When Shagger asked me to write this article, I nearly fell off my bar stool. We were discussing potential subject matters for future columns and the conversation went something like this
Shagger: You know what I would really like to see
Mjibbo: I have no idea but I’m sure you are going to tell me and I’m sure I’m not going to like it.
(A wry grin from Shagger at this point).
Shagger: I would really like to see an article that describes how these girls think
Mjibbo: For fucks sake why would you want to try and understand a Filipina?
Shagger: I think a lot of guys would like to understand a Filipina and Filipino culture.
Mjibbo: You’re pulling my leg right?
Shagger: No mate, I’m serious. You think about it all the guys come here and spend time with Filipinas. Wouldn’t it be nice to understand how they think. Imagine the problems you could avoid.
Mjibbo: Yeah, I suppose your right.
Shagger: Come on mate, you have been dealing with these women for 17 years. I imagine the knowledge that must be stored in your head
Mjibbo: Yeah ok I suppose I should have a fairly good understanding of Filipinas but what makes you think I can pass this knowledge on and even if I did, who would be interested anyway?
Shagger: Well, I for one would be interested and I reckon there are a lot of AE guys who would be. I think guys would find an article like this quite helpful. You would actually be promoting better cross cultural understanding.
Mjibbo: You’re serious!
Shagger: Yes mate I’m very serious. I reckon an article like that would be really interesting and helpful.
(This is where I nearly fell off my bar stool)
Mjibbo: Well if you really think the AE guys would find it helpful then I will give it a go
Shagger: Good one and I better buy you a drink . Waitress ……………
So there it was. I had been manipulated and had foolishly committed myself to “mission impossible”. I mean, what man can understand a woman let alone convey that understanding to other men.
When I got home later on that evening I started to write down some thoughts and it was then that the enormity of the task hit me. It very quickly became obvious that this article would be no walk in the park in fact it was going to take me a long time and would be quite a challenge. Over the coming months I would just jot down some notes and then try and formulate them into a readable article..
This article is not designed to provide a comprehensive analysis of the Filipina psyche and culture rather it is intended as a brief summary of my observations gained through 17 years of living in the Philippines and dealing with Filipinas on a day to day basis. The result is what you see below and it is my sincere hope that readers find this article amusing, informative and helpful
The Filipina is, in many ways, unique among women. She brings to any relationship a set of culturally generated behavior traits and attitudes which, to us as foreigners, are totally alien yet to them are totally natural. In this article I will briefly highlight some of these behavior traits and cultural factors in the hope that readers will gain a better understanding of the Filipina.
Recently I was sent an email titled how to tell you are married to a Filipina and I decided to use this email as a basis for this article. One of the jokes in the email was you know you are married to a Filipina when; the instant you are married you have 3000 new close relatives that you can’t tell apart, or you know you are married to a Filipina when; your in-law’s first visit lasted 5 years.
Whilst these jokes are obviously based on satire and exaggeration they do have an element of truth. The simple fact is 99.9% of Filipinas come with baggage and that baggage normally takes the form of the ‘ family’. Filipino families in my experience are never small and the average family has a minimum of 3 kids.
The concept of ‘extended family’ where cousins, uncles, aunties, etc become part of your direct family is ingrained into the Filipino culture and you will be expected to understand this and the resultant responsibilities it entails.
When you are involved with a Filipina, for better or worse, you inherit her family, particularly if you are a foreigner. This can be advantageous but in most cases it is a financial and emotional burden for both yourself and your wife, even though she will NOT see it as such.
Be aware that since you are now part of the family, your domain becomes their domain. You can expect the brothers and sisters to try and move in to your house and sometimes even the mother, father, aunties and uncles. The Filipinos mostly grow up in crowded conditions with a strong sense of sharing so for them it is only natural that you would want to share your house with them. To stop this you have to put your foot down from the very start otherwise the family members moving in is inevitable.
In my experience, when it comes to the family you will be expected to pay for just about everything from the younger sisters schooling and the daily food through to medical bills and a new karaoke machine. The day to day expenses always seem to fall upon the foreigner to the extent where you will wonder how the family ever survived without you. In their minds it goes without saying that theirs is a Filipino family and as such do not have enough money. As an extension to this logic, it is expected that you will have money simply because you are a foreigner.
