Mano (gesture)

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Mano or Pagmamano is a gesture used in Filipino culture performed as a sign of respect to elders and as a way of accepting a blessing from the elder. Similar to hand-kissing, the person giving the greeting bows towards the offered hand of the elder and presses his or her forehead on the elder's hand. Usually performed with the right hand, the person showing respect may ask “Mano po” to the elder in order to ask permission to initiate the gesture. Typically someone may mano to his or her older relatives upon entry into their home or upon seeing them. [1]

The word “mano” is Spanish for “hand” while the word “po” is often used in Filipino culture and language at the end of each sentence as a sign of respect when addressing someone older. Put together, “mano po” literally translates to “your hand please” as the greeting initiates the gesture of touching the back of the hand of an elder lightly on one’s forehead. The Philippines is the only country in Asia that holds this specific tradition and its origins evolved from the mixture of western and eastern tradition.


Due to its geographical location and years of colonization, the Filipino culture has been heavily influenced by both Asian and Western customs and traditions. One of the strongest influences of South East Asian migrations to the islands of the Philippines that holds even today, is a respect for their elders. From youth, Filipinos are taught to respect the elders not only within their families but those in their communities as well, be they strangers or relatives. The Filipinos believe that the elders have earned the respect of the younger generations not only through their age, but through their acquired wisdom and experiences.

In many parts of Asia, the most common way to show respect for one’s elders is through a bow to the older person. The bow takes on several different forms all throughout Asia and is a part of the origin of the Mano. However, perhaps the most influential origin of the Mano is traced to the period of Spanish colonization in the Philippines. At that time, the Pope, who held the highest office in the Church, extended his hand to the clergy as they kissed his signet ring in order to receive his blessing. The Catholic friars and priests who colonized the Philippines adapted this custom and insisted that the Indios (native Filipinos) kiss their hand as a sign of their power over them. As a result, the Filipinos appropriated this tradition as a sign of respect to one’s elders through the “mano.” [2]

Thus, the uniquely Filipino ritual of the Mano evolved both from the Asian tradition of respect for one’s elders and the custom of kissing an honored person’s hand from the Spaniards.

Usage and Context[edit]

In today’s Philippine setting, the “mano” is still used by Filipinos as a sign of respect to their elders. It is usually done when the elder is seen for the first time in the day or upon entering a house or gathering. There is no age limit for the usage of the mano, but it is usually practiced on those older by two generations or more. Even adults may bless people older than them although the mano practice is mainly used by Filipino children at present. Younger children are initially instructed by their parents to “mano” until they are old enough to do so on their own.

By offering your hand to “mano”, you are allowing yourself to be subservient to the elder to accept their blessing and wisdom. It is considered impolite if one does not exercise the custom of “pagmamano” when entering the home of an elder or after seeing them at a gathering.[3]

The respect for elders stems from the high value of family in Filipino culture. Filipinos are loyal to their family, such that the elderly live in the homes of their children and/or grandchildren to be taken care of, and the nursing home business is almost nonexistent in the Philippines. By having the elderly live at home, you are respecting their value in the family.[4][5]

Though the “mano po” gesture is usually practiced on one’s parents, grandparents, uncles, and aunts, it is not restricted to one’s relatives. In other words, it is still perfectly respectable to practice the “mano po” gesture whether one is related to the older person or not as long as there is enough esteem among the two individuals.

The reason why Filipinos “mano” elders although they are not necessarily a relative is due to the value of family. Filipinos call older non-relatives “grandfather/mother, aunt, uncle, etc.” even when they are not actually related in this way. By addressing elders in this way, you are acknowledging their age and the respect you need to show them. It’s considered to be disrespectful to call an elder just by their first name. Hence, Filipinos treat friends and acquaintances like family.[6]

The “mano po” gesture is usually followed by a response of “God bless you” or “May the Lord have mercy on you” by the elder.

Similar Filipino Customs[edit]


Though the “mano po” gesture is still widely used at present in the Philippines, many Filipinos have also replaced this gesture with the “beso.” The “beso-beso” which originated from the Spanish word for “kiss,” is a common greeting in the Philippines similar to the “mano.” The “beso-beso” is a cheek-to-cheek kiss usually made once on the right cheek. The “beso” is more commonly used amongst the upper classes as a greeting to relatives and close friends, but is not reserved for an older person unlike the “mano.”

Po and Opo[edit]

Similar to the “mano po” gesture, “po” and “opo” are also distinctly Filipino ways of showing respect to one’s elders. [7] The “po” is usually affixed to the end of sentences or phrases when one is addressing someone older than him or her. For example, “paumanhin” in Filipino means sorry. To an elder, one would say “paumanhin po,” The word “po” alone does not really have its own meaning but adds formality and is used as a sign of respect. This is why it is affixed to “mano” and thus is said as “mano po” when one is requesting for the blessing of an elder. [8]