In the Philippines, family is everything! Never underestimate this. Families are the bricks that Filipino society is built on, and the loyalty inherent in those family relationships is the mortar that holds those bricks together. It can be a source of strength or a source of problems for the Australian Filipina marriage.
We find major differences between Australian families when we record client details. Australian families very commonly have estranged family members, ie. those they don’t see, don’t talk to, sometimes hate, and often for so many years that they don’t know their dates of birth, if they are married, unmarried or sometimes even if these family members are alive or dead!
Filipino families? This occurrence is VERY rare! Families are everything, and the family home and home town remains mentally and emotionally “home”, even if they’ve lived away from there for many years. At first opportunity, Filipinos head home to their families. They might fight. There may be those who are bullied by or who bully other family members, but there will always be a fierce loyalty to each other.
Common in most articles about Filipino culture is for the writer to take a stance: either pro-Filipino-culture or anti-Filipino-culture. I’m not going to take any particular stance at all, because I think there are both strengths and weaknesses in this strong loyalty. I hope that readers can look at this objectively and try to see and encourage the strengths and to avoid or be prepared for any negative aspects.
Aspects of Filipino family loyalty
Help is always there! If your Filipina wife needs someone to stand in a long line to get a document, take care of her kids while she’s overseas visiting you, take her in when she has nowhere else to go, etc, then family will always do this.
This can be very positive, no doubt. This is a country without a Centrelink. What keeps the country and the society together is primarily families! If a family member has no home and no food or money, then family will take them in and feed them. If a girl gets pregnant and her boyfriend dumps her, then she can always go home where she will be taken care of. If you get old and infirm, then your family will take care of you. Even hospitals expect that families will take care of many tasks which nurses normally do in Australia. The caring is real and absolute, and is a tremendous source of practical and emotional support.
Tales of families tossing out wayward daughters, naughty boys or needy and belligerent seniors? Almost never happens.
The challenging side of this is that this loyalty and reliability can act as a psychological safety-net which can prevent some family members from facing up to reality and changing their negative ways. If a family member is lazy, he/she knows that they can live off the charity of their families forever. And an errant teenager can’t be scared back on-track by threats of being tossed out, because they know it will never happen. So facing-up, growing-up and sorting-things-out can be avoided. Annoying relatives often remain annoying, and everybody….including your wife…will keep tolerating and accommodating them.
The other challenge is that those who are NOT “blood” will rarely rate you as highly as those who are. I come from an Aussie culture where we walk away from problematic family members who let us down, and where we will put “mates” and those friends who have proved their kindness, loyalty and trustworthiness over the years way ahead of relatives who haven’t done the same. We have a similar “code” that we live by, but we tend to choose our own personal-family from our mates and from those family members whom we feel a mateship and a genuine closeness to.
What this means is that you can show a high level of kindness to some Filipinos, and they return this kindness by treating you as second-rate strangers simply because you are not their biological family. You can find that your kindness is seen as weakness and as an invitation to abuse your trust. If you expect that “mateship” will always be returned, you can be left disappointed and disillusioned.
And whilst family members will generally look upon your wife as somebody they are reluctant to take advantage of, many will always look at you as “the rich white guy” and will have no moral crises in cheating and lying to you. Less likely compared to non-family, but the possibility remains and you should be aware of it. The more you have loyalty in your marriage (see the previous post HERE), the less likely it will happen because your good wife will be watching your back.
Wonderful culture. I live here, and this is my home. And I say wholeheartedly that there are far more good and kind people than bad and unkind. But knowledge is power, and more knowledge will make life much easier and less problematic for you.