Tips on Etiquette and Customs in the Philippines

Filipinos are known to be warm people. But that's just one thing you need to know. Here are etiquette and customs in the Philippines to remember.
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Filipinos are very hospitable and warm people towards visitors on a level that might be suspicious, especially if you come from the West. That’s just one thing you need to know before visiting the Philippines. It’s important to remember the following etiquette and customs while visiting the Philippines.

Extreme Hospitality

Filipinos are generally polite and hospitable, especially towards foreign tourists. And it’s one thing we really take pride in. But don’t be surprised by the level of hospitality we give you. We are just happy to help so you can have a smooth experience here.

However, this is not a license for you to keep your guard down because there are still cunning Filipinos who will take advantage of you. So be wary also.

“Nosy” Questions

If you get personal questions like “Where are you from?” “What’s your name?”, don’t be offended. It’s not necessarily being nosy or that they have ulterior motives. Filipinos are just genuinely curious about visitors and want to get to know you a little bit. Ask the same questions in return.

Basic English Skills

Most Filipinos can understand basic English. So don’t be afraid to ask locals for directions or any questions while traveling.

Tipping

The Philippines is not a huge tipping nation. However, I highly recommend tipping for personal services like grooming, massages, guides, and restaurants. To give you an idea, I give 100 PHP (~2 USD) to my barber, 200 PHP (~4 USD) to my esthetician, and 400 PHP (~8 USD) to my massage therapist.

At restaurants, I usually leave a 100 PHP bill (~2 USD) on the table. Many restaurants and hotels, though, will add a service charge to your bill.

Bill Out

Speaking of restaurants, when you dine out, do the picture sign using your two fingers if you want to pay or close your tab.

Swimwear Dress Code

I remember someone posted a video on TikTok about bathing in a public pool here in the Philippines. The poster was in utter confusion about whether bikinis are allowed or not because no one in the pool wore one except her.

The thing is, bikinis are not a common piece of clothing to wear, especially in rural Philippines. A regular t-shirt and shorts are usually the swimming ensemble here unless you are in a touristy area or hotel pool where wearing swimwear is a must.

Should you still wear a swimsuit in public? Yes, of course!

As I said, in regulated establishments like hotels and swimming pools, proper swimwear is a must. But if you are on the outskirts, you need to observe what people are wearing. If you feel comfortable wearing a swimsuit, then by all means, go for it!

Filipino Time

Time consciousness and time management are not important considerations. If you schedule a meeting or trip, it might take place later. This is what Filipino time means. If you have a ferry trip at 6:00 pm, don’t expect the ferry to leave at 6:00 pm pronto.

Invitation to Eat

When one is asked to join a family for a meal, the offer must be refused. If the invitation is extended a second time, it is permissible to accept. 

Security Guards

If you go to malls, banks, restaurants, and other establishments, don’t be shocked to see armed security guards. There are there to protect peace and ward off criminals.

Crime rates related to security guards using their guns are very low. So there’s nothing to worry about.

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Mario Manlupig
Mario Manlupig

Mario is the Founder of CEBU INSIDER. In March 2018, he left his full-time job at the Philippines' biggest TV network and became a digital nomad, traveling all over the country until the pandemic happened. He now calls Cebu City his home.

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