When you’re on holiday in the beautiful Philippines, what are the three traditions you must experience to properly commemorate your trip?
First, you’ve got to immerse yourself into family life the Filipino way, because few cultures are as family-oriented as this one.
Second, you can’t return happily to your homeland unless you buy a Barong Tagalog.
Third—and we’re just limiting ourselves to three here—you have to put on your dancing shoes and try a traditional folk dance.
Families, the Filipino Way
When you’re visiting the Philippines, you’re really missing out on something if you don’t get to know a few of the people.
Many visitors think that the Filipinos smile broadly at them only to get a look at their wallets; but in truth they are from a culture that values the personal worth in each and every visitor.
Take the time to chat with the hosts at your lodging or the people in the shops, because you will find them to be very friendly.
If you live in a world where your relatives are separated by time and distance, you can rediscover the pleasures of the nuclear family in the Philippines.
The average Filipino considers his immediate family to include his parents, siblings, and children, and also his grandparents, aunts or uncles, and cousins.
Learn how to do manopo while you are in the Philippines. This is a gesture in which the younger relative uses his right hand to take the right hand of his elder. He then touches the elder person’s hand lightly to his forehead. It demonstrates respect for elders, and at the same time you are receiving a blessing from the elder person. It’s a beautiful, gracious gesture.
Many people tack the word po onto the end of every sentence when they speak to an elder. It is simply a sign of respect.
Buy a Barong
The Barong (Short for Barong Tagalog) is the traditional dress shirt that dates back to the days when Spain ruled the Philippines. According to legend, the ruling Spaniards required Filipino men to wear a long shirt, untucked to show their exclusion from the ruling class. The fabric of the shirt had to be thin enough for the Spaniards to see that the man wearing the shirt was not concealing any weapon beneath it.
Today’s Barongs are elegant and impart a sense of pride to the man who dresses in it. They are so popular that they now come in versions for women and children, as well. The most expensive shirts are made from hand-woven piña fabric, created from the fibres of pineapple leaves.
Jusi fabric shirts are also available and are also finely woven, but with the use of machines. You can also buy them made from banana fibre, especially from the Visayas area. The fabric traditionally comes in a cream or ecru colour.
The Barong flows down to the level of the hips, and with buttons that open halfway down the front of the shirt. It will be decorated with embroidery or painting done by hand, or you can buy shirts featuring machine or even computer embroidery. Typically the shirt will feature beautiful lace inserts, and the collar styles vary from traditional to mandarin style.
Take a Barong home with you. Wear it in place of a shirt and tie, proudly, and with an equal mixture of dignity and fond reminiscences of your vacation!
Find out more about the Barong on Wikipedia.
Let Your Body Read the Music
There are many traditional folk dances done by the Filipinos, and hopefully you’ll witness a few during your vacation.
The Binasuan involves simple flowing dance movements—you’d think anybody could do it, but the trick is you must balance three glasses of rice wine while you dance.
The Maglalatik is performed by an all-male troupe of dancers who will leap and twirl to celebrate the meat of the coconut. Apparently an ancient war involved rights to coconuts, and the dancers perform with coconut shells strapped to their chests and legs.
One dance you will enjoy watching and will actually be able to learn is the Cariñosa. The name of the dance comes from the Spanish word referring to the affection shared by lovers.
In this dance, a man and a woman step and swirl gracefully around one another to show the pursuit of amour. The dancers utilise props such as handkerchiefs and fans to flirt with one another. This is a tradition you will be able to take home with you.
No Matter Where You Go…
You may notice that all of these traditions revolve around family, love, and pride. When you visit the Philippines, get to know the people. Listen to the legends, and enjoy the food. There is so much to see and do in this beautiful country, but if you can only experience three Filipino traditions, let it be these.