“Helping” Your Philippines Family

Today, I’m in an ornery mood and am going to give my take on one of the most controversial and trickiest (that is if you want to stay married) issues there is in a Fil-Am marriage: how to “help” your Philippines family.

First, let’s get the basic terminology out of the way. “Help” is a euphemism for money. If your fiancee asks you whether you are willing to “help” her family, she is not talking about performing household chores when you visit her in the provinces.

I bring this subject up today because I am on a forum and a guy there is asking about it. He’s looking online for a Filipina to potentially marry and wants to shell out as little green in the process as is possible; a good fiscal conservative, I suppose. He is assured by all that some form of “help” is essential. He is adamantly against that and begins to propose strategies to avoid “helping.” Surely, he reasons, he can find a middle or upper class Pinay whose family is loaded with pesos; there must be a few single Marcos or Aquino women lying around. No, we assure him; there aren’t many attractive, young and rich women interested in a poor, aging Westerner – especially one who refuses to “help.”

Finally he decides to search for women without parents and who want no children. Yep, lots of those in the Philippines 🙂 Apparently he’s also not yet heard of lolos and ates.

I honestly don’t know how this “help” business became a Philippines-only thing. Even among Western couples, assuming you stay married long enough (and maybe that’s the problem) someday you will be “helping” some family member(s). When my maternal grandfather got cancer (I was 12) he came to live with us. My maternal grandmother had a stroke and lived in a nursing home. I was too young to know the details but I have to assume my father shelled out some cash for the care of those inlaws. In those days it was part of the deal. Few women worked and the guy paid for his family and quite possibly hers as well. And she in turn took care of everyone, including his parents. The kids stayed out of the way and learned the hard and unpleasant truth about Poligrip.

In my childhood neighborhood this was quite common. Grandparents lived with their children/grandchildren. Are we so delusional that we don’t realize who paid or at least “helped.” Today we take the elderly in less often, preferring to farm them out to assisted living centers; BTW, you all have my permission to off me with a 357 before sending me to one of those. But regardless, someone’s got to pay.

OK, this piece is getting morbid which wasn’t my intention. My intention was to tell you all to man the hell up and pay – or at least contribute.

The best way to work this all out in a Fil-Am relationship is a radical one; talk to each other about it. I won’t get into too many of the specifics of what Janet and I do and don’t do, because frankly it’s none of your damn business 🙂 but we’ve talked about it from the beginning of our marriage, continue to talk about it regularly, make decisions together, and then take action. Or sometimes choose not to take action.

I know guys who claim that they have never “helped” their Philippines family. There is a name for that kind of husband in the Philippines – a liar 🙂 OK, there’s another name for such a husband – horny. Take your pick.

I know guys who claim that they have never “helped” their Philippines family. There is a name for that kind of husband in the Philippines – a liar 🙂

I also know foolhardy guys who wildly pay for everything, wanting to improve the quality of life for their new family. Of course it’s their money and if they want to buy an aircon for every room in their family’s home, or get each of their BILs a motorbike, and each SIL an ipad, then I need to ask these fools one thing and one thing only – how do I become of member of that family?

I have known plenty of guys on both the too little and too much end of the spectrum. Eventually it hurts the marriage and they have to find a moderate solution.

The following are some of the areas of “helping” you might need to discuss. I am not going to tell you what to do or not to do (what am I crazy); I just want to list areas of consideration:

Emergencies – I consider emergencies to involve major medical problems or funerals but it’s possible for your BIL to consider that motorcycle he wants you to buy to be an emergency. You and your wife must come to an agreement on what constitutes an emergency. I’d recommend leaving the BIL out of that discussion.

BTW, just because you agree that there is an emergency does not mean you are responsible for paying for the entire emergency. I told the story recently about Janet’s uncle’s funeral; we did contribute, but just a modest amount of the cost.

Monthly Assistance – Many couples send an allowance to help the family with recurring bills. The advantage I suppose is that sending a set amount is easy. The disadvantage is that you may not be positive how it got used. Instead of a sack of rice or two, it could be going for a motorbike payment.

Education – Many Filipinas, wanting a better life for their younger siblings or cousins, send back money for education. The good news is that private education and college in the Philippines can be quite inexpensive. OTOH, if someone mentions the term “International School,” start taking out a loan or run.

It’s not unusual for the sister married to the kano to propose the following Pay it Forward type of arrangement: “I will pay for your college and you will work and contribute to the next kid’s college.”

Misc. – Janet and I have contributed small amounts of money for a variety of things: doctors appointments, meds, school clothing and supplies, etc. The amount is generally trivial.

Of course with all this you get into the question of who pays. If your wife does not work, the answer’s simple dude – you pay. If your wife works it gets more complex; do you ask her to pay out of her paycheck or share the expense. I am of the old school way of thinking that all the money that comes in is ours jointly, regardless of whose paycheck it came from. Actually I am from the old school way of thinking that all the money that comes in is hers, but let’s not tell Janet that 🙂

BTW, if you are as lucky as me to have a really nice Philippines family (and in my modest experience most are) you will be thanked for your efforts from here until your death bed.  Everyone will remember that last year you paid for the meds, bought a school uniform, contributed a small amount to the funeral, etc. Enjoy being the hero. You don’t get those accolades very often in my culture!





