Defining Boundaries in the Filipino Setting

(This is a continuation of my earlier post, The need for personal space.)

Filipino people traditionally do not have a concept or sense of personal space or personal boundaries. Or their concept simply isn’t in alignment with mine.

And this (non)concept of space is deeply embedded in the Filipino psyche.  You can see its influence in practically every Filipino value, cultural belief, behaviour and way of life.  Something that has truly been a challenging and major growth opportunity for me.

It is generally acceptable in the Filipino culture to ask such very personal questions that pertain to your marital status, business or source of livelihood and income, age, number of children, where you reside, etc. All these even if you had just met and all that you’ve exchanged is a cordial “hello” or each other’s names.

And when you choose not to give out such details and if you reply instead by asking them why they want to know, they feel insulted or disrespected. They give you this quizzical look. Some may even label you as “suplada” (unfriendly). They’re almost tempted to ask what is it that you’re hiding and don’t want to reveal. You are expected, almost obliged to divulge such information. Like it’s part of standard exchange of pleasantries. They feel entitled to pry into other people’s lives. Rather than mind their own business and be concerned about their own lives, they naturally gravitate towards being nosy and inquisitive about other people’s affairs.

  • Money, money, money

Increased commercialism has become so prevalent, it’s almost insane! Countless and endless construction and erection of condominium buildings and shopping malls is what you will feast your eyes on when you’re in Manila.

The worsening materialism and survival and scarcity consciousness have affected what used to be such pleasurable activities as shopping and taking vacation trips. It has made shopping and trips to the mall (even for merely watching movies) less enjoyable. Vacationing isn’t as relaxing or stress-reducing as it used to be. The influx of countless peddlers who bombard shoppers and vacationers with their products and services has become too much for me to bear and to deal with.

It was really quite a shocker for me to be met with such invading energies — hungry and desperate for business. It’s like they see me as a walking peso (Philippines currency) sign. I’m their next meal or education for their children. They’re as ruthless as anyone struggling for survival. They have no regard at all for the customer’s space.  Are they doing it intentionally? Probably not. They don’t even know that they’re already encroaching into the customer’s personal space. Or maybe they don’t really care.  All they’re after is to hand out as many brochures as they can, have you take a look at what they’re offering and get your business. I sometimes wonder if they have quotas for the number of flyers that they’re able to hand out in a day.

What was even more shocking is to see that the average Filipino just takes everything in stride. It is accepted and it is allowed. The Filipino shopper or vacationer has tolerated being inundated with sales agents even if these agents get in their way, literally. I’ve even encountered some agents who’d make sure that they stop right in front of me.  I’m being trapped.  They make it difficult, almost impossible for me to escape their preying claws and oh-so-mechanically-sounding  sales pitch! Some of the marketing agents would even have the audacity to block my way by handing out their brochures and flyers and place them right in front of my face!

And I was really taken aback by how the Filipinos have tolerated this. They allowed such behavior to seep into the Filipino culture until it’s become a way of life.

Before I left the country seven years ago, I don’t recall seeing these many merchants and sales agents, and being bombarded with such invading energies.

Family is family; Blood is thicker than water

I respect the importance that’s given to family which is central to the Filipino society and way of life.  However, there’s a shadow side to it, just as with any other beliefs and traditions, personal, cultural, collective.

When personal spaces and boundaries are not clearly set and the lines blur, family enmeshment occurs. And it has also become a standard and acceptable Filipino practice. Extended family system has become an acceptable norm, even when certain lines are being crossed. You end up losing your right to personal privacy. Family members and relatives earn the right to be privy to your personal affairs. They get overly involved. And especially when there are conflicts amongst family members, they meddle.  They think they’re entitled. All because they are family.

Within the Philippines context, the term family is vastly different from the Western world which defines family to include only the parents and siblings. The Filipino concept of family encompasses the parents and siblings, grandparents, nieces and nephews, cousins (first, second, even third degree), children of cousins, aunts and uncles, aunts and uncles of cousins, in-laws, in-laws of siblings, in-laws of cousins, cousins of in-laws….You get the picture. 🙂 And take a look at the picture below of a typical Filipino family.

And it’s not surprising to see such a large, extended family sharing the same roof.  Or, residing in the same compound.  Or within very close proximity.

