The Filipino Context of Infidelity and Resilience

Ted Gonzales, S.J.

Ted Gonzales, S.J. earned an M.A. in Theology from Loyola School of Theology, Ateneo de Manila University and an M.A. in Pastoral Counseling from Loyola College, MD, U.S.A. where he is presently a PhD candidate. He has had experience in counseling at the St. John M. Vianney Seminary, Cagayan de Oro City, and at the East Asian Pastoral Institute, Manila, Philippines. He has given seminars on Family Life and Marriage Enrichment to migrant workers in Hong Kong and to the Catholic Commission on Family Life in Thailand.


The Filipino population is predominantly Catholic. From the Catholic viewpoint, the sacrament of marriage is meant to be permanent, for better or for worse. This means constant fidelity to each other and indissolubility of the union (Cathecism for Filipino Catholics, 1997). The document specifies the sacrament of marriage:

The deepest reason is found in the fidelity of God to his covenant, in that of Christ to his Church. Through the sacrament of Matrimony the spouses are enabled to represent this fidelity and witness to it. Through the sacrament, the indissolubility of marriage receives a new and deeper meaning (Cathecism of the Catholic Church, no. 1647).

The Catechism for Filipino Catholics (1997) interprets this bond as follows: "We love one another and want our love to last forever. We ask you to respect this commitment, and help us to keep it."

The Filipino word used during the seminars conducted around the Philippines on marital enrichment from Marriage Encounter or Tipanan (literally, covenant) is tapat. Tapat implies being truthful, willing to do what is good for the other, loving responsibly in small, specific steps, and committing oneself from now on. This concept of tapat provides a basis for the marital life of the Filipino couple to spring to a new level of relationship.

A common concern emerging from family ministry in the Philippine setting is of a marriage affected by infidelity. Infidelity is the breaking of marital vows. In Philippine culture, infidelities or extramarital relationships range from casual relationships to the keeping of a querida or paramour (Medina 1991). Alano (1995) lists some Filipino terms referring to infidelity: pakikiapid or pangangalunya (used in legal and scholarly documents), paglalaro sa apoy (playing with fire), pamamangka sa dalawang ilog (rowing up two rivers), pagsusunong ng uling (carrying of burning charcoal), pangangaliwa (turning left or going against the expected direction), pagkulasisi or pangtsitsiks (catching chicks or birds), and pambababae (collecting women). Kabit (clinging attachment) and querida or kirida (Spanish word for beloved, refers to the mistress).

The husband’s infidelity is a major concern in Filipino marriages (PCP II, 1992). Carandang (1987) notes that wives rank infidelity as the number one family stressor. Lacar (1993) reports that male infidelity is the most frequent reason for marital separation. Vancio (1980, 1977) cites male infidelity as a major issue for marital break-ups in Metro Manila. In the McCann Metro Manila Male Study (1995), half of the 485 male respondents reported having had extramarital affairs. Relucio (1995) in her in-depth interview with seven separated women, notes that "infidelity was found to be a common problem." Dayan, et. al. (1995) in their study of 60 petitioners for nullity of marriage, report that adultery was one of the major reasons cited. In spite of the above figures, there are no clear records on figures about marital break-ups with finality because of the absence of divorce in the Philippines (Lapuz 1977). Lapuz devotes a whole section to her clinical observations on marital infidelity in the Philippine setting. She observes:


From the high incidence observed by colleagues of women seeking help due to the husband’s infidelity, it seems that Filipino women of contemporary times are either running out of patience with the double-standard type of morality or are looking for more security and fulfillment in marriage than what the present socio-legal status accords a wife. The old reassurances have lost their validity.

Background

In an archipelago with a total land area of 115, 707 square miles or 300,000 square kilometers, the Philippines, a country "almost as large as Italy, larger than New Zealand, twice as big as Greece, slightly larger than Arizona and very much larger than Britain" (Zaide 1998; The Economist, 2001; mapquest 2002) has a total population estimated at 76.5 to 76.8 million, with the National Capital Region (NCR) having 9, 932,560 or 13% of the total population (NSO, 2002). The estimated national average household size is 5; NCR average household size is 4.62. It is estimated that by the year 2015, the Philippines will be ranked 12th (95.9 million) in terms of largest world populations.

