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Running head: FILIPINO CULTURE

Inside Filipino Culture


Stephanie Rebeiro
California State University, Stanislaus

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Inside Filipino Culture

Nurses treat and care for hundreds of different people every year. These patients may
vary in age, gender, and culture. It is important for nurses to give culturally congruent care to all
ethnicities. In order to do this, the nurse needs to have some background knowledge on the
patients culture. Being culturally competent ensures that the nurse will have a baseline
understanding of the patients values and beliefs. In order to help me become more culturally
competent, I interviewed a Filipino woman to gain better insight and knowledge on their
traditions, beliefs, and values. My fianc is Filipino and from what I have seen their culture can
be vastly different from American culture at times. I have always wanted to learn more about the
culture and found this assignment a good excuse to be able to answer my curiosity. For the
interview I asked my fiancs mother, Meliza, if she would mind if I asked her some questions
about her culture for my school assignment. She was more than delighted to help me with my
school work and was not concerned about it being written about in a paper. Meliza Lechadores
provided insight into the Filipino culture including cultural beliefs and practices related to family
roles, nutrition, pregnancy, death, and health care practices, along with other topics (personal
communication, March 8th, 2014).
Overview of Heritage
Meliza is a 56 year old Filipino woman. She was born in the city of Manila in the
Philippines. She lived with her mother, father, brother, and sister in a small house in the city. The
Philippines are a bunch of small tropical islands, with dense forests. Meliza recalled that the
Philippines are mostly made of volcanoes, like Hawaii. Everything is surrounded by water; it
rains frequently, and often floods.

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Economics in the Philippines used to be largely based on agriculture, but that this is
changing now as the country becomes more industrialized.
Politics in the Philippines are much like those here in America. They have a president and
vice president, the House of Representatives and the Senate, and also use the three branches,
legislative, executive, and judicial. The current president is Benigno Aquino III.
Meliza moved to California in 1965, when she was seven years old, with her family for
better education and greater opportunities in life. She continued her schooling here in America
and graduated from high school before getting married and having three children. She is now
divorced and lives in Lathrop, CA with her youngest daughter, her son-in-law, and
granddaughter. She currently works in logistics for a company in San Jose, and in her spare time
she loves spending time with her family.
Communication
The dominant language in the Philippines is Tagalog. This is the language that Meliza
learned to speak growing up as a child in the Philippines. There are also over 100 other dialects
in the Philippines, two of the more prevalent are, Cebuano and Ilocano. English is also very
common in the Philippines and is often the language used in education.
Filipinos are often soft spoken and hate to say no to anyone. They typically answer
yes more out of respect, than agreement. They rarely raise their voices. They dislike conflict,
and often smile to hide embarrassment or relieve tension. A typical distance between two people
conversing is about two to three feet. Filipinos use a lot of body language, especially facial
expressions. Eye contact is common during conversations although some Filipino elders avoid
eye contact to show respect to authority. When it comes to personal contact, Filipinos always
greet family and friends with hugs, and often a kiss on the cheek. Another common greeting is

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eye contact with the raising of eye brows. It is important to always greet the elders first, it shows
respect. There is typically no problem with male and female contact, Filipinos will often give a
hand shake or hug to show appreciation.
Filipinos are rarely on time for anything. It is most common for Filipinos to show up 30
minutes late or more. And when hosting their own party, they often do not expect anyone to
show up at the appointed start time.
The naming process in the Philippines is slightly different than here in America. It is very
common for a Filipino child to not be given a middle name. For women, when they are married
their maiden name becomes their middle name and then they take the last name of their husband.
Family Roles and Organization
In the Filipino culture the head of the household is usually the male, although the female
is not taken for granted. In the Philippines, the women have equal rights with men and often hold
positions of authority. It is more common now to see both the husband and wife working, but the
wife still tends to take accountability for the house work and children. Family goals and priorities
include a high regard for education. All children are expected to attain a high education and to
put a great deal of effort into schooling. Another priority is respect for elders. All children are
taught from a young age to respect their parents, grandparents, and anyone who is older or in a
position of authority. The main priority in the Filipino culture is family. They have a familybased society and tend to be more interdependent than independent. Filipino parents are often
seen as over protective. Children are not encouraged to be very independent, but rather to rely on
family for assistance. It is the role of the youngest daughter to take care of the parents as they
age. The parents may move in with the daughter if they are not already living together. Extended
family and even god parents are all very close and rely on each other in times of need. Whether it

