What’s with Philippine/Filipino Culture and Traits?
A Kaleidoscope Nation
The Philippine Culture and Filipino people, to begin with, are a collection of different backgrounds, races, and ethnicities. It all begun with the migration of Malay and Austronesian people during the early centuries to the colonization of Spain, the Americans, and then the Japanese. Add to that the continuous migration of Chinese, Indian and other nationalities, the Philippines is undoubtedly a diverse nation. And with this diversity come the different cultures and traditions, which, after hundreds of years of mixing and matching, define the very unique culture and tradition that makes the Filipino race.
The first thing foreigners notice about the Philippine Culture is our fondness on festivities, locally known as fiesta or “pista”. The Filipino fiesta list usually -and unusually- begins with Christmas. Christmas carols can already be heard from game online dingdong radios, as early as September, decorations pop up by October, then after a brief break for the Halloween (Pinoy fashion) on November, the actual Pinoy Christmas enters with style for 9 days (or nights, or dawn, or whatever) on December with the Simbang Gabi, that ends with the Christmas eve dinner “Noche Buena”. But wait, there’s more, the Christmas season does not end until the January of the next year, coinciding with the New Year’s celebrations, and finally, the Feast of the Three Kings.
During the midsummer, there’s the Holy Week or Semana Santa, a Christian holiday that begins with the Palm Sunday, followed by Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Black Saturday and finally culminating with Easter Sunday.The Holy Week celebration is usually marked with a whole week of school and work off, that’s the reason why it is the best time for Filipinos to return to their provinces and spend time with their relatives, as part of Philippine culture and tradition.
Then, by May comes the Flores de Mayo or the Santacruzan. The Flores de Mayo is a Catholic festival, honouring the Virgin Mary. This feast culminates with the Santacruzan or Sagala, a parade that presents how Queen Helena and Constantine found Jesus’s true cross from Jerusalem. For the Philippine culture, the Sagala is held with such regard that it is made sure that it only shows each Barangay’s most beautiful ladies.
Aside from the usual festivities, different regions all throughout the Philippines host various local fiestas that reflect its own history, religion, nature, people and wildlife. There’s the Ati-atihan of Aklan, the Pahiyas Festival of Quezon, the Pintados Festival of Leyte, Kadayawan Festival of Davao and Dinagyang Festival of Ilo-Ilo.
This year of festivities culminates with the All Saints Day and All Souls Day of November. It is a time where Filipino families pay tribute to their departed relative and friends by visiting cemeteries and saying prayers for the dead. It is one of the well-known traditions including in the Philippine Culture.
Being a nation of various ethnicities, it also follows that the Philippines is a nation of various religious beliefs. Different religious beliefs were included in Philippine Culture as well. The Anito-worshippers of the early pre-Spanish era are now replaced Catholic devotees. Add to that the Islam of the south, and the different Protestant religions brought by American occupation, coupled with Buddhism from the Chinese. The Filipinos are into religion to the point that we have our own branch of the Christian faith, The Philippine Independent Church or the Aglipayan Church.
Filipino cuisine consists of foods and dishes with Hispanic, Chinese and American origin adapted to indigenous ingredients.Probably the most popular Filipino dish is the lechon, whole roasted pig cooked over charcoal. Some other popular and Filipino dishes include:
• Longganisa, Filipino version of a sausage
• Tapa, beef in thin slices, cured on salt and spices
• Torta, omelette with various ingredients
• Adobo, chicken and/or pork braised in garlic, vinegar, oil and soy sauce
• Kaldereta, meat in tomato sauce stew
• Mechado, larded beef in soy sauce and tomato sauce
• Pochero, beef in bananas and tomato sauce
• Afritada, chicken and/or simmered in a tomato sauce with vegetables
• Kare-kare, oxtail and vegetables cooked in peanut sauce
• Crispy-pata, deep-fried pig’s leg
• Hamonado, pork sweetened in pineapple sauce
• Sinigang, meat or seafood in sour brooth
• Tinola, chicken in tamarind broth
• Pansit, Filipino-style fried noodles
Another part of Philippine culture is gambling. From the “Sabungan” of rural barrios to the casinos of the urban cities, gambling is a pervasive social activity. The “sabong”, however, is the most ubiquitous of these gambling activities, making the Philippine the world centre for cockfighting. Filipinos both have legal and illegal “sabong”. The latter, usually done in secluded areas away from police raids. Sabungeros use two kinds of knives or gaffs, which is attached on the left leg of the cock. Bets are collected by the Kristo, and the Sentesyador is the one who deliberates the winning cock.
