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Who Are We

Who Are We


The Philippines is the third largest English speaking country in the world. It has a rich history combining Asian, European, and American influences. Prior to Spanish colonization in 1521, the Filipinos had a rich culture and were trading with the Chinese and the Japanese. Spain’s colonization brought about the construction of Intramuros in 1571, a “Walled City” comprised of European buildings and churches, replicated in different parts of the archipelago. In 1898, after 350 years and 300 rebellions, the Filipinos, with leaders like Jose Rizal and Emilio Aguinaldo, succeeded in winning their independence.

In 1898, the Philippines became the first and only colony of the United States. Following the Philippine-American War, the United States brought widespread education to the islands. Filipinos fought alongside Americans during World War II, particularly at the famous battle of Bataan and Corregidor which delayed Japanese advance and saved Australia. They then waged a guerilla war against the Japanese from 1941 to 1945. The Philippines regained its independence in 1946.

Filipinos are a freedom-loving people, having waged two peaceful, bloodless revolutions against what were perceived as corrupt regimes. The Philippines is a vibrant democracy, as evidenced by 12 English national newspapers, 7 national television stations, hundreds of cable TV stations, and 2,000 radio stations.

Filipinos are a fun-loving people. Throughout the islands, there are fiestas celebrated everyday and foreign guests are always welcome to their homes.


The Filipino is basically of Malay stock with a sprinkling of Chinese, American, Spanish, and Arab blood. The Philippines has a population of over 100 million people as of 2016, 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. Hospitality is a common denominator in the Filipino character and this is what distinguishes the Filipino. Filipinos are probably one of the few, if not the only, English-proficient Oriental people today. Pilipino is the official national language, with English considered as the country’s unofficial one.

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. The Philippines has more than 111 dialects spoken, owing to the subdivisions of these basic regional and cultural groups.

The country is marked by a true blend of cultures; truly in the Philippines, East meets West. The background of the people is Indonesian and Malay. There are Chinese and Spanish elements as well. The history of American rule and contact with merchants and traders culminated in a unique blend of East and West, both in the appearance and culture of the Filipinos, or people of the Philippines.

Hospitality, a trait displayed by every Filipino, makes these people legendary in Southeast Asia. Seldom can you find such hospitable people who enjoy the company of their Western visitors. Perhaps due to their long association with Spain, Filipinos are emotional and passionate about life in a way that seems more Latin than Asian.
The Spaniards introduced Christianity (the Roman Catholic faith) and succeeded in converting the overwhelming majority of Filipinos. At least 83% of the total population belongs to the Roman Catholic faith.

The American occupation was responsible for teaching the Filipino people the English language. The Philippines is currently the third-largest English speaking country in the world.


Predominantly Christian.
Catholics – 82.9%
Protestants – 5.4%
Islam – 4.6%
Philippine Independent Church – 2.6%
Iglesia ni Cristo – 2.3%

Historically, the Filipinos have embraced two of the great religions of the world – Islam and Christianity. Islam was introduced during the 14th century shortly after the expansion of Arab commercial ventures in Southeast Asia. Today, it is limited to the southern region of the country.

Christianity was introduced as early as the 16th century with the coming of Ferdinand Magellan in 1521.

Protestantism was introduced by the first Presbyterian and Methodist missionaries who arrived with the American soldiers in 1899.

Two Filipino independent churches were organized at the turn of the century and are prominent today. These are the Aglipay (Philippine Independent Church) and the Iglesia Ni Kristo (Church of Christ) founded in 1902 and 1914, respectively. Recently the Aglipay signed a covenant with the Anglican Church. The Iglesia ni Kristo has expanded its membership considerably. Its churches, with their unique towering architecture, are landmarks in almost all important towns, provincial capitals, and major cities.


The major cultural agencies of government are the Cultural Center of the Philippines, the National Historical Institute, the National Museum, The National Library, the Records Management and Archives Office, and the Commission on the Filipino Language. The Heads of these cultural agencies are all ex-officio members of the NCCA Board and all except the Commission on the Filipino Language are together under the National Commission on Culture and Arts.



