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  • Filipino Versus American Worldview: The Family Orientation

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    What is a fundamental difference between the Filipino and the American that shapes his strategies for navigating his world?

    The Filipino in this context is a collective experience rather than accounting for individual  differences. There will no writing or research that can account for his uniqueness.

    The variation of differences will obviously exists but I would write about the fundamentals from an anthropological and developmental psychology framework  with the assumption that the family unit is the starting point of human existence.

    If you’d rather watch, the youtube version of this, checkout the series, Ask this Filipina Therapist on Filipino versus American Worldview.


    In  the Philippine constitution  of 1987 , Article XV, Section 1.

    The State recognizes the Filipino family as the foundation of the nation. Accordingly, it shall strengthen its solidarity and actively promote its total development.

    The American constitution, Article 41

    The family as the natural primary and fundamental unit group of society and as a moral institution possessing certain inalienable and imprescriptible rights” which are “antecedent and superior to all positive law.

    Family for both cultures is a foundational beginning of human development. But operates differently based on core values emphasized on each.

    The Filipino family emphasizes togetherness, loyalty to relationships and a sense of  heightened awareness for others (kapwa-han) and their emotional temperature, without  reliance with verbal narration (pakiramdam). 

    I have talked about the core value of pakiramdam in some of my posts. Read more below, or learn more about the Masterclass on Pakiramdam: Filipinos on Affection Beyond Words.

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    Pakiramdam: The Most Misunderstood Filipino Core Value

    Collective Co-Regulation: Anatomy of Filipino Affection

    3 Differences: Filipino versus American Way of Expression

    The togetherness of the Filipino family and how children are physically carried (karga) by their caregivers, usually the mother typically is longer in duration (either how long it last or duration of karga throughout the day) during the infancy and early childhood development (0-2 years old) can be noted. 

    This is not unique of the Filipino caregivers and can be seen in other cultures in Asia and Africa.

    Filipino children are spoon-fed (subo) longer than they are capable of. It isn’t uncanny to see a mother subo her 3 year old child who developmentally can tend to his own feeding if allowed. And, indeed, the child is allowed but is coaxed to accept an uninvited show of affection or at times, a practical reasoning to keep the dining table floor tidier.

    On the other hand, the American child rearing emphasizes independence and verbal articulation of needs, a primer for the right for self-determination.

    At the first instant that an American child can sit up and hold its neck steady, the mother places the child in his high chair,  so that he can feed himself while practicing his pincer grasp (using fingers to pick up small things).

    The American mother may not have a village to help her in raising her child (which is not always available to the Filipino mother at times) so teaching her child to navigate the world independently seem rightfully appropriate.

    The American culture values language and what is not communicated in words is discounted as absent. The opposite of the Filipino core value of pakiramdam which holds non-verbal assertion as another mode of communication. This can breed irritation in relationships when the unspoken isn’t read but closeness when de-coded by a loved one.

    These are just a few examples of the developmental path that differs a Filipino and an American child. I wanted to share them to give the illustration below context. 

    If you’re interested in learning more about the core value of Pakiramdam and why it causes tension in the Filipinx homes, I invite you to learn more about the Masterclass called Pakiramdam: Filipinos on Affection Beyond Words.


    I’m sharing the illustration below to depict the fundamental difference between the American and Filipino worldview. 

    The word American  can also be interchanged with “Americanize.”  Meaning, a Filipino raised in America may more closely relate to the American worldview as far as how he was raised. This can depend on many reasons like: his generation wave, his parents’ generation wave and other parental influences that can transform a Filipino’s parenting from the cultural norm.


    Filipino worldview

    In this illustration, the Filipino child is raised to navigate groups successfully. The job of the parents is to teach their children to belong, such in ka-barkada (group of friends), or simply with their ka-laro (playmates), and ka-ibigan ( the word ka connotes a companion. You’re not alone).

    If a Filipino can navigate groups successfully and read others’ social temperature (collective co-regulation) then he can can be viewed as a “good citizen.” When he can integrate both groups and his own ideals for himself then he has reached a process of individuation ( very different from individualism).

    Carl Jung, a psychiatrist used the word individuation to describe the goal for the human psyche which ultimately is to integrate the shadows and light of his persona. I’m using it similarly and within the context of the Filipino social psyche as a goal to navigate his world through successful navigation within groups while finding his unique expression as a human being.

    When the Filipino is not able to negotiate with both, he can end up denying himself of his fullest potential both as part of the group and as an individual.


    American Family Worldview

    In this illustration, the American family’s job is to teach the child to explore his world with and equally important, without them. Articulating a need is important and clarity in words is pivotal to getting your needs met.

    When a child learns to regulate his own emotional temperature (self-regulation), he can very well be able to play with other kids. 

    The American can navigate groups (of course this not strictly linear) with more ease.

    You can imagine the integration that a Filipino American or someone raised in diaspora as a child can result to a conflicting worldview just from this fundamental difference. 



    The fundamental difference in the Filipino and American worldview offered in this writing can be simplistic and yet lies within in it a fundamental core value rarely spoken about in Filipino American psychology. 

    It is expected and rather understandable that this is so because the training of the western disciplines, including Filipino professionals and academia continue to rely on linear language and scientific methodology. Such methodology serves a linear mode of communication, that is, what can’t be measured cannot be evidenced.

    The Filipino, thereby, cannot be studied in depth unless such methodology gives way to other modes of language such as the use of arts, somatic expression, music and many other forms from where the Filipino speak fluently. 

    I stand with great hope that this will come soon. It is also true that many other Filipinx healers are becoming more attuned to this therapeutic modalities organic to the Filipino. 

    It is also worthy to note that because of the transmission of western worldview from global communications such as social media platforms that such perspectives in family roles and parenting strategies can evolve and transform in time.

    I encourage you to continue to be a student of the culture as I am.


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