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Philippines - Culture overview


The Philippines has developed a mixed culture from the blending of foreign influences with native elements. Today some of the isolated tribes are the only people whose culture remains unadulterated by earlier Muslim and later Spanish and American influences.

Although traditional theatre, literature and kundimans (love songs) in the national language have experienced a resurgence since Cory Aquino's People Power movement, visitors are more likely to witness beauty contests, lurid soap operas, violent and sentimental Filipino movies, and local bands perfectly imitating Western pop tunes.

About 10% of Filipinos (the so-called cultural minority groups or tribal Filipinos) retain their traditional culture. There are some 60 ethnological groups, ranging from the Badjao of the Sulu archipelago, who are sea gypsies, to the head-hunting Kalinga north of Bontoc.

The Philippines is one of the only Christian countries in Asia. Over 90% of the population claim to follow Christian faiths. The largest of the minority religious groups is the Muslims, who live chiefly on Mindanao and in the Sulu archipelago. There is also a Philippine Independence Church, some Buddhists, and a small number of animists.

The geography and history of the Philippines have conspired to produce a multiplicity of languages, some 80 dialects in total. The concept of a national language developed after the Spanish-American War in 1898 and Tagalog was declared the national language in 1936. There were several other contenders for this role, including Cebuano, Hiligaynon and Ilocano. A compromise reached in 1973 confirmed Pilipino as the national language. This is based on Tagalog, but has linguistic elements of other Philippine languages. Despite this, English remains the language of commerce and politics in the Philippines.

Filipino cuisine has Chinese, Malay and Spanish influences. Popular morning and afternoon snacks are called merienda, and pulutan (small morsels) are served with alcoholic drinks. Barbecued sticks of meat or seafood are popular evening snacks. Standard dishes, always served with rice, include meat and vegetables cooked with vinegar and garlic, grilled grouper (or groper), meat stews and a huge variety of soups: rice, noodle, beef, chicken, liver, offal and sour vegetable. Side dishes include strips of unripened papaya, fermented fish or shrimp paste and bite-sized pieces of crispy pig skin. Halo-halo is a dessert made from crushed ice mixed with fruit preserves, sweet corn, young coconut and various tropical delights, topped with a wad of crème caramel and a scoop of ice-cream..

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