Sunday, March 20, 2011

Filipino Characteristics

After a LONG day of traveling yesterday, I'm back in Singapore from the greatest Spring Break ever.  Forget planes, trains, and automobiles.  Our journey consisted of a tricycle, ferry, shuttle, plane, and taxi.  I'm not complaining, it was all worth it and I thought the journey was fun.  I suppose it was about time to get back to "reality", but of course I was so sad to leave.  It seems that with every trip I take in SE Asia, I like the newly visited country even more than the previous.  I fell in love with the Philippines and even more in love with the people.  I may be biased because I'm part Filipino, but all of my friends agree that their culture is the most friendly and welcoming we've seen in SE Asia.  So before I tell you all about my wonderful trip to the Philippines, I'm going to share with you what I observed about the Filipinos (or Pinoy, as many of them refer to themselves as) and why I have to go back.  As most of you know, I'm part Filipino so many of my family is Filipino.  To my family: you can critique my thoughts and tell me what you think about them.

  1. Big appetites.  Filipinos eat, eat, eat... all the time!  Then my family tells me, "you don't eat much" or "you really must be watching your calories" or "it's obvious you are on a diet".  I've experienced this since I was a little girl and remember complaining to my mom that I can't eat anymore, but all my relatives would keep insisting.  I know my brothers can empathize.  I don't even understand how they can eat that much, and I was once voted biggest appetite in my senior class.  Maybe I won that award because of my Filipino upbringing.  Of course, the constant insistence to continue eating is all because of their amazing hospitality.  They always mean well.  Which brings me to my next point...
  2. Hospitable.  It seems like this is a trait that every Filipino is born with.  They are not only willing to share meals, but they would put up their entire home for guests.  They give the best of what they have to their guests.  They are quick to offer food or drink even before they enjoy their own meal.  They insist that visitors eat more and more because they want to be sure that everyone is satisfied.  They always pack up "to-go" boxes of leftover foods or other Filipino delicacies.  When I left Tita B and Tita Gang, they made sure that I was plenty full and sent me off with a large bag with my favorite Filipino treats (polvoron and pastillas), as well as other Filipino pastries and cookies to share with all my friends.  This is just one example of the many acts of hospitality I experienced while in the Philippines.  At our hostel in Boracay, all the workers learned our names, gave us complementary drinks on arrival and another time when we were just sitting in the lobby, and went above and beyond to make sure that we were comfortable.
  3. Kind.  This kind of goes along with the hospitality, but everyone I met was SO KIND.  I don't really know how to describe it further, but everyone was just really genuinely nice.  Especially in comparison to the rest of the places I've been in SE Asia.  When I go to the canteen in Singapore or order food anywhere, I feel like they are annoyed of me.  Like, "oh the foreign girl again".  That may sound silly, but they are very standoffish.  In the Philippines I felt very welcome.  I used to think in general that the people in Singapore were very kind and helpful, but when comparing the people to the Filipinos the Singaporeans don't seem as welcoming.
  4. Religious.  The Philippines is predominantly Roman Catholic and it was pretty obvious.  There were religious images and statues everywhere and rosaries hanging from many rear-view mirrors. 
  5. Karaoke.  Everyone loves karaoke or "KTV".  As a child I just thought it was my Filipino family that loved it so much, now I know better.  I will say that I am very surprised at how good at singing so many Filipinos are.  The others just don't know the meaning of embarrassment, but I admire them for getting up there and belting out a tune anyway.
  6. Cheesy music.  The Filipinos love cheesy music.  HAHA It reminded me of my Ate Pia.  Why?... two videos on her facebook wall:  cheesy cheesier :)
  7. Happy/ Friendly.  People seem so happy all the time even if they don't have much.  Everyone always had a smile on their face and it was definitely contagious.  The whole time I was there I was so happy with life, but looking at the circumstances I was in, it would've been weird if I wasn't happy.  When I was out with my cousins, we toasted to happiness every single time we took a drink.
  8. Family.  Family is so important to the Filipinos.  Not just immediate family, but ALL family.  I mean, I grew up believing that pretty much every Filipino I knew was an Aunt or Uncle.  Also there is a huge respect for elders.
  9. Good English.  I've said this before, but it still boggles my mind how bad the English in Singapore is when it's supposed to be the official language of communication.  My experience in the Philippines was that everyone's English was so clear.  It was so easy to understand them.  When I got back to Singapore, my first interaction with a local was with our cab driver back to our dorms. I was paying with my credit card when he dropped us off and he started rambling on about something.  I have NO idea what he said to me and I just gave him a blank stare causing him to ramble more in something that was supposed to be English... and I thought I was getting better at understanding people.  My friends and I just looked at each other and laughed... Welcome back to Singapore.
  10. Mannerisms.  What I found hilarious (and strangely comforting at the same time) was observing the mannerisms of the Filipinos.  I've seen them in my family and it was just funny to notice them while I was there.  As I people watched at airports and other public places, I saw so many scenes that could've came directly from my family.  It made me laugh.  A few mannerisms:
  • pointing with their lips
  • eating with their hands
  • the "he-she" mix up... my mom always refers to me as "he" and my brothers "she" haha
  • they say "ay!" or "uy!" for when they drop something or hurt themselves or instead of "oops", etc.
  • the "pssst" noise when they are trying to get someones attention
  • also the expression "hoy!"

When I fist came to Singapore, I really had no plans of going to the Philippines.  It seemed a little out of the way, but it was only about a 3 hour plane ride.  I've been to the Philippines once before about 12 years ago and it was obviously a completely different experience.  I am SOOO happy I was able to go there, but definitely made me miss my family on the other side of the world.  More on my actual experiences in the Philippines later :)

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