The Filipino "Yes" Westerners are oftentimes baffled by a Filipino's positive answer to an appointment or to instructions given only to discover later on that the same individual did exactly the opposite without cancelling the appoint' merit or a

Understanding the Filipino seaman: His Values, attitudes and behavior Part 2

Maritime blog

The Filipino "Yes"

Westerners are oftentimes baffled by a Filipino's positive answer to an appointment or to instructions given only to discover later on that the same individual did exactly the opposite without cancelling the appoint' merit or asking questions regarding the clarity of the instructions. An average Pilipino will say "yes" when:

1. He does not know.

2. He wants to impress.

3. He is annoyed.

4. He wants to end the conversation.

5. He half-understands the instruction or what is being said.

6. He is not sure of himself.

7. He thinks he knows better than the one speaking to him. Usually the Filipino agrees weakly-instead of giving a flat refusal of "No." Siguro nga, Marahil, Pipilitin ko ("Maybe," "Perhaps," or "I'll try") are his usual answers to questions to which a Westerner would really say "No. " This is because of the Filipino desire to please in spite of the negative response. To interpret the meaning of this "I'll try" or such similar vague answers, requires only a little persuasion to change the "I'll try" to a reluctant "yes" or an apologetic "no."

Asking Questions or Not Asking Them at All

There is a reluctance on the part of a Filipino to ask questions in situations where a Westerner ordinarily will. Officers who have managed Pilipino seamen often wonder why they usually get-a respectful silence when they expect hem to react to certain isssues they bring up in meetings.

One possible explanation for this is the Filipino attitude towards his officers and superiors. Since they are considered the epitome of wisdom or more knowledgeble, it is unthinkable for most seamen to question them. Secondly, Filipinos refuse to ask questions because they feel it is "shameful," nakakabiya, to do so. There is a popular belief that only the stupid and the ignorant and the provinctano (meaning "from the back­woods") ask questions. A Filipino seaman would rather pretend to under­stand the instructions given him and risk making a mistake than ask questions.

A suggestion when giving orders to a Filipino is to ask him to repeat the order back to clarify that it has been understood. Be willing to repeat your instructions. Be patient. Always ask for questions but don't ask leading questions such as "Did you understand the instruction?" Ask the Filipino to summarize what he understood. Speak clearly, using simple language and specific and accurate terms.

To encourage the Filipino to ask questions expecially if he has not understood the instruction is to make it easy for him to ask for a favor by asking him what he can do for him. And when he hesitates, he insists that he asks him the question with admonition not to be shy.

On the other hand, an officer asking a Filipino personal questions such as "How are your wife and children?" conveys a message of goodwill. This is considered by a Filipino as a sign of concern. It is all part of pakikisama or "getting along well."

When correcting a Filipino, don't go straight to the point Talk about something pleasant first. In delivering your correction be as diplomatic as posssible. Most Filipinos cannot take a direct, black and white decla­ration of his mistake. Do not use harsh tone of voice. Do not curse. Do not correct him in public. After a correction has been made, follow-up with an inquiry about some personal concern such as his family, his health, etc.

If an unpleasant encounter cannot be helped - say, if an officer has to call down a Filipino - one of the indications that an attempt is being made to lessen the hurt or minimize the unpleasantness is in this showing of concern for the Filipino's private life. Thus, after an officer has told his Filipino seaman to work harder because ship efficiency suffers because of him, he abruptly switches to an "And how are your wife and children?" routine. This relieves the Filipino seaman and makes him feel that he still belongs, that he is still accepted. Otherwise, he resents the criticism and does not accept it The Filipino criticized concludes that the officer is unmindful of other people's feelings and is difficult to get along with.

The Filipino Sociostat

Sociostat is a popular conversational technique which regulates social behavior. One way it operates is to cut down to size any individual who publicly takes credit for an act or claims any kind of superiority over his in-group.

Westerners consider traits like assertiveness, pride, aggresssiveness, frankness and familiarity as assets to a person. For Filipinos, however, virtues of politeness, humility, modesty and passiveness are more greatly admired in a person. One is expected to be modest in speech and not boastful. Officers must leam how to use the sociostat with Filipinos to maintain smooth interpersonal relationships. This is known as the levell­ing technique which runs: "If a Filipino exalts you, you should humble yourself; if he humbles himself, he expects you to exalt him."

