Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada
Symbol of the Government of Canada

Cultural Information - Philippines

Country Facts

Links to the best Web sites for virtually every country in the world.

Cultural Information

Answers to your intercultural questions from a Canadian and a local point of view.

Cultural Information - Conversations

Question:

I am meeting someone for the first time and I want to make a good impression. What would be good discussion topics?

Local Perspective:

Filipinos usually make friends easily. They are warm and hospitable. They smile a lot, which makes it easier for strangers or foreigners to feel at ease with them. They can easily strike up a conversation with the person seated next to them, for example. Filipinos can communicate with peoples of other nations with ease because the majority of the population can fluently converse in English.

When meeting a Filipino for the first time, and you want to make a good impression, maintain a low profile, be friendly without being "artificial" and show a genuine interest in the culture. Do not flaunt your wealth (jewellery and other expensive looking personal belongings and cash). Avoid wearing immodest or revealing clothing, especially in Muslim-dominated areas where there is a clear standard for appropriate attire.

Filipinos have a knack for humour. They can always find something to laugh about. They even love to craft funny anecdotes about socio-economic-political situations and adversaries in life. But it is not appropriate for a foreigner to comment on the political situation nor discuss about religion. With regard to socio-cultural conflicts and issues, just listen during discussions and do not take sides. Good discussion topics include: family (Filipinos love to talk about their families), where you are from (bring pictures of Canada with you, post cards may do) and the reason why you are in the Philippines (explain explicitly and clearly your organization’s aims).

Most Filipinos do not mind being asked their age, so it would not be unusual for them to ask yours. When speaking to adults/older people and people of status, use the polite forms of speech (po/ho) so that you will be regarded well. (Example: "Good morning po/ho!")

Canadian Perspective:

Filipinos (also Pilipinos) are very family-oriented, so are always interested in your own family and where you are from. Many Filipinos have family, relatives and friends working and or settled overseas and are interested—even anxious—to make (casual) linkages between their own overseas family and relatives with your family or friends, especially if you are from USA or Canada. In a work environment, a brief discussion of your work and task is acceptable, but there is often reluctance to "get down to business" too quickly. They would like to get to "know" you first. It is often best to let your host to set the agenda or at least the initial timetable for work.

Filipinos are extremely social and hospitable; they also like to eat and drink often. You are likely to be offered a drink (coffee, soft drink, juice or water) and a snack (biscuit cake etc.) almost immediately on first meeting. It is socially wise to accept the offer; at least of the coffee or soft drink. If you are the host you should also be prepared to offer and serve a coffee/soft drink and snack. If invited to a family or other social occasion it is Filipino practice to bring along a small gift for the host and/or hostess, typically a cake or other small gift of very modest value.

Filipino attitudes with respect to overseas involvement in their country vary widely from open admiration, to hidden, but quite deep resentment. Attitudes towards US intervention—especially in politics—are ambivalent. Respect for American business acumen is much more positive. Canadians have the fortune of not being identified with interventions in Philippine politics (in the way US expatriates are sometimes viewed), yet also respected for their business skills. Even so, it is best to avoid political and other potentially sensitive topics until it is clearer as to where he or she stands and his or her attitudes to foreign interventions.

Many Filipinos are uneasy about the Muslim minority communities in Mindanao and mainstream Malay communities often have equivocal attitudes toward indigenous minorities. While most Filipinos are Catholics and are openly religiously oriented, even in the work place, there are substantial minority religious groups. Discussion of religious issues, views and affiliation should be deferred for later conversations, unless specifically brought up.

Most Filipinos have good access to the media (television, radio, magazines, newspapers and increasingly the internet). They like to talk current affairs, entertainment industry and sports.

There is wide spread frustration about corruption in both public and private sectors and the inability of government to address the issues. Corruption is politically sensitive and highly charged. Discussion should be avoided unless it affects one’s business directly.

Filipinos really enjoy humour and love to tell jokes in social settings, but less so in the context of business. Humour may be self-deprecating, often relies on puns, but is rarely dry or cynical. Irony is often not understood or is misinterpreted.

Submit Your Comments

Cultural Information - Communication Styles

Question:

What do I need to know about verbal and non-verbal communications?

Local Perspective:

Filipinos differ and ethnic background, social class, gender and age are important in determining people’s level of comfort with touching, tone of voice and gestures.

Generally, Filipinos try to avoid hurting other people’s feelings, so they struggle with the word "no" when asked for a favour or request to do work (they may say "maybe", "I’ll see...", "I’ll try...", etc.). As much as possible, they express their opinions and ideas with diplomacy and humility so as not to appear arrogant. They have difficulty contending with frankness or directness.

It is common to shake hands with both men and women, when introduced or greeting a person. But touching, especially men touching women, is not taken well by Filipinos. Carefully observe the degree of comfort and sense of space in Muslim-dominated areas.

Eye contact is important, especially professionally. It is a good sign of self-confidence. But if a person refuses to or is reluctant to make eye contact, it is considered a sign of shyness.

Filipinos use a lot of non-verbal communication. Some examples are raising eyebrows or lifting the head upwards slightly to indicate "yes" or to greet friends. It is considered impolite to pass between people conversing or facing one another. If you must do so, the Filipino polite way is to extend an arm or two arms with the hands clasped and pointing downwards. Some gestures that are considered rude are middle finger erect, waving a pointed index finger and pointing at someone.

Canadian Perspective:

Filipinos tend to give more space between each other when conversing than is the case in Canada (or in south Asia). Language is also less direct and confrontational. Most conservation between equals takes place in the passive voice—use of English in the active voice (particularly the first person singular "I") is acceptable, but may be seen as directive or aggressive, especially if one becomes animated by the topic of discussion.

There may be considerably less eye contact than is the case in North America. It is important to indicate understanding but should used too aggressively or overtly. There is much use of eye and body language. For example, acceptance of what is being said is usually indicated non-verbally by the merest hint of a rising of the eyebrow.

Tone of voice varies widely by language, dialect and region of origin within the Philippines. For example, the Ilongo speech of Panay island is regarded as "malumbing"—sweet and melodious where one cannot tell when the speaker is displeased; in contrast, Cebuanos speak Visayan and Batangenos using Tagalog talk in a more abrupt and flatter tones.

