JUDGING by the reasons OFWs give for seeking employment abroad, Filipinos must be among the most family-oriented and family-loving people in the world. At the risk of losing their jobs sometimes, they must come home for family reunions or funerals. And how so enthusiastically we celebrate family-themed events!
Filipinos take pride in being good family men and women, in having close family ties, in having supportive extended families with us under one roof. And as far as psycho-emotional health goes, behavioral experts say we have a definite edge over peoples who value individualism over family—because family is (supposedly) always there for us, holding us afloat through trying times. This could be a factor favouring our resilience, “unsinkability” in trying times like disasters, etc.
While it is true and good that Filipinos value the family, and that our family is the source of inspiration and the reason we endure travails at work, an occasional inward look into our motives is in order. We sometimes tend to romanticize “family” to the extent that it becomes an excuse for engaging in unethical, immoral, or illegal activities for the sake of family. Even Filipino movies mirror this tendency.
Our avowed love of family can also be abused or perverted. Take for example a woman who goes into prostitution to support her family—she may not always be “sacrificing” to feed her family; she may actually be enjoying her “sacrifice” with the pleasure and easy money it gives, while overlooking the fact that her younger sisters could in time imitate her example. Another example is a man who augments his income through estafa—not just to feed and clothe his children but also to be able to buy luxuries that would make his family keep up with the Joneses. Here’s another example: parents (or aunts and uncles) persuade (or bribe?) children to “help the family finances” by engaging in cybersex. Despite repeated raids to cybersex dens, this practice continues. Are the elders concerned about the future of the children who at a very young age are taught that it’s okay to lend their bodies to dollar-paying pedophiles and perverts? Think nepotism, political dynasties, vendetta among warring tribes, and recall all the other crimes these mindsets have spawned—all in the name of family.
Family is also a supreme value in the animal kingdom. You only have to watch documentaries (National Geographic, Animal Planet, etc.) to see that animals make even more respectable family members than certain human beings in that the parents provide and protect their young fiercely and faithfully into self-sufficient adulthood. Animals would risk their lives fighting off aggressors who are after their young. And in some rather touching cases, they would even adopt and nurse the abandoned young of a different species, attesting to the fact that parenting is an instinct animals share. (Have you ever seen an animal who did not instinctively know how to raise their young?) So how come human beings—homo sapiens, supposedly the highest form of animals, rational beings who would even believe they are children of God—would sometimes exploit their children, sell them to pedophiles, train them to burglarize homes, send them to the streets to beg? Poverty? It’s a convenient answer but offers all the wrong solutions. Even the most efficient human governments and efforts to improve society and human life would prove inutile for as long as they address only the animal in us.
We would do well to rely on Jesus’ guidance and promise to lead us to the truth that the ultimate parent in our family is God whom everyone in the family must learn to love with their whole being. This is not impossible, but may be done according to God’s plan through the nurturing of the Church, our Mother. If we truly love our family, this is the way to go—build a society with Truth as the foundation. And that’s the truth.