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collectivist culture

this blog is turning out to be a repository of my writing assignments in class. apologies – to you who, for some crazy yet really (REALLY) good reason, reads these entries. when my life is no longer dictated by my course work, then maybe i will have the chance to write something for fun.

fun? ano yun?

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 I have been living in the US for the past four years, which is not a considerable length of time to erase the traces of the collectivist culture I am proud to be a part of. I was born and raised in Manila, the capital of the Philippines. Our racial ancestry is mostly regarded as Malayo-Polynesian, similar to Indonesians, Malaysians, and some Vietnamese and Taiwanese groups. Just like most Asian cultures, we have strong affiliation to family. But the typical Filipino family is not just composed of the mother, father, and children. It includes the grandparents, aunts, uncles, great aunts and uncles, and cousins up to the 3rd or even 4th degree, which are all collectively referred to as relatives. This is very important to a Filipino’s psyche that pivots around the concept of “togetherness” (kapwa); often classified as either other people (“ibang tao”, meaning not part of the group), or not other people (“hindi ibang tao”, part of the group) which is, most of the time, composed of relatives and close family friends. As an example, Filipinos would not mind living in confined spaces among relatives or tell their deepest and most embarrassing secrets to friends in a text message, but they will definitely try to distance themselves when introduced to a stranger and would need a considerable amount of time to warm-up to them.

The bond we have to the group of people we consider as extensions of ourselves is steadfast, such that, most are willing to endure physical, emotional, and even social stigmas for the group’s and/or specific members of the group’s sake. Mothers and fathers working abroad tolerate the separation from their loved-ones, and sometimes even ill treatments and abuses, if it means that their jobs can help secure the future of their families. When united against a common enemy, Filipinos have the capability to show great strength as evidenced from the first bloodless People Power Revolution that ousted the dictator Ferdinand Marcos from presidency back in the 80’s. Education is very highly regarded since it is commonly the path towards financial security. Our value system is closely linked to its long history as a Catholic nation mixed with proportions of mysticism from pre-colonial times, and we eat about five small meals a day (like hobbits).

It goes without saying that this collectivist culture that I grew up with influenced me on my views about family, mate selection, and my career choices. As a kid our grades in school are often times the golden ticket to the toys we wanted and it also predetermines quantity of gifts we will receive come Christmas. My academic excellence was never just a measure of my abilities, but was also a measure of my parent’s skill in raising a child as well. Hence, my failures and successes are not just mine, but theirs too. This may have provided added pressure to me growing up, but I believe it propelled me to always strive to do better and make my parents happy and proud, while also knowing that they are always there to support and love me in every step of the way.

I ended up marrying my now husband whom I went to the same science high school and university with, though we only met during my senior year in college and his freshman year in graduate studies. Such is also the case for most of my Filipino friends, who either marry their college sweethearts or someone they met at work who, most often than not, they share the same profession with. Despite our many differences, my husband and I share the same goals.  Examples of which are securing the welfare of our family, serving our country as soon as we are able to, and living our lives to the fullest with respect to God. These are a few of the many values I would like my daughter to have when she gets older. But for now as a toddler, she is preoccupied with learning the basic things she needs to cope with life. I took time off from working to be a full time mom and be with her because we were not comfortable with the idea of a daycare service despite its commonality in the area. We all sleep in a family bed and we eat at least one meal together everyday. We are in constant communication with our friends and relatives back home thanks to various social networks and Internet phone services. Once I complete my nursing degree, we might ask one of the grandmothers to move in with us so that they can take care of my daughter – a task they have dreamed and planned of doing, ever since she was born.

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