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Binary living: A conversation with Filipinos living in Australia

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Raine Cabral-Laysico
Raine Cabral-Laysico
For comments or feedback, email Raine at rainecabral@gmail.com.

As we celebrate 75 years of diplomatic relations between Australia and the Philippines, I asked four Filipinos currently living in Australia to share their insights on the similarities and differences between our two cultures. Here is what they have to say.

Bryan Yap

On a Friday evening, I spoke with Bryan, who was keen to share his views. A loving husband to Catherine and a proud father to Norwayne and Klay, Bryan shared valuable insights on how he navigated his current reality. After four years of living in Australia, he has fully embraced living the Australian dream while being firmly rooted in the Filipino tradition. 

Coming from the corporate world in Manila, all he knew then was the need to work long hours and even later nights. Work-life balance was a catchphrase everyone used, but no one really followed. Overtime was the norm, not the exception to the rule. This all changed when he came to Melbourne. There is an actual work-life balance wherein employers are very conscious of their employees’ well-being. Hard work is valued equally, but there is more of a balance here than back home. 

Learn More About Australia With Out...
Learn More About Australia With Outback Tourist - Melbourne

Aussies and Filos alike are driven and goal-oriented. Both cultures know what it feels like to be ‘battlers’. To keep on fighting even when the odds are against them. This shared reality is what makes Filipinos treat Australia like a second home.

When asked about mateship juxtaposed against bayanihan, Bryan was quick to share his thoughts. ‘Mateship, it’s an I’ll be there for you, and you’ll be there for me, situation. It’s helping each other out; you feel responsible for that person. Bayanihan goes deeper than that. It’s like, bro, I got your back. I’m here for you.’ You feel a sense of kinship with the person you are helping.

Bukas palad – your hand is wide open to give. The pandemic showed him the generous spirit of bayanihan – of kababayans willing to help out those in need, particularly international students. Both cultures are helpful in their respective ways. 

When it comes to raising his kids, Bryan believes in inculcating the conservative Filipino values coupled with the modernity of the Australian culture. In his words – ‘laid back, but driven.’ He wants his kids to grow up secure in their own sense of self, willing to voice out what they believe in. ‘There shouldn’t be a hiya or shy mentality, an inferiority complex if you will.’ Rather he wants to nurture his kids in the belief that they are enough.

Matthew Isagan

As an international student, Matt has a unique perspective on both cultures. Having arrived in Melbourne for at least half a decade, he was quite forthcoming about what he noticed about both cultures. 

To shake things up, I asked him about the differences first. Matt was thoughtful and took a few moments to collect his thoughts. ‘With Aussies, they seem to be closer to friends than compared to family. They will go to friends first. There’s a deeper bond between friends than parents. With us, family first.’ 

Australians are also quick to recognise a person’s accomplishments or contributions – big or small – while Filipinos are a bit harder to impress. You’d have to go all out on something for recognition to follow, or you need to be backed by someone powerful. 

‘Also, people with university degrees are not necessarily wealthier than those without here in Australia. In the Philippines, you need a university degree to get a good job,’ he says.

Filipinos and Australians alike love sports – basketball for Filos and footy for Aussies. Weekends are spent partying – going out and catching up with friends. And both cultures are eager to help those in need. Not for the sake of recognition but a genuine desire to help each other and be a positive influence in someone’s life. 

Marabette Antoniette Bambico

Marabette, who has been living in Australia for seven years, undertook the IRON program for nurses in Regional Victoria and had her first brush with Australian culture during her placements. The common denominator she found was the similarity in how parents care so much about their children regardless of whether they are Filipino or Australian. There is a shared belief of wanting the best future for their children. The difference is in the execution – the way kids are raised. 

‘With us Filipinos, parents will do anything for their kids, like make sure life is comfortable for them. Parents work very hard, so their children don’t suffer the same hardship that they went through. Aussies are different; the approach is to make their children more independent. They are there to support, but they want the kids to think for themselves and solve problems.’ 

Another difference is how Filos work hard to help our families. Normally the eldest children become the breadwinners helping out the parents to earn a living. Australians generally don’t understand this as they are taught from a young age to be independent and make sure you can support yourself. Filipinos, on the other hand, can’t stand to see their loved ones live in poverty if they have the means to help. 

Filipinos are always marked as hard workers. It may be because we see work as our passport to a better life. Or we usually work not just for ourselves but for our family. ‘We draw our strength knowing people depend on you,’ Marabette shares.

Marabette believes in focusing on what makes us the same. She has overcome a multitude of personal challenges to get to where she is today, and she is grateful to Australia for giving her a brighter future. 

Hannah May Cabato Ramos

Arriving in Melbourne as a child, Hannah May was cushioned from culture shock as she was only 11 years old when she first came to Australia. There weren’t any noticeable differences in school as she was naturally friendly and always had a sunny disposition. After 21 years in Australia and being a mum to Grayson has also helped shape her current world view. 

Just like Filipinos, Australians love their BBQs and beer. ‘We like to party and have fun with friends and family. Restaurants and cafes are full because there are always people catching up, celebrating,’ she says. Both cultures are welcoming. Filipinos and Australians alike would have no problem with saying Hello/G’day as you walk down the street, although this is more common in country towns/provinces than the metropolitan areas. 

As far as differences go, parental outlook when it comes to education is one of the key things she was keen to point out. ‘Here, degrees don’t mean a better future. You just need to work hard, and you can have a comfortable life. In the Philippines, you have to have a Bachelor’s degree to have a good life.’

Another thing was the Filipino culture of looking after your parents – having them live with you instead of the nursing home. Here, Hannah veered towards the Australian culture. She likes the idea of someone looking after her parents 24/7 – someone able to monitor their health and check on them rather than having them live with her as they might not get round-the-clock support. 

She also feels like Aussies and Filos are very similar to each other when it comes to mateship and bayanihan. ‘Aussies and Filos like to help and be charitable.’ 

She is teaching Grayson the best of both worlds – being Filipino and Australian. Have that deep respect for elders but at the same time have the freedom to pursue your own passion. 

Binary living Fil-Australians 20210726

All four agreed that mateship and bayanihan were quite similar among Filos and Aussies. The sentiments of gratitude echoed in all of them. Australia has given them an opportunity to have a better life. They are all firmly rooted in the Filipino culture but also have adapted to the Australian way of life.

Raine Cabral-Laysico
Raine Cabral-Laysico
For comments or feedback, email Raine at rainecabral@gmail.com.

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