Sun, 10 Oct 1999

Filial piety, an obligation?

I dare say that few students of English come across the definition of piety. My definition is of the children's obligation when they reach adulthood to take care of their parents when the latter are in the sunset of their lives. In some Asian countries where the social welfare system for the aged is still far behind that of European nations, filial piety or devotion is of prime importance.

I would like to relate the following story. Efer is an old woman of 75 who worked as a cook for a travel bureau, catering to 13 people. Although her two women bosses were deeply religious and devotedly served their church, they were stingy toward their cook. Efer had no option but to endure patiently all of life's hardships for six long years.

One day she received a letter from her son in Surabaya inviting her to live with him. She did not hesitate to accept his offer, which she took to be evidence of his filial devotion.

As fate would have it, Efer found after three months living with her son that he was a callous man. At 51, he held no respect, let alone filial piety, for his old mother. Feeling that his mother was nothing but a burden, he often treated her coarsely, using abusive terms such as "you tramp". Efer was left shocked and dismayed at her son's behavior, which she had never imagined.