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Pa-Woke and the Filipino Psychology of Kapwa

Dami mong alam! Eh di ikaw na matalino! Ako na bobo! Have you been a victim of these sarcastic comments because you sounded like an intellectual or when you popped out a mind-boggling idea? If yes, then you are a victim of smart-shaming! You are tagged as pa-woke! What do we mean by pa-woke or the root word woke? Let us try to trace its origin and its effect to the quality of our daily social interactions.

Woke means being aware of the racism and other forms of oppression and injustice in society. Generally, it refers to a person or something as smart.

Figuratively, woke is to have a high level of social and political awareness. In Filipino it can be rendered “gising” or “mulat” (awake or aware). It started to emerge in Black English in the 1940’s, 50’s and 60’s and was strictly attached to political and civil rights awareness.

In 2012 the Black Community came out with a call to stay woke amidst discrimination and injustice black people face in the United States, most of them were committed by policemen.

The hashtag #staywoke made rounds on social media with the Black Lives Matter movement ignited by the killing of two young black men by police officers. This time the cry was not just for racism awareness but to actively move to address the issue. Today, it can be said that being woke is to be conscious or educated on current social issues. It is about standing up for people who may not have the strength or the ability to articulate themselves. It is about bringing to the surface the struggles of those who are relegated to the margins.

On the other hand, pa-woke refers to a person who smart shame others or regard their opinion irrelevant because the former does not understand or does not agree with the latter’s point. The term also refers to a person who makes an issue out of petty things and aggravate an issue and offends someone in the process or make himself look smarter when in reality he is the stupid guy. Some people hold that the term pa-woke is a form of anti-intellectualism.

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One of the dangers of ‘pa-woke’ is that it builds a wall between two people with conflicting opinions instead of having an open and respectful conversation. It kills any chance of engaging in an intellectual discourse which can help widen each other’s view. It happens on social media and everywhere.

Some believe that part of the Filipino culture is looking at intellectualism as a negative trait. We can see that in the way politicians downgrade their academic and career achievements in their pursuit to gain the voters’ trust.

Look at how people chide, make fun and shame those who are smart and intelligent, “Wait hinay-hinay lang nakaka-nosebleed ka!” (Wait! Take it slow. My nose bleeds) Sobrang talino mo naman, eh di ikaw na!” (You know too well, you’re the man!).

Filipino Psychology of Kapwa

Pakikisama and pakikipagkapwa. Pakikisama is defined as “smooth interpersonal relations” by going along with the group or the majority decision, in short conformity. (Pua and Marcelino on Lynch, 1961, 1973.) It was Virgilio Enriquez who explained the concept of kapwa or shared identity, which is the center of Filipino social consciousness. It is situated at the heart of the structure of Filipino values.

Enriquez found out that it is not maintaining smooth interpersonal relationships that Filipinos are concerned with, but pakikipagkapwa or treating other persons as kapwa or fellow human being. He categorized the concept of kapwa in two levels: IbangTao (outsider) and the Hindi-Ibang-Tao (“one of us”). We place people in one of these levels in our daily social interactions. This categorization determines the level of interaction we have with people.

Thus, Filipinos do not really treat intellectualism as a negative trait. We don’t celebrate mediocrity and ignorance. In fact, we value education and progress. It is solidarity with those who are simple, weak and marginalized, that matter to most of the Filipinos. We should take advantage of our rich culture of kapwa and pakikipagkapwa, develop rapport and from there begin a healthy conversation – one that is free from insults, shaming, and anger. One should be open for questions and be willing to promote unity in diversity. Never force his/her opinion to others and always respect each others’ context.

If you’ve been a victim of smart shaming and was called as pa-woke, ikaway ang kamay (wave your hand) hit the LIKE and SHARE buttons.


Madarang, Catalina Ricci S.#PaWoke: How Smart-Shaming is Affecting Social Media Conversations. Interaksyon., May 22, 2019 – 3:02 PM.

Madrazo-Sta. Romana, Julia-Jasmine. Smart-shaming and our Pinoy culture of anti-intellectualism. (, July 6, 2015 7:20pm.

Manarang, Patricia. Woke isn’t an insult, and here’s why. Young Star., October 18, 2018.

Pe-Pua, Rogelia .The University of NewSouth Wales and Protacio-Marcelino, Elizabeth. University of the Philippines. Sikolohiyang Pilipino (Filipino psychology): A legacy of Virgilio G. Enriquez*: Asian Journal of Social Psychology (2000).

Reddit. Common Smart-Shaming Lines in the PH.

When in Manila. Labeling People “Pa-Woke Destroying Conversations.


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