Uniquely Filipino: Peculiar Traits of Pinoys

By Joseph Richmon F. Jamon

Filipinos are among the most relaxed and fun-loving people you will ever meet around the globe. It is hard to accurately describe what makes every day a lesson in glee or what others aptly regard as a ‘carnival of lunacy’, which is on continual display in a myriad of ways. Every single day offers something new to savor, and a new oddity to laugh about. From a “you-tube” worth mishap to a faintly laid-back tuning in to a daily television show that features contestant’s amazing struggles in the swirling current of daily life, this enigmatic country is full of contradictions and they are a pleasure to explore.

I take satisfaction in these mundane, but life-learning peculiarities, knowing full well that they are now a part of me as I travel through wherever life takes me. Let me share you some of these small quirks and funny moments.

Our eyebrow speaks …

The eyebrows usually convey emotion through various facial expressions. By raising our eyebrows we can also communicate a positive affirmation of “yes” when a polar question has been asked. Henceforth, if a Filipino or Filipina fails to verbally answer your question, look at their eyebrows before feeling like you were being ignored. They may just be answering you non-verbally through the raising of their eyebrows. In addition, raising eyebrows accompanied with strong eye contact can also serve as a greeting or farewell to an individual you cannot physically touch.

Image Credit: "Teptep" http://www.pbase.com/image/101549731

Our lips give directions …

Consider this as another non-verbal expression performed by Filipinos. By puckering our lips and facing a certain direction, we are giving clear and specific instruction on which way to go. Instead of wasting physical energy by lifting our arm/hand to point, we conserve energy by using our puckered lips.

“It’s Ok.” – What?

These two simple words can cause a rash of confusion. “It’s Ok” in the Philippines means everything from “yes” to “no” to “don’t even think about it” – with absolutely no way to discern which one is intended in a particular situation. Therefore, it challenges one’s own prudence. Say for instance, if you ask someone if they want something, you’ll get the response, “It’s Ok!” Likewise if you ask if you can go somewhere, you’ll receive the answer, “It’s Ok!” And try asking whether anyone was hurt and you’ll hear, “It’s Ok”. You would think that you’d be able to discern the appropriate sentiment given the context, right? Think again. You absolutely cannot.

Food Craze … Why is there a food at every gathering?

Whether it is a lavish party or just an informal meeting, Filipinos express their hospitality & friendship through the serving of food. The more grandiose the cuisine, the more ‘love’ they are trying to convey to those at the gathering. Instead of asking, ‘How are you?’ Filipinos will ask, “Have you eaten already?’ Or better yet, “Have you eaten enough?”

Offering Food and Declining the Offer – Which is which?

“Kain!” (Let’s eat!) This is how Filipinos acknowledge anyone who stumbles upon a flock of Filipinos eating. This is our distinctive way of offering food to strangers and people we barely know. In fact, it could be a way of greeting someone while you’re eating. Instead of saying “Hello”, you say “Let’s eat!”

Now the thing that makes it a bit baffling is that it’s polite to offer to share your meal with a person, but, it is equally polite for the other person to decline the offer.

It makes me wonder “why offer in the first place if you don’t expect the other person to accept it?” Well in fact most people who get offered to eat decline the offer regardless if they’re starving or not.

To pull is to please – How sincere are we?

We are famous for being very hospitable and delightful to be with. In all modesty, I must say we are the warmest people one will ever meet. Due to our colonial history, we can be especially accommodating to Westerners that we come across. Filipinos always seek the company of another in everything we do and are seldom seen outside of social groups.

Given this friendly nature, we are not satisfied to just invite someone to join us by merely asking out loud. It is customary to emphasize the invitation by pulling at the invitee’s hand. This way, they’ll appreciate how sincerely they’re being invited. If they tug back they might be agreeing, or they might be just trying to get it away. Another example of the seeming ambiguity of the Filipino experience.

Paying for someone’s fare in a Jeepney – Who’s going to?

A jeepney is the primary mode of transport in the Philippines. It means sharing the two back benches of a jeepney (and any space between) with at least 20 other people. It might not always be comfortable but it’s cozy! One Filipino quirk that, thus far, has got me laughing silently is the instinct of bringing out your wallet and paying the fare of a friend who happens to be riding the jeep with you.