There is a considerable amount of touching during the course of conversation, even in public settings. It is typically initiated by a socially superior individual when talking to those with lower perceived social status, and /or between close friends. There is a general awareness that foreigners, at least from North America, are less accustomed to this, so at least initially, touching is likely to be limited to more conventional business handshakes. No particular conventions need to be observed with respect to women in contrast to men.

Filipinos typically point with their lips rather than their hands; the tighter the lips come together in a compressed "o", the further away the item being pointed out.

Submit Your Comments

Cultural Information - Display of Emotion

Question:

Are public displays of affection, anger or other emotions acceptable?

Local Perspective:

Most Filipinos are generally open about their emotions (as long as in their judgment, they are appropriate and positive). But they do not normally express anger in public so as not to appear rude. Public display of affection such as holding hands and putting arms around the shoulders of one’s significant other are acceptable.

Canadian Perspective:

Public displays of anger and other strong emotions are not well regarded, but do occur, particularly by (social) "superiors" when interacting with (social) "inferiors" (e.g. employers—employees, landowners-tenants/ agricultural labourers). The socially "inferior" target of such anger or emotion is unlikely to defend himself or herself, will often deeply resent such outbursts. Foreigners in "superior" positions —particularly Americans (including Canadians) and other non-Asians—may well be subconsciously held to higher standards than their Filipino counterparts with respect to use of strong emotions in public.

Filipinos are typically highly indulgent of their children, especially boys, so may well tolerate children’s anti-social behaviour in public. In contrast, public displays of anger towards children, even just overt chastising or reprimanding, are not well regarded. There are few social sanctions with respect to modest displays of affection in public. Rural areas tend to more conservative. There is much greater tolerance of public signs of affection between people of the same sex than in Canada.

Submit Your Comments

Cultural Information - Dress, Punctuality & Formality

Question:

What should I know about the workplace environment (deadlines, dress, formality, etc.)?

Local Perspective:

Work styles differ between workplaces. Many workplaces allow "flexi-time" (work earlier or later and leave earlier or later) as long as the job is done. Reliability is highly-valued. It is common to work overtime to meet a deadline. The workdays are from Monday to Friday, although employees and workers in manufacturing companies go to work on Saturdays, normally in the morning until noon. Office hours are 8-5 or 9-6 with one hour lunch break from 12 noon to 1 pm. Workers in Manufacturing companies (which operate 24 hours a day) work in shifts (morning, afternoon and evening).

Even if it is quite common for Filipino activities (parties, etc.) to rarely start on time, it is different in corporate life. Timeliness is emphasized to avoid creating a bad impression on clients. To be on the safe side though, if you plan to start a meeting at 10 am, announce it as starting at 9:30 am.

It is important for Filipinos to be clean and neat in appearance. Even if the weather is hot, dress conservatively (no mini skirts or plunging necklines for women).

Generally, Filipinos are title-conscious. Note for example the use of titles before the names of professionals such as Dr. (doctor), Atty. (attorney, lawyer), Engr. (engineer), Arch. (architect), Prof. (professor). They also tend to say "sir" or "ma’am" to show their respect, not just to their superiors but to older people as well, until told otherwise. Colleagues are often addressed by the first name.

Canadian Perspective:

Dress in the business work place is relatively informal, especially for men. In many work places quite senior officials will be in polo T-shirt and casual slacks. A business suit and tie is very uncomfortable for much of the year because of the high temperature and humidity. Most offices take the lead from their senior executive/ officer in charge or office supervisor. Ladies tend to be well dressed but again formal business suits are not usually required. In some offices the female staff may agree to wear the same "uniform" dress or other attire. There may well be different "uniform" attire for different days of the week. Although dress is relatively casual, most Filipinos dress well: they spend higher proportions of their disposable income on clothing than in Canada.

In meetings, slightly more formal attire is appropriate. However, only in air conditioned offices will a full business suit be required. Many quite formal meetings will be held with the participants in either shirt and tie or a simple (non-embroidered form of barong Tagalog, national dress for men worn over black pants and shoes). At very formal occasions such as cultural events, banquets and other formal public and business gatherings, barong Tagalog or formal suit may be required. Women may be in traditional "Maria Clara’s"—hand- embroidered dresses of fine materials, with high butterfly wing shoulders. However there will usually more women in formal western style "evening dress". At family social occasions, even those with large numbers of invited guests, the dress is likely to be very casual.

Most Filipinos speak, read and write some English. However, English is often spoken with an accent influenced by the Malay base language of most mainstream Filipino languages. Much of the spoken and written "English" found widely in public broadcast media and newspapers is actually "Taglish"—a mixture of Tagalog and English. The tendency to drift between one language and the other, even in the middle of a sentence can be very confusing. Use of Spanish words in every day speech and writing is also common and even normal practice for such things as references to time and date. However, it is not wise to use Spanish as a language, even if you are fluent and learnt it elsewhere. While Spanish may be welcomed by the elite and older scholars and well-educated people, it is regarded as a language of oppression and domination.

There is a formal form of address in Filipino when addressing superiors in the office:— "po" equivalent to "sir" is included in the address (even when the Filipino) is speaking in English "O po"—literally yes sir—will be said in acknowledgment or response when spoken to by a superior. While these linguistic conventions are certainly not required of expatriates, they are usually appreciated. When speaking in Filipino, respect in shown to colleagues of equal rank or superior rank by use of the passive voice. The active voice is only used by superiors talking to staff of lower rank. Expatriates should be careful addressing colleagues and supervisors as English is typically spoken in the active voice.

Initially, formal titles may be given when addressing colleagues in the office. The Filipinos are particular sensitive about acknowledging academic rank. However, once colleagues get to know you, Filipinos quickly revert to first names and nicknames. There is such wide spread use of nicknames that there may be a collective search for a nickname, often only indirectly related to your own name or some characteristic.

There is a much more casual approach to times than in Canada and even when meetings start on time, social exchanges, snacks and meriendas etc may delay the start of formal business. Particularly in Metro Manila, the often appalling traffic jams and bad travelling conditions caused by inclement weather and flooding, lead to the need for some flexibility. Social occasions and events are often set with long time frames, with many arriving very late. If food is served at such gatherings (as is usually the case), then the host/hostess will expect to serve food right up to the end of the event or party.