Recently an Australian friend of mine was talking to the old Irish priest who performed his wedding ceremony in Lingayen up at 100 Islands. This particular priest has lived in the Philippines for 40 years. Speaks numerous dialects of the Filipino language and in general has probably had more experience concerning the Philippines than just about any other foreigner. The subject of supporting the family came up and the priest simply stated “always remember my son hand outs are the last resort”. He further went on to state that in his opinion the major problem with Filipinos is the attitude of “they have it so it is their responsibility to share it”. Many Filipinos who don’t have money, see it as your obligation to give them money. They figure that since you are a foreigner you must have money therefore it is your duty to share it with them.
In terms of the family, be aware that if you have money it will be seen as your duty to use that money to support the family. In short, you instantly become the bread winner or should I say the support mechanism for your partner’s family. Even if you manage to keep the family out of your house your partner will have pressure put on her to support her family and that pressure will in turn be passed onto you.
The family pressure will vary according to each situation but it is a constant and in one form or another will always be there. I have often had a discussion with girls along the lines of “in my country the parents actually support the kids”. They look at me mystified and cannot grasp the concept at all. It is ingrained into the vast majority of Filipinas that she must support her family. Be prepared for this and know that in the long run it will basically come down to a financial obligation.
I have witnessed the family pressure both in my own relationships and those of my friends but what I don’t understand is why the pressure to support the family always seems to go on the eldest daughter? I have known many girls who, when asked “are you sending money to your family”, reply yes, then when I ask them “do you have a brother” they reply yes, then when I ask them “why doesn’t he get a job and support the family” most of the girls will look at me like I am mad. Others have tried to explain to me “no job in Philippines” “my brother no earn money”.
Whilst it is true there are very few decent paying jobs in the Philippines and that these jobs are reserved for the people with appropriate education or family contacts it is also true that many of the brothers sit around and do nothing, never expecting to get a job and quite content to live off handouts or whatever other family members can supply.
Because they mostly grow up in crowded conditions Filipinas generally have no concept of privacy. For them it is totally natural to coexist within close confines to each other without ever developing a sense of privacy. This can be a problem when living with a Filipina especially when you require privacy and your Filipina doesn’t understand why. In fact, do not be surprised if she thinks there is something wrong when you seek a little privacy and solitude. This is a totally alien concept to the majority of Filipinas.
Again, I will refer to the recent email. “You know you’re married to a Filipina when; you are the only family in a 200 mile radius with 6 DVD players and 5 televisions”.
The concept of ‘face’, once thought to be the exclusive domain of Chinese culture, is alive and well in the Philippines. This concept is pervasive throughout all levels of Filipino society. From common everyday interaction of individuals, through to multi-million dollar deals, saving face will always play an important role.
In terms of your relationship with a Filipina the ‘face’ concept manifests itself in many different forms. From personal appearance and arguments through to shopping and material possessions the concept of ‘face’ will always be present.
For the Filipina perhaps the most common way of ‘face’ manifesting itself is in terms of personal appearance. In certain situations, like around the house, most Filipinas do not really care how they dress or what image they are projecting however, change that situation to a social gathering where they are interacting with other females or their social peers and all of a sudden it’s a whole different story. In these situations her shoes must be the latest fashion, her jewellery can be silver but gold is preferable and her dress must make a statement as does her hair style, choice of perfume and makeup.
In terms of social situations in the bar face again plays an important role. Recently inside the bar my wife was introduced to the owner’s wife. They said hello and acknowledged each other’s existence and then a frosty silence developed between them. When we got home I asked my wife “do you have a problem with the bosses wife”? She replied “not really she just look at me like she was better than me. I think because her (husband) is the boss and she has money she is better than me”.
If you listen carefully you will often hear Filipinas in the bar make bitchy comments about another and again this is related to face. For example “that girl thinks she is pretty but she is not”. “That girl pretends she is rich but she is only a bar girl”. “ Look at her clothes she looks like a slut”.
