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Mano or pagmamano is an "honoring-gesture" used in Filipino culture performed as a sign of respect to elders and as a way of requesting a blessing from the elder. Similar to hand-kissing, the person giving the greeting bows towards the hand of the elder and presses their 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 their older relatives upon entry into their home or upon seeing them.
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. An identical tradition is followed in neighbouring Indonesia and Malaysia called salim and salam respectively, suggesting that the Mano po tradition dates to precolonial times.
Due to its geographical location and years of colonization, the Filipino culture has been heavily influenced by Eastern and Western customs and traditions. 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. 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.
The custom of mano is dated to precolonial times, and is still followed by the related countries of Indonesia, Malaysia and Brunei, which the Philippines shares a common ethnolinguistical origin with. In these countries however, the custom is called salim originating from Arabic. Salim is also done in the family to respect elder family members and relatives. Salim is also a normal gesture done in a traditional Islamic society to respect the ulama (religious elite/scholars).
Usage and context
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.
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.
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.
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.
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; the sign of the cross may be made over the recipient. The latter response of "May the Lord have mercy on you" is used when the pagmamano is performed with both hands to ask an elder's pardon and forgiveness. With both hands, the younger person takes the elder's hands and lifts them to the forehead to formally ask forgiveness for an offence. This may be done whilst kneeling and weeping. This is the highest form of the pagmamano.
Similar Filipino customs
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. 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
Similar to the mano po gesture, po and opo are also distinctly Filipino ways of showing respect to one’s elders. 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.
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