Dancel (2001) reports that a "family of six should have an income of at least PhP 6,958 a month (PhP 83,496 a year or $ 1,669.92/ a year) to stay above the poverty line." His figures show that around 5.2 million families or (roughly 33 to 40 percent of the population live below the poverty line). About 9.4 percent of the labor force was unemployed in 1999 (Economist 2001). Religion is important in the Philippines. The majority of the population (85%) are baptized Roman Catholics (Guerrero 1995). The McCann Erickson study (1995) reports that 89 percent of the male respondents (N: 485 in Metro Manila) believe in God; 86 percent of the respondents (N:1200; nationwide survey) have no doubts at all about the existence of God; 94 percent of the respondents have always believed in God and 64 percent feel extremely close to God. Mangahas and Guerrero (1992) report that roughly eight to nine Filipinos out of ten agree that there is a God who personally cares for every human being (89%) and that life is meaningful (79%). The data shows a fertile ground for faith or spirituality as a coping resource for life’s adverse events. The Filipinos are also outwardly religious.

The majority of the Filipinos disapprove of extramarital relations. Guerrero (1995) notes a large majority of the Filipinos (88 percent of the 1,200 respondents nationwide) disapproved of extramarital relations. In another survey, Acuna (1997) reports that a large majority (81%) of respondents disapproved of single parenthood among women. Ninety-six percent of the respondents (N:1,200 nationwide survey) disapproved of extramarital relations (Daylo-Laylo and Montelibano 2000; de Vera 1976). Ninety to ninety two percent of the women (N: 1,200 nationwide) consider maintaining a mistress, being a mistress, being a prostitute or using a prostitute, cheating on spouse as wrong (McCann, 1996). The disapproval (6 out of 10 youth) of marital infidelity is confirmed (N:900 nationwide){McCann, 2000}. Casuga (1996) observes that compared to other countries, Filipinos still do not think divorce is the solution to a bad marriage (Disagree: 47%; Agree: 39 %; N: 1, 200). In contrast, most "countries do not believe that having a bad marriage is better than no marriage at all."

The data reflects a strong disapproval of extramarital relationships and at present, a strong disapproval of divorce as a way out of a bad marriage. Vancio (1977) notes a difference in approval of divorce among high or low-income level Filipinos. He observes: "More women (65%) than men (41%) disapproved of the legalization of divorce. The higher the income level of the respondent the more likely he is to approve of divorce."

Some Cross-cutting Themes from the Literature Review

The following themes are presented for consideration as background material for the topic of interest, the Filipino context of infidelity and resilience. The following themes have been chosen: A) infidelity as a gender issue; B) Filipino male infidelity and its external environments: education, and migration and other challenges; C) Filipino male infidelity: marital dynamics; D) reasons why Filipino husbands stray; E) feelings about infidelity; and F). Filipino wife’s resilience.

A. Infidelity as a gender issue. Data shows that marital infidelity is a major concern among Filipino married couples, especially in fast growing cities like Metro Manila or Iligan City. On the other hand, further observations show that this is largely a male gender phenomenon. Vancio (1980; 1977) reports that:


thirty-six percent of the males of the 368 respondents admitted to extramarital relations while only 2 percent of the females did so. The male respondents did not find that their extramarital relations were at variance with their marital involvement. About 85% of them said that their marriage was not in any danger of breaking up and actually the marriage had turned out better than they had expected.

While infidelity may be a major marital or family stressor especially for the wife, it does not mean that it is a problem from her husband’s perspective.

While more men were engaged in extramarital relations, a husband is less tolerant or less forgiving when his wife becomes unfaithful. Lapuz (1977) comments that men can have sex outside the marriage, women should remain chaste (like a Madonna).

Carandang (1987) observes a gender-specific response with regard to marital stressors: "While the wives ranked asawa (husband) as the most frequent stressor among the four mentioned, the husbands ranked wives only as the fourth, or the least of four stressors." She underscores the difference in the role-specific response to family stressors:


While the wife needed attention and loyalty from her husband as she conscientiously performed her duties, the husband was more interested in activities outside of the family’s scope, such as looking for jobs or for diversions in the form of extramarital relationships.

Lacar (1993) found that in his study of 769 respondents, "the idea of separation was initiated by the fathers 46.7 percent of the time; while the mothers did so only 19.5 percent of the time."

