Lies? Or fact-flexibility, Filipino style!

 

Us Australians are a pretty straight-talking and straight-acting lot, especially older Australians. We might be given to exaggeration about some things, but when it comes to being truthful you can generally rely on what most Australian people tell you. Filipinos? Different set of priorities, quite often. Filipinos will place aspects like “saving face” (hiya) for themselves and also for you or other people involved very high. Owning-up and “taking it on the chin” is not something they were taught when growing up. A different approach and one which can and does cause problems, and hopefully I can explain some of the reasons why. Essential knowledge for Australian Filipina couples, especially those who want a visa from Philippines to Australia one day soon.

 

Filipino Lies and flexibility with the truth

Lies? Or just flexibility with the truth?

 

Australians and trust. Truth and lies.

 

An Australian man’s word is his bond, and his character will stand or fall according to how much his word is worth. Do what you say you will do, and paint a clear and honest picture of the facts with your words, and to fellow Aussies “You’re alright, mate!”  Man of integrity, whom friends, neighbours and colleagues will trust.

Fail to keep your word? Cover up mistakes with lies? Save yourself and leave someone else vulnerable to get yourself out of trouble or to gain some unfair advantage? Do this and you will leave an Australian shocked and horribly disappointed. The average Australian was not expecting that. The closer he is/was to you, the more shocked he will be. Friendships fail and romantic relationships fail when trust is gone.

The other thing? We’re really not prepared for it. We’re not good at seeing it coming. We believe what we hear and what gets presented to us. It’s not natural for us to think “What do they REALLY mean?” If someone says “It’s raining outside” or “It’s 6:00pm”, we don’t go and check. And we’re like that about most matters. If a lady says “I have no kids”, we don’t go examining her for stretch marks. The doctors will! Aussie man will not. We’re not a suspicious lot, full-stop!

 

Filipinos and trust? Can be challenging!

 

I think most who watch my videos, hear my podcasts and read my BLOGS know that I really do love the Filipino people. I have my Aussie bluntness, of course. I’m probably blunt even amongst Aussies! But I’m in no way playing Superior White Man with a lesson or two for the locals. Not at all. I like to think we can learn from each other, and today’s article is no exception. 

 

Why does this difference occur?

It’s about Filipinos caring about feelings. Their own feelings, and the feelings of others. This is a society where harmony and turning-that-frown-upside-down is part of the way of life. Confronting people and telling harsh truths? Not the way at all. Owning up and admitting things? Not the way either. The priority is to keep everyone happy and to maintain harmony, and truth is a low priority in comparison.

The other reason? Each culture has its own interpretation of what’s OK and what isn’t. Seatbelts in Australia, a must! Here? Maybe just the driver if it all. Jaywalk in Hong Kong and you get arrested. Jaywalk in Australia and no one cares. Speak disrespectfully of a politician in Germany, and you’re an anarchist! Do the same in Australia and everyone agrees with you. Anyone with a whistle in Philippines can stop traffic, but submitting false information on a Government form and no one is even slightly shocked because everyone does it. 

 

Typical situations

  1. Single mother. She knows boy won’t marry her, but she tells her family that he will soon. Less embarrassing for her and less disappointing for her parents (ie they believe a wedding will happen, and they can tell others that the wedding is imminent). Child is born. Brother registers the birth and states that single-mother and biological father are actually married. He does this to save embarrassment to single-mother, grandparents and the child later on. Single-mother meets Australian, and tells a complicated story to explain the situation saving herself embarrassment and protecting her brother from any criticism. 
  2. Girl from poor family wants to work in [some country], where they will only take employees who are 25 or older. She’s 21. Late-registers her birth to show herself as 25. Gets a fake baptismal certificate to confirm that age. Gets a passport showing the false age based on the false supporting documents. Australian man comes into her life and she doesn’t want him to know in case he gets mad at her. 
  3. Single mother has children in her care. Meets Australian man. She lies about the existence of children, because her mother and/or aunt tells her that he will not accept her as a single mother. Visa application is lodged, and the medical examination shows that she has had kids but did not declare them. Visa is refused, and Australian sponsor is shocked and horribly disappointed about the lies.
  4. Girl has a child in her teens. Not married, and probably still at school. Her parents decide to save her the embarrassment and to give the child a more secure future by claiming that they are in fact the child’s parents. They register the birth of the child and claim that they are the parents. Visa application claims s he’s had no kids, but medical examination says otherwise. Australian husband is the last to know, and he’s crushed.

 

Are they always innocent?

Are they always semi-innocent? No, sadly not. There are those who are playing games or possibly have sinister intentions. There are those who are still married and are deliberately hiding this, which may mean the relationship is still going and you’re being taken for a ride! However in most cases being still married is due to the complicated and expensive annulment process. 

In most cases of lying, the intentions were not bad intentions. No harm meant or expected. The decisions were made at the time to save time, money and complications and certainly to save embarrassment. And in most cases the girl didn’t do this by herself. There was input from parents and other relatives, and in some cases the girl had no knowledge of it and/or no decision-making ability. It was out of her hands, and now it’s her problem. And no doubt relatives are giving her more bad advice as to how to deal with it, maybe by telling more lies or coming up with fake documents and statements to further bury the problem.

 

Filipino Lies – How does the decent man deal with it?

 

I’ll start off by sharing some wise advice I heard once, by asking you two questions:

  1. Do you truly love her?
  2. Does she truly love you?

If the honest answer to either of those questions is NO, then you should walk away. Cut your losses. You can’t make up for a love-deficit by loving even more. You can’t fill in the gaps! The gaps shouldn’t be there, especially at this stage of your relationship. Persist and you will regret it all later on. 

If the honest answer is YES? Then you have to do whatever is (legally) necessary to sort it all out. Having someone who you truly love and who loves you is a precious gift. I’m grateful every day, month and year for the gift I have and I would walk over hot coals for her. I would certainly have the patience, strength and forbearance to sort through a pack of hurtful lies and maybe some dodgy documents that resulted from those lies.

 

Cross Cultural Adjustments and Solutions

 

You married a Filipina. She married an Aussie. You’re both way out of your comfort zone, and you will both need to learn to look at the world differently. There is no “right way” or “wrong way”. Yes, we Aussies believe our word-is-my-bond straight-shooter way is correct, and she will also be wondering why you’re so worked up about some lies that were there to make life easier on everybody. Same confusion, because we each have our own interpretation of “normal”. You will get this sort of thing constantly when you’re in an Australian Filipina relationship. Whether it’s obligation to family, or profound concern about what other people think, or what’s appropriate to talk about and what isn’t. You both will have to deal with this! So start getting used to it!

Bottom line? Once again! Did she mean to cause harm? Was she acting maliciously? Was she scamming you? Or was she trying to avoid bureaucracy, trying to save money or trying to save embarrassment? If you love the girl and she loves you, you really do have the obligation to forgive her and to help her, knowing that she will in time forgive you for a multitude of sins and misdemeanours! 

 

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Jeff Harvie is a Registered Migration Agent from Australia, but resident in Philippines since 2010 with his Filipina wife Mila and large extended family. Experienced with the Philippines culture, cross-cultural relationships and bureaucracy as well as Australian visas and Australian Migration Law, he writes with authority and fortunately with enough informality and humour that the average Aussie gets it!

 

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