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Infancy And Harmony

In the Pilipino culture, the birth of children is an expected and desired outcome of marriage. Most couples prefer to have children of both sexes, and there is typically no special preference for males over females. Children are considered a special gift from God,and a large family is proof of God's favor and blessing (Guthrie and Jacobs, 1966). The newborn child's vulnerability contributes to the use of folk practices by many Filipina mothers, such as keeping garlic and salt near the baby to protect him or her from evil spirits, pinning religious medals on a baby's clothing to offer the protection of angels, wrapping a 50 cents coin on the baby's umbilicus with a belly band to make it heal faster, and avoiding exposing the infant to the bright colors to prevent strabismus. A baby's clothes are loose and comfortable and preferably white in color to symbolize the purity God gives to every newborn (Affonso, 1978).

Most Filipina women do not take their newborns out of the house until 3 or 4 weeks of age; the first trip is usually to the doctor and the second to the priest for a blessing or conditional baptism. Many Pilipino families postpone formal baptism until the baby is 1-3 months old, when the parents have raised enough money for a baptismal party, which is second in importance only to the marriage feast. Before a baptism, parents choose a Christian name for the infant and select godparents (who help pay for the baptism and give the child gifts). Children are almost always named for the saint on whose feast day they were either born or baptized; babies can also be named by combining or contracting parent's names and the names of favorite relatives or friends (PAPEP, 1982).

Infancy is characterized by indulgence; constant attention; and few, if any, demands on the child. The child is frequently cuddled and carried, and crying (even the tiniest whimper) is attended to quickly by feeding, holding, and other consoling tactics. This practice is made possible or easier by the presence of extended family (who can assume significant care giving roles) and/or the availability of inexpensive domestic help in the Philippines (Church, 1986; Yap, 1982). The Pilipino infant/toddler is thus the center of household attention and constantly cared for by a family member or a maid. Because the young child is never alone, he or she may be several years old before having a first experience of being temporarily unsupervised (Guthrie and Jacobs, 1966).

The emphasis on dependency and physical closeness is further manifested in breastfeeding on demand until a child is as old as 2 years of age and sleeping with parents and, later, with siblings for an extended period of time. The process of toilet training is yet another occasion for helpfulness and closeness for the child. It involves imitation of and assistance from other family members. Because of this assistance, very few children are fully toilet trained before the age of 2 years and may be as old as 4 years (PAPEP, 1982; Santiago, 1981). Thus, throughout infancy and the toddler period, child rearing is characterized by significant indulgence, protectiveness, gradual training for responsibility, and minimal adult anxiety about early performance (Church, 1986).


Group identity is reinforced through the creation and maintenance of sustained, secure interpersonal relationships and a system of support and cooperation among group members. The goal of preserving harmony between individuals, among family members, and among the groups and divisions of society is embodied in the dominant cultural value of smooth interpersonal relationships (SIR), which permeates and guides the daily lives and behaviors of Filipinos. SIR are primarily supported by four basic Filipino values that have continued to be reported in the literature since the 1960s. Several well known studies conducted at that time focused on the concepts of pakikisama, hiya, amor propio, and utang na loob.

Pakikisama represents both a value and a goal that consists of maintaining good feelings in all personal interactions and getting along with others at all costs. Achieving SIR may take precedence over clear communication and accomplishing a particular task. To avoid open displays of conflict and stressful confrontations, Filipinos may yield to group opinion (even if it contradicts their own desires), lavish extravagant praise on one another, use metaphorical language rather than frank terms, hide negative feelings or depressed spirits beneath a pleasant demeanor, smile when things go wrong, avoid saying no, and refrain from expressing anger or losing their temper (Guthrie, 1968; Harper and Fullerton, 1994). Pakikisama also is pursued by showing sensitivity to hiya and amor propio.

Hiya, although commonly translated as shame,has been further described as a feeling of inferiority, embarrassment, shyness, and alienation which is experienced as acutely distressing (Guthrie, 1968, p. 62). It is integrally related to the concept of face and a preoccupation with how one appears in the eyes of others. Hiya is inculcated as a necessary part of a child's development and used as a means to shape approved or desired behaviors. Thus, an individual's capacity for appropriate behavior with authority figures is a reflection of one's family and upbringing and the fear of losing face (PAPEP, 1982).

This profound concern for face further derives from the value of amor propio. Although literally translated as self-respect or self-esteem, amor propio has been characterized as the high degree of sensitivity that makes a person intolerant to criticism and causes him to have an easily wounded pride (Union of Pan Asian Communities [UPAC], 1980, p. 42). Filipinos learn to withstand a loss of face in some situations, particularly when they perceive themselves to be at fault, but it is devastating to be publicly criticized, insulted, belittled, or humiliated, or to lose one's self-respect. It thus becomes essential to behave in ways that will ensure that everyone's face and amor propio are not threatened (Gochenour, 1990).

The previously described value of utang na loob also is an integral aspect of maintaining group harmony and relationships that require the balancing of obligations and debts. Utang na loob binds the individuals involved more closely, in contrast to the typically American orientation in which the discharge of a personal obligation tends to liberate or release the individual to go on being him or herself (Gochenour, 1990). As one of the most important facets of Philippine life, group acceptance is contingent on loyalty and devotion. The services of friendship are thus always reciprocal and safeguarded by these value systems (UPAC, 1980).

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