Alano (1995; 1994) in a nationwide study of 200 subjects reports that twenty-four percent of the participants stated that their fathers had an affair and none of the respondents admit that their mothers have had an affair. She continues: "Half of the males claim they have found the time to have been "sweet lovers" to women other than their wives. Extramarital affairs and dalliances are an inevitable eventuality in the eyes of many men."

Jocano (1994) indicates that "to most men, many of their flings or affairs are just pastimes and should not be taken seriously. They mean nothing. But not to women. They all mean very much to them."

The 1995 McCann Metro Manila Mate Study reports that extramarital affairs for men are inevitable. "He cannot control it." This inevitability for men is illustrated by a proverb quoted in the Aguiling-Dalisay, et. al (2000) study: "Bakit di tutukain kung palay na ang lumalapit sa manok?" (Why not peck the rice grain when it brings itself to the chicken?)

According to Dayan and Samonte (1998), their study of petitioners for nullity of marriage reported that:


Adultery for males seemed more blatant, almost natural, where males courted and sought out their female partners. Female petitioners, however, tended to feel more guilty, keeping it a secret. Unlike the males who actively courted, the female’s affair was more happenstance, situation-bound, such as meeting an old boyfriend, or being closely thrown together by circumstances. Females also would prefer to go abroad to carry on the affair instead of remaining in the Philippines.

When the husband is confronted with marital infidelity, he defends himself by stating his expected and traditional gender role: "Ibinibigay ko naman sa inyo ang sweldo ko. Hindi ko naman kayo pinababayaan. Ano pa ang gusto ninyo? (I give you my salary. I take care of your needs. What else do you want?)." (Alano 1995, 1994).

The gender issue behind infidelity is well-entrenched in Philippine culture. The excuse given is that men are expected to be material providers or breadwinners, pure and simple. (Guerrero 1995; McCann Metro Manila Male Study 1995; Alano 1995 and 1994; Liwag, et. al 1997).

The McCann Metro Manila Male Study (1995) describes the Filipino male and his infidelity:


They are to their children what their fathers were to them: Men who worked hard to provide and protect, gave their lives to their work, found respite in their beers, in many cases, in their women, and generally kept their hearts to themselves. They do not share with them what they do. They do not play with them. They consider parenting primarily mother’s responsibility.

Alano (1995, 1994) highlights the gender excuse of husbands for infidelity, without feelings of guilt: "Unfaithful husbands assess that sex outside of marriage is appropriate and extramarital relations are okay should one be able to afford it and/or provided the material needs of the legitimate family are met."

B. Filipino Male Infidelity and its External Environments: Education, and Migration and other Challenges. It is interesting to see how people survive (Dancel 2001; Economist 2001). One way to provide for the material needs of the family is for the Filipino wives with some education and achievements to find jobs, outside their traditional chores and nurturing roles. Some work in the Philippines while others travel abroad to help provide for their families.

A new and increasing trend in education among Filipino women is taking place. Of the 1,200 women participants nationwide, Guerrero (1995) observes:


One out of six (16%) have some elementary education, over a third (37%) have completed an elementary education, another third (32%) secondary education, and a seventh (14%) completed college. A large majority (84%) went through the public school system.

While it may be true that only a few women are able to climb up the ladder of education, a closer look will present an interesting observation on the comparative study of males and females in education (Licuanan 1971).

The above finding was confirmed by the report of the National Commission on the Role of Filipino Women: Issues and Trends (1995). On the higher percentage of more women attending college, the study showed that:


Consistent with the slight advantage of men in early schooling, school enrolment data for school year 1993-1994 indicates that there are slightly more boys (50.4%) among the total enrollees in the elementary grades. The proportions are reversed from high school and onwards. Women make up 51.6 percent of high school enrollees and 56.9 percent of those in college.

In terms of school completion rates, there are gender differences. According to the Department of Education, Culture and Sports (1999), from 1988-89 to 1997-1998, the elementary to high school completion rate was 73.72 percent for females, and 57.53 percent for males. From 1994-1995, 1997-1998, the high school completion rate was 75.05 percent for females and 63.31 percent for males. The college degree completion rate from 1995-1996 was 61 percent for females and 39 percent for males. The master degree completion rate was 61 percent for females and 39 percent for males. The doctorate degree completion rate was 66 percent for females and 33.8 percent for males.

