The centuries of Spanish and American rule, as well as the influence of Japan, China, India, Middle East and the West, have given the Philippineshas a unique and particularly formal sense of etiquette concerning social functions, filial piety and public behaviour. Age is an important determinant in social structure and behaviour, dictating the application of honour, precedence, and title.

  • Unlike in Western culture, where meals are a private affair, Filipinos who are chanced upon dining will invite visitors to eat with them. However, to actually sit down and eat upon the invitation is considered offensive. It is the host’s prerogative to be gracious, but it is the guest’s burden to avoid being overbearing. When asked to do so, it is polite to say one has already eaten or is still quite full rather than declining bluntly.
  • Hosts will strive to appear gracious while guests strive to appear happily grateful in all situations. Any shortcomings by any party in this regard are seen as bad manners.
  • Hosts will invariably serve a snack for their visitors, who should in turn always accept and consume the food. Declining is considered rude to the host who has taken to offer his own food to the guest. Only in certain circumstances is it socially acceptable to decline, i.e., if the guest is allergic or if it is against religious beliefs.
  • Good posture is expected at the dinner table. A diner singing at table is considered rude in some areas.
  • Waiters usually only come to take the order, refill drinks and bring the bill. Most will not return to ask if anything else is needed but are mostly attentive and can be easily summoned. However, except for formal dining establishments, Filipino waiters are not trained to answer questions.

  • If someone is buying a meal for someone else, the buyer orders first. For the guest to order something expensive on the menu is considered highly rude and speaks of ill breeding.
  • Filipinos use forks, spoons and knives differently than in Western countries, particularly because rice is the country’s main staple. The spoon is held in the right hand, and is used to scoop up the food or cut up pieces. The fork in the left hand helps in cutting up and spearing the food. Knives are also sometimes used and always in the Western manner (spoons are left out when eating Continental or American cuisine). Chopsticks are not normally used outside of Chinese, Japanese and Korean restaurants or in the home when eating such food; rules on their use still apply.
  • The last morsel of food is almost always left on the serving platter. If someone wants to eat it, he or she should ask if anybody else wants it; eating it is considered porcine and ill-bred behaviour.
  • While splitting bills at restaurants is common amongst the youth, older adults consider it a matter of prestige to pay for the bill and will often compete for the honour. Moreover, allowing another to pay the bill without some customary protest is a faux pas.
  • Filipinos still hold gentlemanly behaviour in high regard. In waiting rooms or on buses, men traditionally offer their seats to the handicapped, the elderly, the pregnant and women in general, although this is generally ignored today. To revive this, a Manila railway has designated separate seats for these groups, and a separate coach for women after several indecent incidents.
  • Filipinos place importance on proper introductions. Older people are introduced to younger people first; men are introduced to women first. Introduce a group to an individual first as the individual is not expected to remember all the names at first introduction. Failing to make the proper introductions can also be a faux pas. This is particularly true for children introducing friends or acquaintances to their parents.
  • Always acknowledge the presence of older people in the room by shaking their hands. When greeting a parent, godparent, grandparent or religious authority, Filipinos give obeisance with the important máno gesture; the doer asks for the receiver’s hand and brings it to the forehead. Kisses are not involved in such a case nor is there any regard for the cleanliness of the hands. It is unusual and awkward for someone to máno non-relatives or new acquaintances unless there is a relatively deep kinship involved. Youth in Americanised and urban areas have however begun switching to the more age-egalitarian kissing of cheeks as a form of greeting.
  • Seeming reluctant to socialise, especially at an event to which one is invited, could be considered offensive. It is proper to hide one’s self from attention than to directly ask for privacy or personal space.
  • Never address older people at the same level; use the words “tito” (“uncle”) or “tita” (“auntie”) for extra-familial adults but only if they are close or merit some other honourific yet prefer to be addressed as such (usually to avoid sounding old). Mister, Mrs., and Miss will suffice in more formal situations, especially if it is only the first introduction.

  • When speaking to elders, respectful tone and language is absolutely required. Using “opo” (respectful form of “oo“, the Filipino word for “yes”) and its shortcut “” wheresoever required. ““, unlike “opo“, may be inserted in more places in a sentence (usually Filipino, but sometimes in Englog or Taglish) instead of simply functioning as a reply in the affirmative. Example: “Kakain na po tayo.” (We are going to eat now.) Not doing so is also extremely offensive and could be taken as a sign of aggression. The use of these respectful words is sometimes considered to be a fundamental tenet in local etiquette, especially when taught to children, and is also admirable in a child who employs this in conversation with adults. This rule may however not always apply to non-Tagalog speaking regions.
  • Gift-giving is important on many occasions such as weddings and birthdays. Coming to a party empty-handed is considered a faux pas. If a gift is unavailable on short notice, a food item may be brought instead. If invited to a restaurant, do not assume the opportunity to buy the celebrant dinner; bring a gift instead.
  • When attending a wake, avoid wearing loud colours (especially red). Sombre colours such as black, white, greys, muted and earth tones are proper for visiting wakes. Due to the Philippine heat and Tsinoy cultural influence, white as a mourning colour is increasingly preferred by many (although Ilocanos have used it for centuries). Wearing black or white is however slowly waning, and it usually limited to the immediate family. Money, flowers or Mass intention cards are acceptable gifts.
  • If someone needs to walk in between a television and those watching it or between two conversing people, he or she must excuse themselves and lower the head (almost bowing) whilst passing through.
  • When one meets an acquaintance at any form of public transport, he/she must never forget to greet the other. In some instances, one takes the responsibility to pay his companion’s fare. Allowing this to happen without protest is considered rude.
  • When one drives or rides one’s own vehicle and sees an acquaintance on the street, it is prerogative to stop and offer a ride, especially if the acquaintance’s destination is on the way. The one offered is free to decline or accept; either choice is acceptable.
  • Boisterous or loud talking is generally frowned upon; this rule is almost never followed, except by the educated or when someone is in pain or distress.
  • Kissing and displaying affection in public is still generally considered to be in bad taste or scandalous in this somewhat conservative country. It is however as rude to make a scene of it, so one merely ignores—or at best stares down—couples who make public displays of affection. This is becoming increasingly acceptable in urban areas, though this is a minority.
  • When gesturing for someone to come hither, he or she must face the palm to the ground and gesture the fingers back. The Western gesture, where the palm is faced upwards, is considered a gesture for sex.
  • While the Philippines is predominantly Roman Catholic, there is a significant Muslim minority and therefore many points of Etiquette in the Middle East can apply in Muslim areas.

 

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*This guide is mainly based on wikipedia’s texts & images. We thank the authors , for their great efforts