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is emotional support or monetary support, family is always expected to provide for the person in
need. Multi-generational homes are common in Filipino families. Often times the children will
never move out, but rather live in the same home and raise their children along with the help
from grandparents. The elderly are treated with the utmost respect and often play a role in
decision making and childrearing. For Filipinos, social status is gained through higher education
and higher paying occupations, but may be shown through celebrations and the amount of money
spent on them. Filipinos support heterosexual relationships and marriages and look down upon
divorce, but Meliza mentioned that she knows many Filipino families that include homosexuals
and divorces and that the family tends to still be very supportive.
Workforce Issues
Acculturation is something that is typically a little more difficult for Filipinos. Often
times there are many Filipinos that work together, and when they are together, all acculturation is
out the window. It is common for Filipinos to be close in the work place, talking in their native
language, helping each other, and even extending their relationships outside of work. She states
that Filipinos can be independent if they need to be, but in such cases where there are high
populations of Filipinos in the work place, interdependence is much more common than
autonomy. She said that she has never had a problem with a language barrier, but that she learned
English at a fairly young age, and she knows many Filipinos that have very thick accents. She
said she could foresee this causing an issue here and there.
Biocultural Ecology
Filipinos tend to have dark skin, varying from a light caramel color to a deep brown.
They typically have dark brown or black hair, and their eyes are usually light to dark brown.
They are naturally on the shorter side of average human height. Genetically, Filipinos are said to

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be a mix of Austronesian, Indian, and Spanish (Purugganan, 2013). Diseases that they tend to be
more susceptible to include, hypertension, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, gout, and cancer,
usually colorectal and prostate (McBride, 2001). Filipinos have a higher chance of being G6PD
deficient, lactose intolerant and having thalassemias (Bayani, 2001). In regards to drug
metabolism Filipinos generally require less central nervous system depressants, and tend to have
a lower tolerance to alcohol (McBride, 2013).
High-Risk Behaviors
In regard to high risk behaviors, more are seen in the male population rather than the
female population for Filipinos. Both smoking and drinking are high risk behaviors that many
Filipino men participate in frequently, especially is social settings. Meliza does not know about
recreational drug use and likes to believe that is it is minimal. Most Filipinos live sedentary
lifestyles as they get older, and even the younger children spend most of their time at home with
family rather than out with friends or playing sports. Meliza stated that when it comes to safety
equipment she always made her children wear or use anything available to help keep them safe.
This is a characteristic of being over protective.
Nutrition
For the Filipino culture, food is associated with celebration and a time of gathering. There
is never a social get together without mountains of food. Food is often seen as a sign of wealth.
The more food that is provided, the wealthier the family is perceived. Common foods that are
served in Filipino families are white rice and steamed vegetables. Meats are also served but often
in smaller portions due to cost. Some popular Filipinos dishes include lumpia, adobo, and lechon.
A lechon is a whole roasted pig that often accompanies Filipino celebrations. Vitamin A
deficiency, iron deficiency, and protein energy malnutrition are among the greatest in the Filipino

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culture (Bayani, 2001). Filipinos are also known to have diets high in saturated fats and
cholesterol (Bayani, 2001). When it comes to health promotion, it would be wise to encourage
vitamin A and iron rich foods, such as sweet potatoes, leafy greens, whole grains, and beef. It
would also be a necessity to teach them how to limit their fat and cholesterol intake (Dela Cruz,
2013). Encouraging frequent exercising would also be a benefit to this culture.
Pregnancy
Most Filipinos are Catholic and often do not use birth control because of this. It is
expected for men and women to practice abstinence until marriage, after which having two to
three children is common. Pregnancy is celebrated by the whole family and baby showers are
often attended by men and women. One of the beliefs during pregnancy is that the mother should
not wear anything around her neck, otherwise the cord would wrap around the babys neck. Also
the mother is not to think anything negative about another person, otherwise the baby would look
like that person. It is also believed that watching a scary movie would induce preterm labor.
During labor and delivery it is common for women to try to hold back any emotions and to
endure their pain in silence. Some postpartum cultural beliefs include, not taking the baby out for
one month and only drinking warm fluids for one month to prevent illness.
Death Rituals
Death rituals in the Filipino culture include participating in wakes, burying the family
member in a casket, and having a ceremony at the one year anniversary. The wake may last
anywhere from a few days to up to a week. It is common practice to have the body of the
deceased displayed for family and friends to give donations, offer prayers, and adorn with
flowers. The money that is raised is to help with the burial process and fees. At the end of the

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wake the family and friends follow the hearse to the burial site. Filipinos often bereave for a year
until the anniversary service.
Spirituality
The majority of Filipinos are Catholic. In Catholic religion prayer is something that can
be done in groups or individually, and is a way to communicate with their god. There is typically
no set prayer schedule although religious ceremonies often occur on Sundays and sometimes on
Saturday evenings. Many Filipinos believe in an afterlife. They believe that if they repent their
sins that they will be accepted into heaven to live with their god for eternity. Life is meant to be
lived by doing good and avoiding bad. Filipinos do not typically show signs of pain or fear. This
may be seen as a sign of individual strength, but they do rely heavily on each other for support.
Individual strength is not seen as an essential characteristic, but rather the strength of the family
to be able to depend on each other is a more common quality. Health is generally believed to be
separated from spirituality although some Filipinos believe that a spiritual imbalance can cause
illness.
Health Care Practices
Filipinos do not have a strong focus on healthcare, but often view their health as
excellent. Traditional practices regarding personal health include herbal treatments and a strong
reliance on spirituality (Dela Cruz, 2013). Illnesses are sometimes believed to be caused by some
spiritual imbalance, and prayer may be used to treat the illness. Filipinos often do not take
responsibility for their health and may see diseases or illnesses as gods wishes, or something
that is inevitable or meant to happen. Filipinos may often self medicate with home remedies, but
are also very compliant to prescriptions (Dela Cruz, 2013). When a Filipino is sick or in pain,
this person is expected to rest and is taken care of by the rest of the family members, typically

