An elder relative recently pointed out to me that I should check my privilege. It was a privilege to make my first million in my twenties as I was lucky to be born in a family who did not burden me with the responsibility of paying for younger siblings’ school costs, if any. This relative, on the other hand, was not so lucky. In her twenties she was working to help pay tuition fees and living costs of younger siblings. She wasn’t doing #YOLO as is commonplace among millennials today.
This Filipino culture of close family ties and what may appear to be a tradition of helping out one’s family financially, sometimes at the cost of one’s happiness and financial stability, were subject of criticism by some white, privileged, and male YouTuber.* These things were purportedly the cause of why Filipinos are poor as subsequent generations are dragged down by responsibility, creating a cycle of poverty.
Being “poor” as a product of colonial rule, thank you very much
As a novice economist I recognize that the Philippines is, in terms of national output and per capita income, “poor.” We are second to last among southeast Asian nations in terms of gross domestic product. Our economy isn’t perfect and is mostly reliant on the industries involving services. We are a young country (became free of Japanese rule only in 1943, thereabouts, my history isn’t perfect either) and a product of 300 years of Spanish colonial rule and about 66 years of American rule (I’m not even sure our country is now politically free of external influences ). So to say that our culture and economy are completely attributable to us isn’t accurate. As a young country our economy certainly has a long way to go.
Before one makes a critical review of another culture it would be useful to provide some context so as not to appear like an unread person.
Is helping out family making you POOR?
Meeting this question head-on, I must say it shouldn’t. I speak purely from my elder relative’s experience. Yes, that relative had to pay for younger siblings’ education and related living expenses. This resulted to well-paying jobs for said siblings and a nice life for younger siblings who would no longer, and do not, ask financial help. It bears emphasizing that the helpful relative is now a multi-millionaire with several businesses. But she takes care to remind me to always check my privilege and count my blessings.
Of course my relative helps out but she always made sure she put her own immediate family’s needs FIRST. Similar to being in a plane, moms should always put on their oxygen mask before the baby’s. How can you help out your extended family if you’re barely feeding yourself. All this Filipino culture of family and helping out shouldn’t be detrimental to you.
Helping out family isn’t exclusively a Filipino or Asian thing. This became clear when student-loan burdened millenial Americans move back home to their parents as they can barely make ends meet. I often hear of white kids bearing the medical or nursing costs of their parents. These white kids aren’t necessarily rich, just like a Filipino, either.** If your cash flow allows it, why not?
Filipino or not, is helping out family making you POOR?
*Cannot recall his name. Notably, he never mentioned his net worth.
**In the same way, being poor isn’t exclusive to Filipinos or Asians either. There are many begpacker-white people begging for money all around Asia to pay for a plane ticket back home. Also saw many white (and not necessarily people of color) street performers / beggars in my travels.