Category Archives: Filipino Practices

Filipino Practices

Filipino Lip Pointing: The Whys and Hows

I am Filipina, and I’ve lived most of my life in the Philippines. When I married an American, I discovered that some things I do which have always been so natural to me are new and sometimes even weird to my husband.  One of these is the Filipino practice of lip pointing.  I don’t know when I acquired this trait.  It could be I got it while I was still in my Filipino mother’s womb, and  was lip pointing from the day I was born.  But what I do know is all Filipinos, at least those who have grown up in the Philippines or raised by Filipino parents abroad, perform this gesture on a regular basis.

Filipino lip pointing is actually more than just a simple puckering up. First there’s eye-to-eye contact, followed by variations of lip pursing, combined with a eyebrow, head and neck action, the execution of which all depends on the intention of the pointer.  Non-Filipinos who have observed this gesture find it confusing, and sometimes hilarious.  Foreigners should be wary of this practice.  A Filipina puckering her lips doesn’t necessarily mean she’s asking for a kiss.  She could just be pointing to something on your shoulder.  She might slap you in the face, if you misinterpret.

One of the most common reasons for lip pointing is to give quick directions, of which explaining verbally would take a longer time.  So, if you’re at a mall, and you ask a Filipino who’s carrying grocery bags up to his arms where the rest room is, he might purse his lips then extend his neck to the direction of the restroom in one smooth action.  Or he would purse his lips, lift his head up, and turn it to his left, which means: walk straight ahead, and make a left turn at the next corner. A head bobble before the head lift would mean pass two aisles down before making a left. If he over extends his neck, bends a bit, and stretches his lips outward, it means you’ve got a farther ways to walk.

Another reason why a Filipino would do this gesture is to instruct you to do something.  So when a Filipino carrying large boxes looks at you and purses his lips towards a door knob, it’s a sign for you to open the door.  When that’s combined that with several short and quick head bobbles, it means, “Hurry up!”

Or it could be they’re trying to be discrete, like silently informing you that your fly is open without making it known to other people around you. (This one is usually a slight but quick lip purse, a slight bob of the head, and lifting of both eyebrows.)  Or it could also be that it’s too noisy (not uncommon in the Philippines),  and giving verbal instructions is just futile and hand gestures disadvantageous. Like stealthily lip pointing to you the last available seat in a rock concert.

There are just so many reasons why Filipinos do this gesture.  Here’s a hilarious clip from a Filipino American Christine Gambito, aka “Happy Slip”, which show some of the funnier reasons.

My American husband and I have been married for almost 9 years now, and lived in the Philippines for more than 3 years.  I’ve tried teaching him how to interpret these lip pointing gestures, and how to do them correctly. He still sometimes shakes his head in confusion.  It’s so entertaining to see him do it. It’s just so funny to see an American pucker up at nothing.  Ay, naku!


Why we don’t have our children’s “yayas” or nannies to wear a uniform

I have seen families with their children’s “yaya” or nanny at malls and other public places.  And sometimes, the yayas wear a uniform. Both my two very young children have their own yaya.   But I and my husband would never have our yayas wear such an attire at public places, or even at home.

Some people will disagree with me, but I think having a nanny wear a uniform is degrading.  It’s true that there’s a great divide between our income and theirs, and that we have more education than they do.  But we have always considered our nannies as part of our family, to be cared for by us and our children, as they take care of us.  To us, making them wear a uniform in public would be like making us look better at their expense.  It is, at the least, a sign of insecurity on the part of the employer, and at the worst, discriminatory.

I do have certain rules on what the nannies could wear whether at home or outside.  No skimpy outfits, short shorts, tube tops.  But these are also rules I would impose on my own daughter.  And we do make sure they’re clothed well.  We shop for them for new clothes, and buy them proper attires for events like weddings.

Everyone is entitled to his / her opinion.  Some would say that a uniform actually makes nannies look dignified.  But still I would discourage anyone from having the nanny wear a uniform at public places for this reason: Most often, it’s the very wealthy who do this practice.  Having a uniform-wearing nanny with you while in the mall or other public places would make you more visible, and could make criminals think that you  have lots of money too. You and your family are more likely to be a victim of pickpocketing, or grand theft auto as robber follow you to the parking lot, or be seriously injured from a confrontation, than if you drew less attention to yourself and blend in with the crowd.

What to do when a driver blinks his headlights at you

A Filipino driver flashed me and my daughter while we were crossing the street. I’m not referring to the flashing that could get one arrested for indecent exposure back in the US.  This is a more shocking, more annoying, more rude, more uncivilized, more indecent gesture than someone popping in front of you to bare his privates.

This is how it happened to me. I started crossing the street towards SM City Fairview Mall coming from the mall’s parking lot.  I was also pushing a stroller with my baby daughter in it. I was almost halfway across the street, when I saw an oncoming car.   The driver and I had eye contact, but instead of slowing down, he actually sped up.  Unbelievable!  So I paced faster.  And then, he flashed his high beam headlights at me, and sped up even more, as if saying “Run! Get out of my way!”  I had to run. If I didn’t, I would have gotten hit. Seriously.  It’s unconscionable – to put a mom and her daughter’s life in danger just to save a few seconds of their time.

This is not an isolated incident.  This happens all time. To me, to my American husband, to my senior citizen parents, to other cars, to disabled people on wheelchairs, to everybody.  This “flashing” is the new way that drivers honk their horns.  And if you are unaware of it, you might think that the driver is just testing if his headlights are working.  Before you know it, you’re seriously injured or worse dead.  So, before you become a headline like: Expat dies at hit and run, be forewarned.

I’m guessing that this trend started, like most Filipino bad habits and practices had started, when one speeding driver flashed his lights at a pedestrian or another driver to warn them. Then pretty soon, other drivers, who could also be victims of this act, caught on as they found it an effective method for others to give them way.  It’s like “paying forward” but in a negative way.

I’m infuriated at what happened to me, but at the same time saddened that this is the true state of affairs in the Philippines. It is a subtle yet clear indication that Filipino values and traditional practices of hospitality, bayanihan (working together) and pagbibigayan (sharing / giving way) are slowly disappearing.  Now, it’s kanya-kanya (every man for himself). In addition, there is so much pressure to go with the flow. So far (and I can say this straight-faced), my husband has resisted flashing.  And I’m sure he will continue resisting it, because that’s just his character, and also to be a good example to our children.