Looking at the Diverse and Rich Culture of the Philippines
Situated in Southeast Asia and within the western Pacific Ocean, the Philippines is a majestic archipelago that houses over 7,600 islands and islets. Manila’ is located near the country’s most populous area, which is Quezon City—and both places, which are both historic in their own ways, are sitting on the country’s largest island Luzon. The other major islands in the Philippines are Visayas and Mindanao.
To study the culture of the Philippines, one must look into its roots first. The country got its name from a royalty, Philip II, who was the ruler of Spain in the 16th century. The country was under the European country’s regime for over 330 years before the United States of America colonized the Philippines for 48 years. There was also a period of Japanese occupation in the Philippines.
Indeed, the Philippines is a big mixing bowl of different cultures and traditions that stemmed from its colonizers. Such practices are still evident today as it has heavily influenced the countrymen. For example, the Philippines uses English as one of its official languages. Its population is also predominantly part of the Roman Catholic church.
Despite this, the deep roots of the culture of the Philippines are still present and strongly embodied by the Filipinos. You can find them even in the most mundane activities, such as their hospitality and respect for the elders. At the same time, there are more about the country’s culture and tradition that meet the eye. Let us discuss the Philippines from the lens of a microscope.
Keeping Up With Global Education System
Learning and appreciating the culture of the Philippines begins at home and at schools. When it comes to education, the country—like any other nations—believes in the power of education and the opportunities tied with having a diploma. This is why the government made the radical move of passing the 2013 Basic Education Act, which effectively extended the elementary and secondary education cycle to 12 years from 10 years before.
The K-12 program is a necessary step to beef up the country’s global competitiveness. People see it as to bring the country at par with the international standards of the education system.
Prior to the implementation of K-12, the Philippines was among the three countries in the world that implemented a 10-year basic education cycle. The other countries are Angola and Djibouti. The first batch of K-12 students graduated in 2018.
At the tertiary level, the country is also home to top-notch universities with global recognition. University Rankings 2021 ranked the University of Philippines 39th in the world and 72nd in Asia. It is a public university system consisting of seven constituent universities and 15 campuses nationwide. Founded in 1908 by the American colonial government, the University of the Philippines has built up a reputation of being the top university in the country. The other members of the top four universities in the Philippines are De La Salle University, Ateneo de Manila University, and the University of Sto. Thomas.
Food Feast in the Philippines
Food is an important part of the Philippines’ culture, just like in any country that celebrates a lot of festivals and holidays. Food is always at the centre of every gathering by Filipino families. After all, what is a party without some delicious meals and delicacies to share with people? Food, for Filipinos, is a way to bond—even breaking the ice for strangers who just met for the first time.
If you ask every Filipino household, the staple viand is probably adobo, which has the origin from Mexico. It is a savoury meal cooked with meat—usually chicken and pork—soaked and cooked in a mixture of vinegar, soy sauce, garlic, salt, pepper, and other spices. Adobo is a meal that people prepare in different recipes, depending on the household’s preference. It is a popular meal because it is also practical since it preserves the food as well, even without refrigeration.
Another staple in every big celebration is lechon, which is an entire pig spit-roasted over coals. You will definitely find it very appetizing given the pig’s crisp, golden-brown skin. Looking at the process, cooking lechon is simple, but its taste is something that people will line up for in a buffet. After all, it is a meal that is enough to feed many people.
Filipino parties are not complete without big lumpia servings, which is the country’s version of a Chinese spring roll. People cook the spring rolls with ground pork, carrots, prawns, and soy sauce. They mix the ingredients and seal them in a wrapper before deep frying. People usually serve it with a sweet-and-sour sauce reduction to bring zest into the finger food.
Longest Christmas and Other Holidays
Come September, Filipinos are already feeling the spirit of Christmas, starting to celebrate the festivities immediately. While there are no parties yet, Filipino families already begin putting up Christmas decorations in their homes at the onset of the so-called -ber months. And for this, Filipinos are popular for having the longest celebration of the world’s Christmas season.
One classic example of Christmas tradition in the Philippines is the setting up of nativity scenes called “belen.” You can find them in churches and other religious spaces. This depicts the eve of Jesus Christ’s birth, including statues of baby Jesus, Mary, Joseph, the Three Kings, and barn animals as well. The households, meanwhile, are usually dressed with colorful lanterns called “parol.” Traditional parols, which are usually made up of plastic, wire, lights, and wood, look like a big circle with a star in the middle. Some even make parols out of recyclable materials.
Given that the Philippines is predominantly a Christian country, it also has other holidays that stemmed from religious practices. There are also public holidays celebrating a historic moment in the country. These include the following:
- New Year’s Eve and Day
- First Philippine Republic Day
- Chinese Lunar New Year’s Day
- People Power Anniversary
- Maundy Thursday
- Good Friday
- Black Saturday
- Easter Sunday
- Day of Valor
- Labor Day
- Eid Ul-Fitr
- Independence Day
- Eid al-Adha
- Ninoy Aquino Day
- National Heroes’ Day
- Feast of the Nativity of Mary
- All Saints’ Day
- All Souls’ Day
- Bonifacio Day
- Feast of the Immaculate Conception
- Rizal Day
Proficiency in English, Other Languages
Globally, people know the Philippines for being one of the largest English-speaking nations because most countrymen have some basic knowledge of the language. In fact, it is among the official languages of the country and people use it in commerce and law. The English language is also a primary medium of instruction in the school system of the country.
