10 Social Phenomena That Make the Philippines the Country It Is Today

10 Filipino Social Phenomena

Each country has its own quirks that make its culture completely unique. The Philippines is no different. With thousands of islands and millions of people, it’s no surprise that many social phenomena can be found in the country, all of which contribute to the Pinoy identity. All these Filipino social phenomena make the Philippines the country that it is, and without these things, Pinoy culture would be completely different.

Noteworthy Filipino Social Phenomena

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1. The “My Way” Karaoke Renditions


Filipinos love karaoke. Among the most sung songs is “My Way.” The Frank Sinatra tune is so popular, it has caused a brawl or two.

So what’s with people’s obsession with the song? Pop culture authority Roland B. Tolentino of the University of the Philippines says that “the song itself acts as a trigger for a culture predisposed to violence whenever social rules are broken.”

A fight can occur whenever there is a breach of karaoke etiquette like not passing the microphone, laughing at the singer, singing a song badly, etc. The lyrics of “My Way” and the fact that it is sung in a bar where a lot of alcohol is being served will give you the recipe for disaster. It has become one of the Filipino social phenomena that will forever be attached to us Pinoys. (Whether it’s a good thing or not, no one can tell.)

2. The Aswang Phenomenon


The aswang is known throughout the country. During the Spanish period, the aswang was described as having horns and wings, very much like the European depiction of the devil. The home of the aswang is Capiz.

The myth of the aswang is still alive today because it is more about the concept of an evil spirit instead of an actual monster. The Filipinos think of the aswang as the country’s social evil. It is more symbolic of social evil than a real monster that harms people, making it one of the Filipino social phenomena that have greater impact on people than what most think.

3. The Mistress


While this is not limited only to Philippine culture, it is known that Filipino men have been having mistresses dating back to the Spanish era where they promoted a machismo culture.

Before being colonized, native Filipinos practiced concubinage. Each ethnic group had their own term for mistress. The Tagalogs would call them kalunya, kaagulo, or kaapid. The Spanish colonizers did try to stop the practice, but since it couldn’t be stopped, they went ahead and indulged in it themselves, which led to the creation of the terms despensera and kerida.

When the Americans came, having a mistress became commonplace. It is one of the Filipino social phenomena that are still very evident, despite the strong Catholic faith of the country.

4. The Pacquiao Effect

Pacquiao Effect

Manny Pacquiao is a great source of pride for the Filipino people. Every time he has a fight, everyone drops whatever it is they’re doing. Everyone is glued to the TV screen to see the outcome of the bouts of the Pambansang Kamao.

Because of his popularity, crime rates are near zero, because even the criminals want to watch Manny get it on. It’s been said the communists and Moro guerrillas put down their guns to watch Pacquiao fight. Almost every Filipino cares about the outcome of the boxing fights, which just proves how popular Pacman is in his home country.

5. Filipino Positivity

Filipino Positivity

This is one of the social Filipino phenomena that we are widely known for. When disaster strikes, the Filipinos do not lose their cool. They keep their happy-go-lucky attitudes. With typhoons and floods and other natural disasters coming our way, the Filipino people just deal with the troubles as they come.

The citizens of the country generally have great coping skills. The national psyche is the “bahala na” attitude. That is a fatalistic attitude that has its good and bad sides. It resigns the Filipinos to what fate will do for them, but it also allows them to have the strength to endure all forms of problems.

This optimistic fatalism gives the Filipinos the resiliency to survive. By keeping a positive attitude, they keep the belief that their problems will eventually go away. This belief has served the Filipinos well over the years.

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6. The Abundance of Little Shops

Abundance of Little Shops

In one community, you will find many sari-sari stores. This selling phenomenon supposedly started with the Chinese when the Sung dynasty would barter with the natives for things that they needed. It has since become part of the landscape of Filipino  and has since then become one of the most significant social Filipino phenomena.

The “tingi-tingi” phenomenon or the sachet phenomenon started as a response to the troubled economic times of the 1990s. Low-income Filipinos were able to buy things in small quantities even if they were only earning way too less.

Since the customers are allowed to purchase small sachets of products, this allows them a varied choice. They can buy small amount of various products instead of one bag of only one brand.

7. Istambay


There really is such a thing as the “istambay phenomenon.” While most of the Filipino social phenomena on this list can be observed in just about anyone, the istambay phenomenon is more common in the Filipino youth. They like to hang out with their friends in a large group. There is a stereotype that these istambays are the lazy people who don’t work or neighborhood tough guys.

Sociologist Clarence Batan did a research on this phenomenon, and he concluded that it was the lack of jobs, close familial ties, and inability of the government to address social problems that contribute to the many istambays all over the country.

Having close family ties may not be a bad thing, but since a typical Filipino family is close, the istambays also don’t feel the immediate need to go out and provide for themselves since their family members give them food and shelter during them jobless state. This leads to a difficult or impaired life as an independent adult. Oftentimes, their independence is delayed and you will find it common to see healthy adults still relying on others for their needs.

8. Filipinos and Text Messaging

Filipinos and Text Messaging

The Philippines is the texting capital of the world. Since 2008, Filipinos have sent out more than a billion texts per day. Texting offers a faster and more affordable means of communication than using e-mail or the telephone. There is a sub-culture known as Generation Txt, which describes those so ingrained in the texting culture that they have made their own language of shortcuts to words.

The love of texting also shows the typical Filipino preference for non-confrontational communication. By using text messaging, Filipinos are given a way to express themselves without having to talk to someone face to face. You could say that text messaging allows them to overcome their shyness or hiya, which is deeply embedded in the Pinoy psyche. This is also part of the reason why courtship is commonly done through texting nowadays.

9. Filipinos and Social Media

Filipinos and Social Media

Pinoys love text messaging, and they have also grown to love being online—two Filipino social phenomena we can never deny. Filipinos are always online that they have earned the title Social Networking Capital of the World.

Social media allows Filipinos a way to express themselves and provides a way to keep in touch with family members across long distances. Filipinos are generally very social, and the community spirit of social media is very much in line with the Filipino mind-set.

Social media breaks down the physical barriers and basically gives the Filipinos an online barangay.

10. The Filipino Teleserye

Filipino Teleserye

Like msot Filipino social phenomena, this too centers around Pinoys’ love for something—their love for teleseryes. Ateneo de Manila University is even offering a course that is dedicated to the study of Pinoy soap operas. Teleseryes offer a glimpse of what’s going on in Filipino society.

Pop culture professor Louie Sanchez says that Pinoys like teleseryes because they can relate to the personal, social, and political issues that are often portrayed on screen. Many of these shows have clichéd plots, but they still offer a glimpse of life in the Philippines, making them very relatable to the viewers. These teleseryes are constantly changing so their audience is growing. Now many upper-class homes tune in to watch these dramas.

Filipinos love good stories, and the teleserye offers a daily story that viewers can follow. They get attached to the characters and really identify with the plot lines. The love for the soap opera shows is spreading to other Southeast Asian countries.

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