More on Expressing Preferences in the Philippines

Business Cultural Notes

In Filipino culture, expressing one’s preference in doing something may be done in different ways. Gusto is the Tagalog word that signifies one’s desire to do something, while ayaw is the word used to indicate what he does not want to do. However, these words are used only if one has either a strong desire or objection to doing something. 

There are other ways to express preference in doing or not doing something in Tagalog. Specifically, there are Tagalog expressions that indicate some subtle hints to the listener that the speaker may prefer to do something else. Reluctance is often hinted by the use of Tagalog verbal enclitics, such as na lang, na rin, na nga, sana

Such hints indicate some cultural significance: first, the speaker does not want to embarrass the person who may be asking a favor from the speaker to do something; and, second, the speaker expects the one who asked the favor to be more flexible (e.g., don’t push too hard), or in extreme cases, to look for someone else to do the favor. 

It is rather rude to say “no” directly to someone who is asking a favor in Filipino culture. At the same time, it is expected that the one who asks the favor must get the “hint” that the person he is asking favor from is reluctant to do something. The Tagalog expressions marunong mahiya (knows how to be embarrassed, or lose face), mahiya ka naman (you should be ashamed), and walanghiya (without shame) capture the essence of this aspect of Filipino social value.

In Filipino society, paghingi ng tulong (asking someone to do something) is a form of social favor that is resorted to when all other means fail, or that one does not have the wherewithal to deal with a situation. It is in this context where family and social networks or connections become important. If a favor is granted, one acquires utang na loob (social indebtedness), which is expected to be paid when the table gets turned, so to speak. 

Some of the Tagalog expression that signify one’s desire or objection in doing something are:

  • ayaw kong gawin (I don’t like to do it)
  • gusto kong gawin (I would like to do it)
  • kaya kong gawin (I can do it)
  • pwede bang iba na lang ang gumawa (is it possible for someone else to do it)
  • kailangan na ba ito ngayon (is this needed now)
  • makakahintay ba ito (can this wait)
  • gusto ko sanang gawin, kaya lang...(I want to do it, but then…)
  • hindi naman sa ayaw kong gawin, kaya lang… (it’s not that I don’t want to do it, but then…)
  • marami kasi akong ginagawa ngayon, pwede bang…(I have lots of things to do right now, is it possible…)
  • kailangang-kailangan mo na ba ito ngayon (do you really need this now)
  • pwede bang bukas na lang ito (is it okay for this to be done by tomorrow)

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