Filipino Ethics

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Filipino Ethics in business and private life

Before we discuss the Filino ethics, first a little history and background.

Filipino Ethics

major dialects in the Philippines

Origin and language

The Filipino or “Mamamayang Pilipino” are a group of ethnic natives that are situated over 7100 islands of the Philippines.
Tagalog is proclaimed the national language of the Philippines. Although tagalog might be the national language, only about 55 percent of Filipinos speak it every day. In their daily communications, Filipinos use over 100 distinct indigenous languages and dialects, but there are 8 major dialects: Bikol, Cebuano, Hiligaynon, Ilocano, Kapampangan, Pangasinan, Waray, and Tagalog.

English is generally used for educational, governmental, and commercial purposes. Since English is widely spoken in the Philippines, it is common to hear Filipinos use a mixture of English and Filipino words or phrases, known as “Taglish”, in their everyday conversations.


The Philippines was colonized first by Spain, which lasted for 350 years, and America and both have greatly influenced the Filipino way of living, and due to these and other countries that have influenced the Filipinos, their way of life, their values and customs show these influences.

Regional classification

According to Tomas Andres, Filipinos can be classified in 4 groupings:

  • Ilocanos, Pangalatocs, Cagaynos and Igorots are the first group. They are characterized as God fearing, hard working, humble and enduring. For them their major source of livelihood is their job. They are thrifty and they give out all their effort and talent to their job.
  • Tagalog and Pampangos form the second group. Like the first group, they are God fearing as well, but this group is more raised in cities where abundant information is available causing them to act as not as hardworking as their fellow Ilocanos, Pangalatocs, Cagaynos and Igorots. They are also more materialistic in nature.
  • Bicolanos and Visayans, the third group is fond of using the “bahala na bukas” system and are people who believe in “damayan” or “pakikisama”. They also give more importance to family gatherings. These are very important, that even though attending to them, they risk losing their job.
  • Muslims and other cultural minorities. This group are of brave warrior roots and are always on the go for adventure. They live the practices of their Holy Quran.

As the Philippines grew its economic side, more and more business are being established in the country. Some of which are organic and others are from foreign investors.

Business ethics

Filipino business philosophy is often patterned in “Familism”, family-oriented or in Tagalog “Makamag-anak na pananaw” (to treat people as part of their family). Like a family, equal treatment is given to everyone and there should be no favoritism. In a Filipino business set up, the upper management serves as the parents, people who have authority in decision making and the ones who lead and guide their employees, are the children.
Treating each other like a family in business is a good thing in terms of open communication and “Bayanihan” or helping each other, hand in hand for the betterment of the company, but it also resulted to negative work ethics that Filipinos established over time due to abusing “familism”.

Here is the list of negative business ethics that Filipinos established; some due to “familism” and others are attributed by other countries that colonized the country.

  • Filipino ethics“Bahala na” Attitude (Come what may)
    If you ask an employee what his plans are to get promoted, he would instantly reply “Bahala na!” (come what may) or in some cases he would say “Bahala na ang Diyos sa mga plano ko, kung para sa akin yun ibibigay niya sakin yun” ( God will lead me to the path where I belong) and another answer that is commonly heard these days with youngsters is “Bahala na si Batman!” (It’s all up to Batman!).
    “Bahala na” attitude can be attributed to the Spanish era, where Christianity was introduced in the country. The latter instills in the minds of the Filipinos that God will provide for everything when they pray what they need and God will lead them to the path where they truly belong. Having that in mind, Filipinos then depend on God’s will and decision for them, thus gave birth to “Bahala na ang Diyos”.
    This attitude gives courage to Filipino workers, but this courage also leads them to things that they are not really aware of. Since they believe that God will help them, they will still push through with plans, they don’t even know if they can make or accept a promotion, that they are not skilled with.
    This also leads to laziness. Since they “know” that God has plans for them, many Filipino workers tend to wait for the time when God’s plan will happen.
  • Filipino ethicsLagay System (Bribing)
    “Lagay” or bribing is common when hiring and promoting an employee. The question on this is how much or what can you give for the position that you want to have. Money is the usual enticement for this one, though others give food, luxury items or worst their bodies. The more money you give, the more chances you have to get the position. Sad part is, some managers in the upper management are there because of this system, and the worst part is they humiliate themselves to employees because of the mediocre performance that they have.
  • Pakikisama System ( Camaraderie or Barkada System)
    When an applicant or an employee cannot resort to the “lagay” system, they may want to use the pakikisama system. “Pakikisama” or camaraderie happens when an aspirant (either for a promotion or a new job) seeks the help of a close friend (kabarkada) or from a person who has a great power to give the position he is aiming.
    Let’s explain “kabarkada” a little. This is a group of people who treat each other as brothers and sisters, each and every one of them is part of the family. In the Filipino set up, once a member of the family asks for a favor to another member of the family, the former will do everything to help the latter and that is when “pakikisama” takes place. For the other one, the influential person, having the power, he can easily recommend an aspirant but usually before the aspirant get the recommendation of the latter, he need to do the things that this influential person is asking from him. So actually it is often a kind of bribing, but among ‘friends’.
  • Lusot system
    This system is rampant in processing papers and when someone in the company commits a mistake. The word “alegro” or arrangement goes hand and hand with this system.
    Since Filipinos are impatient, they tend to resort on this system. Instead of waiting for the papers or requirements to undergo its process, they will look for a short cut and that short cut would be “alegro” or arranging / giving something to the person who process the papers. We also know this as “fixers”.
    Another situation where we can see this system is when someone commits a mistake in a company. Filipinos are known to give mercy or “awa” and since they are honed to be one, they tend to give mercy or another chance to the person who committed a mistake, thus the person involve will “lusot” or get away with the mistake that he had done.
  • Juan Tamad (Lazy John)
    Juan Tamad is a folktale in the Philippines regarding a boy who stumbled upon a guava tree where ripe guavas are readily available to pick. The boy is too lazy to climb the tree to get some guavas. Since he knows that any moment one or two guavas will fall from the tree, he decided to lay down beside / under the tree and wait for the guavas to fall, he is often pictured with the mouth wide open.
    This attitude of Filipinos is seen when they are given some tasks to do in the office. Since they know that they have a lot of time to finish the task they would do first unnecessary things like chatting with co-workers, browse the internet, do other personal matter and in the end you will see him cramming to finish the task that was bestowed upon him for his time is about to end.

If ever, a foreigner wants to do business in the Philippines, it is good to know of above ethic behavior of the Philippine people.

On the other side of the coin, “familism” also has created a few STRONG work ethics of Filipinos. These are “Bayanihan”, “Balikatan” and “Batarisan”, but that will be for another posting.


  • dante commented on 14 November, 2015 Reply

    it really is amazing how impatient they are in so many walks of life lol

    • Dutch Expat commented on 15 November, 2015 Reply

      and yet, when they need to do something it is very slow….

      • dante commented on 22 November, 2015 Reply

        haha great point! always in a hurry but never getting things done

        #notracist 🙂

        • Dutch Expat commented on 23 November, 2015 Reply

          The longer you deal with Filipinos, the more you get used to it. Not getting angry is the point. It’s not good for your heart. Try to deal with them, a little sweet talk will help you a lot.

  • dante commented on 28 November, 2015 Reply

    ya i have been here almost 3 years and am pretty good at it overall, however there are still days where multiple things go wrong and then some 40 year old lady pretends she doesnt see you and tries to cut in front of you in line……. serenity now, serenity now

    • Dutch Expat commented on 28 November, 2015 Reply

      Yes, and if you say that you are first in line, they just smile and say sorry!

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