Filipinos in senior manager positions typically work long hours and often face long commutes to and from home. The difficulties of public transportation, time consuming home obligations e.g. getting children to or from school, require that arrival and departure hours be somewhat variable and that short absences from the office during regular hours also be tolerated. There are major, quite lengthy holiday periods in the Philippines during which it is difficult to get staff at any level to commit themselves fully to office work, if in the office at all.

Submit Your Comments

Cultural Information - Preferred Managerial Qualities

Question:

What qualities are most highly regarded in a local superior/manager? How will I know how my staff view me?

Local Perspective:

A superior (local or non-local/expat) is usually respected for his or her educational attainment (including the reputation of the university where the degree was earned), expertise in the field, work experience, ability to work well with and inspire others, and good communication skills.

If a superior is arrogant (not open to ideas, and makes employees feel unintelligent and incapable to do work), it is quite likely that members of his or her staff have low morale and talk among themselves. The disgruntled staff can report problems with a superior to higher management through the employees’ union if a company or an organization has one.

Canadian Perspective:

Formal education is always given high importance in the Philippines, especially if the qualifications are earned overseas. As a consequence, expatriate managers are often given more respect for their formal qualifications than is truly warranted.

At least in traditional enterprises and companies, much respect is given to age and seniority, at times equated with "experience". In larger, more recently formed companies built on the "Western" model, performance and results may be more important than experience.

Leadership and management that makes it clear as to what is expected of employees and is willing to stand up for employees is much appreciated. Open and personable managers may well be able to impart a sense of belonging and thus reduce insecurities of employees to whom job-loss would be a social as well as financial disaster. In the traditional management style and companies, especially in small towns these employer-employee relationships may constitute a form of paternalism rather than mutual interest and respect.

Where job security is protected by labour unions, as in many new and larger companies, personable managers who communicate well and understand the company’s employees and interest can make an enormous difference in ensuring workers give full effort to their work. They can also make a major difference in preventing labour disputes from becoming disruptive.

As long as an expatriate manager invests time to develop personal relationships with their staff, he/she is more than likely to know (more than) enough as to how is staff view him/her and likely staff reactions to proposed organizational changes and shifts in management practices. He/she may well find that employees may ask him or her to play an intermediary role with Filipino counterpart managers with respect to issues that the employees are reluctant to raise with their immediate superiors.

Submit Your Comments

Cultural Information - Hierarchy and Decision-making

Question:

In the workplace, how are decisions taken and by whom? Is it acceptable to go to my immediate supervisor for answers or feedback?

Local Perspective:

Generally, discussions about important organizational issues are made collectively so that everybody is responsible for the outcome of decisions made. It is acceptable though to go to an immediate superior for answers to questions or concerns and feedback.

Canadian Perspective:

Decision-making in the work place differs substantially by the type and size of business and whether the work place has been unionized. In the case of commercial enterprises controlled or owned by Chinese-Filipino businessmen, typically the owner or whomever he/she designates as the person in charge decides and employees are not encouraged to offer their ideas. Agricultural and production enterprises owned by traditional elites are more likely to be hands-off and hire one or more "katiawalas"—field or floor managers—to run the day-to-day affairs. This person may even have discretionary powers to innovate, hire and fire, even to earn discretionary income from management.

Large production companies and commercial enterprises are much more likely to follow decision-making procedures similar to North American companies. The open nature of decision-making and opportunities to have their ideas considered and acted on is attractive to many Filipino employees and middle level managers of such companies. However, the aggressive, competitive nature of many such enterprises and real possibility of loss of job due to sub-par performance makes people reluctant to stand out.

Submit Your Comments

Cultural Information - Religion, Class, Ethnicity, & Gender

Question:

Briefly describe the local culture’s attitudes regarding the following: Gender, Class, Religion and Ethnicity. What impact would the above attitudes have on the workplace?

Local Perspective:


Gender:
The Philippines has a matriarchal society. Women occupy a high place in society, politics and the professions. They enjoy equal social and political rights with men.

The present-day Filipina is now more assertive (compared to their ancestors during the Spanish era). The Filipino family is generally classified as egalitarian. Authority is more or less divided between husband and wife. The husband is formally recognized as the head but the wife has the important position of treasurer of the household and manager of the domestic affairs. Since there are more working women now then ever before, today’s Filipina does a balancing act between career and family.

Religion:
The Philippines is the only Christian nation in Asia and Filipinos have high spiritual fervour. They observe holy days (business establishments are normally closed on Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Easter, All Saints’-All Souls’ Days and Christmas). Sunday is considered both a religious and a family day. As much as possible, avoid working on that day because most Filipinos go to church and do things together as a family.

Class:
There are three social classes in the country based on income and national wealth. The members of the rich class represent about 10% of the population but own or earn about 90% of the wealth of the country. They are composed of wealthy industrialists with big corporations and owners of large haciendas or plantations. The members of the middle class represent about 20% of the population. They are composed of professionals (doctors, lawyers, etc.). The members of the lower or poor class comprise about 70% of the population but they only earn or share 10% of the wealth. They often cannot earn enough to be able to buy necessities in life, save for emergencies or for future needs. The poor could become rich by education and by hard work.

Ethnicity:
Filipinos have a strong sense of regionalism. Strong ties bind those who come from the same province or those who speak the same dialect. They support each other because they consider themselves as "brothers or sisters". Sometimes, it is whom you know that counts when facilitating papers or when trying to get quick and positive results.

Canadian Perspective:


Gender:
Men are seen as head the head of the family, but women often assume the role of major income or wage earner as well as homemaker and nurturer of their children. Women are just as likely as men to seek and take overseas contract work.

There is broad commitment to extended education at secondary and tertiary education for girls as well as for boys, by all families that can afford it. However, in families with limited means, girls are more likely than boys to be asked to defer or sacrifice their own education in order to support the education of younger siblings, especially younger brothers.

Although most CEOs of business enterprises are men, this is not exclusively the case. There are many women in senior positions, especially in government departments. Even when the head of a business or enterprise is a man, it is not uncommon to find that it is a woman who really "runs the show".