Filipino Humor

Laughter spices the life of the Filipino. Without it, life for him becomes a mere routine and brings about sheer boredom. Laughter or giggling is commonly used to relieve tension in embarrassing or emotion-charge situations. Westerners find this mannerism disturbing. It seems inappropriate for a Filipino seaman to laughingly announce that he has an accident, yet it does happen. Such behavior does not mean that accident is being treated lightly, and in fact, it means quite the opposite. Laughing or giggling is acceptable behavior for a Filipino in tension-filled situations. Besides laughing when they are happy, Filipinos also laugh when they feel shy or are embarrassed.

Laughter, to the Filipino, can be kind of psychological therapy in time of difficulties, problems and untoward incidents. Filipinos are said to be one rare breed of people who can laugh even at themselves. Laughing at himself is one of the more important coping mechanisms of , the Filipino. Sometimes playful, sometimes cynical, he manages to laugh even at times when the Westerner would consider laughter inappropriate.

The Filipino English

The average Filipino speaks English well, sometimes even sounding like an American. At times, however, Filipinos speak English with distinct regional accents - Tagalog, Ilocano, Pampango, Visayan " depending on what part of the country he comes from.

Within the English languages are numerous accents and there will be a certain amount of time require for familiarization of the way English is pronounced by Senior officers.

Don't be too particular about the pronounces "he" or "she" or diction in general. Some dialect's alphabet does not have an "F", and so Filipinos tend to pronounce it as "P". Filipino seamen sometimes misuse their she's and he's because in Filipirio language there is no such distinc­tion in gender.

Filipino English is slightly different from American English or British English. It is based upon the American dialect, but with strong influences of the indigenous languages. Grammar and pronunciation are noticeably affected. Additionally, some words have restricted, specific meanings. Following are a few commonly-used words and their meanings:

"Blowout" - a treat or celebration

"Brownout - an electrical power failure

"Colgate" - toothpaste

"Comfort Room" - restroom

"Dear" - expensive ,

"Dirty Kitchen" - second kitchen, usually the maid's kitchen

"Frigidaire - refrigerator "Xerox" - copier machine, photocopying

"Kodak" - film

"Polaroid" - instant photography

"IBM" - computers

"San Miguel" - beer

"to pass" - to pick up, to stop for, to go by, to pass by

"to get down" - to get out "to go down" - to get off

"to sleep late" - to stay up late

"dressed for his funeral" - dressed to kill

"to have oiled his officer" - to have buttered his officer up.

"his watch is dead" - his watch has stopped

"open the light" - put on the light

"homely" - to be very much dedicated to one's family.

Friendly Phrases

Learning and using a few Filipino words while with Filipino seamen is a very powerful way of saying "I like you." Common greetings such as "Kumusta kayo?" (How are you?); Magandang umaga" (Good morning); "Magandang gabi" (Good Evening); "Mabuhay" (long Live); etc. will help develop a very deep kind of rapport with them. The following are some friendly and survival phrases which is good for officers dealing with Filipinos to learn:




Magandang umaga po

Good Morning

ma-gahn-DAHNG oo-MA-ga PO

magandang hapon po magandang gabi po kamusta po kayo?

Good afternoon Good evening How are you?

ma-gahn DAHNG-HA poan PO ma-gahn-AHNG ga-BEE PO ka-moo-sta PO ka-YO

ano po ang pangalan ninyo?

What is your name?


PuedeBaPo fr\ DAIM\


lahnNEEN-yo? Poo-weh-de BAH-po

O Paki)

(or PAH-KEY)

salamat po Hindi ko po sinasadya

Thank you Excuse me

saLA-mahtpo Heen-De KO PO See-nah-





opo, oho,oo





heen-DEE po

Puede ba po kayong magsalita ngmaiahan

Please speak slowly

Poo-weh-de BAH-po KAH- yung maag-sah-tec-ta nahng ma-ra-han

na iintindihan ba

Do you understand

na ee-een-teen-dee-HAN



hindi ko po na

I do not understand

heen-DEE ko po na ee-een


teen-dee HAHN

Paid guhit rao ako ng

Please Draw me a map

PAH-KEY GOO-heetmo ah-KO


nahng MA-pa




(or Mister)




(or Mrs)




(or Miss)











Straight ahead



to the right



to the left



Where is?



a toilet

ah ng ka-SEEL-yahs


a restaurant

ah ng rest-ow-RAHN


the doctor



the policeman



a dnema


magkano po ang halaga

How much does it cost?

mahg-KAH-no PO ahng ha-lah-GA

ang mahal naman po gusto ko pong

it is to expensive I would like

ahng-MA-HAHL nah-mahn po GOO-stokoPONG









ah ng o-TEL




ako ay Amerikano/Ingles

I am an American/

ah-KO A-ee ah may-ree



Anong oras na ho?

What time is it?

ah-noang 0-ras nah-ho?



