The Filipino Family’s Strong Bonds

Like many Asian countries, the Philippines has very tight family relations. While growing up, we were taught to prioritize family first. The typical Filipino family is the same as it was years ago, even before the colonizers conquered the lands.

In the ages of the Datu (that’s what we call kings), the families have very strong bonds, but the Datu considered the entire community his family to protect. Since the ancient lands were prone to invasion, men were united as brothers to protect the families and crops. Datus also made peace with other Datus. It was sort of having a clan.

Eventually, the Spaniards came and conquered the country. Although most
communities fell apart, the family remained as the basic unit of the society. With Christian values being reinforced on the natives, they learned to accept teachings that concerned the family like how important it is to follow you parents and to respect elders.

The Filipino family is based on a culture of respect. It is important that we use polite language especially with our elders. Grandmothers and grandfathers have to be treated with the utmost respect. We see this respect system even with non-family members. When we are outside, if we see elders, we always have to treat them with respect.

The respect system also applies to siblings. Normally, the eldest child has superiority over the younger children. We also have terms we use for calling our siblings and we cannot just call them by their names, much like how people in the West do. We use Kuya for older brothers and Ate for older sisters. Again, this respect system applies to people outside the family too. Anyone old enough to be your older brother/sister can be called Kuya/Ate.

Since Filipinos like celebrations, it is very important for the Filipino family members to be present during special occasions. For instance, celebrations like Christmas and New Year are usually celebrated with your immediate family. Sometimes, you will have reunions with your relatives during this period too, especially if your relative goes home from the city or from another country. Unlike our neighbor countries Japan and Korea, Christmas Day is a day for families, not lovers.

While many changes had been made over the years, there are still some things that have been kept the same in the Filipino family. For instance, the father is still the head of the household. He still remains as the primary decision-maker. The changing times have allowed for the mother to take corporate jobs too, but she still remains as the caretaker of the household. The children of the family have to help around the house and not disobey their parents and grandparents (some grandparents live with the family). Some aunt, uncles and cousins also live together with other families. Even if they didn’t, they normally see each other during special occasions, and cousins usually have a very strong bond.

We do not only consider Christmas and New Year as special occasions to gather the entire family. We have summer vacations together. We meet for a relative’s funeral. We even meet for the relative’s death anniversary. We meet for birthdays, for the arrival of a relative from another country, before a relative leaves to work in another country, and even when there is no special reason at all. A whole lot of my relatives even attended my college graduation!

The Filipino family simply wants to do things together most of the time. I still go to church with my parents and siblings even if I am old enough to go on my own. We like watching movies or going on small family trips together.

While the  Filipino family is tied by blood, we have a strong sense of community. I have many friends and neighbors I consider to be part of my family even if they are not related to me by blood. The same applies to extended families.  I treat the family of my uncle (who married my mother’s sister) to be my family too. For instance, even if my uncle’s mom is not my grandmother, I still call her Lola (what we call grandmothers).

The  Filipino family  today still has the same tight bond it had during the ancient times. Even with the changing times, we never forget to go back to our roots and spend time with the family that cared for and nurtured us. We may not have the best economy in the world, but with our tight family bonds, we have the strength to face the challenges ahead of us.