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  • Black Sheep: The “One” in the Filipino Family

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    salvaje filipino

    “Salvaje talaga yang bata na yan,” you overhear mom on the phone.

    Her voice & pitch pierce you in two ways,

    For one, who is she talking to & why does the topic called Me needed to be broadcasted anyway?

    The image of being whispered about sends chill on your spine.

    And, then realizing that-

    You’re the one,

    The Black Sheep in the family.


    Black Sheep in the Filipino family is defined by:


    The one who kept straying off the path usually set forth by well-intentioned individuals. They are the rule breakers, the norm questioners. They can also be the bearer of inherited trauma in the family, unexpressed from prior generations.


                                                                                                                                                                                                       -Roanne de Guia-Samuels


    There are many words to convey that someone has strayed away from cultural norms and expectations. In the Philippines, the words-

    suwail, walang utang na loob, salvaje, walang pakialam warns the other to reel themselves back in to the group.

    When a child “ is not doing what she’s supposed to do,” parents express disagreement with words, with withdrawing affection and soliciting corroborative evidence, usually another tita or relative that indeed one’s behavior is inexcusable & needs to change.

    Withdrawing attention can be in the form of lukewarm feelings towards the child or a showing off exaggerated fondness for another child- See what you’re missing experience. This is what happens when you’re good.


    black sheep filipino culture

    The black sheep may be less spoken to directly but mostly talked about indirectly. 


    They’re conversation starters in potlucks, fiestas and when one is trying to gain rapport with the other-

    Kamusta na si, Junjun? (How’s Junjun)

    Nag-aaral na ba ulit? (Is he back in school)



    Unlike in the American setting that celebrates individuality, a black sheep may get loads of affirmation & encouragement from others, even in social media.

    Different is cool.

    Be yourself as many Western logos promote.

    This is not the case in the Philippines, collectively a black sheep doesn’t get as much kuddos. 

    Barkada (close friends) become a shoulder to cry on- you need this

    Titos become advisers, tagapamagitan (mediator) and may attempt to explain the side of the child to the parent.

    Ultimately, whatever strategy is taken, the collective solution is to reel the black sheep back to the group (or as close to).


    if the latter decides to trek life on his own, he will be met with conditions and litanies of Never.

    Wag na wag kang lalapit sa akin kapag me kailangan ka!

     (don’t ever (never) ask me for help when you need it)!

    Wala na tayong pakialamanan. Bahala ka na sa buhay mo!

    (let’s not care about each other’s business. Do what you want with your life)!


    The black sheep may be less spoken to directly but mostly talked about indirectly. 

    Interested to learn more about the ways Filipinos and Americans communicate differently? Why we often misunderstand each other? Get your FREE ACCESS to the Speak the Pinoy Love Language Webinar below-

    filipino love



    I have seen many Filipino-American women in my practice who call themselves-the Black Sheep in the family.

    I notice that Filipino Americans who settled in America as young children to young adults are the ones most plagued about this phenomenon.

    Usually they come in for therapy/coaching due to unresolved issues of anger and anxiety while immigrant Filipinos (adults when they settled in the U.S.) may show signs of poor self-esteem, high stress and even depression.

    talking about the black sheep in family

    I remember writing a meta-analysis (comparing journals & studies)  paperwork on child labor. In this paper, I investigated the effects of child labor on mental health. I hypothesized that children in poor countries, with poor labor codes have poorer mental health outcomes. Makes sense right?

    I was wrong.

    I was surprised to know that in (most) industrialized countries, children who labor have poorer mental health outcomes. 

    What’s up with this?

    Child laborer in the Philippines, for instance, have community narratives that support their everyday struggle, like-


    Para to sa pamilya ko, ayaw kong mahirapan si nanay

     (for my family. I don’t want mom to have a hard time).

    Para makaipon kami at makapagaral ako. Tapos meron kaming pambili ng pagkain.

    (so I can save money & I can go to school. Then we’ll have money to buy food).


    You might agree with these narratives or not but the point is-

    Meanings create our expressions of our world.

    When society embraces a cultural practice as “good.” That meaning of good, productive and the good child is easier maintained than otherwise.

    In America & other industrialized countries, we know better than to allow our children to labor for economic growth.

