Filipino Culture, Customs, And Traditions

Filipino Culture is both interesting, and wonderfully different from American or European cultures. Filipino’s are a very simple, laid-back and joyous people. They place a high priority on their families, friends and loved ones. They are loyal and friendly and seek to cultivate relationships by many gatherings, events, fiestas and parties.

If this is your first time away from the United States or Europe, you are accustomed to things that may be very different than in the Philippines. In advance of your departure, prepare yourself for an “Adventure,” This means that when you encounter things that are different from what you are used to that you “go with the flow” and soakin the new culture around you.

If you allow yourself to feel frustrated and angry because you are not getting things the way you are used to, then it will ruin the trip for you and annoy everyone else around you. It is going to be different, in almost every way. The differences between Filipino culture and your own is why you hopefully came here in the first place. This is a part of this new adventure that you have decided to take. When lines are longer, traffic is slow, and you feel lost in a new country that is not your own, just take a deep breath, relax and let everything happen as it will.

You cannot change the things that happen to you everyday in your life, but you can change the way that you react to them. Determine ahead of time that when you come to the Philippines you are here to learn a new culture and you will not allow yourself to become frustrated and thereby take away from an otherwise unforgettable experience.

Topics On This Page:

  • Eating
  • Talking
  • Social Gatherings
  • Family
  • Holidays
  • Malls and Food Stores
  • Restaurants
  • Airlines
  • Homes
  • Driving
  • Licensing a Vehicle
  • Transportation
  • Tipping
  • Same Words, Different Meaning


Filipino’s are like all people around the world in that they love to enjoy a good meal. Particularly gathered around an atmosphere of family and friends. The difference is in how they enjoy those meals and the types of foodthat they love.

First of all: When you sit down at the table of a Filipino restaurant or at the home of a Filipino family, the eating utensils are different than those of an American or European.

There is a large spoon placed on the right side of the napkin and a fork on the left side of the napkin. Filipino’s uses the large spoon as the primary eating utensil in their meals. The spoon is held in the right hand if you are right handed, and the fork in the left hand.

The spoon is used to gather rice, meat, and vegetables. The fork is used to push these items into the spoon.

You will never see a Filipino eat with a fork unless they have been abroad to work in the United States, Canada, or Europe. Those who are born and live in the Philippines always use the large spoon to eat with. The spoon is also used with the fork to pull meat from the bone, cut the food and to eat large scoops of rice.

On the plate of most Filipino’s you will first see a large helping of white rice. They don’t like to eat brown rice as the texture and taste is not as delicious to them, as is white rice. There will be a large pile of white rice on their plate first, then the meat and vegetables, juice from the meat or any other food added on top ofthe rice.

Every bite of food has white rice in it and even if there is no more food on the table except rice, a Filipino is perfectly content to each just rice at every meal. Many Filipino people are comfortable to eat with their fingers, so don’t be shocked or offended. It’s their culture and tradition.

Some of the most traditional and favorite foods of Filipino Culture are:

  • Pansit:  A noodle, vegetable and meat dish that is very commonly eaten at special events.
  • Adobo: A Beef, Chicken or Pork dish that contains a wonderful juice of soy sauce, vinegar, garlic, salt, and bay leaves.
  • Lichon Baboy or Manook: “linchon” means roasted. A whole pig roasted, or whole chicken cooked on a open fire.
  • Lumpiang Shanghai: Spring roll containing vegetables and ground meat.
  • Caldereta: A stew of beef or goat with vegetables.
  • Chop Suey: A mixture of many varieties of vegetables and seafood with a thick sauce.
  • Mais: Ground corn that is cooked similar to rice.
  • Boiled Corn on the Cob: Without the outer husk, usually placed on a stick.


  • Halo-Halo: Is a very sweet mixture of shaved ice, fruit, Ice Cream, Macapuno strips (coconut) and Leche Flan
  • Leche Flan: A custard mixture of eggs, sugar and milk
  • Fruit Salad: Always made from canned fruit, canned corn, Nestle cream and condensed milk.
  • Native Kakanin: Native delicacies that are served as deserts, see the full description below.
  • Biko: Sticky rice with coconut milk and sugar.
  • Cassava Cake:
  • Suman/Budbod:
  • Kalamai:
  • Native Kakanin

Filipino’s absolutely love deserts. My wife is one of the best desert chef’s there is (in my opinion), and she will tell you that wherever you go in the Philippines you will be sure to find some or all of the deserts listed below.