The above figures reflect a trend that women are becoming more educated than men, especially outside of areas of science and technology. A question for research may be: Is the trend of Filipino women pursuing education a possible future source of resilience in adverse times like spousal infidelity? Does the trend for the more educated woman threaten the old way of gender typecasting of woman as mere "housewife" or "mother?" Does the trend for the highly educated woman mean that she has less tolerance for the unfaithful husband?

Another interesting change in the last decade is Filipino women’s contribution to the family income. In the 1994 ISSP Survey (Guerrero, 1995), about three-fifths (62%) of the 1,200 women respondents nationwide were working during the period of the survey. Thirty-seven percent were self-employed. Aside from working outside the home, women work abroad to help provide for their families:

The most noted phenomenon of the decade was the feminization of overseas employment in which in 1991, 52% were females, 60% of whom were deployed as domestic helpers in more than 175 countries (Pineda-Ofreneo, et. al. 1996).

On Filipino migration, recent statistics from the National Statistics Office (2001) indicate the largest concentration of female workers in the service sector. Filipino women’s global workforce participation was 88.5 percent in 1998 and 83.3 percent in 1999, of which 52 percent and 53 percent were within Asia. In the same study, it was observed that an effect of this migration pattern is: "Millions of Filipino families are today without wives, mothers, daughters and sisters. These women could be found instead as migrant workers elsewhere in the world—from Algeria to Zambia—mainly as domestic helpers and entertainers."

Baga (1997) cites Tanalega’s observations on migrant issues: loneliness, infidelity, losses, oppressive working conditions, delinquency and drug dependency of children, and social stigma. "Meanwhile, those families break apart. It is hard, for instance, to find married amahs (domestic helpers) whose husbands at home have not taken a mistress, or even fathered other children" (Economist 2001).

About 6 to 7. 5 million Filipinos (The Economist, 2001) are working abroad. There are about 36 million families affected by the migration trends (this is half of the total population in the Philippines!). In other words, at least a third of the total population will have a father, a mother, a sister, an aunt, a daughter or a son working abroad. Actual statistics of registered Overseas Workers deployed from the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration show that a total of 831, 643 in 1998; 837, 020 in 1999; 841, 628 in 2000; and 866,590 in 2001 have been deployed abroad especially in the Middle East, Asia and Europe.

The McCann Youth Study (1985) confirms what observers are saying about a Filipino family stress when one or both spouses work abroad:


With barely two-thirds of 12 to 21 year-olds living with both father and mother, we may be seeing the beginning of the break up of the Filipino family as we know it. In addition to single parents and marital split-ups, we believe that the overseas migrant worker may have the biggest impact on this statistic.

According to Aguilar (2002), while some studies indicate a marital deterioration link to migration (Osteria 1994 with 15 percent; Asis 2001 with 26 percent; Cruz 1989 with 31.5 percent), distinctions will have to be made on how many of these marriages have been unhappy already even before the migration for work abroad (Tacoli 1996, Salazar 1987). Asis (2001) reported that three quarters of marital relationships remained unchanged, with some of them even improving.

Aside from the education and migration trends, an interesting clinical observation is made by Lapuz (1977) about infidelity and business practices: "it is common knowledge that womanizing is very much part of the current scene of commerce when business deals are discussed and clinched." This observation perhaps needs further study as to how the business environment contributes to Filipino male infidelity. This may need a re-evaluation of ethical practices in business or government.

Among poor women, Vancio (1977) reports that the "querida relationship" is an interesting situation where a woman has sexual relations with one married man on an exclusive basis usually in exchange for partial or full financial support. The phenomenon of infidelity is well-entrenched, especially when illegitimate children are born because the adulterous men believe in the need to support them (Alano1995, 1994). While there are definitely humane reasons for supporting children out of wedlock, how does one define the relationship with the mistress or lover as a delicate arrangement, if the legitimate marriage is to survive? Definitely, the wife will be constantly on the watch for any signs of the affair continuing or the man being attached to the family outside the legitimate marriage.

C. Filipino Male Infidelity: Marital Dynamics. Before examining marital dynamics, a review of the well-entrenched gender roles for the husband and wife will probably help in understanding the built-in stress in married life. Liwag et al. (1997), in their comprehensive review of literature, analyzed different standards in the way Filipinos raise their children: "Girls are assigned tasks defined as domestic, indoors and nurturant, or in general, feminine tasks; while boys are assigned tasks requiring physical strength, farther distance from the home and hardly any emotional skills or masculine tasks."

