IN THE thick of the fast-moving world, do Filipino families really take the time to just sit down and have a calm dinner on an ordinary night? Is there real connection between parents and children today or is it all superficial?

For the past years, it would seem like only during special occasions like the eve of Noche Buena and Media Noche are most tables in every home filled to the brim with endless supply of food and conversation.

In the last decade, the Philippines has become the major supplier of labor migrants to over 100 countries. More than 8 million (10%) out of the 85 million Filipinos were working or living abroad and more than three thousand Filipino workers leave the country everyday as Overseas Filipino Workers (OFW), hence transnational family has become a norm in the Philippines.

A more pressing concern is with regards to the children left behind. Though there is no systematic data on the number of these children, it is estimated on several studies done by nongovernmental organizations and local government organizations in Manila, that there are approximately nine million Filipino children under the age of 18 or 27% of the total youth who are left behind by one or both parents to work tentatively or live permanently abroad.

There is also the increasing clamor for the Divorce Bill being proposed by the Gabriela Women’s Party in the House of Representatives which is against the core of the Family Code that we have in the Philippines. The family, being the foundation of the nation, is a basic social institution which public policy cherishes and protects.

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“Consequently, family relations are governed by law and no custom, practice or agreement destructive of the family shall be recognized or given effect,” stated in the Executive Order no. 209 or Family Code of 1987, article 149.

Related to this is also the number of annulment cases in the Philippines which has alarmingly risen by 40 percent, from 4,520 in 2001 to 8,282 in 2010, with at least 22 cases filed every day based on the records from the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG). The data also showed that 82 percent of those who filed for annulment had children, who are ought to be affected.

The crux of the dilemma is who sits down with these children in a table to talk to them on a daily basis? Who will shape their identity and sense of what a true family is?

Meanwhile, in conservative countries like the Philippines where mental health is rarely discussed the figures for suicidal rate has slowly been growing in the last 21 years with the majority of cases involving young people of 24 years old and below based on records collected from the National Statistics Office.

Out of all these disturbing matters of declining family life, the question of utmost importance is where can we start connecting to the Filipino youth of this generation on a deeper level.

The answer is simple if we look back to what is slowly lacking in our homes today and that is the benefits of meaningful table talks. Most research suggests that both parents and children place high value on sharing meals together and find the experience to be worthwhile and gratifying after a day’s tiring cycle of frenzied schedules and hefty workloads.

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Leonard Sweet, in his book “From Tablet to Table,” tackled the importance of bringing back the table to our homes, communities and churches.

Since these days, we do not take much time to just sit down and swap stories with our family members like we used to during dinner or family meals, Sweet emphasized that we should find time and make an effort to personally converse with the people who are dear to us, and to take pleasure in the communal benefits of fellowship and conversation.

“The table is the place where identity is born—the place where the story of our lives is retold, re-molded, and relived,” Sweet wrote.

Jesus Christ Himself connected most to His disciples during the meals of exchanging food and good faith in the table; that is why the Last Supper leaves a poignant message to all Christians for it was the very last time Christ shared a meal with the 12 disciples. It is not merely the food that matters in the table but the collective “breaking of bread” with our loved ones over conversation and laughter.

The family table has the potential to become a positively transformative place for those who gather around it. Building blocks of the community as well as the formation of one’s identity can be taught and formed in the table. One out of many benefits of eating meals together is the effect on strengthening family bonds and sense of one’s identity.

It would be beneficial for all Filipino families to realize that it should not take a special occasion to gather the whole brood up in a meal, but rather to make it a daily occurrence. Although there is no absolute guarantee that eating together will resolve all family problems, it may provide the opportunity to make a fresh start and a strong foundation. In the end, the table can serve as the stronghold on which a family can stand on in a world where authentic relationships are gradually being lost due to the modern ideas of “fast-food and [a] together-but-separate society.”

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