‘Filipinos are probably the most giving people on the planet,” these are the words of world-renowned Chef Anthony Bourdain, after he recorded episodes of his television show in the Philippines.
Bourdain is just one of the millions of foreigners who have experienced firsthand from what we see as extraordinary levels of generosity from Filipinos when compared to the vast majority of other cultures around the world.
My good friend Tom Graham, during his inspirational talks, shares the story of how a Gawad Kalinga community on Bantayan Island (northern Cebu) hosted him as he traveled across the Philippines during the Christmas of 2013.
Tom explains his visit happened just weeks after Supertyphoon Yolanda (Typhoon Haiyan hit: the strongest recorded storm in history). The community, despite recovering from the devastation of the storm, welcomed Tom with open arms.
They came together to have a party for their unexpected visitor—singing songs and sharing stories. Later that night Tom realized the extent of the mapagbigay (generous) attitude that was given to him, when he noticed he was the only person in the community who had a roof over his head as he slept.
And even more amazingly, the family memberswho had given him a place to sleep were themselves sleeping on the ground. Not only did they give him the best available shelter, they also gave Tom their only bed.
This extraordinary generosity had a life-changing impact on Tom, who later went on to write the best-selling book The Genius of the Poor: An Englishman’s Life-Changing Journey in the Philippines.
What most Filipinos would consider as just normal hospitality is something that would just not happen in our own countries.
And this is not something that only foreigners experience, Filipinos commonly invite total strangers passing by their gates into their homes for a fiesta or wedding celebration. Everyone is welcome to join in the celebration.
As a foreigner, this practice is so unusual, as in my own country we have a strict “invitation only” mind-set. If you are not on the list, you are not getting in. It would be unheard of at a family celebration to just start randomly inviting strangers to join in on the festivities—but for the Filipino it just feels like second nature.
Perhaps, the most beautiful example of the mapagbigay attitude is the phenomena of pasalubong (welcome gifts).
The first time one of my team members gave me a pasalubong after she returned from a trip to the province—I was just at a loss for words. I could not believe that she would get a gift for me.
I never even heard of the concept before, but for Filipinos, it is so natural to express the mapagbigay attitude, that even on vacation when they are supposed to be relaxing and having fun, they are still thinking of what pasalubong to bring back to their family, friends and work colleagues.
Many of my Filipino friends have told me that the anticipation of getting a pasalubong from a parent coming home after being away for a period of time is often a cherished childhood memory for them.
The spirit of pasalubong has given birth to what Filipinos call the “Balikbayan Box”. This is where an overseas Filipino, who is unable to frequently return to visit their family, sends back a box full of gifts.
Especially during the Christmas period, the opening of the box when it arrives in the family home creates precious moments of unforgettable joy, as loved ones feel connected to each other by the power of the mapagbigay mind-set, even though they maybe thousands of miles away from home.
The extraordinary generosity of the Filipino is one of the many reasons I am staying in the Philippines. Whether I am speaking to 7,000 students, 250 young professionals or 30 business executives, I share with the audience the extraordinarily positive things I see everyday happening in this country.
Living in the Philippines makes me a better man. This really is the greatest time in history to be a Filipino. The greatest days are ahead.
Mabuhay ang Pilipinas
The above is an extract from Mike’s latest e-book 7 Reasons Why the Filipino Will Change the World. To get your free copy, go to www.mikegrogan.ph/ebook.
For comments, suggestions and reactions, contact Mike @mikegrogan.ph.
(This article, previously published on the Business Mirror, is reposted with permission from the author. Mike Grogan is an international speaker and best-selling author who believes in the Genius of the Pinoy. As a leadership coach, Irish native Mike has traveled to 39 countries around the world but he believes that there is something very special about the Filipino. Today he works as a consultant for People Dynamics, where he travels across the Philippines inspiring, empowering and motivating Pinoys every week to become World-Class and believe in the Filipino Dream.)