Posts Tagged ‘Philippine honorifics’

Philippine Honorifics and Culture 101


Hello ! Renxkyoko Iglesias here. * waves *

Today is Good Friday. For Catholics, it’s Fasting and Abstinence aka meatless day. Catholics used to actually fast the whole day ( no eating the whole day ) but I guess no one follows this tradition anymore. But It’s still meatless day today , so, yeah, we’re having fish for dinner. ( which is nothing special, come to think of it. In our household, we eat fish all the time ) In fact, we don’t eat meat for 3 days during the Holy Week; Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Black Saturday.

I live in a liberal household that is, at the same time, very much steeped in religious and cultural traditions that are very Filipino. We’ve retained what is good, and does not harm others. Such as ?, you ask. Well, the whole family attend the Christmas Eve Midnight Mass, after which we have dinner , a midnight dinner we call Noche Buena. And like most Asians, we use honorifics even here in the US. In fact, the use of honorifics in Philippine culture is mandatory. Not using a honorific is rude and disrespectful

and reveals to others that said person has not been taught good manners and right conduct by the parents. For example, young people do not use the singular pronoun YOU in addressing a much older person or one with a higher “status” . It has nothing to do with subservience, bondage and inequality. It simply conveys respect. This is similar to addressing a judge ” Your honor “, instead of YOU.

The Philippine word that is equal in meaning and usage in the English lamguage of the word YOU is the singular pronoun IKAW. (pronounced ee-kaw ) IKAW is used only to address a person younger, same age, slightly older, or someone of similar or lower level in status. Otherwise, the plural pronoun of YOU or IKAW , which is KAYO, ( pronounced kah-yoh )is used. There’s no equivalent plural pronoun for YOU in the English language. In other words, English speakers use YOU to speak to a 5 year old kid and to a 90 year old aunt.

Philippine conversations are also interpersed with the word PO when speaking to an older person , and someone of much higher status.  They don’t say directly NO to an older person. ( HINDI is No in Philippine language ). They say HINDI PO.

I know it’s a bit disconcerting that I seem to give undue emphasis on social status. It may seem like that, but it’s not , really. There’s no institutionalized caste system in the Philippines, although I have to admit, albeit reluctantly, to the ever-present class system …..but, it exists all over the world, doesn’t it, even here in the US . As they say, the rich are different from you and me. That said, age still takes precedence over status. A 30 year old manager will never use Ikaw ( singular YOU ) when speaking to a 60 year old company janitor. He will also use “po” and use some honorific title like “Manong ” before the name, as a sign of respect for his age. It’s similar to Mister, but not quite. There’s a tad more respect in Philippine honorific. I myself use honorific titles on my elders. I call my older brother KUYA Bert and my older sister ATE Jenny, or just Kuya and Ate . ( pronounced Koo-ya and Ah-teh , meaning, older brother, older sister ). Funny thing is, last night, my sister’s boyfriend ( a white guy ) just hollered ” Ren, your Ate is calling you.” Ha ha . He used the term correctly. The use of the term gives it more authority, and that means, I have to do her bidding , pronto. Of course I ignored it, he he. I was watching something interesting on TV. You know, I will teach my future kids to call their older siblings Ate and Kuya, and teach them this sweet traditional  Philippine gesture, too ———–>


And my kid will then say, ” Mano po, Lola.” ( Your) hand, Grandma …….and it will be so cute  even if my American kid will pronounce it as ” Manow pow, Lowla.”

In South Korea, older brother is Oppa and older sister is Onee-chan ( not sure… I think that’s Japanese ).., Speaking of which, what is that  idiot pres. of North Korea , Kim Jing Un thinking, with his bellicose threats and saber rattlings, by declaring a “state of war”  againts South Korea and threatening the US with nuclear missiles?  Does he know what our  B-2 Stealth bombers  can do, and that  60% of  US military forces are now  being  deployed  to the Pacific?  Does he know South Korea can obliterate them with their K-Pop boy bands, Gungnam style?  Pfffft !

I’m blabbering . Guess  I have to say bye now. .  My next post  is my tour of France.

PS…. I’m having second thoughts on this post. I find it such a total snooze.  But this is not random.  My  Ate Jenny ‘s BF  even wants me to call him Kuya.  Aaaarrgh. I cringe.

Bye . Stay cool.  France tour is next. * clicks Publish *