  • Puto: Rice cakes made from rice flour, evaporated milk (or coconutmilk) and sugar (among others). They come in various colors and as bite-size pieces or they can just fill up a whole plate. Puto is best servedwith hot chocolate or dinuguan (pork blood, as a replacement for rice). Puto is best eaten freshly baked and right out of the steamer.
  • Kutsinta: Brown rice cake. The Kutsinta is best eaten with Puto or can be eaten alone (with freshly shaved coconut). Also made from rice flour.
  • Bibingka:  Rice cake, made from malagkit rice (glutinous sticky rice), coconut milk and brown sugar. Some variations of this will include bibingkang galapong (made from rice flour, coconut milk, baking powder and margarine), bibingka cassava (made from cassava, coconut milk and cream and margarine) and pineapple cassavabibingka.
  • Suman: Steamed Rice Cake wrapped in leaves before being cooked. Served with sugar, grated coconut or “latik” – milk solids from coconut that are formed when fresh coconut milk is boiled. A very soft and easy to chew desert best served cold.
  • Sapin-Sapin (“layers”):  A colorful layered NativeDessert.  Made from coconut milk, corn kernels, sugar, gelatin,whipped cream, ube (yam) powder and grated coconut.
  • Pastillas de leche (milk candies):  A milk-based pastry that comes in bite-sized pieces (great for snacking while you’re traveling). Perfect for those with a sweet-tooth as it is made from granulated white sugar and condensed milk. When cooked, it is formed into balls or logs andwrapped with cellophane paper.
  • Maja Blanca – Otherwise known as coconut cake, this is another all-time favorite Filipino dessert. It is made from coconut milk, sugar, corn starch and/or corn kernels.


Star Apple
Jack Fruit
Cantelope (Melon)


String Beans (Sitaw)
Green Beans
Small Sweet Red Pepper


English is a second language in the Philippines and is taught from elementary through high school. Most Filipino’s can speak, write and understand English although they may be hesitant to “let it out”.

Because they are aware that their English is not as good as an Americanor other foreigner who speaks this language, Filipinos are often shy to speak very many English words if they feel their English is not good. The exception to this rule would be those who are younger and are used to speaking English on a frequent basis. Young people welcome the opportunity to practice their English skills with you. Don’t hesitate to speak to any Filipino at any time for any reason. They love to talk and you will find them both interesting and delightful to talk to.

There are literally hundreds of individual dialects in the Philippines, but the primary languages of the Philippines are:

Tagolog or Filipino: This is the primary language of all 7,200 Islands of the Philippines. Although Tagolog the national language, it is not widely used in all of the islands and provinces of the Republic. You will discover that each individual Provence, Town or Barangay has their own dialect and language. It is not unusual to find that towns next to each others will peak different dialects and cannot always understand each other.

Cebuano: is the language of Cebu and parts of the Visayas. Cebuano is it’s own unique language with obvious influences from Spanish words and phrases. Many Tagolog and Cebuano words are the same or very similar. Some Tagolog words used in Cebuano sound the same but have completelydifferent meanings. This is sometimes very difficult and confusing to someone trying to learn the native languages of the Philippines.

Cebuano is the main language spoken on Bantayan Island. There are however, those who were born on the Island and have learned a different variety of Cubuano that has words mixed-in from Ilonggo and Waray-Waray. This is due to the fact that many who came to Bantayan Island, originated from Leyte where they also speak Waray and Bacolod and Ilo-Ilo where Ilonggo is spoken.

Click Here to see a list of English to Cebuano Words Translated

Waray-Waray: Is the native language of Leyte and sounds more native in my opinion than some of the other more widely used Filipino dialects.

Same Words, Different Meaning:

Filipino’s say “Eat all you can”
American’s say “All you can eat”

Filipino’s say “Take out or dine in”
American’s say “For here or to go”

Filipino’s say “Where is the CR?”
American’s say “Where is the Restroom?”

