Model Kelsey Merritt in her Instagram story shared that she wasn’t spared from the typical Filipino comment-turned-greeting exchanged during reunions and family gatherings.
The 22-year-old posted a picture of her and her grandmother in the social media platform during her visit to the Philippines for the holidays.
She accompanied the image with an in-line text that reads: “Sabi ni Lola, tumaba daw ako” with a series of emojis.
Merrit is the first Filipina to have graced the prestigious Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show, where she strutted the runway with big names in the international modeling industry such as Kendall Jenner and Gigi Hadid.
She is not the first local celebrity to experience the common greeting encountered by Filipinos especially during Christmas.
‘Tumaba ka’ as ‘new hello’
Actress-model Solenn Heussaff in her blog post two years ago noticed that Filipinos have been inclined to greet fellow relatives and loved ones with a comment about their weight gain instead of the usual “hello.”
She noted that she has encountered it “too many times” and stated her stance against it, saying that it is a form of “body shaming” where people receive unsolicited comments and criticisms about their physical built.
An excerpt of her post reads:
“What is it with people nowadays body shaming others, especially those they haven’t seen in a while, instead of simply asking how they’ve been?”
“Maybe this happened because of social media, where we portray ourselves to be #goals all the time. Whatever the cause, people now have forgotten that health is more important than size and that meaningful conversations are so much helpful than unsolicited criticism.”
Communications Coordinator Dawn Waters said that every time she visits her Filipino relatives from abroad, she would hear “tumaba ka” as greetings from them. They would then squeeze her arms for effect.
She eventually opened this up to her relatives, who remarked that it has been a widely accepted behavior in the Filipino society.
“They basically told us that because we are in the Philippines, we should conform to Filipino norms, and quit being so ‘sensitive,'” she said.
It’s expected that people would usually comment on other’s physical appearances as a way of greeting or a conversation starter, especially if they haven’t seen each other for a significant amount of time.
A blog about self-growth noted that appearances are usually the first thing that people notice about others because it is the “quickest trait” humans can evaluate.
Other comments that Filipinos make in reunions pertain to marriage and relationship status, current occupation, schooling and age.
Sample remarks are “Kailan ka ikakasal?” “Kailan ka magkaka-anak?” and “Kailan ka ga-graduate?,” among others.