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  • These Filipino Parents Are Raising Their Kids Without Religion. How Is It Going For Them?

    "You don't need religion to teach kindness," said one parent.
    by Regina Layug Rosero . Published Sep 20, 2023
These Filipino Parents Are Raising Their Kids Without Religion. How Is It Going For Them?
  • For many Filipino families, religion is an essential part of life. There’s prayer before meals, and Mass on Sundays. There’s baptisms and First Communion, weddings and dedications. But for a number of Filipino parents, religion–or at least, the way it’s practiced by many families–is not a big part of their family life, if at all, for various reasons.

    “I’m not a religious person”

    Many of these parents don’t consider themselves religious to begin with. FA, a corporate executive and a self-confessed Gen-Xer, is father to two kids, 17 and 12. He says, “I’m not a religious person anymore now. The idea of religion in general has been a bit off-putting. It feels as if being religious is getting in the way of being kind. It isn’t something that’s new or specific to recent times, but recent times have made it so much easier to be unkind to others who do not share our beliefs. I prefer to be kind.”

    Rachel, 42, is a Holistic Wellness Coach and mom to kids aged 23 and 18. She says, “Religion is a structured set of rules, beliefs, rituals, and punishment systems created by man to make sense of their existence, to encourage some sort of cooperation among communities, and maybe to teach tolerance and establish boundaries. I would say I am not a religious person because I do not practice a particular religion, but I take a huge interest in different religions, and have massive respect for each of them. I think a lot of people mistake religion for spirituality, and assume that people without religion have no spiritual anchor. That is not the case at all.”

    'A moral code is not tied to religion. One does not need religion to have empathy and to be kind. [My husband and I] both agreed, based on experience, that religion is unnecessary to raise a decent person.' —Dr. Aurora Aves, mom of 2

    Some parents do not think of themselves as religious, but still go to church, like Abby Punzalan, a 43-year-old government employee. “I would say I was once religious, because I would go to church regularly, I attended Catholic schools, and participated in church activities. When I started working, my colleagues encouraged me to attend Christian fellowships. I was skeptical at the beginning but later on I felt comfortable and closer to God. I attend both the Catholic Church and Christian worships, but not religiously. I like going to Catholic Church because it feels like coming home, but I don’t necessarily feel the need to attend Mass, because I feel that I can worship, praise and ask forgiveness from God directly, and whenever I want to.”


    Dr. Aurora Aves and her husband are both physicians in their late 30s, with two kids under ten years old. They think, “A moral code is not tied to religion. One does not need religion to have empathy and to be kind. We both agreed, based on experience, that religion is unnecessary to raise a decent person.”

    Whatever their individual stances, these parents say the same thing about tfheir children’s beliefs: I want them to choose for themselves.

    Dr. Aves and her husband believe they can teach their kids empathy without religion.
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    “Religion is a deeply personal choice”

    Gisela Mirandilla is a 28-year old solo mom working as a freelancer. For her, it’s about how much her child understands about church. “I don't like forcing my kid to do things he doesn't understand yet, like attending mass, making the sign of the cross. Young kids need to work with tangible things, like exercising the senses, nature, communicating with peers, basic concepts of physics, before understanding the abstract world, like history and religion.”

    For Laurice Lu, 40-year-old businesswoman and mother of two, it’s important that her children understand why they have to do certain things. “I don't want them to do the ‘right thing’ just so they won't burn in hell. I want them to do the right thing without thinking of a reward.

    FA shares, “I believe that religion is a deeply personal choice, which should reflect what you believe is good. Religion is the framework by which people understand what is right and good as a reflection of all that is considered good. I believe it is better for my children to understand that multiple frameworks exist, that the choice of framework is extremely personal, and that we have no right to impose that framework on someone else.”


    'We hope that [our son] will gradually learn [religion] on his own as he ages, by observing his environment and learning through books, and not because we imposed it on him.' —Tonette Abello

    Tonette Abello is a full-time stay-at-home mom and freelance corporate writer. Her son is almost 4 years old. She shares, “I remember being a college student and beginning to question some teachings of the Catholic Church that I used to blindly believe. If an adult me cannot even completely comprehend the depths of the Catholic teachings, how can I expect a child to understand it? So even before I got pregnant, I read about child development and how children learn. My husband and I wanted our child to be able to form his own thoughts and opinions, and make decisions on important matters that will shape his life, and that includes his choice to follow or not follow any religion. Religion for us is a very personal relationship with God, so we hope that he will gradually learn that on his own as he ages, by observing his environment and learning through books, and not because we imposed it on him.


