The Filipino Non-concept of Space

(This is a continuation of my earlier post, Definining boundaries in the Filipino setting.)

Over the years, as I’ve raised my vibrational frequency, I’ve become extremely sensitive to subtle energies.  I am an HSP. A highly sensitive person.

“In her national bestseller, The Highly Sensitive Person: How to Thrive When the World Overwhelms You, author Elaine Aron defines a distinct personality trait that affects as many as one out of every five people. According to Dr. Aron’s definition, the Highly Sensitive Person (HSP) has a sensitive nervous system, is aware of subtleties in his/her surroundings, and is more easily overwhelmed when in a highly stimulating environment.” Click here to go to Dr. Aron’s website to know more.

Being an HSP, I get easily affected, and I can easily sense any encroachment into my space, most especially energetically.

I feel very uncomfortable, almost suffocated, when the person doesn’t keep enough distance. I feel like my space is being invaded.

Unlike traditional Filipinos, I relate more with the American concept of personal space.  An article from Wikipedia points out that Americans “like to keep more open space in between themselves and their conversation partners.”  This is based on the work of anthropologist Edward T. Hall who developed his theory of proxemics, the study of the human use of space within the context of culture.

As I said in my earlier post, Filipinos traditionally have no concept or sense of personal space or personal boundaries. Whatever concept they have simply isn’t in alignment with mine.  It doesn’t work for me.

In the article “Filipino space is boundless, communal,” architect and writer Augusto F. Villalon explains, “Filipinos are spaceless…The traditional Filipino concept of space is boundless as well.

The Filipino nipa hut (“bahay kubo”) Image by

Villalon explains that traditional Filipino homes have no physical boundaries which separate the rooms.

The interior of the traditional “bahay kubo” (nipa hut) is multipurpose, functioning as “receiving room, sleeping room, kitchen, dining room or chapel, constantly adapting to allow whatever activity the room needs to accommodate at any particular moment during the day…Mats are laid out on the living room at night for the family and household to sleep in,” Villalon further elaborates. And in homes where there is a separate sleeping room, there is traditionally one bedroom for the entire family.

The Center for Spatially Integrated Social Science website cites the work of anthropologist Edward T. Hall who conducted a “lifelong research on cultural perceptions of space and observed the many difficulties created by failures of intercultural communication.”

The website cites,

“In The Hidden Dimension (1966), Hall developed his theory of proxemics, the study of the human use of space within the context of culture, arguing that human perceptions of space, are molded and patterned by culture.

“Hall’s most famous innovation has to do with the definition of the informal, or personal spaces that surround individuals:

  • Intimate space—the closest “bubble” of space surrounding a person. Entry into this space is acceptable only for the closest friends and intimates.
  • Social and consultative spaces—the spaces in which people feel comfortable conducting routine social interactions with acquaintances as well as strangers.
  • Public space—the area of space beyond which people will perceive interactions as impersonal and relatively anonymous.”

With the Filipino not having any concept of space, it’s probably safe for me to conclude that the line that separates the Filipino concept of intimate, social and consultative, and public spaces is very, very blur.  Perhaps even non-existent.

So, here I am, someone who has learned to clearly identify her personal space and boundaries.  Someone who needs her space, and needs huge space around her.  Someone who needs time alone and enjoys being alone.  And someone who is learning to master the art and skill of setting boundaries and asserting her right to her personal space.

And here I am, being around people who have no concept or sense of personal space and boundaries.  In a society that is not used to the experience of solitude and independence otherwise chosen and enjoyed by other people — like me, a fellow Filipino.

How do I reconcile the two?

It definitely is something that has been a major source of my irritation and frustration. And contracting laryngitis made me take a much deeper look into my situation and why I have attracted it into my life.

I’m so glad and thankful that my research and determination to get to the bottom of things led me to the work of Edward T. Hall.  It’s helping me fulfill my desire to see the bigger picture, the reason behind my experiences, the deeper meaning of my energy imbalances, the spiritual significance of my dis-ease.

It’s a cultural thing

In “The Problems of Proxemics,” Terri Morrison and Wayne A. Conaway nicely tie in the concepts together:

Another aspect of growing up in crowded environments is the unwillingness to be alone in public. In much of Asia, people gravitate towards other people. For example, if you are alone in an elevator in the Philippines and another person enters, he will probably stand right next to you. That person doesn’t want to speak to you; it’s just the local custom.”

And I’m quite sure they do it subconsciously.  Filipinos are probably not even aware that they think or believe that any space is shared space.  It’s a cultural tradition.  An acquired habit. Automatic. It’s deeply embedded in the Filipino psyche.  And without meaning to, unknowingly, they encroach into other people’s personal space.

The concept of the traditional Filipino home (“bahay kubo”). The absence of physical boundaries.  Growing up in crowded environments.  All these obviously influenced the Filipino concept and definition (or absence of a definition) of personal space, be it physically or energetically.

A concept that is so in opposition to mine.

A major challenge for me — and an important lesson, most definitely.

To be continued – Sometimes, the way to receive a gift is to give it

Related articles:

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Copyright © 2011-2012 Nadine Marie V. Niguidula, M.A. and Aligning With Truth


About NadineMarie (Aligning With Truth)

I find much joy & fulfillment in sharing my experiences & insights through writing & blogging. I created the site, ALIGNING WITH TRUTH as a virtual center for healing where I share my thoughts & reflections, as well as the tools & resources that are helping me as I move along the path of awakening & coming home to the Self. As I live in joy & align with Truth, I AM shining my Light which is how I contribute to the planetary & humanity ascension. Brightest & Magical Blessings!!! Om Shanti. Namaste...💗💖💜Nadine Marie💜💖💗
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10 Responses to The Filipino Non-concept of Space

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  7. Alex Jones says:

    This was an educational post. It never came into my mind that there existed cultures which have no concept of personal space.


  8. Pingback: Setting Boundaries — Ranting. Complaining. Whining. | Aligning With Truth

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