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Pagmamano – A Sign of Respect for the Elderly



Many countries have a gesture to show respect especially for the elderly. From most Asian countries, they show respect by means of bowing. In the Philippines however, it is different. Here, we have a respectful gesture called “pagmamano” or “mano” which means “hand” in Spanish.


Basically, “pagmamano” is asking for an elderly person’s hand while saying “Mano Po” and touching the back of the hand with your forehead to which the elderly person respond with, “Kaawan ka ng Diyos.” This means, “May God have mercy on you” or  “God bless you.”


“Mano Po” literally means, “May I have your hands, please?”. If you happen to meet an old Filipino man or woman, you should do this and they will definitely take a liking to you.


In many families, “pagmamano” is a very hardened tradition which has survived modern and foreign influences. This is usually done when visiting family, visiting other people or meeting people outside the home, and after a religious service such as mass or prayer. In some homes, “pagmamano” is done at 6:00 pm after the family prays the Catholic prayer called “The Angelus”.




“Pagmamano” is also ingrained in the Philippine Christmas tradition as children visit their godparents and/or grandparents to receive their blessings and also some presents or cash which is referred to as “Aguinaldo” (meaning, “Christmas present” in Spanish.) Interestingly, some people believe the cash gifts are called “Aguinaldo” because Emilio Aguinaldo, a revolutionary and a former Philippine president appears on the old five peso bill that is given to children.


Be wary of “pagmamano” among middle aged people as some will blatantly refuse you saying that they are not yet old.


Relatively, another means of showing respect to the elderly is by using the words “po” and “opo”. However, it would be hard to learn how to properly use these words if you are not a native speaker of the Filipino language. For “opo”, just use it as a polite way of saying “yes” to an elderly person. Using “po” is much more complicated as it is usually used as a suffix to add in the middle or the end of a sentence. Other times, “po” is inserted within a sentence in a Tagalog conversation.



Author: Rhett Kinneas



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