    “You don’t need a religion to teach kindness”

    For many families, religion is how you teach children right and wrong, good and evil. How do parents teach this if they are not doing it through religion?

    For Arianne Ailie Dizon, a 41-year-old yoga teacher, it’s simple. “We teach them the golden rule, which is to do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

    Laurice Lu (in photo with her husband and two kids) wants her children to learn to do what's right because it is right, not because of a reward.

    Abby says, “I make my children read the Bible, but I don't necessarily require or ask them to memorize prayers. I let them pray whatever is on their minds and hearts. I always tell them to be kind, forgiving and generous, because that’s what God wants us to do. They don't know the names of the saints, but they believe in angels and God. I think that is enough.”

    Jaykee Rodriguez, a 39-year-old doctor and humanitarian, as well as solo mom to a 3-year-old boy, shares what she does. “Since my son is very small, I try to teach from a place of empathy. ‘This will be ouchie for them,’ or ‘it’s good to share,’ or ‘it’s bad to hit because this will be ouchie for them.’ Since my
    son is very young, he wouldn’t easily understand reason or logic, and consequences, so sometimes a firm ‘no’ is really needed."


    She adds, "I am a one-parent household, with one yaya, so I try to make sure that, despite our small household, he sees that we are happy and communicating, and treating each other well. We don’t shout in the house or say mean things. Even when our extended family comes, he is always surrounded with caring and laughter, and adults make sure to speak with him directly and clearly. We do not practice aggressive language, and I can already see the way he models our behaviors. He is always happy and friendly.”

    Renzie Baluyut (in photo with his family) does not believe in being involved in other family's businesses of raising their kids. "And I expect the same courtesy," he says.

    FA thinks, “You don’t need a religion to teach kindness, selflessness, service, and the value of human life. You shouldn’t be motivated by fear to do the right thing. If you look at how children see each other when they are untainted by prejudice and fear, they understand this at a core level. In some ways, it’s harder to teach morals and values without the structure of religion because you have to be consistent in living up to the morals and values required to be a decent human being, without the convenient shortcuts of religion.”

    For some parents, what their children learn in school is a big factor. Jim is a 46-year old geek and IT project manager. “My daughter goes to a Christian school, and they do have a lot of activities along those lines aside from the usual school stuff. My daughter seems to enjoy participating in these activities, but we've never really forced anything on her religion-wise. We talk about needing to live a good life, and not be an a*se to other people, but other than that, we don't really discuss religion. If she does have any questions, I answer her as best as I can. I'm pretty particular about her behavior towards us and others, but I've never brought religion into any discussions about that with her.”


    While full-time work-from-home dad Renzie Baluyut and his wife are not religious, they decided to send their son to a Catholic school. “For him, really, the bigger push is to be a nice person. You see someone hungry, you feed him. You see someone with no toys, you give them some of your toys. So, that’s the prevailing way of thinking for us, as far as religion and value formation goes.”

    RELATED: How to Teach Our Kids One of the Most Important Values of Success: Empathy

    “It’s hard for older people to contemplate an existence without religion”

    No matter how you raise your child, friends and relatives will have something to say. Jim shares, “I've gotten comments, particularly from my parents, about us needing to attend church regularly, and to get our daughter involved in kids’ church activities. We used to go, but we eventually stopped. I can understand their concerns, but I just take the comments in stride, and do my own thing.”


    'I won’t decide for my son if he wants to practice religion, whatever it may be, when he can already understand it. I won’t take that away from him.' —Jaykee Rodriguez, mom of one

    FA admits, “It’s been harder on the older people in my family. Their religion gives them comfort, and it’s hard for them to contemplate an existence without religion.”

    Whatever other people might say, Renzie thinks in the end, it’s all about respect. “I don't feel like I need somebody's approval in terms of how I raise my kids, as long as I feel and believe it's the right way to go. I respect their business too. I'm not in the habit of shoving myself into their business of raising their kids. And I expect the same sort of courtesy.”

    Mommy She, 41-year-old OFW, feels the same. “I don’t have to explain to anyone about not following a religion. My children are individuals, and only they can decide if they want to have a religion or not.” Jaykee adds, “I won’t decide for my son if he wants to practice religion, whatever it may be, when he can already understand it. I won’t take that away from him.”

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