Relationships: Giving Money to the Family


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.


  1. I love your youtube videos they are very helpful I plan on moving to the Philippines in 10 years so I look forward to a lot more videos thanks again

  2. If a relationship is to end its most likely the foreigner that will end it due to the fact the family can not abide by the boundaries set by him in the first place. Pressure will always come its up to him how high his tolerance level for it will be.

    1. I have seen that happen – and worse – with a number of other expats. Thankfully, I don’t have to deal with it with Michell’s family.

      Now I gotta start having kids so that I have someone to take care of me when I am really old and doddering.

  3. Well written Ned, looking forward to the next segment, thank you sincerely for this intimate look at your private financial reality, it is a good template for my return to the Philippines.

  4. Love the videos …just wished they were longer …. Planed be there in December ….Love to see the both of you ! Dinner is on me …

  5. Keep up the good work, I am learning a lot, and as I also plan to move to the Philippines permanently in early December, it all helps. Im from the UK. Are there many Brits out there.?

  6. You guys seems like a great couple. BTW…what is your age difference. My wonderful Filipina and I are 19 years apart…she 36 and me a youthful (LOL–good Italian genes they say) 55.

    I just love that I found your site…! When was its inception?

    Yes I was REALLY worried about the Filipina scam/money thing when reading about the Philippines. I really had my antennas up (WAY UP) when getting to know my wife.
    I have to say that I am really really lucky…yes there is that darn jealousy issue…but she has a wonderful heart and she is NOT the stereotypical Filipina looking for a rich westerner. I am blessed

    I loved the “walking ATM” phrase…made me LOL…so true in how they think America is the land of milk and honey..!

    I have to admit that I was kind of anti sending money over to the family in the beginning (before marriage). You hear a lot of stories….and I hate and will not be “USED” that way. And I told my wife in gentle ways what I thought. She voiced agreement. I was afraid they would work her over and put pressure on her.

    Well….after we were married last Oct here is the US…..I sent $800 for her mom’s cataract operation(maybe in Jan. 2014)….THIS was an obvious thing that required no thinking on my part. I knew from being there about her moms eyes.
    After the typhoon….I decided to help do some rebuilding of the house there. And as I see and hear how her mom is so happy, I have done more to bring the house to a much better standard. It makes me happy. Process is still ongoing

    Since that started though… brother asked for help due to job issues….then another said he had put his tricycle as collateral for a loan and he too needed help.
    I sent something to the first brother but held off on the second. Not sure how I feel….helping mom out seemed to open a can of worms so I am re-evaluating

    My wife feels a bit of shame when they use her to get to me. I appreciate that from her. She does not have a job for now……..and here is an additional problem…….when and if she DOES have a job….it seems she will be pressured to use “her” money when they ask. She “talks” a good line to me that she won’t be pressured….but I DON’T think it will be that easy at all.
    For now she tells them…”I don’t have a job”
    Well….when she HAS a job….what will she say THEN? (this is the dilemma I explained to her)
    So, what she SHOULD be saying is……we have our own expenses and we are not rich…etc

    The money thing and families can be a very sticky situation
    Some allow their wives to work and send back as much $$ as they want.
    If you are very well off…that may work fine for you.
    But if you are middle class like me—almost finished pay child support..!!….I want my wife and I to work for OUR long term goals (putting $ away for us)…while at the same time helping family to varying degrees along the way

    Keep up the great work here

    1. Whoa, that’s a whole lot of questions. First of, having other family members jump onto the money bandwagon isn’t uncommon. What some folks would do is lend the first brother money and not give anymore until the first brother pays it back. That will put pressure on him from other family members and take some of the heat off of you. Daughters – especially elder daughters – have the most pressure put on them to help out the family. Michell works and sends some money to her brother to help him with living expenses at school. Bottom line is you probably won’t see any of that money returned. Talk to your lady about your budget and expenses and remind her that you are saving for both of your futures. Hope that helps.

  7. Hello there, kumusta po kayo doon..

    Well I am a German expat and the theme money it´s seriously all about .
    I already have give up to try explaining that also the “rich” countries abroad are not that rich how pinoys believe. Even ang mga OFW , Balikbayan made the same experiences with their relatives. Many of them have worked hard for example in Dubai and after returning they ends up with nothing because the relatives spent all money away.
    The way of living seems to be “bahala na bukas”, talaga.
    I myself got lost much money while believing in such relationships even marunong-mgtagalog ako, I studied Philippine History and Tagalog, now Waray Waray because my place was Tacloban until Yolanda happened.
    For me a relationship is not interesting anymore because of the money questions except if BOTH Partners in that relationship would bring in money into the family.
    I don´t know any expats which can afford to support the whole big family while they are doing nothing anymore than inumin ng alcohol. In the moment I started to pay the house the motorcycle and so on they stopped immediately working . Tamad ang lahat ng pamilya dahil magbabayad ako lahat ng buhay.
    Halos lahat ang mga foreigner dito sa Pilipinas made such experiences.
    The main reason so far I know, why foreigner want stay here in the Philippines, is to escape from the materialism and consumerism abroad. The most foreigner really longing for a simple and very affordable life. But this is the opposite from, what a pinay is dreaming of. So the core of all : Wealth don´t equal happiness.
    Maraming salamat at ingat ka.

