Local Customs in the Philippines

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Customs and Cultures in the Philippines

A little courtesy goes a long way. Filipinos are a very friendly and hospitable people, sometimes even to a fault. Take the time to smile and say "thank you", and you'll receive much better responses. You will receive an even better response if you throw in a little Tagalog, such as "salamat", which means "thank you". When talking to the people who are usually old enough to be your parents or grandparents in Filipino, it is greatly appreciated to includepo in your sentences such as salamat po, call them also by Tito (Uncle), Tita (Aunt), Manong (Mr.) or Manang (Mrs. / Ms.), Ate (older sister) or Kuya (older brother) (words used to address people older than the speaker but not old enough to be an aunt or uncle. Older speakers will tend to use "manong" and "manang" instead) with their name, it is mean to call older people with their names. If you are having a conflict, stay relaxed, make a joke and smile. Getting angry or standing on your stripes will not bring you far, and you will lose respect.

In the countryside and in some urban homes, footwear is removed when entering a home, though they may make an exception for foreigners. The key is to look around before entering any home. If you see footwear just outside the door, more than likely the family's practice is to remove footwear before entering. If you wear socks, you don't have to remove them.

Although many Filipinos might not be able to afford tipping service workers, tipping is always accepted. Tips are customary, and in some instances, mandatory in the more high-end environments such as hotels and major restaurants.

Work

When working with people in the Philippines, it's important to remember that they often bring cultural influences into the workplace and that don't always match well with your business culture. When you first meet another business person, it's important that you address them with both their title and both their first and last name. Businesses in the Philippines are often structured as a hierarchy and it's important to note that most decisions are made from the top down. Additionally, the Filipino value of "social harmony" doesn't always allow for directness when approaching sensitive issues.

Street Children

In many of the larger cities extreme poverty is prevalent. It is illegal to give money to beggars or the street children who run around at all hours. If you really want to give something, food is the better alternative. At times, when children go up to foreigners they won't go away until you give something. To counter this, avoid swearing and just ignore them. They can understand swear words and might call on their friends to bug you even more.

Politics

The government of the Philippines was largely based on the United States model. The President of the Philippines is elected directly by the people, and serves as both the Head of State and Head of Government.

The legislature is a bicameral congress consisting of a lower house, known as the Kapulungan ng mga Kinatawan (House of Representatives) and an upper house, known as the Senado (Senate). Both houses are elected directly by the people, though the country is divided into districts for the election of the lower house, while the upper house is elected by the country as a whole.

Keep in mind that the Marcos years (1965-1986) can be a polarizing topic within the Philippines. Visitors will find that the northern Ilokano Population view the regime as an era of stability, while the metropolitan areas in the south of Luzon take strong pride in the people's power or "EDSA" revolution that deposed the regime. Either way it is best to assess the speaker's opinion prior to approaching the topic.

Religion

The Philippines is not only the largest Christian country in Asia, but also it is the world's third largest Catholic Nation. The Catholic faith remains the single biggest legacy of three hundred years of Spanish colonial rule. Catholicism is taken quite seriously in the Philippines. Masses draw crowds from the biggest cathedrals in the metropolis to the smallest parish chapels in the countryside. During Holy Week, most broadcast TV stations close down or operate only on limited hours and those that do operate broadcast religious programs. The Christian faith exerts quite a bit of influence on non-religious affairs such as affairs of state. Mores have been changing slowly, however; artificial birth control, premarital sex, and the dissolution of marriage vows have been on the rise.

The biggest religious minority are Muslim Filipinos who primarily live in Mindanao and ARMM, but also increasingly in cities such as Manila, Baguio or Cebu in the north and central parts of the country. They account for around 5% of the population. Islam is the oldest continually practiced organized religion in the Philippines, with the first conversions made in the 12th century AD. Islam became such an important force that Manila at the time of the Spanish arrival in the 16th century was a Muslim city. Many aspects of this Islamic past are seen in certain cultural traits many mainstream Christian Filipinos still exhibit (such as eating and hygiene etiquette) and has added to the melting pot of Filipino culture in general. Sadly, Terrorist attacks and violent confrontations between the Filipino army and splinter militant Islamic organizations such as the Abu Sayyaf and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front have strained relations between Muslim and the non-Muslim Filipinos in rural areas in the south. Yet, the Muslim Filipinos are much more liberal in their interpretations of Islam, and like the Muslims of Indonesia, are generally more relaxed regarding such topics as gender-segregation or the hijab (veil) than South Asians or Middle Eastern Muslims.

Indian Filipinos, Chinese Filipinos, and Japanese Filipinos are mostly Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Shinto, and Taoist which all accounts 3% of the population of the Philippines. These populations have been in the country for centuries preceding Spanish rule, and many aspects of Buddhist and Hindu belief and culture are seen in the mainstream culture of Christian or Muslim Filipinos as well. As with many things in the Philippines, religion statistics are never clear-cut and defined, and many Christians and Muslims also practice and believe in indigenous spiritual aspects (such as honoring natural deities and ancestor-worship, as well as the existence of magic and healers) that may in some cases contradict the orthodox rules of their religions.

Culture

The culture of the Philippines is very diverse. There is the native Melanesian and Austronesian culture, which is most evident in language, ethnicity, native architecture, food and dances. There is also some influence from Japan, China, India, Arabia, and Borneo. On top of that there is a heavy colonial Hispanic influence from Mexico and Spain, such as in religion, food, dance, language, festivals, architecture and ethnicity. Later influence from the US can also be seen in the culture.

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