves.

  • Define what we can offer as a friend. We cannot go all-out. We have our own families and our own work that we cannot neglect. 1 Timothy 5:8 says, “But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.” We cannot go bankrupt helping a friend because we must also provide for our family. Rank every relationship.
  • Realize our first priority is Jesus and His ways. When we prioritize Jesus, all other relationships benefit. Philippians 4:8 reads, “… whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things.” When our friends divert us from such things, we need to put the friendship on hold.