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Filipino Customs and Traditions


Our culture is a big reflection of our great and complex history. It is influenced by most of the people we have interacted with. A blend of the Malayo-Polynesian and Hispanic culture with the influence from Chinese, Indians Arabs, and other Asian cultures really contribute to the customs and traditions of the Filipinos.

by Cecil Abundo on January 13, 2015
Filipino Customs and Traditions

Mano Po

Our culture is a big reflection of our great and complex history. It is influenced by most of the people we have interacted with. A blend of the Malayo-Polynesian and Hispanic culture with the influence from Chinese, Indians Arabs, and other Asian cultures really contribute to the customs and traditions of the Filipinos.

Filipino culture is unique compared to other Asian countries, and beliefs apply every day in the life of the Filipinos and reveal how rich and blessed the culture the people have.

Let’s review some of the popular Filipino traditions and find the similarities that bind Filipinos to each other.

First on the list is Mano Po. When children or young people greet or say goodbye to their elders they typically do so by taking the right hand of the elder with their right hand and touch the back the elder's hand lightly on their forehead. It is a way of giving respect to the elders and I believe that is also a way of receiving blessing to the elders.

Mano is a Spanish word for “hand” while Po is used in the end of the sentence when addressing elders or superiors.

Next is that Filipinos are one of the most hospitable people you may find anywhere. Foreign visitors in the country are treated with the utmost respect. This trait is usually seen during fiestas and holidays where many  Filipinos are giving their best to entertain their visitors well.

It is amazing to see that even the simplest home along the road opens their home to a stranger. For Filipinos, to be able to serve others gives them honor of showing true friendship. Filipino Hospitality is a trait you can't take away from them.

Having Close Family Ties is also one of their unique traits. It is one of the outstanding cultural values that Filipinos have. The family takes care of each other and are taught to be loyal to family and elders by simply obeying their authorities. This is one of the unique characteristics of Filipinos. Having fondness for family reunions during secular and religious holidays such as Christmas, New Year’s eve, All Saints’ Day, Holy Week, Fiestas, homecomings, birthdays, weddings, graduations, baptisms, funerals etc. is evidence that Filipino people valued not only our cultural tradition but the spirit of our family. As Filipinos, we are blessed to have been brought up with strong family ties.

Bayanihan

Have you ever experienced the bayanihan in our country?  It is the spirit of communal unity or effort to achieve a particular objective. A famous example of this is the neighbors carrying a hut or house to a new location. People nowadays use it to describe an outpouring of community spirit-as people give their all to the common good, without expecting recognition or personal gain.
 
Courtship

We Filipinos are very romantic when it comes to heart affairs. Serenading or Harana in Tagalog is one of the most popular forms of courtship to show that a man is very serious with his intentions to a woman. A serenade would require the young man to sing a love song in front of the young lady's house. Normally, he is accompanied by his male friends who act as back-up singers. The man himself or his friend played the instrument, usually a guitar, which provides the background music to his song.

They would have to wait until the young lady opened a window to listen. It would be up to her if she wanted to invite them in for some refreshment and to chat after the song. Even if they had been asked to come in, the suitor would not expect that he could have the chance of a private moment with his object of affection. It was highly likely that the parents would also be there to entertain the man and his friends.

Religion

The Philippines is one of two predominantly Roman Catholic nations in Asia-Pacific. Their habit of going to church and often praying reflects that Filipinos have a deep faith and belief when it comes to religion. They are very devoted to religions that sometimes many take the risk of their lives just to touch the Black Nazarine (in Quiapo Manila). For many, it is just a choice between their faith and fears.

Filipinos believe that having a strong devotion may lead to a better life and their guidance to face everyday life.

Superstition

In the Philippines, superstitious beliefs have grown throughout the country. These beliefs have come from the different sayings and beliefs of our ancestors that aim to prevent danger from happening or to make a person refrain from doing something in particular.

