Etiquette and Taboo in the Philippines

There are many races and cultures in Philippines. So if this is your first time traveling to the Philippines, be sure to know the Filipino Etiquette and Taboo. The Philippines are divided into three major archipelagos: Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao, with more than 7,000 large and small islands. The various cultures of the Philippines blend many Eastern and Western customs.


Prehistoric negritos may be the first to appear in the Philippines. With the development of religion and trade, residents and subsequent ethnic immigrants inherited Malay culture, Indian culture, Chinese culture and Islamic culture. Therefore, the Philippines is a fusion of many cultures and customs.


If this is your first trip to the Philippines, you should understand the etiquette and taboos of the Philippines.


Etiquette in the Philippines

When Filipinos are with guests at social gatherings, both men and women are used to shaking hands to greet each other.



Greeting Etiquette


1. When meeting friends or relatives, they greet each other by tapping on the shoulder.


2. When a young man meets an old man, he should kiss the back of the old man's hand to show respect. When a young woman meets an old man, she should kiss the old man on the cheek out of courtesy. If the minor meets an elderly person, they must take off their handkerchief before speaking, bow their head, and call the elders "Bo" (which means uncle).


3. When Muslims meet, they often shake hands with both hands. When not wearing a hat outdoors, they cover the heads with their left hands. Some members of primitive tribes in the Philippines have a unique way of shaking hands when meeting guests. As soon as he shook her hand, he turned and took a few steps back, which meant showing her that there was no knife hidden behind him. They think this is a sincere and genuine handshake.


Body Language

4. If Filipinos don't understand a question, they open their mouths. Raised eyebrows signify recognition and agreement.

5. Laughter may convey pleasure or embarrassment, it is commonly used to relieve tension.

6. "Yes" is signified by a jerk of the head upward. "No" is signified by a jerk of the head down. Since the Filipinos rarely say no, the non-verbal sign for "no" is sometimes accompanied by a verbal yes, which would still indicate "no."

7. Staring is considered rude and could be misinterpreted as a challenge, but Filipinos may stare or even touch foreigners, especially in areas where foreigners are rarely seen.

8. To Filipinos, standing with your hands on your hips means you are angry.

9. Never curl your index finger back and forth (to beckon). This is an insult.

10. To indicate two of something, raise your ring and pinkie fingers.

11. To beckon, extend arm, palm down, moving fingers in scratching motion. Touch someone's elbow lightly to attract attention. Do not tap on the shoulder.

12. "Eyebrow flash" - a quick lifting of eyebrows - is a Filipino greeting.

Dining Etiquette

13. If you're dining out with a group, expect to share a variety of dishes. In the Philippines, eating is a social event, thus there is typically plenty of food and talk.

14. Meals will probably include a meat- or seafood-based main dish, along with rice, veggies, and soup. Even if you're still hungry, you should decline the first time the hosts offer you more food since they will almost always do so. Then your host will ask once more, and this time you will decline. You are then permitted to eat more after being asked three times.

15. You can take a small amount of food and then leave the rest on your plate if you genuinely don't want any more. As a gesture that your host has fed you properly, it is customary in the Philippines to leave a tiny amount of food on your plate.


Taboos in the Philippines

Most Filipinos believe in Roman Catholicism and a small number of people believe in Islam. And the ethnic minorities mostly believe in primitive religions. People who believe in primitive religions believe that all things have spirits and worship the natural gods, especially crocodiles and birds. They believe that there is a species of bird that is a great and almighty creation god. He created heaven, earth and people called Batala.




1. Filipinos are very taboo about the number "13". In their opinion, "13" is a symbol of bad luck and catastrophe, and an extremely unpleasant number.


2. At the banquet, the greatest compliment to the host is to eat with relish. Filipinos are generally reluctant to talk about politics, religion, national conditions and corruption. The locals have a strong sense of family, so it's safe to talk about their family members.


3. The Philippines, like some other Southeast Asian countries, has taboos on passing things on or eating with the left hand. They think the left hand is a dirty hand, and using the left hand seriously lacks respect for others.


4. Filipinos do not like to eat ginger, offal and fish, or whole fish. Similarly, Filipinos do not drink milk or alcohol.


5. When dealing with professional technicians, name them engineers, architects, lawyers, teachers, and so on. When speaking, please avoid topics such as internal political disputes, religion, and modern Filipino history.


6. You cannot keep silent when dealing with people. If you are expressionless or silent, they will think that you are not ready to deal with them.


7. When you accept or give a gift in the Philippines, please do not open it in public, otherwise the guests will feel humiliated in public. The usual way is to take the gift casually, put it aside quietly.




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