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“Bless” or “Mano Po”: Showing respect to the elders

There is this nice and wonderful gesture in the Philippines that I’d like to share with you all. It’s called “bless” or “mano po”. A gesture where the younger shows respect to the elder.

I was introduced to this gesture already many years ago in my hometown Warendorf, Germany at some of my Filipino friends’ home. Way before I even met Arthur and have visited the Philippines.

In order to greet and show respect to the elder, the younger takes the elder’s hand and let the fingers (near the knuckles) touch their forehead. As simple as that.

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I notice here in the Philippines, when people greet each other, they don’t hug, nor give kisses on the cheeks. For strangers or acquaintances it’s the hand shake. But for families and relatives the “mano” is used as a greeting gesture.

This gesture is practised all over the Philippines by the old and the young. Parents or elder family members bless the younger family members. And adults bless people that are older than them in order to express their respect. Every day, when the kids come home from school I “bless” them.

The “bless/mano po” originated from the Catholic Church. “Mano” is the Spanish word for hand. When you hear the word “bless”, you right away might think of a priest’s blessing. In this case though, it is all about showing respect to the elder. You give permission to the elder to give you their blessing.

I have to admit, I’ve already been in a few awkward situations where a hand was extended towards me, and I, naturally, took it to shake it. But instead, I was obviously expected to “mano” that person.

This way of greeting each other is very different to what I’m used to, but I like it. It’s a nice way of showing respect to another.

5 comments

  1. the “mano”is usually by us seminarians in respect not only to our relative or priests but to all people who are much older than us. that’s one way of showing respect and that is unique to the Filipinos. we cannot see this n other races in the world but sad to say that this practice is slowly vanishing, most of the young generation today do not give respect in such a way that they are not doing the “mano” or “amen” and i feel very sad about that

  2. Thank you Allan and Helen for your insights from the Luzon region. It’s always helpful to get different perspectives, especially from the parts of the country I haven’t visited yet.

    We live in the Visayas so my experience reflects mostly on the Cebuano way of doing. With the “Mano”, they even call it differently here, they call it “amen”.

    I will edit the “Mano” part with your informations Allan. And to Helen, it’s the first time I hear of people giving kisses on the cheeks. I haven’t witnessed such greeting gestures here in Cebu. That just shows how diverse the Filipino culture is. Every region, every island seem to have their own unique cultural practices. I find it fascinating and want to learn more about it. So any feedback or experiences of how things are done differently in other parts of the country, or even in the rest of the world, are always welcome.

  3. Hmm let me say that aside from ‘mano’ we also do kisses. At least where I come from (Manila) we do kiss, cheek to cheek also known as beso, which was obviously influenced by Spanish, with friends and, or relatives. Unlike doing beso on both sides of the cheeks, we often do with just one side. 🙂

  4. Up north (Luzon) in Tagalog region. Aside from traditional “mano” we followed it with “po” or “opo” (“ho” and “oho” in some part) every after sentence we speak if we are having conversation with elder people. In some place let say Pampanga… it is considered rude not to use these words i tell you. Nice read. Hope you are enjoying your stay there. Its quite rainy this week here in Helsinki 🙂

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