OK so you’ve probably heard that many girlfriends of foreigners receive an allowance and this can to some sound a little shameless on the surface – but it doesn’t need to be.

Without a state sponsored benefit system it’s up to the younger members of the family to support their elders as they cycle out of working life. This undertaking is considered a moral responsibility and is embarked on willingly by the younger generation. Often is the case when a foreigner finds the love of their life, they want to spend all their time together and the Filipina either leaves work or stops looking for a job. But what of the poor elderly relatives who sacrificed their youth to ensure their children got a good education? What of the plan that their children would support them in their older years? Well that’s where you come in! If you want her all to yourself then it’s only fair you don’t let the parents starve. A basic allowance of just above her pay grade is a small price to pay for the peace of mind nobody will be going hungry – until the buffalo needs surgery.

The buffalo needs surgery?!!!

It’s easy to fall into the ‘family needs help’ trap and before you know it you’re spending more money on fixing family disasters than a 5 star holiday in Monaco but there are some excellent ways to be both respectful and frugal. As most foreigners in a long term relationship will testify, if you’re dating in the Philippines, have a plan or date an orphan!

  1. Understand that unless there’s been a serious natural disaster many stories can sound worse than they are.
    The family survived for many years before you came along and can often continue just fine without your help. It’s always a good idea to take the time time to do your own investigation. If someone is in hospital, pay them a visit, if there’s a hole in the roof go and check it out. If it’s too far to travel there’s probably a closer foreigner who can sort it out. Don’t regularly use cash to fix things you have never personally seen and always get an independent estimate where you can.
  2. Don’t buy expensive things for the family (like a a boat), buy it for yourself and lend it to the family for free.
    It will ensure the family don’t sell it to liquidate the cash and you can always use it as leverage if you think you’re getting taken advantage of. For example: We need to replace my father’s pedicab but he can’t afford it and without it he can’t afford to live. OK, sell the boat, fix the pedicab and give me the change. Suddenly the pedicab isn’t such a problem.
  3. Avoid buying things on credit.
    Sometimes you may be asked to help someone come up with the down payment on a motorcycle or similar with a story of how this will enable to make money some way. More often than not you will be the first port of call when the monthly instalment is proving difficult to scrape together. It’s often easier to lend a bike for a week to see how the “business” performs.
  4. Don’t help the family create a sari-sari store!
    This will cost upwards of P30,000 and in a month it will need completely restocking by guess who. Typically the profit margins in sari-sari stores are just 5-15% and when the daily turnover is about P500, P300 will be spent on celebrating, P100 on wages and just P100 will be saved to replenish the stock (instead of P400). This is not something that can be corrected by a simple chat either. Unless someone has a proven track record with owning a store it’s usually a bad idea which you will want to succeed and throw good money after bad attempting to facilitate.
  5. If someone wants to borrow money, the answer should always be: Sure, how much? When can you repay it? And what will you deposit?
    That last part will often produce a look of astonishment on the person requesting your help but a deposit is what any self respecting Filipino would ask for and it’s usually in the form of something of value (a motorcycle, jewellery or a kidney). Be careful about jewellery unless you know 100% the owner if the one requesting the loan and it’s not a family heirloom. I was just kidding about the kidney but I wouldn’t accept one either on the grounds they don’t store particularly well. What I generally do in this situation is estimate the value of the deposit item and give the person 50-75% of the value. I give them double the time they stated to repay the loan (in one lump sum) and I insist that if I’m not fully reimbursed I will sell the deposit item for the exact loan amount – for a very quick sale. Remember to get the paperwork for any motorcycle, a document detailing the loans which is witnessed by someone who will be on your side in the event of all hell breaking lose!

If you ever find the requests of the family are getting you or your partner down it’s quite easy to put some distance between you and the family. Just relocate to another island for a few months. I generally don’t mind visitors by my partner’s family but I do stipulate one important rule as far at that’s concerned – they pay their own plete (fare/travel expenses) – otherwise you might find your house inundated with short/mid or even long term visitors. It’s OK to impose your own rules, it’s your home after all.

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