Intergenerational cultural differences in Filipino culture
Lyn Roshan Dalit
by Lyn Dalit
Lyn Dalit was awarded the 2020 ANAK Liwayway Scholarship for Leadership Excellence last fall based on her high school GPA, a group interview, and an essay in response to the question, “How does an open dialogue about mental wellness impact the way Filipinos engage with the global community in the future?” The following essay was her submission.
Willful ignorance is a cause of prejudice and creates barriers to societal progression. Conversely, open and honest discourse is the key to societal improvement. Our world is one of bubbling turmoil, of social revolt, and of demands for structural and systemic change. However, if we aim to change the world, we must turn inwards. In order to progress we must prepare to face resistance from “the other side,” and to accept that we ourselves may be in the wrong. In the case of Filipino children and their parents and family, the most significant point of contention, arguably, is cultural intergenerational differences.
Tradition is a significant aspect of Filipino culture, seeming to permeate both Western communities, and those in the Philippines. In my experience, it is a part of Filipino tradition to be devoutly Catholic. Maria Luisa’s mother in Jezebel (Danan) encourages her daily to practice her religion by sending her bible verses through text. Christianity pushes its followers, women especially, to lead a conservative lifestyle, which Maria seems to rebel against.
Maria is portrayed as rather popular with men, spurning the “modest” cut of her off-shoulder dress and accepting it only when she adjusts it to conform to Western fashion. She initially rejects her mother’s contact. However, once Maria connects to Filipino culture through her friend’s traditional possessions (such as the cotillion dress fabric), she realizes that the difference between her and her mom’s ideologies is that her mom still clings to life in the Philippines – “immigrant parents, they kept everything” (Danan) – while Maria tries to adapt to Western expectations. The beach scenes symbolically convey this, where Maria’s mother calls her back to safety. Maria’s mother learned the best way to succeed was to stay modest and conservative, and Maria, being surrounded by liberal ideals, felt that her best chances lay in being creative and risky.
Once we understand each other’s stances by rifling through different points of view, our relationships switch from those with negative connotation – Jezebel – to those of openness, richness, and opportunity, much like the ocean of the Dyesebel. In this way we can better understand each other’s motivations.
Another aspect of the Filipino life is the family hierarchy, with elders at the top. As illustrated in Abby Pasion’s article, the elders of the family are unquestioningly regarded as the leaders and wisest of the family (Pasion). Further down the hierarchy are the parents, followed by children, and this pool contains arguably the most toxic behaviour. There is child-comparison, body shaming, judgement of income and occupation (Pasion). While some jabs may be humorous, they serve to perpetuate the harmful pressure Filipinos place on each other.
Being forbidden to question the ideologies of our elders forbids us from forming new ideas of our own, which could change the world. Instead, our decisions, our prejudices are formed for us. Our passions are funnelled into careers that would bring financial security. It is difficult for elder family members to confront the problems of the new generation, such as mental health problems. This may simply be because they were taught in their upbringing that being emotional equated to being weak (Pasion), when today, children are taught that being emotional helps them be in touch with their mental health. Following traditions may lead to intergenerational rifts, weakening our potential global impact.
We can perpetuate a strong, positive, and healthy image of the Filipino culture, and our children, our voices, our talent, and our potential can be heard on the global level. First, we must identify the traditions and toxic cultural norms holding us back. We must call each other out and listen, though the voice within us rages back. Perhaps it is time for us to leave behind harmful ways of thinking and encourage children to grasp the spark within them before it is lost. There is no shame in being doctors or engineers, but let us be teachers, and poets, and astronauts. Let us teach each other to devote our lives to things we love, so that this love may be projected on to the world.
- Danan, Karla. “Jezebel.” Youtube, uploaded by Karla Danan, 10 Dec. 2018, https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCArusfvMp5OAs-YVNhF6X4Q.
- Pasion, Abby. “Addressing Toxic Behaviors in Filipino Families.” One Down, 7 Jan. 2020, https://www.one-down.com/addressing-toxic-behaviors-in-filipino-families-your-mind-our-movement.
Lyn Roshan Dalit graduated from Sisler High School and entered her first year of studies at the University of Winnipeg. Visit www.anak.ca to learn more about the 2021 ANAK Liwayway Scholarship, as well as other ANAK programs, opportunities, and ways you can get involved or support our youth.