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the mother or wife. Mental health is often seen as something that is not treatable and they often
do not seek psychotherapy (Dela Cruz, 2013). Barriers to health care practice include a language
barrier to those who do not speak English, and unfamiliarity to current health care practices.
Health Care Practitioners
Practitioners are respected and perceived as intelligent healers for the sick. Many
Filipinos seek care from practitioners and expect to be restored to health after following the
doctors orders. The Albularyo is the folk practitioner in the Philippines. They often treated the
ill with prayer, herbal medications, and sacrifices. When it comes to the gender of health care
providers, although one may prefer a provider of the same gender, there is no real opposition to
care being given by the opposite gender.
Nursing Interventions
A nursing intervention that would be important to include in nursing care for a Filipino
patient is to ensure understanding. Although the patient may respond with a nod or even a yes,
this is typically more a sign of respect rather than agreement. It would be important to make sure
that the patient truly understands what is being said. This may include asking for verbal
repetition to ensure understanding or even requesting a translator to guarantee comprehension.
This falls under the preserve and maintain mode of care because the patient is allowed to show
their respect, and at the same time assured understanding.
A second intervention when taking care of a Filipino patient is to include the family.
Family is a very significant part of their culture, not only parents and siblings, but also
grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins. It would be important to include the family in patient
care and when making medical decisions. The familys opinion is much respected in Filipino

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culture. This also falls under the preserve and maintain mode of care because the family is
important in all aspects of the patients life.
A third intervention that should be used when caring for a Filipino patient is a dietary
assessment. Filipinos are at a high risk for diabetes and cardiovascular diseases. They also
usually have hyperlipidemia. It is important to get an idea of a typical diet for this patient and to
make suggestions for a healthier life style. This intervention falls under the restructuring mode of
care because the suggested diet will include addition of new, healthier foods to the diet and
moderation of unhealthy foods that were frequently eaten before.
Transcultural Nursing Standard of Practice
The Transcultural Nursing Standard of Practice that is most important and applicable to
this situation is the third one, Knowledge of Cultures. This standard of practice states, Nurses
shall gain an understanding of the perspectives, traditions, values, practices, and family systems
of culturally diverse individuals, families, communities, and populations they care for, as well as
a knowledge of the complex variables that affect the achievement of health and well-being
(Expert Panel, 2010) . This standard of practice applies to this situation because the patient being
treated is of a different culture, Filipino. It would be important to be culturally competent and to
know that Filipinos value respect, practice religion devoutly, and rely heavily on the family.
Knowing this information would help any care giver to deliver culturally congruent care that is
in the best interest for the patient.
Analysis of Cross Cultural Experience
For this interview, I was fairly comfortable as the interviewee was my fiancs mom. We
have a good relationship and I am familiar with the way she talks and communicates. She does
have a slight accent, but she is otherwise very easy to understand and understands English

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completely. She uses a lot of non-verbal communication, although she may not be aware of this.
I could tell in her face that she was confused by some of my questions and so I would restate the
question even if she did not ask me to. It worked well that I made list of all my questions ahead
of time and was able to offer explanations on questions that were a little more confusing. She
was very knowledgeable and offered many anecdotes to support her answers. I dont believe I
would have done anything differently in this situation, although I may have had to prepare
differently if I did not know the interviewee or if there was more of a communication barrier. I
feel that because I knew the interviewee personally, it made the situation more relaxed and I felt
that she was able to talk more openly with me.
The most important thing that I learned from Meliza is that all cultures differ and that
there are variations even within the same culture depending on which part of the country one
lived, or what religion is followed, or just how each individual is raised. Overall the Filipino
culture is one that is centered around family and religion. I will carry this experience with me for
the rest of my life and be able to draw from it every time I care for a Filipino patient. I will now
be able to be give culturally congruent care.

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References

Bayani, E. (2001). Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. Philippines.
Retrieved from ftp://ftp.fao.org/ag/agn/nutrition/ncp/phlmap.pdf
Dela Cruz, F.A. (2013). Level of acculturation, food intake, dietary changes, and health status of
first-generation Filipino Americans in Southern California. doi: 10.1111/17457599.12031
McBride, M. (2001). Health and healthcare of Filipino American elders. Retrieved from
http://www.stanford.edu/group/ethnoger/filipino.html
Purugganan, M. (2013). GMA News. What is a Filipino? Looking at our DNA for the answers.
Retrieved from http://www.gmanetwork.com/news/story/292367/scitech/science/what-isa-filipino-looking-at-our-dna-for-the-answers
Expert Panel on Global Nursing and Health. (2010). Standards of practice for culturally
competent nursing care. Retrieved from http://www.tcns.org/files/Standards_of_ s
Practice_for_Culturally_Compt_Nsg_Care-sRevised_.pdf