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The Custom Of "Pagmamano"

Customs add flavor to a happy family life


Pagmamano is a Filipino custom that has survived the times and foreign influences.  This is the practice of respect by asking for an elder’s hand and touch one’s forehead while bowing. One usually asks by saying “Mano po” (Literally, “your hands please”).  In return, the elder blesses the person. The “elderly” refer to parents and grandparents or their contemporaries (cousins, friends and colleagues).  It is usually done when one visits a family, meets these  people outside of the homes or after a religious activity (service, Mass or prayers).  It is also common to bring children to their godparents during Christmas time to pay respect with this custom. Children would not only receive their godparents’  blessing but also presents.

I tried to find out where this influence came from but could not find an answer yet.  Contrary to what a popular movie franchise “Mano Po” suggests that it came from the Chinese, it does not seem so.   If Malays in Malaysia and Singapore practice this, it must be coming from our common ancestors in Southeast Asia.

As early as in my teens, nephews and nieces have started to do this custom among us cousins.  Not wanting to be an “elderly”, we would refuse this gesture and say “hindi ako matanda!” (I’m not an elderly!)   As I grew up and eventually learned the value of local customs, I thought that, maybe I should not stop the younger ones from performing this show of respect.  I should contribute to the propagation of rich and valuable practices of Filipinos. I even thought I would want my children to do this too. I imagined that by the time I become a father this tradition may have already been forgotten. Even then, I wanted to teach that to my children.

It was not that soon that I would be a parent.  And so when I have become one, this thought just disappeared in my plans.  One day that I was reminded of it, I found myself a father and at the same time raising my daughter in a different country.  This happened when I saw this same custom among  Malays here in Singapore.  I thought it looked familiar!  I was jealous. Surely, pagmamano is a custom I should be proud of.  It was tempting to think that since I live outside of the Philippines, maybe it is not necessary to teach this.  However, I still thought that since we are in a diaspora, the more  we need to keep our culture and language intact as legacy to the next generations.

Related Link on Pagmamano: forgetfulghee.blogspot.com

  1. June 19, 2011 at 9:25 am

    Rob, I think you better teach your daughter this act even though your not here in Pinas at least in that way he can respect you aside from the usual kiss..
    nice article..

  2. Ramcel Gatchalian
    June 21, 2011 at 4:14 pm

    When I witness this custom of ours among Malays I am led to believe that it originated from them. Although I do not have any information to validate that but they do practice the same way publicly.

    Even our Tinikling dance, I saw it being performed by Malays, on one of my trips to Kota Kinabalu, claiming that it was “their” tradition.

    • pinoyleonardo
      June 22, 2011 at 8:02 am

      That’s interesting to know! Sad to say I cannot find anything on the net about this custom of pagmamano.

      • Ramcel | MeekWatcher
        June 22, 2011 at 8:41 am

        Hahaha. I guess that will all be a mystery then. Thanks for spending time researching that info for me.

  3. Dale
    July 16, 2011 at 3:45 am

    Hello Rob,
    I had just finish reading your blog about The Custom Of “Pagmamano”. When I had visit the Philippines I saw it first hand. Here in the US we attend a Filipino-American church and I see this all the time.


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