The scene in a jeepney when two friends collide is this. The one who is already on the jeep says greetings and exchanges pleasantries with the friend who has just got in, then they simultaneously ask each other “have you paid your fare?” and scramble to pay each other’s fare. A wrestling match of two pairs of hands giving money to the driver ensues as both insist that the other should keep his or her money. Taking this to an extreme scenario, if one doesn’t offer to pay for the other’s fare, he/she apologizes profusely and announces that he/she is sorry for not offering to pay your fare (for some reasons). Or at the very least, sports an ashamed look.

We Filipinos often find every thing a laughable concept, which certainly proves why we are amongst the happiest people in the world despite the ups and downs of our living situations. And there are a lot of peculiar traits and ways of interactions we unconsciously perform that makes us Uniquely Filipino. It was while proofreading this article that I had a good laugh because without us knowing about it, our habits and mannerisms really make us different from other nationalities. Like how we all turn around like curious kittens when we hear, “Pssst!”

Overall, the Filipino way of life is something that cannot be captured on a picture or limited to words on an article, it modestly cannot be. It is an experience. There are many strange and exciting things with peculiar twists at every turn. It is a never-ending discovery.

With a grin on my face, I ended up whispering myself … “It’s just the FILIPINO way“.

About richmondjosef

The man who can't be moved.

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  • I have no idea exactly where you happen to be obtaining your facts, but wonderful matter. I has to invest some time learning far more or even comprehension a lot more. Many thanks fantastic facts I became looking for this info with regard to my personal quest.

    • best of luck on your quest, shon. i’m certain there’s a lot more interesting facts you’ll encounter on your journey. and as we all proudly say, it’s more fun in the Philippines!

  • HumeRoix

    ang galing ng article na to…..salamat sa pagsulat dahil napangiti mo kami…..

    • Steven Macon

      And let’s not forget these sterling traits of Pinoys as well: (1) Thievery, (2) The ability to lie with a straight face and have absolutely no twinge of conscience whatsoever, (3) the innate ability to wail karaoke until at least 2 AM without hardly ever singing one note in the proper key, (4)inherent ability of NOT being able to line up in a straight line at public places or wait your turn, (5) uncanny ability to drive on the streets and roads of the Philippines as if they are either extremely drunk, on drugs, or both, (6) annoying ability of Pinoys to all talk AT THE SAME TIME instead of each person talking one at a time.

      • g’day

        @steve macon please read 26 september 2011 comment of this blog. thank you.

        • Steven Macon

          Can’t find it and too lazy to look for it. Why don’t you just spare me the drama and tell me what you are talking about, g’day?

        • Steven Macon

          Just to straighten out your misconceptions of my situation, g’day: (1) My wife and I have NUMEROUS certificates of deposit totalling over $800,000 in 3 different banks in the USA and are living off just the interest from those accounts. (2) We could live ANYWHERE we choose to. For now…that choice is the Philippines due to the approximately 43 to 1 money exchange rate of U.S. dollars to pesos. (3) We can go back to Texas any time we choose to. We are not TIED to the Philippines. We do not even own a house so we can just leave here. (4) Please keep quiet. You are uninformed.

          • g’day

            if the 43 to 1 money exchange rate is more important to you steve macon then suffer the consequences without whingeing too much as filipinos do not suffer very gladly to disrespectful and impolite “guest” in the country. otherwise please spend your $800.000? elsewhere.

            • Steven Macon

              LOL! G’day, your response is predictable and a good example of the type of attitude I have encountered here in the sunny Philippines. I am not seen as a “guest”, but rather as a target, a victim, and a sucker by native Filipinos. By the way, where are YOU living right now, g’day? Perhaps in Australia? So…don’t presume to lecture me on anything unless you are living next door to me here in Talisay City. Then..you will KNOW about all these things I have mentioned, OK? Notice that I am not lecturing you on Australia because I am not IN Australia. Ah. Have a nice day.

              • g’day

                isn’t it typical of you to assume where i live and to judge the filipinos in general with your most self-centered self? please do us a favor steve macon and show some respect for the author of this blog richmondjoseph and keep your sarcastic opinions to yourself. you have spoiled his article far too much with all your whingeing. ohh, sunnier texas misses you!

