September 22, 2020 at 12:00 am
"During this pandemic, as always, a strong, tight-knit, and loving family is our best support."
The under-the-radar observance of National Family Week (NFW) in the Philippines kicked off yesterday and as we enter the sixth month of the pandemic, we may ask: Now that children and seniors are shut in and many adults work from home, how can this observance be made more meaningful and relevant?
On 28 Sep. 1992, President Fidel V. Ramos issued Proclamation No. 60 declaring the last week of September each year as “Family Week,” in line with Constitutional provisions that protect the family and family life.
He followed this on 12 Aug. 1996 with Proclamation No. 847 declaring the fourth Sunday of September each year “Family Thanksgiving Day.”
On 26 Jan. 2012, President Benigno S. Aquino III issued Proclamation No. 326 declaring the fourth Monday of September each year “Kainang Pamilya, Mahalaga Day,” to be observed in conjunction with National Family Week.
His proclamation encourages families to share a common family meal for “parents to stay connected with their children and understand the challenges they face,” and to “highlight and celebrate the value of families sharing meals together as a national tradition that should be observed annually and sustained by all Filipino families.”
This year’s observance
The 28th NFW falls on Sep. 21 to 27 this year, Family Thanksgiving Day on Sep. 27, and Kainang Pamilya, Mahalaga (KPM) Day on Sep. 28.
Last year on KPM Day, classes and government work (except frontliners) were dismissed at 2 p.m. so people could go home early to enjoy dinner with their families.
For this year’s NFW, the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) and the Commission on Population and Development (POPCOM), along with other government partners, are calling for families to be shielded against economic woes and pandemic-related violence.
Popcom chief Undersecretary Juan Antonio Perez III said all Filipino families are experiencing “unprecedented changes in their way of life” because of the pandemic.
He added that threats not only come from outside, such as economic activities, but also from within the family itself, such as violence and abuse against women and children.
Making it meaningful
The government means well by instituting such observances, which are gentle reminders to us not to take our families for granted.
Rather than thinking of these as corny or boring, let’s reflect about these observances seriously and about how we treat our family members.
Last week, I was surprised when a teenage relative confided that her parents did not talk to her during meals; instead, they were on their mobile phones the whole time and barely paid her any attention. I became concerned because she is at an impressionable, formative age and such disappointments can create psychic wounds.
Another relative recently contracted COVID-19 and we were in fear for his life. Luckily he responded well to treatment and has recovered. But the incident reminded us that life is short and we may suddenly lose our family members, as such things are not in our hands but in that of fate.
NFW and KPM are opportunities to be thankful for those around us, to celebrate family solidarity and find ways to be kinder to each other. Now that the pandemic has forced us to stay home most of the time, let us reassess how we treat each other and resolve to do better.
Put that mobile phone down and pay attention to what your child is telling you about their day. If they’re not talking to you, then there might be a problem; try to find out and help. Be kind and understanding. And if you or family members are being abused, seek help and counseling.
This is a good time to think about making Family Thanksgiving Day/KPM an actual thing and build a family tradition around it, starting with a hearty meal and perhaps giving little presents or tokens of appreciation to each family member such as letters that list their positive traits and why you are grateful for them.
Let’s not keep these family days under the radar. If enough people got behind them, particularly the media, the private sector, and civic groups (as all three proclamations enjoin), these observances could gain traction and become the start of a proactive trend towards building and strengthening the Filipino family, particularly in these trying times. During this pandemic, as always, a strong, tight-knit, and loving family is our best support.
Hashtag #NationalFamilyWeek or #FamilyThanksgiving, anyone? *** FB and Twitter: @DrJennyO