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The Filipino Family

The Filipino Family

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Published by: Gregor Alfonsin C. Pondoyo on Dec 03, 2011
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The Filipino Family & Filipino Values A Synthesis Paper on the Books by Dr. Belen T. G. Medina1, PhD & Dr. Florentino T.

Timbreza, PhD2



According to Medina (2001), the family is a familiar topic but there is a need to step back & study it in critical & scientific lenses as personal experiences alone could be very limited & may not be representative of other families in the society. From here on I will try to extrapolate the author’s ideas on this particular subject.

The family have certain characteristics:  As a social group, it is universal. It is a significant element in man’s social life. Nowadays, changes in the family (e.g. from traditional structure to non-traditional structure as will be discussed later) are happening brought about by the changing economic climate & technological advancements but it has remained a basic institution in the society.  It is the first social group to which an individual is exposed. Family relationships last a long time & an “individual’s earliest & longest experience in living takes place in a family setting.”  “The family affects the individual’s social values, disposition, & outlook in life. The family is the source of the individual’s ideals, aspirations, & basic motivations.”  The family is said to be the link between an individual & the larger society. In this way we can say that a person’s interaction &/or attitude inside the family unit affects or is a determinant in how that person interacts in the community that his family belongs.  Logically, from the assertion above, the family is understood to provide continuity of social life. It is a major agent in the transmission of culture which also affects &/or reflects the culture of the society.

There are different approaches to studying the family but this paper will specifically use for the structural-functional framework & the area in which this paper will touch is primarily traditional family values & traditional to current family structure.


Filipinos & the Value Placed on the Family

Filipinos are generally family oriented. Because of this many actions, plans & goals in life of an individual are either affected or is centered upon the family. According to Timbreza (2003), “family success is the measure of a successful life for the Filipinos. He lists some sayings of Filipino tribes that has something to do with how they view the Family. Boholanos: “Ang familia nga nagatanum ug kaayohan nag-ani ug kapalaran; ang nagatanum ug kadautan, nag-ani og lonlon kasakitan” (The family that sows goodness reaps fortune; the one that sows evil reaps suffering) Analysis: Here we can see the concept of “karma” among Filipinos. It is different from Buddhism, it has something to do however with reversion that whatever a person does or does not do in the family, it will have either a positive or negative consequence in the future to him/her or his/her family. Bicolanos: “An harong man palasyo kun an laog kuwago, marhay pa ang payag na laog tao” (A house may be a palace, but if the owner is an owl, better is a hut where the owner is a human being) Tagalogs: “Mabuti pa ang kubo na ang nakatira ay tao, kaysa isang bahay na bato na ang nakatira ay kuwago” (A hut where a person lives is better than a house of stone where an owl resides.) Analysis: These sayings are somewhat the same as both reflect the value place upon the persons in the family rather than the economic influences as symbolize by the “house of stone” or the “palace”. Ilocanos: “Ti timpuyog ti pamilia isu’t mangted ti kired ken pigsa” (Family harmony provides fortitude & strength). “Uray awan ti kukuam, no la ket nauros ti pamiliam” (Even though you don’t have property as long as you have a harmonious family). Analysis: Here we can see how happiness in the family takes precedence above all among the Filipinos. This can be evident in today’s televised drama/shows as either centered upon the family or has something great to do with the family & family dynamics.


Philippine Family & Kinship Structure

According to Medina (2001), the definition of family is evolving as structures continue to change. One of the current definitions which encompass all types of families is: “two or more persons who share resources, share responsibility for decisions, share values & goals, & have a commitment to each other over time. The function attributed to families are economic consumption, socialization of the young, &

affective dimensions” (Davidso & Moore, 1992 as cited by Medina, 2001). This definition takes into account other family structure such as single parent/headed families, homosexual or domestic partnership types of families, live-in partners, etc. Primary importance here is placed on the issues of commitment & affection. Residence is not a criterion as there are also people who lives under one roof but are not necessarily considered a family (referred to as households). The author above defines this “as a group of persons living under one roof & sharing the same kitchen & housekeeping arrangements. The residents of a boarding house, a fraternity/sorority house, or a dormitory constitute a household but not a family.” A. Nuclear Family vs. Non-Nuclear Family A family is nuclear when it consists of a married man or woman with their offspring. The couples may or may not be married & their children may or may not be biological. This is considered the primary unit of all family types as other types evolve from this structure. Generally, it is accepted as universal. There are two types of nuclear families as mentioned by the Medina (2001) citing Murdok (1949). To wit: 1) Family of orientation  Consists of the individual, parents, and siblings. This is primarily the family the “individual was born & reared”. 2) Family of procreation  Consists of the individual, spouse, and their children. This is established in marriage. Here is visualization between the two:

Father Mother Siblings



Other Family Types As an extension of marital relationship as with polygamous family, joins several persons thus making the nuclear family a compound or composite one.

Spouse 1 Children

Spouse 2 Children


Spouse 3 Children

As families are merged by virtue of bonds between kins of parents (between the father & mother side) or between siblings, it becomes the extended family.

(Image from http://anthro.palomar.edu/marriage/marriage_5.htm) “Absolute essentials in the definition (of an extended family): 1) Recognition of the kin relations beyond that of husband, wife, & unmarried children; 2) Shared responsibilities; & 3) Maintenance of expressive & emotional relations beyond the nuclear family.” The Filipino family is referred to as “mag-anak”. It is good to note that this also reflects the importance of value placed upon children in the family as a husband & wife tandem does not make a “mag-anak” status only a “mag-asawa” status. Thus, a child completes the concept of family among Filipinos which could reflect upon: how children are seen as blessings, how other people perceive the husband as manly if he can produce more offspring, & how the wife is seen as finally realizing her womanhood & for herself feels that her relationship with her husband is cemented.

Realization The typical Filipino family is monogamous with exemption on non-Christians (e.g. Moslems). However, no matter if it is nuclear or extended; the same sense of solidarity is still observable even today. During times of distress or problems, the Filipino family bond is exemplified by family members helping each other. In instances as such we can see that although most families nowadays (in urban areas) are essentially nuclear, functionally it is extended as kinsmen would identify each other & would likely help someone if they know they are related to a certain individual. B. Conjugal Family Against Consaguineal Family This particular type of family emphasizes the importance of marital bond. Here, the focus is between the immediate or nuclear family. However, in Consanguineal family, other blood related persons/relatives are considered just as important with the immediate ones. This one reflects more the Filipino attitude towards family, a clannish tendency. The consanguineal family has certain implications on marriage. First, because people become very meticulous with history as certain strengths or weaknesses are said to be inherited because the “individual is judged upon what kind of blood relatives he has”. Furthermore, this type of family is closely knit such as the bond between siblings or parents is considered permanent. Because of it, certain interference to marital affairs is such a common phenomenon among these types of families. Here, the influence of in-laws upon the nuclear family is very much observed. Descent System Descent has something to do with who is the individual associated with (relatives to either mother or father side or both). 1) Patrilineal system  “individual is affiliated at birth with a group related to the father” 2) Matrilineal system  individual is affiliated at birth with a group related to the mother 3) Bilateral/bilineal system  Individual is associated to both mother & father side (of relatives) Among the three types, that which is commonly seen among Filipinos is the bilateral descent. “Close interaction including mutual help & support is expected of all relatives, irrespective of whether they belong to the paternal or maternal side.” Realization

Taking into consideration the bilateral descent, it can be observed that the offspring of the family then will have 2 grandfathers & 2 grandmothers (a doubling of the descent lines). Also, there is a strong sense of solidarity among families. This eventually will cause a dilemma in the couple’s decision of who to abide to in times of conflict between the paternal or maternal relatives. C. Rules of Residence Residence is said to determine the quality & quantity of interaction with relatives for it has something to do with who is to live with whom which would logically affect the pattern of socialization among relatives &/or family members. For example, a child who grows with his uncle because his parents are both working abroad will be more likely emotionally attached to his uncle than with his parents. Taken from http://anthro.palomar.edu/marriage/marriage_5.htm here are the basic residence rules consistent with Medina (2001): Patrilocal residence occurs when a newly married couple establishes their home near or in the groom's father's house. This makes sense in a society that follows patrilineal descent (that is, when descent is measured only from males to their offspring, as in the case of the red people in the diagram below). This is because it allows the groom to remain near his male relatives. Women do not remain in their natal household after marriage with this residence pattern. About 69% of the world's societies follow patrilocal residence, making it the most common.