Two official languages — Filipino and English. Filipino which is based on Tagalog, is the national language. English is also widely used and is the medium of instruction in higher education. Eight (8) major dialects spoken by majority of the Filipinos: Tagalog, Cebuano, Ilocano, Hiligaynon or Ilonggo, Bicol, Waray, Pampango, and Pangasinense. Filipino is the native language which is used nationally as the language of communication among ethnic groups. Like any living language, Filipino is in a process of development through loans from Philippine languages and non-native languages for various situations, among speakers of different social backgrounds, and for topics for conversation and scholarly discourse. There are about 76 to 78 major language groups, with more than 500 dialects.



Tagalog speakers in the Philippines have many ways of greeting other people. It is common also to hear them say “Hi” or “Hello” as a form of greeting, especially among close friends. There are no Tagalog translations for these English greetings because they are basically borrowed terms, and any English-speaking person will be readily understood by Filipinos in general (Yes, Virginia and Joe, English is widely spoken in the Philippines, a former colony of the US of A for nearly 50 years!). Below are a few Tagalog greetings that are importart to learn if one wants to endear himself/herself to Filipinos.

Magandang umaga po. (formal/polite) – Good morning
Magandang umaga. (informal) – Good morning

Magandang tanghali po. (formal/polite) – Good noon
Magandang tanghali. (informal) – Good noon

Magandang hapon po. (formal/polite) – Good afternoon
Magandang hapon. (informal) – Good afternoon

Magandang gabi po. (formal/polite) – Good evening
Magandang gabi. (informal) – Good evening

Kumusta po kayo? (formal/polite) – How are you?
Kumusta ka? (informal) – How are you?

Mabuti po naman. (formal/polite) – I’m fine
Mabuti naman. (informal) – I’m fine

Tuloy po kayo. (formal/polite) – Please, come in
Tuloy. (informal) – Please, come in

Salamat po. (formal/polite) – Thank you
Salamat. (informal) – Thank you

Maraming salamat po. (formal/polite) – Thank you very much
Maraming salamat. (informal) – Thank you very much

Wala pong anuman. (formal/polite) – You are welcome
Walang anuman. (informal) – You are welcome

Opo/ oho. (formal/polite) – Yes
Oo (informal) – Yes

Hindi po/ho (formal/polite) – No
Hindi (informal) – No

Hindi ko po/ho alam. (formal/polite) – I don’t know
Hindi ko alam. (informal) – I don’t know

Anong oras na po? (formal/polite) – What time is it?
Anong oras na? (informal) – What time is it?

Saan po kayo papunta? (formal/polite) – Where are you going?
Saan ka papunta? (informal) – Where are you going?

Saan po kayo galing? (formal/polite) – Where did you come from?
Saan ka galing? (informal) – Where did you come from?

Ano po ang pangalan nila? (formal/polite) – What is your name?
Anong pangalan mo? (informal) – What is your name?

Ako po si ________ (formal/polite) – I am ______ (name).
Ako si _________ (informal) – I am ______ (name).

Ilang taon na po kayo? (formal/polite) – How old are you?
Ilang taon ka na? (informal) – How old are you?

Ako po ay _______ gulang na. (formal/polite) – I am _______ years old.
Ako ay _______ gulang na. (informal) – I am _______ years old.

Saan po kayo nakatira? (formal/polite) – Where do you live?
Saan ka nakatira? (informal) – Where do you live?

Taga saan po sila? (formal/polite) – Where are you from?
Taga saan ka? (informal) – Where are you from?

Kumain na po ba sila? (formal/polite) – Have you eaten yet?
Kumain ka na ba? (informal) – Have you eaten yet?

Below is a list of Tagalog words and phrases used in giving or asking for directions.

deretso – straight ahead
(sa) kanan – on the right
(sa) kaliwa – on the left
umikot – turn around
(sa) harap – in front
(sa) likod/likuran – at the back/behind
hilaga – north
silangan – east
kanluran – west
timog – south
(sa) itaas – on top
(sa) ibaba – below/at the bottom
(sa) ilalim – at the bottom
(sa) loob – inside
(sa) labas – outside

There are a number of Tagalog words and phrases which are rather vague in terms of specific distance but signify “nearness” or “farness” of a particular object, thing, or place from the speaker. These are:

doon – yonder (over there)
diyan lang po sa tabi – there, on that side
sa banda po doon – over on that side


Below is a list of Tagalog question words with their corresponding meanings and examples in English.

Ano? – What?
Alin? – Which?
Sino? – Who?
Saan? – Where?
Bakit? – Why?
Kailan? – When?
Paano?/Papaano? – How?
Magkano? – How much? (money)
Nasaan? – Where? (to look for something/somebody)