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Understanding Filipino Business Culture


If you work with Filipino colleagues or clients, then getting to know the culture will really help.

Although Filipinos are very worldly and au fait with working with foreigners, as with any people, they have a certain way of doing things.

They have communication preferences, unspoken working practices and unwritten rules that, if not properly understood, can create challenges when collaborating with foreigners.

A good way of getting to know a culture better is by first understanding the values that shape it.

Why are Filipino values important in business?

The Philippines is a conservative country. As a result, the people prioritise tradition, especially around morals, conventions and values.

By understanding the values that shape preferences, behaviours and protocols, it becomes easier to see their influence in other areas of society – such as the business world.

Filipino business culture is unique and needs understanding in context.


What are the key Filipino values in business?

The important values that shape Filipino business culture are the same as those prioritised in wider society.

Across the world, we all share common values such as fairness, honesty, loyalty and respect. However, in all cultures, you’ll find differences in terms of how people prioritise those values in their lives.

The 3 values that we are going to focus on are: reliance on God, relationships and face. There are naturally many more that could be explored.

1. Reliance on God

The majority of Filipinos are Roman Catholic and most people take their religion very seriously.

People attend church regularly, Christian holidays and celebrations are observed, devotions are offered rigorously and Bible groups are held in workplaces.

This reliance on God is also expressed in the concept of ‘Bahala na’, which is one of the most widely used phrases in the Philippines.

Although there’s no direct translation in English, it means something akin to “God Willing” and broadly speaking is a fatalistic understanding that what will be, will be and that everything is in God’s hands.

In business, this sense of fatalism means that people are expected to be flexible, adaptable and able to go with the flow.


2. Relationships & the Family

The Philippines is a relationship-orientated country.

The most important source of an individual’s sense of belonging and togetherness tends to come from one’s family, the most valued social unit in the country.

The family unit is so important that ultimate priority is often given to family obligations and needs. As such, it’s unlikely that Filipinos would refuse to accommodate the needs of their families and, where necessary, these needs may even trump work or other demands.

Although family members are given ultimate priority, great value is also placed on the maintenance of harmonious relationships within one’s broader group or network. These groups tend to be found in the workplace, social setting, sports or education arena.

In business, Filipinos tend to lean towards harmony and avoid conflict. As such, you’re unlikely to see people become visibly angry with each other.


3. Saving Face

Face is very important in Filipino culture, with people placing great value on their sense of self-respect, reputation and dignity.

Understanding the importance of this cultural nuance is essential as relationships are vulnerable to damage when foreigners fail to recognise it.

The concept of Face in the Philippines can be expressed through Hiya.

  • Hiya essentially means a sense of shame and Filipinos tend to consider it important that people take care to not cause shame in any way.
  • Although this value plays out in many ways, on a basic level it might stop someone from asking for help, or from saying that they haven’t understood something in case they look foolish.
  • To be considered lacking hiya is almost sinful. One of the greatest accusations is to be told that you are walang-hiya or shameless.

When doing business with or working with Filipinos, you will see these values manifest in many ways. In conversations, during meetings, in emails and during negotiations.

By understanding the roots of the culture in the form of values, you can better interpret and respond to Filipino working practices.

Philippines cultural awareness course


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