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“When in Rome, do as the Romans do.” This is the advice to foreigners when visiting a new place. It’s best to know the cultural habits of the locals and follow the customs of the people there since no one wants to start off on the wrong foot. In the Philippines, where locals are receptive of foreigners and are very welcoming to guests, it isn’t hard to pick up these Filipino habits reflected in everyday situations.
First time ingvisit the Philippines and need help with directions? Or looking for the person who will be the tour guide for your trip? Don’t be surprised when you approach a local and he responds by pouting his lips to point you to the person you’re looking for. He’s not going to kiss you, he’s just telling where you can find this person or object or whatever.
Filipinos are generally warm and inviting when it comes to guest visits. Even if it’s the first time a guest entered their homes, this is a must-ask question: “Have you eaten a meal already?” For some, they will assume you haven’t eaten any food yet and will instantly invite you to have breakfast or lunch with them. They’ll simply tell you, “Come eat with us, we’ve prepared food already.”
It’s a tradition rooted from the early days. As a way of courtesy and showing respect, younger people use the Filipino words “opo” to agree with the elderly. And, they insert “po” at the end of a phrase or sentence when talking to someone older than him or her.
Aside from saying “po” and “opo,” Filipinos also show courtesy by calling older persons “ate” (sister) or “kuya” (brother) even if there’s no blood relation between them. In some familiar situations, Filipinos bow their heads and press their foreheads toward the hand of the elder as a sign of respect.
Rice is a staple food among Filipinos. They eat rice for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. In some cases, they eat rice in-between meals or during snacks. Even if there’s limited dish available, it’s not a problem as long as rice is present, and they’ll just use condiments such as toyo (soy sauce), suka (vinegar), or bagoong (shrimp paste) to spice up a simple meal.
For some though, they’d rather eat with their hands than use a fork and a spoon to eat their meals.
It’s always a must for Filipinos to give something to their friends and loved ones, whether a key chain, a souvenir shirt, or food from the place where they’ve recently travelled to. This special gift is called a pasalubong (souvenir) as a reminiscence of one’s local or foreign travel experience. In these items, whether big or small, there lies a reminder that the person who gave a pasalubong remembered you despite your absence.
It’s only in the Philippines where locals use a dipper or tabo as a primary hygiene tool in the bathroom for the purposes of bathing, personal cleansing, flushing the toilet, and cleaning the tiled floor. Many Fiipinos use the tabo instead of a toilet paper or videt because they believe that only by using such will they be adequately clean.
Aside from supermarkets and grocery stores, there are local convenience stores called sari-sari (variety) stores found almost in every neighborhood. These stores allow buyers to purchase small amounts of basic stuff that every Filipino household needs, such as food, cooking ingredients, or cleaning supplies. This is called the tingi system, which allows consumers to buy units of an item rather than purchase items in bulk. For some it’s cost-efficient since smaller quantities are easily consumed, and, in most cases, it doesn’t go to waste.
One who lives in the Philippines will also get used to the “Filipino time,” wherein Filipinos come in late to events, meetings, and other gatherings. When someone invites his fellow friends for a meeting at 4:00 in the afternoon, expect that these friends will arrive at 4:30 p.m. or even later.
It’s also a habit among Filipinos to procrastinate or put off a task for tomorrow when instead they can accomplish it within the day. Likewise, serious confrontations with challenges are avoided and will be dealt with later.
Hence, one may often heard Filipinos say “bahala na” (come what may) when they don’t feel confident about a task’s outcome.
As Filipinos are generally sociable and fun-loving, a foreigner or new visitor living in the Philippines will also get used to attending parties, town fiestas, and other events throughout the year. These events have become a way of giving thanks for an answered prayer, to pay it forward, or just to celebrate another milestone or achievement. They throw in big events and invite relatives, friends, and colleagues to join in the celebration. And, of course, no event is complete without the karaoke; Filipinos love to sing while eating and/or drinking.
The Philippines was recently named as the World’s no. 1 country for spending time on social media. Filipinos love to stay connected with friends and their loved ones abroad. And, as a way to keep them posted about life’s important events, it’s always a must to bring a camera to take videos and photos (more particularly, selfies) anytime and anywhere. Of course, the creative and wacky shots are always present in the photo album.