The same authors report on studies that have shown that: "boys are given more freedom while girls are more restricted in terms of rules for social activities, especially in relating with the opposite sex." (Mendez & Jocano 1979a; Minoza et.al. 1984; De la Cruz, Santos, & Vida 1971; Porio 1994; Espina 1996).

This infrastructure of gender roles, the way Filipino daughters and sons are raised, is also reported by The McCann-Erickson National Women’s Study (1996): "Early in life, little girls are taught how to become responsible moms. They learn to cook and clean, take care of younger siblings, get organized, manage time between schoolwork and homework. They learn to deal with pain."

The effect of this pattern of establishing gender roles is the probable exclusion of Filipino boys from the household chores normally attributed to the girls (Mendez & Jocano 1979a; Estrada 1983). Even when boys grow up to be fathers, they are most likely "outside" or "uninvolved" in the "home-making" or perceived as "emotionally distant" (The McCann Youth Study 2000; Lapuz 1987; Licuanan 1979; Carandang 1987). I wonder how this phenomenon of exclusion of men will play out in the bigger home of the city life or the "polis." Is the Filipino male, by and large, involved in the running of the socio-cultural, political, religious, economic fabric—in things that really matter for the nation?

The gender roles of being an exclusive "home-maker" (maternal, mother) of the Filipino wife versus the "provider, breadwinner" of the Filipino husband may lead to the woman being overprotective or a future "meddling mother-in-law" and to the exclusion of the Filipino husband. Given the well-entrenched gender roles and the absence of marital companionships (Jurilla 1986; Lapuz 1977; Hare 1969) the husband becomes more prone to play outside with his drinking buddies and find a mistress (Alano 1995; The McCann Metro Manila Male Study 1995; Jurilla 1986; Domingo 1977; Tanseco 1972; Hare 1969; Guthrie, et al. 1969).

Tanseco (1972) makes a poignant clinical observation with regard to the absence of marital companionship, because of the dominant maternal role of the Filipino wife:


He may marry and be a father of a family, but he may be incapable of assuming the full responsibilities of fatherhood and leadership of a family, except to provide for them materially. He may not know how to enjoy the companionship of his wife as an equal, but may only know how to enjoy her company as a ‘mother,’ what many little things she can do to take care of him.

Lapuz (1977) comments on an aspect of the overprotective, "mother" role of the Filipino wife in the way she deals with her husband by covering up his faults in front of other family members. She notes that even if the husband errs or strays, the Filipino wife will accept him anyway:

After a long litany of particularly horrendous complaints, a recitation of woes suffered at her husband’s hands, a wife may be asked, ‘Have you thought of leaving him?’ Her reply will not surprise a Filipino. ‘I have, but I feel sorry for him (Naawa ako).’ She is a maternal figure again who cannot imagine abandoning her son. The dependence is mutual; she needs him as much if not more than he does her.

According to Jurilla (1986), while the Filipino husband expresses themes of nurturance/affiliation motives in projective testing, more frequently than do women, he seeks companionship more with their children or with other men but not with his wife.

The marital dance (the overprotective, central mother role for the Filipino wife and the distant, withdrawn Filipino husband) is played out in many Filipino marriages with the husband’s infidelity (Carandang 1987; Lapuz 1977).

The McCann-Erickson National Women’s Study (1996) makes this comment on Filipino culture about the role of the Filipino wife in the running of the home and the family life:


Our culture holds the woman personally responsible for the quality of home and family life; when the household isn’t running well, the woman must be incompetent. When the husband strays, the wife must have been inadequate. A nag, most likely. When the children are not well-behaved, the mother must have neglected them. In our culture, family failure is the woman’s personal failure.

An interesting observation is made by Villacarlos-Berba (2000) on another marital pattern of infidelity as a domestic abuse. She notes that the emotional trauma inflicted on the "victim" wife is worse than the physical abuse. She says: "it results in humiliation, hurt, rejection and loss for the injured partner since it attacks the person’s self-worth and ego." Briefly she sums up the recurring cycle:


Ongoing infidelity follows a predictable path similar to the domestic abuse cycle. Both situations go through anticipated stages. A typical cycle includes a tension-build-up phase, the infliction of pain and a brief period of remorse and guilt and then the reconciliation phase followed by the return of the tension build-up. Unconsciously it is mutual dependency, which keeps marital partners together and further strengthens the bond.