Religion:
Most (close to 90%) Filipinos are Roman Catholics, but there are other large Christian groups throughout the country especially among the Indigenous ethnic groups in the Autonomous Mountain Region of Northern Luzon. Most traditional elites are Catholic. In southern and western Mindanao and the islands of Jolo and Sulu Sea that constitute the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao, there is a substantial Muslim community, which has been aggressively pushing for independence through such organizations as the Moro national Liberation Front and Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

Religion is openly and overtly practised throughout all aspects of life in the Philippines, including the work place. Strong beliefs and religious practices and events are not always matched by social norms and practices. While the Catholic Church makes divorce very difficult, if not impossible, it is not uncommon for married couples to either drift apart and enter into common law relationships with new spouses. In business and when exploring informal personal relationships with colleagues, it is prudent not to try to nail the formal relationships down if they do not seem to "add-up".

There is widespread misunderstanding and uneasiness regarding the Muslim religious minority and its demands for independence amongst the majority of Filipinos, especially in Mindanao. It is therefore wise for expatriates to avoid debate of the Muslim claims for independence and to check out the current safety of specific itineraries and proposed meetings when planning business trips and holidays to predominantly Moslem areas of Mindanao.

Class:
The extremely affluent and politically powerful elite still controls most of Filipino economy, business and political activities. The middle class is small and the lower middle class much larger. Its members live in urban areas and, typically, can only meet some of their extend family needs with no social safety net to fall back on. There are large numbers of urban poor who live in substandard dwellings on land they rarely have formal rights to use, who face food security problems and have serious deficiencies in meeting basic human needs.

In the workplace this creates widespread moonlighting. In Manila and other large urban areas, many employees cannot afford to live in the same neighbourhoods as their work, so must take long and arduous public transportation commutes to get to and from work. Also, petty theft, skimming or unauthorised use of business assets and consumption of inputs by employees, even by employees that are considered and consider themselves as loyal to the company or business, are not unusual. There is some tolerance for such practices.

Ethnicity:
There are strong ties between Filipinos of the same area of origin and ethnic group and language. In Metro Manila, businesses and settlements may be organized in such groups. Although most Filipinos can converse in Tagalog (the basis of the national Filipino language), the majority of Filipinos grow up speaking other Malay based languages. It is only at the high school level that Filipino (Tagalog) becomes the common language of instruction and at the tertiary level English is the normal language of instruction. While most major Malay based ethnic groups do accept each other well, people prefer to interact socially and live close to workers from their own ethnic group.

Although many Chinese Filipinos do not speak any Chinese dialects or are not aware of their Chinese genealogical origins, there is some resentment of the success of Chinese-Filipino business and commercial enterprises and, in particular, of the Chinese community’s support for financing its own businesses and the high rates of interest some frequently charge on informal loans and loans for consumption purposes.

There are many diverse pockets of indigenous tribal groups in the remote hilly and mountainous areas of the Philippines. These peoples speak languages unrelated to Malay and have different ethnic origins than mainstream Malay culture Filipinos. In the Cordillera mountain provinces of Northern Luzon they are collectively known as Igorots; elsewhere in Luzon there are Aeta communities; in Mindoro Mangyan communities live in much of the uplands; in the Visayan islands of the central Philippines these indigenous minorities are referred in somewhat derogatory fashion as "Negritos"

Submit Your Comments

Cultural Information - Relationship-building

Question:

How important is it to establish a personal relationship with a colleague or client before getting to business?

Local Perspective:

It helps to establish a personal relationship with a colleague or a client before getting to business just to break the ice but it is not a "must". What is important is finding appropriate ways to communicate with people at all levels so that aims are explicitly and clearly articulated. However, a good way of establishing a personal relationship is spending time with colleagues or clients during break-time and meal-time. They are "less formal" and more at ease during these occasions. But minimize, if not remove "nightlife" activities during deployment. Foreigners spending their money in nightclubs is often associated with supporting the sex trade.

Canadian Perspective:

Establishing personal relationships with clients is critically important for successful business transactions at all levels. Between colleagues, they also make for more effective and comfortable workplaces. Traditional business relationships in the Philippines are heavily dependent on the personal relationships between those engaged in business transactions. The personal ties and relationships are often based on a mix of shared, family, social, class, shared religious communities and beliefs, even ethnic group/language of the places they grow-up in. Such points of correspondence may not be as easy for expatriates newly entering into business or work place transactions to discern.

The most important element of establishing a relationship is the willingness to spend time on developing them. Social occasions, both formal and informal, within or outside the place of business over food or (usually soft) drinks, even the "meriendas" (snacks) that punctuate the work day are all excellent occasions to initiate personal relationships. In the evenings male colleagues (single or married) may well go out for beers (or hard drinks) and "pulutan" (bar snacks) and, sometimes, to other entertainment venues. These occasions also represent opportunities for developing personal relationships, but some care is needed in only taking those up with colleagues or business ties you are sure will not over-step your personal beliefs, values and social comfort zone. If the discussions are leading into more sensitive areas, it is acceptable to excuse yourself and/or leave before others in the party do so, especially if you have family to go home to. An advantage for most expatriates, especially neophytes in the Philippine work or business place, is that they may be more easily forgiven social business gaffes than their Filipino colleagues who should know better.

Submit Your Comments

Cultural Information - Privileges and Favouritism

Question:

Would a colleague or employee expect special privileges or considerations given our personal relationship or friendship

Local Perspective:

Filipinos cherish the ancestral trait of "bayanihan" which means cooperation. However, this can be used to the extreme through "pakikisama" which means that Filipinos prefer smooth relations with colleagues, friends and relatives, even when those others are wrong. They also have a high sense of gratitude ("utang na loob"): showing appreciation or returning the favour to someone who did something beneficial to you. The "padrino" (godfather) system is still in force. In this case, a "padrino" who is a person of position will get things done faster for you through his clout. It should be noted though that a non-local (expat) is not expected to abide by the unwritten rules of "utang na loob". Be firm about operational standards and procedures and be transparent with these.

Canadian Perspective:

Most colleagues and employees would be cautious about asking for special privileges or considerations of expatriates, at least until they felt they know you quite well. Even then it is unlikely that employees would ask for either wage increases or preferred treatment if this is likely to be become general knowledge among other employees.

