This is a pretty sensitive subject, and I am sure the video that we put up will be getting its fair share of “thumbs down,” and this time for something more than a gecko video or our usual poor production values.
When entering into any serious long term relationship in the Philippines, the discussion of money in relation to the extended family will eventually come up. It’s pretty much a given, and it’s something that you have to be prepared for. Now, I am sure that there are some viewers who are of the “I ain’t giving them nothing!” camp, and some of them have been in LTR’s and done just that. Typically, though, that is the exception and not the rule, because if you are going to be a part of the family, you’re going to be part of the family.
The family unit in the Philippines is tighter and more interdependent than those encountered in the west. This is the way it has been for many generations, and things aren’t likely to change anytime soon. Beyond just food, shelter, and love, there is – as in the West – a financial aspect of this, with parents working hard to care for their children so that that same care can be reciprocated can be returned when the parents are much older and in need of care themselves. There is no real nursing home system here, and I would assume that many Filipinos would be somewhat shocked to actually take a tour of one in the West. And although there is a Social Security system in place in the Philippines, it is not nearly as extensive (or lavish, if you will) as the systems encountered in the West. So, when their parents are old and their health is failing, they are brought into their children’s homes to live out their last years among the ones they love. This is a pretty cool system, but it takes sacrifices on both ends – initially by the parents and , later, by their children. So, then is the burden of care fulfilled on all ends.
People marrying into Filipino families usually become a part of this eternal cycle to a lesser or greater extent, much of this depending on the financial well being of the parents, the individual’s spouse (or long-term significant other), and his or her brothers and sisters. In the video we noted that the foreigner is not usually being specifically targeted. If, however, he or she has more monetary assets than the rest of the family (and it is always assumed that they do; we are, after all, walking ATM’s), they might find themselves bearing the brunt of these inquiries. Usually, the inquiries for money will come in the form of “loans,” but make no mistake about it, it’s probably not going to be paid back. Money requests usually come in the form of tuition assistance, medical needs, or basic living expenses (food, shelter, or whatnot) and they will usually be communicated to the foreigner through his or her significant other. From what I have heard, the pressure placed on the foreigner’s spouse can be quite severe, especially if the Filipina is the eldest daughter in the family. (But we’ll get more into that aspect of it later.)
The problem with all of this is when a foreigner enters the equation. As noted, most folks consider foreigners automatically “rich” (not realizing that a good number of us are actually “economic refugees”), so there might soon be expectations that some of that foreigners inexhaustible money supply can be reimbursed to meet the needs of the extended family. If not adequately prepared for and addressed, the foreigner can soon find himself being asked time and time again for monies for just about any reason under the sun. So, then, does a foreigner entering into a marriage or long-term commited relationship need to fully understand this cultural dynamic, communicate it to his significant other and have boundaries in place prior to any and all requests coming in.
In the next (and final) blog entry that I will do on this, we will look at a real-world example of how economic dependence within a family (Michell’s) actually plays out. I think that will put things into perspective a bit more adequately address the “foreigner victimization” aspect of the relationship.