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What are Filipino Families Like?

Your wife shall be a fruitful vine
Within your house,
Your children like olive vine
Around your table
-Psalm 128:3

The common belief is that every Filipino family is like every ordinary nuclear family around the globe. They do have a father, a mother, and their children. The Father is also called the “Haligi ng Tahanan” (“The Home’s Foundation”); and the Mother, “Ilaw ng Tahanan” (The Home’s Light”). Since divorce is not officially part of Philippine law or culture, the idea of marriage and nuclear family remains central. And in most cases the families do remain together and function as traditional nuclear families. The parents take care of the children, until later when the parents are older then the children take care of them.

In this model, every person in the family has a role. As the Bible verse would like to convey, the mother is the fruitful vine, and the children are like olive vines. A typical Filipino family would have a mother who stays at home and does all the household chores. Every mom would make it a point to be the light of the home that would raise their children to be imbued with values and to have fear of the Lord. She makes sure that their children will be contributing to their famliy and community. In that sense, the mother is the fruitful vine that bears fruits (children) that will be the community’s productive individuals.

The children on the other hand are olive vines. During Biblical times, olive vines were considered to be one of the most precious treasures of the land. Thus the comparison with children, the greatest blessings a family can have. They too are vines that crawl, grow, and someday bloom to be persons who are instilled with respect, love, and understanding. As a cherished vine, children are anticipated by the many to be of much great help to the community. Typical Filipino children are someone that the family can depend on; they do various household chores, they respect elders, they follow all norms, and they value education.

Nonetheless, a mother cannot grow into that fruitful vine that the world expects without the walls or foundations she can climb and crawl into. The children too cannot be the valuable gifts that they are, without the pillar that they can cling onto. This wall or foundation that the mother and children depend on is no other than the family’s rock – the father. The father serves as the family’s sturdy foundation, he is the family’s strongest rock, and he is the family’s toughest pillar that keeps the family stay together.

If you wish to build a Filipino family, you have to expect that a typical Filipino family has a father who works, a mother who stays at home, and children who goes to school. However, nowadays, there are already Filipino families wherein the wife chooses to work, too. The wife decides to work to feel self-fulfillment, or to help in the family’s financial needs. Though there are Filipinas who opt to find their careers outside home, it is still customary to many Filipino families to have mothers stay at home. This question is always something to consider when imagining a life together: What roles will each person have, and whether they share a vision of a family. Especially if it is a cross-cultural marriage, because then the basic assumptions of the Filipino family may not be shared.

While any Filipino family may not be exactly like a typical nuclear family in every last detail, there is another perspective that is always true for any Filipino family: they have huge extended families of cousins, second cousins, in-laws, and in-laws families, and these extended families extend all over the Philippines and all over the world. Ask any Filipino if they have family in any city, and there is a good chance they do. They can often even name them, and if traveling there, would be welcomed and given a royal treatment as a family member even if they have never met before.

With the advent of text messaging (the Philippines is proudly the text messaging capital of the world), email, and facebook, these extended family webs at times seem to be almost as important to a Filipino as his or her nuclear family, something unbelievable to anyone who has not yet experienced it.

If you do have the fortune to court a Filipina, we advise you: first, be most interested in the lady herself and speak with her directly about your dreams; second, recognize that she will most likely insist that you get to know her family which first means her parents and siblings and then cousins and so on. A good impression with the family truly is important for a Filipina, so dress well and be especially considerate when you meet her family. It bears repeating again in different words: ultimately, remember that it is the lady herself to whom you must devote the most attention and respect (without overdoing it); yet a good relationship with her parents and siblings will be vital for her to accept you. She will not want to get into a situation where there would be tension or conflict between you and her parents or siblings.

Someday you might be part of a huge web of a Filipino family. We hope you may be blessed with a partner and extended family who is right for you.

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11 Comments »

  1. Really it is very nice to know the traditional family chain and social system.

    Comment by Ashim K Sarkar — July 7, 2012 @ 7:58 am

  2. I found this article to be very true and enlightening. They have a saying in the Philippines….”Buy one, take all”. It basically means when you seriously date or marry a filipina lady, you automatically are enjoined and in fact obligated to the entire family. Its a concept that may be difficult for American men to grasp. Especially when it comes to helping the family financially. However, I found that its best to embrace the “buy one, take all” concept, and try to explain to my wife that I will have to get used to the concept of supporting the entire family. On the other hand, the family will also be there to honor, love and protect the head of the household.

