The most commonly used Filipino word for grandmother is lola. The suffix sa tuhod is added to indicate a great-grandmother: lola sa tuhod.
Another frequently used term is inang. Variations include indang, nanang, ingkong and nanay.
Languages in the Philippines
Outsiders are frequently confused by the various languages spoken in the Philippine Islands.
Filipino and English are the two official languages of the the Philippines. Filipino, once called Pilipino, is based on the Tagalog language but is inclusive of expressions derived from other languages, especially English and Spanish. But many people use the terms Filipino, Pilipino and Tagalog interchangeably.
After Tagalog, the most-spoken Filipino variant language is Cebuano, spoken by over 20 million people. In Cebuano, apohan nga babaye is the favored term for grandmother. Cebuano also has terms for great-grandparent, sungkod: for great-great-grandparent, sungay; and for great-great-great-grandparent, sagpo.
Filipino Family Values
Filipino culture places great importance on family ties. Two key concepts rule Filipino life and are applied to family relationships as well. One is pakikisama or pakisama, which refers to getting along well with others. The other is utang na loob, which means reciprocity and includes repaying those who have treated you well.
These two principles, when put into practice, result in many grandparents living with family members rather than living on their own. It is the younger generation's way of repaying their parents for the care they received as children. At the same time, when able, the grandparents make significant contributions to the household, often providing child care for their grandchildren.
One study found that 56% of grandparents in the Philippines provided at least some care for grandchildren.
Older relatives are treated very respectfully by Filipino children. This is manifested in part by children's use of the mano gesture, which consists of bowing over the older relative's hand and pressing the hand to the forehead. This gesture shows respect and is commonly used by children when seeing an older relative for the first time during a day, or when re-entering the house. Sometimes the older relative initiates the gesture, invited by the child's use of the term mano po. As a verbal sign of respect, a child addressing an older relative may append the words po or opo at the ends of sentences.
Filipinos celebrate Grandparents Day on the second Sunday in September.
Legal Obligations of Grandparents
In Filipino culture, family members are expected to provide financially for other family members when necessary, an obligation which has been formalized by law. According to Family Law of the Philippines, family members are legally obligated to provide help for family members who need it. The law specifies ascendants and descendants as among those who are thus obligated. Thus grandparents are legally responsible for the needs of their grandchildren whenever their parents cannot provide for them.
This principle was upheld in the case of Lim v. Lim, in which the court stated that the obligation to support one's offspring "extends down" to grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Both legitimate and illegitimate descendants are included in the law.
Support consists of items "indispensable for sustenance," with clothing, shelter, transportation, medical care and education being specifically mentioned. The support required is, however, to be "in keeping with the financial capacity of the family."
Overseas Filipino Workers
Family traditions in the Philippines have been somewhat altered by the phenomenon of Filipinos going to work in other countries. Almost 10% of the population of the Philippines is estimated to be working in overseas jobs. Workers usually make this decision for economic reasons, and they almost always share the economic benefits with their families.
What this means for Filipino grandparents is that they may receive financial support from their children, but they may have to function without day-to-day assistance. In addition, many Filipino children have a parent working abroad, and grandparents often step in to help fill the gap left by a parent's absence.