We Filipinos are known for our “extended family” culture. Filipino families are very close-knit, oftentimes going beyond the basic unit of father, mother and children to include the grandparents, uncles, aunts and cousins.
These days, however, due to the rise of Filipino workers leaving the country to pursue better opportunities and greener pastures abroad, family togetherness is being compromised. How ironic that the reason most migrant workers are forced to leave home is precisely because they love their families that they would bear the long distance and sacrifice not being with them just so they could save up for their future.
Though some are lucky to be able to bring their extended families with them, this is not a common scenario. Thus, we see less and less “complete” family get-togethers. Opportunities to gather together for Christmas, New Year, birthdays, baptisms or even regular weekends with our extended families have become so rare these days.
My husband and I have been based in the Middle East since 2006. In 2008, our son was born in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. The first time we brought him home to Manila, he was only 4 months old. Imagine how proud and excited his grandparents, uncles and aunts were to finally see him. The next time we were able to visit the Philippines, it was Christmas season and our son, who was then 2 years old, was able to experience celebrating the holidays with our extended families for the first time. Once again, he was welcomed by our families with such warmth and excitement. However, this time, it took our son quite some time to warm up to them. It felt like he was meeting them for the very first time. It was such a challenge for all of us to orient him on the concept of “lolo” and “lola”, “titos” and “titas”. There was even a time when our son was already asking us to go back home – in Dubai, which he considers “home”. Then just as he was starting to get adjusted and bond with them, it was already time for us to leave and fly back to the Middle East.