    Comment by John Wright — July 8, 2012 @ 1:30 pm

  3. The essential elements of what is written above are mostly true, but i am curous about who is the writer: overly idealistic, there are some serious shortfalls in what is stated. How long has the author been living IN the Philippines? What depth of exposure has the author had in this society? At what level or strata has he/she been living here?
    The bare truth is that most nuclear families here, esp among 70% of the population, don’t exist. In other words, this thing about the father is for the most part missing altogether. That is, the tatay isn’t present, and so the land is filled with single mothers saddled with poverty because the father long ago left to pursue his immature selfish interests. More important to so many is his rooster(s), his female playmates (if any will have him), his drinking, drugging and gambling. So the so-called ‘pillar’ of the home is missing more often than not, and the ‘light’ is left with a dim bulb because she’s overwhelmed by the burden she must bear daily vis a vis how to get enough rice for the day, try to keep her brood healthy. More often than not she may be forced into some form of prostitution, into grabbing a foreigner as a last ditch effort to make it good, or into going abroad to earn enough money to send back home, usually to her parents who are already worn down by life’s inexorable grind, to support the child(ren).
    So come on, get real here. What was a communal family scene when the Phils was better off (how many decades ago?) is no longer true.

    Comment by Bruce — July 8, 2012 @ 6:46 pm

  4. As for the second message here, ask yourself this question: Before I and my money came along, how did this family survive? Or, if they were doing ok before I entered their lives, why should i financially support the whole family?
    If a foreign man has the courage to stand true to his convictions, he need not support the whole family! If a foreigner had to work very hard to earn and save enough money for himself, and usually for his own foreign family, why is he suddenly having to support this filipina’s family?
    This is NOT a necessary ingredient to the mix! Yes, it’s ok to give a little money to her family when you see a serious shortfall, but to have to give and give on a consistent basis is over-the-top dumb. Some foreigners actually will give their girlfriend’s or wife’s family huge sums of money (for them) every month, but they are being taken in, being deceived. If a foreigner gives the family only 2000 pisos a month, that is sufficient for the family to live better, and is small enough to ensure they continue to live as they have for decades, whether it be farming, fishing or laundering.
    Give the family any more, and it almost a sure thing you’ve created dependency, and, as a spinoff, a lack of appreciation for you. In the end you will spoil the family, in the end freeing them from having to struggle at all. Their hands more likely than not will beg, borrow or steal more and more, and you may not learn of how this came about until it’s too late. If you do learn about economies of scale here late in the game, and decide to cut them off or cut back on your generosity, they will call you ‘kuripot’ (cheapskate) behind your back. Sometimes the backlash is violent against you and/or your wife. She may be forced by the family to ask for more for this or that sudden ‘emergency,’ but often it’s all lies.
    And let’s face it, even if you are a strong-willed man, you won’t be able to beat this family once you learn the truth. Don’t be a nice guy. Learn economies of scale here or you will hurt in more ways than the most obvious one.
    Giving your pinay girlfriend 25,000 pisos a month is ridiculous. More often than not she will give the money to her family, her friends and neighbours for things like getting drunk every day or otherwise buying everyone whatever they want because that gives her status in the community. I know of men who’ve sent her $2000 a month, and when finally visiting her from abroad, she’s a changed woman, and usually for the worse!
    Now there are exceptions of course, but more often than not, if your primary relationship with your filipina goes sour, it’s quite possible you will be in terrible pain over what you’ve unwittingly created, and lost!

    Comment by Bruce — July 8, 2012 @ 7:08 pm

  5. I’m a Filipina and I believe in what Bruce had written before my post. A foreigner who is going to meet a Filipina should think like him. I especially like this part:

    “Giving your pinay girlfriend 25,000 pisos a month is ridiculous. More often than not she will give the money to her family, her friends and neighbours for things like getting drunk every day or otherwise buying everyone whatever they want because that gives her status in the community. I know of men who’ve sent her $2000 a month, and when finally visiting her from abroad, she’s a changed woman, and usually for the worse!
    Now there are exceptions of course, but more often than not, if your primary relationship with your filipina goes sour, it’s quite possible you will be in terrible pain over what you’ve unwittingly created, and lost!”

    This is very true.I feel sad about foreign people being deceived by other fellow pınays. It’s ok to treat her and family once in a while and dine out with the family and maybe go to a movie theatre or an amusement park. But to support the family regularly with more than lets say $100 per month is not advisable. If the pinay has a brother, sıster or a father who are fit to work why not let them work for the family. They have survived even the foreign husband came into their lives. I feel sad when I hear storıes of pinays who are only after the money, but THERE ARE real pinays who go are truly in love despite the age and financial issue a foreign fiance or husband has. I’m proud of pinays who are showing the real beauty of a Filipina. Caring, Thoughtful, Empathetic, Loving, Faithful, Diligent, Intelligent and Rational. <3

    Comment by Lara Lazenby — July 11, 2012 @ 11:39 pm

  6. I agree with Mr. Bruce for what he just wrote. But like any other nationalities, there’s always a gold digger, coal digger or whatever they want to dig out of foreigners. There are also the ones who are only looking for true love. There are filipinas I know who don’t ask anything from their foreign husband. Yes its true that the Philippines is a poor country but there are really sweet, loving and caring Filipinas who are also only looking for a man who would really love and appreciate her. You would not need to send 25,000 Php a month, or even $100 or even $10 when the girl really loves you, she loves you for whatever your strata in life is. What’s really good with the a real beautiful Filipina, is her capacity to understand and accept even your deep dark secrets and she would still think you are the only man in the world who makes her complete. I know Filipinas who work side by side with her husband to sustain the family needs and a real Filipina will never leave your side even when you are a complete zero as long as you love her and will never try to replace her. She is the perfect girl for any husband who will give the same amount of respect and love for her. A wife who works in the house and outside the house without complaining at all.

