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Uniquely Filipino: Peculiar Traits of Pinoys

After a long anticipation, it's finally out! Yey!

By Joseph Richmon F. Jamon

Filipinos are among the most relaxed and fun-loving people you will ever meet around the globe. It is hard to accurately describe what makes every day a lesson in glee or what others aptly regard as a ‘carnival of lunacy’, which is on continual display in a myriad of ways. Every single day offers something new to savor, and a new oddity to laugh about. From a “you-tube” worth mishap to a faintly laid-back tuning in to a daily television show that features contestant’s amazing struggles in the swirling current of daily life, this enigmatic country is full of contradictions and they are a pleasure to explore.

I take satisfaction in these mundane, but life-learning peculiarities, knowing full well that they are now a part of me as I travel through wherever life takes me. Let me share you some of these small quirks and funny moments.

Our eyebrow speaks …

The eyebrows usually convey emotion through various facial expressions. By raising our eyebrows we can also communicate a positive affirmation of "yes" when a polar question has been asked. Henceforth, if a Filipino or Filipina fails to verbally answer your question, look at their eyebrows before feeling like you were being ignored. They may just be answering you non-verbally through the raising of their eyebrows. In addition, raising eyebrows accompanied with strong eye contact can also serve as a greeting or farewell to an individual you cannot physically touch.

Our lips give directions …

Consider this as another non-verbal expression performed by Filipinos. By puckering our lips and facing a certain direction, we are giving clear and specific instruction on which way to go. Instead of wasting physical energy by lifting our arm/hand to point, we conserve energy by using our puckered lips.
“It’s Ok.” – What?

These two simple words can cause a rash of confusion. “It’s Ok” in the Philippines means everything from “yes” to “no” to “don’t even think about it” – with absolutely no way to discern which one is intended in a particular situation. Therefore, it challenges one’s own prudence. Say for instance, if you ask someone if they want something, you’ll get the response, “It’s Ok!” Likewise if you ask if you can go somewhere, you’ll receive the answer, “It’s Ok!” And try asking whether anyone was hurt and you’ll hear, “It’s Ok”. You would think that you’d be able to discern the appropriate sentiment given the context, right?   Think again.  You absolutely cannot.

Food Craze … Why is there a food at every gathering?

Whether it is a lavish party or just an informal meeting, Filipinos express their hospitality & friendship through the serving of food. The more grandiose the cuisine, the more 'love' they are trying to convey to those at the gathering. Instead of asking, 'How are you?' Filipinos will ask, "Have you eaten already?'  Or better yet, “Have you eaten enough?”

Offering Food and Declining the Offer – Which is which?

Kain!” (Let’s eat!) This is how Filipinos acknowledge anyone who stumbles upon a flock of Filipinos eating. This is our distinctive way of offering food to strangers and people we barely know. In fact, it could be a way of greeting someone while you’re eating.  Instead of saying “Hello”, you say “Let’s eat!”

Now the thing that makes it a bit baffling is that it’s polite to offer to share your meal with a person, but, it is equally polite for the other person to decline the offer.

It makes me wonder “why offer in the first place if you don’t expect the other person to accept it?” Well in fact most people who get offered to eat decline the offer regardless if they’re starving or not.

To pull is to please – How sincere are we?

We are famous for being very hospitable and delightful to be with. In all modesty, I must say we are the warmest people one will ever meet. Due to our colonial history, we can be especially accommodating to Westerners that we come across. Filipinos always seek the company of another in everything we do and are seldom seen outside of social groups.

Given this friendly nature, we are not satisfied to just invite someone to join us by merely asking out loud. It is customary to emphasize the invitation by pulling at the invitee’s hand. This way, they’ll appreciate how sincerely they’re being invited. If they tug back they might be agreeing, or they might be just trying to get it away.  Another example of the seeming ambiguity of the Filipino experience.

Paying for someone’s fare in a Jeepney – Who’s going to?

A jeepney is the primary mode of transport in the Philippines. It means sharing the two back benches of a jeepney (and any space between) with at least 20 other people. It might not always be comfortable but it’s cozy!  One Filipino quirk that, thus far, has got me laughing silently is the instinct of bringing out your wallet and paying the fare of a friend who happens to be riding the jeep with you.

The scene in a jeepney when two friends collide is this. The one who is already on the jeep says greetings and exchanges pleasantries with the friend who has just got in, then they simultaneously ask each other “have you paid your fare?” and scramble to pay each other’s fare. A wrestling match of two pairs of hands giving money to the driver ensues as both insist that the other should keep his or her money. Taking this to an extreme scenario, if one doesn’t offer to pay for the other’s fare, he/she apologizes profusely and announces that he/she is sorry for not offering to pay your fare (for some reasons). Or at the very least, sports an ashamed look.

We Filipinos often find every thing a laughable concept, which certainly proves why we are amongst the happiest people in the world despite the ups and downs of our living situations. And there are a lot of peculiar traits and ways of interactions we unconsciously perform that makes us Uniquely Filipino. It was while proofreading this article that I had a good laugh because without us knowing about it, our habits and mannerisms really make us different from other nationalities. Like how we all turn around like curious kittens when we hear, “Pssst!”

Overall, the Filipino way of life is something that cannot be captured on a picture or limited to words on an article, it modestly cannot be. It is an experience. There are many strange and exciting things with peculiar twists at every turn. It is a never-ending discovery.

With a grin on my face, I ended up whispering myself … “It’s just the FILIPINO way“.


tina said...


Anonymous said...

This is so funny, and so true! I was sitting beside my 17 year old daughter, telling her how Filipinos do things, and giggling all throughout the article. Her reaction? "Mama, he did not mention the hotdog in the spaghetti!"