My lola (grandmother) once told me “Mahalin mo ang pamilya mo, wag mo silang iiwanan.” In English that translates to: “Love your family and never leave them.” She said these words to me over the phone a few days after she was diagnosed with cancer. She worked in the United States for most of her life and my cousins and I never got the chance to spend time with her as teenagers. Even so, her words pierced through me like a sword. You can attain a lot in life, but no matter what your age is, one thing remains irreplaceable – family.
An endearing quality about the Pinoy (Filipino) is how much we value the family. Words like kinship, friendship and obligation all factor into our decisions about life. Not only does the notion of family manifest in our immediate family, but also in our other families, such as in the church, in school, in the office, etc. As Filipinos, we try to preserve these connections. But in an era where “likes” and “shares” replace meaningful conversation and genuine human communion, how can the family prosper?
The 21st century has seen an exodus which threatens to break the family. People go abroad to earn, people from the provinces leave their homes and lands neglected because of industry when corporations expand or when parents go to Manila to earn a living. It’s an issue that reflects a multitude of societal cancers.
My lola died a few months after that phone call. We were not very close but I remember her being such a feisty woman. I would hear hear stories from my dad about her being consistently on-the-go and anxious about everything, a quality I inherited from her. She would call every month to check up on us or to let us know she would send money. She did what she could to keep in touch with us here in the Philippines.
Today we see a 21st century invention that has made the world a lot smaller. Technology has made it easy for us to derail these societal and social connections. Technology is readily available when we want to keep communication between families. Because of technology, my lola could contact us in an instant even though she was miles away.
However, while technology has engineered culture, it has also weakened it. Technology isolates people and creates a culture rooted in narcissism and self-gratification. It produces fast information, but it also produces noise that leads to wasteful consumerism. Since culture and family stand side by side, technology also affects the family. Not only does it curtail quality time, but parents lose their roles as teachers to
T.V. sets and iPads.
In a radio address last January, Pope Francis said that social media was a “gift from God” and that “the Internet, in particular, offers immense possibilities for encounter and solidarity.” I too, believe it possesses this potential. To be able to value the family, we should work hand in hand to create a society where families prosper and teach their members to live life with empathy. Obviously, technology can only go so far. I could have called my grandmother more often, or used Skype video, but instead only left a few calls and settled for the primordial MagicJack. The guilt and the sadness that overcame me during that last phone call broke my heart. The technology was available, but it was never taken advantage of.
I miss my grandmother very much. Let us not let these hindrances break our ties. While we pass on riches or property to the next generation, let’s learn to pass on the values of compassion that only the family can teach. Let’s maximize our resources to keep the family alive. The family is a precious institution that can withstand any material possession. Take it from my feisty grandmother, “Mahalin mo ang pamilya mo, wag na wag mo silang iiwan.”
Join the “WYA Family” for its next coffee house session: “A Night of Rhymes; Our Art. Our Story” at Third District on Friday June 20, 7-10 pm. More information here.