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  • How Culture (Filipino) Influences Your Decision-Making

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    The question isn’t whether (Filipino) culture influences your decision-making but how it influences it. If you’re a brown bear in the woods, do the woods influence your bear behavior?

    Let’s take a closer look. 

    filipino culture decision making

    Brown bear versus those in the arctic have a lot of similarities but their environment, the culture they’re in, teaches them about life.

    Polar bear are carnivorous and seals are its primary source of food. Brown bears are omnivorous and eat a variety of plants, insects and other animals. The long claws of the brown bear allows it to dig in the roots and to excavate small animals to consume. Polar bears have shorter claws that allow them to walk on ice and snow. Brown bears are nocturnals, polar bears aren’t.

    As part of evolution and the instinct to survive, animals and humans adapt to their environment (culture) lest they perish in extinction. 

    As a Filipino in America, how does culture influence your decision making? Seal or insects?



    It turns out that what other bears are doing and eating in the woods can also influence your choosing behavior.

    This is shared identity. The sense that you are a part of the group and the group sees you as its member.

    In a sniffing experiment led by Stephen Reicher, his team had a sweaty female student jog in two different shirts. One for each university shirts with their respective color and logo.

    The stinky shirt was asked to be sniffed and held by participants. It turns out that participants who are sniffing a shirt with their university logo washed their hands and used hand sanitizers less than when sniffing a shirt they don’t have have a shared identity with.

    Basically, if you’re sniffing a shirt  from a person who you deemed as part of your circle, your level of stinky disgust is lower. 

    The sense to belong in your cultural group where a membership in it is crucial for your survival (or thriving) can influence your decision making.

    For a Filipino, the membership in his family unit is a strong tie. When making decision-making for yourself is an American core value, where does this leave the Filipino American?



    The tight rope that a Filipino American has to walked on can feel pretty narrow. In school, American students are oriented to make decisions on their own. Would you rather….stating an opinion is a first grade core curriculum  ( homeschooling mama here). 

    In the motherland, making a decision is important but not as important as to the orientation to be kind ( kagandahang-loob) and the ability to share your space ( manifestation of kapwa).

    Culture rewards behavior that it deems to be appropriate and/or admirable. 

    filipino versus american

    During my nursery schooling in San Andres, a city in Manila when my parents were still trying to make it as entrepreneurs. Our family lived in a small apartment surrounded by low income housing. Kids in “squatters area” where my playmates. I remember going in and out of tight alleys,  playing paper dolls and using empty matchboxes as doll houses.

    I was so excited to go to school. My first day, my mother lovingly prepared by baon with Zesto (brand of drink) and the whitest loaf with Cheez Whiz spread. What else would a kid want, right?

    But here’s more, she sharpened my rainbow pencils and drop them in my zip up pencil case. I had all sorts of pad paper, a whole sheet, half crosswise, half length wise (this would be nostalgic if we went to school in the motherland, anyone?).

    I remembered sitting in the first row of the classroom. The school was a Catholic preschool attached to a church. The kids in the neighborhood all go here for their primary education.

    At one point, the teacher asked the class to take out three pieces of paper. I zip my backpack open as if I was opening a jewelry box with the finest jewels.

    As I was listening for instructions, I can hear a whimpering sound in the back of the room. While my teacher’s back was turned as she was writing instructions on the blackboard, I took myself in the back of the room to investigate further.

    A kid, I’ve seen in the slumps  was whimpering because she doesn’t have a pad paper. I can see through her embarrassed eyes. I took mine and handed it to her. The teacher headed in the back and found out what was going on. I told her my classmate can have my whole pad paper. 

    The teacher looked at me and smiled, she grabbed the three pieces that I need for the day. She looked at me with the proudest eyes and told everyone in the class what had occured. 

    I’ve forgotten about this scenario until my nursery day graduation when my teacher made sure I didn’t forget.

    Here’s a picture of my first award- MOST CHARITABLE.

    filipino culture sharingNote how the teacher oriented the child to the experience of giving. The reward we give children based on their behavior  influences their decisions in the future. 

    How would this scenario play out differently in America?

