Pay back

05-October 2009

In western culture, it’s quite acceptable to move out as soon as you’re 18 years old (sometimes even younger) and put your parents in homes when they’re old. In the Philippines, these are considered almost taboo.

You only move out when you’re job requires that you relocate or when you get married. Although it’s not uncommon to still live with your parents or in-laws even when you’re already married because of the difficulty of obtaining a house, unless you’re in the upper class bracket.

However, you’re also expected to repay your parents for giving you food, clothes, shelter and education, particularly if you have finished a university degree. You pay them back usually by helping out with the utility bills and/or sponsoring a brother/sister’s education. Sometimes, you even end up shouldering everything, which is why some people never marry or only settle down when all their siblings have already graduated from college.

This is one of the reasons why Filipinos are considered very family-oriented. Yet this mentality may also bring out feelings of resentments — Parents who are still “taking care” of their children even when they already have their own family resents the fact that they’re still working hard (sometimes even harder because of the additional grandchildren and son/daughter-in-law) to support them. Similarly, children who ended up shouldering everything, lest they be considered ungrateful after everything that’s been given to them, likewise feel bitter and frustrated.

Is this really a choice or are we merely unfortunate because our government could not afford (only because of the prevalence of graft and corruption) to help us out? In other countries, where the unemployed, disabled and those who are earning below the minimum wage, are given housing and subsidies for basic necessities, it is so much easier to just move out, establish a family or just do whatever you please without having to worry about whether your parents, siblings, cousins, aunts, uncles, etc. are eating at least 2 or 3 times a day.

Western countries may think that to still be living with your parents even when you’re over 30 years old is ridiculous. In the same manner, we are appalled when they would send their elderly parents in homes, even if these homes are akin to hotels with private nurses and caregivers. We frown at each other’s ways and practices, yet should the circumstances be reversed, I wonder if everyone would still maintain their ways…

One thought on “Pay back

  • 10/17/2009 at 6:00 PM

    I think this is quite natural to be family-oriented. The independence and individualism of some western countries definitely has some drawbacks. It is said that the happiness of many western countries – The US, the UK has been declining since the 50s maybe because of the separation and isolation some feel, and lack of community.


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