According to reports, the country’s English language proficiency has fortified its voice talents and boosted the economy. At some point, the Philippines has become the top voice outsourcing destination in the globe, surpassing India. English also supports this as a Second Language program being offered in the Philippines.
But English is just one of the 183 living languages being spoken in the Philippines. It may appear a lot but considering that the Philippines is an archipelago, it is only expected to have many languages present. The majority of these languages originate from indigenous tongues.
Apart from English, Filipino is also the official language of the Philippines. The major regional languages in the Philippines are Aklanon, Basian, Bikol, Cebuano, Chavacano (a Spanish-based creole), Hiligaynon, Ibanag, Kapampangan, Ilocano, Ilonggo, Ivatan, Tagalog, Maranao, Kinaray-a, Waray, Maguindanao, Pangasinan, Sambal, Surigaonon, Tausug, and Yakan.
Among these major regional languages, 10 of them are spoken by the majority or over 90 per cent of the Filipinos. These include Tagalog, Bisaya, Cebuano, Ilocano, Hiligaynon Ilonggo, Bicol, Waray, Maguindanao, Kapampangan, and Pangasinan.
Listening to Filipino Music
Music plays an important role in the culture of the Philippines. As the world knows, this country is home to some of the best singers who have global recognition as well. Like any aspect of this country, music in the Philippines has its origins.
Among the Philippines’ traditional musical styles is the “gong music,” which comes in two general categories. First, a flat gong called “gangsa” originates from Cordillera in the northern part of the country. Another one is bossed gong, which came from Islamic and animist groups in the Philippines’ southern part.
During the Spanish regime, “harana” and “kundiman” were popular music. Basically, harana is a love song that people perform with a guitar accompaniment. This is usually done by a man to woo the woman he intends to be in a relationship with. It is a public display of romance, a romantic way of professing one’s love. Kundiman, on the other hand, is a Tagalog romantic song characterized by its triple meter rhythm. This type of music starts with a minor key and shifts to a major one for a climax.
There are also folk songs in different languages, such as Ilocano, Visayan, and Pampango. These are usually traditional songs and children’s songs.
More contemporary Filipino music was introduced with the birth of OPM or Original Pilipino Music (Original Philippine Music). Today, the OPM has influences from Western genres as well, such as rock, jazz, bossa-nova, and hip-hop. Thanks to social media, more and more Filipino artists are given recognition today.
Staying Active Through Sports
While the country is known to be the land of singers, the culture of the Philippines is also being showcased through sports. Usually, Philippine sports is associated with Manny Pacquiao as he is one of the world’s greatest boxers. But there are actually sports that originated in the Philippines. Here are some of them:
- Arnis. It is considered the Philippines’ version of martial arts. It is a weapon-based form of combat that has been used for fighting since time immemorial. Its other name is “Eskrima” in other local dialects.
- Sikaran. It is also a martial arts sport that athletes have enjoyed since the 16th century. This sport focuses on the use of feet rather than the hands. A popular move in this sport is called “Biakid kick,” which refers to aiming at the back of the opponent’s head.
- Sipa. In English, the word “sipa” translates to “to kick.” It is a native sport that is related to Indonesia’s Sepak
- Takraw. People play it with two teams, and the court is divided by a net in the middle. The goal is to kick the rattan ball into each other’s bases until it lands on the floor of the side of your opponent.
- Palo-sebo. This is a sport that is usually played during festivities in the provinces of the Philippines. The goal is to climb a greasy pole in the shortest amount of time. The player who will fulfil the task is the considered winner.
Religious Practices in the Philippines
Given that the Spaniards colonized the Philippines, the majority or over 80 per cent of the population is members of the Roman Catholic. Around 8 per cent is part of the other Christian denominations and Protestant sectors. Some 4 per cent is member of the Muslim minority live in the southern islands of Mindanao, Sulu, and Palawan. There is also the presence of Buddhism, Taoism, and Confucianism in the Philippines, given the existence of the Chinese minority.
Prior to the Spanish regime, the Filipinos’ belief system was based on gods, spirits, creatures, fields, trees, mountains, forests, and houses, among others. They believe in the superior creator named “Bathala”, who is behind man and earth’s creation.
Indeed, the Spaniards’ influence has remained strong up to the present day in the Philippines’ culture. Many have become devoted Christians, aligning their beliefs and practices according to the Holy Bible.
More Fun in the Philippines
“It’s more fun in the Philippines!” This is the slogan the country is telling tourists to encourage them to visit the country. And, indeed, it is more fun here given the country’s rich culture, diverse heritage, and beautiful traditions. Above everything else, the hospitality of the people will surely make anyone feel welcome anywhere in the archipelago.