Defining Family vs Relatives

Oftentimes, I have critics who’re disgusted when I tell them I don’t know THAT person who shares the same surname/middlename/maiden name as mine. I really don’t bother browsing through family history to trace whether we’re related or not. Some INSIST I should, because we COULD BE FAMILY. Well I beg to disagree. Being RELATIVES and FAMILY has quite a stark contrast in my philosophy.

FAMILY in the Filipino sense is always nuclear – something that extends beyond places, dialects and regions. Maybe that’s why some people push me into looking through the (family tree) and locating how some stranger is related to me. I just don’t buy it. Another product of my cynicism is a harsh realization at how some ‘relatives’ take advantage of that connection depending on your occupation. Like when my dad used to be in active police duty and even now as my mom works in the justice system. I do empathize with relatives in really dire situations. Heck, we help out friends and neighbors when they’re in need. But sometimes, relatives just recognize you when you’re needed. People think sharing the same name and blood thickens the connection and puts a special ring of importance. It doesn’t.

Sometimes, there are friends who are more like family to you than your own relatives.

As common in most groups of people, not everyone likes everyone. When you don’t do anything, something’s gonna be thrown behind your back. I don’t really care.

Possibly the worst I was told, was that one person who shares my maiden name is quite a problem in their community. That’s the problem. You introduce yourself to me as a relative (my husband’s side), and you ask me if I know this person because we share (my maiden) name. And then you tell me how he/she is a nuisance around your neighborhood. Well, I don’t know him/her and neither do I know you. But don’t follow up your statement as if you’re trying to generalize the people I share my name with.

Because like me, you are also a part of a nuclear family of relatives – known and unknown to you, who could be problem people (addicts, rebels or thugs) equally adding a negative connotation to your brood.

For me, a Family is that group of people you’re comfortable with, who accepts you as you are (despite brutally knowing your flaws), who unconditionally stays with you through good and bad, and those who just doesn’t bother keeping up with you no matter how distant you’ve been, how you’ve changed and even after that – they don’t treat you any differently. No need to remind you of how bad you’ve been in the past, or how you did something to smear the name of your family. They say we don’t choose who becomes our family. I say we do. We choose the people we want to keep up with, bear with and live with unconditionally. And that makes the difference of being a ‘family’ and a ‘relative’.

This popular soap on TV, Walang Hanggan, shows the essence of being relatives and family. A grandmother who gave away her grandson heartlessly, and decades later begs for forgiveness upon realizing how deserving that grandson is of recognition. (He became successful, wealthy and equally rich as she is). And there’s the other grandmother who kept this unwanted grandson, raised him as her own child, wept when he was lost and rejoiced when he was found. That simple.

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