When the girls go out to the bar they are particularly aware of their self image and the image their fellow females are projecting. Some girls will go to extraordinary lengths to project a certain image. Some want to be seen as sexy and available so they will wear short little skirts, revealing tops tight clingy clothing, T/back panties and sometimes no panties at all. Other girls like to project the wholesome I’m a simple person image. These girls will normally wear jeans or a simple dress which is almost A-sexual.
When it comes to personal appearance, the concept of ‘face’ is even projected onto you as their partner. Your appearance somehow reflects on them. For example, recently a friend told me prior to him going out on a bar hop, his girl friend went to great lengths to polish his shoes, provide him with clean underwear and iron his shirt. When he asked her why she replied “I don’t want those other girls saying I don’t take care of you”. In short she equated her mans appearance with her ability to look after him and thought she would be judged by her peers on this basis. Her mans appearance was an important aspect of her maintaining ‘face’ amongst other Filipinas.
Personal possessions are also an important part of ‘face’. If a friend or neighbour has a 32” flat screen TV then to preserve ‘face’ it is important that her TV is just as flat and preferably bigger. The same logic applies to stereos, refrigerators, motorbikes and cars. Another friend of mine was considering buying a golf buggy to putter around Angeles in. When he asked his girlfriend what she thought of the idea her reply was “it’s up to you but I don’t like”. He then pushed and asked why don’t you like it and she replied “because it’s not a nice car and I don’t want my friends see me riding like that”.
There is also what I call “reverse face”. To explain this lets take the situation of the flat screen TV again. If your partner knows you cannot afford the same TV as that of your neighbours, to save face she will often come up with a cliché saying such as “well they have money but they don’t have love”. When the neighbour has something better than her, in this case a TV this is a loss of face so to then save face she makes the assumption that this possession was gained at the loss of something (love). In her logic she may not have the TV but she does have love and all Filipinas know, love is more important that a flat screen TV. This is an example of a Filipina engaging in what I call ‘reverse face saving’.
One final observation on the subject of “face”. Do not belittle your Filipina partner. If your partner puts her point of view across in a discussion then listen carefully and even though her point may be totally irrelevant or simply incorrect give it some credence because if you prove her wrong she will see this as embarrassing and a loss of face. Then she will accuse you of trying to make her look stupid in front of others when all you really did is point out that she was wrong. She will take the point of view that you pointed out her incorrectness and by doing so demonstrated her lack of education or lack of intelligence.
The differences between the Filipino diet and that of foreigners are clearly obvious for anyone who has been to the Philippines and is often the subject of jokes. Again I refer to the email
“your house isn’t really on fire, but there is a very charred fish right on
top of the stove burner”.
Like most jokes this is funny because it is exaggeration of the truth. When living with a Filipina you will often find her cooking dried fish. For most foreigners this smells and tastes bland but the Filipinos seem to like it. For them it is not exactly a delicacy but certainly considered a staple food. When living with a Filipina be prepared to have your nostrils assaulted by a variety of foods and worst off them all is dried fish.
“all the desserts are sticky and all the snacks are salty. She eats her fruit with giant salt crystals and her fried chicken with ketchup”.
This joke again has a basis in fact. Filipinas seem to genuinely enjoy un-ripened fruit such as green mangoes, green oranges and green papaya. The green mangoes are consumed with salt crystals and whenever possible a salty fish or shrimp paste.
“even the ketchup tastes weird . . . very weird”.
This is very true, prior to coming to the Philippines I had never heard of Katsap which is basically a banana based ketchup and it does indeed taste weird.
“you throw a party and everyone is fighting to chop the leathery skin off a dead pig”.
The pig on the spit is considered the perfect party food and the prime part is the skin which the locals call crispy patter. This in itself is not so weird since in many cultures pig skin is considered a delicacy. I can distinctly remember as a kid how much I enjoyed the crackling from the family ham but in the Philippines they take this enjoyment to a whole new level and it is not unusual to find them devouring the pig skin and disregarding the actual meat.
“The best fish dish includes fish heads and rice”
My father was a keen fisherman so I became familiar with eating trout however I could never bring myself to eat the head. However, in the Philippines many consider the fish head the best part of the fish. When living with a Filipina and asking for lunch don’t be surprised to find a bowl of fish heads and rice served.
