(Part 2 of What’s in an Intergenerational Filipino-Canadian Household?)

Demographers and social theorists argued that second-generation are individuals born in a relocated country of first-generation parents or families.  However, there are classifications of second-generation Filipino-Canadians. For those children who were not born in the relocated country but raised in their early teens in the same place, scientists coined the term “1.5G” or the “1.5 second-generation.” Those who relocated with their parents before age five are called “1.75G” – meaning they think and act like the second-generation born in Canada.  Both the 1.5 and the 1.75 immigrants are the midway generations caught between two worlds: their Filipino parents and the Canadian influence.

Midway generation may challenge the expectations of parents or elders in the household, as their identity, choices, and lifestyles may no longer align with the values of the first-generation. 

Alex and Justin are midway generation Filipino-Canadians.  They came to Canada with their mom Sonia to unite with their dad Jeff through the Family Reunification program in their pre-teen years. In their mid-twenties, both are still familiar with popular Filipino food like chicken-pork adobo, pancit (long rice noodle), and sinigang (sour stews); however, these are no longer their tastebuds’ liking.  They chose to live “healthy food” options from fruits, nuts, oats, and vegetables.  As their parents watch Filipino news and movies, they watch Western movies or play online games at home.  When Jeff or Sonia talks about Filipino entertainment or politics, they shun away from the conversation. It is not to disrespect, but because of the disconnect between their world and their parents. 

On most days, Alex and Justin spend more time with their peers than with their parents or with Lorna, their grandmother. The family seldom meets each other because of differing schedules.  At the dinner table, Alex and Justin are busy with their mobile phones; Jeff watches a Filipino channel; Sonia chats with her friend, and Lorna walks back and forth from the dining table to the kitchen, serving her family. While the dinner scenario described does not happen each day in the family of Jeff and Sonia, it speaks of the relationship of different worlds and intergenerational gaps evident in a Filipino-Canadian household. 

The conflicting world of the midway generation can cause stress and ambivalence.  Alex and Justin wanted to remain obedient to the elders in the family, yet they also know that they no longer share the values of their parents, e.g., from choices of food to religious practices. There are times when the midway generation does things, not that they like doing them,  but because the elders in the family want them to do.  When with peers, they are aware of their Filipino background and being Canadian simultaneously, yet there is a feeling or perception that they are different from the mainstream Canadians.   Within the midway generation, those who came to Canada in their high school years tend to blend in with or may long for a Filipino youth group or peers in the community than those who grew up in Canada in their early childhood years.  The midway generation deals each day with two or more competing worlds of their parents and their peers while defining their own identity in the process. 

Interestingly, however, the social restrictions, cases of unemployment, and students’ online learning due to the COVID-19 pandemic brought together everyone’s presence in the household. While being aware of their differing worldviews, the situation opened up opportunities for familial engagements between generations.  In conversations with Filipino families during the pandemic, many first-generation parents claimed that the frequent presence of everyone in the household enabled everyone to reach out and support each other in a more meaningful way that minimizes the experience of social isolation. 

The COVID-19 pandemic also increased the connection with families and relatives back in the Philippines through online platforms.  When parents call their kin in the Philippines, they expect their children to greet or exchange pleasantries with relatives on the line — but may only be up to that point in most times. When serious family matters from health to financial concerns become the dominant topics of conversation, the midway generation would seemingly evade participating in the conversation.  Three reasons are at play here. 

Firstly, in Filipino families, it is generally considered impolite for children or young adults to participate in conversations between elders or mature adults in the family.  Adults generally consider it awkward for children to participate in conversations between elders in nuclear or extended families. Secondly, the culture of “privacy and none-of your-business” reinforces the midway generation to distance themselves from elders’ conversations.  Children stay in their rooms or go somewhere else when adults discuss family concerns in the home country. Lastly, the midway generation may have loosened familial and cultural ties with kin from the Philippines as years go by or as they continue to embrace the Canadian way of life. Some ignore any invitation to communicate with kin back home.  They connect with relatives as friends on Facebook or Instagram, but they do not necessarily talk about family issues nor attempt to solve them. 

While the first-generation is caught between the two worlds, being Filipinos and Canadians, the 1.5 and 1.75 or midway generation faces the competing world in Canada and their parents. 

Alex and Justin, who experienced life in the Philippines in their early childhood, have now adopted the Canadian culture and are slowly fading away from being Filipinos. Jeff and Sonia have accepted the change of perspectives and lifestyles of their children. Yet, they still hope that Alex and Justin will reminisce their memories of the Philippines and re-embrace the Filipino values.  Lorna loves her grandchildren but remains in seeming disbelief.  She sees Alex and Justin as Canadians and less of being Filipinos. 

The midway generation may still retain their consciousness or early childhood memories of the Philippines.  It is a piece of shared knowledge in social psychology that people tend to retain happy memories than unpleasant or traumatic situations.  Alex and Justin may have still kept happy memories in their psyche and retain their admiration and connection with Filipino values and mores, even if they opt for a lifestyle that is not entirely Filipino. Depending on the extent of influence of elders in the family, the midway generation will retain awareness as Filipino, a consciousness that Generation 2.0 may not share. 

The Second Generation or 2.0G are those born in Canada from the midway generation. The equation could even go on to “2.5G” to mean second-generation born in Canada of immigrant parents married or partnering with a naturally born Canadian.  Given the complexity of layers and definitions of second-generation, the sociological tenets may not be as easily understood as thought initially.  But who are these second-generation, and what is their identity experience as Filipino-Canadians? (to be continued in Part 3)

Dr. Ernie Alama completed his Doctorate of Philosophy in the Graduate Division of Educational Research, University of Calgary. He is an assistant professor in the Faculty of Education at St. Mary’s University – Calgary.  Dr. Alama is an educator, a researcher, a businessman, a community development worker, and a Filipino immigrant who is passionate about engaging in mental health and development work for Filipinos and Filipino-Canadians.