Christmas season is the time that many Filipinos, living in the Philippines or abroad, going home to their ‘family’ home towns. Often accompanied by their foreigner partners. And for many of those foreigners is will be the first time to visit the Philippines and to experience the Filipino customs. For them this post might be an interesting read. And read also the post about EveryDay Greetings in the Philippines.


Filipino Customs

Living in the Philippines and adjusting to the customs in the Philippines is a task not too difficult. Many Filipinos, especially in the urban areas, are able to speak some English and well enough to help foreigners. It is very rare that you meet someone not willing to help if you are lost and need directions. The only problem you might see is that the Filipinos are shy in speaking English, they do not like to make mistakes…… But, as welcoming and friendly the people might be, a foreigner is still a foreigner and the culture is different in the Philippines compared to your home country so it would be nice to know a few Filipino customs and traditions that would come in handy for you (and you will be respected for if you act according to these).

The use of “Po”

It is a Filipino custom to use “po” and “opo” not just for parents anymore but for anyone when a person wants to show respect or be polite. 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 open doors and will be much appreciated. So, next time you want to ask for help or assistance, why not say “Excuse me po” instead of just “Excuse me”. Or say “Good morning/afternoon/evening po” when you greet your land lady or that woman next door. Maybe you can even use “Opo” when you want to say “Yes”. The short word O (also O-o) means Yes in Filipino . It will not only be polite, but it will bring a smile to the person you are talking to. It’s a guarantee!

Bringing “Pasalubong”

Filipino Customs, pasalubong

A Filipino will never go home without bringing PASALUBONG.
Here at the airport where all those boxes have to pass customs.

All Filipinos love giving gifts and enjoy receiving them. A “pasalubong” can be a souvenir or a delicacy that you buy and bring for your friends and family when you go home from a trip or visit them. It can even be a box of donuts for your children or maybe a roll of cake for the Filipino friend you are visiting. But some fruits are also appreciated. 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 your extended family might even expect it.
Filipinos, travelling home from abroad or from Manila to the provinces are bringing lots of boxes as their luggage. Most of the time loaded with gifts for the family. It is expected from them to bring “pasalubong”. And if you bring some to your extended family be prepared to unpack all at the moment you have entered the house and give something to all. What they like a lot are chocolates, especially imported ones and for the ladies a nice (imported) perfume will do perfectly.

Eating with your hands

Filipino Customs, eating by hand

eating by hand is an art you have to learn in the Philippines

Yes, literally using your hands to eat your food, no fork or spoon! Many Filipinos enjoy it. Of course, it is not something they do to eat spaghetti or in a restaurant, 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 nice experience for you. How to do it? 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 instead of plates. It makes the experience more fun.

The use of “Mano po”

Mano Po

bringing the hand of the elder to the forehead is called Mano Po

This is yet another Filipino tradition that is done to show respect to the elderly, particularly to one’s parents and grandparents, but also to aunts and uncles. It is done by bringing 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 they 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 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.

Never forget that you, the foreigner, are a guest in this country and that YOU have to adjust to their culture. Never expect a Filipino to adjust to your habits and likings.

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Filipino Customs, better get used to it.
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Living in the Philippines and adjusting to the customs in the Philippines is a task not too difficult.