D. Reasons why the Filipino Husband Strays. Lapuz (1982, 1977) builds on the hypothesis of marital deficiency or why a Filipino husband strays "into another woman’s arms":

It is a symptom of some marital deficiency, not of one spouse’s inadequacy. Even if one concedes that the man’s extramarital adventure is exclusively his thing, that most likely man’s alleged polygamous nature and search for variety are the culpable factors, still it is the marriage which has failed him.

Lapuz adds a few other emotional needs of the Filipino husband who searches for affairs outside the marriage: eternally looking for the Dream Girl, looking for challenges in his extramarital encounters, seeking to recapture youth, repeating the pleasures of sexual explorations in youth, wanting a relationship devoid of obligation and responsibility, wanting emotional comfort in numbers and lastly, looking at the other woman as a status-affluence symbol.

As previously noted, Tanseco’s conclusion (1972) is similar to the marital deficiency hypothesis of Lapuz (1977). He says that perhaps the husband’s infidelity is an act to prove his masculinity when the wife attempts to infantilize or dominate her husband. de Vera (1976) cites men’s responses to the causes of male infidelity: sexual rejuvenation, temptation and peer pressure. A hint of spouse inadequacy is also mentioned in her study. Vancio (1980) cites the views of some of the experts interviewed in his study for reasons of the husband’s infidelity: wife’s sexual inhibitions rooted in deep culturally induced psychological attitudes. The Filipino wife is more comfortable with her role as a mother than her role as wife.

Torento (1987) summarizes some of the cases of male infidelity from a marriage-and-family center, and records of legal separation cases. Some of the reasons are the perception of lack of care and concern by the wife, pressures about providing from a domineering wife, and sexual inadequacy of the wife.

In addition to the issue of marital infidelity Jocano (1994), writes about infidelity as "pastimes." He says: "to most men, however, many of their flings or affairs are just pastimes and should not be taken seriously. They mean nothing. But not to women. They mean very much to them. They feel degraded at the thought that they cannot completely satisfy the man they are going out with. They feel inadequate." Holmes (1999) quotes the letter of a wife: "Was my husband in love with the girl? He says she was just a game to play with."

Alano’s (1995) observations are similar to the findings of Lapuz, Tanseco and Vancio. Alano reports that five of the six highest probable reasons for a husband’s infidelity are related to marital and family dissatisfaction: "lousy" marriage, neglect of kids/household duties, neglect of the spouse, negative personality traits of the spouse and not having legitimate children. Some other reasons given were: being tricked or seduced, being in love and the giving in to the polygamous tendencies of men. In other words, the querida (the mistress or lover) is perceived as filling needs of the husband unmet by his own spouse.

Relucio (1995) observes a relation between infidelity and the husband being overly attached to his mother. Perhaps, there is lack of mature autonomy or differentiation on the part of the husband toward his mother.

The McCann Erickson National Women’s Study (1996) highlights the cultural perception of the inadequacy of the wife when her husband strays. One understands this powerful cultural perception because the wife is expected to be a home maker and in charge of running the household well.

Tanalega mentions the migrant worker’s feeling of loneliness, when living abroad (Baga1997) and the spouse being left behind (in the Philippines), as a possible reason for marital infidelity.

Lee-Brago (2001) cites reasons for infidelity from a study of Dr. Sandra Tempongko of the University of the Philippines’ College of Public Health entitled "Determinants of Risky Behavior Related to Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs) Among Population Groups." From the participants interviewed, the reasons given for infidelity were the following: machismo, peer pressure and influence of alcohol. The most compelling reason was machismo. Infidelity (commercial sex) occurs when there is peer pressure during drinking sprees. Drinking was also given as a reason for infidelity. Some respondents mentioned sexual inadequacy of the wife as a reason for male infidelity.

E. Feelings about Infidelity. The next themes to be explored are the feelings surrounding the issue of her husband’s infidelity. There are a number of feelings reported from various studies. Torres (1998) cites Guthrie’s study (1970) about Filipino "wives worried over losing their spouses to other women." Tanseco (1972) mentions the point of view of the unfaithful husband: "I cannot help it. I love my family, but I also love my querida." Tanseco observes this feeling of being driven and the split within the Filipino husband: weakness of will. There is a feeling of near admiration for the unfaithful husband who is not caught and a feeling of pity for him and the wife (de Vera 1976). Usually, the wife is blamed for her husband’s infidelity.