19 thoughts on ““Helping” Your Philippines Family”

  1. personally, and speaking from personal experience, I’d rather err on the side of generosity and be considered a spendthrift stupid idiot than err on the side of caution and be considered a scrooge (because the finances are really really low and whatever I give will only add fuel to the fire);
    there is a middle way and I’m trying to get there but right now there’s very little room for error.
    (oh, and by the way, before you ask or are recommended a relative to ‘renovate’ your place, ask to see a sample of their recent work before you say yes – it may save you some unnecessary aggro in the end.)

    1. It’s a tough issue of course. What one person considers generous (or scrooge like) another person has the opposite view. Ultimately it is up to my wife and I what is a reasonable contribution and what we can afford. No two people are alike. The danger of erring is that’s it’s tough to spend less once you have overspent. It’s a bit easier to underspend and later to decide to increase.

      1. We have a bit of the opposite situation between my wife and I. We had been routinely sending about PhP 25,000/month to help out our family. It’s not that much of a strain for us, and I had no problem with it. But, my wife has this dream that when we take a vacation in a few years to the Philippines, she wants to buy a house. Our parents there can live in it until we move there in about 8 years when I retire. So, she told mom that the monthly “help” will only be PhP 10,000/month from now on so we can save more for the house. I was against the reduction at first since, I’m sure our family there has gotten a bit accustomed to that amount and changed their lifestyle accordingly. But, she insisted so I agreed. Of course, the PhP 15,000 isn’t the only money going into the “house” account. All of her paychecks go there as well. We live off of my salary.

        Anyway, just a different perspective that some might like to read. Did I mention that I have a GREAT wife and Filipino family? They NEVER fail to thank us for the monthly “help” and tell us that we don’t ever have to send anything.

  2. Dave, you’re quite right, I must agree, virtue always consists of finding the best middle way, not the most extreme or reckless, verging between being a crazy spendthrift to a parsimonious scrooge, but then, to paraphrase G.K. Chesterton – why do folks call it ‘common sense’ when it’s anything but?

  3. I’m lucky that I have great in-laws. They rarely ask for any money. That’s good because I really don’t have that much money to give. Heck, I think 1 or 2 of my Filipino relatives make more money than I get per month (at least until my social security kicks in). My wife and I have been married just over 35 1/2 years now and we’ve got a pretty good hand on what to pay for, help pay for or to avoid all together. Now that we are both retired (and no so much income as before) it’s easier. At first we wanted to help with everything. Now that we have established limits, the few requests are even fewer. As Dave says, it’s different for different people, but everyone need to establish a limit, and don’t exceed it, except maybe for an unforeseen emergency. Hopefully those will be non-existent.

      1. Thanks. It’s not always easy for sure. I’ve only met 2 or 3 other couples here that have been married longer than us. Besides, I’m still trying to catch my mom & dad. As of next month they will be married 59 years.

    1. John – one other thing to add that I really didn’t hit in the blog piece and that is – do our Philippines families have any genuine idea of what we make and what we can afford to contribute? My guess is that is most cases they don’t or have no idea of what the amount really means. I am proud that Janet now understands our finances well and through her work understands what a dollar truly means, but she didn’t at first of course.

  4. The golden rule when marrying a filipina is that you are married to her and not her family. If you give they will take and ask for more. You will become an ATM and believe me they will only appreciate you while your money is still burning a hole in their pocket, which is usually less than ten minutes!

    Sure a little greasing of the family wheels here and there is perfectly ok but to be expected to pay for education, and food and travel etc is ridiculous.

    The reason pinoys have so many children is so they have a pension from them as they age. I am wholly opposed to this. I have been married to my filipina wife for 8 years and we are very happy. Her daughter lived with us while we were on Bohol and I paid, happily for everything. Then we moved back to Europe, without the daughter who wanted to go to college to become a midwife. I paid for all that college and extras, living expenses etc. I paid with pride and she graduated well.

    Now she cannot get work in Phils as a midwife and still wants me to pay her living costs while she looks, but won’t take any other jobs which she feels are beneath her.

    The bottom line is that if your wife or girlfriend puts her family ahead of you because you won’t continually dish the dosh, you’re with the wrong one!

    1. I agree that you are marrying your wife and not her family. And yet there is no way around the reality that her family is extremely important to her. It’s like her left arm – you may not have married the arm, but she’d prefer keeping it attached.

      Nonetheless you are correct that compromises must be made and there are times to say no.

  5. Dave, one should know going in that’s part of the package-or don’t get married to her. Family ties are more than occational phone calls to mom, pop, sis, and bro..it’s (like you said)..their other arm. I have a set amount put into my wife’s account quarterly with a very trusted sister. My wife will pick and choose if help is needed. So far, one bad medical emergency (nephew hit a caribou on the road-no, really Dave-I saw pics-cracked skull)..and one funeral…sister’s untimely passing (we were contributors-and not the sole source of financial help in these cases)

    1. Sounds like you have a good plan, Steve T. I certainly believe the caribou story. Was the treatment for the nephew or the caribou? 🙂

      1. The healing was slow-it was expensive and now everyone is so very relieved. He will be ………. back to plowing rice fields before ya know it………
        Just a poke, there Dave-It’s my humor ha ha

        …John Mark will be fine. You and Janet take care, now.

  6. Such and important topic Dave and you did a great job explaining how the process SHOULD work. For the cost of financing a very inexpensive car you can have such a dramatic impact on many individuals lives AND in the process make your young, pretty wife happy! Where do I sign up? Oops, that’s right, I already have 🙂

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