More likely is a request for consideration of hiring friends or family. As an expatriate it is often difficult to assess candidates for a position, particularly as all or most are likely to have "strong"—even glowing references. Hence, for colleagues with whom you have a good personal relationship and whose judgement you trust, some special consideration may be warranted. If you are requested to consider the curriculum vitae of a friend or relative for an open position, then you should ensure that your colleague will accept your decision if you do not to hire the candidate, take the extra effort to look closely at the candidate’s resume and /or interview, and make it clear that your consideration will be based on at least equal merit in relation to other candidates.

More difficult are request for loans, salary advances or other personal help from colleagues or employees with whom you have developed a close personal relationships, particularly those based on you getting to know their family and family situation. It is wise not to extend preferential consideration. The employee will usually understand that this would undermine your authority with other employees and leave you vulnerable to other requests. In the case of colleagues making personal requests for help /temporary loans outside of the workplace, extreme care should be taken in giving positive responses. Even if you want to help him and you are convinced that you have the full facts of the cases, it is better to make an outright grant or direct help up to the extent of your generosity and that you can afford rather than enter into an informal loan agreement.

Submit Your Comments

Cultural Information - Conflicts in the Workplace

Question:

I have a work-related problem with a colleague. Do I confront him or her directly? Privately or publicly?

Local Perspective:

Filipinos prefer to save "face" (self-pride) rather than feel shame ("hiya") for a sudden act or a wrong decision. So it is better to discuss privately with a colleague "strategies for better implementation of work" (use this phrase instead of work-related problems). It is difficult to know if a colleague is having problems with you because Filipinos do not like to assert themselves or appear aggressive.

Canadian Perspective:

Dealing with inter-personal problems in the work place is quite challenging because in many Filipino work environments these issues are not handled well or not handled at all. The preference is often to allow the superficial camaraderie to gloss over personal differences.

Confronting a colleague in public or in the work place in public, even if done politely, will generate considerable loss of face for the other person. It may also generate some mistrust of you among other colleagues. Approaching your colleague in private would be the most appropriate course of action.

Although there may no overt indication that you have offended one of your colleagues, you may get some inkling that he is offended by his/her reduced interaction with you, absence from social occasions in the work place or his/her apparent unwillingness initiate informal communications with you. Once you have established yourself in the work place and have personal relationships with a number of your colleagues, you are likely to learn more indirectly from them about what specific colleagues think of you. Much information may be in the form of innuendo and gossip. Enlisting the opinion of a close colleague in finding out how someone else regards you or communicating a problem you have with a colleague can be productive, as long you feel you can trust the colleague to hold confidence and act discreetly on your behalf.

Submit Your Comments

Cultural Information - Motivating Local Colleagues

Question:

What motivates my local colleagues to perform well on the job?

Local Perspective:

To motivate Filipinos, recognize and praise work well done because they are very sensitive about their honour or reputation. Job satisfaction, competitive salary and good working conditions (including good interpersonal relationship among colleagues, and emphatic and approachable superior) are other important factors that motivate local colleagues to perform well on the job.

Canadian Perspective:

Traditional companies and enterprises, depend heavily on (extended) family members for staff and family connections are likely to be important in securing a job in such enterprises. Not surprisingly, family loyalty is a strong motivating factor in such companies. While nepotism is indeed common and some of the problems of motivation of nepotistic appointments sometimes apparent, "family" employees are just as likely to be motivated by a sense of responsibility to not let the family down.

Fear of failure is a stronger motivating factor than is the case in Canada, because the consequences of failure, particularly job loss, are more serious. However, this fear may make colleagues cautious and conservative with respect to taking initiatives or taking on responsibilities that either expose them to risk or single them out from their colleagues. Also, there is considerable loyalty among colleagues, especially female employees. In relatively secure work environments, this can generate successful teamwork and thus high job satisfaction.

Amongst most wage employees and the middle management level, monetary compensation is more important than job satisfaction or working conditions. For all but those from the most affluent families, levels of monetary compensation are a critical concern. Even if their own and immediate family needs are covered, wider extended family obligations are likely to expand along with expectations of compensation. Fringe benefits, especially health and disability and other insurance benefits and especially transportation provided by the office are also major incentives that generate both loyalty and good performance. There are few government provided health or social benefits, so these fringe benefits reduce the risk of failure through factors that are beyond the employee’s control. As many employees cannot afford to live close to the major business districts and congestion is very bad and parking often difficult, a vehicle with a driver is a highly prized "perk", especially if they can be used to get children to and from school.

Submit Your Comments

Cultural Information - Recommended Books, Films & Foods

Question:

To help me learn more about the local culture(s), please recommend: books, films, television shows, foods and web sites.

Local Perspective:

Books to Read: The Philippines: The Continuing Past, 1978, Renato Constantino and Leticia R. Constantino. Published by the Foundation for Nationalist Studies, Quezon City and The Political Economy of Gender (Women and the sexual division of labour in the Philippines), 1992 Elizabeth Uy Eviota First Published by Zed Books, Ltd., London, UK and New Jersey, USA. I recommend also the Filipino (Tagalog) Phrasebook (2nd Edition), 1988 by Violeta Lorenzana, published by Lonely Planets Publications, Australia. Also, novels by Philippine National Hero and first Asian nationalist Jose Rizal: Noli Me Tangere (Touch Me Not) and El Filibusterismo (The Filibuster)—Rizal was executed by a firing squad mainly because of these two books. Novels by F. Sionel Jose (the Philippines’ most widely translated author; stories are moving portraits of Filipino society): Viajero, Ermita, Three Filipino Women. As well, works of famous writers Nick Joaquin, N.V.M Gonzales, Francisco Arcellana, Leon Ma. Guerrero, Jose Garcia Villa, Lualhati Bautista and Bienvenido N. Santos (he won the American Book Award for his collection of short stories Scent of Apples).