Social Gatherings



Filipino’s love to celebrate. This will be obvious if you plan to arrive anytime from September through the end of January as there will be constant “Fiesta’s” and celebrations happening almost everywhere you go.

The Christmas season begins in the “ber” months. From September throughthe end of January there are wonderful Christmas decorations, lights and music playing everywhere you go. The traditional songs of Christmas heard in America are all favorites of Filipino’s as well as many of their own traditional songs. All of these are played on every radio,television and public address system of the malls and shopping areas of the Philippines.

Malls and Food Stores

The Philippines have some of the most beautiful and modern malls in the world. The first time I landed in Manila, the capital of the Philippines, I was amazed at the size and beauty of the Glorietta, Green Belt, and Mall of Asia in Metro Manila and Makati.

Some of these beautiful shopping areas are six floors high and have a footprint as much as ten times the size of a normal American mall.

You can expect to see many American stores, fashion, restaurants and products in the cites of Manila, Makati and Cebu that you would find in most any American City. For the average American or European you will be very comfortable and delighted in the shopping areas of the larger cities of the Philippines.

The smaller cites are a completely different matter all together. These are made up of neighborhood strip malls that are older, have mostly native Filipino and Asian products and are very limited in the number of traditional American products that they stock.

Cebu and Manila food markets are stocked with large quantities of wonderful items, many of which you will recognize as products you have purchased in America or Europe.


The restaurants in the Philippines, Cebu, and even on Bantayan Island, have as their main menu, Filipino food. As listed above in some of the varieties of this wonderful cusine, the food is very tasty, not often spicy and contains familiar ingredients to those of American or European foods you enjoy. Chicken, Pork, seafood, and Beef are the main meats that are eaten in the Philippines.

A variety of vegitables similar to the American and European varieties are also found in many dishes.

The staple for all of the Philippines is white rice, whcih is eaten at every meal and included with nearly all entre’s you order in a restaurant.

Don’t be afraid to try something new that you don’t recognize. It won’t hurt you and you may grow to love Filipino food as much many of us who come to live here, do also.

With this being said, there are also many restautrants which now serve American and European style food. At the Ayala Mall and SM Malls in Manila and Cebu there are American restaurants such as TGIF Friday’s, Chili’s, Outback Steak House, Tony Roma’s and others. The prices for these American style food is about 25-50 percent higher in the Philippines than in the U.S. So expect to pay more to get the food you are used to.

In the average Filipino Restaurant, a meal for two will cost you about 300-500 Peso’s including beverage, tax and tip. This is less than $10.00 USD.

The Average cost for an American style meal in one of the majorAmerican Restaurant chains in Manila or Cebu can cost in the neighborhood of 2,000-3,000 Peso’s for two, which is about $50-60 USD.

The Philippines have many familiar fast food restaurants such as KFC, McDonald’s, Pizza Hut, Sbarro’s, Shakey’s Pizza, Burger King, and many delightful Mexican fast food locations.

The Restaurants and dinning on Bantayan Island include:

The outdoor Patio of CouCou’s Bar and Restaurant
The outdoor Patio of the Ogtong Cave Resort
The outdoor dinning of Beach Placid Resort
The outdoor Patio of Anika Island Resort.

All You can eat vs. Eat all you can.

Many restaurants have all you can eat meals but not many offer all you can drink as is common in the States. When you order a beverage there is usually an extra charge for a refil. Don’t assume that you can drink all you want. Just ask you waiter or waitress if it is “bottomless.” Usually you can have a bottomless soft drink for only a few Peso’s more.


When I first came to thePhilippines in 2006, I had not yet coverted any of my American dollars into Peso’s. In the rush to get to the hotel in Manila and get checked into the Pan Pacific Hotel where I was staying, I handed the porter a $20.00 dollar American bill, which was the smallest denomination I had.

I didn’t discover until later that I had just given him 1,000 Peso’s, which is more than three day’s wages for the average minimum wage worker in the Philippines. He was happy!

Every time I called the front desk for something, this young man was at my door in less than a minute. This continued until he realized that I was not a rich American and I only gave him the customary tip of 20-50 Peso’s

For a meal in a restaurant, tip from 50-100 Peso’s for good service
For a daily maid service in your room, tip 20 Peso’s per day
For a Taxi ride, add 20-50 Peso’s to the total cab fare
For a Porter who carries your bags, tip 50-100 Peso’s for two bags.


See the Airlines link on this site


Most Filipino homes do not have hot water piped to every room. Only on rare ocassions does a household have a “Demad” hot water heater in a single bathroom. For the average American the water that comes from the tap during the months of December and January is cold to the body, particularly if it has been cloudy all day or a series of days.

During the warmer months of the year, the cool water from the tap that is unheated, is actuall very refreshing and not really a problem after you get used to it.

Most hotels in the provinces, particularly on Bantayan Island, do not have hot water in the bathroom. Most hotels in Manila and Cebu do have hot water in all of the rooms. If hot water is a must for you, then make sure to ask the hotel where you are making your reservation if there is hot water in the shower of the bathroom.


The people of the Philippines are some of the best drivers in the world. They have to be as they live in very crowded areas where the streets are narrow and packed with other drivers in cars, buses, motorcycles, Jeepneys, Trisikads and Tricycles.

On the other hand, they also drive very fast, dart in and out of traffic, and are unpredictable in their movements down the road. You must be a defensive driver anywhere in the Philippines if you want to stay alive. You never know what the vehicles around you are going to do next, so you must watch constantly for danger.

On Bantayan Island driving is another matter all together. There is no traffic to speak of. Rush hour is when there are three bicycles in front of you.  Lumbering down the main highway from Santa Fe to Bantayan or on to Madridejos is almost always uncrowded and a pleasure to experience.

The best way to get around on Bantayan Island is by Scooter or Motorcycle. When I first came to Bantayan Island I rented three different types of bikes. A Honda Beat Scooter which is fully automatic with no clutch or gear shift. A Honda motorcycle with no clutch lever, but a 1 down and 3 up foot shift lever. A fully clutched with shift motorcycle that is like most American small bikes.

I own and drive a Harley Davidson “Fat Boy” motorcycle in the States and have been riding since I was twelve (I am 61 now).

In my opinion, the Honda Beat fully automatic Scooter is the transportation of choice for Bantayan Island, or even in Cebu should you need to go there on occasion. I liked the Beat so much that I purchased a new pearl yellow model from the dealer in downtown Cebu City in December of 2010. The total cost of the new Beat was just 58,300 Pesos, which was about $1,300.00 U.S. Dollars.

You cannot buy anything comparable to the Beat in the United States. The closest match is Honda’s lowest price scooter at about $3,300.00 Dollars. The Beat is a tremendous value and works perfectly on BantayanIsland or the big island of Cebu.

While living in Talisay in Cebu my wife and I made almost daily trips on our Beat into Cebu City along the SRP highway. When we arrive in Cebu City we are not bound by all of the traffic stuck on the roads as with a Scooter you are allowed to pass the traffic on either side and go directly to the front of the line.

This makes getting around Cebu City or driving any other place on the big island very easy and convenient. All this being said, if you are not an experienced motorcycle rider, do not attempt to purchase and ride a scooter in Cebu City until you learn to ride well. If your purchase or rent a scooter to ride only on Bantayan Island and are not experienced, you can learn to ride without being in much danger. Just take it slow at first and be very careful when you make turns or come to an intersection with other vehicles.

Scooters and Motorcycles are available at many of the resorts in Santa Fe for a daily fee of about 350-450 Peso’s. This is about 6-8 Dollars and a bargain to have your own transportation to get around the island.

If you decide to come back to Cebu or Bantayan Island frequently or make it your home as we have, then you can find a great Honda motorcycle dealer right in Bantayan Town about 30 minutes from Santa Fe.

There are also other motor dealers in Bantayan. You can find directions to these by asking a local in Bantayan where they are located.

A NoteRegarding the Licensing of a Motorcycle or Scooter in the Philippines:

When my wife and I purchased our new Honda Beat, we assumed that we were paying all of the require taxes and fees associated with the purchase of the new scooter. We were wrong.

Upon paying cash for the scooter “Cheng” at Honda Motor World in Cebu City told us that the License plate would arrive in about three weeks. We had to pay for “A Conduction Permit” which allowed us to drive the scooter on the streets of Cebu for seven days. The cost of this permit, as well as an insurance rider that is also required, cost us an additional 500 Peso’s.

