The Filipino People
The Filipino is basically of Malay stock with a sprinkling of Chinese, American, Spanish, and Arab blood. The Philippines has a population of 96 million (est. as of July 2008), and it is hard to distinguish accurately the lines between stocks. From a long history of Western colonial rule, interspersed with the visits of merchants and traders, evolved a people of a unique blend of east and west, both in appearance and culture.
The Filipino character is actually a little bit of all the cultures put together. The bayanihan or spirit of kinship and camaraderie that Filipinos are famous for is said to be taken from Malay forefathers. The close family relations are said to have been inherited from the Chinese. The piousness comes from the Spaniards who introduced Christianity in the 16th century albeit made uniquely Filipino by the folk piety that usually attends various expressions of the Christian faith. Yet even as the Spaniards succeeded in converting the overwhelming majority of Filipinos to the Roman Catholic faith (at least 83% of the total population), recent estimates show that up to 10% of the population, or some 8 million Filipinos, practice Islam.
The Filipinos are divided geographically and culturally into regions, and each regional group is recognizable by distinct traits and dialects - the sturdy and frugal llocanos of the north, the industrious Tagalogs of the central plains, the carefree Visayans from the central islands, and the colorful tribesmen and religious Moslems of Mindanao. Tribal communities can be found scattered across the archipelago. Owing to the subdivisions of these basic regional and cultural groups, there is great linguistic variety in the Philippines with 175 languages extant throughout the country and at least 9 of these widely used by major segments of the population (namely, Tagalog, Cebuano, Ilokano, Hiligaynon, Waray-Waray, Kapampangan, Chavacano, Bikolano, and Pangasinense).
Hospitality is a common denominator in the Filipino character and this is what distinguishes the Filipino people and makes them the legendary hospitable hosts of Southeast Asia. By far, the hospitality and cheerful disposition of Filipinos is what captivates and charms the foreign visitor about the Philippines. The welcoming character of the Filipino is universally and quite liberally displayed to every foreign visitor regardless of where they are from. Perhaps due to their long association with Spain, Filipinos are often found to be emotion-filled and very passionate about life in a way that seems more Latin than Asian.
The American occupation of the Philippines brought with it the teaching of the English language, and Filipinos have parlayed this aspect of its colonial history into a cultural asset that has made Filipinos arguably the only English-proficient Oriental people at present. The Philippines is the fifth-largest English speaking country in the world, with English considered as the country's preferred language for business and commerce. This makes traveling and doing business in the Philippines all the more convenient for those who bravely venture that far east to discover all these opportunities that await them.
Photo from the Bayanihan National Folk Dance Company.