Filipino values are rooted in a system that focuses on family, friends, faith and the individual’s obligation to this trinity. The family is the main social structure in the country. The value of family and close family ties is illustrated in children having many godparents to watch out for their welfare. Additionally, members of the same family often work at the same place. This is one way that elders in the community provide opportunities and support for younger individuals.
The term Kapwa
in Filipino society means togetherness. Togetherness within the family means mutual trust and making time to be together. Outside the family this concept translates into being civil toward others, recognizing that all are part of the greater group: humankind.
One driving factor in Filipino society is the idea of Hiya or shame. There are certain standards that citizens are expected to strive to meet or exceed. Failing to do so brings dishonor to both the person and his or her family. Hiya also figures into etiquette and morals in that it creates a sense of what is proper and right. The way in which favors are repaid is one example. Whether or not a person asked for aid, when its given that gift must be balanced somehow; this is reciprocity.
Balancing this there is also Puri, the way in which people illustrate their dignity through word and deed. It is by those actions that individuals judge another, which in turn affects personal honor.
Values Reflected in Etiquette
As is often the case in other cultures, a great deal of Filipino values manifests in their etiquette and customs. Without words, these gestures speak volumes about what this culture treasures and respects. For example, when meeting people for the first time, one greets the eldest first, showing respect. At this juncture you use full formal names – surnames are for individuals with whom you are more personally acquainted. In fact, it’s a faux pas to use surnames until you’ve been asked to.
If this meeting takes place in a Filipino home, remember to bring a small gift for the host and hostess. Sweets are common as our flowers, with the exception of white lilies. Avoid large gifts of food as this may be interpreted as an insult (i.e. your host cannot provide for his or her guests). Upon arriving, wait for direction as to where to sit, and likewise wait to eat until asked to do so. Make sure to compliment the house and the food as this brings honor to the home. Beyond that, following basic Western table manners should keep you in good stead.
Business vs. Social
The business world also has a set of guidelines. One thing that makes Filipino society vastly different than American is the business dealings are fully intended and expected to build relationships that include networking and favors. While this can (and does) occur in the US, there is also a sense of professional distance and impersonalization. For example, while companies regularly hold telephone conferences and online conferences in the US, the Filipino community prefers face-to-face meetings with a pre-sent agenda and some form of hospitality.
Throughout business affairs one may or may not meet the decision maker, at least not until negotiations progress quite far. It’s dishonorable to exaggerate, loose your temper or turn down any offered refreshments during this process.
Filipino values focus on maintaining family, the economy of the Nation, and in personal honor. There are many subtleties of practical etiquette that one may never know until fully emerged in the culture, or given guidance by citizens. When in doubt, return to your mantra of respect and thoughtfulness. Those two cornerstones achieve much, no matter where you travel.
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