The Culture Of The Philippines

Carved indigenous carvings from the Philippines.
Carved indigenous carvings from the Philippines.

The Philippines is commonly referred to as a melting pot of western and eastern cultures. The traditional culture of the Philippines is heavily influenced by the traditions of the indigenous Austronesian people. The cultural landscape also features Spanish, American, Japanese, Arabic, and Indonesian influence. The major religions in the country are Christianity and Islam which have played a significant role in shaping the culture of the Philippines.

7. Social Beliefs And Customs

The social beliefs and customs practiced in the Philippines are primarily influenced by the religion and demographics of the region where they are practiced. The traditional customs of the indigenous Filipinos are based on the beliefs of the Austronesian inhabitants of the Philippines.

6. Religion, Festivals, And Holidays

The Constitution of the Philippines provides for the freedom of religion. The Philippines is one of the few Asian countries to have a Christian majority. About 90.07% of Philippines residents identify as Christians with 80.58% of the population being followers of the Roman Catholic Church and about 11% being other Christian denominations. Islam is the second largest religion in the country with about 5.6% of citizens identifying as Muslim. The majority of the Muslim Filipinos are Sunni Muslims, but there is also a small number of Ahmadiyya Muslims. The cultural diversity in the Philippines is showcased in numerous festivals, locally known as fiestas, which are celebrated in the country. All of the festivals have religious or cultural significance. Due to the predominance of the Roman Catholic faith, most cities and towns in the Philippines have patron saints who are honored through festivals. For instance, the Silmugi Festival (held in honor of Saint Sebastian), the Sinulog Festival (held in honor of Santo Nino de Cebu), and the Kuraldal Festival (held in honor of Saint Lucy). While most festivals are only observed in particular regions or towns, some are public holidays which are celebrated all over the country. Some public holidays observed in the Philippines include New Year’s Day (observed on January 1st), the Holy Week (observed between March and April), Independence Day (observed on June 12th), Christmas Day (observed on December 25th), and Rizal Day (observed on December 30th).

5. Music And Dance

The music composed in the Philippines is influenced by all the cultures in the country. The traditional folk songs are primarily inspired by the indigenous customs and beliefs. Some notable composers of Filipino folk music include Lucio San Pedro from the National Artist for Music as well as Antonio Buenaventura, a renowned patriotic music composer. The music composed in the urban regions of the Philippines, particularly targeted to the youth is known as original pinoy music or Philippine pop music. Popular musicians from this genre include Christian Bautista, Sarah Geronimo, Yeng Constantino, and groups such as True Faith, Yano, The Teeth, and Neocolours among others. Other popular genres include jazz, hip hop, reggae, and Latino music. Dance in the Philippines ranges from traditional indigenous-inspired dances to modern “western-inspired” dances. Tinikling is an example of a traditional dance with nationwide appeal.

4. Literature And Arts

Ancient Filipino literature was primarily made up of legends and folklore which were the main forms of literature before the Spanish colonization of the country. These folktales were based on specific themes and aimed to pass down traditions and cultural beliefs through generations. While most of these folktales existed as oral literature, written publications did exist particularly during the Spanish colonial era. One such publication is the “Ibong Adarna,” a story written by Jose de la Cruz. Other famed writers of this period include Francisco Balagtas, famed for his publication “Florante at Laura” as well as Jose Rizal. The earliest form of art is traced back to 5000 BC through pottery discovered in the Sanga-Sanga Cave. Ancient Filipinos were also gifted tattoo artists who decorated their bodies in multi-colored pigmentation with environment-inspired designs. The tattoo work on these ancient Filipinos was done so well that Portuguese explorers called them the “Painted People” or the “Pintados.” Modern artists in the Philippines include Damian Domingo, Juan Luna, Fernando Amorsolo, and Elito Circa who is known world-wide for painting using his blood. There are numerous museums in the Philippines which showcase the artistry in the country which include the National Art Gallery as well as the Metropolitan Museum of Art located in Manila.

3. Cuisine

An excellent way that the cultural diversity in the Philippines is portrayed is through the local cuisine. The cuisine in the Philippines is influenced by local and foreign cultures. Rice is the staple meal in the country and is usually prepared through steaming and is served together with other foods. Rice is also ground to rice flour which is used in the preparation of pastries and sweets. The abundance of fish in the country makes seafood another common food item in most households with tilapia, clams, mussels, cod, squid, and catfish being salted, fried, and served with rice and vegetables. Other popular food items in the Philippines include lechon (roasting of a whole pig common during festivals), mechado (larded beef with tomato sauce), and afritada (pork or chicken prepared with vegetables and tomato sauce) among others. The country is also home to many “western” fast food franchises including Pizza Hut, KFC, and McDonald’s.

2. Clothing

The Maria Clara is a traditional dress worn by Filipino women. The traditional attire gets its name from a famous character known as Maria Clara in the epic 19th-century narrative, “Noli me tangere” written by Jose Rizal. The Maria Clara is made of four components namely; the saya (a long dress), the tapis (a knee-long skirt), the camisa (a collarless chemise), and the panuelo (a stiff scarf). In recent years, the Maria Clara has been modernized to produce a modern version known as the terno which was popularized by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo who wore the terno during the 2008 State of the Nation Address. Another traditional garment of the Philippines is the Barong Tagalog normally worn by men during special occasions. Also known as the Baro, the Barong Tagalog features a formal long shirt decorated with embroidery. The attire was popularized by President Ramon Magsaysay who wore the Baro in most state functions.

1. Sports

The national sport in the country is Arnis, a type of martial arts. Boxing is one of the most popular sports in the Philippines with the country producing global superstar boxer and the only eight-division champion in the world, Manu Pacquiao. Another popular sport is basketball with the country producing international basketball players such as Robert Jaworski and Carlos Loyzaga.


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