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Respect and Care in the Philippines

I touched on this subject in my article “The Filipino “It’s OK Mentality”

When I was a child and before the new school year started, my mom would take my brother and me to purchase clothes for school. My mom would tell us “These are for the school year. Take care of this clothes and change when you get home, we cannot afford to replace them.”

At home or especially when visiting someone else’s home we were taught never to climb on the furniture. We were taught to respect things on a home and outside. If we ever caused damage to anyone’s belongings, whether it was our own or someone else’s, we were punished and had to make restitution by doing chores or some assistance to who we damaged their items.

We had curfews and bedtimes. We had to be home before dark and be in bed and asleep early on school nights. Homework was monitored and checked.

When I first moved here to Davao, I would notice young kids playing and running around the streets as late as 11pm. They would climb on cars, write things or draw pictures on the dust or dirt on cars. When told not to, they would laugh, run away and when you are not looking come back and do it again.

I have yet to see a parent discipline their child or spank one. I think at times the kids are just let to run wild and nobody cares, until they are arrested.

We have one niece, a single mother of two, ages two and four, with a third on the way visiting us since before our nephews wedding. These kids climb on the furniture as if it is a Jungle Jim, run around the house while the mother just watches and ignores them.

Our living room set has a decorative rope covering the change of material on the front of the arms and base on the two chairs and sofa. After a few days here, I saw the rope pulled loose from one of the chairs. We spoke to the mother and told her to please talk to the kids and explain that it is furniture and not a toy. Well, the kids still run around, climb on everything like it is a park toy and then I noticed the rope pulled loose in three other places. Do we get an apology and monitoring of the kids, nope, no change at all?

I also realized today, younger relatives and small children are taught to give “Blessing” when they or you arrive home. This niece and her kids have not done this at all. After I mentioned this fact, Elena mentioned it to her and the reply was “Oh, I forgot.” Forgot, this is something that is so ingrained into the culture it almost becomes automatic. At times, I think the respect is forgotten but they just know automatically to do it.

My feelings are that, as I have noticed, many things in this culture are completely opposite to the culture in America and probably Europe. In America, you are taught to take care of your things and others. It is expensive to be replaced. Here I think the attitude is “we lived without it before, we can live without it again.

I try to be patient, these are my wife’s family and I do not want to make her choose or feel she is in the middle but to me, respect is respect. At the wedding and over Christmas I was happy to see many of our family we do not see often. As many were leaving to go back to their province, I hugged them and told them I would miss them. Unfortunately, one niece and her kids are extending their stay and I look forward to them leaving.

Even though it makes me feel isolated, I am starting to get used too many times I do not hear English. I am getting used to the nieces who live in our home to ignore me and not have any discussions, but in a country where “face” and “respect” is so important, are those terms only for Filipinos?

I know others have this situation and others do not. I wonder what the key to the difference is.

OK, I let out some steam. Thanks for bearing with me.

16 Responses to “Respect and Care in the Philippines”

  1. Steve in Davao says:

    Bruce, don’t let it get you down. I see the same thing here in my home. I speak up immediately and take no prisoners. My home is my castle; the rest of the country belongs to those who don’t wish to live by my rules. When I’m out there, I go by their rules. Sounds fair to me, right! Sounds too strict? Yes, but that’s my way and so far, it works. I’m retired military, so that could be part of it too. I’m also lucky in that my wife lived in the states for 6 years and our early relationship happen on my turf. Her parents don’t understand why I’m strict with my daughter, but she’s a happy, well adjusted and well behaved girl, who loves and respects her parents, so stick to your guns. Hey, they can always go home and tear up their own stuff.

    Just being true to myself.

    Steve in Davao

    • Bruce says:

      Here the family is always right and if something is destroyed, the answer is “It’s ok”

      Maybe once we live alone, and it we get better made furniture, I will be able to stick to my guns, or just use one.

      Having your wife living in America and for now, an American daughter, they can understand your rules, here the rules are stacked against me.

  2. jan says:

    I can only advise you:
    Do the same as Steve: Give those children an angry look and they will obey you. In your house YOU are the KING.
    I do exactly the same. In my home no children are allowed to play with the decorating or run around. If they like to play hide and seek: do it outside.
    Even in our little garden, well maintained by my wife, children are NOT allowed to pick flowers or walk between the plants.
    BE STRICT. It is Your house. Outside the gate belongs to all other Filipinos.
    And my wife agrees with it. She knows the European way of teaching children to respect other peoples belongings.

    Unfortunately we cannot change the whole country, but we have to start somewhere…. The first place is our own home.

    • Bruce says:


      As my reply to Steve, the rules are stacked against me. I will here, it is ok, or they are just kids, or this is the Philippines, not America. We all have our cross to bear.

  3. Evelyn says:

    bruce,it’s ok to let your steam out….
    if you just keep it to yourself then you’ll be stressed..
    remember,stress is the number one cause of cancer so let it out …
    letting it out will give you some form of a relief…

  4. rich says:

    I think my family there almost had heart attacks when I disciplined my son in front of them. But after a month or so they started to put their own on lockdown as well 🙂 But you are right they do seem to have that mentality. What i do is stay quiet most the time so if i do say something to them, they are like wtf and shocked lol

    • Bruce says:


      The destruction and dangers of letting the kids run around at times is scarry, but then again, look at how the motorcycle drivers drive. At times I joke that they think they are immortal.

  5. Rick Levy says:

    “Talk about coincidence! I also touched on the topic of the ‘no bedtime’ culture in my new post today in my own blog site before I knew that you had likewise mentioned it.”

    • Bruce says:


      Well, you have readers I do not and visa-versa. There will be many things we will write that are in common. Life for an expat has many similarities.

  6. Steve in Davao says:

    Bruce, when life gives you lemons, make a mango shake …or….a… something like that. You sound like you have the patience of Methuselah. You’ll go far. It’s not the worst cross to bear, things could be worse; they could be your kids. Don’t allow them to make a habit of pushing you around. If they see that they CAN, they WILL!
    Oh, and you can sing Christmas carols at our door anytime!

    • Bruce says:


      Technically, the kids are not mine, but legally neither is the house. Elena is the boss, legal owner and everything else.
      Once you hear my voice, you will pay me not to sing at your house. hahahaha

  7. leon says:

    Hi Bruce,

    Sorry to hear about your problem. As for me , I will shout at the children to stop and tell them to get out of my house.

    I will shout at whoever that is disrespectful in my house. Even if they are my father or mother-in-law. “Give no shit take no shit”

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