The objective of this ethnographic interview is to be able to familiarize the interviewer with the culture, beliefs, traditions and language of one of the care givers from the Philippines. The role of care givers around the world is significant because they provide care to people who are impaired by sickness, illness or old age. Even young children are dependent on care givers to provide assistance in their daily sustenance such as taking a bath, eating and dressing up. The person that I decided to interview is a care giver who is a Filipino, married and have 3 children of her own that she left in the Philippines. Her name is Lily Santos and I met her in one of the nursing homes near our home.
I recruited Lily Santos for this interview because I want to know more about her culture in the Philippines, the language they speak, the values and traditions of her family and how she cope with the demands of being a care giver for the elderly in the nursing home where she is employed. The name Lily Santos is not the real name of the interviewee.
During the interview, I discovered that Lily and her husband are divorced and she is left with three (3) children to send to school and provide for their needs because her husband was unemployed. Lily had a good command of the English language and her native dialect in her country was “Tagalog”. I was able to sense that Lily had experienced a painful past because she was on the verge of tears every time she talks about her family back home. I can feel that she is a very nurturing and sensitive of the needs of the people she works for. I admire care givers like Lily because she devotes most of her time caring for other people, while she has three (3) young children who also needs her attention and guidance. However, due to poverty in her country, Lily had to seek employment abroad to provide the needs of her family. She comes from a close-knit family and very close to her mother, who knows stands are the mother of her children while she is working abroad. Lily explained to me that in the Philippines, one of the known Filipino traditions is having close family ties. Hence, it is not unusual that in one home, they have extended family members who live close to each other. Even if their children had reached adulthood or the age of majority of 18 years, the children still stay with their parents even until they get married. This is not the practice to those from the Western culture because the children, once they reach the age of 18 are expected to move out of the family home and look for a job to support themselves. This is not the typical scenario in the Filipino culture because the parents support their children’s college education and sometimes, even until the children have kids of their own.
Based from the story of Lily, one of the reasons why she was separated from her husband was because Lily cannot leave her own mother. Lily’s husband was based in California where he worked as a computer programmer. He stayed in the U.S. to become an immigrant, hoping that he can petition his whole family so that they will all live in America. When her husband became an immigrant, he asked Lily to come with him in the U.S. so that they can start to build their home but the children will have to stay behind under the care of Lily’s mother. However, Lily refused to leave the Philippines and leave her very young children aged 2, 4 and 6 under the care of her sick mother. This became the primary reason why her husband left her for another woman because it appeared that Lily loved her mother and children more than her husband. I can sense the pain in Lily’s voice when she vividly recalled the events in her life. It was her husband who filed for divorce in order to marry the new woman in his life. It was a very sad story of a mother’s love for her children and her own mother that she sacrificed her own happiness.
While I was asking Lily the questions regarding her family, her culture and her present job, I assured her that her identity will remain undisclosed and that her real name will not be stated during the interview. During this interview, I have learned that people who come from third world countries have to try their luck working abroad hoping for a promise of a good future for the family. Being a caregiver is one of the noblest professions in the world because it nurtures, cares and provide the love and attention that the families of the elderly cannot give them. It is one of the hardest jobs because it requires rendering of quality service. I learned to admire the caregiver profession after my interview with Lily because she was able to show me how selfless she was to her clients and her dedication was commendable.
I noticed that Lily was had a good command for the English language because she finished a college degree in banking and commerce her country. She was a bank teller before she migrated abroad and decided to become a caregiver. I used unstructured interview approach for this assignment wherein I asked open-ended questions on the caregiver profession and allowed Lily to answer in her own pace using her own words. As Lily was answering my open-ended questions, she revealed most of her sentiments in life and how she values her family. Even if she was working away from her family, she tries to be strong for them to give her children a good future someday. She believes that giving them education is her most important gift to her children that no amount of money can buy. She is very self-reliant, hardworking and passionate about life. Her resilience and determination are her strongest assets which kept her stayed focus on her goal. I also notice her conviction based on the tone of her voice. She was hopeful and positive in life. There are times when she would pause to think, but most of the questions were answered as honestly as she can.
Before I started with the interview, I asked Lily for her consent if I can share a portion of the interview to the public. The interviewee did not hesitate in giving her consent because she told me that she wanted to share her story which may inspire other people. Despite the difficulties she encountered in her chosen profession, she still feel fortunate that she was given the opportunity to work abroad and send money to her family. I purposely chose to conduct an unstructured interview in order to make the interviewee feel at ease and not intimidated by asking the same set of questions in the same sequence and set of conditions during structured interviews (Ferraro 100).
As part of the preparations for this interview, I explained to the interviewee the nature of the assignment and obtained her consent. I listened very closely to be answers and non-verbal behaviors. I also spoke as slowly as possible and asked questions direct to the point. I used a tape recorder to record our interview and so that I will be able to document her exact answers. I also followed ethical considerations by not making the questions offensive considering that the “caregiver profession” has sometimes been criticized and belittled by some people. One of the challenges that I encountered during this interview is how not to be carried away by the emotions of the interviewee by becoming passive but accommodating at the same time. I was able to maintain cultural sensitivity by allowing the interviewee to speak in an informal manner and not to be intimated by the questions.
The three major learnings that I gained from completing this assignment is how to become a good listeners, to become sensitive of the non-verbal behavior of the interviewee to capture his or her true emotions and how to give the interviewee the respect and dignity in answering the straightforward questions.
Blommaert, J. and Verschueren, J. (1991). The Pragmatics of Intercultural and International Communication. Belgium: John Benjamins Publishing.
Ellis, C. (2004). The Ethnographic I: A Methodological Novel about Autoethnography. California: Rowman Altamira.
Ferraro, F. (2007). Cultural Anthropology: An Applied Perspective: An Applied Perspective. California: Cengage.
Schensul, S.L., Schensul, J.J. and LeCompte, M.D. (1999). Essential Ethnographic Methods: Observations, Interviews, and Questionnaires. California: Rowman Altamira.
White, L., Miescher, S. and Cohen, D.W. (2001). African Words, African Voices: Critical Practices in Oral History. Indiana: Indiana University Press.