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.
Couldn’t be further from the truth but then again while both arguments have merits of their own, it would seem that the sacrifice of the eldest among siblings has a better outcome than individualized choice to accomplishment and success. Of course, I do not have the numbers to justify this statement but if I were to use someone I know as an example, I guess there would be some validity in the argument. As the eldest among a typical siblings of six, my friend had to stop schooling and work while in his second year in college so as to give way to his younger brother and sister who had to enroll in college. Once they were done in college and got gainful employment, the remaining three brother and sisters had to attend college with the two elder brothers and sisters helping out to support them. During this time however, the eldest also decided to continue his interrupted studies as a night student until he was done himself. With hard work, patience and some sacrifice, everybody finished their studies and got their respective degrees in due time. Of course, all the brothers and sisters were eternally grateful to their eldest and the respect and gratitude he got in return were certainly more than enough to reward his selfless sacrifice. All the siblings and their respective families are doing well and clearly, the ends truly justified the means.
This practice continues to be a rite of passage among many Filipino families and more often than not, also serves as an inspiration to many who belong to the same group. It may be worthy of mention to note that this practice has become a time-honored tradition not only in the Philippines but also in some other neighboring Asian countries, such as Thailand, Vietnam and perhaps some more.
Tagalog is the common language spoken particularly in the Regions 4A and 4B, in particular, Manila the capital city of the Philippines, well hmm maybe, because since the educational curriculum have changed, many Filipinos have been speaking English as their second language, nowadays 95% of its population are well educated.
Filipino could be both described as the citizenship those, of course from the Philippines as well as Filipino is the Language taught in school from kindergarten to the universities.
It has become an enigma with me. Divorce is pending in the Senate. Highly discouraged. Annulment cost a yearly income due to legal fees. Php 250,000 pesos.
Once a woman is, married, it appears to me that is some instance; she becomes rather A ‘Chatel’ or a piece of property.
Poverty creates, a, problematic issues. Mother, fathers married children under once roof. Who then commune as an extended family. It’s a reality that gifts are coveted. With subsequent loss to the expecting family to receive much needed supplies. Money is expensive to send. The cost of living differential is noticed.
If the immigrant who is unable to achieve more than a minimum hourly wage. A Second job becomes the norm to send money abroad back to family or relatives.
This is what I have observed in the past year.
Please, correct me if I am wrong.