    1. You brought up great points that I have seen and heard before: OFW’s losing the money they send home, the effect of bahala na on finances, family stopping work once money starts coming in, the myth of money trees in the west, and the conflict created by Western/Filipino expectations. It doesn’t happen in every case (let’s not generalize) but it does happen often enough to keep such things in mind. Thanks for that, Ralph!!

  8. My Filippina wife and her family are not materialistic, preferring a simple lifestyle. Of course they need money to survive. Most of them have work, but that may only be just enough for barest essentials. Her parents are elderly and do require assistance, which they obtain occasionally and received enough from OS relatives to pay rent in an old unfinished house with no windows or doors. I spent all my money in obtaining my wife, with all the expense of visas and plane fares etc. But I helped her parents a little as I could before my money ran out, because I know the situation and the children are obligated to them. They were never demanding in the least and unfortunately for all, I was out of work for the most part. I was pretty stingey when there, as I knew also how many there target foreigners for money in any way they can get it, by overcharging, even begging. Even their gov warns to not give them money as there is ample work for all. I’ve since come to realise what a bastard I was though, and many of them really are in desperate need. I only wish I had more to give, but next time we return I plan to be far more generous even with strangers. I remember a little girl selling something for about 5p, which I didn’t want, but I gave her 20p which is all the change I had, and indicated ayaw. Well she was so stunned she didn’t know what to do. How can you not love ’em? A friend of mine was robbed at the ATM, but that’s all part of the adventure. Even the airport guards are crooked, but I love them all in spite of everything. Even the “fixers” and other airport “assistants” who want to con you out of a little cash, well they all have their job to do. Overall, a blustering, sweaty place. But I love it, even the public transport. Fascinating.

    1. “Blustering, sweaty place,” indeed! Thanks for taking the time to hare all that, Randy. I used to not give beggars money until I saw Michell giving coins to the beggar kids, and since then, I toss em around and just write it off a part of our monthly budget. I do the “buy something you don’t need” thing as well. Thanks again, Randy.

  9. I’m in a relationship with a filipina she lives in Cebu , I have known her for 10 years and I have been supporting her off and on , sending what I could , 200-300 a month wasn’t unusual, I visited and we met for the first time 2 years ago , it was amazing to travel with her to see her family , they are very poor , but traveling with her was awesome , she never asked for anything and I really enjoyed her company , we travelled alot of different islands and had a great time , it was very sad to leave her , but I had to come back to Canada , ever since I have been back , she has been asking for more and more , the 300 a month grew to 4 then 5 , now its 800 and it still doesn’t seem to be enough , we argue over money every month , I’m trying to set boundaries but its difficult , I feel a little manipulated and used , my heart is always in the right place and I know she loves me , we are planning on getting g married on my return trip so I can bring her to Canada , but I’m really concerned about the money situation , I’m not sure if marriage is the best for us right now , even tho she has high hopes of getting married in Feb or March , I don’t want to spend the rest of my life arguing over money , not sure what to do , I don’t want to hurt her , I do love her , any advice ? Thanks

    1. Thanks for taking the time to share all of that, Lorne. I am no expert in matters of the heart (or anything else for that matter), but I have seen this play out quite a few times here in our sunny archipeligo. In my humble opinion based on what you wrote, I would say that she is definitely taking advantage of the situation. Now whether that is coming from her own greed or (more likely) intense pressure from her family is pretty much an unknown at this point. 800 a month can support a number of Filipino families, so that itself right there is a huge red flag. Some Filipinos have been known to exploit their own family members (OFWs or those married to wealthier Filipinos or Kanos) and this is what is probably happening here. As to what to do, I could only suggest laying down very strict boundaries and taking some time to look back as objectively as you can to make sure that this is the right person for you, cuz as you know, you just don’t marry a Filipina here, you sometimes marry their whole family. Good luck and thanks again!