PAH-TAH-wahd po





The Filipino is unique. To motivate him one must understand his A hierarchy of needs which is not exactly in the same order nor fits perfectly the Western framework of hierarchy of needs.

In the Filipino hierarchy of needs, the first need isfamilism or the need to belong to a family or group. A Filipino normally sees himself first as member of the family and only secondly as member of the outside group whether it's an office or company. The Filipino could not be expected to put the welfare of his company over and above his family. To motivate and bring out the best in the Filipino, it may therefore be to the long-term favor of firms to implement measures that will satisfy their Filipino seamen's concern for their families. Futhermore, the Filipino seamen can be expected to maintain company loyalty so long as the company objec­tives do not conflict with the implicit objectives of the nuclear family.

The second need of the Filipino in the hierarchy is the need to be reciprocated. This is based on the utang-na-loob value, a behavior wherein every service received, favor, or treatment accomplished has something in return. The Filipino has a high sense of personal dignity. His dignity and honor are everything to him, so that the wounding of them, whether real or imagined, becomes a challenge to his manhood. He respects other people but they must also respect him. Many a conflict between a foreign superior and a Filipino seaman is founded on a disregard on the one hand, and a sacred regard on the other, of individual dignity. The foreigner is apt to underestimate the dignity of the Fillipino. He idolizes, perhaps the individual dignitfy of his foreign superior but he demands the same treatment; if not, he loses his self-control because he feels that he has been wronged or insulted though the cause itself may be trivial or slight.

According to the findings of Dr. Angelina Ramirez,[1] Filipinos find the following reasons of vital importance in work satisfaction:

(1) He expects to be treated as an individual with dignity.

(2) He wants to carry on an open communication and get feed­back from those he works with.

(3) In the context of performance appraisals, he wants to be rated high because the benefits of recognition and promotion go with it.

(4) He wants to be given credit for any participation which results to the productivity of the organization.

(5) He works best with co-workers who are socially supportive.

(6) He wants to be involved in challenging tasks which provide calculated risks but he is resistant to change when new be­havior is required from him which he is not ready for.

The third need in the Filipino hierarchy of needs is social accep­tance, that is to be taken by his fellows for what he is or what they believe him to be, and be treated in accordance with his status. The Filipino needs to be socially accepted by the people who can help him in time of need. He must develop and cultivate their goodwill so as to get along with them for they are psychological investment for future economic, religious, social, and political gains. Thus, acceptance of a fictive relationship is enjoyed and appreciated. By fictive relationship, we mean that relation­ships which is neither legal nor by blood. However, though fictitious it may be, it is definitely real in Filipino culture. When a Filipino calls his superior "kuya" (elder brother) or "tatay" (father), although he is not really related to him, he is developing a fictive relationship which may make him feel he is one of the members of the officer's family.

Sometimes, a foreigner may be invited to be a sponsor for a wedding or baptism by a Filipino. Since there are several sponsors, the Filipino may be asking the foreigner because of the special prestige a foreigner brings, a manifestation of the need for social acceptance. For Filipinos such request is not only a religious act but a social one; it is therefore believed that to deny such request would be a very rude act. If the foreigner chooses to participate as a sponsor, the Filipino considers this as a great honor.

The fourth need in the Filipino hierarchy is the social mobility need. Most Filipinos want to make more money to climb the social ladder. If they are given help to achieve this goal, they will do so. Because of this need, evaluation by an authority or superior would be welcomed but not by subordinates or peers. The Filipino sees his mobility as guaranteed if it were determined by his superior.

The fifth need in the Filipino hierarchy is pagkabayani ("being a hero"). This is the highest of the need levels. Here enters the values of "honor," "dignity," and "pride." Here enters the value of hiya which in Pilipino in the broadest sense best defined as "self-esteem." This is one of the most important concepts in the social psychology of the Filipino because in it are found almost all of the aspects of the Filipino value and motivation.


The Filipino is generally friendly, peace-loving and sociable fellow. He has a compromising character and is not inclined to confrontation.

When a Westerner's personal rights are trampled upon, his first. reaction is ordinarily to complain and fight back. The Filipino is surprised to see Westerners quarrel over disagreements on personal rights and afterwards become friends as if nothing happened at all. This is because the Filipino has been culturally brought up to value harmony. If a Filipino's rights are trampled upon, he first uses the friendly way. He often makes his feelings known through the indirect or roundabout approach. Porhim to directly confront someone will have lasting wounds which no among of friendly reconciliation! can heal. Only after the friendly means (pakikisama) are exhausted does he resort to violence (pakikibaka).

