BACKGROUND: My informant, AV, was born in the Philippines. His parents are also both immigrants from the Philippines and currently live in the US. This piece is an explanation of a gesture used in Filipino culture to signify respect. AV explained that this is something his parents taught him to do in front of elders.
CONTEXT: This piece is from a facetime call with my friend to talk about customs in Filipino culture.
AZ: A custom that we have in the Philippines is like — they can’t see me right?
Me: It’s only audio.
AZ: Okay well in my specific language, like my parents would be like, [speaks Tagalog] Like, I don’t know how to explain it, but basically, you take the person’s hand and hold it, you hold it in your hand and you kind of like, bring it up to your forehead like this. Basically, it’s like a sign of respect for your elders and usually you go to your aunts and uncles and do that. But like, it’s funny. I think like a lot of times when like adults don’t want to feel super old, they’ll be like, “Oh no, don’t do that.” But like, I guess as you get older, if you’re like my grandma or like my grandpa they definitely expect us to do it. All the older relatives too.
THOUGHTS: This gesture is really telling of the things that Filipino society considers important. As a kid, back when my parents were still fairly new to the US and staunchly steadfast in their culture, I had to show my respect to them by bowing my head and avoiding eye contact when speaking to them. On top of this, as the eldest daughter in the house. My mom always made me present a bowl of soap and water to my father and other older male relatives to wash their hands with whenever they ate dinner at our house. As I got older and my parents became more engrossed in American customs, I was no longer required to avoid eye contact or prepare my dad’s bowl. It’s interesting to me how the more “Americanized” I became the less I was required to show respect in the traditional way.