Beyond Desks and Chairs: What Makes a Filipino Office Culture?

4 Sep 2023

Every culture and country have “-isms” and habits that are wholly unique to them. The Filipino office culture is not an exception. Certain cultural comforts and mannerisms translate into our day-to-day office life and enhance it into something wholesome and familiar. 

There are a lot of write ups that praise Filipino values, but we need to talk about the things that make a Filipino office home to a Filipino team. Whether it’s the caring culture or the amazing parties, it truly does not get better than seeing yourself in the space you work in. 

Bongga” or All-Out Company Events and Office Huddles

Everything is a cause for a big celebration when you grow up in the Philippines. There is a reason why the Filipino people are famed for their celebrations – because it’s tradition! Almost every Filipino in the Philippines has grown up with festivals, Christmas parties, or Barangay-wide celebrations in basketball courts. It’s a nostalgic feeling to see people wheel in a karaoke machine, or see the marching band and street dancers practise before the big celebration. 

This is because the Philippines has thousands of festivals every year. With every celebration, not only is the immediate family invited, but the extended family as well! It becomes such a spectacle to prepare for, and that’s why it’s hard to compete with a Pinoy when it comes to party planning.

Last May, we made the office festive through a festival-themed huddle!

You can expect that the same energy is brought to the Filipino office culture. Through sports fests and year-end parties, there is no party livelier than a Filipino-organised event. In this spirit, we held a huddle with the theme “Diversifiesta” last May, where we wanted to pay homage to the festivals most Filipinos grew up with. Safe to say, the energy in the streets and Barangay basketball courts was brought into the office. It’s the community-centred traditions and careful party planning that turn any company event into a wholesome and tight-knit celebration.

The Filipino Cheeriness and Happiness in the Office Culture!

Never a dull moment in a Filipino office. Filipinos are some of the funniest and cheeriest people you will ever meet. After all, you gotta be as sunny when met with a tropical climate. Of course, it varies from person to person, and it’s not all the time. 

You can definitely see the Filipino cheerfulness shines through!

But, we bear witness to the peak of this cheerfulness during company-wide events that bring together a large group of people. From humble family gatherings to street-wide parties, you’ll be able to see Pinoy folks cheering, singing, and cracking corny jokes. The liveliness is often infectious, and is such a breath of fresh air during stressful or peak seasons. 

Anong Ulam Mo?” (“What Lunch are You Having?”) Culture

Filipino food comes from everywhere. As a country rifled with a historically diverse and rich culinary heritage, lunch is more than a time for a meal. After all, Filipino food is a reflection of the history, geography, and diversity of every Pinoy.

Anong ulam mo?” or “What lunch are you having?” is more than a Filipino lunch question. A packed lunch is usually prepared by a caring member of the family, as Filipinos have such a tight-knight connection with their relatives. Sharing a meal with someone and asking them “Anong ulam mo?” is a sweet way to ask about their loved ones and stories about their favourite food that their family enjoys together. You’ll be able to hear tales of their grandmothers and grandfathers, the everyday habits of their family, and even be privy to passed-on cooking techniques unique to their province or family!

So, during lunchtime ask a coworker about their lunch! You would not believe the stories they can tell, and the bonds you will have during a simple break time.

Maalagang” (Caring) Co-workers

The Philippine hospitality industry has been admired all around the globe, being folks who value compassion and courtesy. It comes with the culture of having close connections with family and community. Through simple gestures like “pagmamano” to large-scale values like “bayanihan“, Filipinos grow up being taught sets of values that revolve around being generally caring, or “maalaga“. You can see it in the office through simple ways:

  • Asking if you’ve eaten. You can hear the phrase, “Kumain ka na ba?” or “Have you eaten yet?” said lovingly and sincerely in the office space a lot.
  • Casually exclaiming “Ingat!” (“Stay safe!“) when someone is leaving work to go home.
  • Making a quaint and small celebration for the new hire in the office.
  • Letting visitors in the office feel included during company events and parties.

Being “maalaga” comes with the territory of a culture that values a tight-knit community. In the office, it means that everyone should feel included, safe, and cared for during parties or in your regular workday.

Seeing Yourself in Your Office Space

Of course, a good office culture and great teammates are invaluable to any workplace. But an often-overlooked characteristic in a great office is being able to see yourself where you work. It’s about recognising your own culture and the things you grew up with in your day-to-day through the variables that make a space feel like home. All of this brings together a community, and definitely makes for a less intimidating office culture.