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Filipino Traditions

Filipinos in Virginia

Filipinos in VirginiaThe Philippines is a nation of more than 7,000 islands strategically located in the South China Sea. Its closest neighbors are Malaysia, Indonesia, China, and Vietnam. It is also the third-largest English-speaking country in the world, with a culture that, over centuries, has absorbed influences from the Orient, Europe, North America, the South Pacific, and the Islamic world. It was colonized first by Spain in 1521, and then by the United States, beginning in 1898. It was a decisive theatre of battle during World War II and became one of America’s most reliable military allies following its independence in 1946. Tagalog is the first language of one-fourth and the second language of the majority of the Philippines’ 100 million people. Approximately one million Filipinos have immigrated to the United States since the 1950s, initially to the west coast.  In 2010, more than 90,000 Filipinos were living in Virginia, some 40,000 of them in Hampton Roads, with other strong communities in metro-Richmond and Northern Virginia. Today, Filipinos are the second-largest Asian population in the Commonwealth; and Hampton Roads is home to the largest Filipino community east of the Mississippi. Many Filipinos, especially in the Virginia Beach area, have gained access to American citizenship through service in the United States Navy. Religious faith, patriotism and the ideal of Utang ng Loob, or ‘indebtedness,’ are strong forces in Filipino life in Hampton Roads. It’s common for Filipinos in the Hampton Roads community to describe their U.S. citizenship as a “blessing” from God. Hampton Roads is also home to the Philippine Cultural Center in Virginia Beach and to The Filipino American Center at Old Dominion University in Norfolk. In 2010, Ron Villanueva became the first Filipino American elected to the Virginia General Assembly.

Filipino Food Traditions

The term “Filipino food” is often used generically, like “Mexican” or “Chinese” food; and is just as misleading. The Philippines is geographically and culturally diverse; a nation of more than 7,000 islands that over centuries has absorbed a wide range of Asian and European, not to mention American influences. Regional variations in Filipino cuisine can be striking and may include ingredients and flavors common in Japan, Indonesia, Malaysia, China, Spain, and even Arabia. Rice is a staple throughout, as are salted freshwater and saltwater fish. Dishes made with coconut milk (ginataang) are common, as are whole roasted pig (lechon); pancit, rice noodles combined with sausage, cabbage, chicken, beef, or seafood; and lumpia, a thin pastry skin filled with savory ingredients, usually fried, like a Chinese spring roll. Other traditional Filipino dishes are made using a variety of regional fruits—bananas, mangos, guavas, papayas, pineapple, and coconut—and vegetables including sweet potato, water spinach, cassava, or Chinese cabbage. Adobo (from the Spanish Adobar, to marinate) is made from meat, seafood, or vegetables marinated in vinegar, soy sauce, and garlic, browned in oil, and simmered in the marinade. Turon is a popular street food made from sliced bananas, sometimes with a slice of jackfruit, dusted with brown sugar, then rolled in a spring roll and fried. Several popular desserts—biko, karioka, sapin-sapin—are made from high-gluten rice flour and coconut milk.  Coffee and coffee variants are also widely consumed, especially Kape Barako, which takes its name from the Tagalog word for “wild boar.”

Folk Dances of the Philippines

Dance traditions of the Philippines are as diverse as the geography of the country and the cultures that shaped its history. Cordillera dances like the Uya-Uy express the community life of indigenous tribes in the mountains of Northern Luzon. Maria Clara dances from Southern Luzon and Visayas show the impact of Spanish colonization. In Carinosa, dancers use a fan or handkerchief to display flirtation and courtship. La Jota Moncadena, which combines Spanish and Ilocano (ethnic Filipino) influences,is characterized by the use of elongated bamboo castanets. Rural dances of the lowlands of Luzon display a joyous, celebratory spirit often associated with weddings and festivals. In Binasuan, the women balance glasses filled with rice wine. Percussive and infectious, Tinikling mimics the Tickling bird as dancers step between moving bamboo poles. Male dancers typically wear a costume called barong tagalog while the women wear a colorful dress called a balintawak or a pineapple fiber blouse called a patadyong.  Traders brought Islam to Mindanao and the SULU Archipelago in the 12th Century, and this area largely resisted Spanish influence. Muslim dances like Singkil show the impact of Arabian and Indo-Malaysian culture though intricate hand movements and in the shapes and vivid colors of their costumes. This dance, based on an epic legend of the Maranao people, resembles Tinikling in its use of moving, crisscrossed bamboo poles. The native peoples of Mindanao developed tribal dance traditions to honor pagan gods. Pagdiwata is a dance of thanksgiving, typical of this region.

Philippine Cultural Center
School of Creative and Performing Arts

The Philippine Cultural Center (PCC) was established in 2000 to promote Filipino and Philippine-American history and culture, particularly in the Hampton Roads region of Virginia. It is currently the largest Filipino-American center in the state. Located on Baxter Road in Virginia Beach, the Center hosts performances, celebrations, pageants, and other events; serves as a meeting place for the members of the Council of United Filipino Organizations of Tidewater (CUFOT) and the community at large; and is the home of the Filipino American Veterans Memorial. It is also home to the School of Creative and Performing Arts (SCAPA), which offers classes in the history, language (Tagalog), folklore, music, and dance traditions of the Philippines for school-age children, ages 5 to 18. Over the past 16 years, more than 2,000 young Filipinos have taken part in SCAPA-sponsored programs that are designed to instill the values of faith, education, service, and respect for family and elders, as a complement to more formal instruction in Filipino traditional arts, particularly dance. Many immigrant communities face the challenge of maintaining strong connections to their homeland and its traditions while also living fully as Americans. Through its programs, SCAPA offers adult as well as younger members of the Filipino community in Hampton Roads a way to do both. SCAPA has performed at festivals and other events throughout the mid-Atlantic. This is its first major performance in the Richmond area.


Florian and Artemio Manalang

Filipino Foodways
Virginia Beach, Virginia

An entrepreneur and humanitarian, Florian Manalang came to Charleston, South Carolina, in 1984, sponsored by a family member through the U.S. Navy. Artemio Manalang, a Filipino-American U.S. Navy veteran and Florian’s husband, retired in Virginia Beach in September 1999. During the early 1980s Florian learned to cook among other Filipina naval housewives while their husbands were deployed at sea. Her specialty is pancit balabok, a traditional Filipino thin glass noodle dish. Over the course of the years, Florian and Artemio have contributed widely to the Hampton Roads Filipino-American community at-large, often preparing traditional Filipino food and hosting local, state-wide, and transnational community organizations in their home. They have also financially supported and fed local and global philanthropic, fundraising, community, and church-building projects, oftentimes hosting such individuals and their families in their home for extensive periods of time. Artemio Manalang especially enjoys singing karaoke and as a mechanic, working on cars in his free time. They have three children: Artemio “Jojo" Jr., Paul, and Dr. Aprilfaye. Florian's warmth, hospitality, and numerous meals around her table have and continue to bring food and community together, as well as serve as fertile ground for harvesting great ideas, such as the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities’ first-ever Filipino-American grant and public program honoring Filipino-American veterans.