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A Function of Filipino Culture?

I’ve been trying to understand something about the Filipino I know and I’m not sure if it is part of Filipino culture. It is something I often see. Is the education deficient? I often see a lack of knowledge in certain aspects of life in general. The two chief areas that I’ve been curious about are medical information and environment. I think a high rate of poverty is part of it but I do think it is in part due to Filipino culture. One thing I’m sure of it is not stupidity. When a foreigner insinuates that it gets my blood boiling. It really shouldn’t though, I should forgive the foreigners stupidity.

Filipino CultureAbout two days ago, Jessie told me that “Cheryl’s baby stops breathing and turns white?”  The baby is less than two months. Cheryl is 18 years old, a brand new mother as her baby is only two months old. Cheryl is a very sweet girl.  Cheryl is uneducated and quite poor.

Jessie is 32, educated and not poor by Filipino standards. Jessie finished two years of college, comes from a family of school teachers, accountants and a politician here or there. Her brother is a Barangay captain. A middle class family. Jessie is a mother of three.

Neither of these two women knew about sudden infant mortality or crib death!  I have been trying to come to terms with that. I learned about sudden infant mortality when I was about 12 from watching Marcus Welby MD. You’ll need to be above 40 to know what that show was about.

Public Service Campaigns To Influence Culture

Then there were the numerous TV campaigns that ran in the 70’s and 80’s about the problem. Parents often feel so guilty and the doctors have to consider child abuse in such cases so that compounds that sad aspect of this.

Filipino CultureThen there are child birthing classes where more is taught on this. Since that happened more than 30 years ago for me, I have forgotten much. I told Jessie to look it up on the web as I remember there were some things that could be done to reduce the risk. I didn’t remember what though.

I was so glad when my children reached 2 years because I’m a worry wart and I was always afraid of it.

So I was baffled by neither of them knowing anything about this syndrome. I began to think of what I know about Filipino culture. Though there is no real answers there, I did come up with a couple of ideas.

One will not see the endless number of public service advertisements on TV in the Philippines. It is obvious that some problems in the Philippines scream out for this kind of information on TV.

Pollution comes to mind, Filipino have been dumping things in the sea for so long that it seems almost part of the culture. I do see concerns about the environment in the Philippines.  Don’t get me wrong, there are attempts to increase public awareness on that. I see so many people throw litter into the sea. It makes Jessie angry and it makes me sad. Maybe I’ll shed a tear one of these days, thinking back to that old 70’s public service ad with the native American shedding a tear after someone throws trash onto the edge of the highway as they pass by.

Filipino ChildI’m sure those kinds of ads had an effect on me. I know I became much more conscious of not just dropping an empty pack of chips on the street after I was done with it. We use to just drop things where ever we where.

I remember a lady getting out of her car to chastise my friend when he dropped an empty bag of chips onto the street. We where hanging out in downtown Jackson, Ms. while headed to the fair. I suppose that made a lasting impression on me, though I thought she was a little crazy. If she did something like that in this day and age in America, she might end up dead.

I think a Filipino doing something like that would extremely unusual. Confrontation is avoided in Filipino culture. The tend to stay out of other peoples business except in less overt ways, such as gossip.

And there were many medical awareness ads for things like MS and sudden infant death syndrome. Probably the most memorable one was the “VD is for everyone” campaign. Kind of funny when I look back on it.

Oh and who could forget the “This is your brain and this is your brain on drugs” campaign. Very effective for impressionable minds.

And the early classroom education about drugs managed to scare me away from them.

Education Influenced by Filipino Culture

Studends don’t have 12 grade levels in the Philippines. They have grade school of K through 6 and many don’t go to kindergarten. Then students enter high school. I think this is very much a part of Filipino culture. It wouldn’t surprise me that is some colonizing power didn’t also advocate this in order to the kids out of school and into working in the flields.

It is part of Filipino culture to share your funds with family. The poor and middle class need to get their children out of school faster so they can help support their families.

I did some research on the American education system as I wondered if grades 7 and 8 were always aFilipino School Girls part of the American system. However, I found nothing regarding that. I do recall that the summer break developed in America because families needed their children back at the farm during the growing season.

I suspect that topics like human biology are steered away from in many education systems within the Philippines. That would explain things like a lack of knowledge about medical issues. This would certainly be influenced by Filipino culture.

Sex is quite taboo in the Philippines. Probably the most widely practiced taboo act in the world. Discussion of it, except while engaged in tsismis (gossip) is strictly forbidden in polite circles of Filipino culture.

This has to remove some of the fluff that American schools might have.


Perhaps Filipino are more private than most of us from the USA. It seems that way to be but it may only appear that way. That appearance could be more a function of communication styles.

One thing I’m certain of is that Filipino are bright. Maybe I shouldn’t even make that point but with all the negative talk from foreigners about the Philippines, I think it is necessary.

Filipino ChildI do think the culture of the Philippines plays a role in some areas of knowledge. When a subject is taboo, it is hard to spread knowledge.   Poverty certianly has an impact of Filipino culture too.

One might say that in the American system, there has been system brain washing through the public service campaigns and education. I have seen Filipino refer to the practices of the church in the Philippines but I only recall seeing that expressed by Filipino that are expats themselves.

I think expats living in the Philippines can increase their enjoyment of living here with a better understanding of Filipino culture. I will continue to explore the culture of the Philippines and discuss my observations. To understand the Philippines, understanding its culture is crucial. I have learned enough about Filipino culture to know that is absolutely essential. I have much more to learn about Filipino culture than I already know.

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Filed under: Filipino Culture

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