Understanding the importance of respect in Filipino culture will take you far toward a happy life in the Philippines. It is also crucial in toward comprehending Filipino culture. I hear so many foreigners say that respect must be earned. Those people just do not understand Asia nor the Philippines. In most cases, a Filipino will treat you with respect even if they have utter disdain for you.  Usually though, respect is felt for the other individual. Even where there are disputes, it is not customary to show anger toward the other party. Instead, disagreements are handled in a respectful and calm way. Honestly, I can’t see the problem with that. It is how we all should treat others. The world would have far less conflict if we would do this.

Respect is Essential in Filipino Culture

Later, I will cover the major elements of Filipino culture. What I have noticed is that most of these elements are closely related to respect. Some of these elements cause many deep misunderstandings between Western men and their Filipina partners. Men and women have a hard enough time understanding each other without being transported 8000 miles away from their home and introduced to two almost opposing cultures.


First and foremost, a Filipina must not disrespect her family. It is rare where a Filipina’s mate comes before her family. That almost never happens. Get use to it, you will be second in importance to her family. It is important that the foreigner understand that their Filipina partner is terrified of being cut off from her family. Bringing a family shame is a horror for both your average pinoy and Filipina.

The way I most often see this respect is in business situations.  It can be as simple as arraigning transportation on  a Filipina on Tricycletricycle. I’m serious about that. I’ve seen Jessie (my partner) go into long drawn out conversions with trike drivers. It appears that something is very wrong. After they are finished I ask her if there is something wrong. She tells me what they are talking about and it is something like what time will he return for us.

While this conversation is going on, she will never look away from him, especially when he is speaking. I’ve noted that Filipinos are very good listeners. Anything else is seen as a slight among Filipinos. Don’t worry too much, most Filipinos know we foreigners are not accustomed to their ways.

I write about it to illustrate just how important this is to Filipinos. I have seen Jessie “yell” at her son when he didn’t look at her when she was speaking to him. Now he’s a very good boy but she is trying to teach him the proper way.

In the malls and shops of the Philippines, it is easy for me to become frustrated. The stores have a policy and they usually will not budge from that. Americans are use to having someone bend the policy for them. Here though, most of the time, they will tell you what they offer and that’s it. Take it or leave it. The shop owners are not rude, they just restate their policy and then look at you with a blank look. Time to walk away.

I have never seen a Filipino complain to the workers about anything. A raised voice, I think, would be completely out of the question.

Of course, there are exceptions. Not everyone in a population will follow these rules. I’ve seen Jessie angry over these kinds of things. Like someone leaving without saying goodbye first. I’ve heard raised voices out and around but these usually end in laughter as it was among friends.

Then there is Red Horse and other alcoholic drinks where all bets can be off. Still, I don’t see disputes. I saw people scurrying about once in excitement as there had been some kind of dispute between two pinoy.  I was not far from it but I never saw or heard anything. That’s as close as I’ve come to seeing a break with the calm behavior of Filipino.

Respect in Filipino Culture in a Greeting

There is a even a greeting that is practiced by many in the Philippines. It is usually done between family members but not Respect in Filipino Culturehusband and wife. The younger family member will take the hand of their elder, lifting it to their forehead. This is called Mano Po. I have had children do it for me when I was walking around Bogo City. I have done it to elderly women and to Jessie’s father. He tried to resist but I can assure you the rest of her family was happy to see me do so.

If you prefer to  stick with the idea of respect is earned, okay. I can live with that. I have to believe though that if you try to make some adjustments in your outlook based upon Filipino values, your stay in the Philippines will be a lot more pleasant. It will also make a relationship with a Filipino stronger.

When I came to the Philippines, I had heard so much negativity about the Philippines that I was afraid of the people. It wasn’t long after I was here that I realized most Filipinos are caring, happy and welcoming people. With respect in Filipino culture being such of high importance, it is easy to see why this is true.

Also, showing flagrant disrespect to a Filipino, especially a male could be rather dangerous. Like Japanese, saving face is very important. Insulting a Filipino could result in serious conflict. Technically, it can also give rise to grounds for being deported. If you can adjust, you will grow a great deal by taking on the positive aspect of the culture of the Philippines.


By Rusty Ferguson

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