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People & Culture

The population of the Philippines according to the latest census reached over 80 million of which approximately 15 % live in Metro Manila. Most of them are of Indo-Malay, Spanish and Chinese descent.
This 'Pearl of the Orient' developed out of the many foreign influences of the past. Long before the Portuguese discoverer Ferdinand Magellan "discovered" the Philippines, Chinese, Japanese and Arabian traders bartered goods with the natives.
The close affinity with the family is linked to the influence from the Chinese and has a major role still in today's family lives. Unlike in other cultures family life goes beyond the relation ship between children and parents. It includes grandparents, uncles, aunts, cousins and even up to second or third cousins. Family gatherings are always huge affairs. Advise of eldest is often thought and followed. The eldest sibling is the one most respected and consulted after the parents. Early kids learn to show respect to elders. One can observe children greeting parents or grandparents having their foreheads touched by the palm of their elders. The most common form of expressing respect is the adding of "po" or "opo" to their sentences when they address elders.
The Spanish ruled the country for almost 333 years and manifested Christianity, which in this form and to this extend is not found elsewhere in Southeast Asia. A lot of religious festivals are celebrates all over the country in lush and colorful parades. The longest Christmas celebration can be found in the Philippines where as early as November Christmas decorations come up and tunes can be heard at the malls. Colorful, lightning decorations of houses and gardens mark this season.
The Americans left their mark by bringing public education, public administration and infrastructure into the country.
Like the Chinese the Filipinos celebrate New Year with a lot of noise and firecrackers to chase bad spirits and evils away. To attract prosperity, good spirits and health all lights in houses are on, windows are opened and lots of fruits are presented to the various gods.

The believe in spirits, phenomena of the different kind are existing and Feng Shui, old healing methods, rituals and celebrations are some of many forms to correct possible negative influences. The tagalog phrase "bahala na" may be translated with "what will be, will be" In a way it is the resume that one has no control over his own life and that supernatural powers determine ones fate. This may be the explanation why most Filipinos are so settled and do not complain or show signs of impatience, no matter what problems surround them. fortune tellers, tarot card readers etc. are the ones consulted to get consultation nd to plan ones future.
The "open arm" hospitality welcoming visitors like long-lost relatives is unique and the willingness to help in times of crisis among neighbors remains strong, representing the spirit of Bayanihan inherited by their Malay Forefathers.
Although the foreigners easily feel comfortable, sooner or later the culture shock comes due to misunderstandings of cultural differences. One has to understand the main pilars of the Philippine values: pakikisama, hiya and amor propio, utang na loob and of course the extended family.
Pakikisama means smooth social interaction. Relationship no matter with whom and on what level should be without open conflict. To keep pakikisama the Filipinos in general will avoid verbal confrontations, rude words or gestures, the direct decline of a request and will try to act polity and calm although deep inside it boils. For this reason often-critical matters are negotiated through third parties. Pakikisama is most important at work places and is considered as the key factor getting a job best done. The Western way of arguing, disagreeing and being very straightforward or frank, is considered by many Filipinos as a breach of etiquette.
Amor propio means self-esteem. To make sure this is not hurt the Filipino is expected to be sensitive about the feelings of others. Shame and embarrassment, called hiya, should not be caused to others! Often the sudden and intense violence in Filipino relations is caused by by "damaged" amor propio.
Utang na loob meaning "debt of gratitude" or "reciprocity", is important in the relationship within the families, the workplace and the neighborhood. It is all about favors asked and favors paid. A Filipino feels honored to be asked a favor. He will not feel ashamed at later stage to ask for a favor in return. They will do their best to fulfill and also to pay back according to their best abilities.
Family values are considered very important and high in the Philippines. The family is the base for all members and does not stop with the children. It includes grandparents, uncles, aunts and cousins down to second or third level. Security and guidance is coming from within the family, where the members feel responsible for each other. Major decisions are made within the family based on their mutual consent and likewise obligations are precedence over obligations towards e.g. the employer. In addition to the blood relatives come the sponsors of children's baptism or wedding assuming responsibility for that child.

Compared to Western standards punctuality is taken quite a different way. unless one is working in a strict organized, western oriented corporation, appointments and deadlines are not meet in time and it is widely accepted.
The Filipino people like to laugh, to giggle, to tease. It is a form of releasing emotions and also tensions. Imagine your driver comes home and tells you with a laugh that he just had an accident with your car. He does not take it light-hearted, rather the opposite is the fact and is a widely accepted way in tension filled moments.
Filipinos are very curious people. They stare without meaning anything offensive and they are very questioning. The Filipinos are from early days seldom left alone and privacy as well as the need for it, is not known. Discussing personal matters and asking questions in this direction, Filipinos are very open and frank.
Food and having a meal is an important affair to the Filipinos! The diet for the majority consists mainly of rise with fish and some vegetable. Rice being an easily digestible starch, it holds back the hunger feeling for a little time only. For this reason they consume five meals a day: breakfast, snack, lunch, merienda and dinner. Eating times are accurately observed by employees and one can observe that concentration and work performance suffer tremendously when the "meal chain" is being interrupted.
Driving in the Philippines is a chapter for itself and one will be surprised who the friendly Filipinos change in attitude once sitting behind the wheel. Traffic signs and regulations tend to be often overlooked, cars move in and out of traffic lanes at narrow, often dangerous path to the neighbor without setting signals. On highways cars are taken over on the left and on the right and even the shoulder lane is used. Buses race aside left and right of you, making you feeling sandwiched and you wonder if you reach your destination alive and in one piece; ...somehow it works out. Tires are changed on the middle of the road and the driver does not care about the traffic jams he causes; it is "his space" he is dealing with. Philippine accepted standards. Don't try it at home!
This "hodgepodge" of different cultures, influences of the East and the West, is well represented in today's famous Filipino hospitality; in the charm and beauty of the people. A blend that makes foreigners easily feel at home and comfortable dealing with the locals provided he is open minded, sensitive and to able integrates himself with the corresponding tolerance into this "hodgepodge".

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