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As in any human action aimed at achieving a certain goal, there must be a realistic assessment of the strengths and weaknesses of the agent as well as threats and opportunities that he or she faces. For the benefit of all those involved in strengthening the family as the basic unit of Philippine society, the following SWOT analysis performed by some of the proponents of the Institute for Marriage and the Family Development is presented. Starting with the strengths of the Filipino family, the following have been proposed: a) The sense of authority in the family is still strong; b) The Catholic Church is firmly dedicated to the preservation of the heritage of the faith; c) Strong sense of family as a traditional value; d) Belief in God and the sacred, including respect for nature; e) Virtues of cheerfulness, resilience and compassion; f) Love for children and value given to life. Among the major weaknesses are: a) A misplaced sense of loyalty; b) Extreme use of parental authority in the choice of the children’s career; c) Predominance of self-serving interests; d) Lack of sense of the common good and of teamwork within the community.
Opportunities identified, especially among the millennials and younger generations, are as follows: a) Abundant human resources that can facilitate education in the sacred and in the worldly; b) Manageable migration, informal settlements and tourist flow; c) Strong population base valuing family and family life; d) Increased awareness of civic responsibility; e) Strong sense of heritage and tradition as a people. On the other hand, the threats perceived are: a) Increased influence of foreign visitors as mass tourism expands; b) Growing indifference among the young; c) Spread of drug addiction, especially among the young; and d) Growing culture of moral indifference or negative form of tolerance.
From the surveys, certain characteristics of the average Filipino family were pinpointed. As regards family structure, it was noted: a) that weddings still predominantly take place in the respective religious faiths; b) Parents are still generally together, but separation is increasing in frequency; c) Children still live with parents, but slowly decreasing in frequency; d) Children still perceive their parents’ stable relationship but not expressions of mutual love. In the practice of religious faith, especially in the Catholic church, catechetical instruction is meager, if not totally absent; attendance to Mass is low; importance given to religion is middling, hardly based on sound doctrine; the frequency of Communion is low but still higher than that of Confession; increased trend of shifting to other religions is attributed to “irrelevance of doctrine to daily life.”
Dealings within the family revealed the pressure of family finances and relationships as posing more and more a challenge to children. Parents are still perceived to be “loving” and “nurturing” but by a small majority. More than half of the fathers were perceived to have vices in contrast with the very low rate among mothers. Children, however, manifest a sense of understanding of their parents’ vices and negative traits, showing a high rate of tolerance. A big majority avoid discussing deeply personal topics with their respective parents although parents are still the number one source of influence in decision-making, followed by friends and siblings in that order. As regards self-concept, positive traits usually have to do with smooth inter-personal relationships while negative traits have to do with virtues related to fortitude. There is little moral awareness about such issues as contraception, fashion, homosexuality, alcohol and trial marriage. Moral awareness is relatively high as regards gay lifestyle (distinguished from sexual orientation); pornography, pre-marital sex, divorce, hazing, bribing, abortion and drugs.
Among beliefs within the family, there is a high belief score concerning the importance of marriage and the home. In contrast, low belief characterizes the role of the father in the education of the children, the ineffectiveness of the church and separation as a solution to marriage problems. Among the aspirations, there is a high score for peace and love at home; more frequent conversations between parents and children; a few and lasting friends; and love, care and affection in the future family one will establish. In planning for marriage, young people consider God-centeredness and spirituality as the most significant quality they would look for in a spouse or partner. On the other hand, similarity of religion is not given much importance. Young people in the upper strata of academic excellence and leadership, but much less those who are in the lower rung, know what to look for in their future spouse/partner. These so-called non-negotiables, however, do not find fulfilment when it comes to day-to-day reality.
These findings on the ground, among others, should be considered in developing interventions that are meant to preserve and strengthen the Filipino family. The first major consideration in developing interventions is that all education interventions should be directed at character building, that is education in competencies (virtues) utilizing easy-to-identify-with realities. Whether the approach is interactive or instructional, both educators and the youth should be exposed to the same content for unity of criteria, albeit to each his own (mutates mutants) in approach. All instruction has to be culled, not from “books” or “lecture notes,” but from existing mindset and life situations of the specific groups. Only then would talks have lasting impact on young minds and hearts. The case method should be supplemented with actual situations faced by the participating youth themselves. Methods have to be redirected or even reformatted to make sure that they address situations on the ground from where meaningful conversations can arise and lessons firmly learned. The final challenge to educators, at home or in school, is to strike a balance of instructional and interactive approaches in the presentation of every theme. To ensure this balance, it is of primary importance that facilitators be young, personable and compassionate: the first two qualities are palpable; the third takes experience from an observer or evaluator to note with moral certainty. I hope these facts and guidelines will help the many married couples and educators who are involved in family apostolate, whether religious inspired or secular. To protect and preserve the Filipino family is easier said than done. One must start with the concrete realities faced by the Filipino family today. For comments, my email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.