Written for my column in a Philippine newspaper – a repost:
It’s no secret the economic situation in the world is getting more difficult by the minute. Although Australia has not been hit as hard as other countries, we can still feel the waves of the tsunami and we try to stay afloat like others in its path.
Like other Filipinos overseas, I send money to my family to help out in any way I can. My family doesn’t demand that I send money. On the contrary, they feel I shouldn’t concern myself so much especially since I have a family of my own. But the Filipino in me recognises the old “utang na loob” adage and I am more than happy to help out or pay for some luxurious spending.
However, in times of severe crisis, I understand that my dollars will go a longer way than my siblings’ pesos. Recently, my family had a really bad health scare. As usual, I was the last one to know because they did not want me to panic all the way down under, especially since I just had a baby and have no relatives here to support me. When they finally told me about the news, I was distraught. What do you do when you’re far away from home and can’t support your family?
I turn to the only possible thing I can do – send money for medical bills and any services that would speed up recovery time. I dug into my savings and sent as much of my hard earned money as I could.
For a lot of interracial marriages, this would have been quite an issue. It is a known fact that western cultures do not share the same family values as most Pinoy households do. I’m not saying it’s bad or good – there are pros and cons to both situations. However, I know of interracial couples who have issues regarding Filipinos sending money to their families in the Philippines. In fact, it can go as far as hiding receipts and secretly stashing money to make sure their spouses don’t know about the transactions overseas.
When I married my husband, I warned him of the ways of the Filipinos. I explained to him my belief about certain things – most especially the value of sending money to my family. I am lucky that my husband understands where I’m coming from and that I don’t need to hide anything from him. In fact, during this said health crisis, he was even generous enough to add to the money I was sending to my family. He understood the importance of this Pinoy value, so much so that he’s started practising it in his own family.
I told my husband that this is more than just about the money. This is about helping those we love and giving back to them for the good job they did in raising us. I told him that although my daughter will be raised in Australia, she will know of the Filipino family ties that extend indefinitely – crossing oceans, boundaries and borders. I told him that I would want my daughter to show me the same care and love I am showing my parents now. I want her to know that in times of crisis, she can always run to her family for love and support.
I may be idealising and romanticising the Pinoy family values. And yes, many would say I haven’t observed the Philippine society for quite some time and I’m just looking at it through rose coloured glasses. But I refuse to believe that the years of cultivation to create that special Pinoy family bond has just shrivelled away in the last five years I’ve been gone. I know it’s still there – no matter how modern or “western” the Pinoy society have become.
Some things will never go away, and we all know blood will always be thicker than water.