Hierarchy in the Filipino Family There is a definite hierarchy in the Filipino family with age a great determinant of how individual family members will treat one another. Within the immediate family, the parents are of course on the top of the hierarchy. But unlike in Western societies, the eldest kid is not seen as equals to the other siblings; instead, the eldest in many Filipino families are expected to be and act like second parents. It is not uncommon in the Philippines to see a young child in the Philippines carrying and tending to their younger siblings. Although this makes the eldest much more mature beyond their years, the heavy responsibility somewhat deprives many of them the carefreeness that all children should have regardless of whether they’re the first, middle, or youngest child. The “ate” (eldest sister) and “kuya” (eldest brother) take on much more physical and emotional duties than the other siblings, with more expectations to do and manage more house chores and cater to the needs of the younger ones. Extended Family Extended family is just as important as immediate family. Entire communities of extended family raise kids, share in chores together, and party together. (It is not uncommon for 3 generations of family to go out clubbing together – age is not a discriminant, and going out is for fun, not to rebel.) To this day, many Filipinos still live close to their families, and when they get together, it’s usually not just with their parents and siblings, but also their grandparents, great grandparents, aunts, uncles, first cousins, and even second cousins. For my wife’s family’s get together, there are so many of them, that they often rent out a resort to fit as many people as possible. Importance of Family Family is so important in the Filipino culture that for many individuals, it’s as if they do not and cannot exist without the family. Loving and caring for family of course is admirable, and the loyalty that Filipinos give to their families go above and beyond what most cultures do. However, as with the examples I will provide below, this emphasis on family has its pros and cons. PROS
- To this day, even with the growing middle class and being one of the fastest growing economies in the world, Philippines still has a lot of poverty. Many Filipinos benefit from their family members who work abroad to send them money back home, enabling many to have a more comfortable lifestyle than they otherwise would have, allow student relatives to finish schooling and graduate with degrees.
- The sharing culture allows the other family members to experience things that they may not be able to purchase through “balikbayan boxes” which are care packages containing food, clothing, toys, and personal care products. One time, I saw my mother-in-law send super soft, luxurious bath towels that she rarely even bought for herself. But she wanted to send it to her siblings so they can experience that level of comfort. Filipinos like to share their successes and experiences with their family.
- Family gatherings abound with birthdays often another excuse to get together. Filipinos love being around their family and it shows in how much time they actually spend with them. In fact, a sign of how close you are to a certain person is usually how often you’re invited to their family gatherings.
- Super attachment to family often leads to lack of individuality, specifically when making life decisions for oneself. One might say there is a cultural pressure to do what is best for the group instead of what is best for you. That attachment may also prevent someone from moving to a new place because they are so used to having family around all the time. Not exclusive to Filipinos by any means, but an observation nonetheless.
- The family well-being is emphasized over the individual well-being, particularly when talking about finances.
- This usually leads to somebody (especially the eldest of the siblings) sacrificing their personal hopes and aspirations in order to get a job and support the rest of the family. Basically, what you earn is not your own.
- Those that go abroad to work are expected to send money home, along with massive regular care packages called “balikbayan boxes”. Many times, these OFWs (Overseas Filipino Workers) are not just supporting one generation of families like their children but multi-generations including their parents and siblings. Thus, many end up spending many years abroad and coming back home without that much savings left for themselves.
- This “wealth sharing” mentality often leads to “training” the rest of the family to have others support them, and may reduce their motivation to get a job or to be innovative and start a business. The support can be an enabling force for poverty. Sad, but true. This leads to expectation that “someone will always catch me when I fall” mindset perpetuating a cycle of dependence.