Living in the Philippines is a relatively easy task. Most Filipinos, especially in the urban areas, are able to speak English well enough to be of assistance to foreigners and they it is very rare that you would run into someone who will not be willing to help if you are lost and needing directions. But, as friendly as the people are, a foreigner is still a foreigner and the culture is still different in the Philippines compared to your home country so it would be useful to know a few Filipino customs and traditions that would come in handy for you.
- “Po” and “Opo”
It is a Filipino custom to use “po” and “opo” not just for elders anymore but for anyone when a person wants to be polite or show respect. Now, a foreigner will not be expected to use these words but a bit of politeness and effort to relate to a person’s culture would always be appreciated. So, next time you want to ask for assistance, why not say “Excuse me po,” instead of just “Excuse me,”? Or say “Good morning/evening po” when you greet your land lady or that woman next door. Maybe you can even substitute “Opo” to your “Yes”. It will not only be polite, but it will bring a smile to the person you are talking to. I guarantee it.
Filipinos love giving gifts and enjoy receiving them and ‘pasalubong’ can be a souvenir or delicacy that you buy and bring back to your friends and family when you go home from a trip. It can also be a box of donuts for your children or maybe a roll of cake for the Filipino friend you are visiting. It is a Filipino custom to bring something to a person’s home when you are visiting, especially when it is your first time visiting or you haven’t seen each other for a long time. It is not a requirement, but it always give good points and you can be sure that bringing a gift will merit rewards in lots of forms.
- Eating with your hands
Yes, like literally using your hands to eat your food. Filipinos enjoy it. Of course, it is not something they do to eat spaghetti, but Filipinos often eat with their hands when it involves fried or dried food like fish and squid. It is a common Filipino tradition and would be a fun experience for you. With your hands, gather a small amount of meat and vegetables using your fingers and form them into a small mound. Pick the mound up with your fingers and put it in your mouth by using your thumb to push the food in (best ask a Filipino friend to show you how it’s done). And while you’re at it, try eating on banana leaves too. It makes the experience more fun.
- “Mano po.”
This is yet another Filipino tradition that is done to show respect to the elders, particularly to one’s grandparents. It is done by touching the elderly person’s hand to your forehead and saying “Mano po.” Others do not say “Mano po” anymore but still do the gesture as a greeting when meeting a grandparent or an aunt or someone older and you want to show respect. Filipinos respect their elders a lot and it would be nice if you can also try and practice these little gestures. It will be a nice habit to teach your kids too, and the elders can give them their blessing.
The above mentioned are just few of the many quirky and interesting customs and traditions you will encounter during your stay in the Philippines. When immersing yourself in the Filipino culture, it helps to research a few things and to ask questions from those who have been to the country before. You are bound to find more and more reasons why it is more fun in the Philippines during your stay, and it will always be good if you try out the customs and traditions for yourself as well. Embrace the Filipinos’ rich culture and it will make you feel even more at home in your new home.