I met my Philippine wife in the Netherlands while she was here for a work project. We kept in touch since and after a while, I became curious about how her home country would be. However, although I have always been interested in Asian culture, I never left Europe before I went to the Philippines for the first time. And of course I wanted to leave a good impression on her friends and family.
Things can become very confusing for a western guy if you don’t know Philippine traditions. Luckily my wife gave me the book “Do’s and Don’ts in the Philippines” which describes very accurately how to behave with the Filipinos. It doesn’t only cover the Philippine traditions, but also their beliefs and superstitions.
This book taught me how to do the “Mano Po”, which is the traditional way to greet elder people to show you respect them. It’s like making a bow and putting their hand to your head. The book is very complete and describes the history of the Filipino people, their religion, how the houses are layed out, how to behave at parties, etc.
One funny thing I learned is that Filipinos have two kitchens, one “clean” and one “dirty” kitchen. The “dirty” kitchen doesn’t mean that it’s filthy, but that’s the place where the food is prepared. The “clean” kitchen is the organised version for guests to see so the hosts don’t “lose face” because of a messy kitchen. The idea of “losing face” or “hiya” is explained very clearly so it’s easy to understand for non-Asians like myself.
These are just a few of the interesting and useful subjects covered by this great read. It handles everything you need to know about the Philippine culture, its customs, superstitions and beliefs. If there is one thing not to like, then it may be that in some parts, it could be a bit too traditional, when the truth is, Filipinos are strongly influenced by western culture. However, I found out this only worked in my advantage.
For example, when I asked my wife to marry me I chose the traditional way and asked her parents for permission first while taking them out to dinner. I understood that most Filipinos don’t do this anymore but it was very much appreciated by my parents-in-law.
I can definitely recommend “Do’s and Don’ts in the Philippines” to every non-Filipino planning a visit to the Philippines. It’s full of funny anecdotes and you will be sure you won’t make any big mistakes or offend anyone.
If you want to learn more, you can find the book here: