Travel & Traits
Text and images by Ronald de Jong
and every culture has its own set of unwritten rules regarding social interaction and values, the culture of the Philippines
has a very rich and diverse mix of unique backgrounds.
It is in fact a reflection of all the various cultures put together. One of the greatest ways to understand the Philippine
basic customs, traditions and traits is to travel through the island of Mindanao, get in touch and look at the way of life
of the different communities. If you do not want to experience a culture shock, start your trip across Mindanao with a gentle
heart, open eyes and an open mind, be prepared to meet a great challenge and be willing to expose yourself to many unfamiliar
sensations, new sounds, smells and sights.
Coming from and being used to a different culture some behaviours
and customs may surprise, confuse or even offend you. At first glance you may find it difficult to fit in, it is best to be
patient and allow yourself plenty of time to adjust to your new environment. Mindanaoans are very open and friendly toward
strangers, they can easily accept foreigners, both from the East and the West as their companion and brothers. Making friends
in the Philippines is sheer easy, the country is the third largest English-speaking nation in the world. The peace-loving
people are very receptive and easy to please, always wear a smile, when greeting somebody, it will be accepted as a friendly
hello without words. An amicable pat on the back or just a lift of the eyebrow will be regarded as a token of understanding
and friendship. It will really help a great deal if you approach people with kindness and respect.
The Philippine hospitality is legendary and uncomplicated, you will always be greeted and treated with a spontaneous
smile that comes straight from the heart. Mindanaoans will go out of their own way to ensure their guest feels comfortable,
there is always something to eat and drink, even if your host is facing hardship
at that time. Remember not to refer to your host's wife as the hostess, this has a different meaning in Mindanao. The "open
arm" hospitality welcoming guests like long-lost relatives is one of a kind. However, the typical Southern hospitality works
both ways, Mindanaoans are indeed famous for the graciousness with which they show their generosity, they also know how to
accept it. Be sure to invite your guest at least three times, to them, insistence is a clear proof that your invitation is
a heartfelt one.
Being a Westerner you may be direct in you approach and straight forward in giving your personal opinion, keep in mind
that your assumption is not the only right one, even it is the normal conception or way you are used to it back home. Filipinos
have a hundred-and-one ways of doing things. To avoid any confrontation, a Mindanaoan find it difficult to say no, in the
same way, their yes may merely mean perhaps. For Mindanaoans your directness and frankness will be considered rude and brutal.
Be wise and refrain from being demonstrative outdoors, don't go straight to the point, be as diplomatic as possible and avoid
showing your negative emotions like anger or dismay in public. If you lose your temper or raise your voice, you will lose
face. Be aware of your facial expression, do not speak in a harsh tone and do not curse, your company will surely feel embarrassed.
Be modest in speech and not act boastful in your behaviour, humility, politeness and passiveness are much more appreciated
in a person.
In some parts of Mindanao, specially in the countryside, Westerners are rare and unusual visitors, some people may
have never seen a foreigner before in their life, understand that locals might have a tendency to keep on staring really long
and curiously at you or talk about your presence. Not only will you notice the gaze, you may also hear the word Kano (Americano)
many times. It is normal if you feel uncomfortable at first, but don’t let it bother you, do not get annoyed or frustrated,
it is not a sign of unfriendliness. They stare without meaning anything offensive, this is done out of honest curiosity, admiration
and respect. All you have to do is to be cordial and smile at them. Even a simple hello should be enough to break the ice,
you could nod upwards to greet, ask if you may join them and start a conversation, there is no reason to feel different or
strange in any way.
If you are able to integrate with the local communities and adapt the tolerance of this hodgepodge of different cultures,
if you respect the traits, habits and customs of Mindanao, it will make your stay memorable, pleasurable and a hassle free