There is a very strong tribal culture and mentality and the concept of Filipino family and the extended family system may give a sense of community and belongingness. But the extreme closeness and close proximity render the situation prone and convenient to encroachment of personal spaces and privacy.

Even in a community or shared living setting, every member is still accorded personal space and privacy. Or at least, that is my preference and that is what I need and what works for me when I live in such a setting.

The order of the day is for me to learn how to co-exist with people whose values and cultural traditions are so much in opposition to my personal preferences and beliefs.  How do I bridge the gap? Do I even attempt to bridge the gap? Or do I merely respect the differences? Do I simply acknowledge and honor the gap, and simply let it be?

To be continued – Part 4: The Filipino Non-concept of Space

Related articles:

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Copyright © 2011-2012 Nadine Marie V. Niguidula, M.A. and Aligning With Truth

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About NadineMarie (Aligning With Truth)

I find much joy & fulfillment in sharing my experiences & insights through writing & blogging. I created the site, ALIGNING WITH TRUTH as a virtual center for healing where I share my thoughts & reflections, as well as the tools & resources that are helping me as I move along the path of awakening & coming home to the Self. As I live in joy & align with Truth, I AM shining my Light which is how I contribute to the planetary & humanity ascension. Blessed be. Namaste...💗💖💜Nadine Marie💜💖💗
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24 Responses to Defining Boundaries in the Filipino Setting

  1. Very interesting Nadine Marie. What is normal for one group can be so foreign to another. I guess the overriding message is openness and tolerance.
    J.

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    • Yes Jonathan, it really is interesting. I get what you’re saying about openness but I’m not quite sure about tolerance. In fact, that’s what I’m getting clarity on. Up to what point do I allow and tolerate and when do I say “Enough” to something that’s not tolerable. And that becomes interesting again. What’s tolerable to me may be abhorable to another. 🙂 Thanks for stopping by and commenting. Much blessings! ♥♥♥Nadine Marie♥♥♥

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    • Jonathan, I’m getting it now. I was browsing through my journals and I came across an entry about tolerance. 🙂 It was from reading the book “Personal Power Through Awareness” by Sanaya Roman. She wrote, “You learn to love by putting yourself in situations that challenge you to be loving. Tolerance is an attribute of uncondtional love. Smiling inwardly when people do things that used to upset you, sending them a warm blessing or thought of love, frees you from being affected by their behavior. The quality of tolerance is the ability to stay calm and unruffled no matter what happens, to allow people to be themselves and make their own mistakes. It allows you to provide that warm, safe harbor for them where they can bask in the steadfast light of your acceptance.” 🙂 The ability to stay calm and unruffled no matter what happens. That’s what I am developing. I’m also still working on getting clarity on acceptance vs. tolerance vs. condoning. Thank you for leading me to the answer! 🙂 Much blessings and much love!!

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  2. frankoshanko says:

    I think you would love where I live, especially the Wallowa Mountains to the southeast. The mountain vistas, clean mountain air, respect for privacy and glorious beauty are precious! I remember visiting Mexico once and being shocked at the persistent, even obnoxious manner of the peddlers. That’s certainly not my preferred way of living! Thanks for your insightful writings! 🙂

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    • Wow Frank, what you’re describing sounds magical! And from reading some of your posts, you’re blessed to be in such an environment, good for you! 🙂 I am jealous! 🙂 Can’t live in the snow though. I am a water person. I’m not only a goose, I’m a mermaid too! 🙂

      You’re so spot on when you said “obnoxious.” That’s the perfect description! 🙂 Mexico and the Philippines are very similar. Mexico City and Manila are almost identical. Maybe I can put all the blame on our Spanish colonizers for how the Filipinos and Mexicans have turned out. Ooops… LOL 🙂 🙂 🙂

      Thank you for dropping by and leaving your comment. Much appreciated. ♥♥♥Nadine Marie♥♥♥

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      • frankoshanko says:

        You’re welcome! It’s surely hard to change a whole culture, but at least we can be the best version of ourselves. 🙂 I love the water too. I love the variety of terrain, seasons, beauty. I love the winter less as I age! Thank God for warm clothes, warm homes and warm hearts! 🙂

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        • “Change a whole culture” – I can’t even begin to think about how to start the process to do that. And I am not going there…but yes, “we can be the best version of ourselves.” Thank you for that reminder Frank. 🙂 I love the variety of the seasons too. That’s why I so love and miss living in the Bay Area. 🙂 Thank God for warm hearts like yours! 🙂

