“Necessary but not really” is perhaps the best way to summarise Filipinos’ comments on the new House Bill 8149, which replaces pagmamano and handshakes as gestures of respect. In its place, we now have to place our right hand over the centre of our chest while nodding slightly. We must also close our eyes or cast them down as we do so.
The word about House Bill 8149, otherwise known as the “Bating Pilipino Para Sa Kalusugan Act”, first got out in the last quarter of 2020. Marikina City representative Bayani Fernando authored the bill in the hope of reducing physical contact amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Revamping hand gestures in the Philippines
On 19 Jan 2021, the new bill was approved on third and final reading at the House of Representatives on a vote of 212-1-1. According to Fernando, putting the right hand over one’s chest represents “a universal gesture of good faith coming from the heart, while a nod is a traditional Filipino gesture of respect.”
While also common and already reflective of Filipino culture, both the mano (the act of pressing one’s forehead on an elder’s hand) and the handshake, on the other hand, make one prone to contracting communicable diseases such as COVID-19. The new gesture must be practised by Filipino citizens and anyone in the Philippines.
House Bill 8149 further “mandates all government agencies and instrumentalities to allocate their respective resources for information dissemination and encourage the practice of the new gesture.”
A “necessary but not really” measure?
While the bill suggests an alternative to greeting one another in a safe way during these times, a number of Filipinos, however, aren’t very pleased. The more notable criticisms of House Bill 8149 say that it’s nothing more than a waste of taxpayers’ money, which should be used for larger, as well as more urgent and practical laws or projects.
Some netizens specifically suggested focusing on addressing the Philippines’ healthcare system and helping Filipinos who lost their jobs because of the pandemic. Others touched on the idea of how customs shouldn’t be “legislated” in the first place, and that other countries use similar gestures as part of a tradition.
What do you think about the new Filipino gesture? If you’re wondering how to do ‘Bating Filipino’ properly, watch this video.