Understanding this world will help you avoid problems in the Philippines

Making Palasut

Many Filipino words simply cannot be translated into an equivalent in English, and often have a cultural construct that also needs to be taken into account. Without understanding the cultural construct the real meaning will always be illusive.

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Palasut is one such word. Look up the translation in a dictionary and you will see that it means excuse. That is the basic meaning, but palasut is used in a unique cultural context that does not exist in our western cultures.

The closest equivalent is “bullshit excuse” but even then its not a perfect fit. It is a lie where both parties know it is untrue but there is an unwritten rule that neither party will acknowledge it’s a lie. To do so would be considered rude and result in a loss of hiya (another word that needs a much longer explanation, but for now we will just call it pride) which is an unbearable situation for any Filipino.

One thing you will almost never hear is a Filipino admitting to being wrong. To make a mistake, fail at something or even not know something will all cause a loss of hiya. This is why there must be a palasut.

The excuse can seem incredibly silly in our minds, but for Filipinos it’s understood that everybody should be given a way out to avoid loss of hiya.

It is considered extremely insulting to confront the “maker” of the palusot about their untruthfulness. In fact, the polite thing to do is to sympathize with their situation and offer your sympathy. To call a Pinoy out of their untruthfulness can be considered an extreme insult.

How should foreigners deal with a palasut?

There are times when you need to call out a palasut but usually it is better to pretend to accept it and then come back from a different angle still making it clear (but unspoken) that you really don’t believe it, but not directly challenging it.

If you must call a Filipino out on their palasut, you should avoid challenging a palasut in the presence of others. To publicly challenge a palasut publicly will result in a loss of hiya and that then requires a response and this is where things can get nasty.

If the loss of hiya is unbearable the will be forced to respond. With employees this will usually means resigning, but depending on how serious they feel they have been insulted they might seek some type of revenge to restore their hiya.

 

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Understanding this world will help you avoid problems in the Philippines