Real Talk

Defining What’s Toxic in Filipino Families and How to Change That

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We need to define what’s toxic in Filipino families. And here’s also what we can do to unlearn or change that.

Filipino families are known for being closely knit with their immediate and extended relatives. But the dedication to maintaining this image can be so strong that it becomes harmful. There are a lot of things that Filipino families do that are actually more toxic than it looks. It may look normal to many. But just because it is, it doesn’t mean it’s helpful.

What’s the definition of “being toxic”?

Being toxic means doing things that hurt others. Sometimes, a person’s withdrawal from social gatherings is because of certain toxic behaviors. Why engage in something that feels uncomfortable when there’s an easier and more comfortable way around it?

toxic filipino families

What are some of these “toxic” behaviors that Filipino families consider normal?

Some behaviors that Filipino families consider normal but are actually toxic can include the following:

1. Greeting with “You’ve gotten bigger!”/ “Hoy, tumaba ka na!”

While Filipino elders see being big as a sign of health, nobody likes hearing they’re fat. Especially when everybody holds the hourglass-shaped body as the golden standard. But seriously—who greets people by pointing out what most see as a flaw? That’s just rude.

2. Comparing people to one another / “Bakit si ganito kaya, pero ikaw hindi?”

Filipinos are a proud lot and will take every chance they get to prove their worth. Even if it means putting down somebody else. While the traditional ones will justify it as their way of pushing people to be better, sometimes, the comparison just doesn’t make sense.

3. Holding an elder’s words as law/ “Sabi ni lola/lolo/papa/mama, ganito dapat…”

Because Filipino families see age as a measurement of wisdom and power, the youth often eventually accept their elders’ words as law. It gets toxic, however, when there’s a refusal to adapt and flex. The whole “my-way-or-the-high-way” can destroy relationships as it doesn’t teach the graceful art of negotiation.

4. Blaming the person who got hurt/ “Ikaw kasi!”

Also known as “victim-shaming” or “victim-blaming”, Filipinos do this because they fear accountability. They remember being punished harshly as kids. To avoid this, they pass the blame to maintain a spotless reputation. There’s an underlying fear that they’ll lose all the love from their family the moment they do admit their mistake. Unfortunately, that will never justify this kind of behavior.

5. Using religion as a reason for EVERYTHING / “Masama yun dahil sabi ni Lord!”

Filipinos are extremely religious to a fault and believe God is in everything. Unfortunately, some use God as a reason why they should discriminate against LGBTQIA++, beat their kids with a hanger, have the right to shriek at their child, control what their kids wear, and more. Some even quote the Bible seriously on this!

6. Claiming humanity to avoid blame/ “Tao lang ako…”

Many Filipinos use this line more as an escape rather than as admitting their mistake. Going this route doesn’t solve the problem. It only shows one’s inability to change. And as far as we’re concerned, people can and do change.

toxic filipino families

How can we stop these toxic behaviors in Filipino families?

The first step to nipping in the bud these toxic behaviors found in Filipino families is to control how explosive our rage happens when it occurs. Filipinos are highly passionate people. And at times, their emotions do more damage than help. When calling out somebody or correcting them, best to pull them aside. Or, we have the technology. Use FB Messenger or Viber to send them a message to correct them. That way, nobody else has to hear the correction except them. Doing so encourages a more forgiving environment and the willingness to learn.

Another is not to rub it in their faces. Once they admit their mistake, correct it and move on. What makes people so unwilling to learn is we keep bringing it up even when it’s not related!

Filipino families don’t have to be this way!

Just because some Filipino family members consider these toxic behaviors normal doesn’t mean people cannot change or challenge them. People will always be capable of growing and changing. Even if it means going backward by unlearning these toxic behaviors. Sometimes, removing and changing something means making room for something newer and better. There’s nothing wrong with needing to change. Especially when it helps the family become better people.

Trying to change Filipino family culture for the better?

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