Mano Po

Last month I got together with some friends to celebrate THE one and only, Galentine’s Day! Picture Leslie Knope saying, “If you look inside your bags you will find a few things. A bouquet of hand crocheted flower pens, a mosaic portrait of each of you made from the crushed bottles of your favorite diet soda and a personalized 5,000-word essay of why you are all so awesome.” That’s basically what we happened, just talking and exchanging gifts into absurd hours of the night (my bedtime is a strict 8:00pm, y’all). It was awesome. And at one point, I overheard a conversation across the room going something like this:

Friend 1: Yeah, it’s something they do in the Philippines.

Friend 2: Wait, really. I’m so confused. Why do they do this?

Friend 1: I don’t know exactly, but it’s some sort of greeting, I think, and they put their hand on the other person’s head.

I basically felt like Hermione Granger, and looking back realize I’m weird, but I got so excited because I had JUST been reading up on this Filipino tradition!

Now, this discussion I eavesdropped on was clear across the room with about 10 other people between us, and I just blurted out, “Oh, you’re talking about mano po!” And then proceeded to share why I knew what it was and all that.

It’s such a unique and important tradition that I thought it seemed like the perfect way to introduce the Philippines and really try to paint the best picture I can of what I know of their cultural heritage.

What is it?

It’s super simple. When you greet an elder in the Philippines, you take their hand, bow slightly, and press their hand to your forehead. In Tagalog (and Spanish, which have a lot of similarities) “mano” means “hand”, and then “po” is a respectful term used when addressing elders, like “sir” or “ma’am” in English. It’s gender neutral though, so it doesn’t change.

I went through a dozen different videos on Youtube to see if I could find a good illustration of this tradition for you, and I just kept coming back to this funny family, and the very first video result when I searched “mano po”. This video will probably get some giggles from your kids while also doing a great job of explaining the many ways people practice mano po in the Philippines!

Mano Po in Your Home

In America, this might be a little weird to practice, so how do you really take this lesson home and apply it in your home. I think that’s easy to answer in a few questions.

How are you teaching your children to show respect within their families and communities? Watch the video above and ask your children what words they can use to address people respectfully (sir, ma’am, Mister, Mrs., Coach, Officer, etc.). This was so important in my family growing up, and it has definitely shaped the way I view certain adults (more adultier adults than myself at this point) in my life.

You can also bring attention to the other kind gestures done towards elders in the start of the video. Ask your kids if there are things that they should do when an elderly person is with them. Should they give up their seat, offer to lift things, or maybe bigger kids could link arms when walking with grandma/grandpa?

Teach your kids to respect all people wherever you live. Remind your children to thank the bus driver, and to ask the cashier how their day is. When a manual laborer comes to your house (roofer, plumber, pest control), ask your children to kindly take a bottle of water with you out to the workers. Building this respect for people now will lead to a career of compassionate service, loyal teammates and employees, and respect from other leaders.

What other traditions do you have in your family that show respect? How do you speak to people you respect? I would love to hear all about it in the comments!

Also, if you enjoyed learning about mano po, please sign up for my newsletter to gain more resources and access to my growing vault of free printables!

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