Films: Films directed by award-winning and well-respected directors Marilou Diaz-Abaya, Laurice Guillen, Olivia Lamasan, Carlitos Siguion-Reyna, Ishmael Bernal, Joel Lamangan, Jose Javier Reyes and Lino Brocka (deceased)

Musicians: Leah Salonga—won the Lawrence Olivier Award, a Tony, and the Drama Desk Outer Critics Circle and Theatre World Awards for her sterling performance as Kim for the production of Miss Saigon. Joey Ayala—composes and plays indigenous Filipino music. Regine Velasquez—Asia’s "Songbird". Martin Nievera—Philippines’ Concert King. Kuh Ledesma

Traditional Dishes: Adobong pusit (squid), adobong isda (fish), adobong gulay (vegetables), adobong karne (meat)—cooked in a mixture of vinegar, garlic, salt, peppercorns, bay leaves and soy sauce; Inihaw na bangus (grilled milkfish), inihaw na hipon (grilled shrimps), inihaw na lapu-lapu (grilled grouper), inihaw na baboy (charcoal grilled pork) with vinegar and garlic dip. Also, there is Relleno (stuffed)—rellenong bangus (stuffed milkfish), rellenong pusit (stuffed grilled squid); Daing na bangus (fried seasoned milkfish); Sinuam na isda (fish ginger with vegetables); Pinakbet (vegetable stew); Guinataang kalabasa at hipon (squash and shrimps in coconut milk); Sinigang (in sour broth)—sinigang na isda (fish sinigang); sinigang na hipon (shrimp sinigang), sinigang na baboy (pork sinigang), sinigang na manok (chicken sinigang); Pancit canton (sautéed egg noodles); Kare-kare (stew with peanut sauce); Lechon (roasted pork); and Halo-halo - literally means "mix-mix" which is what you do to it before eating it (a dessert made from shaved ice mixed with sweetened bananas, sweet potatoes, yam, black and white beans, agar-agar fruits, smothered in evaporated milk and mixed together).

International Filipino Web Sites: www.epilipinas.com; www.gopinoy.com; www.pinoyware.com; www.pinoywebsites.com "Building a True Global Filipino Community"; www.trabaho.com; http://pearl.chamber.ca The Private Enterprise Accelerated Resource Linkages Project; www.canurb.com/ipo/philippines.html Canadian Urban Institute Philippines Web Site: www.skyinet.net/atzzing/filfood/filfood1.html Lutong Pinoy: The Best of Philippine Cuisine: www.phil-net.com National and international listings of businesses and organizations

Canadian Perspective:

This list is of recommended books, films, television, places to visit and food is simply a list of personal favourites.

Books to read: Nolo me Tangere (Touch me not) is written by the Jose P. Rizal about the national independence struggle of the 1890’s. When Elephants Dance by Tess Uriza Holthe, Crown Publishers, New York, 2002 looks at the significance of the Second World War, Filipino attitudes towards the Americans and Japanese fighting in WWII and some of the Filipino beliefs in the supernatural spirits. Sabina Murray’s The Caprices, Houston Mifflin, New York, 2002 is a collection of stories set against the Pacific war experience. Sterling Hargreave’s The Marcos Dynasty, Harper & Row, New York, 1988 is probably the best book about the role of the Marcos, the US and other powerful interests in the Philippines. Another book about the relationship between the Marcos’s and the Aquinos is Anne Burto’s Impossible Dream: The Marcoses and the Aquinos, and the Unfinished Revolution, Warner Books, New York 1989. Of the few guidebooks I have looked at and recommend for its authentic Filipino authorship and relevance is Alfredo and Grace Roces’s Philippines: Culture Shock! Manila, 1994. My favourites are Brown River, White Ocean: An Anthology of Twentieth Century Philippine Literature, Rutgers University Press, August 1993 and Luis Francia’s Eye of the Fish, Kaya Press, New York, 2001, a novel reflecting the author’s return travels to the Philippines through the eyes of a young boy.

Films to see: There is a strong local film production industry in the Philippines. Although very long (3 hours) Marilou Abaya’ "Rizal", made in 1998 to coincide with the Centennial celebrations of Philippines Independence is well worth watching. "Bayan Ko (My country)" was made by arguably the most renowned and accomplished Filipino film Director. Many of the films are produced in the Filipino language and concentrate on peculiarly Filipino film genres of comedy (such as the movies of Nora Aunor or Yoyoy Villayame), stories of frustrated love and action movies a-kindred to "Kung Fu" movies. While most will not appeal to the expatriate audience, an occasional visit to one of the local cinemas to take in a movie is quite a cultural experience.

Internet links: <http://www.philnews.com/> and <http://www.philippinesnews.net/>provide online linkages to the major newspapers form the Philippines, Asian magazines, business journals and weeklies. For sources of books by Pilipino authors there are: http://www.tribo.org/bookshop/bookshop.html and <http://www.kabayancentral.com/book.html>.

Submit Your Comments

Cultural Information - In-country Activities

Question:

When in this country, I want to learn more about the culture(s) and people. What activities can you recommend?

Local Perspective:

When in the Philippines, build a strong relationship with many different society representatives. Heed the advice of local partners, who can be good cultural interpreters, especially in terms of avoiding security risks. Most newspapers, magazines, books and FM radio shows are in English. Television channel ABS-CBN News Central (ANC)/Studio 23—shows are in English and suggested national newspapers to read: Philippine Daily Inquirer, Philippine Star and Manila Standard.

Canadian Perspective:

Music: The dominating feature of Filipino culture is Filipino’s love and ability to make music of all types. Throughout the Philippines (and all over Asia, particularly Southeast Asia) one will find Filipino artists making music in hotels, jazz clubs, at concerts, running and churches, leading singing in karaoke clubs and bars. Churches are important sources of music with formal choirs and mass participation of congregations. Some of the best folk music in the Philippines can still be heard at the Hobbit House. Freddie Aguilar, writer and performer still performs there on occasions. In many ways the best way to get a sense of the centrality of music and dance to Philippine culture is to attend a "Barrio Fiesta" celebration at the village level on the day of the annual celebration of the Saint day after which most villages are named.

Places to visit: In Manila—The buildings in the walled city of Intramuros on the south banks of the Pasig River are examples of exquisite Spanish architecture, art and furnishings. Fort Santiago’s fortress prison, Casa Manila, San Augustin Church and Manila Cathedral, the Ayala Museum, and the restored Ayuntamiento (Municipal Hall) are all worth a visit. For golfers there’s the quirky 9-hole golf course on the southern sides of Intramuros. The Malacanang Palace along the north banks of the Pasig River includes displays of passed presidents’ memorabilia (but no longer houses the collection of Imelda Marcos’ shoes). A little further North is the enormous maze of street markets and side walk vendors that make up the Divisoria markets. It is worth the effort to go there just to get so close to the Filipinos as they go about their daily life. Don’t wear any valuable jewellery and hang on to your wallet or purse. The same applies to the Baclaran market, in Pasay. The best means of transport to get to either is on one of the many jeepney routes. If you call out your destination and a shout of "Para" (stop), it will bring a halt almost anywhere along the route.

