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The Sister


Sisters play a very important role in Philippine families, especially older sisters. An older sister is called Ate by her siblings. Ate is responsible for the younger children and she may bathe, dress and feed them. This is necessary in large families where the mother cannot look after all the children. Older children are taught early that it is their duty to help take care of younger brothers and sisters. This provides them with training and experience in housewifely and motherly duties. The oldest girl assumes this role as soon as the second or third child comes along and not necessarily when she reaches a certain age. It is not uncommon to see a small child carrying a younger brother or sister who is more than half her size.

Her role of deputy mother commands Ate the respect of her younger siblings who look to her for advice in personal matters. They are expected to obey her just as they do their mother, because she is there to look after their best interests. She may serve as an intermediary between them and their parents particularly in large families where some of the children are not as close to their parents or where parents are rather strict. In the event of the parents death, it is she who takes over the responsibility of keeping the family together.

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