Filipino Culture, Children and Families

Erin asks via email some questions about children and families in Filipino culture. While I will answer as best as I can, I invite all Pinoys to share your comments and insights using the fill-in-the-blanks form found at the end of the text.

Now on to the questions...

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What are attitudes toward children?

"Children are seen not heard." Parents get shocked when children become assertive and outspoken, and sometimes blame it on the Cartoon Network effect. Traditionally, parents are expected to chart the future, and kids are expected to blindly follow.

Some parents nowadays, however, prefer a more consultative and supportive approach, and even appreciate it when their kids show independence. Maybe values are being shaped by commercials like the "Suportahan Ta Ka" (I will support you) commercial where a father "allows" his son to take up Fine Arts course.

Spanking is avoided by parents who've read (and believed) that spanking can lower a child's IQ. I see some parents, though, who are quick to give a child a whack on the behind.

What is the culture of the family (roles, etc).

Filipino culture is overtly patriarchal, and covertly matriarchal. In most homes where you have extended families, the mother-in-law is the boss, followed by the wife, then the husband (if at all). This seems to be the pattern as one goes up the economic ladder. ;-)

If a family's finances are saved, it usually means the wife controlled the money. If the fortune is squandered, it usually means the husband controlled the purse strings. But this is not based on any scientific study; rather, that has been my observation.

What are some toys or games of Filipino children?

Games Lolo and Lola Played by Jose G. Ronquillo - Talks about trumpo (top), patintero, piko (hopscotch), tumbang preso (hit the can), sungka (something like bantumi), dama (checkers), sarangolaan (kite flying).

Rules of Sungka
Play Sungka (downloadable zip file)

How does the culture view play and education for children?

Most parents place great importance on education. Particularly on high grades. Sometimes, play is sacrificed in favor of homework, homework and more homework. Other times, play is seen as something competitive, and which can lead to future financial gain (i.e., basketball, swimming, competitive sports).

A lot of children see school as an annoying interruption of their right to continuous play and TV viewing.

Are there any rites of passage for children?

The first thing that comes to mind is male circumcision, traditionally performed at the onset of puberty. In the provinces, the boy is asked to chew guava leaves, wait for the "cut", swim across the river, and then place the chewed guava leaves on the wound to hasten healing. For the next couple of weeks, he will walk around in a skirt since wearing anything tighter can be quite painful.

(Note: To my fellow Pinoys, please share your insights regarding Pinoy Culture via the form below. Thanks!)
[ First posted on 10/30/2002 by Manuel Viloria ]

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