The Filipino Obsession with PAT Babies

My nephew JoJo

Meet my little nephew, JoJo (officially, Solomon Joseph but that didn’t stick).  He is “PAT” (Tagalog English for fat (using the word “PAT” was my Filipino brother-in-law’s idea)).  And he is the cutest baby ever.  Most of his powers of attraction are attributable to his one year-old fatness.

As much as every culture appreciates a chubby baby, there is something about the Filipino culture that just adores fat babies.  As I got to see JoJo this weekend, this post is dedicated to him:

Filipinos think fat babies are cutest – There are no two ways about it: whether or not a baby is stereotypically good looking, fatness is the deciding factor.  It is the x factor that changes everything.  In fact, a baby with less in the way of traditional “beauty” genes will generate more attention than one with more, if he or she is chubbier.  Kind of nice.

The highest compliment you can pay a baby is to say “Oh he/she’s so BIG” – Watch any Filipino gathering.  When Filipinos see their friends’ babies you are BOUND to hear some comment about how big the baby is.  Of course, people from other cultures will remark on children that have grown but there is something about the Filipino enthusiasm about the sheer size of babies and toddlers that is unique.  Don’t believe me?  Hit any Filipino potluck, grab a plate of pancit and watch.

They are always offering up food to the baby - Babies and toddlers are doted over and fed relentlessly.  The Filipino love affair with food must come from this early experience of growing up around food.  The mere experience of watching a baby being fed draws onlookers in the Filipino community.  Aunties, uncles, interested friends and random passersby will gather around the feeding baby:  “Look at him eat, he is so Pat !

But they don’t like fat kids – There’s always a catch.  Once you turn 10, fatness is no longer a plus.  (Trust me, I was a chubby 10 year-old living in the Philippines and I got hell for it.)  You better hope on some kind of a growth spurt…. and the development of considerable musical and/or academic prowess.  The doting process has transitioned into a 20-year pressure cooker that, in the United States, had better result in your ascension to the loftier rungs of the medical field… but that’s another post.

I’ll close with this video of some of my Filipino (Salagubang) family trying to get JoJo to look the right way for a picture yesterday…




Bjorn Karlman


14 thoughts on “The Filipino Obsession with PAT Babies”

  1. I love PAT babies. My first is very small although there was a couple months after she was first born when she was really fat. My second, though, is a genuine fat kid. At least when you consider the relatively small size of his parents.

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  3. First of all I’ve never met Filipino’s like this in my life. There are many points here that were generalized. My family and the Filipinos I know just aren’t like this. The whole 20 something and the expectancy to be great is common amongst the Asians, but I’m lucky my parents didn’t pressure my brother and I to earn six figures or else.

    1. Eleanor, I am so glad you said this. Quite frankly, this is something I agonize over every time I write about a specific culture. It is hard to do so without making sweeping statements. With this post I made sure that I had several Filipino proof readers look it over before I published. I would be interested in hearing more about how you grew up if you feel that the above approach to chubby toddlers did not hold for your Fil-Am experience…

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