Matrilocal residence occurs when a newly married couple establishes their home near or in the bride's mother's house. This keeps women near their female relatives. Not surprisingly, this residence pattern is associated with matrilineal descent (that is, when descent is measured only from females to their offspring, as in the case of the green people below). Men leave their natal households when they marry. About 13% of the world's societies have matrilocal residence.

Avunculocal residence occurs when a newly married couple establishes their home near or in the groom's maternal uncle's house. This is associated with matrilineal descent. It occurs when men obtain statuses, jobs, or prerogatives from their nearest elder matrilineal male relative. Having a woman's son live near her brother allows the older man to more easily teach his nephew what he needs to know in

order to assume his matrilineally inherited role. About 4% of the world's societies have avunculocal residence.

Ambilocal residence occurs when a newly married couple has the choice of living with or near the groom's or the bride's family. The couple may also live for a while with one set of parents and then move to live with the other. About 9% of the world's societies have ambilocal residence. Neolocal residence occurs when a newly married couple establishes their home independent of both sets of relatives. While only about 5% of the world's societies follow this pattern, it is popular and common in urban North America today largely because it suits the cultural emphasis on independence. However, economic hardship at times makes neolocal residence a difficult goal to achieve, especially for young newlyweds. Elsewhere, neolocal residence is found in societies in which kinship is minimized or economic considerations require moving residence periodically. Employment in large corporations or the military often calls for frequent relocations, making it nearly impossible for extended families to remain together. D. Pattern of Authority According to Dictionary.com (http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/authority), authority has something to do with the power to determine… to command. Applied in the family, there are 3 types of authority patterns: 1) Patriarchal  The oldest male, usually the father has control over the other members. 2) Matriarchal  The mother has the authority. This however, usually goes with matrilocal residence or matrilineal descent. 3) Equalitarian  This is where most Filipino families are classified. Although the husband is generally referred to as the head, the wife is in charge with the money & the organization in the house & its affairs. Realization Here we can see a connection between the system of residence & authority. The more someone is associated with another (because of location) the more the older person (here pertains in the family dynamics) will have authority on the younger one. Also, the equality of male & female when it comes in the family is exemplified by the nature of most Filipino family when it comes to authority (which is equalitarian in nature). Family terminologies that Medina (2001) saw as significant indicator of the equal

treatment of males & females (neutral) among Filipino families are: asawa (spouse), kapatid (brother or sister/sibling), anak (son or daugther), apo (grandchild), bata (child), magulang (parent), pamangkin (nephew or niece), pinsan (cousin), manugang (child-in-law), & biyenan (parent-in-law). It is then by putting na lalaki (male) or na babae (female) after these terms will gender be designated. The topic of responsibility is thus an important area of the family to be discussed as it is a logical consequence of authority. According to Timbreza (2003), parental responsibility means pananagutang pangmagulang from pananagutan (responsibility or basically means “answer”) & magulang (parent) thus we can see that Filipino parents are answerable or responsible for the upbringing of their children to the extent that failure of a child in life means failure in the parents in upbringing. The issue of discipline is thus important here with regards to authority. Here are some philosophical views among them: Tagalogs: “Ang kahoy na liko’t baluktot, hutukin mo hanggang malambot, kung malaki na’t tumayog, mahirap na ang paghutok” (A curved & crooked tree should be straightened while it’s still soft; once it grows big & tall, it will be difficult to stretch it). “Ang gawa sa pagkabata, dala hanggang sa pagtanda” (One’s ways during childhood are borne until old age). Analysis: We can see that Filipinos already have a good grasp as to when is it a good time to discipline a child. When the child is small he/she should be moulded already for as he/she ages so will also his/her character becomes cemented hence the difficult formation later. Illonggos: “Ang guinicanan amo ang sentro sang responsibilidad” (Parents are the focal point of responsibility). Boholanos: “Unsa ang mga guinicanan ma-o opod ang ilang caliwat” (Whoever the parents are, so are the children). Ilocanos: “Dagiti annak tis arming dagiti nagannak” (Children are the frelection of the parents). Analysis: This is an echoing of what have been stated earlier about the extent of parents’ responsibility in the formation of their children. Furthermore, there is conveying of the attitudes of children as a reflection of their parents’. Children will do what their parents do. This is not only true with Filipinos or some nationalities but is supported by research as with the Theory of Albert Bandura3 namely the Social Learning Theory. According to this theory, behaviour is said to be the result of interaction among an individual, the environment (physical or social) & the behaviour itself. Change is anyone of these 3 means change in all; this is called reciprocal determinism (Refer to picture next page).

