Filipino Culture: Showing Respect to Elders

Updated on February 13, 2019
Filipino culture: Showing respect to elders
Filipino culture: Showing respect to elders | Source

The Philippines, like other Asian countries, show their respect to the elder population by gestures and by the words they use before the person's name. Being younger than someone and calling them by their first name is considered impolite and an act of rudeness. If you've been to the Philippines, you've probably noticed Filipinos addressing anyone older than them by using a word before the person's first name.

One of these words mainly used for showing respect in the Philippines, or even in a Filipino household outside of the country are the words po and opo. Both basically means "yes" in a respectful way rather than just saying oo or yes.

For a better understanding on how to use po and opo or what's the difference between po and opo are the examples below.

Po is used to show respect when speaking or called by someone older or a person with authority. Also use po when saying salamat or thank you.

  1. If you are called by someone older than you, let's say your mom, dad, uncle, auntie, or an elderly neighbor for example, "Jasmin! Jasmin!" A Filipino child would answer "Po?" which is a polite way of saying "Yes?" or "Bakit po?" which means "Why?" politely. Po is used when answering the 5 W questions such as why, when, who, which and what or when answering a yes or no question from someone older. "Jasmin, have you seen your brother?" Saying "Hindi" means "No." To answer politely using po is "Hindi po." Adding po when answering yes or no portrays respect.

Opo is used to answer questions that has something to do with actions.

  1. "Have you eaten? It's already lunch time." Answering with "Oo" means "Yes" but answering "Opo," is the polite way.

But aside from using po and opo, there are also other ways Filipinos show respect when speaking to someone older than they are or when speaking to the elderly.

Responding to elders with po and opo
Responding to elders with po and opo | Source

Showing Respect

Ate - this is used to show respect to older siblings in the family. The younger Filipino siblings would address or call their older female siblings ate. If there is more than one older female sibling, the younger ones would call the older siblings "ate____(name).

Example: The youngest, 12 years old, relating to her mom about the fun she had with her two older sisters would say, "Mom! I went to the town fiesta with ate Jasmine and ate Hope."

Ate is also used to show respect to older cousins just like the way it is used to address an older sister.

The Daddy - Although some Filipinos who are living a substantial life call their parents dad and mom, there are still quite a few names for daddy for showing respect. Itay, tatay, and papa all means dad and is used by the siblings to call or address their dad.

In cases of step-fathers, still, they are shown respect by being address as itay, tatay, papa, or daddy followed by their first names or just simply tatay, itay or papa. An example would be a young boy addressing his stepdad as, "Tatay Manny" or "Papa Manny."

The Mommy - Just like with dads, substantial families or those who really are wealthy are usually addressed as mom or mommy. And then another percentage of Filipino siblings addressed their moms as inay, nanay or mama.

And in cases of having step-mothers, it is pretty much like with the step-fathers because Filipino kids addressed their stepmoms by calling them mom and then their first name such as, "Mommy Julie" or "Mama Julie."

Auntie or tita - Filipino used either of these two to address their aunt. But there's also cases where Filipinos prefer calling their step-mothers tita.

Tita is also used to show respect to people outside of the family. I am an example of this myself. I address my mom's co-worker and friend as tita, like "Tita Fhil" just for example. Another example was, I went home one day with a friend, and she addressed my mom as "tita."

Uncle or tito - Children or siblings used this to address their parents brother. There's a bit of difference thou between uncle and tito thou they refer to the same respect given to one's dad or mom's brother.

Example: A 14-year-old would mostly use the word uncle to address his dad or mom's brother whose age is closer to his parents, say the uncle is 50 years old. But if there's a small age gap, say the mom of this 14-year-old kid has a brother 22 years of age. The 14-year-old would rather prefer calling his mother's younger brother as tito.

Lola and lolo - means grandma (lola) and grandpa (lolo) in Filipino language. This is how siblings address their Filipino grandparents.

What About Other People?

Filipino children also show respect to other people outside of the family. Here are some other names that are used to address these people.

Ninang and ninong - ninang which means godmother and ninong that means godfather is used by Filipino kids to address their godparents. Filipinos don't call their godparents by their first names. Instead, they use ninang and ninong. Examples would be, "I went to ninang and to ninong and they gave me presents."

Mang - Children and younger adults used "mang" added before the name as a sign of respect to males older than them in their town or neighborhood or to anyone as long as they know the first name.

Aleng - Use before the first name of an older female given that you know the name as a sign of respect. If not, ale is simply used if the name is unknown to address a stranger. Ale is pronounced ah-le. The female counterpart of mang. Examples of using aleng in Filipino are below:

  1. I saw aleng Mae and Mang John as I walked home from school. They are new in the neighborhood.
  2. Aleng Mae owns a mini grocery store on 24th street.