    Perhaps the teacher would be delighted with the child that shares but would likely tell her, it’s ok, she has  extra sheets of paper for the other child.

    Perhaps the teacher will teach the other child to verbalize her need. “Tell me what you need, sweetie,” may be her response. And tell her when she asks for what she needs, “ great asking!”

    In each scenario, how would each child be informed of their world on how to decide?

    Bear in the woods or in the Arctic?

    Interested to learn how culture influences the way you seek and express affection? Check out the 7 Pinoy Love Languages Course, A Course Aim so that you can Give and Get the Pinoy Love You Deserve.



    As mentioned, a Polar bear’s diet is mostly comprised of seals. It’s what’s available and gives it its macronutrients it needs to survive its environment. 

    When making decisions on what to eat, where to go for the weekend or even what book to read, what metrics do you use to decide? 

    Is it from your own preference radar, just-because-I-like therefore that’s what I choose metric?

    I’m certain this occurs and something you may even take for granted.

    Social scientists and research tells us that you are more groupish than you think you are. Americans pride themselves for being independent-thinkers and the culture rewards behavior that is unique, individualistic and anti-conformists.

    There is a place to dissent unjust and corrupt systemic schemas.

    In one study by Jolanda Jetten of Queensland suggest that strongly identified Americans have a higher levels of individualism than those weakly identified Americans. The study postulates that Americans are conformists to a strong social norm not to conform.

    Have you been in social media or in a meeting where everyone is speaking their mind and not speaking yours feels like a polar bear in the woods?

    Do you decide to speak up to fit in?

    In another study, Asian Americans  were instructed to order food but before doing so were asked if they spoke English. Asian Americans  asked the latter question ( a threat to their American identity) ordered American (food- hotdogs, hamburgers, fries) three times more than those who weren’t asked.

    filipino culture and decision making

    On occasions where you had to choose to attend a potluck or study for an exam, how do you decide?

    Filipino Americans are asked this question from both side- Are you Filipino enough or a real American?

    Imagine asking a bear- Are you bear?



    Understanding that your decision-making is not only shaped by your preference but by your environment, your core values & those around you, & who you have stronger shared identity with can help you make better ones. 

    If the bear in the woods is asked to take a dip in the freezing water of the arctic to catch fish, slowing down and using your body as compass can help you with decision-making.

    Slowing down means catching your breath—wait, wait, wait, I’m not equipped to be in this freezing temperature, look my body’s trembling & shaking  like crazy! I’m out of here!

    In real life, this can be hard. Your tendency is to set rigid boundaries from people who have violated your space or whose high standards of you makes you critical of yourself. 

    Do you have to constantly choose between being American and Filipino?

    This can be exhausting and can manifest with the never-ending need to prove oneself.

    You are bear.

    The theory of evolution tells us that species evolve. Perhaps bears in the woods can slowly consume a more polar-ish bear diet or the polar bear can begin to experiment with consuming insects and plants. 


    filipino enough

    First create a personal statement of  yourself as a Filipino American understanding the value you placed on groups, such as family and/or friends, and the values you personally want to adhere to and incorporating all these to your definition.

    Every moment  when asked to prove yourself, visit you personal statement, and then make a decision in line with your personal statement.

    Strengthen your Filipino identity by learning the unique ways Filipinos seek and express affection, learn more about the 7 Pinoy Love Languages here.



    According to Harold Rosenberg, American norms create a “ herd of independent minds.”  The social researchers, Van Bavel and Packer calls it the independence paradox, that people who strive for independence are often doing so to fit in!

    Your decision is shaped by your preference and the shadows of preferences by those who came before you (ancestors) , the group you belong to, the group you wish to belong to, and the intersectionality of culture and environment in your midst.

    This doesn’t mean you don’t have free will to make decisions but that many factors beyond your consciousness can dictate decisions for you.

    Slowing down, calming your body, regulating your nervous system is a practice you and I need to cultivate so that your decision-making process is tailored to your core values.

    Would I make decisions to simplify fit in or make others feel good?

    Of course, part of being human is the dance with the interplay of being in the group and reclaiming your own personal statement.

    You can have both.

    You can be the type of bear you wish to be.


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