Filipino Families in the Philippine Culture

Today being Father’s Day, I want to talk about Filipino families.

Mom & Dad and my brothers
Mom & Dad with me and my brothers at a family gathering taken years ago.

Due to the importance of the family in Filipino culture, it is impressed upon every individual from childhood to adulthood that parents are owed a debt of gratitude for bringing one into this world. This is balanced by the belief and tradition that parents should make sacrifice for their children because they brought them into the world. Obedience to parents and to older siblings is taught early on and enforced until adulthood, whereupon it becomes one’s sense of obligation.

Children never attain equal footing with parents; parents are always treated with respect and the debt of gratitude is a lifetime one. Children are expected to serve their parents until their death. Through this system the older citizens are provided and cared for. There is no need for nursing homes or homes for the aged. In fact, placing one’s parents in an old-folks’ home would be considered scandalous and would reflect badly on the individual and incur hiya (shame). One would be labelled a bad son or daughter who does not love one’s parents – probably the greatest sin in the eyes of Philippine society.

Filipino families are much closer than those of the West. Children are brought up to be polite, cooperative, modest and religious. Upon marrying, newlyweds usually set up their own home, but family ties remain strong. They often take in a brother or sister to ease the burden on parents and help with chores. The husband is nominally head of the household, but the wife runs the home and manages the finances. They make important decisions together. The fact that divorce is illegal contributes to unity.

The family defines an orderly world in which each member has a specific place, with obligations and privileges. Dependence and a sense of belonging are fostered. Children are doted on, the elderly respected and cared for. Sharing both good fortune and crisis, the clan operates as disciplinary mechanism, placement agency, and social assistance program. It provides its members with tremendous security, so that to be poor in the Philippines is somewhat different from being poor in the West.

In the absence of a public welfare system, the clan eases the impact of illness or unemployment. When a Filipino needs help, he can depend on his family; likewise, he can be called upon to help others in need. Those with wealth and power, especially, are expected to assist their less fortunate relatives.

Ties are not diminished by distance. Those living away from home contribute to the family budget and are warmly welcomed when they return for fiestas and social occasions. Major decisions are based on consensus, though the advice of elders is given special deference. There’s a great deal of sharing. Unlike Westerners, who draw strength from independence, Filipinos like the security of this interdependent existence, with its close bonds of mutual responsibility.

The Filipino father is a ceremonial figurehead. He is the head of the family, but in many cases, in name only. He is treated like royalty at home. The children must be quiet when he is asleep and cater to his whims and needs because he works hard all day and needs to rest and relax. As a father he does not usually have much to do with the children’s upbringing. That responsibility is designated to the mother. The father becomes more aware and more controlling of the children’s activities when his children are in their teenage years. His role as a disciplinarian is stronger now because the wife seems to feel less capable in this area once the children are older. The father’s most important role or duty is that of a provider and the role is a lifetime one.

Let Freedom Ring Collection
“Let Freedom Ring” roses for all the fathers out there. Photo Credit – Delores Snellgrove

Happy Father’s Day!!!




Culture Shock! Philippines by Alfredo & Grace Roces

Philippine Handbook by Carl Parkes




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