If you’re planning to enter into a relationship with a Filipina, it’s important to gain an understanding of what “tampo” is. Let’s do this in a clinical fashion...
Definition: While the analogy isn’t perfect, you can think of tampo as “pouting” or “sulking”.
Cause: Typically, a Filipina will exhibit tampo when she feels she has been neglected or ignored, but she may also invoke it when she is jealous, or basically anytime her feelings are hurt.
Symptoms: The Filipina will seem withdrawn or sullen. She may be unusually silent, or she may express he dissatisfaction by “whining” in a melodramatic, almost child-like fashion. She may refuse to eat (only in the most severe cases!).
Duration and Severity of Condition: Tampo is a strictly short-term condition and should not be considered life threatening. Tampo is the result of mild dissatisfaction, not of actual anger. The behavior is a cultural norm in the Philippines and a westerner should not be overly concerned the first time he encounters it. Tampo is a very useful tool, because it allows a Filipina to show her displeasure about something you have done. Remember, confrontation is generally unacceptable in Filipino society, so disagreement or displeasure must be expressed indirectly.
Here is an example of tampo: You’re with your fiancée walking hand-in-hand down a crowded street. You notice a beautiful young woman walking toward you wearing a tank top that’s cut way too low, and you can’t tear your eyes away from her. Your fiancée notices this behavior.
A non-Filipina might react by saying, “Put your eyes back in your head! I can’t believe you were staring at that girl right in front of me! What has she got that I haven’t got!?” At which point she may stalk off, cry, or punch you.
A Filipina in that same situation, however, would probably squeeze your hand and say something like, “She’s pretty, di ba?” Then you’d stammer something about not noticing, blah, blah, blah, and you’d think you’d gotten away with it. Yet your fiancée would seem suddenly distant. She’d not proffer her hand to you as you walked together, she’s speak only when spoken to, and she’d probably shrug indifferently when you asked her a question. You’re on the receiving end of tampo.
It’s very important that you understand this: Tampo is merely intended to let you know that you’ve committed some minor offense, for which you must make amends. It is a mild behavioral reprimand that verges on role-playing. The worst thing you could do is to get stressed out over a tampo session, because an over-reaction on your part may escalate the situation to the point that your fiancée or wife becomes genuinely angry.
On the other hand, don’t misdiagnose genuine anger, sadness, or depression as mere tampo. If you’re girlfriend, fiancée or wife seems deeply depressed, that is NOT tampo. If she’s crying hysterically, that is NOT tampo. If she’s hurling dishes at you, that is NOT tampo. Tampo is mild and controlled and is the direct result of some perceived offense of a minor nature. It is short in duration. If an emotional abnormality seems unusually severe or extended in duration, and you cannot identify the cause, it is not tampo, and consequently deserves serious attention.