Filipino Characteristics

In spite of their differences the Filipinos recognise that they have a number of features in common – generousity, an overwhelming hospitality, a highly developed feeling for the family, a profound respect for older people, a fatalism which finds expression in the Tagalog “bahala na” (it’s all right), an admirable loyalty to their friends, an extreme sensibility and an ever-present sentimentality, as well as the lack of initiative, an acute sense of curiosity and a self-centred individualism. A visitor will be struck at once by their liveliness and gaiety in sharp contrast with the inscrutable affability of Asiatic; and their friendliness and simplicity have a beguiling charisma.

It should be emphasized that the family is the primary social welfare system of the Filipinos and so family feeling is so strong, almost clannish. Usually the whole family live together. A newly married couple will set up their own house, though not uncommonly a brother or sister will go with them to reduce the burden on the parents or provide domestic help. Any activity when someone goes away or is admitted to hospital involves several members of the family. Family life also implies respect for the older members of the family: mano is a gesture of respect by placing the back of elder’s hand (at the fingers) against one’s forehead; younger siblings are expected to respect their elders by addressing them with proper honorifics.

In these large families there is always room for one more person and hospitality to strangers and other members of the family is an obligation in which all share. The guest must be fed abundantly, or indeed super-abundantly, and each member of the family must help to entertain him. The family enlarged by the addition of friends. The bayanihan is a source of strength which finds an application on appropriate occasions. Its help is enlisted, for example, for the planting out of the rice shoots, for the harvest and, more rarely, for moving house. In this last case additional help may be required not only for transporting furniture and household goods but sometimes also for moving the house itself.

Although girls must obtain their father’s permission to go out with a young man, they may sometimes be greeted by a serenade. A young man brings a group of friends, and one of them plays a guitar while the rest sing under the fair one’s window in the hope of being admitted into the house. The young man may also spend a month or more working in his fiancee’s house, though he is not permitted to speak to her during this period (the panilbihan).

The Filipinos are divided geographically and culturally into regions, and each regional group is recognizable by distinct traits: The Ilocanos who must struggle to make the arid lands of the north produce crops tend to be austere, patient and enterprising; the Tagalogs are gay and pleasure-loving; the Visayans are fond of music and easily contented; while the Bicolanos are noted for their strong religious feeling and their equable temperament.