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The truth behind ‘tatak Pinoy’ traits

They say you’re Filipino if you love basketball. Or if you respond to calls like “Hoy!” or “Psst!”

On its third anniversary episode, GMA News TV’s myth-busting program “I JUANder” listed down traits widely-accepted as Filipino and explored its origins. Are these traits truly ours, or are they just influenced by outside cultures brought by colonization and eventually, globalization?

Filipinos love their fiestas

In the Philippines, more than 1,000 towns have their own fiestas, from celebrating patron saints (Viva Pit Senyor!) to fruits (Lanzones festival, anyone?).

According to Mona Lisa Quizon of the National Historical Commission of the Philippines, fiestas are influenced by the Spaniards but were only held to honor the saints and to celebrate other religious activities.

Interestingly, because Filipinos loved the fiestas so much, the Spaniards saw it as a way of indoctrinating non-Christian natives to their fold. “Isa itong paraan ng pananakop,” said historian Lito Nunag from the University of the Philippines-Diliman. “Kailangan magpiyesta. Sa labas ng poblacion, nakikita ng mga tao na masaya at makulay sa loob, kaya naeengganyo silang pumasok doon at manirahan.”

Filipinos’ love affair with basketball

In basketball, height is might, but this doesn’t stop the generally vertically-challenged Pinoys to play basketball in every nook and cranny of this country. At the government-sponsored court, out in the streets, and even under the tree – sometimes wearing only tsinelas and sometimes none – we will play ball.

“Magaling tayong mag-adapt,” said Quizon. “Ginagamit natin kung anong resources ang mayroon tayo.”

Basketball, of course, is taught to us by the Americans. But fun fact: the Americans first taught basketball to girls!

Filipinos and their bathroom essentials

Is using tabo uniquely Pinoy?

Not quite, according to Nunag.

Aside from the fact that Southeast Asian countries also use a dipper, the tabo was actually brought to us by the Americans. This bathroom essential was back then called the sartin.

“Malayo masyado ‘yung pinagmumulan ng tubig so mayroon [ang Filipino na] sartin. Kaysa tumayo sila papunta roon para maghugas ng kamay, ang sartin ang ipapaikot para maka-save ng time at tubig,” explained Nunag.

What about using stones as soap?

Now this bathroom ritual is uniquely Pinoy. Houses of natives were then built near the river systems where they get their food. Since soap hadn’t reach our shores yet, our ancestors used the smooth stones they found in the banks to scrub themselves with.


Pagmamano is the Pinoy’s way of showing respect to his or her elders. This custom, according to UP-Diliman anthropologist Dr. Gonzalo Campoamor, was influenced by the Spaniards.

“Roman Catholic [ang roots] niyan,” he said. “‘Yung mga tao noon, lalo na noong middle ages, kailangang humalik sa singsing ng pari. Na-appropriate na natin iyon.”

Pagbilan po!

The sari-sari store system was started by the Chinese. “Marami ito noong 1960’s. Ang sari-sari store noon, ang nagtitinda mga Chinese,” said pop culture expert Dr. Gerald Abergos.

The stores stayed on and started popping up in every barangay because it’s a cheaper alternative for Filipinos. Unlike in groceries where goods are sold in larger containers and quantities, at sari-sari stores, you can opt to buy products per piece, making it cheaper.

“Kapos [ang mga Pinoy] sa budget kaya paunti-unti lang ang binibili. Kadalasan kasi mas mura ang paninda sa sari-sari stores,” said Marot Flores, a Philippine Studies expert from UP-Diliman. “[Halimbawa] ang purchasing power ng daily wage earners, hindi kaya ng isang manggagawa na bumili nang bulko-bulko.”

“Psst!” “Hoy!”

How did these Pinoy ways of calling someone’s attention come about?

According to linguist expert Raquel Espiritu, the use of “psst” and “hoy” can be attributed to the sing-song theory, a theory that explains how mimicking sounds helped in developing languages.

“Ang mga ninuno natin mahilig kumanta, mahilig humimig, at kabilang sa kanilang hinihimig ang “psst!” she explained. “Ang wika nila noon ay hindi pa ganoong kaunlad kaya kapag may tinatawag naman sila, “Hoy!” — Bernice Sibucao/Graphics by Isabelle Laureta/CM, GMA News