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!