How to Not Offend a Filipino

We Filipinos are a relatively easygoing bunch. We laugh in the face of hardships, we have perfected the art of surviving the worst, and we take any blow that comes our way, knowing that we can defy the odds no matter what happens. We make do with what we have and we have a knack for improvisation when it’s called for. We have a healthy sense of humor and will be the first ones to laugh at ourselves and our inherent Filipino-ness.

Yet still, there are some things that you can say or do to us that will inevitably piss us off. Chalk it up to a mix of factors for us going all Incredible Hulk all of a sudden, but yeah, we will take offense at incredibly rude or clueless jibes about our food, our looks, our beliefs, and yes, digs about our mothers.

family gathering
Filipino family and friends gathering

Here are some things that you should never say or do to us, lest you really are trying to offend us. Consider yourself warned.

1. Don’t ask us how our English got sooo good.

“You’re Filipino? But your English is sooo good! How did you get so good?” said the native English speaker. Here’s the thing: we start learning English in school at a very early age, and some of us even learn it prior to learning our native tongue. Most of us have fairly neutral (or American) accents due to the fact that we have been westernized since the early 1900’s, and are on a steady diet of American sitcoms, cartoons, novels and comic books. So don’t look at us all big-eyed and slack-jawed and ask us how we’re able to speak like you—it may even be an insult to some educated Filipinos to ask that. We also have the uncanny ability to adapt well to our surroundings, and that includes learning the language and the accent.

2. Don’t ask us if we eat our pets.

“Yo, stay away from my pets you hear?” Har har har. As if we haven’t heard enough of that. OK, let’s get one thing straight—we do not relish turning our pets into viands or munchables that go with a bottle of beer. Now some of us might have done that, and I admit it, but not all of us are ok with it. True story: once when I was little, a few of my uncles were drinking beer and eating something that smelled really good. One of the uncles popped a piece in my mouth and all of them looked at me expectantly, gauging my reaction. When I declared the stuff to be good, they all howled with laughter and gleefully informed me that what I ate was…dog. I turned green, puked, and cried my little eyes out. And this is why I have trust issues. Also, I’m now a vegetarian.

3. Do not call us Flips.

If you thought that that was a shortened version of the word Filipinos, think again. It’s actually an acronym for Foolish (or another F word that I cannot mention here, my mama raised me to be a lady, so excuse me) Little Island People. Call us Pinoys, why don’t you?

4. Don’t say that we aren’t Asians.

Quick, what are the top stereotypes to describe Asians? Good at Math. Great with money. Brains, brains, and brains galore. Somehow, biased people think that these traits are not applicable to us. And the being Asian part is also being contested because of where the country is. Yes, it’s actually an ongoing debate if the Philippines is part of Asia, since some people insist that we are actually Pacific Islanders, and not Asian. Quick geography question though, where is the Philippines located? If you answered Asia, then doesn’t that make us Asians?

I say, enough with the stereotypes already. Are all African American guys good in playing basketball and rapping? Are all Caucasians blonde and blue-eyed? Are all Asians really big nerds? See what I mean?

5. Don’t assume that all we ever do in other countries is work as domestics or nurses or caregivers.

filipina chef
Cristeta Comerford – Filipina chef

Yet again another stereotype. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with being a domestic worker, a nurse or a caregiver, but that’s not all that we can do. There are some of us who are teachers or professors, business owners, chefs, doctors, architects, artists, etc. For instance, Monique Lhuillier, Josie Natori and Rafe Totengco are well-known in the fashion industry. Cristeta Comerford is a chef in the White House, and Melissa dela Cruz is a famous YA novelist.

6. Do not diss my mama’s cooking.

One time, I brought a foreign friend home to eat dinner with us. My mom served chicken adobo that night, which is kind of tame for typical Filipino food. No innards, no blood, no strange spices floating around in there, just plump chicken in a bath of soy sauce, vinegar and garlic served with some fluffy white rice. My friend wrinkled her nose and whispered, “Let’s get outta here, your mom’s food is weird”.

Excuse me? My mom’s food is weird? This coming from a girl who does body shots off men with questionable hygiene? This coming from someone who I once saw eating a whole worm on a dare? Oh no she didn’t!

Instead of smacking her upside the head (which she richly deserves, but I bet my mom wouldn’t like that very much), I explained what the dish was and rattled off the ingredients. She took a piece of chicken and ate a teeny bite. She got this strange look on her face, then she piled on the rice on her plate and got another piece of chicken. I very smugly noted that she had third helpings, which made my mom very happy. Yeah that’s right, Filipino food is awesome, and don’t you forget it.

7. Do not diss my heroes.

I get very protective about my Pinoy heroes. And they’re an odd mix too. First on the list is Manny Pacquiao, the Pound for Pound King and one of the greatest boxers of all time. I’ve had some pals laugh at the way he talks, the way he likes to sing karaoke as frequently seen in various documentaries and occasional guest spots at the Jimmy Kimmel Show, and his new-found relationship with God.

filipino boxer
Manny Pacquiao – Boxing Champ

I dunno, how can you not like a guy who stays humble even if his opponent is trash-talking, and he manages to stay jolly even after various taunts thrown his way? How can you not like a guy who pounds a guy into a pulp yet praises his opponent after a fight and stays gracious even after numerous wins? How can you not like him for trying to make his countrymen’s life better by running for congress and winning, and now he not only helps the poor but he also preaches the Good Word every now and then? The man is the real deal and I will stand by him no matter what.

Another of my heroes is Lea Salonga, the only Filipino to win a Tony Award for her portrayal of Kim in Miss Saigon. She also provided the singing voices of two Disney princesses, Mulan and Princess Jasmine for the movies Mulan and Aladdin respectively. And, she’s known in Broadway as the only one who can do both the characters of Fantine and Eponine well for Les Miserables. She’s fabulous but grounded, talented and intelligent. Love her.

Oh, I’m sure there are a lot more ways to offend us Filipinos but I really don’t want to dwell on all the negativity. Kindness begets kindness, and the operative word here is acceptance. Like I said, we’re an easygoing bunch, and though we have our flaws, we make up for it in many ways. If you ever got to visit, we will offer you the most comfy spot in the house to sleep in. We will entertain you with our ability to sing karaoke and dance like we’re auditioning for So You Think You Can Dance. No doubt about it, you’ll get the red carpet treatment every time you’re a guest in a Pinoy home.

Just don’t make any bad comments about our mom’s cooking and we’re good. OK? And no, most of us won’t, nor will we ever, eat dog for dinner. So chill.

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