Filipino Culture of Respect

Philippines flagThe Filipinos know what they value, what they treasure, and what they are willing to fight for. The Philippines is an island-country with a long history of colonization along with abuse and violence from its colonizers. Shaken, devastated, and tore into bits and pieces, the Filipino heart became resilient, ready to face the odds and to start all over again. After all, Filipinos know what they value, what they treasure, and what they are willing to fight for.

The Filipino values his or her race, treasures his or her loved-ones, and fights for its freedom and values embedded in every fiber of his or her being. Some of the people who studied the Filipino culture from the pre-colonial era to the 21st century Philippines say that there is a lost trait of the Filipinos: respect.

The Filipinos are known as a people of pride prior the colonization era. A lot of research has revealed the Filipino glory during these moments. However, this pride fades away in the near four hundred years of colonization under different colonizers. To some, this pride includes the Filipino culture of respect. Respect is what Filipinos offered the world especially before colonialism.

Near a century after colonization, the Filipinos can attest that the culture of respect is still present. Despite the influence of the media and other societies regarding respect as very relative, respect is still treasured this side of the world. It is evident in the way children are raised and in the way the elders pass on the culture of respect to the next generation. As long as there are Filipinos who are willing to pass on this gem of a culture, the culture of respect shall thrive.

What makes a Filipino respectful? What does he or she do and show? Here are some of the factors that one can see in a Filipino culture of respect:

Kissing the hands of someone older. It is unexplained but the Filipinos call this as “Bless”. It is an act wherein the younger one would take the hand of the older one and put it on his or her forehead with the head slightly bending down. A father comes into the front door and the children automatically would get his hand and would do the “Bless”. In a bigger setting, children and even adults rush to kiss the hands of everyone relatively older than his’ or hers age or by blood relations. Someone who does not do the “bless” is considered very disrespectful to the maximum level by everyone who is older than him or her. It is an unwritten law that it is imperative for the younger individual to kiss the hand of all the other older ones. Not doing it means breaking the culture.

Using “respect” words. This factor is very distinct to the Philippines. Everyone since they started talking are taught by their parents to say the respect words when talking with someone older. “Po,” “Opo,” and “Ho” are placed in between words when speaking to someone older. As early as two years old, these words are introduced to children and made sure that is taught to avoid people telling one that his or her child is disrespectful. There is no exact translation of those words in the English language.

Parent and child relations. Discipline (physical, cultural, and psychological) is a very big component in reinforcing the teaching of respect. In the Philippines, a child is very much taught to be respectful especially to his or her parents. There is also a distinct culture in the Philippines wherein a child is not allowed to join the conversation of adults especially the older people. This is considered disrespectful as a child should not butt-in any adult conversations. A Filipino child is also well-trained when it comes to respecting his or her parents. A parent is always treated as the number one source of guidance for decision making and all aspect of a child’s life. In fact, it is customary in the Philippines to always take one’s parents into consideration even if the child is already old, self-sufficient and independent.

Subordinate/ Superior relations. Taken from the context of parent and child relations, subordinates always would have a very high regard for their superiors. The Filipino’s culture of respect reaches out to even the professionalism aspect of the work place. Very seldom could one see a subordinate going out of the office after work to have a drink or two. For a lot of Filipinos, they value the strict attitude of a pure and professional working relationship. Even if the subordinate initiates a relationship outside of work, a Filipino would always feel the uncomfortable feeling that it would entail. There are also stories of a Filipino that goes to work abroad and always being reprimanded for the usage of “Ma’am” and “Sir”. In some societies like the Western society, first name calling is the norm thus no need for the usage of the more formal address like the “Ma’am” and the “Sir”. To the Filipino, however, the usage of the term is imperative because of his or her subordinate role.

Some people from other culture who would watch a Filipino and showing the respect he or she learned would say that sometimes, the respect is already out of place and unnecessary. Some Filipinos call it respect but in reality, it is already an inferiority complex whether personal or racial.

However, as the Filipinos have learned along its journey as a nation, the pride of the people lies in the values that can never be replicated around the world. Like the kissing of the hand, addition of the respect words, respect for parents even in the adulthood, and the respect for superiors, these are truly apart Filipino of culture. And in the dawn of migration of Filipinos going abroad, respect would take them a long, long, way in their quest of proving that they can offer something good to contribute both as a person and as a race.