  10. Your advice is greatly appreciated in advance. My mom was the oldest of nine children and was the only one of her siblings to leave the Philippines, move to the U.S., and marry an American, my father. My sister and I have only gone to the Philippines once when we were 4 and 5 years old. Now, we are both in our late 40s and our parents are both deceased. About two years ago, we were contacted on Facebook by some of our filipino cousins who we have never met. We accepted their Facebook friendship and joined the family Facebook page. Out of my mom’s eight brothers and sisters, seven of them had children – and it seems on average more than four children per sibling. Multiplied with their children, there are a lot of cousins. I shall reiterate that we have never met any of these cousins ever. My sister and I were raised with some filipino cultural upbringing, but for the most part, we are American and that is how we live. We’ve never been exposed to this collective family “sharing” nor expectations of borrowing money constantly. My sister and I are constantly receiving Facebook private messages in broken English from cousins asking for money, sponsorship to be U.S. citizens, and now used tech equipment such as laptops. I fear that even sending a used laptop will be the “open door” for them and that they’ll think they can keep asking for anything they want. I’ve told my cousins no and have supplied website links to aide them, yet they do nothing to help themselves. My sister is in a better monetary position than myself, but I still do not feel that she should be obligated to provide for our cousins and their families. My sister has gotten to the point that she just doesn’t respond to any of their Facebook messages, even if it is a simply “hi” since a response from her seems to be the open door for them asking for assistance. We are perplexed that cousins that we’ve never met assume we’re going to provide for them. Is it because we’re the children of the oldest female filipina or that we’re simply American? I have personally written each cousin that has asked me for money that we were not raised traditional filipino and that we are not obligated to provide unending amounts of money, help with U.S. immigration-U.S. residence or send used tech gadgets to them, but I fear that the requests won’t stop and that I will have to delete all of my filipino cousins from my Facebook in order to have some peace. My sister and I feel that the only reason we were found on Facebook is to be the “bank” for all of our cousins and their families. What would be your suggestion to stop all of my cousins from repeatedly asking for monetary/immigration/gifts assistance from us?

    1. Honestly, if it was me in your position, I would just once again reiterate what you said and if they still continue to pressure you, simply delete them off of your Facebook. As for sponsorship, there is now over a 25 year wait to bring family members over to the US. Good luck and thank you for giving an example of how family will often have expectations on Fil-Am kin or daughters/sons married or with foreigners.

  11. $800 per month in the Philippines is filthy rich! Stop sending money it’s a huge mistake it became a mobster for my wife and I.

  12. I’ve read all the comments and I’m kinda in a similar situation with my 21 year old Filipino girlfriend of two years. I’ve met her once and met the whole family (all) and there were very friendly and receptive to me! But as time goes by the family who all live together keep pressuring my girl for more money for all their monthly expenses. This goes way beyond her immediate family to cousins, aunts and uncles and their entire families. I’m finding out that I’ve become the cash cow for everyone which really stresses my girl out a lot! I love this girl and have sent from $200 to $1000 USD to them each month for their expenses. Not everyone who lives there contributes even if they work so they tell my girl she has to pay more for those members who don’t contribute. These are very poor people and live so very simple. I’ve told my girl that I’m not willing to continue this way and that I don’t mind helping her immediate family but not all! I’ve told my girl that I want to retire there and move her away from her family so they can put such stress on her! We’ll see what happens in the future?!

    1. It’s good to see a more common and realistic and side to this story. It makes no difference as to the relative success of the family members regarding their expectations of monetary “loans” – if you are from the U.S., they can be living a comfortable life and still expect $ for NO rational reason whatsoever, and “caring for you when you’re aged” is a relative concept: spending the latter days of your life in a sweltering nipa hut in the province is no better than winding up in a nursing home in Peoria. After 30+ years, I have a thick binder of remittances from 1988 to 2008 when we had to mail money orders to BPI in California, then to BPI in Manila for distribution (or LBC), and now a list of 50+ names stored in Xoom since 2008, and NONE of those remittances has resulted in anyone improving their life. We’ve contributed to the schooling of 4 students and about 6 small businesses and the former resulted in two pregnancies, one graduation but no career and one case where the mother confiscated the $ for the child’s education without our knowledge. I have heard horror stories from numerous Fil-Ams who sent thousands of $ intended for a house or business only to discover years later that neither existed. We financed a seaman for his license and job, only to discover that he gambled away all of his earnings before he even returned – his wife and three children received nothing. We once sent P50,000 for a prospective seaman, only to discover that his brothers were waiting at the Western Union office with him to collect their share, leaving him far short of enough money for the intended purpose. The problem is mainly Pinoy rather than Pinay, but suffice to say that it’s a massive downside of Filipino culture, and the upside doesn’t come close to evening out the difference.

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