Filipino Culture: Showing Respect to Elders
Like in many other Asian countries, people in the Philippines show their respect to the elder population with certain gestures and honorifics they use before the person's name. Calling someone older than you by their first name is considered impolite and rude. If you've ever been to the Philippines, you've probably noticed Filipinos addressing anyone older than them using a word before their first name.
Respectful Ways to Say 'Yes' and 'No'
Some of the most common words for showing respect in a Filipino household are po and opo. Both basically mean "yes" in a respectful way, rather than just saying oo, or yes normally.
For a better understanding of how to use po and opo and to learn the difference between the two, look at 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". If you are called by someone older than you (such as your mom, dad, uncle, auntie, or an elderly neighbor), you should answer po.
- Example: If an elderly person calls"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 basic questions such as why, when, who, which and what, or when answering a yes or no question from someone older. Ex. "Jasmin, have you seen your brother?" Saying "Hindi" means "No." To answer politely, they would say 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.
- "Have you eaten? It's already lunch time." Answering with "Oo" means "Yes," but answering "Opo" would be the polite way.
But aside from using po and opo, there are other ways Filipinos show respect when speaking to someone older.
Words Used to Show Respect
This is used to show respect to an older sister. The younger siblings should address or call their older sister ate. If there is more than one older female sister, the younger ones would call the older siblings "ate____(name).
Example: If the youngest, 12 years old, is relating to her mom about the fun she had with her two older sisters, she 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.
Itay, Tatay, and Papa
Although some Filipinos call their parents dad and mom, there are still quite a few names for 'dad' that show respect. Itay, tatay, and papa all mean dad and are used by the siblings to call or address their dad.
In the case of stepfather, they are also shown respect by being addressed as itay, tatay, papa, or daddy, sometimes followed by their first names.
For example, a young boy might address his stepdad as, "Tatay Manny" or "Papa Manny."
Inay, Nanay, or Mama
Just like with dads, substantial families or those who really are wealthy usually addressed as mom or mommy. Another percentage of Filipino children address their moms as inay, nanay or mama.
Similarly to stepfathers, stepmothers, Filipino kids address 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 are also cases where Filipinos call their stepmothers tita.
Tita is also used to show respect to people outside of the family. I do this myself. I address my mom's coworkers and friends as tita, like "Tita Fhil". Another example would be when my friend comes over to my house and addresses my mom as tita.
Uncle, or Tito
Children or siblings used this to address their parents' brothers. There's a bit of difference between uncle and tito, though 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 who's close in age to his parents. But if there's a small age gap, between the kid and his uncle, the 14-year-old would probably prefer to call his mother's younger brother as tito.
Lola and Lolo
Lola means grandma and lolo means grandpa. This is how Filipino children address their 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 elders.
Ninang and Ninong
Ninang, which means godmother, and ninong, which means godfather, are 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 see ninang and ninong and they gave me presents."
Children and young adults use mang before the name as a sign of respect to males older than them in their town or neighborhood.
Use before the first name of an older female as a sign of respect—if you know their name. If not, ale is used to address a stranger. Ale is pronounced ah-le, and it is the female counterpart of mang. For example:
- I saw Aleng Mae and Mang John as I walked home from school. They are new in the neighborhood.
- Aleng Mae owns a mini grocery store on 24th Street.