Ironic Investigations on "true Filipino

It is common knowledge, that different (foreign) cultural influences and lifestyles are mingled in the Philippines. Rizal has already had to consider the topic of how to keep its own identity alive in the melting pot of foreign influences. The Philippines have been characterized as a medley between "Malaysia, Madrid and Madison Avenue". Some, referring particularly to the American cultural invasion, speak agitatedly of a "Coca-Colonization" of the Philippine society. Should the identity of the Philippines only be a fiction ?

Definitely not, if, you follow the publication by  Nena Romana-Cruz (1). The basis of her collection of typical attributes is an internet-survey. The attributions are sometimes oversimplified then brought to a head. But the collection of her phrases is highly entertaining. The information from her publication can also assist in a more in-depth, as well as interesting conversation over Filipino/a characteristics. Some "unmistakable" characteristics are presented here. Let's examine, hopefully with a slight sense of humour, to what extent the typical, behavioural lifestyle f. e. of your  "asawa" (wife) has been changed by Western influences.


Two outstanding passions mark the Pinoy,  the passion of the love and a religious passion. The suffering and pain thresholds are high, but before reaching its agonizing peak, he tries to counter the unpleasant situation with a balance of normal say (best example: practices on All Saints Day). When all else fails he suppresses them, then it is possible to go out for cigarettes or peanuts, even if machinegun fire could be heard.

Not only PAL - Airline also our "real" Filipino is always late. The background of this attitude is a fundamental respect for the host. Facing women and older persons he acts like the perfect gentle- man for example by carrying bags, opening doors or even offering a seat.

Playing or commentating basketball is also a high passion. If it is a real passion up to two-thirds of leisure time are spent for it. An occasion for singing and dancing can always be found, while parties and celebrations are inalienable highlights of the life. These events even justify taking out a bigger loan.


Not all communication is verbal, persons and objects can singled out with  "pointing lips". It's also possible to greet someone by lifting the eye-brows. Why shout in a restaurant for the bill, when you can draw a square in the air with the same result. A right Filipino can convey more than 30 messages by facial expressions alone, but he may only prefer to smile.  A "true" Pinoy covers his mouth when he audibly laughs. It is common to greet the elderly by putting your hands on your forehead.  It is shameful not to have the correct answer. Therefore our "real" Filipino is in search of an answer, which fits on each question - or he may leave the question by pensive scraping of the head.

Our Pinoy doesn't like to say "No". Is it under social aspects not better to say "I'll try" or "may be"? Communication between Filipinos has something of a Chinese puzzle. It is said that it works on the following principle:

"You're perfectly understood by fellow Filipinos, although you seldom mean what you say and say what you mean. "

Family life

The "genuine" Filipino is - even in distant relation - related to everyone. Parents call each another "Mommy" or "Daddy". Aunts and uncles go by the name of "Boy", "Girli" or "Baby". Names with repetitive syllables are also popular like "Jun-Jun", "Ling-Ling" or "Mon-Mon".

Besides a copy of "Last Supper" and the figure of Sto. Nino in residential- or dining rooms there are frequently hanging all certificates of education and trainings from the members of family. Furniture are protected with a plastic cover.

The kitchen knows often a dirty and a clean section. Fly-swatter and the vinyl-tablecloth are important requisites. Western consumer goods are proudly displayed. All recycling-possibilities of goods are examined before being thrown away.

Slippers remain in front of the door and the floor is purified using half of a shell of coconut. It's possible to cut the grass in the forecourt with help of a "bolo". At least once a day - but never on Friday - a shower is taken by help of a "tabo" (plastic-box). A stone serves for scrubbing the skin and a certain kind of tree bark creates the shampoo.

Skin without folds in old ages is a thing to be proud of. Western medicine is getting the same degree of appreciation like the advice a "grass doctor" respectively a priest. Hand washing is at a premium in comparison to washing with a machine.

Meals are hold in high regard and the real Pinoy is proud of the fact that he remains slender. He eats more than three times at the day. A meal without rice - the necessary quantity of water being  measured with finger - is unimaginable. In anticipation of guests mostly too much rice is cooked. In addition to rice there is given for example dried salty fish (foreigners disqualify it as "rotten" fish), pickled knuckle of pork or mango. Patis (a fish sauce ), Toyo (Soya sauce), Vinegar , Banana catsup (a kind of ketchup) or Bagoong (salted inserted fish) are belonging to a good meal. The meal is taken with the help of tablespoon and fork. The knee is usually up on the chair. After the meal there is a tendency to grasp for a toothpick. Eating outside starts with a struggle, who has  the honour of the paying. 

In order to get the children or siblings a better education, even the last carabao is sold or - take the morals as you want - stolen. The investments of parents in a better education of their children are one reason for strong family ties even after puberty.

Driving and Shopping

The car used for shopping  must also be typical. The door of car shows the surname of family and there is at least one rosary at the rear-view mirror. The car horn is able to give three different kinds of sound and when the car is going back you can hear a melody. It's not necessary to have a large car. A car designed for five persons easily fits 15 persons. While driving it the left arm is hung out of window. It is used to give signal for a turn to the left. A fundamental rule is effective: Traffic rules are only recommendations, addressed to other persons. The yellow traffic light indicates the message "Go on - You have to set up a new record" and the follow driver is thinking the same.

Our Pinoy knows cheap sources of supply - but even here there is no purchase without haggling. At the end the whole household is filled with" low-priced" articles. But price is not so important with regard to fashion accessories or if the label says that the product is manufactured in an other country. A bad side-effect of retreat of US-troops is that there are no PX-shops anymore. A Pinoy is master expert with regard to packaging. His hands can double the original capacity of a container.


(1) We refer to: "You know you're Filipino, if ... A Pinoy Primer", Tahanan Books, Makati City Center, 1997, IBN: 971-630-081