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Family and kinship terms Essay

Based on the interviews I performed for this exercise, I now have a broader view of the term family. For this exercise, I interviewed four individuals that were of Asian origin, specifically Filipino, or individuals originating from the Philippines. Based on my research and talk with my interviewed subjects, the Philippines is such a small country in the South East but these Filipinos can be found living all around the world. To an anthropologist, the term family simply pertains to the biological structure composed of two parents and at least one child.

This structural unit is what has long been accepted in the Western world as the basic unit in society. However, there are quite a few modifications to Asians and more specifically, to individuals originating from the Philippines. In Philippine culture, the terms family and extended family can be used interchangeably, because their culture is often associated with a home that is inhabited by a married couple with children, as well as the grandparents and relatives-in-law.

In the Western world, the extended family is seldom observed in one household and would only be necessary in special circumstances such is health conditions that affect the normal functioning of a family. In the Philippine tradition, the term family simply means the entire family as well as all the relatives that could possibly fit into the house and live for even an extended period of time. It has been explained to me that such close-knit family ties have been adapted by Filipinos from the Chinese travelers in the early centuries (Joaquin, 1988).

Hence in the household, one bedroom can be inhabited by two girls that are not sisters but actually cousins. The term kinship, on the other hand, technically means the biological connection of an individual such as the kinship of the father or the kinship of the mother of a family. In the Asian point of view, kinship can mean any individual that is related to any member of the family. This not only includes those of with a biological connection, but also those individuals that have been related through marriage, or the in-laws.

It is thus interesting to see how different cultures perceive the terms family and kinship. What amazes me is that the Filipinos that I interviewed have such a great attachment to the idea of family, that they call other elder non-related Filipino friends “Uncle” or “Aunt”. It has been explained to me that such adaptation of these greetings are a form of respect to these elder individuals, even if they are not really biologically related.

It can thus look like one Filipino can have a thousand uncles and another thousand aunts because all of them are addressed with the same term that is used to address their biological aunt or uncle. Another interesting observation that I collected from my interview is that Filipinos tend to consider a non-biologically related individual as family if they have been in touch or in communication with that person for at least a couple of years and that they would even attempt to help these individuals out to the best of their abilities, even offering the last of their food to such friend.

These individuals have big hearts and are more than willing to help out any individual who needs support. When I asked how they would consider a group of unrelated individuals that have lived together in a particular place, they responded that they consider this group as a family, too, and not a residence group.

The members of this residence group are thus considered as brothers and sisters, depending simply on the age of each member of the group, or if one individual is elderly, then that individual will be called and considered as the group’s father or mother and that the youngest member of the group will be considered and called the group’s baby. Reference Joaquin, N. 1988. Culture and history: Occasional notes on the process of Philippine becoming. Solar Publishing, Metro Manila.


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