Lapuz (1977) captures the overwhelming feeling of the wife in times of her husband’s infidelity:


The wounds are deep. More than pride, more than a laceration of one’s feminine image, love was lost through betrayal. Trust has been broken and unless enough is restored, love can hardly thrive…Once bitten, twice shy, goes the saying.

The distrust remains longer when the wife is more insecure and emotionally dependent. In fact, Lapuz continues: "The most oppressive feeling one can experience is the lack of freedom to be oneself, compelling one to continuously suppress or deny oneself in favor of another."

Because of her bruised ego, the wife finds a way of releasing her pent-up anger against the other woman for breaking up the family’s solidarity (Jurilla 1986). Lapuz summarizes the relief that is sought for: "licking one’s wounds may be painful but soothing at the same time." She will recount, in an obsessive pattern, every detail of the pain of infidelity.

Carandang (1987) reports the wife feeling frustrated, helpless and neglected as frequent stressors in the face of her husband’s infidelity. Alano (1995) highlights a nationwide respondents’ strong feelings of threat and suffering for the family when affairs strike the marriage. There is the perception of a feeling of loss for the wives and legitimate children. They feel insecure, like failures, "reduced by guilt and rejection, her efforts and sacrifices discounted" and "shortchanged and taken advantage of." In other words, aside from the feeling of rejection, there is also a feeling of a "lowered self-esteem and loss of control." Alano describes further the feelings of the wife:


She is embarrassed as her family is talked about in whispers. She feels sorry for herself and her children. She feels impotent in shielding them from pain. She feels guilty that she is unable to give them the ideal life she wishes them to have.

The children feel a "sense of incompetence and unworthiness. They feel rejected, anxious and insecure." On the other hand, the adulterous men downplay familial and moral consequences because they rationalize that infidelity is natural for men, they do not stop their role as economic providers, and they absolve themselves by saying they still come home to their legitimate family. Some of them project their guilt onto their wives who they say fail to accommodate and sacrifice. The unfaithful husband feels a loss of self-respect, personal integrity, peace of mind and self-esteem. The illegitimate children bear the "unmerited stigma of being the fruit of immoral behavior." Mistresses feel that the queridas (mistresses) and the illegitimate children are losing most in the adultery of the Filipino husband. Alano reports the feelings of the mistress: "The mistress submits to being less than number one, resigned to being lonely on holidays and special occasions knowing that her lover is out in public with his wife and family."

No one is spared of the feelings of loss and suffering when the infidelity of the husband sets in: the wife’s wound of betrayal and rejection, the children’s feeling of unworthiness, the mistress and illegitimate children’s feeling of being less than number one and the husband’s loss of self-respect or personal integrity.

F. Filipino Wife and Husband’s Resilience. To date, there seems to be a dearth of available research on resiliency of the Filipino wife when the husband becomes unfaithful. However, in the available literature there are hints of various aspects of resiliency, in the broad sense of thriving in the midst of adversity or a certain amount of coping well in the midst of the suffering.

Lapuz (1977), basing herself on her clinical experience, finds the following hints of the resilience of the Filipino wife, after ventilating in her for a long time the wounds of her husband’s infidelity:

She starts to listen. She looks neat. She streaks her hair. She uses make-up. She tries skirts and stockings, not just pants. She tries a bust lift. She learns to drive. She returns to school. She starts a small cottage industry. She takes a trip to Europe. She goes to church.

A number of things take place during the process. There are concrete steps taken that go beyond depression and anger. There is a spiritual resource of going to church, to pray for strength and inspiration to move on. Shahani (1988) underscores the value of religion as a resource for the Filipino wife: "Religion is the root of the Filipino optimism and the capacity to accept life’s hardships." This support from religion is similar in the findings of Alano (1995) and Relucio (1995) especially in times like spousal infidelity.

Jurilla (1986) mentions that the low-income wives turn to their neighbors for support when there are problems, like infidelity. The higher income wives find resources or support by talking it over with "a friend, relative, counselor, priest, lawyer or even hire a detective before making any confrontation." Moreover, improving marital relationships is also mentioned. Alano (1995) and Relucio (1995) confirm the findings of Jurilla with regard to how the Filipino wife, rich or poor, finds support with significant persons.

