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Introduction on the Filipino Culture

The Filipino culture is an exuberant story that tells of the nation's journey through the centuries. Customs reflect the people's faith, their oneness with others, their affinity with nature, and their celebration of life.

The Filipino's charm lies in their smiles, in the numerous religious festivals that venerate nature, the Divine and the cycles of life and in the virtue of pakikipag-kapwa tao that treasures relationships, with friends and strangers alike. The concept of kapwa (others) is at the core of the Filipino soul. A Filipino scholar says of the Filipino: the joy of his being is in being with others.

The nation's charm is in the diversity in ways of life across the archipelago, the resplendent colors of its folk arts and the cacophony of foreign influences that have found roots in the Filipino languages, customs and traditions.

And so there are the bright Santacruzan festivals in May, with pagan origins but portraying strong Christian symbols, and an extended romance with Christmas in December. There are the passionate Hispanic tempos in the dances of the plains of Luzon, the elegant Muslim dances for wars and weddings from Mindanao, and the ancient strains of indigenous music in the highlands. The country has quaint town squares that remind the spectator of its colonial past, light breezy huts with fences decked with bougainvillas along the country lanes, sprawling malls, high-rises and frantic city avenues, houses made of stones in typhoon-strewn islands in the North and houses on stilts in the South.

Another writer observes that the Filipinos tendency towards passionate profusion and unrestrained exuberance in his art stems from his exposure to nature's lush, magnificent landscapes around him the whole year through. Thus the richly embroidered Barong Tagalog (national dress), baroque architecture in the 19th century and the flaming spectrum of colors in jeepney passenger cars, ice cream carts, Christmas lanterns, kalesa (horse carriages), fiestas and religious processions.

Filipinos worship devoutly in their cathedrals and mosques (the busy urban dwellers attend religious services inside shopping malls and al fresco, in parks and plazas). They can sing and recognize good singing when they hear it. They smile at strangers and babies, and through queues, rainshowers and traffic. They socialize in parties and discotheques, as well as in markets and community dances. They make and keep friendships over food, over lambanog (coconut wine), over mobile phone text messaging. They are sentimental and devoted to their families. They have profound respect for elders and show self-effacing hospitality for guests. They speak over 100 local languages and dialects, of which the Tagalog-based Filipino is the lingua franca, as well English, with an accent. They are basketball fans. They love Hollywood films and television dramas. They are pedestrians who chat while walking and they are the passengers in the ubiquitous jeepneys. They love laughing, at themselves, their politics, their game shows. They are cosmopolitan in their views but their values are rooted in their faith, their family and their community.

The Filipinos' temperament is as warm and constant as their sunshine. Their way of life is rich, diverse and rooted. They are in harmony with others and face the world with an engagingly courageous spirit. They are the 73 million Filipinos.

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[photo credit: The FookienTimes. The Philippines Yearbook 2002]