Culture Shock!: Philippines

Culture Shock!: Philippines

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How to make love to a Filipino

Aug 10, 2006 (Updated Aug 17, 2006)
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Rated a Very Helpful Review

Pros:Nice layout, easy writing style, detailed explanations of Filipino behavior.

Cons:Nearly useless index.

The Bottom Line: Useful guide on why Filipinos behave the way they do.

Over 7000 Pacific islands comprise the country of the Philippines. With tropical weather, cheap labor, and an English-speaking society, it's a popular vacation and retirement spot for many Westerners. This book is targeted primarily to that crowd because they interact closely with the locals..

Many of the country's 65 million inhabitants leave their homeland by choice or out of economic necessity. You'll find sizable numbers of Filipinos in nearly every country of the world, functioning as oil workers in Kuwait, waiters in Spain, laborers in Nigeria, entertainers in Japan, nurses in the United States, or reviewers on Epinions. So, this book is also useful for anyone wanting to know how to respond to Filipinos in their own countries.

The authors exemplify this expatriation. Though originally both from Manila, they now live in Australia. Alfredo Roces received his B.A. in Fine Arts from Notre Dame in the USA before becoming editor of Geo, Australasia's Geographical Magazine. His daughter, Grace Roces, got her Psychology degree from the University of Sydney before becoming a design consultant for Wespac Training. (Note that this is as of the 2001 edition, the version I am reviewing. The 2006 edition is coming out in September.)


The book is divided into ten chapters covering such topics as Filipino Values, Doing Business in the Philippines, History, Culture, and Character, and Guide to Peculiarly Filipino Ways. As you'd expect from an editor of a popular geographic magazine, the writing style is literate and readable, contrasting long with short paragraphs, and using frequent titles and subtitles as signposts. Numbered lists summarize points of etiquette, while pictures and cartoons add graphic interest.

The appendixes offer much useful information in the form of a cultural quiz, do's and dont's, a glossary of Tagalog terms, bibliography, resource guide, and laws for employing servants. The one-page index is too short for finding topics.


Filipinos...are Malay in family, Spanish in love, Chinese in business, and American in ambition.

The original Filipinos were most probably of Malay stock, the same native peoples that inhabit Indonesia and Malaysia, but may have come from as far away as New Guinea. Foreign traders, mostly from China and the Arab kingdoms, arrived during the 10th to 16th centuries. The Chinese brought cooking skills, rigid family structure, and names. (My last name Locsin is derived from Chinese.) The Arabs brought Islam, still the dominant religion of the south.

In 1521, Magellan became the first of the Spanish colonizers. They stayed for three hundred years. bringing Catholicism, urban living, Western arts, and Spanish names. (My first name Aurelio is Spanish). In 1898, the Americans booted out the Spaniards and brought the public school system, democratic ideals, and a modern public health system -- you CAN drink the water in Manila.

After a 3-year stint under the Japanese during WWII, the Philippines achieved independence in 1945. To this day though, American influence remains strong since their 99-year military base leases gives them the right to interfere in any situation involving national security.


The book describes detailed aspects of Philippine culture though I can only summarize a few points. Filipinos are driven by self-respect (amor-propio), shame (hiya), and family. Because confrontation involves embarrassing assaults to self-respect (and makes enemies of entire families), it is avoided at all cost. Filipinos put on a pleasant face even when they are troubled and may say yes when they really mean no. Maintaining good relations within a group is more important than individual well-being.

This facet has caused me more trouble than anything else because it's almost directly opposite of American ideals. My nearly 100% commitment to this cultural rule is seen as insincere and spineless in the US. On the other hand, I consider the American need to express his opinion as insensitive and an insecure overinflation of self-importance.

In truth, understanding the reasons behind these cultural strategies, make them useful even across oceans. For example, being pleasant and non-confrontational can curry favor from a American customer service agent who has been shouted at all day. And with lackadaisical Filipino government clerks, a forceful persistence can get things done more quickly.


Among the many gems of behavior scattered through the book, my favorite is The Great Sulk: Tampo, something I do. Because Filipinos are not allowed to express anger or resentment, passive hostility takes the form ofsulking and withdrawal of customary cheerfulness in the presence of one who has displeased them. If the silent treatment doesn't work, then foot stomping, door slamming, and mutterings follow. To prevent the relationship (especially a romantic one) from deteriorating, the offender needs to be friendly and show concern about the wounded person's well-being.


I'd bought this book for a white American friend whose lover is Filipino. However, its explanation about my own behavior made me keep it. I've lived most of my life in the USA, but my formative teen years happened in the Philippines. So, my behavior patterns are partially Filipino. I'd always considered them flaws but this book showed me they are simply cultural responses to life in the Philippines. Upon realizing this, I could take steps to modify the strategies for the US.

I highly recommend this book for Filipino-Americans who want more self-knowledge, and hope those who interact with Filipinos will read it as well.


Due to popular demand, here are a few rules on the art of Filipino, all based on what the book reveals. Whether anyone should or does follow these rules depends on where you are and who you're dealing with. (And don't get me started on whether I follow these rules or not.)

For men

Interested in somebody? Ask her parent's permission first.

Be a good provider. If you succeed in everything but providing for your family, you're a failure. If you succeed in providing for your family but fail in everything else, you're a success.

Never complain about your wife's failings. To do so reveals your own weakness and is bad for keeping up appearances.

Bored with your marriage? Get a mistress or two and get them pregnant. Filipino law (the querida system) recognizes the rights of the mistresses and illegitimate children. But you have to be a good provider to all of them.

Be clean, pleasant, quiet, and respectful. You don't want to be seen as an American.

For women

A woman's place is in the home. Specifically, the Presidential Palace, Supreme Court, executive suites, and the halls of science. Since pre-colonial times, women have enjoyed equal status with men even in inheriting lands and chiefdoms. However, you must behave like a woman and not like a man in a dress.

Beware the single guy who lives by himself. He's probably been kicked out of the house by his parents because for bad behavior.

If the marriage fails, it's your fault. You're either too nice or not nice enough, not sexually attractive, or spending too much time to looking attractive rather than tending house.

Always play hard to get. You don't want to be seen as a slut.

Get a maid. It makes housework so much easier.

For both

Marriage isn't about individuals. It's about one family joining another. Be sure that everybody gets along with everybody else.

When it comes to matters of taste, beauty, entertainment, and female behavior, nobody knows better than a male homosexual.


Price: $13.95
Paperback: 240 pages
Publisher: Graphic Arts Center Publishing Company; Expanded edition (April 2002)
Language: English
ISBN: 1558686274
Product Dimensions: 7.5 x 5.7 x 0.6 inches

© 2006 by alocsin

Recommend this product? Yes

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