Pauline is an international student from the Philippines. She is studying Chemical Engineering in the United States, and she plans to return to the Philippines once she graduates and receives her B.S. in Chemical Engineering. Her hobbies are watching anime, eating delicious food, and taking naps.
One of the customs in the Philippines is this thing called mano po, which is basically like when you see like one of your older relatives like an aunt or grandparent or anyone who is basically older than you, you have to grab their hand and then you like place it on their forehead and then you say, “Mano po.” And that’s like the way of greeting people, like greeting of the elders, but people don’t really do it anymore in the city. I only do it when I visit my relatives in the province. So instead, like in the city, we just do this thing called beso, where you basically just put your cheek on someone else’s like, “Mwah, beso, hi.”
Background Information about the Performance from the Informant
The informant’s parents taught her this greeting when she was young. During visits to her elders, she would have to perform mano po. However, this greeting became less prevalent in her life as she grew older. Now, she only has to perform mano po for her older relatives in rural areas; in cities, she does beso.
Context of the Performance
I interviewed the informant in a study room at Parkside IRC.
In the Philippines, mano po is a gesture performed as either a sign of respect to an elder or an acceptance of one’s blessings from the elder. In Filipino culture, the youth are expected to respect and value their elders for their wisdom and experience accumulated over the years. By offering one’s hand to an elder, one is demonstrating subservience to the elder and welcoming his or her blessings and knowledge. While mano po is still widely used in the Philippines, many Filipinos have replaced this gesture with beso. Not restricted to just older people, it has become a more common greeting between close friends and relatives in the Philippines.
My Thoughts about the Performance
Learning about the Filipino gestures, mano po and beso, reminded me of the various greetings I have practiced or observed from other cultures. Coming from a Cantonese background, I have been raised to respect my elders and obey whatever they say. Compared to the United States, which possesses a future-oriented culture, many East Asian countries seem to have a past-oriented culture, holding elders in high esteem. The beso reminded me of the cheek kissing gesture practiced by the French. Both nations perform this action in social functions to indicate friendship or respect.
كل عام و انتم بخير
Phonetic: Kull A’am wa inty/inta bekhair.
Transliteration: Kull A’am wa Inty/inta bekhair. (inty=you female, inta=you male)
Full Translation: May you be blessed every year.
Background Information about the Piece by the informant: “Usually said to by one person to another during birthdays, Holidays (especially Eid of Ramadan) or any occasion that marks the passing of a year.
Every Arab speaking person knows this saying. It’s a system of greetings and responses that are seemingly endless in the Arabic language. For instance if some says ‘Kull A’am Wa Inty Bekhair’, you MUST respond ‘Wa inty bekhair’, meaning ‘and you as well’.
The Arabic language is really big on greetings and goodbyes, you could have a full 20-minute conversation just saying goodbye to someone.”
Context of the Performance: Greeting someone in Arabic Society
Thoughts about the piece: This Arabic saying that Reem had presented to me was very interesting, because of how it contradicted with the English language. Firstly, I compared this saying to the traditionally said, “Happy New Year,” when, of course, the New Year comes around. However, in the Arabic language, the literal translation meaning: “may you be blessed every year,” is a huge difference from the English language. To start, the English saying is singular, meaning just this new year is wished well, while the Arabic one is plural, may you be blessed for the years to come. Furthermore, the term “Happy New Year” correlates to the other English term “Happy Holidays” it is a general saying that applies to all cultures, religions and/ or belief system. While, the Arabic saying “may you be blessed every year,” the word “blessed” has specific religious undertones in it. It is also interesting that the Arabic language is big on saying goodbye to someone, while in the United States, it is usually just, “bye” or “have a good day.”
However, I did find a particular similarity, which was that both the greetings are future orientation. While I have heard of some cultures saying, “I hope you had a good past year” (of course, not in English), it is interesting that both the Arabic society and the American one have a future orientated greeting, even though the American one supposedly is only good until the next new year comes around, while the Arabic one transcends to many years to come.
S is a 21-year-old Filipino woman. She is currently majoring in Business Administration at the University of Southern California. She grew up in the Philippines and therefore identifies as Filipino, however, she also identifies as Chinese. S speaks English, Mandarin, Tagalog and Hokkien, the last being two of many languages specific to the Philippines.
S: Do rituals count as folklore?
S: Ok, so like, one of the things is like when you meet an elderly person, you like place their hand on your forehead.
Me: Like your hand. on your forehead?
S: No, like I would take your hand and place it on my forehead, like the elderly person’s hand. Like, it’s called, um, Mano. M-a-n-o. Yeah, so it’s just like a sign of respect, you do that with everyone, like even people you don’t meet (know), like if their really elderly. And like you always add like the word po, p-o, at the end of every sentence.
S: Yeah, ’cause it’s just like a sign of respect for, like, regardless of gender, you just, you like add it. so you say like, oh, like in the Philippines you’d say like “Oh, come, let’s eat,” and then you would add po at the end. It’s just something like that. It has a lot to do with respect and just like valuing those kinds of uh, values.
Me: Valuing their age I guess. And like their wisdom maybe?
S: Yeah. Exactly.
S explains the ritual, or practice, in the Philippines when meeting an elderly person. You take their hand and place it on your forehead. You do this out of respect, to honor their years and their wisdom. Respect is a common theme in both the Chinese and Filipino traditions and rituals that S has talked about, as well as many other Asian cultures.
Traditional Hawaiians would greet people by pressing their foreheads together and breathing through their noses. Breathing through your nose is considered the purest way to take a breath. Riley’s grandpa would greet him and his siblings and cousins with this traditional greeting. He would bend down and place his forehead against each of their foreheads then take one deep breath through his nose and exhale. It was an intimate way of greeting people to show that you cared for the person and respected him or her beyond words.
In addition, kids were to greet elders or other parents who were outside their family as Uncle or Auntie instead of Mr. or Mrs. It was very disrespectful to call someone by the title of Mr. or Mrs. Riley, for example, would walk into a cookie shop and greet the shop owner as Auntie May, even though she had no family relationship to him.
The use of Auntie and Uncle to address elders most likely was used to represent that all Hawaiians are family, despite of what blood you have. It makes sense with Hawaiian culture to treat everyone who lived on the islands as family because the islands collectively represented one giant family.