The Filipino desire for harmony does not mean the absence of actual conflict Truly enough, for him violence or a direct confrontation is not the first step. However, if put to shame, the Filipino can turn violent. Any attempt at casting doubt upon or questioning a Filipino's action, integrity and honor even if it is true can elicit vindictive reaction from him. One who publicly denounces a Filipino may only get worse results because he did not follow the cultural norm of first airing grievances privately and politely.

The average Westerner conducts his personal life and his main­tenance of law and order on principles of right or wrong; the average Filipino, on sanctions of shame, dishonor, ridicule, or impropriety. The average Westerner is forced to categorize his conduct in universal imper­sonal terms. The "law is the law" and "right is right," regardless of other considerations. The average Filipino takes the law from the concrete and personal angle. He has a shame culture and this factor greatly affects his behavior. A Filipino feels that saving his honor is more important that the truth. The Westerner’s passion for the truth no matter who is hurt is illustrated in exposing the misdeeds of the departed. But this is not the case for the Filipino. Any superior or official's misdeeds are buried with him; his memory is honored for he has gone.

Take the case of the concept of justice. Justice for the Filipino is not something abstract. Being just is something concrete, visible; someone from whom you can elicit sympathy or pity. Justice is the judge, the officer, the superior. The ethics of justice for the Filipino is based on the value of harmony. Justice for Filipinos is not individualistic but communitarian. The Filipino's concept of justice is "inner self-worth," not necessarily equality to all.

Negotiating with Filipinos requires a deep sense of respect for elders and for authority. It should be done with care and diplomacy in order not to hurt the "inner self-worth" of the Filipinos. The relationship of the negotiators should be a human relationship and possibly in a family atmosphere. Both negotiators should work together for the good of one another without any selfish motive of trying to outdo one another.

Steps in Filipino Negotiation

Intensive preparation for negotiation is essential since this is viewed as following an orderly logical psychological process.

Step One: "Magtapatan ng Loob" or be sure to prepare truthful facts. Both negotiating parties should tell truthfully what they think and feel.

Step Two: "Magkagaangan ng loob" or develop a trusting relationship and atmosphere. Filipinos are persons who go along with persuasion. For example just by setting the negotiation on his or your birthday can be a propitious occasion for negotiation with a Filipino. A birthday is a venerable occasion in the Philippines. A Filipino is supposed to greet even his enemy on his birthday.

Step Three: "Makuha ang loob ng bawa't isa" or harmonize your objectives and intentions with his objectives and intentions. Negotiating with Filipinos must be a win-win situation; an attempt to grant the greatest satisfaction to both parties within their established value range. It assumes an established range of values that are alternatives to both parties.

Fourth Stage: "Magkapanatagan ng loob" or setting the terms of agreement and concentrating on what they are supposed to do. The essence of a good negotiation is making the best possible deal for both negotiating parties without creating long-running problems or injury to both of them. The negotiation must aim for a mutually beneficial deal. Each negotiating party must put himself in the other person's shoes. The emphasis must be on the fact that both parties involved are satisfied.

It is in the atmosphere of peace of mind that both parties can analyze issues and established common terms. The emotional climate must be conciliatory, emphatic and directed toward problem-solving. The at­titudes and behavior of the negotiators must be trusting, supportive, relaxed, helpful, reasonable and creative. It is in this kind of atmosphere that a Filipino becomes reasonable, condescending and noble.

Fifth Stage: "Puspusang loob na tinutupad ang pinag-usapan" or both parties wholeheartedly fulfill their obligations and live up to the duties and responsibilities of their agreement.

Negotiated accords allow the negotiating parties to be both stable in their own areas and flexible in details.

Negotiating with Filipinos demand a holistic approach. One should be logical and sensitive to emotions at the same time.


Here are some general statements intended to help Masters and officers sailing with Fihpino seamen:

1. Do understand the Filipino's body language:

The Filipino frequently nods in the middle of a conversation, which simply means, "I understand what you are saying," but it does not mean "yes."

The eyebrows are raised in recognition, and to answer "yes."

Establishing eye contact is a recognition signal. A smile to go with it becomes a friendly "hello" without words.

The lips are used to point

"Sst-Sst" is used to get attention.

Clucking (like giggling) is used to show sympathy.

The common signal for OK where the thumb and index finger form a circle means for Filipinos money. The new sign for OK is the thumb-up sign.

Using one's forefinger or index finger upward to call a Filipino is considered degrading and only used for animals. A downward gesture of the hand should be used without making the arch too wide since this will appear too dominating.

Staring is rude and aggressive. The better part of valor when confronted by a glaring tough looking character is to look briefly and then cast one's gaze away.

