Girls at a festival in Cebu, Philippines

YES Students

Most students from the Philippines are Kennedy-Lugar Youth Exchange and Study (YES) Program scholarship winners. Click here to learn more about the YES Program.

Country Information

The Philippines is a land of myriad wonders. Its picturesque geography, rich history and vibrant culture all attest to the country’s magnificent uniqueness. Strategically located in the heart of Southeast Asia and surrounded by the Pacific Ocean, the “Pearl of the Orient” boasts of white-sand beaches, three-layered virgin rainforests, glorious sunsets, scenic rock formations, a mild tropical climate on the coastal plains and cool mountain weather farther inland

Lifestyle and Family

While families desire male children, females are welcomed to supply help in the house and provide a home in the parents' old age. The oldest daughter is expected to provide money for the education of younger siblings and for the needs of aging family members. Extended family plays a large role, especially in socialization of women. Most close friends are from within the family and multiple generations can be found in the same home. Children are raised to respect their elders and parents are protective of their children. Anyone remotely related to the family is referred to as a cousin.

People believe that it is one's duty to keep things operating smoothly. It is very important not to lose face. Being corrected or correcting another person in public is not considered acceptable behavior. People want to grant all requests, and so they often say yes when they mean no or maybe. Others understand when the request is not fulfilled because saying no might have caused the individual to lose face. When one is asked to join a family for a meal, the offer must be refused. If the invitation is extended a second time, it is permissible to accept. Time consciousness and time management are not important considerations. A planned meeting may take place later, much later, or never.

Filipinos walk hand in hand or arm in arm with relatives and friends of either sex as a sign of affection or friendship. Women are expected not to cross their legs or drink alcohol in public.

Teen Life and Sports

As in many cultures, education is viewed as the key to a better life and Filipino students concentrate hard on their studies. I the summer, students spend their days at the beach or hike into the mountains. Parks and museums are also common places to frequent.


Rice is a staple in Filipino cooking and is served at every meal. Salt water and freshwater fish and shellfish are eaten daily, served either fresh or salted. Fish, chicken and pork are usually fried, although people are becoming more health-conscious and often choose alternative methods of cooking. Garlic is added to food because it is considered healthful. Filipino food is not spicy.

Table knives are not used. Forks and spoons are used for dining. The food is eaten from a spoon. The traditional method of placing food on a banana leaf and eating with one's hands is also used throughout the country. It is acceptable to eat food with one's hands at restaurants as well as in the home.

Language and Religion

Filipino and English are the official languages of the Philippines but there are about 80 Malay dialects spoken in different regions. Over 85% of the population is Christian, making the Philippines the only dominantly Christian nation in Asia. Muslim is the largest non-Christian denomination.

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