The Toxic Expectations Of The Filipino Family
Filed under: Toxic Filipino culture
There is a love/hate relationship we all have with our families. We’ve all experienced the struggle between doing and saying what we know is expected of us versus what we personally feel we should do or say. It’s one of the reasons I’m so torn between seeing family during the holidays (and, of course, social distancing protocols should still apply whenever necessary).
But back to the beef. I have kept my mouth shut in conversations with family members just because it is someone older on the opposing opinion. I have helped out more than I wanted just because it’s “for family.” There have been countless moments in my life when I didn’t want to agree but had to for the sake of external peace.
But these practices fall under toxic Filipino culture. Let’s break them down:
You’re wrong, ~I’m~ right
Have you ever tried to have an intellectual conversation with a family member who belongs to the generation older than yours? It’s almost impossible to make a point without being immediately dismissed sometimes.
Years bring wisdom, yes, but there is knowledge that can (and sometimes should) be corrected. What was right and accepted then might no longer apply in present times. Besides, it can’t just be my elders that accept every Facebook headline and video as real news, right?
Kaya mo naman eh
This is one that I particularly hate: the toxic expectation to give and provide just because you can. I understand that helping family members is something we should be glad to have the opportunity to provide, but we need to look out for ourselves, too, because not everything can be a handout.
There’s a payoff with helping others to the frequency that they ask for it: You risk holding out for your own growth.
Where are the grandchildren??
This needs no further explanation, but getting married and having kids is still considered a mandatory life stage in some families. I had an aunt complain in last year’s Christmas reunion that there weren’t enough kids running around; she asked why the next generation in our family wasn’t as large as she thought it would be by now.
But their need to have grandchildren isn’t something we should feel obligated to fulfill. Besides, they somehow always only pressure relatives of child-bearing age that aren’t their own kids.
What do you mean you want your ~own~ life?
While other countries expect their offspring to leave home by the time they become of legal age, our Filipino families hold on to us for dear life until marriage takes us away and roots us elsewhere. And even if we’re perfectly fine living with our parents (hey, it’s less expenses!), they still hold it over our heads that we live under their roof—which means following their rules.
So when are we actually free to be our own person?
Passion? That makes nothing!
Chances are, no matter how good you are at your creative craft, your parents and aunts and uncles and grandparents and all of their neighbors advised you to consider a course and/or career that falls under the sciences. Their logic is intact; it’s no secret that the doctors and nurses and engineers and lawyers of us probably take home more money—but there’s a world to be explored beyond these routes.
There are jobs now that weren’t even options when they were younger and they wouldn’t know how to explore or approach or understand them.
There are so many more practices to file under toxic Filipino culture: how we view politics, how manhid we get when the trend settles down, how we have been raised to just accept things and situations as they are, the debatable trait of resiliency—and, if you ask me, it’s that last bit that really needs correcting; it’s the catalyst we need to change the rest of it.
But it’s not just the knowledge that things need to change and the courage to point them out; it’s the way we present ourselves as well. Just because these toxic expectations are drilled into our culture doesn’t mean we should disrespect those that propagate it. We need to approach sensitive topics sensitively; we need to make it like we’re still on the same team.
It’ll take a lot of patience on our part…but we’ve been trained for this our whole lives. And with most of us at home with loved ones, what better time to try to have a healthy discussion?
Art Alexandra Lara