Arms akimbo is considered arrogant, challenging, angry. It is not a posture that will win and influence Filipinos, unless you are a policeman about to issue a traffic ticket.

It is insulting to beckon someone by crooking your finger. Filipinos will point out a direction by shifting their eyes towards the direction indicated.

A light touch on the elbow is permissible when calling someone's attention.

Two males holding hands or with arms over each other's shoulders are the acepted norm, free of any overtones of homosexuality.

Physical contact with opposite sex in public is not on. Ladies greet each other with a kiss on the cheek, but male and female keep respectfully apart. Some women may shake hands with a man, but they have to initiate such gesture.

A limp handshake is socially acceptable.

A woman and a man will refrain from being demonstrative in public.

The average Filipino requires less privacy than the average Westerner. He tends to require less personal space as well. Filipinos stand close to one another when walking and talking, - and do not find body contact in crowds offensive.

Filipinos usually don't queue or line up.

2. Do understand the Filipino's physical and verbal mannerisms:

Officers, elders and superiors are addressed by "sir" or " ma'am", or by their title or profession.

When asking a question, an apology is offered first (I'm sorry to bother you, but...)

When inviting a Filipino, do invite him at least three times. Filipinos are taught that it is proper to refuse the first time or two. To them, insistence is a clear sign that the offer or invitation is a sincere one.

Flowers are associated with death. Give food to a sick Filipino, but not flowers.

"Pasalubong" is a gift given as a souvenir after a trip. A superior bringing "pasalubong" when returning from a trip shows to his people that he thought of them during his absence.

Consistency is a prime requisite for a smooth relationship for Filipinos.

The use of a third party or intermediary is a very acceptable norm for asking and for telling. This helps avoid a direct confrontation situation, which may lead to embarrassment.

3. Do understand what annoy Filipinos:

Someone who strongly disagrees with his opinion in a discus­sion. You can disagree with him but not strongly.

A person who looks down on him.

Ignorance that foreigners show about his native land.

Minute attention to small details.

A person who treats him like a servant.

Criticism from someone who is not his superior.

Someone with less experience telling him how to do his job.

Inconsideration for his feelings.

Race prejudice.

Body odor.

A foreigner who says "that is the way we do it back home."

Being told to hurry up.

An air of superiority in a person.

A blunt and overly frank person.

Rich people who refuse to talk to people of lower social status.

Foreigners who write about his native land without knowing too much about it.

People who preach democracy but do not practice it.

People who demand a yes or no answer.

People who take credit for what is accomplished in joint efforts.

4. Do understand the Filipino concept of property.

The Filipino concept of property is threefold:

1) What is mine is mine. The Filipinoshave inherited from the Western world the concept of private ownership such as having land titles and documents for things they own.

2) What is yours is mine. The kapitbahay or ncighborliness value requires a Filipino to share some ofhis'properties with his neighbor; vice-versa, this value gives him right to some properties of his neighbors. In the name of neighborliness, a neighbor can borrow another's car or go and watch TV in another's house.

3) What is public property is mine. The Filipino value of sakop makes public and private properties assume a communal dimension. In the Philippines public property belongs to no one. Rather the user of public property appears to regard it as his own personal property.

The Filipino uses public space while driving as he would while walking - taking on rights to it as he moves. He considers that particular spot on which he stands or which he moves, his personal property and, therefore, utilizes it as long as neces­sary in any way he wants.

The Filipino when elected or appointed to office, tend to use his office, vehicle, telephone, for his private and personal use.

The sharing of goods in the sakop dimension might actually be "borrowing." The Filipinos, for example, who have a strong sense of sakop property, consider things "borrowed" what Westerners consider "stealing."

5. Do call a Filipino by his name. A Filipino subordinate called by his officer by his name feels very elated because he is proud to know that his superior knows him personally.

6. Always offer a Filipino coffee, tea or something when he visits you. This is a sign that he is welcome to your office.

7. It would always be proper to say "Quiet please" or "kindly tone down" rather than saying "Shut up."

8 Do give a Filipino a way out of a situation so he can save his face and not get embarassed. Such embarassment causes "hiya" which is painful for a Filipino to accept.

9 Don't lend money except in very exceptional cases. Repayment may be a problem. To avoid misunderstanding as to whether it is really borrowing or not, make a clear distinction between the three concepts of property of the Filipino. In some cases borrowing money may just be a symbolic way of asking for money.

10 Don't expect punctuality or promptness in terms of time if you have not clamfied whether it is linear or cyclical time that applies to the situation.

[1] From a speech delivered by Dr. Angelina Ramirez

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