25 June 2019

Accepting Charity - Australia versus Philippines

Accepting Money (Charity) - My experiences in Australia

One of the big differences between Australia and Philippines, and one that's not easy for Australians to adjust to. I understand real need, and we're kind to those who are truly in need. I know what it feels like to do-without, because I didn't come from the wealthy part of town. Fibro.....not brick!

Still, I never heard my parents ever discussing money. No crying about how we don't have money. Never saw them beg or take handouts. As a family, we lived within our means. Furniture and appliances weren't replaced often. Cars were updated (with a new second-hand car) every five years. Took holidays by train and stayed in rented "weekender" cottages by the beach somewhere a few hundred km away.

And I grew up with the same live-within-your-means mentality. Learned to save my $5.00 a week (which I earned sweeping the floor in the barbershop) and that was how I bought things I wanted. Bought what you could afford, then took good care of those things.

Accepting charity and handouts in the Philippines versus Australia
"Ako mahirap"

Mum left the ol' man when I was 13. Relatives helped out, because she had nothing. Only took things from my room, because Mum didn't want to be seen as a gold-digger. It was a different age! Decent friends and relatives would protect her dignity by saying "Oh, we just bought a new lounge. If you could take this one off our hands, we would be grateful." etc. It saved her from being embarrassed, which she appreciated. She's gone now, but I can remember well how independent she remained all her life and would not allow Mila to "accidentally" leave groceries behind at her place. Didn't like it one little bit!

Asking others for handouts? Favours? Accepting charity? Never! Nothing was worth the cost of lost dignity!

One of the problems in accepting charity is that it invariably comes "loaded". In the Philippines, they call it utang or utang na loob. An internalised feeling of debt, one which decent people feel compelled to repay. Decent people with some respect, they give unconditionally. Others, they will remind you of what they've done for you. The coarse way of describing this is that you become "their bitch"!

I don't know about you, but Jeff Harvie is nobody's bitch! When I had nothing.....early stages of marriage.....would go-without rather than accepting handouts for that reason. I could only remain fiercely independent if I was my own man. And I still function that way to this day. I'm proud to say that everything I have came from my own initiatives and hard work.

Filipinos and Charity

A bit different!

I can remember a relative telling me proudly how his son worked on a ship...."a LUXURY ship".... and supported them via his earnings. Whereas I could never imagine living off my kids. Couldn't live with the shame!

And had two of our kids visiting the provinces years ago. A 9 year old and an 12 year old. They both emptied their pockets and handed money to their parents. One had P33.00 and gave it to her papa. "Did he accept it??" I asked. "Yes". I was shocked!

I know that not everyone is like that. My wife says she was never sent off to "suck up" to the rich relative or neighbour in order to get handouts. And as she grew up she never asked for charity, because she didn't want to have utang to anybody. And most of her relatives are basically OK. They don't ask for anything, yet most won't say no if it's offered.

And some are really terrible! I had to deal with three of them recently who were pressuring my daughter into giving them handouts. Too scared to try it on with Mila or myself, yet would happily try it with a 22 year old that they saw as a soft touch. I won't expand too much, but I can't get my head around this sort of thing. Oh, OK. I can expand a little bit.....

  • Asking for cash
  • Asking "Can you buy this for me?"
  • Asking "Can I have this?" when they see something they want, eg clothing item, phone, etc
  • Inviting themselves to go shopping, on an outing etc, and naturally expecting that the "rich" relative will pick up the tab and pay for everything
  • Sending their kids to visit with hardly any clothes, expecting us to take them shopping to make up for what they left out
  • And sometimes just openly stealing!

I'm OK with being kind. Someone gets very ill, or someone dies? Never slow to come forward with help. And with kids, always happy to help especially if they need a better place to live. It's those who have the audacity to ask. It's those who assume they have a right to share simply because they're relatives, and it's especially those who are sweet and charming purely to keep in your good-books, or worse when they push their kids to be close to us so they can get advantage later.

And I get a bit cheeky sometimes. Saw a message on my wife's phone from a relative. No idea if it was meant as a request for a handout, but was something about "God bless those who give to others...". I responded with "God blesses those who work hard and support themselves, and don't take charity." And I believe that absolutely!


  1. Well written article, Jeff.

  2. And I cannot agree for more. I hope you'll be able to share this to more Filipino.��