One things that a good number of people who have never been to the Philippines don’t realize is that a large number of the foreigners living here are paying their Filipina significant other a monthly allowance. The purpose of this blog article is not to question to rightness or wrongness of this practice or to assert moral entrepreneurship on other people’s lives, but instead to simply take a gander at some of the reasons behind it and some of the consequences of having such a practice in one’s relationship.
Note two things: First, I will be using “Filipina” and “foreigner” in their most traditional terms (female/male), but realize that this applies to any type of foreigner-Filipino relationship of any gender combination. Finally, we are talking long term relationships here – marriage or other less formal LTRs; we are not talking “dating.”
Sex and Money
Two regularly discussed topics among groups Filipinas going out with foreigners are sex and money – the first being humorous, obtuse observations, the latter in regards to how many pesos they are getting each month for their “allowance.” When I first discovered this, I was kind of taken aback – not so much about the sex thing but more about the money talk. (Ah, yes – the SE Asia noob….) And with that, another scale of the “Philippine Dream” fell from my eyes. “Dang,” I thought, somewhat sadly, they are with us for the money……”
Is It Part of the Culture?
Allowances are not part of mainstream Filipino culture, so if your Filipina is adamant that it is, she is – at best – misinformed. It is, however, a part of the Filipina-foreigner subculture and one that prospective expats need to be aware of. Most married Filipinos are from a somewhat equal social class. There are exceptions to this, and it is interesting to note that when that occurs it is usually between a poorer Filipina and a wealthier Filipino. This theme carries over into the Foreigner-Filipina relationships as most there are with a poorer Filipina and a wealthier foreigner. And although the foreigner might be considered poor in his home country, once he steps off the plane, that small pension or security check that he has suddenly boosts his social financial status way up the local ladder.
Before we move on, let’s talk about “shouldering.” Shouldering is a Filipino practice in which wealthier family members are expected to assume some of the living costs (medical, rent, food and the like) for their family. This usually takes place in poorer families that are fortunate enough to have sons and daughter working as OFW (Overseas Filipino Workers – maids in Dubai, workers in the Merchant Marine, etc.), at call centers (Business Process Outsourcing/BPO’s), or those who have secured for themselves a “wealthy” foreign uyab (boyfriend). It can also happen in middle class families, however, especially in the event of a medical emergency or a death in the family.
As we have previously mentioned, there is a good deal of pressure on sons and daughters to provide for their families, especially poorer families as their parents finish up their parental duties and move into their 50’s. Eldest daughters in particular are expected to help raise their younger siblings and later to be the ones to secure a local job to help support the extended family. Untang na loob (debt of obligation) and the avoidance of hiya (shame) in order to provide for her family can put an unimaginable amount of pressure on a young Filipina.
The Foreign Knight Errant
In order to “keep it real,” let’s just say this: Generally speaking, there is an unspoken obligation that when a Filipina enters into a relationship with a “wealthy” foreign that he will help provide for her family.
Dangers of Giving an Allowance
There are basically three concerns we can note when it comes to negative consequences in providing a Filipina with a monthly allowance.
1. Transactional Relationship – whether intended or not, providing an allowance assigns a monetary value to the relationship, being in a sense a sort of social monetization. At the worst, some might see it as being a sort of “prostitution on the installment plan.”
- Power Imbalance – When one person in a relationship is the only person with access to money, a relational imbalance logically occurs. No surprise there. Some people are OK with that (“traditional” family values, and all …), but the danger lies in the possibility of mental or even physical abuse being tolerated as a result of this financial leverage. I have personally seen more than a few examples of Filipina’s being stuck in an abusive or exploitative relationship as they feel powerless and – more importantly – completely dependent upon their foreign partner. Which leads us to….
- Confers Dependent Status – Providing an allowance can bestow a sort of semi-adult status upon your Filipina partner. Relying on a monthly “hand out” does not set the stage for equal status in a relationship and only goes to reinforce the Filipino concept of palabigasan (literally a container for empty husks but referring to a person someone relies on for support).
Now, some guys might be fine with this. They may have experienced a devastating divorce (or series of divorces) in their home country and have decided that in the conservative, traditional and Catholic nation of the Philippines, they are going to do things differently. If so, that’s fine – it’s not other people’s jobs to judge – but just be aware of the imbalances noted above that such an arrangement can make.
What’s the Solution?
To avoid the pitfalls noted above and create a relationship based more on equal footing, folks in Foreigner-Filipina relationships might want to consider opening a joint bank account and working on their monthly budgets as a team, thus providing a certain level of equality (and equanimity) where both members in the relationship can feel as equal stakeholders in the household’s expenses. Realize also that Filipina’s can actually save you money when it comes to knowing where the “good deals” are and being able to recognize the regular day-to-day transactional hiccups (that is, “kano tax”).
Before we conclude, I just wanted to note yet again that these are not my personal value statements, just a series of observations that I have made on the subject of allowances since I have arrived in the Philippines.
Personally, I don’t ever want to be in a relationship where I feel as if the other person is with me solely for my money. Truth be told, I’d rather be alone. Or get a dog. At this point, I much prefer my partner to have her own source of income to use as she see’s fit. I want a partner who is independent and possessed of the wherewithal to leave me if I ever become (too much of) a jerk.
And yeah, I can be a real jerk at times….
Especially when the Real Feel temperature hits 110 degrees Fahrenheit ……