May is Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, and as a proud, first-generation, Filipino-American female, I will be sharing some stories and information about the Philippine culture and my American upbringing.
Respect is essential in Filipino culture. There are even particles of speech in Tagalog, such as “po” and “opo” which are used to express politeness when speaking to elders. In fact, these two words and their usage are taught to children from a very young age so that they may get used to it and grow up knowing how to speak with respect. The participle “po” is similar to “Sir” or “Ma’am” in the United States and can be used while addressing a male or a female. The participle “opo” is similar to “Yes, Sir” or “Yes, Ma’am,” but can also be a response to indicate “I understand, Sir” or “I understand, Ma’am.”
Filipinos have a high regard for honor which is why there are also titles used to address people not only in your family; however, within your community as well. For example the most common titles used are as follows:
Ate (pronounced “AH-teh” for older sister), Kuya (pronounced “KOO-yah” for older brother), Tito (pronounced “TEE-toe” for uncle), Tita (pronounced “TEE-tah” for aunt), Lolo (pronounced “LOW-lo” for grandfather), and Lola (pronounced “Low-LAH” for grandmother). These titles may be used even if you are are used regardless of whether or not they are actually related to you.
Here are some examples of how the titles are used and should also in conjunction with the participles “po” or “opo:”
• Siblings/Cousins: Younger siblings address their older siblings or cousins as “Ate” or “Kuya” and sometimes with their first names to designate a specific sibling or cousin such as “Ate Tess” or “Kuya James.”
• Your parents’ friends arrive for dinner. Not only do you use the participles “po” or “opo” when you address them, you may also called them by the title and their first name such as “Tita Tess” or “Tito Dan” even if they are not your actual aunt and uncle. It’s showing respect by using a title.
The basic use of “po” and “opo” means “yes” in a respectful way. Filipinos (especially the elders) will definitely be amazed when you use these terms with them and will respect you in return.