To elaborate further, the individual, upon witnessing other people perform certain behaviours to achieve certain goals can either copy or not the behaviour. It is here that the question of self-efficacy surfaces. Adoption of a certain behaviour depends upon the personal evaluation of a person whether he thinks he can do it himself. Second, the environment which encompasses the physical & social spheres could affect the decision of the individual to adapt certain behaviour. If he sees that people around his house, or at school disapprove the behaviour it could be a determining factor not to adapt the behaviour he previously observed. Last but not the least, the information gathered upon the environment based on personal evaluation will then be levelled by the perceived or expected value of the outcome when the behaviour is thought to be adopted. If the individual finally sees & weighs the importance of the outcome as very important (has higher incentives) for himself then he is likely to adapt the behaviour previously observed. Realization The attitude of the Filipino child therefore is justifiably seen as the sum of what he experiences/observes at home. E. Kin Group Size The kinship system among Filipinos is an important concern & is somehow related to the natural tendencies of Filipinos toward extended family. This establishes the family in the society. To add, this system does not limit to the blood relatives including: kinship created by binyag (Baptism) & marriage (as with the compadrazgo system or commonly known as the comadre-compadre system). By this standard we can see that family size is thus very large among Filipinos. F. Family Structures of Today Because of the economic situation & technological advancement, interaction in the family is changing. There is a trend to nuclearization as families are being drawn to urbanized areas to work. Parents who go abroad to find greener pastures so to speak leave behind their children to other relatives thus shifting the authority to them which also affects how the child interacts to the society.

The decision maker which is traditionally held by the eldest male in the family is slowly fading as there is tendency for the breadwinner (most likely the working member or highest earner in the family) to assume this role though respect is still accorded to the eldest still. “Female headship has become an urban phenomenon because it is in the urban center where employment opportunities for women are more available” (Medina, 2001). Urbanization not only changed family dynamics but also weakened family ties & also the ties “between the individual & the larger kin group.” Solo parents are also proliferating nowadays. The types are: 1) 2) 3) 4) 5) Widow or widower & his/her offspring Single man/woman with adopted child/children Separated parent & his/her children Unwed woman & her child/children Mistress & her child/children by a married man



Change is constant & the basic unit of society- the family- is not immune to it. It is composed of human beings & human beings naturally adapt to the environment to survive. The environment is continually changing prompting people to change their interaction with it & one another also. To this, we are challenged as Filipinos to see if the changes we welcome in our homes are actually working to our advantages- do these promote better relationships & worthwhile companionship among family members & among families in the society? Everything has a consequence. Although many forces outside the family are affecting it, it has still for the most part remained as it is among Filipinos- the most important area to be successful. Ties or solidarity with each other are very much seen during calamities & problems. Bayanihan (helping each other in the community like in the transferring of homes) although is slowly fading in general, we can still observe concern during times of illness or celebration during times of triumph among Filipino families.


Medina, T. G. (2001). The filipino family (2nd ed.). Philippines: University of the Philippines Press.


Timbreza, Florentino T. (2003). Filipino values today: a primer for values education. Philippines: Navotas Press.

DeYOUNG, S. (2003). Teaching strategies for nurse educators (low price edition). Philippines: Pearson Education, Prentice Hall. Pages 67-69 Substantial Web Sources http://anthro.palomar.edu/marriage/marriage_5.htm http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/authority http://www.mockingbirdsociety.org/the-mockingbird-family-model/ http://www.philippines-virtual-guide.com/filipino-family-values/ http://www.southalabama.edu/oll/mobile/theory_workbook/social_learning_theory.htm

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