    Comment by Anonymous — July 12, 2012 @ 12:03 am

  7. Your post is overly idealistic. After nearly ten years I sponsored my wife’s parents to come live with us. We had already bought them a $65,000 home in the PI, sent her sisters, and cousins to college. The girls all found excuses not to work, got pregnant, and we are left supporting the bunch. When my in laws arrived, her father flooded my house, twice. When I asked him to be more careful in the bathroom. He responded that we had only helped to “capture him,” his feelings were hurt, so he demanded a new Toyota Camry and his own apartment at our expenses. We owed him this because he is my wife’s father and we’ve done “nothing for him, or at least not lately” despite over $100,000 in receipts and paying all of his expenses. He sulked and demanded to go back to the Philippines, so I bought him a ticket. Now my wife will not pay her bills, despite the fact she makes more than I do. After I bailed her out from my retirement I learn she has been lying and going behind my back to send even more money. I’ve tried everything I can think of, counseling at our Church and taking her on all kinds of vacations. At this point my trust is shattered. The rub is that we have the most beautiful, smart, loving, little girl. I can not figure out how to get out of this without hurting her. …

    Comment by Anon — October 1, 2012 @ 1:29 am

  8. To Anon, you have created the monster Bruce was talking about above. You give her a materialistic life where before she only knew survival. What girl would turn down vacatons whether she love you or not. Here in Ireland the Irish girl of old, would love honour and obey her husband. Of course this was abused by many an Irishman in days gone by. We now live in a society of materialism, single parents living on welfare and a country where men are little more than an ATM for their bottle blonde plastic wives and girlfriend. Try finding a girl in Ireland if you don’t earn at least 6000 a month. I hope The Filipina girl don’t turn out like that when the country starts to prosper.

    Comment by Ger Roche — October 12, 2012 @ 11:38 am

  9. I am a filipina who was born in the Philippines and raised in the United States, but was still raised to believe everything that the writer described in this post until I started dating a non-filipino man who opened my eyes to what my family was teaching me.

    We have been together for almost 4 years and are planning to get married in the future, and I am sooooo happy, on his part, that he broke me away from the traditional filipino beliefs. I am very thankful for the previous comments that were made in response to this post because the truth needs to be told.

    I am amazed and very upset to know that many men have suffered from the families of filipinas who have taken advantage of them. I am embarrassed to be a filipina at times if it means I would be affiliated with people who are like that who take advantage of others. I hope more filipinas will read these comments and not wrongfully demand their spouses or significant others to be taken advantage of. That is not real love these filipinas are portraying to foreigners. It is not right for those filipinas to be spreading this reputation around the world either of us other filipinas who are not like this at all and are open-minded.

    So I just wanted to put this comment out there to prove to others that not all filipinas are like that. The newer generations of filipinos who are being raised in other countries than the Philippines are learning that there are other ways to live life than the traditional filipino mindset and lifestyle.

    Comment by Krystle — October 31, 2012 @ 7:47 pm

  10. With all due respect to the writer of this post, as a 29 yr old Filipina who was born & raised here in the Philippines, I agree w/what Bruce & Anon said that what you’ve written here is overly idealistic. But on the contrary, I was wondering where Bruce got his number that “most nuclear families here in the Phil., esp. among 70% of the population, don’t exist?” Isn’t too high Bruce?
    Yes, it is true that most of our families now loss some of the Traditional Filipino family values but there are still some who doesn’t. Also I can assure you that even though there are problems (emotionally or financially) in the family (Nuclear Family, Single-Parent Family, Step Family etc.) , whatever it is (as what the writer said) “in most cases the families do remain together”, still live in one roof… Still Love One Another.
    Regarding on the other comments; Concept of Being obligated to support the entire family of the Filipina (by John Wright), Foreign people being deceived by fellow Pinays & it’s family (by Lara Lazenby), like any other nationalities, there’s always a gold digger, coal digger or whatever they want to dig out of foreigners (by Anonymous who really made me laugh by him saying this), all the things said by Bruce on his 2nd message, the bad experience of Anon & the many foreigners who have suffered from the families of Filipinas (by Krystle) – Sad to say, nowadays these are all true.
    So, on behalf of other Filipinos Please Accept Our Apologies & We Ask for your Prayer & Understanding.

    Comment by Nestle — November 22, 2012 @ 1:03 am

  11. When sending your money stops flowing …Then their Love stops growing. Then their wasn’t any Love to begin with.

    There’s a Sister of Christian faith who wrote this book Title;via bookstores,amazon,kindle etc,
    The Family Freeloader a BIBLICAL Answer For Sob stories,Con games,and Never get off the couch.

    Excellent Reference to this painful subject. …GOD be with you all.

    Comment by AMOGANI — December 13, 2012 @ 5:04 am

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