Showing Respect With Mano Po


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    • profile image

      Ruggiero Olivares 

      5 months ago

      I think there is something lacking in our Filipino language. How do we address strangers or people whose names we do not know but are older than us? I understand that "mang" and "aleng" are used for older people who are not related to us but "mang" and "aleng" cannot be used when you do not know their first name.

      Therefore people end up calling these older strangers as "boss", "chief" or "sir" (even though they are not actually their boss, customer or a chief). Some call them "kuya", "ate", "tito", "tita", "tatay", "nanay" (even though they are not actually relatives or close to one another).

      I think the inventors of the Filipino language forgot to create a specific word that is used to address older strangers or older people who we do not know and are not related to us.

    • profile image


      12 months ago

      I respect the Filipino customs and tradition. We have "family titles." We call "Ate or Kuya" your siblings or cousins who are first in line, if not the older. We call the siblings and cousins of our parents "Tito or Tita." I don't think it is respectful to call someone by these titles who are not related to you by blood, by marriage, by baptism, by other religious ceremonies or by close friendship.

      Now a days Filipinos have a habit of calling everybody "tita, tito, kuya, ate" because they think the person looks older than them. That is not respect but darn disrespectful. Don't try to diminish the sanctity of family relationship. If you are not related to the person, call them by their name if you know their name, or if you don't know them call them Sir or Ma'm or by the position they hold....Dr, Engr, Chief, Senator, Fr. etc. The use of family titles are reserved for family (by blood, by marriage, or by baptism, confirmation) and very close friend.

      The gays started this whole thing of calling everybody the titles reserved to family. So, are you gay?

    • profile image

      Not importante 

      12 months ago

      I hear a lot of talk about respect, but I am a very respectful person to a certain degree, and although I am not filipino, I live with people who are. One being my boyfriend, and his mother, who is a superCunt. She and I don't see eye to eye, she calls me disrespectful because I defend myself, or when she's on a power trip she's always asking questions like why this and why that, but the second I answer her, again she calls me disrespectful. I have never in my life met anyone who lies with out a second thought, she lies without even considering I may already know the truth. The only reason we are living in her house, is because she made it this way, we had our own place, and at the time my boyfriend was already doing his mom a favor by working in her restaurant. Then all her businesses were failing, and she went bitching to him, and the next thing I knew she was keeping his paychecks, and only giving him 40$ a month. What the f@#$ is wrong with him your wondering, yeah well me too. There's a lot more going on in this situation, I will spare you the gruesome details, but there's a good chance I will eventually snap. I am mostly Mexican and Italian, and was raised to give respect when it to is given. But we don't take well to dishonor, disloyalty, and distrust very well. This woman is so fixated on appearing to be "wealthy" it's all she cares about. She doesn't think how stupid it looks she's always driving a Benz she can't afford. A closet full of Louie V purses, which she got all for free, writing them off as business expenses, and yet she no longer owns her own store, today she works at a fast food joint, as another employee. I don't get it!!!! How do I avoid the inevitable, I'm tired of letting shit roll off me, she always tries pushing my buttons. I've even considered trying to learn Tagalog, but have no one to teach me. Most of her family is afraid of her, and she picks favorites amongst her kids and grand kids. And my boyfriend is her favorite, ugh it's gross, can you please offer me any advice?

    • profile image


      19 months ago

      How about "kuya"? And is there a feminine word for "kuya"?

    • profile image


      21 months ago

      You have missed 'kuya'

    • profile image

      Gener Pascual 

      3 years ago

      For the Tagalogs, when there are more than one older sister, the eldest is called ate, the second is ditse, the third is sanse and the fourth is ite. When there are more than one older brother, the eldest is called kuya, the second is diko and the third is sangko.

    • Delight100 profile image


      6 years ago

      Lovely to meet you :) walang anoman :)

    • precy anza profile imageAUTHOR

      precy anza 

      6 years ago from USA

      Yes Delight, I am :) Welcome to Hubpages! Thanks for stopping by :)

    • Delight100 profile image


      6 years ago

      Hi prezy anza, I am sure ur a Filipina. This is great article to show the world what Filipino made of. Proud to be Pinoy .

    • precy anza profile imageAUTHOR

      precy anza 

      7 years ago from USA

      Thanks Vinaya :)

    • precy anza profile imageAUTHOR

      precy anza 

      7 years ago from USA

      Yup. Heard cases when young kids doesn't do this anymore.

    • Vinaya Ghimire profile image

      Vinaya Ghimire 

      7 years ago from Nepal

      Cultural anthropology is one of my favorite subjects. This is a wonderful culture article.Thanks for sharing.

    • RGB1961 profile image


      7 years ago from United Kingdom

      It's great to read articles like this, reminds me of my roots and how values have changed so much these days. Respect for your elders has become a forgotten art, and I am afraid that this is not just in the homeland, but all over the world.


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