These beliefs are part of our culture, for one derives their beliefs from the influences of what their customs, traditions and culture have dictated to explain certain phenomena or to scare people. Some are practiced primarily because Filipinos believe that there is nothing to lose if they will comply with these beliefs.
  
Cuisine

The Philippines is considered the melting pot of Asia. The rich medley of Chinese, Malay, Spanish, Mexican, American, and Indian cooking are noticed in Philippine cuisine.  Eating out is one of the favorite Filipino pasttimes. A typical Pinoy diet consists at most of six meals a day; breakfast, snacks, lunch, snacks, dinner, and again a midnight snack before going to sleep. Rice is a staple in the Filipino diet, and is usually eaten together with other dishes. Filipinos regularly use spoons together with forks and knives. Some also eat with their hands, especially in informal settings, and when eating seafood.
Other popular dishes brought from Spanish and Southeast Asian influences include afritada, asado, chorizo, empanadas, mani (roasted peanuts), paksiw (fishor pork, cooked in vinegar and water with some spices like garlic and pepper), pan de sal (bread rolls), pescado frito (fried or grilled fish), sisig, torta(omelette), kare-kare (ox-tail stew), kilawen, pinakbet (vegetable stew), pinapaitan, and sinigang (tamarind soup with a variety of pork, fish, or prawns). Some delicacies eaten by some Filipinos may seem unappetizing to the Western palate include balut (boiled egg with a fertilized duckling inside), longanisa (sweet sausage), and dinuguan (soup made from pork blood).

Popular snacks and desserts such as chicharon (deep fried pork or chicken skin), halo-halo (crushed ice with evaporated milk, flan, and sliced tropical fruit),puto (white rice cakes), bibingka (rice cake with butter or margarine and salted eggs), ensaymada (sweet roll with grated cheese on top), polvoron (powder candy), and tsokolate (chocolate) are usually eaten outside the three main meals. Popular Philippine beverages include San Miguel Beer, Tanduay Rhum,coconut arrack, and tuba.

Every province has its own specialty and tastes vary in each region. In Bicol, for example, foods are generally spicier than elsewhere in the Philippines. Patis, suka, toyo, bagoong, and banana catsup are the most common condiments found in Filipino homes and restaurants. Western fast food chains such asMcDonald's, Wendy's, KFC, and Pizza Hut are a common sight in the country.

A roasted pig known as the Lechón, is one of the Philippines most popular dishes.

Marriage and Wedding Customs

A sacred marriage

In the country, marriage is a sacred union of man and women after a period of courtship and engagement. It is a sacrament between two people who love each others. For many Filipinos, the eternal quality of dedication to God pervades a truly sacred marriage.

A sacred marriage is a covenant between two who love each other in God and with God, whose joining becomes an expression of the desire of each to love and serve God together.

Death

Death in the Philippines is one of the most important occasions in family life. For many Filipinos, a death of relatives is an opportunity to strengthen ties in the Family. To pay respect and honor the relationship to the deceased, long lost relatives, friends, and even relatives working abroad are reunited.

The Philippines is the home of some unique death rituals that are partly religious and mostly superstitious. The mourning and the weeping are still present, but a happy and welcoming atmosphere would usually envelop the place to help the deceased on his journey to the afterlife.

After the death of a person, a nine-day period of having a novena of prayers and Masses offered up to the deceased is held, although the beginning of the "Siyam na araw" varies, but usually ends the week after the death. Another period follows after death, the 40-day mourning period. Family members indicate their state of bereavement by wearing a small, black rectangular plastic pin on their left breast or breast pocket area. A ceremonial mass is held at the end of this 40-day period. Common belief states that the soul goes to Heaven after these 40 days, following the belief that Jesus Christ ascended to Heaven after the said period of days.

 
Society

The primary ancestors of Filipinos are Malays who came from the southeastern Asian country which is now called Indonesia. The Philippines is a combined society, both singular and plural in form. It is singular as one nation, but plural in that it is fragmented geographically and culturally. The nation is divided between Christians, Muslims, and other religious-ethno-linguistic groups; between urban and rural people; between upland and lowland people; and between the rich and the poor. Although different in numerous ways, the Filipinos are very hospitable and give appropriate respect to everybody regardless of race, culture and belief.