For longer trips outside of Manila -. Baguio in Northern Luzon is the cultural and political centre for the Igorot indigenous peoples and along the route there it is worth the effort to visit the rice terraces built up by the Ifugao peoples (also the Igorot people). Many regard the terraces, which are registered as a World Heritage site, as one of the wonders of the world. Also in Luzon, you can visit Mount Mayon, the Eastern Visayan major islands of Samar and Leyte, the Island of Palawan, Puerto Princessa and the crocodile-farming institute. Near Quezon are the Tabon caves, and even further South, the Ursula Island National Bird Sanctuary.

Davao in Southeastern Mindanao is a major tourist destination with beaches, coral reefs and diving sites as well as Mount Apo volcano and National Park, a very large park that is mostly lush tropical rain forest with many monkeys and wild pigs and many other fauna species.

Religious and cultural festivals: The major events to catch are the processions during Easter week and the many community or village celebrations of their saints Days as well as of All Souls Day and All Saints Day (October 31 and November 1). Also, there is the Penefrancia celebration on the Naga River in Naga City, Bicol (September), and the Santo Nino procession (in honour of the baby Jesus) in Cebu, in addition to the church parades and processions in honour of Mary during the month of May. Probably the most famous celebration of the culture of indigenous peoples is Ati-atihan in Kalibo, Aklan, Panay Island (late January). There are similar celebrations in Iloilo (Dinagyang) and Cebu City (Sinulog) in the same month. One of the most beautiful and moving religious celebrations are the Missa de Gallo (cock-crow masses) each dawn on the nine days leading up to Christmas.

Traditional dishes: (most common, popular, favourite) : My wife was born in a fishing community of North East Mindanao and is a cook by profession. The family eats nearly always Pilipino food, often featuring fish and steamed rice. When conditions do not permit such staples, we eat Ginataan (literally made in coconut milk -"gata"). Root crops are simmered in the coconut milk and then eaten. Fresh fish is a must. Typically we will eat fish in a sour soup—Sinigang where the broth is made with tamarind and lemon grass. Green vegetables are added to the soup, before simmering the broth. If it is straight from the ocean, merely marinating the fish in coconut vinegar and a little pepper is exquisite fare: Kinilaw (can be Tanguige and other white fish, or "posit" (squid)). Among the best meat dishes are Lechon Kawali (pork braised in a skillet pan) and Adobong manok (chunks of chicken, braised in a broth with soy sauce, bay leaves and other relatively delicate spices); beef dishes tend to be over-cooked, to ensure food safety. Our favourite tropical fruits are: Lanzones, (a white soft white skinned fruit); Santol (large orange fruit with a delightfully sweet meet inside the hard orange shell); Atis (custard apple); Chiku (an oval fruit the size of a large grape); Rambutan (a round plum sized fruit covered in soft red and yellow spikes); and of course Mangos! We grow our own calamansi (a small cherry tomato sized lime) but use them mainly as a fruit juice drink. Papaya is a great breakfast fruit. Bananas and pineapples are excellent, but choose one of the local varieties—the small but fat Latundan, the small and slender Senorita bananas, or the small brown pineapples, almost weather beaten in appearance—they taste so much better than the export varieties.

There is a myriad of newspapers printed in English and Filipino and mixtures of the two, such as the Manila Bulletin, the Philippine Inquirer and the Daily Star, to name but a few. There are also five major local channels, a wide range of American, Australian and other channels carried on cable and satellite TV available in most cities. There are innumerable public and private radio stations, mostly focussing on popular music. However, there are some important programming on such stations as Radio Veritas—the station sponsored by the Catholic Church that played an important role in the EDSA revolution.

Many Filipinos are basketball fanatics. Going to one of a game can be very instructive. In the provinces, there is hardly a town or municipality with its "sabong" -cockpit. For those of a strong stomach a visit to cockfighting venue (normally held on Sunday afternoons can be very insightful.

I asked my students at the University of the Philippines at Los Banos to speak in Tagalog for 10 minutes before conversing to me in English on academic matters. This was extremely helpful in both learning the language and acquiring cultural background about the Philippines. For more formal help in learning about Philippine culture, many academics and researchers at the universities are willing to share their expertise and interests with interested expatriates.

Submit Your Comments

Cultural Information - National Heroes

Question:

Who are this country's national heroes?

Local Perspective:

Jose Rizal, Andres Bonifacio, Gabriela Silang, Tandang Sora. They all fought for Philippine Independence during the Spanish Era.

Canadian Perspective:

Chief Lapu-Lapu was responsible for killing Ferdinand Magellan, the Spanish explorer who annexed the Philippines islands as a colony of Spain on behalf of King Philippe in 1521. He is somewhat ironically regarded as a "national hero" as the first activist against colonial oppressors. The irony comes from the fact that lapu-lapu is the Filipino word for the grouper fish.

Three key members of the resistance against Spanish rule at the end of the nineteenth century are probably the most widely accepted "national heroes", namely Jose P. Rizal, Andres Bonifacio and General Emilio Aguinaldo. Jose P. Rizal, an international scholar, writer and poet is probably the most important national hero. Although a pacifist, he was arrested for complicity in the revolutionary movement and executed in 1896. This sparked off a violent revolutionary independent movement, which collapsed at the end of the Spanish American war of 1898 with the Americans taking over as the colonial power. Although Rizal was already a national hero, the Americans were particularly anxious to highlight Rizal’s non-revolutionary pacifist credentials and his reputation has grown steadily ever since.

Many pro-American Filipinos (probably a majority of Filipinos) regard U.S. General Douglas MacArthur as a Philippine national hero for his role in the Battle of Leyte Gulf that pushed the Japanese out of the Philippines during the Second World War. However, his actions against the Filipino freedom fighters after the war have tainted his reputation and status as a national hero.

