It's not sulking when you're in love: a short love story

Tampuhan (1895). Oil on canvas. Juan Luna

I'm having dinner alone at a pizza restaurant and across me is a couple. The girl's Filipina; the guy sounds French. When I arrive, the guy is lecturing her a little too strongly about something she needs to fill out. He sounds exasperated. Eventually, she gets annoyed as well.

So she shows him she's ... tampo. For fifteen minutes. In that length of time, she doesn't talk to him. Doesn't show she's angry, but taps away on her tablet silently. A little coldly.

The guy fidgets. Looks around the restaurant, at other tables, and for a split second, at me, awkwardly. He digs into his bag, takes out a bottle of water and drinks. He sighs silently. The girl puts down her tablet, but she turns away and stares out the window.

The guy's annoyance melts; he slumps back in his seat, suddenly defeated. He watches her, trying to read her silence. He looks almost afraid. But she gives him nothing and makes him wait.

He is in love with her, I can tell. And she? I think she's still making up her mind.

"Lambingin mo!" I want to tell him. But of course I don't, and I pretend to be more focused on my pizza.

The guy breaks the silence. He takes out his wallet and tells her he's going over to the counter to pay. She turns to him, a smile slowly blooming on her face. His eyes light up; he says something and she gifts him with a sparkling laugh.

He laughs back, and she leans over and says something. I'm guessing she's telling him to call the waiter over instead, because that's what he does. He doesn't seem to understand what just happened, but he is beaming as he settles the bill.

She leans back into her seat, takes out a compact mirror and checks her lipstick. She smacks her lips.

She has won the battle. They leave the restaurant. They look happy. I hope they both win the war.


I wrote the above a little over a year ago, on October 16, and came across it again while going over my old blog. I'm reposting it here.

If there are any non-Filipinos reading this, tampo is like sulking because of a perceived slight, but it's not exactly sulking. It's more of a protective withdrawal of affection or attention. There's still a playful element to it, and the proper and most effective response is lambing, which is a display of affection, sometimes exaggerated.

Whatever you do, don't respond to tampo with anger!

Here's a reddit thread responding to the question posted by a Western man married to a Filipina asking about tampo. And here's a Wiki entry on it, which also discusses the cultural context.