“ Semi formed duck and chicken foetus are considered a delicacy and supposedly very good for you”.
Anyone who has had the unfortunate experience of eating ‘balut’ is a braver man than me. ‘Balut’ is a semi developed chicken or duck foetus still within the egg and it is considered a delicacy in the Philippines. It is a general belief that this revolting dish is good for you the Filipinos will tell you it makes you strong where the Filipinas will tell you it is full of vitamins. Do not be surprised to see your beautiful Filipina munching on a duck foetus as if it was a perfectly normal, everyday event.
“all the vegetables she buys at the Filipino store look like they were grown at Chernobyl”.
This is so true, in general the vegetables available from the Filipino stores and market places look old withered and tasteless. In short do not expect fresh vegetables as a regular part of your diet when living with a Filipina. She will not realize the importance of vegetables, she will not understand why you like them and she will not be able to buy decent ones anyway.
Chicheron (Deep fried pork fat) This is considered a delicacy by many Filipinos and is sold in plastic bags together with a vinegar and chilli sauce. Filipinos will often devour this when travelling any substantial distance.
Last but not least be aware that rice is the one constant in the Filipino diet. The vast majority must have rice everyday or they have not eaten properly.
There are several old jokes which poke fun at the level of basic education that most Filipinas reach. Try asking a Filipina
• . What time does the nine o’clock bus leave Angeles and head to Manila?
• How many centavos in 1 peso?
• Where is the Sydney Harbour bridge and what country is it in?
• Which is closer to Angeles the moon or Cebu?
I am painfully serious when I say very few Filipinas will be able to answer these questions. This is not because they are stupid but simply because no one has taken the time to teach them basic geography, history, comprehension, or general knowledge. The vast majority of Filipinas never finish high school and exist on a day to day basis never expanding their knowledge or having to think beyond their immediate surroundings and needs.
When I first applied to manage a bar in the Philippines my ‘soon to become boss’ gave me some advice along the lines of “when doing this job remember you are dealing with, 18-19 year old girls with the educational level of a 10 year old”. At the time I passed it off as a flippant comment from someone who had been here too long. I was soon to find out just how prophetic his words were and many times I have managed to find my way out of a difficult situation by remembering this advice.
The average Filipina is not stupid but they do tend to have a low education level and in my experience this is well worth remembering. It is also important to realize that these same under educated girls are often street smart much more so than the average foreigner girl of the same age.
When you remember their low education level it explains why they do certain things that you consider stupid and nonsensical. Remembering this will also help you communicate more effectively and will save you a lot of potential headaches. I am not saying talk down to them just slow it down, use rudimentary English, do not discuss subjects that require a certain amount of knowledge and always assume she doesn’t really understand what you are saying.
Language and Communication:
They say communication is an important key to any relationship but when it comes to communicating with a Filipina, things can get a bit complicated. Because many Filipinas speak rudimentary English it is easy to think they understand what you are saying when in fact quite the opposite is true. Even though she may appear to understand chances are she doesn’t understand at all. If you are lucky she will comprehend approximately half of what you are saying and it is important to remember this when dealing with a Filipina.
The communication problem is compounded because it goes hand in hand with the concept of “face”. Even though a Filipina may only understand half of what you are saying she will not admit this to you for fear of looking stupid and as such losing face.
Another communication problem occurs when the Filipina appears to be listening to what you are saying but in reality she is not. Sometimes it appears to go in one ear and out the other and you will find yourself having to repeat what you are saying.
“other than eyebrow raising and lip puckering, her next most expressive form of communication is grunts and pssst’s”.
Once again, this flippant joke has its basis in truth. Body language and monosyllabic grunts and groans are common forms of expression amongst the Filipinas and you will be expected to understand this.