    There are some ads going around before on disowning companies who use child labor in their manufacturing process.

    Indeed, children are meant to be children.

    Child laborers who have absorbed the meaning that child labor is bad and finds that the greater community supports this idea will find themselves in a bind. 

    I’m doing something I’m not supposed to do.

    This equals poorer mental health outcomes.

    You see,  the black sheep molded in the Philippines has many more eyes around him.

    They’re not always uncaring eyes. 


    black sheep straying


    Nevertheless they’re the eyes that await for the black sheep to come to his senses. The first ones to perk up in delight, cheering  the black sheep on for returning back to its course.

    It is so much easier to stay with the flock than to stay astray.

    When our personal meanings match with community narratives, like in the case of child laborers in poorer countries, our survival to belong rise.

    In a collectivistic culture, this is everything.

    If you want to learn more about the intricacies of the Filipino culture, check out the FREE webinar on Speak the Pinoy Love Language here.



    Imagine the black sheep migrating in America who finds that-

    Less eyes are on her,

    there is a name for her parents, that is, over-controlling & dominant.

    It’s not too bad to be different.


    If you were the child laborer who was convinced that you were doing your family a mighty job to  survive & your parents a favor-

    Curious what this child laborer would feel when she finds out that-

    Parents should labor for their children & not the other way around.

    Children are meant to be nurtured, go to school-be a child.

    Play is the only labor (aside from age-appropriate chores) a child should care about.

    1.5 Filipino Immigrants may have this cross-experience, both the child in the Philippines and in America. It’s no wonder that black sheep who are in this immigration wave (1.5) go to therapy with angst, anger and anxiety issues on their backs.

    The former narrative no longer match their personal story. In fact, they collide. 

    Reconciling meaning(s) is not only possible but necessary. I recommend you consult with a culture-informed therapist or check out Story Therapy here.

    In navigating this process, I find that clients go through a period of physically disowning their parents while pursuing psychological closeness to them all at the same time.

    This is ok and is part of your healing.

    If you recorded a voice over, matching this element to the video you just shot is a process.

    But, trust that you are capable of aligning both elements together.

    I’ve seen them happen many times. 




    In a way, black sheep don’t have cuffs on their feet to stay put wherever told necessary. When their energy is used for the good, black sheep can transform into:



    Innovators, and

    Visionaries of the World.


    If you’ve survived being different in a Filipino home and learned to find meanings that are both compassionate to yourself and your parents, 

    You will thrive the demands of the world while staying true to your own story. 

    That is a gift.


    gifts of the black sheep


    If you define yourself as a black sheep & you cannot seem to find your way and have tried many ways to your heal, consider exploring inherited family trauma. Find a therapist informed in this practice or you can schedule a complimentary session here.


    If you need an image, AABS-CBN recently created We Are Blacksheep with this aim:



    ABS-CBN is a esteemed channel in the Philippines. My lola watched it growing up, so did my own mother. It was shut down by the Duterte administration for reporting facts rather than JUST government-friendly news. 

    black sheep filipino culture


    They were the black sheep that refuse to stay within the lines.


    The gift of the black sheep when a force for good is that they are the risk-taker that can pivot collective consciousness into the right flock.


    This will take some stamina for danger lurks around those who attempt to cross the forbidden line, like abs-cbn.


    But the black sheep can be counted on to hide in the bushes, ready to emerge at the perfect time.

    This is a gift.

    Here’s another gift, the FREE webinar on Speak the Pinoy Love Language, instant access here.

    pinoy love language





    It’s  painful to be different especially in a culture as collective as the Filipinos. The danger that lurks those who stepped out of the reef (according to Moana’s dad) is high & the community bashing that serve as locusts of control, harsh.


    The harsher the consequence for an individual to un-follow cultural norms, the harsher the reaction from parents and elders whose role is to mitigate these harsh consequences.


    The Black Sheep transitioned in America may feel CURSED  but with deep, compassionate investigation of the self, culture & family.


    Being a Black Sheep brings with it freedom and many gifts to the self and the world.


    1. Bugsy


      April 24, 2022 at 11:36 pm -

      Yes black sheep is being a unique persona /thy know what thy wanted

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