Cultural Interview
written & conducted by Paige Phelps


I interviewed "Flamingo," a Filipino women, in her mid-60's, married to a Filipino man, upper-class (i.e. both doctors), Catholic background, who immigrated to the U.S. from her native land - the Philippines.

I'd like to clarify before I go any further that there was a definite "cultural communication barrier" in that "Flamingo" had difficulty understanding several of the questions & my attempts to rephrase the questions unfortunately did not seem to be helpful. With that in mind, here is what I was able to gather from the interview, which I might add, I found to be very intriguing!!

Flamingo was able to go into great detail regarding the 1st question, which proves to be the heart of my interview:

What kind of traditions & rituals do you have to commemorate a death? "After a death there is a 10 day rosery in which a group of people (i.e. both immediate & extended family), get together at the home of the deceased & have daily prayer meetings to honor the deceased." What I found to be extremely facinating is that the body of the deceased remained (embalmed -spelling?) in the house during these 10 days of prayer.

There are other facets of this ritual/tradition as well. For example, everyone in the family must wear black for one year. This includes gender expectations & variations in that men must wear black around their arm and women must wear a black cloth. In addition, during this year, there are to be no marriages or party's (i.e. no celebrations of any kind).

When I asked Flamingo, "how she felt about life after death" - she became somewhat "giddy" (e.g. she giggled & seemed a little embarrassed) in that she wasn't quite sure how she felt about it. She said that some of her family (i.e. grandma, aunt) believes in this concept because they claimed that they actually heard a voice once coming from a

cousin that had died. She said that she's also heard about it on "those shows" on T.V. She concluded by saying, "I don't know, I guess it's true, the "people" say it's true."

"Critique" of interview:

I really enjoyed this "task." I found the interview fascinating & the cultural differences between myself and "Flamingo" to be astounding!! What I found to be so interesting (as a result of this interview & from our readings) is that despite our cultural & gender differences, we still all share the same goal(s): to make sense of the grieving process & to get on with our lives; not to be mistaken w/letting go or forgetting about the deceased but somehow integrating this "new" relationship w/the deceased into our lives in such a way that will enable us to lead our lives in a more "manageable" way.

I think that Shapiro describes more eloquently what I'm referring to as common cultural "goals" as, "the utility of cultural practices (e.g. rituals/traditions) as a means of helping families as they cope w/a loss in order to enable the family to move through the tasks they need to accomplish in order to successfully deal w/the loss."


Return to Cultural Interviews
Written for Grief in a Family Context, HPER F460, Summer, 1998.
(C) 1998, Paige Phelps. All rights reserved. Interested parties may contact her through the course instructor, at gilbertk@indiana.edu.