To indicate a direction the Filipina will often point with her lips rather than her fingers and when calling for another’s attention will often make the PSSSST sound rather than calling out a name. The other way of attracting another person’s attention is to simply call out “hoi”. When calling you over, a Filipina will have her hand pointed downwards (a bit like you would hold your hand to a dog whom you are letting smell you) whereas a Westerner will motion for someone by either pointing or by signalling them with one finger pointed upwards and curled. Whilst on the subject of pointing try not to point directly at another person as in the Philippines this is considered rude and inappropriate. The Filipinas will only point when they are angry or trying to emphasize the point they are making.
The Filipinas like most women have the ‘withering look’ down pat. The old saying “if looks could kill” is highly appropriate here. The Filipinas seem to have a large range of facial expressions including the icy stare, the hot impassioned look of anger (high blood) and the ‘what don’t you know that you stupid foreigner’ look, the lost puppy dog look, the adoration look, through to the ‘what rock did you crawl from under’ look and the ‘I’m going to kill you, chop of your balls and feed them to the chickens’ look.
Filipinas do not understand sarcasm or facetiousness and will often take a joking remark literally. For example I have seen friends of mine say to their long time girlfriends or wife “hey babe I’m going out to get two girls tonight” or when accused of having a short time they reply “of course I was honey and not just one girl I had three.” Most Filipinas take facetious joking statements like the ones in my examples, literally and will believe you are going to do exactly as you have said. The practice of exaggerating a statement or a situation to the point of absurdity is lost on Filipinas. They will not understand the humor, they will take you literally and in this case they will see it as an admission of guilt.
Every Filipina I have ever met has a broad jealousy streak and invariably the jealousy manifests itself as a violent reaction directed towards their partner. When a Filipina’s jealousy reaches boiling point more often than not she will lash out at you, try to slap you scratch you or in some cases punch you. Be prepared for any light weight object to be hurled at you and verbal abuse at maximum decibels.
In the Philippines women far outnumber the men so I guess in their minds the competition is fierce. Secondly they have an innate distrust of the males and this is further reconfirmed in their day to day interaction with both Filipino and foreigner men. All Filipinas have a natural tendency towards emotional drama and the jealousy tirades are the classic examples of this. Lastly. Filipinas see jealousy as an affirmation of the depth of their feelings towards their partner. Many times I have heard “I love you that’s why I get jealous” or “mahal if I am not jealous then I don’t love you”.
The Filipinas definitely have the capacity to genuinely fall in love with foreigners and it is the intensity of emotion that drives the jealousy. In the most part there is normally an age difference between foreigners and their Filipina and as a result the foreigners often find themselves having to adapt to their partners emotional immaturity.
As a general rule when dealing with a love struck Filipina I try to remember the intensity of my feelings as a youth. Nowadays I can look back on my adolescent love affairs and laugh but at the time I considered my relationships with girls as being tremendously important and when I am dealing with a Filipina I try to relate to how they are feeling by remembering my own turbulent emotions when I was their age. This is just a technique I use and I do not suggest it will work for everybody it is only possible to empathise to a certain extent and the empathy will only determine your reaction not hers.
The point to realize here is that the Filipinas are capable of intense emotions both positive and negative and for them their feelings are very real.
It is a generally accepted theory that jealousy results from insecurity. If we apply this theory to Filipinas we can see the effect of the greater numbers of females than males.
There is most often no set trigger for the jealousy. The smallest things can set them off and invariably it will be a physical as well as emotional reaction.
Filipinas tend to react emotionally. Do not expect them to sit back and analyze their emotions before acting. They will just feel the emotion and react accordingly. Jealousy can be a major problem in any relationship but in the Philippines even more so simply because it is so rampant, it often takes the form of physical expression, the Filipinas have a natural tendency to be dramatic and they can always justify their jealousy by saying I got jealous because of love.
The concept of love is the most important aspect of any Filipinas existence. Love is seen as an ideal which must be obtained. From day one the ideal of love is drummed into them from all aspects of their environment. They are taught ‘love is the most important thing’, ‘love is the universal panacea’, ‘love is what makes the world go round’, ‘you may have everything but without love you have nothing’. Clichés such as this dominate the Filipinas cultural upbringing and it is reinforced through the movies, television shows, magazines, pocket books, advertising, school friends, social peers family relationships and a myriad of other subtle ways in their everyday life. In the end, love is the dominant driving force for all Filipinas.
