Philippine Family Matters
- 0.1 Family Redefined
- 0.2 The Sopranos in the Philippines
- 0.3 Here’s The attention Step
- 0.4 You’re Marrying More Than Your Fiancee’
- 0.5 For Me, It Was Easy
- 0.6 Paying It Forward
- 0.7 What? Support a Family Member Other Than Your Own Child?
- 0.8 Live Debt Free Instead
- 0.9 Our Pay Forward Experience
- 0.10 You May Not Be Asked To Do This, But What If You Are?
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Some readers may remember the blockbuster HBO series, The Sopranos.
Many know I am a certified (certifiable?) Sopranos fan, maybe because so much of the show was filmed a few block from one of my boyhood home and I grew up knowing a lot of characters who could have been hired, as is, directly into a Sopranos episode.
The Sopranos in the Philippines
One of the taglines used in advertising the series was “Family, redefined”.
Welcome to the Philippines, my friends. Whenever the subject of culture shock and differences between living here and back in the USA comers up, I find that family is one of the biggest difference to me.
In many ways I had a pretty normal US-style childhood … married parents who lived together, a number of aunts, uncles ,cousins, grandparents and siblings … nothing out of the ordinary.
After I got married the first time my family of course doubled … my wife’s grandmother, father and mother, a couple aunts and uncles, cousins and a brother-in-law … so, in many ways, when I type these words, I wonder how I am going to come up with the right words to make the differences between there and here come alive.
But it matters not how well I can articulate it, the difference between my relationship with my ex-wife’s family and my current (and LAST) wife’s family is night and day.
Here’s The attention Step
One thing I learned when I was working in the classroom is, every lesson should begin with an attention step.
So here goes … The Philippines Is Family Redefined … in a big way. In my personal view this can be one of the best, or the worst changes likely in your life if you come to live here in the Philippines.
You’re Marrying More Than Your Fiancee’
Here’s a little pre-marital tip for those of you with a romantic interest here in the Philippines, thinking of ‘tying the knot’.
You aren’t just marrying the guy or gal, you are marrying into his or her family. I know of a lot of Americans who are sort of in denial over this or who sometimes just brusquely sate, “Oh no, that means nothing to me, I won’t be getting involved with her family”.
Well, again in my view, of course, you have no idea what you are talking about, my friend. You are going to be involved with her family, perhaps more than you know, so it might be smart to lose the ‘it don’t matter to me’ attitude and figure out your own way to interact and make the experience more of a delight rather than a disaster.
For Me, It Was Easy
My own solution (which has been made very easy for me, because of who my Filipino family is and how they have made it so easy for me) is to relax, go with the flow, and enjoy the gift of a whole new family.
Indeed, on those occasions when the thought of leaving and going back to the USA comes to my mind … and it does you know, it will be a frequent visitor to your brain too, trust me) one of the positive factors that keeps me right here where I am, planning for a future here in the Philippines, is family.
If I pulled up stakes they’d miss me, and I, for sure, would deeply miss them.
Paying It Forward
I actually started this article today just to illustrate just one very common tradition here in Philippines living that you should get your head around.
Think it through before you are faced with the nitty gritty parts of the decision, and then you’ll certainly have an easier time of it, whatever your actual role is.
The tradition I am talking about? Paying forward … one family member gets sent to school by another family member who already got sent to school by someone in the past.
What? Support a Family Member Other Than Your Own Child?
Yes indeed. In the US this would seem so strange. We typically go deep in debt to banks, other family members and the US government to buy a college education and then spend years of our life paying back those dollars (often with significant interest.
Then, those of us with college age children dump ourselves right into the same vicious circle … destroying our savings that might be better used for old age needs, getting our children signed up in school loan programs that are going to cripple them with loan payments in their low-income family rearing years, or (a significant contributor to the current economic crisis) destroying the equity in our homes … building debt that has to be paid back.
Live Debt Free Instead
Here in the Philippines it’s very common to pay forward instead, and before you even pull out your pocket calculator, I’m very much more in favor of anything with forward in it rather than back.
This may seem really ‘foreign’ to a lot of my fellow Americans. How many of you have put one of your brother’s kids through college, or have a new baby in the house and already know who is ‘on hook’ to pay for that youngster’s education twenty years down the road?
There’s a lot more to cultural differences here than eating fertile duck eggs, believe me.
Our Pay Forward Experience
In my family’s case my wife and her sisters received help with school from several family members.
As a ‘pay forward’, one sister who completed nursing school here in the Philippines, agreed to support one of her sister’s children. That girl is now a proud BSN degree holder, getting ready for her us-qualifying NCLEX board exams.
She, and her family, have no crippling debt staring them in their faces, and though it’s undeniable that the ‘supporting sister’ made sacrifices to pay the bills, she’s at a prime time in he life for earning, so the pain is certainly minimized.
My wife took on the task of helping another niece … who enrolled n, studied and has completed her degree in an old-line quality school here in Metro Manila, earning a BS in tourism management.
My wife told me of this promise way back before our marriage, so it cAME as no surprise to me, and thankfully the financial burden was really quite small. It’s a task I am undertook happily with with my wife (I never raised daughters,
it’s a real breath of fresh air to have a happy and vivacious young person like Gia in our home.
Still, there’s quite a bit to this arrangement, far beyond the finances. Gia really is living with us. Her mom is in touch, but we now have the hands on parenting role … how much time on the Internet is appropriate, she isn’t texting with ‘low life’ characters is she, is she going to be alright riding the train home from Manila at night? What about when some nervous looking guy shows up at the door and turns out to be one of Gia’s crushes?
Those of you currently raising teens know all about these things, for me, it’s a set of dim and distant memories that now have to be sorted of, updated to the 21st century and ‘retooled’ because of the differences between raising a son and raising a daughter. It’s going to keep me busy over the next three years. I laugh when I read comments or queries from folks that ask me, “What do you do to occupy your time in the Philippines”?
You May Not Be Asked To Do This, But What If You Are?
But now that I have laid this policy out and given you my thoughts and advice, so not take this in the wrong way.
How you chose to deal with commitments and relationships in your own Filipino family is totally up to you.
But for me? I feel happy and blessed … almost like a whole ‘added season’ of life, and I’m not only looking forward to it, I’m grateful to my wife for making the commitment in the first place, to Gia for putting up with a mysterious old father figure who must be pretty hard to figure out at times, to Gia’s mom and dad for ‘loaning’ us their daughter and entrusting us with a lot of important decisions, and I guess also to the Philippines for actually “Redefining Family” for me in many ways.
This article is re-written and updated from 2009 when Gia first stared her college education. I’m happy to to report that she finished successfully, earned her degree and almost immediately found a decent paying job in Quezon city with the Philippine subsidiary of a very large US banking firm. You’d instantly recognize it if I told you.
So for a very small expense over a very short few years, we now know at least one member of our extended family will never be a street person begging for scraps of food and causing worry and heartache. Great Going, Gia.
So to me, that’s why Philippine Family Matters.