Because of the phenomenon of migrant workers, the observation of Torres (1988) about single parenting has a bearing on the resilience of the Filipino wife in times of her husband’s infidelity. She notes:


Solo parenting has forced the traditional Filipino wife to become more independent, to be stronger as a person, to develop new interests and discover hidden potential…When wives are forced into circumstances outside the traditional mold, she falls back on the family and herself to cope with the situation."

One can see the openness of the Filipino wife to expand her horizon beyond the experience of her husband’s infidelity. Family support and the focus of attention become a resource for the wife. Some wives pursue graduate studies (Relucio 1995).

A very probable source of resilience for the Filipino wife is the attraction of economic independence aside from the passion for taking care of the children (McCann Erickson National Women’s Study 1996). The study reports:


Across the board, across all ages, all over the country, at home, at work, and in school, Filipino women are engaged in small-scale business. She is a tindera (vendor) at heart selling (tocino [marinated pork], chicken, jewelry, antique watches. She also sells Avon and Sara Lee products). Early in life, little girls are taught how to become responsible moms. They learn to cook and clean, take care of younger siblings, get organized, manage time between schoolwork and homework. They learn to deal with pain. They learn to take joy from giving; they learn to take risks.

The sources of resilience for the Filipino wife are varied: faith, prayer, religion, friends and family, professional counselors and psychiatrists, priests, education, work and personal care. It would be interesting to continue the research on resiliency of the Filipino wife when her husband turns unfaithful. The present study tries to address this important gap in the research on the Filipino wife when the husband becomes unfaithful.

On the other hand, I have noticed in my interviews with Filipino wives living with unfaithful husbands the following three things happen when the husband decides to rebuild his marriage: the husband admits he did something wrong; he begins to look deeply into the marital relationship; and he makes amends in various ways.

First, he admits he did something wrong. When a man strays, his once predictable schedule changes. He is no longer available for his family. He wastes the resources meant for his wife and children. He becomes irritable with them. He covers his tracks with lies. Often, this leads to the collapse of his career or business. Sometimes, the crisis hits closer to home: a child gets into trouble—poor grades, drugs, etc. And this serves as a wake-up call, ushering in a new beginning for the errant husband/father. His isolation brings the realization of how important the family is. He goes through a deep spiritual conversion. He experiences genuine contrition. One wife said: "my husband realized how deeply he has hurt me and the family."

Second, he makes a real examination (in self-regulation theory, one takes stock of which goals, whether lower or higher order goals, are being served) of his relationship with his wife, and his children. The husband and wife together communicate with each other what each misses in the relationship. Instead of secrecy and lies, he becomes truly transparent. He becomes more predictable with his schedules. He then really tries to listen to the wife and the wife listens to him too.

Third, he makes a decision (in self-regulation theory, there is a cognizance of the hard work or commitment to self-control, in therapy to make life satisfactory changes happen) to let go of the other woman or women. He reestablishes his relationship with his wife and family, and sometimes, with his community or church too. He tries to manifest his presence in small ways. He spends more time with his wife. He sets aside Sunday as the day for the family. He helps the wife in her business or career. He enters the renewal or growth programs and becomes an active member of communities serving marriage and the family. He even becomes a channel for the healing of the family.

While marital disharmony, or an innate tendency to be polygamous, or other reasons may explain the Filipino husband's infidelity, I get a sense that there is this deeper, more primal reason: a man's poignant longing for home. If and when he finds his true home (in self-regulation theory, integrating one’s lifestyle, one talks of higher order goals as truly satisfying), he ends his infidelity.

Filipino Context of Infidelity. This literature review and some personal observations lay the groundwork for the need to continue the research on the Filipino wife’s resilience. A number of themes arise: marital infidelity as a major issue; risk factors in the environment: poverty, migration, and business; the cultural upbringing of the Filipino male and female and how this might relate to the marital dynamics; infidelity is predominantly more among Filipino husbands than wives; when infidelity happens to the Filipino husband, no one is spared; there are deep wounds and stigma that are hard to heal or erase; and somehow the Filipino wife becomes resilient… she will fight to save her marriage or she will physically separate, she will find a steady job, she will take care of the kids, she will go back to school, she will find the support of friends and family and she will find the sanctuary of her God. And finally, if the husband decides to rebuild the marriage from the ground up, he cooperates in nurturing the marriage and becomes more responsible for his family and the local church.

 
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