Christmas in the Philippines

Christmas in the Philippines is considered as one of the biggest holidays in the archipelago. We earned the distinction of celebrating the world’s longest Christmas season with Christmas carols heard as early as September and lasting until Epiphany, the feast of the Black Nazarene on January 9 or the Feast of the Santo Niño de Cebú on the third Sunday of January.

In one’s article, Archbishop Cruz told in his Christmas message that "the essence of Christmas is God made flesh, God who has come among us" in an act of love "that joins humankind to the Living God through our Lord Jesus Christ".
For many Filipinos, the true essence of Christmas for is not gift giving but sharing this special holy day with family.
 
Fiestas

Every town and city in the Philippines has a fiesta of its own; whatever time of the year it is, there's sure to be a fiesta going on somewhere.

Fiestas in the Philippines are held to celebrate a patron saint. It is part and parcel of Filipino culture through good times and bad times, it must go on. The biggest and most elaborate festival of all is Christmas, a season celebrated with all the pomp and pageantry where the whole country breaks out in celebrations that can begin long before December.

For individual Filipinos, fiestas can be a way of supplicating the heavens or to make amends for past wrongs. It is a way to celebrate their blessings, commemorate their past and observe solemn religious rituals. Celebrations may take the form of music, dancing, feasting, beauty contests, balls, processions, sports challenges or a host of other events.

Spanish influence is evident in the elaborate masks, makeup, headdresses and costumes worn by the revelers; outfits which often take months of preparation.

Living with Parents

Filipinos highly value the presence of family more than anything. Adult children living with their parents are another Filipino traditional that make them exceptional. Unlike in the United States where children leave the home after finishing high school or college, many Filipinos continue living with parents until they get married.
 
Eating with a Fork and Spoon

One Filipinos identity is that they are eat using a fork and a spoon. The fork is place in the left hand while the spoon is in the right hand. Fork is used to place or push the food into the spoon which is held by the right hand.
Since rice is the main staple of the Filipinos at almost every meal, the fork and spoon method is ideal. It is believe that the use of a spoon and a fork is perfect for the way Southeast Asians prepare and cook their food. Unlike the Americans who like their meats and other food items in big slabs and humongous chunks, Southeast Asians generally prepare their dishes in bite-sized pieces -- chopped, minced or ground -- thus leaving no real need for a knife.
 
Eating with Hands (Kamayan)

In addition to the use of the fork and spoon, eating with your hands or kamayan is another common Filipino tradition. For many Filipinos, kamayan gives full taste to the food instead of using utensils. Gather a small portion of meat or fish and a bite-sized portion of rice on your plate. Then use all your fingers to gather the food into a small mountain or mound. Pick up the little mound and put it in your mouth using your thumb to gently push the food in.

Filipinos usually eat rice that has a slightly sticky consistency so making the little mounds is easier than if you were to use a jasmine or basmati rice. Of course, this method of eating doesn't work with soup/stew or noodles and other kinds of food but for your basic plate of rice, meat/fish and vegetables it works quite well! Next time you make dinner try eating kamayan.
 
Balikbayan Boxes

Some Filipinos leave the Philippines to live and work abroad. A balikbayan box is a box of items sent by the balikbayan to their family in the Philippines. The box can be sent or it can be brought by the sender when they themselves return to the Philippines.  Balikbayan boxes come in all different sizes and dimensions from bulilit (small) to extra large. It can be filled with almost anything but it is usually filled with items that cannot be found in the Philippines or items that may be too expensive for the average person to buy in the Philippines. Common items found in balikbayan boxes include: clothes, shoes, chocolate, nuts, vitamins, basketballs, coffee and tea, magazines, shampoo/conditioner, soap, body lotion, etc.

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