The Philippines is a country whose modern-day culture now showcases a mixture of Western and Eastern refinement. Today, there may be a handful of Filipino practices and characteristics that are similar with those of other Asian countries but what sets the Filipino culture apart is how it managed to throw American and Spanish influences in the mix. Starting off with their language and dialect.
The primary language that’s observed (but not necessarily practiced) by the people of the Philippines is Tagalog. Although Tagalog is a dialect that is commonly spoken in the north, it became the standard of the Philippine language as it is understood by many Filipinos. Along with English, they are used as mediums of instruction for many academic subjects in school, from kindergarten to college, and in almost all audio and visual media across the country. Because both languages have such significant role in communication for Filipinos, what better way to make the most out of both than to turn them into a single language! Also, for the lack of better (or easier) Tagalog words that would exactly equate to certain English words, the Taglish was created. For this reason, many Filipinos speak a mixture of both languages, which is called the “Taglish.”
Filipinos, especially from the Urban regions, speak Taglish when engaged in casual conversations. However, when it comes to certain occasions, it’s either pure English or pure Tagalog because Taglish is not an official language, thus it’s considered as informal. Common Taglish expressions include an English verb and an English noun in a sentence, just like the following examples:
“Nag breakfast ka na?” – Did you already have breakfast?
“Tara! Mag swimming tayo sa pool!” – “Let’s go swimming in the pool!
Referred to as the “King of the Philippine roads”, jeepneys look like elongated versions of minibuses with colorful decorations. It is a popular mode of public transport that Filipinos love since the fare is cheap and it can literally drop them off anywhere, even at the door entrance of malls. They originated from the term “GP” or “Government Purpose”, describing the vehicles used by American troops during World War II. Today, you can see jeepneys anywhere in the country. So, if you don’t want to wait an eternity for an Uber or Grab, then why not hail a jeepney that whizzes by every second. Just a disclaimer: it’s not the most comfortable ride in the world.
Sorbetes (Dirty Ice Cream)
Sorbetes is a Filipino variation of ice cream. It is stored in a large metal container and peddled by street vendors using a wooden cart painted with bright colors. It is also called “dirty ice cream” for some unknown reason. One possible explanation behind the term stemmed from grumpy moms who rebuke their children not to buy sorbetes because it seems dirty. Another reason could be that the conditions of manufacturing sorbetes are not meeting sanitary standards. No one knows for sure the reason behind its moniker. Nevertheless, what’s important is that there are no cases of food poisoning after eating the infamous ice cream. Oh! and by the way, did you know that the term “sorbetes” rooted from the Spanish term “sorbete” which is “sherbet” in English – a frozen dessert made with fruit juice added to milk or cream, egg white, or gelatin. The term hits quite close to home, doesn’t it?
Barong Tagalog and Baro’t Saya
The Barong Tagalog is the national attire of Filipino men, while the baro’t saya is for Filipina women. These traditional clothing are worn during important occasions. Barong Tagalog is basically the Filipino version of a coat (minus the tie), and the Baro’t Saya is the dress. The Barong Tagalog is comprised with a barong which serves as an upper garment and a collarless undershirt called camisa de chino. Since it is made from pineapple leaf fibers, it appears thin and almost transparent. Its white color and intricate designs in the front make it elegant. The same material is used for making the baro in baro’t saya. The baro serves as the top garment, while the saya is the skirt. Wearing these costumes will guarantee elegance and style. They can even be made as high-fashion outfits like the Barong-inspired garments by Valentino, a world-renowned fashion designer. Valentino put out stylish pieces that resemble the Barong Tagalog during the Spring fashion week in Paris in 2012.
Social Media Capital of the World
Filipinos may be wading through the quagmire of sluggish internet connection but that doesn’t stop them from expressing themselves on social media. According to a study, the Philippines is at the forefront in terms of social media usage. The average Filipino spends more than 4 hours on social media like Instagram, Snapchat, and Facebook. That is already equivalent to a half day of work (though it’s not something to be concerned about because Filipinos are naturally good multitaskers). Moreover, the United States, surprisingly, is in the bottom half of the list where many social media brands originated.
The Philippines is a Catholic country, which means it’s part of their culture to commemorate saints. At certain times of the year, you may be invited by some Catholic relatives or friends to their houses to celebrate the patron saint in their town. The festivity is called “fiesta” which honors the local patron saint. The fiesta is not just about processions but also serves as a way for Filipinos to show others their generosity. Locals invite their friends and relatives to their homes for a feast like there’s no tomorrow. A fiesta is nothing without the popular Pinoy delicacies like lechon, adobo, pansit, and a lot more. Once the guests are done eating, they thank the host and head to the next house to celebrate and, yet again, feast! So, if you are invited by some friends or relatives to celebrate fiesta at their place, then you better empty your stomach because you just can’t decline Filipino hospitality and not feast.
The longest Christmas season
For most Filipinos, Christmas begins as soon as the calendar hits the “ber” months (when September kicks in). During this time of the year, you will already hear Mariah Carey’s perennial holiday hit “All I want for Christmas” on a loop on the radio! Side by side, the locally renowned Jose Marie Chan’s soothing Christmas lullabies. Filipinos will start to adorn the streets and malls with colorful Christmas decorations like the “parol” – a Christmas lantern that symbolizes hope and goodwill. Apart from this, there are season long practices that make Christmas in the Philippines stand out from others.
When December comes, there are a lot of religious traditions that Filipinos, specifically Catholics, celebrate, like the “Simbang Gabi” (Night Mass). The night mass isn’t just one service but has nine in total. Catholics have to attend all these nine masses so that their wishes will be fulfilled.
One of the most unique and fun spectacles during December in the Philippines is the “caroling”. Caroling is an activity performed by a group of adults or children that go from house to house to sing Christmas carols. This tradition will remind you of trick or treat on Halloween, where the neighborhood looks forward to carolers to pass by their house and sing them joyous Christmas carols. After performing the last song, they will ask you for a few bucks or coins. The proceeds they gain will either go to church/foundation or in their own pockets. It’s up to you to decide whether to give the carolers some moolah. If you think they are doing it for a good cause, then why not give a few bucks; otherwise, turn off your lights, unless they did a spectacular performance.
This almost 4-month long Christmas season ends on January 6 which is the Feast of the Three Kings. For Filipinos, the longer the celebration, the longer the fun; no wonder the Philippines is among the happiest countries in the world.
What sets the Philippines apart is how open and bold its culture is to adapt to several others in order to keep up with the changing times. This explains why the country is such a mixed bunch (in a good way), yet so unique!
This post was written by Reymart Sarigumba from iPrice group.