Historically, the Philippines was ravaged by many years of colonialism from Spain and Japan. Despite this, Filipinos are master survivors whose culture has family at its nucleus. I am a first generation Canadian Filipino brought up to value family, yet I didn’t realize how true to nature family is to Filipinos until I visited the Philippines for the first time in 31 years.
In Makati, there are so many shopping malls it makes Toronto look barren. Moreover, they are FULL of people….eating. I was shocked to see how many eateries there were and all of them were full of customers. Initially my thoughts were, “Gosh, Filipinos are gaining weight here. They are so indulgent.” (Side note: I had a preconceived notion that all Filipinos were skinny and ate lots of vegetables and fruits as in the days of my parents). But if one takes a closer look, one will notice that every restaurant is full of families. Food is one ingredient that brings family together.
Now what happens when you don’t have food? The Philippines has a distinct separation between the poor and the rich. Shanty towns line any available pocket in the city. These people don’t go to the malls. They don’t have plumbing. They don’t have jobs. Food is scarce and not readily available. So how do they survive? Once again, family. They beg as a family and they suffer as a family. Yet even though they don’t have much, they are content. Their family bond is what helps them to get through the day and counters the negative effects of poverty like exploitation, sickness and lack of education.
It also shocked me that both male and female employees in Customs at the airport would forget about their stern faces and “coo” at my 23 month old daughter. Even in restaurants male and female servers would love to talk to my daughter as if I was at a family reunion!
Filipinos prove that rich or poor, happiness is achieved by nurturing relationships. In a world of materialism, wealth is misconceived as the accumulation of things. However, true wealth is the balance of material goods, family, spirituality and personal fulfillment. Wealth equals Health. A positive environment filled with a positive support system make life’s struggles short-lived so that life can go on. Evaluate your relationships and relate them to your wealth quotient. Make the adjustments necessary to bring your life into balance and happiness will come to you.