Introduction to Filipino Culture

This week, the fantastic LCFs (Language and Cultural Facilitators) and other Peace Corps Staff here in the Philippines put together an activity to give us a brief introduction to Filipino culture. This post is going to be pretty casual, but I wanted to share some of the things I saw and learned.

Rituals

  • Healing rituals are still practiced in some rural areas throughout the Philippines, particularly those without easy access to modern medical care. Magtatawas are healers found in some of these communities. When a person gets sick, they can visit a Magtatawa and perform rituals to get rid of the evil spirit that is ailing them. As a Peace Corps volunteer, we are allowed to observe such rituals, but not participate.
  • Cañao is a ritual practiced in the Northern regions of Luzon involving dancing and sacrifice of livestock to bring about good fortune.

Superstitions

  • Cutting baby’s eyelashes will make them grow longer
  • People with curly hair are crazy
  • Mole location says something about a person (on the back- lazy, foot- adventure, shoulder- carries a heavy burden)
  • Polka dots are good luck on New Year’s Eve
  • Black ants in your house are good luck
  • Kissing a sleeping baby will turn it into a naughty adult
  • Don’t sweep at night, or you will drive away your good luck
  • If a pregnant woman cuts her hair, her baby will be born bald
  • It’s bad luck to go to sleep with wet hair

Street Games

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  • Filipino football- kind of a dodgeball/kickball hybrid
  • Tumbang preso- one person’s it, everyone else throws their sandals at a can to try to knock it over

Holidays

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  • The Philippines is a majority Catholic nation, and this is reflected in their holidays.
  • Filipinos take Christmas very seriously, starting celebrations all the way back in September.

Videoke

  • Videoke is everywhere in the Philippines. It’s basically the same as Karaoke, but you have pleasant scenery playing in the background. Many people own their own Videoke console and sing both American and Filipino songs.
  • We tried out our videoke skills on the pinoy taglish (tagalog-english) song: picha pie, writen about the joys of discovering pizza put to the music of “I Will Survive”

Food

  • Durian- the infamous fruit known for it’s horrendous smell. It wasn’t that bad, like a creamy, slightly pumpkin-y, spiky melon.
  • Helmet- chicken head on a stick
  • Adidas- chicken feet on a stick (get it? feet… shoes… Adidas)
  • Betamax- congealed pigs blood
  • Isaw- chicken intestine
  • Balut- an unhatched chicken (or duck) embryo (Yes, I ate one. It was a bit like a normal hard boiled egg, with a little something extra.)
  • Lechon- roasted pig, eaten at major celebrations, the national dish of the Philippines
  • Sticky rice- my favorite, prepared in several ways

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Festivals and Fiestas

  • Festivals and fiestas are a big part of the culture in the Philippines.
  • Shown above are some of the more famous celebrations, but smaller fiestas are thrown in towns throughout the country all year.

Dancing

  • As a special treat, we got a performance by Filipino university students.
  • The dances were diverse, some reminiscent of Balinese and others of more spanish and American styles.
  • They wrapped up with Tinikling- the former national dance. Tinikling is meant to represent the graceful tikling bird, as the dancers jump and step through bamboo poles that are operated by other dancers.
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Author: Cara Simpson

Fish enthusiast. Virginia born. Maryland educated. Philippines Peace Corps Volunteer.

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