3/2/13

Families in the Philippines

When people move to the Philippines from the west.  The biggest single complaint I hear is about the family moving in.  How this seems to be the biggest invasion of privacy and inconvenience.  


You must first understand the culture and how that culture operates to understand the dynamics that fall on this.  The Philippines operates on the collective idea.  Where everyone contributes to the family and assist each other.  What is yours is mine and same the other way.  This goes against the mentality of the western mind.  The family is more then just blood and relationship.  It is a way people live and survive.  Understanding the economy and how poorly people are paid.  Is just one dynamic of this structure.  Let me give you an example:

My father-in-law is a farmer and carpenter by trade.  He lives on 2 hectors of land and farms that.  However there are times when the work is not there.  Either the weather or crops are not ready.  The same applies for his other trade of being a carpenter.  So there are times when the money becomes lean.  Yet living in the home is my Brother-in-law.  He does not have a trade yet works at a bakery 6 days a week, 12 hours a day.  He earns the bare min of 180 pesos a day. ($4.50)  Now this income is not much and yet it is enough to assist the family or collective when those hard times of crops and work are limited.  He assists in the farming along with his wife and my mother-in-law.

This type of living arrangement is very common in the Philippines.   The reason is most people are living hand to mouth.  They do not earn enough to save for that rainy day.  What they earn today is tonight's meal.  


This type of living arrangement bleeds over into everything in the daily life.  When a trip to the Market or the store.  The children remain home and with someone to care for them.  Then because of this fact many things are just not suited for people with children.  The stores and markets are not designed to accommodate you with children.  Transportation is also not very accommodating to children and families.   This in a way is by design however it a product of the collective life that people live here in the Philippines.

This type of mentality also applies to supporting the parents and family members.   Many think that it is a form of greed and taking from you.  Yet it is not greed but a collective mentality.  I will not think there are some that would feel they hit a jackpot with a wealthier individual coming into the fold.  Yet that would be the case in any country in the world.  The term poor seems to always relate to money and people consider themselves poor.  Yet the Philippines is different many may say they are poor, yet phrased properly they consider themselves blessed and very lucky spite the lack of money.

wife and tim Potter Philippines healthy
Wife and Tim Potter Philippines
I have seen this mentality on display with my parents-in-law staying with us as we accomplish our visa process.  They have assisted in watching the two children as we accomplish things.  They assist around the house from cooking and cleaning.  It is a collective unit to get the days chores done and life done.  There is no arguing over who does what.  It is just done and everyone has a role to the end goal of the day.  When my wife was in the hospital everyone from her family arrived.  They collectively got the funds together and ensured everyone arrived.  It was not about the individual but about ensuring that my wife had support.  It was a real shock to seem them all here.
So when I hear people from the west complain about supporting the wife or girlfriends parents.  I get this inner chuckle because they do not understand Filipino living and how they live as a collective for the greater good of the family.  




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