Any man who is involved in a relationship with a Filipina needs to understand the three principle influences on his Filipina. These three principle influences are the reasons why your Filipina does what she does and behaves in the way that you may find pleasing, unattractive or a matter of further discussion. Most of these principles are somewhat familiar to Western men or foreigners, but how they are interpreted may be foreign to most men outside of the Philippines.
The three most common relationships in the Philippines are familial kinships relationships, ritual kinship relationships and something called, “utang na loob.” Familial kinship relationships involve blood relatives. Ritual kinship relationships are numerous ceremonial relationships a Filipina has to her religion, her in-laws, her school, classmates (barkadas and kabigans), her co-workers, if she has been gainfully-employed for some time and professional associations.
The utang na loob relationship is generally what confuses most foreigners who are involved with a Filipina. Utang na loob translates literally as “debt to inside” “inner debt” or translating loosely, as “being grateful.” To understand utang na loob, you have to accept that Philippines society at its foundation is a society based on granting favors and accepting favors and this helps to keep interpersonal relationships grounded in the concept of reciprocity.
It is this reciprocity that holds Philippines society together at the interpersonal level and is expected by anyone and everyone who hopes to live within this society. Through the act of giving and receiving favors, one establishes utang na loob, or becoming in debt to someone. To whom a Filipina is in debt to depends on her status in society and the status of the person she is receiving from or granting to.
Utang na loob is but one of two types of debt that a Filipina incurs in Filipina society. The difference between the two involves the amount of emotions involved. The reciprocity of granting and receiving favors that exists in the Philippines to keep relationships favorable can be broken down to these two acts: contractual and utang na loob.
We are all familiar with contractual acts that involve a written or oral agreement between the receiver and the giver, such as a contract to build a house or provide a service. In a contractual act, each person involved knows their duties and carries it out appropriately and their is generally little or no emotion involved and when the contracted act is completed, all involved go on to something else.
With utang na loob, the giving and receiving of favors may be unmeasurable depending on who is giving a favor and who is receiving a favor. The most common utang na loob is the granting of a parent to their children, such as bringing that child into this world and a debt that the child could never repay. Every child is expected to take care of their parents in their parent’s old age.
Another common form of utang na loob is the sister or brother who provides for the education of her sister or brother and then their are the utang na loob of others, such as a lawyer who frees a wrongly arrested person for an alleged serious offense or the doctor who saves a person’s life. These acts of utang na loob can never be measured or paid back, so a person is forever in debt to the giver, whose status is greater than that of their own. So, in essence, being grateful is another aspect of Philippines society.
Being grateful and being aware of the gratitude that a Filipina has for her familial kinship relationships, ceremonial or ritual kinship relationships and utang na loob relationships, should help to clarify why your Filipina acts or behaves the way she does. Say for instance, you gave your Filipina a gift and she accepts it, thanks you and walks into another room and you’re left puzzled. It is considered rude in the Philippines to open a gift in front of the person who gave it to you. If, you open a gift in front of the person who gave it to you, they may deem you to be greedy or worse yet, that you will expose the gift they gave you to everyone else looking and that the gift may not be as opulent as the next person’s gift.
Foreigners involved with a Filipina will have to be especially careful when interacting with her family, for you may have obligations that you aren’t aware of if you don’t remember the act of utang na loob and how it influences everything around you while in the Philippines and even after you leave. If, you have a problem in the Philippines, just remember to consult with your Filipina first or a well-intended foreigner who have been living in the Philippines for a number of years. Also, think about reciprocity, receiving and granting favors, familial, ritual and utang na loob relationships and be grateful that you are able to travel to and stay in the warm, friendly and beautiful Philippines.