At the end of the seven days, we returned to the Honda Motor World dealer and were told we had to purchase an additional Conduction Permit for another seven days. The problem is that the Philippine Land Transportation Office is “Off line” for days at a time and during the time that they are off line, no one can get anything done regarding their vehicle registration or licensing.

We were forced to drive our new scooter all over Cebu for days without a Conduction Permit because of the inefficiency of the Philippine Government.

If by chance we were stopped by a police officer and it was found that we did not have a current conduction permit, our new scooter would have been impounded and we would have to pay a 5,000 Peso penalty plus a fee to get our scooter released from their impound yard.

All this because the Philippine Land Transportation Office does not allow the Honda dealer to issue a purchaser of a new Motorcycle a temporary permit to drive for the 30 days or so that it takes for LTO to get the license plates to you by mail.

It is during moments like these that you will realize you are in a “Third World Country.” These government agencies in the Philippines refuse to adapt the reasonable and efficient ways of conducting business that developed countries use because of greed, corruption and ignorance.

When I logged on to the Land Transportation Web site for the Philippines I discovered that in all of the links for dozens of categories on the web site, they all linked to the exact same page withthe exact same information which was meaningless and useless.

I clicked on their link to sent an email with a comment and suggestion and the link came back “Non Functional”.

The problem is that those in authority in the Philippines do not think that it is important to develop procedures that are efficient and helpful. They prefer to make a customer who purchased a new vehicle, come back twice a week to get a conduction permit and pay an additional 500 Peso’s.

If they simply charged the customer the fee for the 30 day permit when they purchased a motorcycle, as they do in the United States or in other developed countries, all the work required by the dealer staff and the customer could be eliminated.

Sometimes when you are living in the Philippines and trying to conduct business, you often feel frustrated. Get used to it. Things don’t change very fast here.


The Major Methods of Public Transportationin the Philippines:

Taxi: Very reasonable if you get into a cab that uses a meter system. Do not ride in any taxi that does not have a meter and the cost of the fare is up to the discretion of the driver. Do not let the driver charge extra for fuel, additional persons or baggage unless it is disclosed on the outside of the cab before you enter.

There are no Taxis on Bantayan Island

Bus: When you ride a bus in the Philippines you are taking your life into your own hands. Bus drivers drive very fast, dart in and out of traffic and pass on the left side into oncoming traffic. They honk their horns continuously to alert drivers that they are making fast and erratic moves. At the end of any bus trip you are exhausted and frightened to your wits end. Every year thousands die as a result of the carelessness of these bus drivers and the unwillingness of the bus companies and Philippine government to do anything about the problem. My advice, don’t take abus unless there are no other options.

There are now Ceres Buses on Bantayan Island. The 6:00 am departure by Super Shuttle carries a Ceres Bus non-stop to Cebu. The Ceres buses that depart from Hagnaya, stop at the Bus terminal at Bogo and make several passenger stops on the way to Cebu. If you want to ride the Ceres non stop bus at first trip from the port at Santa Fe, be at the port when the bus arrives from Bantayan Town at 5:30 am to get a ticket. If you wait until the Ceres bus in loaded onto the Super Shuttle, it will be too late. Seats fill up fast.

Jeepney: TheJeepney has been around since the end of World War 2 and is the most cost efficient method of travel in the cities of the Philippines. These vehicles are long Jeep style vehicle or more modern Multi-Cab vehicle that holds from 10-20 people. Most of the citizens of the Philippine Islands use the Jeepney because they can travel to their desired location for only a few Pesos. The only problem with this method of transportation: it is hot, noisy, and the fumes from the diesel engines of the Jeepney’s and surrounding vehicles will make you sick. If you can handle these annoyances then this is the cheapest method of transportation.

Note: The Noise, and fumes experienced in Cebu are not as much aproblem on Bantayan Island.

Tri-Cycle: This is a small 110-125 CC Motorcycle that has a side-car attached that seats 2-4 persons. This is a very cost effective way to travel in Cebu and Bantayan Island.

Trisikad: Is a human powered bicycle with an attached side-car that is very cost effective in travel on Bantayan Island and the small neighborhoods or”Barangay’s” of Cebu.

Be generous when you pay these hard working drivers. They really earn their Pesos.

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