                • Steven Macon

                  And….in typical Pinoy fashion you have failed to answer a simple question. Do you or do you not live outside the country of the Philippines and in Australia. Your moniker, “g’day”, is a standard Aussie greeting. Why do Pinoys have so much trouble answering a simple question? It is a trait of many Filipinos I find very puzzling. Example: When I first moved here, I asked the clerk in an appliance store, “How long has this particular fan been sitting here on display?” Know what he said? “Oh, sir, this will be an excellent fan for you!” (!?!??) He did not answer the question and neither have you. How about showing we foreigners a little respect? As soon as you quit attacking my post and start attacking me as a poster, I know for sure have hit the mark. Yes, the truth hurts, but it is still the truth.

              • jazz

                I think you might have missed a dose or two of your Prozac, Steve Macon. You sound so angry and depressed. I so pity you and the people who have to bear with your black mood.

                • g’day

                  ha ha ha! i wholeheartedly agree with you jazz!

                • Steven Macon

                  Pity the Filipinos. They have no plan, no future, no common sense and no God. Most of the country is following Santo Nino, Mama Mary or the Black Nazarene, due to the influence of the false religion of Catholicism. Pity them.

                  • g’day

                    life’s attitude strictly for steve macon: no need for revenge. we sit back and wait. the person who hurt us will eventually screw up himself and if we are lucky God will let us watch!

                    • HumeRoix

                      ulol ka steve…walang kang kaalamalam sa kulturang PILIPINO kung yan lng ang nalalaman mo….You might be a heck of a smart foreigner but you know nothing about PHILIPPINES..anyways PREJUDICE is the child of IGNORANCE….btw, sa negros ba na talisay city yan?…..hehe…

                    • Steven Macon

                      Yes, God is watching. Watching the priests and bishops condone unlimited population explosion in the Philippines while condemning the RH Bill Noy-Noy is trying to get passed to educate ignorant Catholic Filipinos on the hazards of having too many children that you cannot feed and raise. Ah! I say…take all your excess children to your local priest and say, “Here. You raise them.” See what he says. LOL! Did you know that Paul and the apostles were forbidden by the Holy Spirit to even come to Asia and preach for quite some time? After living in the Philippines for almost 3 years, I think I understand why.

                    • g’day

                      humeRoix talisay is in cebu where steve macon is.

                    • HumeRoix

                      @g’day…aw…haha…salamat…naman ang mamang to!!parang racist…di ko maintindihan kung bakit di nalang tingnan ang positive side…puro kasi negative nakikita e…hehe
                      @steven…elow sir….you’ve got a point there but the problem is eveyone’s also got the point..get my point??!!…hehe…peace..

                    • vicky

                      @ g’day, jazz & HumeRoix: just ignore the creep. Don’t stoop to his level as he seems to be the scum of the earth. Maybe he’s in Talisay because the people in his native Texas can’t stand him either. Hopefully, the Philippines will be spared from obnoxious characters like this one. I pity his wife.

              • Aly

                You are SO spot on! That is so true! I am a Filipina-American, so I would know. I can see some people on here getting mad at what you said because they’re just offended (and I have no idea why. It’s like they’re ashamed because it’s true; why they gotta be ashamed for?). As for me, I am not offended, Why? Because what you state here is all true.

                • Aly

                  Didn’t see the rest of his comments. Rude much though? Goodness. Didn’t have to take it THAT far.

    • whoah thanks, Humeroix! =) Peace out to all!

  • nesty

    PINOY ka pag napangiti ka!!!!!tnx for the article…napangiti mo ako….

    • i’m glad i somehow put a smile on your face. be happy! =)

  • Gillian

    nice blog.. funny and so true ….

  • Linda Uchi Garcia

    LOL! So funny and so true.

  • Blue_Pinay

    this is true, especially the fare in the jeepney, funny but true, sometimes my Tatay would ride in the jeepney and saw 10 friends and relatives, and end up paying for them all. hay naku.hehehhe

  • antoinette arambulo

    With all the peculiarities you pointed out with protruded lips, lol, there is no race as “cute” as Filipinos. Thank you for this enetertaining read.

  • Marylou Herrera Portugal

    Only Pilipino can turn absurdity to fun and humor..it is in the genes….

    • linda jones

      this is very true!!!!!!!!!!!!!! i am very proud to be a filipino