From independence in 1945, right up until the present, the key elite families have controlled the presidency, and have continued to hold many of the sources of power. Presidents Magsaysay, Ferdinand Marcos, Fidel Ramos and Joseph Estrada ("Erap") were exceptions and thus, were regarded as popular heroes while in office. President Magsaysay (who died in plane crash in Cebu in 1957 while still in office) is the only one to have maintained his unblemished reputation and popular national hero status.

Benigno Aguino, Jr., "Ninoy", as he is usually referred to, is regarded as a national hero in spite of his violence-riddled search for power in the late 1960s and 1970’s, almost matching Marcos’ record. Ninoy Aquino had returned in 1983 from medical exile in the United States to challenge the Marcos regime when he was assassinated by the military upon his arrival at Manila International Airport (subsequently renamed Ninoy Aquino International Airport). His widow, President Corazon Aquino reluctantly led the opposition party against Marcos and the KBL in the rigged election of 1986, which was followed by the popular "people’s power" revolution. The Marcos’s fled to Hawaii and Cory Aquino became President to much popular acclaim. Many ordinary Filipinos, quite possibly a majority, still regard Cory Aquino—the reluctant politician—as a national hero.

Submit Your Comments

Cultural Information - Shared Historical Events with Canada

Question:

Are there shared historical events between this country and Canada that could affect work or social relations?

Local Perspective:

Canada and the Philippines have no shared historical events that could affect work or social relations. It should be noted though that from 1981 to 1996 alone, a total of 112,608 Filipinos immigrated to Canada. Their experiences in this country and its citizens, when relayed back home, will definitely affect the perceptions of fellow Filipinos toward Canada and Canadians.

Canadian Perspective:

The Filipino perception of Canadians is extremely positive. Filipinos are aware that Canadians were involved in the Pacific war and that Canadian soldiers also suffered at the hands of the Japanese. Furthermore, Canadians are not associated with a colonial role or heavy involvement in the Philippine politics the way Americans are.

Many Filipinos are aware that Canada has been open to taking in a lot of Filipino immigrants, both as contract workers and as young professional with skills Canada needs, especially in the nursing and medical professions. Overall, this is regarded very positively, but Canadians may be approached in helping colleagues and/or their families in securing openings that will enable them secure contract positions and landed immigrant status in Canada.

Over the last twenty years, the Philippines has become increasingly sensitive to reports of sexual abuse in and around major resorts that cater to expatriates and in the markets for overseas contract labour of women and young Filipinos. While Canadians are not specifically identified as a source of these abuses, expatriates in general may be considered warily when such issues as pornography, child sex and mail order brides are discussed.

Submit Your Comments

Cultural Information - Stereotypes

Question:

What stereotypes do Canadians have about the local culture that might be harmful to effective relations?

Local Perspective:

Most Filipinos look at Canadians as part of collective "Westerners" and as such, it is difficult to distinguish them from the Americans. Canada, as a part of the G8, is seen as a rich country with a good healthcare system (compared with developing countries) and an excellent place to raise a family. Given this context, Canadians, like other "Westerners" are considered affluent. So it is advisable for a Canadian worker/volunteer to announce early on the scope and limitations of the undertaking that he/she is involved in, and to avoid giving the impression that there are no limits to resources for the participating program.

Canadian Perspective:

There is a perception that the local culture is dominated by the United States, to the detriment of local culture. While it is possible that if there was an open vote a majority of Filipinos might vote to become the 51st state of the United Sates of America, it is easy to miss that there is a distinct Filipino culture that is vibrant and dynamic but open to adapting to outside influences.

There is a strong perception among many expatriates that corruption is so widespread in the Philippines that it is almost impossible to conduct business without being compromised by the corrupt dealings. In fact, probably most Filipino professionals and business executives in both the public and private sectors have a high standard of morality, lead an active religious life and are guided in their actions by strong religious and moral principles. While one may encounter corrupt practices from some colleagues and some of those one deals with in business and professional life, with an open mind it is not difficult it is not to find, work and transact with very open, morally scrupulous and conscientious colleagues and business counterparts.

Submit Your Comments

Cultural Information - About the Cultural Interpreters

Local Interpreter:

Your cultural interpreter was born in Laoag City, Philippines, the eldest of three children. She was raised until the age of 16 in this city on the Island of Luzon, in the northern part of the Philippines. She then moved to Metro Manila to continue her studies and graduated with a Bachelor's and Master's degree in Communication from the University of the Philippines, Diliman. Afterwards, your cultural interpreter immigrated to Canada and worked at the Institute of Asian Research, University of British Columbia. She is currently living in Ottawa and working as a consultant. She is married and has one child.

Canadian Interpreter:

Your cultural interpreter was born in Morecambe, England the oldest of two children. He lived in England until age 18. His studied economics at St. John's University, New York and Nottingham University in England and completed his doctoral graduate studies in Agricultural Economics at the University of Wisconsin in 1968. His first work experiences in developing countries were in Nigeria and Ethiopia. He first went to the Philippines in early 1976, as an agrarian reform specialist for the Government of the Philippines and Faculty member at the University of the Philippines at Los Banos. He married in the Philippines and settled there. Your cultural interpreter and his family moved to Canada as landed immigrants in early 1981. He has worked for more than ten years and lived for almost 15 years in the Philippines on a variety of assignments and agencies, mainly involving rural and community development. He has since returned a number of times to live in the Philippines and currently travels to the Philippines on a regular basis from his home in Ottawa.

Submit Your Comments

Disclaimer

Country Insights - Intercultural Issues are intended to provide snapshots of the overall social and cultural norms as well as the workplace environment that a Canadian might face working in a specific country. For each country, two perspectives are provided: one by a Canadian and the other by a person born in the selected country. By comparing the "local point of view" with the "Canadian point of view", you will begin to form a picture of that country's culture. We encourage you to continue your research using a variety of other sources and to use Triangulation as an evaluation process. Although cultural informants were asked to draw on as broad a base of experience as possible in formulating their answers, these should be understood as one perspective that reflects the particular context and life experiences of that person; they are not intended to be a comment on any particular group or society.

You may disagree with or object to the content of some responses. This is to be expected given the complexity of the subject and the problems associated with speaking generally about an entire country and its people. We would encourage you to share your experiences; your contributions will help to make Country Insights a richer environment for learning.

The content of Country Insights in no way reflects official policy or opinions of the Government of Canada, Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada or the Centre for Intercultural Learning.