There are some things common in Filipino culture that can be found in most, if not all parts of the Philippines. The old traditions and customs of the Philippines are practiced more out in the provinces.

When one says “the provinces” in the Philippines, it can mean different things. Mostly it is based on where you are.  In general, it means not in Manila or the National Capital Region (NCR). To me it would also exclude Angeles City and Subic as what goes on there is not typical of the Philippines. Filipina that work there are usually from the provinces. But someone in Cebu City might not consider themselves living in the province as they live in a major city. Someone in Bacolod would probably not consider Bacolod “out in the province” but would be referring to the rest of Negros Occidental, the province in which it is located. When I use it, I mean outside the NCR along with Subic and Angeles City.

7 Common Traditions of Filipino Culture

Mano Po

As with many customs of the Philippines, this one is based around showing respect. Generally it is respect towards ones elders. It is most often performed among family members.

The younger member of a family will take the elders hand and place the back of it to their forehead.

Out in the province, it is not uncommon for me to pass a child on the street and have them give me Mano Po. I have done it to older Filipino that I do not know. It makes a great and lasting first impression.

When you meet your girls family, it will likely be seen a very positive action on your part. Not only does it show respect to the family but it shows respect to the culture. Filipino seems to really appreciate foreigners that take an interest in Filipino culture.

Kuya or Ate

Once again, we see a Filipino custom that is based in respect. The words “kuya” and “ate” are often used to show respect. I’ve seen many translations for “ate” and it usually translated to big sister or aunt. Where an American might say Aunt Lucy and a Filipino would use Ate Lucy. Kuya means big brother.

However, Filipino often use these words for people that are older than them. Elders are to be respected in Filipino culture. Our yayas (maids) have often been younger and they always refer to Jessie as Ate Jessie. Our current yaya use to call me Uncle Rusty since she knows enough English to make the loose translation. Now she just calls me Bossing.  She’s trying to show respect.

You might find that your girlfriend or wife address you as “Sir.” You shouldn’t feel awkward when she does this. She is showing you respect and it has been instilled in her as I have said many times, the Philippine is The Land of Respect.

The Eyebrows in Filipino Culture

This one has been hard for me to learn. So many times when I’ve asked Jessie a question, she raises her eyebrows and I would follow that up with another question to find out if the answer was yes or no. She probably thought that was odd since she already answered me. I have observed within Filipino culture this is often accompanied with tilted head back a bit, almost a reverse nod that would be used in American culture.

If you ask a question, and you do not get an answer look to the eyebrows. If they are raised, the answer was yes.

Raising the eyebrows is often used as a way of saying hello or goodbye too.

Filipino culture includes a communication style of less words which is known among sociologist as a high context culture.

Lips Are Used To Give Direction

Filipino often point with their lips. A very convenient method of pointing when one has both hands on a motorcycles handle bars. That isn’t where it comes from though.

It is just a mannerism that has developed within Filipino culture and very likely something you’ll encounter while living in the Philippines.

Food at Every Gathering

Sharing is embedded in Filipino culture and it is often expressed with food. Some have even said the more lavish the food, the more love that is shown. Perhaps that is true but I think what is the more important gesture is the sharing of what one has.

When I walk down the street, it is very common for pinoy (men) to offer me their drink. It is usually an alcoholic drink. Sometimes I accept but I fear that if I accepted every drink that was offered to me, I would be an alcoholic!

Filipino frequently asks have you eaten yet. I get that question a lot in text messages from Filipino I know.

I’ve seen Filipina refer to their man as a “millionaire for a day.” And it isn’t a term of endearment. ManyPhilippines Cuisine -- Lechone times when a Filipino comes into a little extra cash, rather than being frugal with it, he will invite his friends over and they will eat and drink it all away in a single day. To many, often including the wife, this seems like a waste but obviously it is not a waste to the Filipino. Bonding is often a word I see used here. I even see it used in beer commercials. Beer commercial that include a slogan like “promoting Filipino friendship.”

I’ve seen several instances where Filipino were explaining their culture and mentioned that Filipinos are not happy unless they have someone to share their food with.

Sharing is another sign of respect in Filipino culture.

Take Off Your Shoes

You’ll often see rows of shoes outside a Filipino home. You’ll usually see it outside my home. The shoes are usually flip flops.

Taking one shoes off before entering a home is another sign of respect.

However, we’ve had instances of shoes disappearing while outside our home. At least once, only one flip flop was taken. Perhaps it was a dog. I do not know.

Hellos and Goodbye’s in Filipino Culture

Once a Filipina came to visit with her boyfriend and she left without saying goodbye. The yayas were just beside themselves. Jessie commented on it and told me it was distrustful. I have observed that this Filipina has issues with crowds and I suspect that it was the culprit behind unintended slight. I’m more forgiving but Filipino often are not.

The ladies at my home that night were quite displeased with her actions.

It is an easy slight for American’s to make and I bet I’ve done it many times. In Filipino culture it is important to acknowledge a person. Making eye contact and raising the eyebrows is sufficient.

Mano po is probably the most respectful way to greet. Mano po is not usually done between husband and wife though. I have sometimes joked with Jessie, raising my hand to her suggesting Mano po. She looks at me like I’m crazy. Actually, I don’t think it would be proper to seek Mano po, only to give it and to give it to those older than you. It might be seen as odd to give Mano po to someone younger than you.

Knowledge of these mannerisms should help you to understand Filipino culture a bit more. Try to remember these and try to follow them. The mannerism and traditions of respect are the most important. Failing to show respect is a major blunder for Filipino. I do think though that Filipino are usually very forgiving on foreigners as they understand that we do not fully understand Filipino culture

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Filed under: Filipino Culture

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