Being Polite in the Philippines

Business Cultural Notes

As in most Asian societies, being polite is valued in Filipino culture. In the context of making requests, one shows politeness, deference, and respect for others through the use of some words such as paki (from pakiusap, roughly equivalent to “please”) or makisuyo (usually accompanied by the verbal enclitic naman) in the context of making requests and commands.

Paki basically indicates that one is asking a favor from someone to do something, and implicitly recognizing that one may be “burdening” the person from whom one is asking the favor. On the part of one receiving the request, he or she is socially obligated not to say “no” to the request.

In Filipino culture, there is a clear distinction between a request and a command. The Tagalog word for command is utos, which implies that something has to be done, regardless. An utos is something given to an employee by his employer, or a to a child by his parents.

The Tagalog word for request is pakiusap, which implies that one is asking a favor that something be done, but without being pushy or overbearing.  A pakiusap is made between equals, a lowly employee to his employer or boss, or between a powerless individual to someone who is quite influential.

Some Tagalog expressions that signify  a pakiusap are:

  • paki (please) + (verb) + naman (e.g., paki-bigay naman)
  • makisuyo naman (could I ask a favor)
  • pwede ba (is it okay) + (verb) , (e.g., pwede bang magpadala ng sulat?)
  • sige na naman (please, please!)
  • baka naman pwede (is it possible, can it be possible)

Some Tagalog expressions that signify an utos are:

  • sabi ni boss (the boss said)
  • sabi ng may-ari (the owner said)
  • dapat matapos na kaagad (it has to be done soon)
  • kailangan na ito bukas (that is needed tomorrow)
  • huwag muna iyan (don’t do that first)
  • hindi puwede (cannot be)
  • hindi puwede ‘yan dito (that is not allowed)

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