Now that they are parents themselves, Kryz Uy and Slater Young know how challenging it can be to balance filial piety with their responsibilities to their growing family.
The couple could certainly understand the question posed by one of their letter senders: "I know I have to give back to them, but paano naman yung future ko?"
The letter was sent to Kryz and Slater's recent Skypodcast episode titled "Kids as a Retirement Plan," which was uploaded on January 13, 2023.
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To start the vlog, Kryz first read the letter in its entirety: "I am 25 years old. I am working in Metro Manila. My mother and my older brother are at the province.
"I usually come home twice a month, and I always give money to my mom every payday, pang-dagdag sa gastos nila every day.
"This is okay until naging sapilitan na lahat — na ‘dapat ganitong amount ibigay mo,' 'dapat sa bonus mo, hati kayo,' etc.
"Fast forward, I'm in a relationship with a guy that I like for three years now. They're kind of okay with my mom.
"But my fear is when we settle down, my mother won't support me.
"Because my family lives in the tradition na, 'Oh wag ka na muna mag-a-asawa,' 'Tulungan mo muna yung mama at kuya mo,' 'Wag mo muna iiwan mama mo,' stuff like that.
"I know I have to help and respect them and give back to them, but paano naman yung future ko?
"This is a common Filipino culture: to have your children as your retirement plan."
UTANG NA LOOB
For Slater, the issue at hand has a lot to do with a Filipino mentality that is all too familiar.
“I feel like the letter sender, parang, this stems from the culture of us Filipinos na may utang na loob na kailangan na palaging bayaran,” he said.
“Feeling ko lang ha. Like kasi paminsan, even if, let's say for example I get a break in my career, may utang na loob.
“And kailangan, 'Uy yung utang na loob mo, kasi ako yung nagbigay sa iyo ng trabaho na yan.'
“Parang, ang tagal mawala, o hindi talaga nawawala. Yung parang kailangan mo talaga paulit-ulit.”
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Kryz agreed, “That's a cultural thing. I remember one of our kasambahays dito sa bahay, one of our angels.
“She told me that the reason why she left her previous employer is because, her previous employer gave her some amount of money to help her family out.
“And because of that, it was always hanging above her head.
“Every time she wanted to go home and see her kid, they would always bring it back like, 'Hey, I gave you this much money to help you, why are you gonna leave pa?'
“'Why are you gonna ask for more pa?'
“Like it was always hanging on top of her head, na utang na loob.”
Slater then expressed how he, too, dislikes being burdened this way: “I hate that when it happens to me. That's why I don't like doing it to other people.
“Yung nagbibilang ka ng favors. When in fact, if it's a favor, it should be done freely, na hindi mo na siya pag-isipan.
“So sa akin, it's something that I think we have to get over, na hindi lahat binibilang.”
Kryz also recounted the experience of a close friend who is in a similar predicament.
She narrated, “I also have a really close friend. She's now working abroad and she's making a good amount of money.
“She's growing career-wise, and she's very successful in her field.
“Whenever she comes home nga, it's always a requirement that you know, she gives back.
“And it's not just when she comes home. It's also like whenever she gets her salary, she has to, like, pay for her sister's debut, or whatever...
“Basically, she's given so much responsibility and she can't help but think, 'I'm already going to my 30s and I still haven't saved anything because everything that I have, I'm giving back.
“Which she knows and she accepts, and she understands. She loves her family so much.
“But she can't help but think, 'What about me? What about my retirement plan?'
“Like, 'I've been working so long, I'm an OFW. I don't even get to spend time with you on these milestones, and yet, when I come home, like, wala, there's nothing for me.'”
Speaking for those in the same situation, Slater asked, “Hanggang kailan ba siya matatapos? Hanggang kailan ba siya magiging, 'Okay na, para sa akin na ito.'”
“It's a very difficult conversation to have because she said she brought it up once, and it was met the wrong way,” Kryz continued, still referring to her close friend.
“Like, ‘Huh?! You're so ungrateful naman. You know your whole life, I raised you, I took you to school, I sacrificed. Now it's your turn.’
“But until when is it gonna be her turn? Until she's a mom na, and then she'll do the same to her children?
“It becomes a vicious cycle,” Kryz vented.
On the bright side, Slater said that just like all other practices, there may be a chance for the "utang na loob" culture to change over time.
The couple cited a conversation Slater had with his uncle a few weeks back.
Kryz spoke from the uncle’s point of view: “When I was growing up, the mindset was always, 'Children is at the bottom rank, it's always the parents first.
“So as a child, you give all of your time, your effort, and your energy and respect to your parents.
“Pero ngayon daw, in today's day and age, it's always children first, children first.
“So, whatever your children's dream is, you work hard so that your children can achieve whatever they want."
Then she said of Slater's uncle, “Pero siya nasa gitna siya. He grew up in a generation where you have to respect your parents.
“But he's also now currently in this generation where you have to give everything to your children.
“So he feels like he's the most powerless now, na he has to give everything to mom and to kids.”
“It's a reality talaga when it comes to cultural differences. It evolves through the generations,” Slater assured.
“Kasi I understand also na when I was growing up, my dad would be very, very strict and very, like, parang pag elder mo siya, like bow ka talaga.
“Parang ganyan. And then nag-transition din siya.”
“Iba yung way of raising us,” Kryz recalled.
“There's this Chinese phrase that they use. I forgot what it is but something like, 'Children don't talk. Children just listen or have eyes, but they don't say anything.'"
Slater confirmed, “It's always, you go to the children's table. If you join the adults' table, you keep your mouth shut. Parang ganyan.”
“It was so normal back then, we just kind of grew up with it and lived with it, and never even questioned it,” Kryz sighed.
“But I feel like today, if you treated your child like that, let's say I put it in the vlog and then lalapit si Scottie (Kryz and Slater's eldest son) sa akin, and I'm like, 'Shh, don't talk!'
“I mean, I would get flagged and hammered, and everybody would call me out, right?”
Slater took the time to realize how fortunate they have been.
Referring to their letter sender, he said, "Hearing her story, parang paminsan we take a lot for granted. Especially sa atin na parang, we don't have to go through that, and our kids won't have to go through that."
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