Because love is perceived as the ultimate ideal there is often a problem when the reality of this emotion confronts the ideal. In other words there is a gap between the emotional ideal and the emotional reality. In Philippine society love is presented as the perfect emotional state, the ultimate emotion that transcends everything else. The reality however is far from this. Love is not perfect, love can be hard work, love can fade over time and love can be very painful. Often there is a problem when the gap between reality and idealism comes crashing down on the Filipina. As a foreigner how you handle this is really up to you there is no magical cure but in my experience I have found being supportive caring and affectionate seems to work the best.
Another important factor is to set the parameters early on in the relationship. Set the ground rules for both yourself and your partner and make sure they are clearly understood and adhered to from the very start. This will prevent problems from occurring in the future.
As a foreigner dealing with a Filipina, remember love is very important to them, romance and overt demonstrative behaviour are expected of you wherever possible.
Sense of humor:
The Filipino sense of humour is not exactly refined in fact it verges on slapstick with elements of ridicule and self parody.
Most Filipinas enjoy a good laugh and one way to relate to them is to relate to their sense of humour. The girls will like you more if you appeal to their sense of humour and appear jovial and happy. Remember to smile wherever possible and to try and make them smile. Remember wherever possible smile as they are naturally attracted to a smiling face and happy personality.
Laughter in the Filipino culture acts as some sort of panacea. Quite often you will see them laughing at another’s misfortune or if something bad happens they will laugh it off.
Fantasy and reality:
When you are in a relationship with a Filipina be aware that she will inevitably have preconceived ideals that she will apply to her relationship and often the reality of the relationship will not match the fantasy ideals.
Most Filipinas grow up with visions of the perfect romance and love however cold hard reality is as always a different matter and the disparity between fantasy and reality can sometimes cause problems in a relationship. When something turns out to be not as good as expected, the inevitable result is disappointment. Your Filipina partner will not be able to express what is wrong but she will feel something is missing and you can expect disgruntlement, short temperedness and occasionally irrational outburst of anger.
Recently I was talking with a friend about the behaviour of Filipinas and he made the comment “to understand the actions of a Filipina follow the money trail”. This may be an exaggeration but it is certainly true that money or more correctly the pursuit of money is an influential factor in a Filipina’s behaviour. The vast majority of Filipinas grow up without money so the acquisition of money becomes very important for them and some will literally go to extreme lengths to attain it. Money represents an increase in power, in social status, in security for oneself and family.
Then again the opposite is also true. I know of several cases where Filipina women have left an economically secure position to become involved in a situation where there is so called love but no money. It is interesting to see how the different needs compete with each other in Filipino culture.
The Filipino boyfriend:
This is a touchy subject and the experience is somewhat different for each individual. For example Shagger says in his experience very few of the girls have a Filipino boyfriend or seem remotely interested however in my experience I have seen the opposite. I would estimate that as high as 80% of the Filipinas I have met have had or currently have a Filipino boyfriend or at the very least a Filipino lover.
I have heard stories and seen first hand examples of marriages between Filipinas and foreigners that work extremely well and inevitably the girls involved are not interested in Filipino men. I have also seen many examples of perfectly good marriages where kids are involved go out the window because the girl has gotten involved with a Filipino guy.
Just the other night I was talking with a long time resident of Angeles who was reciting a story about what happened with him and his wife. To cut a long story short she started spending extended periods of absence away from him and the kids then came the lieing and stealing. Next thing you know it was an extortion attempt to get money then she runs off with the Filipino boyfriend leaving husband and kids behind. I know of 6 other examples of much the same scenario.
I am not saying all Filipinas have Filipino boyfriends however as a foreigner it pays dividends to remember that the Filipino guys will chase a girl involved with a foreigner because they believe she can be used to get money, and it is their way of getting back at the foreigner who they see as stealing their women.
For the girls it is a temptation because here is a guy who speaks their language is normally younger than their foreigner partner, he understands their culture and knows exactly how to push their proverbial buttons.
