Sama-sama Kasama

 Evelyn Miranda-Feliciano

Sama-sama kasama -- Number 1 in a series of articles about Tagalog Words and everything Tagalog

What's with the sama-sama kasama mindset? A foreigner to the Filipino culture might wonder at why locals would be so concerned about people not having companions in a journey, a visit, a shopping spree, a party, etc. 

Anthropologists explained that in ancient times of warring tribes, inhabitants in a community were discouraged to travel alone. If someone insisted, the first question they had to answer was, "Saan ka pupunta?" (Where are you going?), followed by,"Sino'ng kasama mo?" (Who is with you?) This inquisitiveness seems highly intrusive today but it was important for one's safety then.

SAMA-SAMA ANG PAMILYA

The sama-sama kasama mindset is deeply entrenched in Filipino culture. From birth to death, a Filipino must always have a kasama. A baby must have a yaya, but the yaya stays even when the baby has grown up. She becomes the kasambahay- or kasama sa bahay (a helper or caretaker). Rarely are average Filipinos comfortable with just a book while stationary or mobile.  They will always seek the crowd of other Filipino communities and will patronize places which allow loud and noisy conversations. They don't mind overpopulated beaches and overcrowded fastfood centers. Families routinely flock to the malls on weekends to dine and shop or window shop together, wheeling their gandads and grandmamas, and pushing their toddlers in carts with the toddler's yayas in tow.

During a time of mourning for a loved one ang mga kasamahan ng pamilya - the relatives, friends, friends of friends come to the wake to watch over the dead for as many days as the wake would last as a gesture of pakikisama. A final sama-sama happens at the burial. Up to the very last slap of cement on the tomb, people are there, nakikisama. For the loved ones, the companionship never stops . Forty days after the burial, people gather for another prayer for the dead (padasal). At the first year death anniversary the family and relatives will have another sama-sama for another feast that celebrates the end of mourning (pagbababang-luksa).

SAMA-SAMA DURING FIESTA

Feasts are always opportune times to gather people around the host, and hosts relish the idea of having as many guests as could be had, since this would be a sign of popularity. This sama-sama, kasama mentality is extended to the relationships brought about by any political exercise where the measure of charisma is evidenced by a huge following (maraming sumasama). Every political campaign involves a chain of relations and a loyal circle of hangers on, friends or acquaintances-turned-supporters, all getting out on a limb together in support of their candidates.

The Filipino's sama-sama, kasama trait has been pointed as a weakness. Some say that independence, self-reliance, and freedom are hindered in a culture of herd mentality or flock syndrome. Compare this with the private, individualistic, and self-propelled culture of the people from the western part of the world who seem to accomplish more and achieve their goals faster.  

But things are more complex than this polarized model of comparison. In fact both values - an independence of mind and spirit and a zest for cultivating a host of loving relationships are necessary to effect personal and institutional change and in the conduct of a meaningful life.

During the time of the EDSA revolution, the banner cry was, "Ninoy, hindi ka nag-iisa!" (Ninoy, you are not alone!) "People Power I" happened because every Filipino who went to EDSA felt assured in his heart that he was not alone in his desperate plea for justice. This collective sama-sama cry for reform made a huge impact even in world history.


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