Philippine sport scene usually consists of basketball, boxing, billiards, football and volleyball. Filipinos athletes are rather competent in these fields, garnering multitudes of awards on almost every competition they enter. Some of the successful Filipino athletes are:
• Lydia de Vega (sprinting)
• Elma Muros (track and field)
• Eugene Torre (chess)
• MikeeCojuangco (equestrian)
• Philippine Dragon Boat team
• Onyok Velasco (Boxing)
• Efren “Bata” Reyes (Billiards)
• Manny Pacquiao (Boxing)
Music is also part of Philippine Culture. Music in the Philippines is composed of different genres and styles, with influences from across the world.From the get-go, Filipino folk music is already a mix of indigenous and European/Asian music, usually adapted to different dialect among regions. Some of popular Filipino folk songs are:
• Bahay Kubo
• Leron Leron Sinta
• Paruparong Bukid
• Magtanim ay Di Biro
The Harana, a courtship song, and Kundiman, a song that typically has romantic themes, are also popular in the Philippine culture dating back to the Spanish period. Some of it is adapted to modern style.
Popular music in the Philippines is usually branded as OPM or Original Philippine Music. In the 70’s, the OPM scene was mostly dominated by the jukebox idols like Claire dela Fuente, Rico Puno, Ryan Cayabyab, Freddie Aguilar, Hajji Alejandro and Rey Valera.
By the 1980s and 1990s, OPM was led by artists such as Regine Velasquez, Sharon Cuneta, APO Hiking Society, José Mari Chan, Dingdong Avanzado, Rodel Naval, Janno Gibbs, Ogie Alcasid, Joey Albert, Lilet, Martin Nievera, Manilyn Reynes, Pops Fernandez, Lea Salonga, Vina Morales, Raymond Lauchengco, Francis Magalona, and Gary Valenciano.
Pottery is probably the most popular craft early Filipinos have mastered. Evidence found in Sanga-sanga Cave, Sulu and Laurente Cave, Cagayan proves that pottery was already widespread as early as 6000 BC.The products of this craft were popular among the neighbouring lands, with Filipinos enjoying trade relations with Japan and China.
Art can also be seen on traditional tattoo of early Filipinos as part of the Philippine Culture before, from which the term pinatados came into effect. Various designs referencing flora and fauna with heavenly bodies decorate their skin in various coloured pigmentation.
With the arrival of the Westerners came a new light on Filipino art. Filipinos began creating paintings that mostly deal with religion and politics. Juan Luna and Felix Hidalgo are among those who enjoyed fame and prestige both in the Philippines and abroad.
In Mindanao, there are tribes who are famous for their intricate weaving production. Some tribe, such as B’laan, Mandaya, Mansaka and T’boli are skilled in dyeing abaca fibre. Others, like the Ilongot make jewellery from pearl, red hornbill beak, plants and metals.
The Filipino Character
Filipinos are sensitive when it comes to social interaction. Filipinos have the term “pakikisama” which means adapting to the people you get involved with, and it’s the centre of all Filipino values. Filipinos also know the importance of paying one’s debt, especially when the Filipino trait “utang na loob” comes in play. Filipinos are also known for being hospitable. They treat visitors with utmost care and diligence.
Filipinos are family-oriented. Most Filipino homes are a tightly knit abode for extended family members like the Lolas, or Titas. Filipinos strongly believe that blood is thicker than water.Filipinos are happy people. Despite problems arising from poverty and such, Filipinos never fail to flash a smile or flaunt laughter at jokes and even misfortunes.Filipinos rely on their faith among others, thus the saying “bahala na”, which attaches ones action to fate and God.
Filipinos know a good deal about respect. From childhood, Filipinos are taught to mano with their parents and older relatives. A typical Filipino child’s sentence usually ends with po and opo, and they are taught to address elders with kuya or ate.
The Filipino Ethnicity
Philippine’s geography helped shape the Philippine culture. Filipinos are mostly divided into various regional and ethnical groups. Some of these groups are the Ilocano, Cebuano, Pangasinense, Kapampangan, Tagalog, Bicolano and Waray. Mindanao was, for the longest time, home for the Filipino Muslims, whom was called Moros during the Spanish regime.
Then, there’s the Aeta or Negritoes: famously known as the first people to settle into the islands. They mostly live in isolated mountains or forest, which leaves them free to live away from Western and Islamic influences.
Aside from these regional groups, there are also at most 100 highland, lowland and coastland tribal groups in the Philippines. To name a few: