FILIPINO MEN: MACHISMO, HENPECKED HUSBANDS AND SUDDEN UNEXPECTED DEATH

MEN IN THE PHILIPPINES

Macho culture and male dominance are still very much alive in the Philippines. According to one government report, “Sexual relations, child bearing and child rearing are still dependent on men as the ultimate decision makers” in Filipino households. In traditional society, men were responsible for doing heavy work such as plowing and caring for irrigation systems and clearing brush.

According to humanbreeds.com: Filipino men stereotypes: Certainly, the stereotypes below do not apply to all Filipino men. However, the occurrences of these situations are so frequent as to justify an entry in my Filipino Stereotypes. Here we go: 1) Filipino men are usually very unfaithful; many might argue that all men from all nationalities do cheat, but the rate at which I encounter stories about broken Filipino families stories is just ridiculous. 2) A great number of Filipino men suffer from gambling and drinking problems. 3) An alarmingly huge number of Filipino men are simply unfit to be good fathers or good husbands. A typically Filipino house is financed by the women… women are the bread earners whereas men are usually immersed in their destructive hobbies of drugs, alcoholism, gambling and adultery. [Source: humanbreeds.com, February 7, 2014]

Gamma posted on Yahoo Answers in 2009: “From what I saw in the Philippines alot of the guys in my age bracket (17-23) try to imitate what they see in American media. However they tend to go to far and end up becoming caricatures rather than truly strong men. Many like to act like bad boy brawlers, but are quick to back down once they actually meet one in person. Also many young Filipino guys are very much into going to the gym and are obsessed with becoming muscle bound freaks. Conversely, the nerds in the Philippines dedicate their whole lives to their study. Their whole identity is based off of their academic achievements, simply because they lack any personality or good looks. They truly believe they will be able to attract good looking, wonderful women through academic and financial success, which is pathetic in my opinion Also there are a large number of men in the Philippines who consider themselves "playboys". However I found their style and way of flirting quite 'bastos' and not smooth at all. Not like the Filipino's over here in my country. However these trends are seen all over the world. It just seems like it is more exaggerated in the Philippines, from what I've seen anyway. [Source: Yahoo Answers]

Gender Roles in the Philippines

Dr. Jose Florante J. Leyson wrote in the Encyclopedia of Sexuality: “The traditional gender roles in Filipino society are strongly influenced by centuries of Islamic culture, Chinese mores, and 425 years of deep-rooted Spanish Catholic traditions. However, since the 1960s, traditional Filipino gender culture has been transformed by tremendous Western - European and American - influences, except in the Muslim-dominated southern islands, which have been much less influenced by Western contacts. Polygamy, the wife as the husband’s chattel, and deferential behavior of women in the presence of men are still strong values in the Muslim-dominated areas. The Muslim ideals of feminine behavior still produce a dependent, inferior, passive, and obedient woman. [Source: Jose Florante J. Leyson, M.D., Encyclopedia of Sexuality www2.hu-berlin.de/sexology, 2001 |~|]

Men are seen as head the head of the family, but women often assume the role of major income or wage earner as well as homemaker and nurturer of their children. Women are just as likely as men to seek and take overseas contract work. There is broad commitment to extended education at secondary and tertiary education for girls as well as for boys, by all families that can afford it. However, in families with limited means, girls are more likely than boys to be asked to defer or sacrifice their own education in order to support the education of younger siblings, especially younger brothers. Although most CEOs of business enterprises are men, this is not exclusively the case. There are many women in senior positions, especially in government departments. Even when the head of a business or enterprise is a man, it is not uncommon to find that it is a woman who really "runs the show". [Source: Canadian Center for Intercultural Learning+++]

The Filipino family is generally classified as egalitarian. Authority is more or less divided between husband and wife. The husband is formally recognized as the head but the wife has the important position of treasurer of the household and manager of the domestic affairs. Since there are more working women now then ever before, today’s Filipina does a balancing act between career and family. +++

According to everyculture.com: “Traditional roles prevail in rural areas, where men cultivate the land but the entire family is involved in planting and harvesting the crops. Women work in gardens and care for the house and children as well as barnyard animals. In urban areas, men work in construction and machine upkeep and as drivers of passenger vehicles. Women work as teachers, clerks, owners of sari-sari stores, marketers of produce and health care providers. Occupational gender lines are blurred since men also work as nurses and teachers. In the professions, gender lines are less important. Women attorneys, doctors and lawyers are found in the provinces as well as in urban areas. [Source: everyculture.com]

Filipino Men ‘Most Narcissistic in Asia’

In 2011, Travel Wire Asia reported: “ According to a study from Synovate, Filipino men are the most narcissistic in Asia. A whopping 48 percent consider themselves sexually attractive. And if the ladies reading this think the guys’ encounters with the brow tweazers are for your benefit, sorry — nine out of 10 Filipino men polled said they liked to look good for themselves, not anyone else. By way of comparison, just 25 percent of men in Singapore considered themselves sexually attractive, 17 percent in China and Taiwan and a measly 12 percent of Hong Kong guys think the same. The Synovate survey notes that “the findings have a wide-ranging implication for the marketers of personal grooming products.” Traditionally, it says, “marketers have addressed this market by selling to wives, mothers, sisters, girlfriends. Now, they can go directly to the newly minted beautiful male.” [Source: Travel Wire Asia, April 26, 2011 ~~]

“It’s not difficult to substantiate the survey’s claim. If you have a Filipino male friend, take a peek into his backpack or bathroom cabinet and you will invariably find all sorts of personal hygiene, even beauty, products: toothbrush, toothpaste, perhaps even a mouthwash, an underarm roll or spray, a cologne or perfume, an aftershave perhaps, a comb, a pair of nail cutters, hair gel… If you’re lucky you can probably even find a compact mirror. ~~

“Filipino men are just as finicky about their looks as the women. The “metrosexual” phenomenon has recently caught on in urban centers. Products that used to be marketed only to women are now also being peddled to men, such as Nivea for Men. On its Facebook page for the Philippines, Nivea tells Filipino men: “Hey BROs, how’s the summer vacation preps so far? But first, make sure your skin has the freedom to enjoy under the sun by getting the right sunblock based on your skin tone, skin type, target location and date!” One fan remarked: “I love this stuff — The best way to look good and smell good: Honestly Nivea team — Thumbs up;)” ~~

“The “narcissistic Filipino,” in fact, is now part of popular culture. Movie posters and billboards always feature men in various stages of undress, usually to display washboard abs. One movie star, Piolo Pascual, has made a career out of these advertising endorsements apparently with the stipulation that all of his posters should show his midsection — even if what he endorses has absolutely nothing to do with those abs, like a condominium. Looking at these posters and billboards, you’d think that Filipino men are the healthiest, fittest men on earth. In truth, obesity is rising in the Philippines. Cases of diabetes and other so-called lifestyle diseases, such as hypertension, are on the rise. ~~

Machismo in the Philippines

Macho culture is prevalent on television, in the workplace and in everyday life in the Philippines. One Filipino woman told Newsweek, "our culture teaches that men are to be strong." The roots of the macho lie both in Spanish colonial and traditional familial hierarchal structures. According to Thank God I'm Filipino: “Some male Filipinos are proud and arrogant that they will not accept losing face, particularly in the crowd. They don’t like the idea of being defeated or embarrassed. In some cases, losing face or being humiliated is the cause of street brawls, drinking bouts or even killings in the country.” [Source: Thank God I'm Filipino - TGIF, Facebook, October 8, 2010]

One person asked on Yahoo Answers: I've heard from people that in the Philippines a lot of men like to show others that they are "macho". Nothing wrong with that since men are like that anywhere in the world you may be. But the definition of being "macho" is different from culture to culture. In the Philippines I've seen that being macho means being a heavy drinker or getting your wife pregnant and having a lot of kids. To me that seems more stupid than "macho". Lots of guys in the Philippines think its manly to drink all the time and get drunk. And I've heard that some are proud to have so many children (which they can't afford to support all of them). Also, I've noticed that if you wash the clothes, do the dishes, or cook, then other men make fun of you because that is supposed to be a woman's job. So what is your opinion? What does it mean for a guy to be "macho" in the Philippines? [Source: Yahoo Answers]

To this question Joker answered in 2009: “I'm Filipino but I've been born and raised in the USA for my whole entire life. When I went to the Philippines for the first time, I kept on thinking, "this is a weird country." I mean, karaoke is insanely popular over there, you see skin whitening commercials, there's ALWAYS shampoo commercials, and showbiz is almost like a religion there. Here in the USA, karaoke is considered "not cool" and if you like karaoke, then you're not "macho." Also, here in the USA, caring about showbiz is strictly for girls and gays. If you like showbiz, you are definitely not "macho." So, Philippines is absolutely different than the USA. Most of my Filipino friends in the PI love karaoke, showbiz, and they're sensitive about the color of their skin. I don't consider those "macho" at all.

Around the same time jzer0AVTi_023 answered: “I live in the Philippines and what you've heard about what being "macho" mean in the Philippines is not true. Having a lot of kids is not macho because couples with lots of kids are being laughed at. Heavy drinker men are always judged to be criminals and ex cons although some of them are not. Maybe last 3 decades, what you've heard might be true but not in the modern Philippines. With this great poverty in our country, being macho means being able to help get your family become wealthy, protect your loved ones and having a huge amount of salary.

Erom said: “The Philippines is a 'Macho' society, Patriarchal, and so males have been molded to be the 'ideal ',dominative figure. for me I think it is very old school. But it is slowly changing right now, slowly pinoys are now accepting the 'uncoventional' roles due to necessity, since wives are now going abroad to earn a living, husbands have no choice but to take care of the family. Doing the what used to be a wife-only jobs, and most of them is loving it. Yes it is stupidity to show youre macho by drinking and having lots of children but have no idea how you can support the. but I am happy to say that it is slowly changing.

Gaz commented: “To be macho is to know your place within your family, friends and community and making the most of it. The java programmer who makes 20 peso per hour just to feed his family I would consider macho. An unemployed dad who does what he can for his bread winner daughter (cooks, washes her clothes, drives her to work so that she doesn't have to) is macho, even though he didn't do enough to keep a job in the first place. The CEO uncle who makes the effort to visit his nephews and siblings, and inspires them to make wise choices rather than spoon-feeding them with $$ is macho. A guy that stops grooming, starts drinking and smoking a little, explores the unshaven look just cos someone called him a wuss, is obviously a wimp for believing them.

Henpecked Husband: Sad Filipino Phenomenon

Peacefulwifephilippines wrote in her blog: “I don't know if you'd agree with me but I think our Filipino culture breeds hen-pecked, emasculated men. Ander De Saya which in English literally means "under the saya or Filipino skirt" is a Filipino term used on husbands who are dominated by overbearing wives. The mental image conjured is of a man with no "balls", pardon the term, to lead his family. The woman is the "kumander" (commander) of the unit. He has no say, he has no voice and he better not speak his mind or else (!), he will get a good tongue-lashing! [Source: peacefulwifephilippines.blogspot.jp]

“Themes like these are usually for comedic purposes, which sometimes are funny, but in reality is no laughing matter. It only is funny on TV or in movies but is actually not laughable when you see it happening to a LIVE couple, in person. It is actually quite sad. Filipinos have these terms for nagging, noisy women: bungangera, palengkera and chismosa. (talkative, noisy - as in marketplace noisy, gossipy) Not only is it a big turn-off to be these, it also is a huge sin and woe to the husband who finds such a wife!

Dating Filipino Men

Gmmurgirl.hubpages.com reported: “Men from the Philippines are often referred to as 'Pinoy' men or 'Filipino' men. Indeed, Filipino guys are a class of their own. A number of foreign women might find dating them an experience worth trying. Filipino men are often seen as thoughtful, sensitive, romantic and sweet, thought this may not be true for all. Some guys can discriminating and choosy. Any woman foreign or otherwise, confident of herself will not have difficulty getting a Filipino date. Learn about the what makes Filipino guys unique. So here is a lowdown, in case you manage to snag a Filipino date. [Source: gmmurgirl.hubpages.com <^>]

“If you are a foreign woman looking for a Filipino man to go out with, it helps to know that the local dating scene in the Philippines is very dynamic and colorful. With the proliferation of social networks and mobile phones, opportunities to meet singles and dating sites abound! If you are lucky, speed dating events are organized by a few groups. Moreover, knowing friends will double your chances of meeting eligible male Filipinos. They will be more than willing to play cupid and set you up on a blind date. Hence, a foreign woman trying to look for her Filipino dream date will not run out of options. <^>

“On the other hand, if you are in the capital city on a business trip and hardly know any local friends, do not fret. There are many bars in the city specifically in the business districts area of Makati, Ortigas, and even the Global City with great places to meet new people. Most Filipino men will be friendly enough to strike a conversation with a lone foreigner woman. Nevertheless, do not immediately trust anyone who is too friendly for comfort. <^>

“Dating and finding a Filipino date can be easy for a foreign woman. It has its own advantages and disadvantages. Despite background differences, an interracial relationship can prosper, since many Filipino guys are open to the idea of dating women from a different race or culture. Just make sure you know how to deal with him. <^>

Male Filipino Date Types

On types of Filipino guts, Gmmurgirl.hubpages.com reported: 1) The Romantic: The romantic types may come few and far in between, but this breed of Filipino men still exists. He is the kind of guy who remembers the special days in your life, wont to bringing gifts, and treats you like a princess. Expect Mr. Romantic to be there for you at all times. He can be cheesy, mushy at times, but that's just him showing his true romantic side. Simply enjoy and return the courtesy. However, if you are not bent on getting serious with him, try not to lead him on nor keep him dangling. Make it clear to him that you are not yet bent on settling down either. Otherwise, you might be proposed at even before you even celebrated your first anniversary. [Source: gmmurgirl.hubpages.com <^>]

2) The Cool Hunk: He is often attractive, savvy and slick with the girls. You better be careful and not easily fall for his charms. He often brags (or not) about his chick-magnetic personality. Women are drawn to him naturally. He generally loves to take care of himself by going to the gym, loves hip clothes, and often becomes the life of the part. He is aware of his effect on women. If you are not ready to break your heart or wants a real keeper, better touch him with a ten-foot pool. He can be fun to be with but a long term relationship is simply not what he's looking for right now. If you want great eye-candy, then having him as a date would do good, but that's it. You better proceed with caution. <^>

3) The Geeky: He may not look like the over-hyped geek in those reality shows but yes, they exist and can be 'geekily' hot even. Intelligent-looking guys have their special allure that draws certain women. He can be cute and geeky at the same time. He can be serious and might seem to be more interested in his studies or career but scratch beneath the surface and you might find a real gem. This kind of guy loves knowledge and you better be up to the challenge. He might look boring at times but definitely he wants someone who can be up her toes. He also loves setting high goals for himself be it in school or in his career. He can be intensely tied up with work or pursuing his masters or doctoral degree. A geek can be quite a handful if you are looking for engaging company as they may never run out of conversation topics. Since they crank their brains on a 24/7 basis, you might as well be on your toes and make sure that you have enough in between the ears to at least match his intellect. Finally, Mr. Geek can be quite choosy in their women. <^>

4) The Master Chicker: He is the modern Casanova and he would often like to maintain this image for a long time. He simply loves women and monogamy is not in his vocabulary. Most of them can't stand being in a serious relationship. Love for him is like a game of hunting and chasing. This may go on even into his middle age. Don't get too close, lest you risk losing your mind and heart. <^>

5) The Mama's Boy: Mama's boys are everywhere and there are good and bad sides of this types. They would rather follow what mom says and this can include who to date and when. You need not worry much if you're not bent on marrying him. There is nothing wrong if he simply adores his mother but it's a total different story if he makes her dictate everything in his life when he is already a full-grown adult. 6) Mr. Dependent: Yes, since the Filipino culture allows it, there are many Filipino guys still living with their parents. This may come as a shock for those in the west, but that's how it goes in the Philippines. Extended families are common and a guy may still be with his folks until he is ready to move out. In fact, many still live with their parents until well into their 30's or until they marry. This doesn't mean that the guy that you are dating is still a baby. <^>

Bangungut: Sudden Unexpected Death in Sleep (SUDS)

Sudden Unexpected Death in Sleep (SUDS) is a mysterious fatal affliction that visits presumably healthy young men in their sleep, more commonly in the Southeast Asian and Pacific Rim countries and Polynesian populations believed to have migrated from South East Asia centuries ago. First reported in the Philippines in 1917, it has been attributed to bangungot (bangungut - from the Tagalog root words of "bangon" (to rise) and "ungol" (to moan). It is a syndrome wrapped in folklore and myth, that consists of a nightmare, commonly occurring in nocturnal sleep, frequently after a heavy meal that is often accompanied by alcohol, most often in young males, aged 25-44, presumably healthy, without any known cardiac illness. [Source: stuartxchange.com/Bangungot */*]

According to stuartxchange.com: “In the Philippines, bangungut (SUDS) has been so linked to gluttonous eating and bacchanalian drinking, to the exclusion of other symptoms or warning signs. Fainting and family history do not raise red flags. But South East Asian studies suggest that a history of fainting with a positive family history increases the chance of dying of SUDS in the next five years. A review of SUDS cases (Munger and Booton) from Death Certificates filed in Manila during 1948-1982 showed the same characteristics: 96 percent male, mean age 33 years, modal time of death 3:00 a.m. The deaths were seasonal, peaking in December-January, and the SUDS victims were more likely than diseased controls to have been born outside of the Manila area. */*

A 2003 UP health survey on SUDS among young Filipinos reported 43 deaths per 100,000 annually. How often bangungut becomes fatal is unknown. Many cases are never reported, especially in the rural areas where dying in your sleep is an accepted event in the folklore of death. Many know others who died in their sleep. Many more are 'survivors' of one or more attacks, with descriptive details of bangungot -type nightmares– of sleep paralysis, of falling from a mountain or into a 55deep abyss, of the creature in the dark standing by the bedside. How many of these are actually near-death or near-bangungut experiences or are they merely generic ingredients to culture-flavored nightmares? Although there are witness reports of "moaning, groaning, gasping, choking, frothing, and labored breathing," as often, patients are found dead, in seeming peaceful slumber, without the sounds of terror or any evidence of a terminal struggle. */*

In a "macho-culture" with a penchant for drinking, often to oblivion, and accompanying this libatory indulgence with a smorgasbord of "pulutan," pancreatitis became the popular and preferred "point-to diagnosis." In a country with more than 7000 islands and more than 70 indigenous communities, where albularyos and medicos minister to the end-days, diagnosing fainting spells by tawas and treating them with a bulong and/or orasyon, where the night worlds are ruled by the frightful creatures of myths and superstitions – the tikbalangs, kapres, asuwangs, white ladies and pontianaks, where death's ways are accepted with funereal fatalism as God's will, karma, or bangungut. — alas, the true incidence of bangungut / SUDS is probably a-long-time-coming before it gets revealed to the scrutiny of science. */*

Bangungot: a Deadly Nightmare or Pancreatitis or Both?

Rebecca Castillo, MD, and Kathy Alcala wrote in the Philippines Star: “Filipinos refer to it as bangungot; a word we associate with scary dreams, possibly an aftermath of watching a horror movie or telling spooky tales before bedtime. However, most of us only have vague ideas about this phenomenon. It was just recently, with the untimely demise of matinee idol Rico Yan, that we begin to realize that bangungot is not just a case of scary dreams one can wake up from. It can actually be a deadly phenomenon, wherein one sleeps straight to his death. In medical terms, it is called "sudden nocturnal death syndrome," the most common cause of which is acute hemorrhagic pancreatitis. [Source: Rebecca Castillo, MD, and Kathy Alcala, The Charter Bureau, philstar.com , April 8, 2002 |+|]

“Acute hemorrhagic pancreatitis or AHP is a severe swelling of the pancreas, a gland that produces digestive enzymes, particularly insulin, to metabolize the carbohydrates that we take in. In AHP, the swelling is so severe that the pancreas literally digests itself. Fatal complications may set in fast within a matter of minutes to a few hours. The disease affects four out of 10,000 people, most of them, men. Eighty percent of pancreatitis cases are related to gall bladder stones or alcoholism. Other agents or drugs such as glucorticoids, thiazide diuretics or acetaminophen, can likewise bring on an acute attack of pancreatitis. An alcoholic binge, coupled with a high carbohydrate intake, has been postulated as a trigger. However, there are also cases of AHP wherein the specific cause or triggering factor cannot be pinpointed. |+|

“Such may be the case of the late actor. Many people have wondered how this young, healthy man, who was recognized as a model of the youth for his intelligence and clean living, would be a victim of this alcohol-related disease. Although science has explained the effects of this disease, its cause and the reason why it mostly strikes young men in their sleep is still one nebulous area. |+|

“Pain is the first and utmost symptom of AHP. The pain, which is felt in the upper mid-abdomen just below the ribs, radiating to the back and under the shoulder blades, is intense, steady and severe. The patient’ s breathing then may become quite shallow because deeper breathing tends to cause more pain. Nausea, vomiting and cold clammy perspiration are all common as well. A patient may also have fever, with an increased heart rate and a low or shocky blood pressure. A fatal arrhythmia or abnormal beating of the heart can hasten the death of the afflicted individual. |+|

“Most of the victims of this disease die in their sleep. One misconception, especially among us Filipinos, is that these people die because they are not awakened from a very horrible dream. The bleeding and intense pain may cause the brain to trigger a series of wake-up calls. Some may be too deep in their sleep because of alcohol that they may not wake up. Some are awakened because of the pain, but may already be too weak to move to seek help. They may make groans or make other noises by banging their bedside table or breaking whatever that can call attention, but because others are deeply asleep, these calls for help are usually unrecognized. |+|

“Complications of AHP are caused by markedly deranged activities in the pancreas. Under normal circumstances, many of the extremely potent enzymes produced by the pancreas are not active until they are passed into the duodenum, where contact with certain other chemicals allow them to activate their digestive function. In pancreatitis, something allows these enzymes to become prematurely activated, so that they actually begin their digestive functions within the pancreas. The pancreas, in effect, begins a destructive process of auto-digestion or digesting itself. |+|

Fatal complications of AHP are generally due to shock. When shock occurs, all of the body’ s major organs are deprived of blood and, therefore, oxygen, resulting in damage. Kidney, respiratory and heart failure are serious risks of shock. The pancreatic enzymes that have begun circulating throughout the body, as well as the poisons created by the abnormal digestion of the pancreas by those enzymes, have severe effects on the major body systems. Any number of complications can occur, including damage to the heart, lungs, kidneys, lining of the gastrointestinal tract and liver. Once the pancreas is triggered to start the fatal process of auto-digesting, the damage is immediate and fast. This is why the chance of survival is relatively slim for AHP victims. When necrosis, or the presence of dying pancreatic tissues, and bleeding are already present, majority of patients may die even in the best of hands and facilities. |+|

Image Sources:

Text Sources: New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Times of London, Lonely Planet Guides, Library of Congress, Philippines Department of Tourism, Compton’s Encyclopedia, The Guardian, National Geographic, Smithsonian magazine, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, AFP, Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic Monthly, The Economist, Foreign Policy, Wikipedia, BBC, CNN, and various books, websites and other publications.

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© 2008 Jeffrey Hays

Last updated June 2015

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