Every immigrant’s culture has a unique aspect that can never be disregarded wherever they are in the world. In this Remitbee Culture series, we will share with you some outstanding features of a certain culture to help us understand our fellow immigrants. In this article, we will talk about a verbal respect phrase that is part of the Philippine culture.
In the Philippines, there is a high regard for social hierarchy based on age. When you meet someone for the first time and it’s not too obvious through physical appearance if he/she is older than you, it is already expected that the age will be asked. Finding out someone’s age will determine how you will address and speak to the other person. It is generally not acceptable to call someone just by their first name if they are older than you by 2 years or more. Filipinos would add a word before the first name to show respect to anyone older than them.
Some very basic and common words for showing respect are po and opo. They both basically mean “yes” in a respectful way but used differently in sentences. Po is interjected in any sentence to make it respectful when talking to someone older or to a person in authority. So instead of just plainly saying “Salamat” (thank you), you must say “Salamat po” or “Thank you po” to make it polite. Po is also used when answering if an older person is calling them. So when someone calls “Maria! Maria!” the younger one would usually answer “Po?” which is a polite way of saying “Yes?” or “Why?” On the other hand, Opo is used to answer questions that have something to do with actions. When someone is asked if he has received the remittance and his answer is yes, he would say “Opo” because that’s the polite version of “oo” (yes) in the Philippine language.
Respect for elders is important in Filipino culture. Why not try using these words the next time you meet an elderly Filipino in Canada? They will surely be amazed and will respect you well in return.
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