Thursday, September 23, 2010

The Upside and Downside to Close Family Ties

My mother is the eldest child of a big family (12 children) born in the province of Bicol.  Ten of the children were girls (my Aunties) and my doctor Auntie used to say that they all went to Manila because their father (my grand father) didn't want to send them to school because they would only get married and get pregnant later on.  They all relocated to Metro Manila and went on to finish College producing one lawyer, one doctor, one architect, one civil engineer (an Uncle who went on to build his own construction company in the U.S.), a nurse, an accountant, and several teachers.

My mother was and still is very close to her family my Aunties.  And I grew up being at one time also close to my cousins.  We spent our childhood together playing games in our Auntie's house, and had really nice All Soul's Day, Christmas and New Year's day celebrations.

When my father decided to leave my mom and us (my sister and brothers) sometime in College, it was my Aunties who took the cudgels of sending us to school.  I have to admit, my graduating from my undergraduate course was due in large part to the financial support my family and I received from my Aunties.

During law school, their financial support to my mother who was then a public school teacher, also helped me spend for my law school.  If not for them, I would have been forced to support my family myself with what little I earned from my first jobs.

At any rate, my sister graduated Computer Engineering and is now working in the U.S., and my other brother is now in a big pharmaceutical firm as a supervisor.  Life has been kinder to us since then.

On the other hand, my cousins receiving the full support of my rich Aunties, are at present unemployed and receiving unemployment from the U.S. government.  But really, with their mother owning a construction company here in the Philippines they really don't need to burden the U.S. government with their inability to get a good job, either there in the U.S. or here in the Philippines.  It is just that they are used to living-off their wealthy mothers that they don't seem to know any other life than that.

I often wonder when they will crawl out of their mother's wings and realize that there is more pride from learning to become independent and earning your own money.  It is even more heart-warming to be the one GIVING the money than being the one taking it, but they seem to have gotten used to this set-up they think it is normal and there is no other life they can live apart from that.

One other cousin of mine got pregnant at 18 just right after a really expensive debut that her mother threw for her.  Now, 28 she can choose to leave her children to her mother who is now in the U.S. and remain unemployed for God knows how long, because "her mother and every other relative in the U.S." will take care of her children.

And how about my other cousin who is herself a lawyer.  First thing she did with her salary is buy a car on installment and her mother now "semi-retired" is kind of "forced" to work some more as a consultant in order for her children to continue to live the life they have grown accustomed to.  She also accompanies her mother (or maybe persuades her mother) to go to these extravagant out-of-the-country trips, so that someone can pay for her way.

And just to be fair and not to make it sound like all the bad apples are in someone else's family, how about my unemployed brother who has not held a job since maybe 5 years ago, and even then he could hardly keep that job.  He has gotten so used to my being around and financing the family's expenses that he has relegated himself to the reality that I will always be there to provide for him even in his old age.

The reality of it all, all these individuals are running under the notion that there will always be some family who is going to cover their sorry asses and take care of them no matter what.  No matter how silly or stupid the choices they have made in their lives, someone else is going to answer for their mistake and poor choices.


  1. This could not have been an easy article to write. I applaud you for stepping up and saying some things that needed to be said. This story could have been written about any number of families spread between the Philippines and the US, but very seldom will anyone put the cards on the table in this way.

    I predict this likely won't win you any family popularity contests, but truly this aspect of life needs to be addressed. More than any other cross-cultural difference, this idea that once one person 'has it made' then the others can just relax and 'ride the gravy train' has been a difficult one for me to master.

    Thanks for saying some things that needed to be said.

  2. @ Dave, that's ok, I don't think I was ever popular with family. I had a tendency to say exactly what I meant and not to sugar-coat my words. I don't also suck-up to any of my rich Aunties. I am grateful for the help they gave us, but I say it the way I see it.

  3. I admire you for your honesty. My Filipina wife supported her large family by working overseas and sent her sister to college. After my wife and I got married over 10 years ago, and joined me in America, we continued to support her mother and other relatives back in the Philippines. I am keenly aware of how harsh life is here as we moved to the Philippines last year. But I wonder if we have not created a similar situation where many of the relatives just expect us to pay for everything and take care of them. Extremely well-written article on the topic.

  4. Thanks for your honest post. Perhaps if more persons discarded the notion concerning the "west" (America, Canada, etc) being the answer to all their problems, the world might be a better place. Life is hard everywhere, but to wake up with a roof over your head, something to eat and someone to love; what more could one ask for. I thank God each day His blessings, especially the wonderful Filipino people he introduced into my life. It is hard to be expected to give, give, give, but whatever you give God gives back 10 times. Thanks again, God bless and continue to enjoy life.

  5. @ Darveson Pinoy, indeed life would be most ideal of everyone just paid it forward.