There are a number of cultural idiosyncrasies that distinguish the Filipina from other women for example the desire to have a bigger longer nose and whiter skin. The vast majority of Filipinas don’t like having a flat nose and wish for a longer one. They also don’t like having dark skin and are the biggest purchasers of skin whitening crème in the world. These desires are pandered to and propagated by advertising. For example there is literally a plethora of cheap plastic surgeons who for a minimal price will perform a nose job. These surgeons advertise extensively in the magazines and newspapers that proliferate throughout the Philippines.
The importance of having white skin is also propagated by advertising. For example I recently saw an advertisement for ponds whitening crème where a girl loses her boyfriend because he finds a new girl with fairer skin. The girl then starts using Ponds whitening crème and all of a sudden the ex-boyfriend and numerous other suitors show interest in her.
Sleeping – relaxing:
The Filipinas and Filipinos seem to have an amazing ability to sleep or simply relax just about anywhere. They can sleep in the backs of jeepneys, trucks, cars, on the back of a motorbike or on hard concrete with a constant stream of traffic passing by. When it comes to relaxing they have the somewhat enviable ability of being able to relax in just about any environment.
The Filipinas in general are very caring people. For example when their man is sick they will be the first to wipe his brow if he has a fever, rush to buy medicine and be attentive to his every need.
In western cultures we have become somewhat self absorbed and maintain an imaginary wall between ourselves and other people. The Filipinas do this is as well but they are more prone to wearing their heart on their sleeves particularly when it comes to caring for their fellow human beings. Perhaps this is why there are so many Filipina nurses working overseas.
Giving and sharing:
The Filipinas are very aware of people less fortunate than themselves and will not think twice about giving if they think it will help a person less fortunate than themselves.
After living in the Philippines so long I have become somewhat immune to street beggars and hard luck stories however in this regard the Filipinas never seem to get hardened. I have personally witnessed many of the hardest core bar girls be the first to give to street beggars or those less fortunate than themselves.
If a Filipina has a sudden windfall of money it is understood by her and her friends that to some extent this money is not just her private funds but rather a sort of group fund. For example when this situation occurs you will often find them organizing a ‘blow out party’ all paid for by the recipient of the financial windfall
In my opinion Filipinas are some of the best liars I have ever seen. I have heard all the stories about Thai women but in my experience the Filipina is more convincing simply because she has enough grasp of English to convey her thoughts, secondly she knows how to pull at the proverbial heart strings and thirdly she can adopt the ‘butter wouldn’t melt in my mouth’ look better than anyone. The average Filipina can look you straight in the eyes and lie to you point blank without batting an eyelid. They are so good at it they would probably make a PolyGram test useless.
For a Filipina to tell a lie is absolutely natural. In fact in their culture they even recognize different categories of lies. There are the little fibs which don’t hurt anyone and are seen as a normal part of everyday life, then there are the little white lies which are slightly bigger than the fibs but do not cause any real harm. You will often hear a Filipina saying “I lied but it was only a little white lie”. Lastly there is the big lie. In their culture they are taught that to lie is bad yet they still persist in doing it. Often it is a face saving exercise whilst other times it is merely because they have their own agendas which they want to hide from or they wish to avoid a problem situation or they have done something which they don’t want you to know about.
Lying is by no means unique to the Filipina but the Filipinas have it down to an art form and this is something all foreigners should be aware of.
Lying represents what I see as a contradiction in Filipino culture. They are bought up believing that to lie is bad yet at the same time in practical day to day existence lieing is seen as a necessity.
Most Filipinas are susceptible to gossip and the detrimental effects of gossip to a relationship can be devastating. With many Filipinas if they hear some gossip especially from a fellow Filipina they instinctively believe it to be true. Even if they have direct proof in front of their eyes they will believe something to the contrary if it is told to them. For example if you are with your Filipina partner at a certain time and place but she hears you were somewhere else at the same time she will chose to believe what she hears rather than what she knows.
In my opinion common courtesy is something that seems to be getting less and less in the Philippines. Little things like pushing in front of you in a line, shouting across the room to someone else when you are right next to them, spitting anywhere that takes their fancy, not cleaning up their mess after them, throwing rubbish anywhere. There are numerous other examples engaged in by Filipinas and Filipinos alike and they clearly demonstrate the lack of common courtesy that is becoming a very common behaviour trait amongst today’s younger generation.
