Bacon beach

Smiley people

Storm over Uzon


Trike Driver?

Manila Bay at Sunset

Manila Cathedral

A Peaceful Morning

Pier in Coron

Philippine Customs

This page last updated Sunday, February 10, 2008 17:42

Philippine social behaviour is dominated by a complex series of customs that directly effect everyday life for all Filipinos. Some are localized, and you wont need to know about those, but what we describe here are nationwide customs, all of which should be heeded.

The most important custom for all Filipinos is family loyalty. Children are raised to have total respect for their parents, grandparents and all older relatives. The first responsibility for Filipinos is to care for their immediate family and it is therefore very common for children to support their parents, a concept most different from the Western way of life. The family is constantly enlarged by both marriages and the adoption of many kumpares ­ godfathers. This then leads to pakkisama, or the caring for the extended family to include these extra people.

Utang na loob translates as a debt of gratitude or a need to repay a favour. This is a very prevalent custom with great influence in social, economic and political life.

Hiya translates roughly as a sense of well being and the avoidance of aggressive or confrontational behaviour. It gets complicated because it also relates to a concern for the hiya of others, which results in people telling others what they think they want to hear, which is not always the truth. The adoption of such a concept means that Filipinos never admit they don’t know something because it would mean losing face, or napahiya. Be aware of this custom anytime you ask a Filipino a question about anything: the answer is likely to be total fiction ­ really handy when you are asking for directions when trying to find somewhere!

Bahala na means, what will be, will be, and is a demonstration of how strong is their belief in fate. Good luck is attributed to divine intervention and bad luck as God´s will so, with this in mind, they live for today rather than plan for tomorrow on the basis there´s nothing they can do about the future so why bother trying! This probably also explains why they work so little compared to western standards!

Filipino hospitality is probably second to none. Strangers are genuinely welcome and Filipinos are always ready to share with others. If you get invited to a Filipino home it´s a custom, pasalubong, to take your hosts a small gift, as is the case for Filipinos returning from a trip somewhere.

If you´re an older person, like me, youngsters will often grab your hand and place it on their heads, mano. They are asking for a blessing. It´s harmless, painless and they enjoy it, so just go with the flow, chill out, and enjoy yourself.

If you want to hail a trike, jeepney or taxi, extend the right hand out straight, with the palm pointing to the floor, and make a waving, sweeping motion with the hand from the wrist toward the floor. You´ll get somebody´s attention really quick.

Be very careful about pointing fingers, especially the use of the middle finger which, when used as an insulting gesture, is a criminal offence. You have been warned!

Pointing the soles of one´s feet at another person is also considered offensive. I guess the motto is, “Think before you point!” whatever it is you´re pointing!