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Early Childhood And Death

A shift from a highly indulgent to a more authoritarian parental stance occurs as the child approaches school age, which is when it is believed that children develop isip, or thoughts. Particularly after the child is weaned, older brothers, sisters, relatives, and neighborhood children become substitutes for the mother's constant attention. Older children, regardless of their sex, are expected to help with household chores and to care for younger siblings. The younger child, in turn, must learn to conform to family expectations of respect for elders and obedience to authority, adults, parents, older siblings, and other substitute caregivers. The child is further expected to know the difference between good and bad behavior and is subject to various discipline practices (PAPEP, 1982) in traditional Pilipino homes depends a great deal on appeals to duties and obligations of family members based on their respective roles.

Children are disciplined by spanking, hitting, scolding, embarrassment through teasing, or reprimanding for being walang hiya (shameless, thoughtless, or insensitive), bastos (crude), walang utang na loob (ungrateful), or for being a source of shame to the family. (Santos, 1983, p. 141). Traditionally, the mother is the chief disciplinarian because she typically spends more time with the children and therefore finds more occasions calling for punishment. The father tends to punish the children less frequently, in part because of their recognition of his absolute authority (Santos, 1983).

Among those behaviors that are more severely punished or condemned are sibling directed aggression, as well as hostility toward kinship group members. Teasing serves as a means of limit setting and controlling or suppressing anger and hostility; it also is an outlet for anger and an acceptable substitute for overt aggression and direct criticism. Children are encouraged to subordinate their personal interests and competitive behaviors for the sake of cooperation and maintaining family harmony and smooth interpersonal relationships. Modesty, politeness, respect, and patience are consistently encouraged in daily behavior (PAPEP, 1982).

Stricter parental authority and guidance thus foster mutual dependency and loyalty throughout the Pilipino child's transitional socialization experiences during the preschool period. In fact, earlier surveys conducted in the Philippines have indicated that obedience to parents is one of the highest ranked child rearing values, second only to trust in God (Church, 1986). Such expectations and corresponding practices condition the child to abide by the previously described traditional values (e.g., being socially sensitive and considerate; anticipating the needs of others; reciprocating when receiving a favor; using pleasant, correct, and euphemistic language; avoiding aggression, confrontation, discourtesy, shame, criticism, or embarrassment). As the child reaches school age, he or she has typically developed a strong sense of family responsibility and further understands the traditional rules and values that govern interpersonal relationships (Anderson, 1983).


Traditional beliefs about death and dying among Filipinos are interrelated with the various religious orientations that were described in the previous section. The principal denominations that account for nearly 95% of the Philippine population are Catholicism, Protestantism, and Islam. Beliefs about death and dying correspond to each of these major religions that have been extensively detailed in theological literature.

Although the vast majority of native Filipinos are Roman Catholic, their funerary customs differ somewhat from those of the West. Essentially, the grieving process is less private and mournful. For example, it is not unusual for a passing traveler to be invited to a wake before the burial. Wakes are well attended, and the mood may be anything but somber. Expressions of fond remembrance are accompanied by eating, drinking, card games, and music. Such parties are repeated annually on All Saints' Day (November 1) when family and friends meet at the cemetery for an all night vigil. In rural areas, funeral processions pass through the streets, with family and friends following the hearse while passersby toss money (Harper and Fullerton, 1994.)

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