Island culture and isolation have led to the development of over 80 regional dialects in the Philippines, and no one language is spoken by a majority of the population. The national language is Pilipino, which is largely based on Tagalog, a South-Asian language whose vocabulary has been influenced by Spanish, Chinese, Malay and Arabic. Most Filipinos also speak English, which is the language of business and of many newspapers, magazines, TV and radio stations. Often, people combine English and Tagalog words in their speech or writing-a practice known as "Taglish."

Other than Pilipino, major dialects spoken regionally include Tagalog, Ilocano, Bicol, Waray-Waray, Pampango and Pangasinan. Despite 300 years of Spanish rule, only a small section of the population ever adopted the language. However, many families did adopt Spanish surnames and first names.

Filipinos of both sexes greet each other by bowing or shaking hands. People are expected to recognize elders first. In any type of communication, Filipinos take special care to avoid confrontation. With close friends they may relax, and good-humoured teasing is a feature of Filipino parties. However, when they are with people they don't know well, Filipinos make great efforts not to disagree. The word "yes" may mean "yes, I understand," "yes, I agree," or "yes, I disagree." Sensitive to implied insults and criticism, Filipinos avoid direct critical remarks. If a conflict cannot be smoothed over and must be resolved, people may get a third party to propose a solution that saves face for all.

Maintaining a smile - when disagreeing or feeling embarrassment - is one way to defuse difficult situations. Prolonged eye contact is considered rude and provocative, especially if it involves people of different status or occurs between a man and woman. Filipinos often refrain from calling public attention to themselves. For example, they will wait patiently to get the eye of a waiter, rather than call out for service.

  Did you know?
The English word "boondocks" or "boonies" comes from the Tagalog bundok (mountain). American Marines bought back the term to the United States after World War II.

English Tagalog
Hello Kumusta
Fine Mabuthi
Goodbye Paalam
Thank you Salamat
Good morning Magandang umaga

  Did you know?
Filipino children may take the hand of an elder and place it on their forehead as a sign of respect.