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  8. Interesting articles! It’s a relief to know that the invasion of privacy is a cultural thing with Filipinos. Recently two of them started working in my office and I’ve been trying not to go crazy. One woman is so loud, insists on gossiping about everyone’s life, constantly comments on what people are doing, and tries to force-feed people food every day. When the both of them talk (I don’t know how anyone can even talk that much) they get right up in my personal space. Sometimes they even come over and start re-arranging things on my desk! I am a very independent, somewhat private person, who previously worked with 3 mellow women in a nice calm environment – so this has been quite the change. They are very friendly, so I don’t want to be rude to them…guess the only thing to do is get used to it & accept that it’s a cultural thing!

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    • Thank you for stopping by and sharing your experiences. What you describe are behaviors very typical of the average Filipino! I too would go crazy. 🙂 But I’d go crazier if I were to simply keep quiet. That wouldn’t serve me well and make me unwell, as has already happened.

      If someone were to re-arrange my things without my knowledge and permission, that certainly wouldn’t sit well with me. That to me is clearly a show of lack of respect. Even if culturally, it’s normal and “acceptable,” that simply isn’t acceptable to me. And I’d use the opportunity to express myself and assert my right.

      As I’ve been sharing in these posts and as I’ve been realizing, the lesson and the learning for me is to define and assert my boundaries. It may be a foreign concept to them as a people and as a culture, but it doesn’t and will not and is not supposed to prevent me from defining my space, make it known to others, and make them respect it, regardless if it’s not in agreement or in alignment with their beliefs, values and lifestyle. They may think I am the one who is rude, they may get offended, they may not “like” me — none of that matters to me anyway. It’s not supposed to. What matters is staying in my truth, aligning with it and speaking it. 🙂

      Thanks again for visiting. Much Blessings…Namaste…♥♥♥NadineMarie♥♥♥

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  12. Ava says:

    Thank you so much for this article. I know I am not crazy! I am American of Filipino descent. I consider myself to be very private and feel uncomfortable sharing personal things. I feel out of control when my business is out there. My parents are full Filipino- born and raised in the PI but we grew up not asking everyone their business and keeping our business private. My boyfriend’s family is EVERYTHING you’ve written. They are NOSY NOSY NOSY and gossip so much. I don’t think they are aware of how rude they are because it’s normal for them. I say one thing to someone and it spreads like wildfire. I have family members ask me within less than 24 hours. I can’t tell someone I’m sick without getting bombarded with additional questions of being sick and getting jokes thrown at me that I’m with child. :/They get into my business about everything. I’m planning to go back to grad school and his mom asked me how long it would take and when I would get in- why does she need to know? Oh and they all live in the same neighborhood! Obviously drawling boundaries is disrespectful with them and being vague only works so much. I just avoid them as much as I can but it’s hard because my boyfriend is a big family guy. I tell him to be vague with them when it comes to me but he’s so obedient, he just tells them openly and honestly. Please help meeeeee

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  13. michelle headman says:

    Here in the San Francisco area lots of cultures and Filipinos are one of them. They are so nosey and rude and wantvto know you’re business. They bring their whole families over, and given the oppurninity they hire all their family members in jobs. Which takes away from other people trying to get a job I cant stand them And when you choose not to give out such details and if you reply instead by asking them why they want to know, they feel insulted or disrespected

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  14. Gladys says:

    This is very insightful .I’ve always wanted to ask the same questions myself.This article nailed it.

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  15. kent camron says:

    my filipina wife does nothing but complain about money, she wants it but dont want to work for it, she wants me to take her shopping insted of paying bills.

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  18. maiah13 says:

    I stumbled upon this blog by accident when i googled why Filipinos are so nosy about others affairs. I was born and grew up in the Philippines, but have spent the last 18 years outside the country. And having married a non-Filipino, most of my friends now are foreigners. I work with a couple of Filipinos, and wanting to be in touch with my roots, i have started spending my lunches with them in the last year or so. I would feel very slighted with the nosy questions, rude and unsolicited comments about each other’s lifestyle, my foreign husband, etc that i slowly started distancing myself from them. I was made to feel as if i am being unpatriotic after having done so.Its very, very frustrating, and i am glad its not just me who feels this way.

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