Filipinos and Filipinas are renowned for their inability to be on time they are nearly always late so much so that there is a common expression called “Filipino time”. Basically they see two sets of time normal time and then the time that suits them which is referred to as Filipino time in other words late.
When involved with a Filipina do not expect her to be on time this is just part of their culture and it will never change.
There are also a number of superstitions which to us are laughable but to the Filipina are very real. They seriously believe in aswangs (a Filipino version of vampires), white ladies (malicious female ghosts) or moo-moo’s which as far as I can ascertain are a cross between a ghost and evil spirit the Manananggal (a half torso lady with wings which bites you). Dwarfs also play an important role in Filipino superstition. There are evil dwarfs such as the red dwarf which will always fight with you the black dwarf which will make your life worse in whatever way possible and the white dwarf which is nice to you and can make your life better.
Other baddies include the Tikbalang whose body is half horse half human and the Kapre which is basically a large black man who lives high up in a tall tree and smokes a large cigarette. The Kapre does not do anything specifically evil but he is a scary figure none the less. Mangkukulam, this is a Black Witch who uses little dolls or effigies of a certain person and then sticks pins or sharp objects into the doll. This will course the said person pain and suffering. This is very reminiscent of Voodoo practices. Mangbabarang, this is another Black Witch but instead of dolls she will use insects to cause you pain and suffering. The Kamatayan who is basically the Filipino equivalent of the grim reaper.
I am sure there are many other superstitions but what the foreigner has to realise is these are very real for the Filipina and will often be used as an excuse to explain certain events or situations.
I distinctly remember sitting in Mistys at 2:AM when all of a sudden there was a mass exodus towards the door. Instantly I thought there must be a fire or something in the change room so armed with fire extinguisher I walk out to the change room to find one girl having an epileptic fit. There were several security guards standing round her just looking and I asked them why dont you help her to which they replied no daddy we cannot touch her she is possessed. Straight away it became very obvious I would have to do something so I hold the girl down turn her head to the side so she cannot swallow her tongue and just wait for the fit to pass. After about 1 minute the fit ended and some tall Filipino security guards were suitably impressed with this white man who dared fight a demon.
The point of this story is to realize that superstition can play a role in the everyday life of a Filipina and it is something foreigners should be aware of.
There are also a number of light hearted superstitions which can best be described as old wives tales. Some examples are dont go out in the rain and get your head wet if you do you will get sick. If you are suffering from lack of sleep don’t have a shower as you will get sick. If you have a fever don’t take a bath or shower as this will make the fever worse. If the gecko makes its clicking sound three times after you have said something that means what you have just stated is the truth. If you are sweeping the house at night don’t push the dirt outside because if you do you will also sweep out the luck. Sometimes in the bar you will notice salt on the seats or the actual bar top, this has been placed there by the mamamsan or head waitress to encourage good luck for the night. Prior to traveling make the sign of the cross to ensure safe travel. When eating and someone leaves the house turn your plate this stops that same persons spirit from entering the house should something bad happen to them whilst outside. When eating if you drop your spoon you will have a girl visitor if you drop your fork you will have a male visitor. Never point your bed towards the door as this will mean all the love will escape through the door.
Peoples physical characteristics are also part of Filipino folk law. For example if you have a big pimple it means you have fallen in love if you have a mole on certain parts of your body it indicates certain things. For example if the mole is on your lips it means you are very talkative on your ears it means you will listen a lot if its on your foot you will travel extensively etc.
If your right hand itches it means some money is coming your way and if the left hand itches it means you are going to spend money. If you accidentally step in dog shit some money is coming your way.
All cultures have superstitions and folk laws and even though these may seem laughable to us they are very serious for the Filipinas.
This article has been written for Asian Escapades by mjibbo. The purpose of this article is not to provide the definitive psychological analysis of Filipinas but rather to relate some of my observations and experiences gleaned over the last 18 years of living in the Philippines.It is my sincere hope that readers will enjoy the article and benefit from my experiences.