Why Do **Some** Filipinos Assume That Their Well-Off Relatives Will Take Care of Them?

I started working at age 14 in a gas station in Texas for 55 cents an hour. The next year I progressed into a grocery store job for $1.11 an hour. This was in 1966. I am an American and a Texan, married to a wonderful Filipina for almost 21 years now and I submit this article in hopes of getting some genuine answers to my question. We have had a series of events in our family that are both troubling and puzzling and frankly, I just don’t get it.

While my wife and I were still living in Texas, we used to get those middle of the night, collect, phone calls from family members calling us from the Philippines. The reason for their calling was always the same. They wanted money. There was always a LONG, sad story, accompanied by crying, more story telling and yet more crying. All this was usually taking place at about 4 AM, Central Standard Time in the USA. Despite what we told them about the time difference between the Philippines and the USA, they continued to call us at weird hours. Anyway, the first request, as I recall, was my wife’s favorite, (at that time), sister, telling us that she had to wash clothes for other people by hand from sun up to sun down to earn enough money to pay her bills and buy food. I told my wife to send her some money, quite a bit of money. Later, when we vacationed in Cebu City, in 2004, my wife set up a joint checking account for her and this sister and told her that it was for her to pay her bills, buy food and for emergency use and not to be squandered foolishly and that we when we returned in 2005, we would get with her and see how much money was still in it. Now we are talking pesos, of course, but as I recall, there was the equivalent amount of about $5,000 that we had put in there for her to use. When we returned in 2005, she refused to talk to us about the account, hid the bank pass book and was acting very secretive about the whole thing. We went to the bank and found out that the account only had a remaining balance of 300 pesos! What the…!!?#@  My wife went to her house and confronted her and she still refused to give us any explanation and then her grown son got into it and a shouting match ensued, all in Cebuano, of course. We left.

We returned to the Philippines, to Cebu, to take vacations in 2006, 2007. We finally retired to the Philippines in March of 2009. Immediately, when all the relatives found out we were here for good, we got the following requests: (1) to put one of my wife’s sisters boys thru police academy, (2) to pay off a niece’s debt with neighborhood loan sharks totaling 18,000 pesos, (3) to pay for most of the expense of a nephew’s upcoming wedding, (4) to buy a new pump boat for my wife’s youngest sister’s husband to go fishing with, (5) to give the middle sister enough money, around 20,000 pesos, to finish the remodeling of her home, (6) about a dozen requests from my mother-in-laws for money, no particular reason,…because it was well known that she BLEW her 2 pension checks about 3 days after receiving them each month.  And on and on…those are just SOME of the request, actually DEMANDS, that were made, by no means all of them.

One sister of my wife started nursing school way back when but got pregnant and dropped out…her middle sister started college but also dropped out to get married…her one brother started college to become an engineer but dropped out…her baby sister actually finished college and has a degree in chemical engineering but married the star basketball player from high school and started having babies. So…the way I see it, each of them had their chance to make something of themselves and failed to capitalize on their  opportunity.  Now…NONE of them have a checking account, a savings account, a car, what Americans would call a “home”, or any of the creature comforts that we Americans so casually take for granted like hot water and air conditioning and a good bed with a mattress to sleep on.

WHY do these people and other Filipinos we have met assume that it is our duty to support them and take care of them? We worked like dogs, my wife and I, in the USA. When I met my wife, we were both working a full time, 40 hour a week job and a part time job, just to keep our heads above water, financially. I have always worked. I have never been on government supported welfare ever and neither has my wife. She was gone from the Philippines for 35 years and was shocked beyond belief at what her brother and sisters had become…in effect, bums, liars, and beggars. Truly disappointing, to put it mildly. Now she stays upset ALL the time because of their demands and their attitudes. NO ONE ever just calls us on the phone to see how we are doing. It is always a request for money. Not too surprisingly, we have cut off all contact with most of them. There are 63 relatives of my wife that live close to us. They don’t come around any more since we quit handing out money. So…where does this idea stem from that one member of the family, who HAS made something of themselves, who HAS worked, saved, and been careful with their money owe it to the less wise, the less monetarily endowed, to support them and even their grown children???  I cannot even imagine asking my brother in the states for money, especially not over and over again, like they do here in the Philippines. Can someone please explain this phenomenon to me?






About Steven Macon

Native born Texan. Married to a Filipina for over 20 years. We met in Texas and married there. Moved to Cebu in March of 2009. Balik-bayan status, meaning, we have to leave the P.I. once every 12 months and go somewhere and come back. Originally came here to take care of my 83 year old mother-in-law and some of wife's family but they are all crooks and thieves. Don't have much contact with them now.
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