Lifestyle Traditions of the Pacific

Painting by Filipina artist Ana Marie Goy

My recent trip to the Philippines was so rich with inspiration. From the hustle and bustle of city life in Manila to the calm traditions on the remote island of Camiguin, my journey to try and discover the hearts of this amazing, unpretentious region and it’s people began. Like most island nations, the natural resources become ingrained into the culture and aesthetics, and the arrival of  other nations through their history also help shape the mindsets for each generation. Here is just a glimpse of what I discovered.

The Philippines is an archipelago made up of  7,107 islands in the western Pacific Ocean. Multiple ethncities make up the history of the Filipino from their Negrito background in prehistoric times  to influences in Malayan, Hindu, and Islamic cultures. Chinese influence came later as well as the predominant influence from Spain with the arrival of Ferdinand Magellan. Spanish brought Christianity to the Filipinos which is one of the most important aspects of their culture and values. The 19th and 20th century brought about the occupation of the United States until the end of World War II when the Philippines was awarded their Independence. They remain a close ally with the United States with English being taught as their national language along with Tagalog, and a democracy government.

Visiting the capital city of Manila was definitely an adventure. Cultural diversity is found throughout since this is the main hub to many importers. The multitude of islands create variety of different micro-cultures and languages within the Filipino culture. In the cities is where you can start to recognize the subtlies among the people where clashes can begin. The juxtaposing of the modern skyscrapers and the shanty towns clearly show their history of economic and political turmoils. Abandoned buildings in construction look like skeletons of past dictatorships and contribute to the sense of hopelessness that is felt here as their government work to gain control and focus.

The colorful “jeepneys” are considered the countries public transportation system and a must experience for any visitor.  Similar to those found in India and South America, these colorful and outrageously decorated vehicles contain the national graffiti which shows personal messages and impressions.

Away from the city, you find the indigenous Nipa hut, otherwise known as “bahay kubo” which symbolize the architecture of the Philippines. Similar to other Pacific islands, building materials are what grows around them. Bamboo helps provide structure and finishes, and nipa or anahaw are used to make thatched roofs and wove for walls, rugs, and textiles. More modern structures incorporate concrete block to add strength in a region of prevalent hurricanes. Also see the article “Textures from the Philippines” article.

I can’t end without mentioning the most important and notable aspects of the Philippines, its food and its people. Both go together because of the cultural friendliness and mutual respect for all people seen with the simple act of sharing their meals and daily practices with everyone they meet. One can not get the full experience of the Philippines in just one visit. The diversity goes beyond the obvious and deserves another look as we look to the future.

See related articles:

Designers of the Philippines Today

Textures of the Philippines

Lessons from a Filipino Pooch

Filed Under: The Art of Dwelling


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