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The Filipino Family: Close Family Ties?

by Kat Evangelista

Whenever I think of the Filipino family, the first picture that comes to my mind is a lola (grandmother) sitting in a rocking chair holding out her hand to her apos (grandchildren), while each children receives her hand to place it in their foreheads. This is what we Filipinos call pagmamano, a gesture as old as the country itself, an act of respect to the elder members of the family. I myself have practiced this countless times, and will still be practicing it in the years to come. Some things never change.

Or so I think.

Nowadays, a lot of things have been challenging the Filipinos’ claim that they have close family ties. Every year, thousands of Filipinos go to other countries to work as nurses, engineers, teachers, and domestic helpers, thus the term Overseas Filipino Workers (OFW). I once attended a seminar where the speaker said that we are the only country on the face of the Earth who has this mentality. That in order to better our family’s economic status, or what the masses aptly say “makaahon sa hirap” (rise from poverty), we have to send our fathers, mothers, daughters and sons into a foreign land to work for us, and send money to us in a better (and much stable) currency. We are a country who’s most famous commodity is our manpower.

The consequences? Incomplete family pictures. Children growing up in the absence of their fathers or mothers. Parents growing old in the absence of their already grown up children. In my neighborhood, a lot of OFW’s houses has been renovated, repainted, stocked with modern appliances and chocolates with foreign names have been sent from different countries, but this houses are empty of family members to appreciate them. In the simplest sense, food has been brought in the once-poor table, but the mouths to feed on it are sad and incomplete. And somewhere, in a cold (or hot) land, an OFW is looking at old family pictures, maybe shedding a tear or two. The Filipino family has been fragmented into pieces. Some reunitable, some beyond repair. In a country that boasts of “close family ties”, the ties have loosened.

I used to feel badly about this situation. Maybe it’s a normal reaction of someone who is left behind. The government claims that this Filipino Exodus has greatly helped our economic status, but it left a lot of unhealed wounds, too. Again, I used to feel bad about this situation. But not anymore.

As I get older, I had a better grasp of the situation. I realized that close family ties doesn’t only mean being close literally in distance, but in hearts too. That the Filipino family is not only a happy family, but a strong family, too. That these OFW’s loves their family so much, that they are capable of sacrificing themselves, in order to help their ailing parents get good medical assistance to good hospitals, help a sibling get out of financial troubles, and most commonly, send their children to good schools, hoping that in the future, they will get good jobs and they won’t need to leave their future families in order to provide for them. Clearly, the intent behind the desertion is noble. Close family ties is not just about staying or going, it is about valuing our roots and nourishing it. And promising, to come back and be reunited with them again.

So, if a foreigner will ask me, “Do you Filipinos still have close family ties?” With a proud face and a smile on my mouth I will say yes, because up to now, we still uphold to our age-old family value: we put our families first in our decisions. We do what we can for our families. Even if that means packing up and boarding a plane going to foreign lands. And if one day, I will be compelled to make this decision too, I will also put my family first, too, as we Filipinos always do.

Kat is a 22-year old young professional who tries to juggle family, lovelife, work, idealism, writing and music in her almost-always-full hands. She lives in Bulacan, Philippines. Email her on [email protected] And yes, she is the small girl scratching her head on the family picture above.


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  • kat evangelista
  • bena francia mendoza

    hey anakat! salamat sa post na to. nakakataba ng puso i must say! atleast someone like you knows how it feels to be far from your family kahit di mo pa na-try.sacrifices!!hehe labu anakat!pray for people like me at lahat ng classmates nating malayo na din t paalis pa lang. god bless us! <3

  • Dahong Palay

    Totoo yan Kat! danas kong lahat yan dahil ako ay OFW at taga Bulacan din, lalong lalo na sa kauna-unahang pagkakataon na ika’y aalis nakow! parang naibang bigla ang mundo mo hindi mo na nagagawa ang mga nakasanayan mo na sa Pilipinas, kaya lang ganon talaga alang-alang sa mga mahal natin sa buhay kailangan talaga nating magsakripisyo…

  • gamila tarek

    My collegues in “Definitely Filipino” participants in blogs………you are all right……….family ties what Filipino is so strong for that……….I’ve been away for 36 years far from my family………since the start of my college life…….thats what i accounted ……….and its so difficult if they there and you are far from them……….
    In my college days……..through speed mail i ‘m always received from my parents that time, i feel that they are just besides me whenever i started to read the letter………advices,plans, all of that will be reminders so that you will not be lost….hindi ka mapapariwara sa masasamang barkada dahil malayo ka sa kanila…..that’s my family ties i ‘ve got to them…..during that time.

    When i’m abroad still letters every week……….and now a days theres a telephone, voice mail, video cam messages that you can talk to them right away……..technology wow its helps me so much ………in order i can have family ties to my love ones in Philippines. Whatever it cost it doesn’t matter just as long we could communicate each other every now and then……….thats my value of “family ties being a Filipino”. 😉

  • Beautifully put. I have had the pleasure of growing up in both the US and the RP. I have the blessing of being Pinoy and combining the privileges of being an American and the rich culture of being Filipino

  • prince july manuel

    so nice.! deeply appreciated. 🙂

  • Pantheist

    This Filipino value you speak of is also a contributing factor that impedes an individual’s socio-economic progress. Picture a kuya (elder brother) who will remain single til he’s old because getting married will hamper his capacity to sustain the education of his siblings. Marriages are ruined caused by meddling grandparents whose age-old tradition of patriarchy and dominance are ill-applied in today’s standards of privacy and individualism. I may be misreading you if what you meant was that families should at least try to have a reunion once in a while. That, I dig.

  • homesick

  • Cherry Ann Del-oeg

    I am currently working abroad and being away from my family for 4 years is totally heart-brokening. I always ask them to send recent photos of them for me to look into everytime I misses them. How much more to those who didn’t see their family longer than me? Everything you said is true. And I may say that the only reason I still have the strength to keep moving is because of that family ties that is buried in my heart… deep within.