FAMILIES IN THE PHILIPPINES: GODPARENTS, KINSHIP STRUCTURE AND BLOOD FEUDS

FAMILIES IN THE PHILIPPINES

Family ties are very strong in the Philippines and traditionally greater emphasis has been put on the family than individuals. Families have traditionally been bound together by loyalty, respect and affection. Family members are expected to follow rules set by the head of the household rather than pursuing their own individual agenda. Extended families often live together, and often one child is expected to live with the parents. All children have traditionally inherited property equally with the house going to the child who took care of the parents.

The 1953 civil code enshrines the family as the basic social unit and mandates that it be cherished and protected. In 1973, the Constitution reaffirmed that one of the duties of the State was to make the family strong. Inheritance laws are based on those in the United States. These laws provide that all children acknowledged by a father, whether born in or out of wedlock, share equally in the estate. Females share equally with males.

The nuclear family, one’s kin and personal alliances are all important in the Philippines. Large extended families often live in the same house. In many cases nuclear families would prefer to live on their own but are forced by space and money constraints to live together. Social relationships are often molded out of real kinship ties, ritual kinship relations and relationships based on special debts of gratitude. Family relationships also shape other relations in business and the community.

Compadrazgo (god parenthood) is an important feature of Philippines family life. Non-relatives are accepted into families as godfathers ( padrinos) and godmothers ( madrinas). godfather and godmother, who serve as allies to parents in martial matters of the natural parents’ children. There are sometimes special terms for first born and last born and the children in between.

According to everyculture.com: “The extended family is the most important societal unit, especially for women. Women's closest friendships come from within the family. Mothers and daughters who share a home make decisions concerning the home without conferring with male family members. One child remains in the family home to care for the parents and grandparents. This child, usually a daughter, is not necessarily unmarried. The home may include assorted children from the extended family, and single aunts and uncles. Several houses may be erected on the same lot to keep the family together. Childcare is shared. Fathers carry and play with children but are unlikely to change diapers. Grandparents who live in the home are the primary care givers for the children since both parents generally work. Preschool grandchildren who live in other communities may be brought home for their grandparents to raise. Indigent relatives live in the family circle and provide as household and childcare help. Young people may work their way through college by exchanging work for room and board. Family bonds are so close that nieces and nephews are referred to as one's own children and cousins are referred to as sisters and brothers. Unmarried adult women may legally adopt one of a sibling's children. [Source: everyculture.com]

In the Philippines often men like to hang out with men and women like to hang out with women. Within households it not uncommon for a half dozen children or family members to sleep in the same room or even the same bed. Middle- and upper-class Filipino families elect to have fewer children, two on average, as compared to three or more for the less educated and low-income families.

1987 Family Code

1987 Family Code states that: 1) The husband and wife are obliged to live together, observe mutual love, respect and fidelity, and render mutual help and support. (Art. 68), 2) The husband and wife shall fix the family domicile. In case of disagreement, the court shall decide. The court may exempt one spouse from living with the other if the latter should live abroad or there are other valid and compelling reasons for the exemption. However, such exemption shall not apply if the same is not compatible with the solidarity of the family. (Art. 69). 3) The spouses are jointly responsible for the support of the family. The expenses for such support and other conjugal obligations shall be paid from the community property and, in the absence thereof, from the income or fruits of their separate properties. In case of insufficiency or absence of said income or fruits, such obligations shall be satisfied from the separate properties. (Art. 70) [Source: kasal.com *^*]

4) The management of the household shall be the right and the duty of both spouses. The expenses for such management shall be paid in accordance with the provisions of Article 70. (Art. 71). 5) When one of the spouses neglects his or her duties to the conjugal union or commits acts which tend to bring danger, dishonor or injury to the other or to the family, the aggrieved party may apply to the court for relief. (Art. 72) 6) Either spouse may exercise any legitimate profession, occupation, business or activity without the consent of the other. The latter may object only on valid, serious, and moral grounds. *^*

7) In case of disagreement, the court shall decide whether or not: a) The objection is proper; and b) Benefit has occurred to the family prior to the objection or thereafter. If the benefit accrued prior to the objection, the resulting obligation shall be enforced against the separate property of the spouse who has not obtained consent. The foregoing provisions shall not prejudice the rights of creditors who acted in good faith. (Art. 73)

Strong Filipino Family Ties

According to Thank God I'm Filipino: “In the country the people put family ties and relations as one of their top priorities. Filipinos would do all they could to provide and sustain their respective families. This is present in Filipino festivals where they invite the whole family and in Sundays where they would make time to use it to spend the whole day for their families. [Source: Thank God I'm Filipino - TGIF, Facebook, October 8, 2010 +++]

“You will find that it is common in the country to include the extended members not just the normal nuclear family. It is not unusual that in a single household it would reach up to ten members of a family living under the same roof. They value each other’s company, and everyone strives to provide for the whole and not just for them. +++

“Even grandparents still have an active role in the family. It is now the norm in the society that both parents are out working, leaving the care of their children to the lolos and lolas, especially if the family cannot afford to hire a nanny. Grandparents therefore become responsible for instilling into their grandchildren the values and morals they taught to their own children, further increasing the importance of the elderly in our society.” +++

Family Stories from the Philippines

Edilberto Alegre wrote in his From Pinoy na Pinoy column in Businessworld: "These are stories from my hometown, Victoria in the province of Tarlac (Central Luzon). True-to-life love stories. There are many such stories there. The first has to do with the parents of my closest friend, Ely. His father, Apo Sinti, was taciturn. Ely feared him. He knew he could whip a guava branch to pulp on an offending son's butt. During his entire life Ely remembers only one event -- the father made a top for him using only a bolo (sword). He does not remember him talking to him at all. In contrast, the mother -- Apo La Paz -- was always talking. They had a huge house on our Calle Real (now Rizal St.) and they had always a slew of maids. She inherited quite a large mass of riceland so she was used to ordering people about. [Source: Edilberto Alegre, From Pinoy na Pinoy column, Businessworld February 14, 2002, Center for Southeast Asian Studies Northern Illinois University, seasite.niu.edu ]

“Apo Sinti found eating at the family table a bother. Perhaps he could not stand Apo La Paz's incessant yakking which became worse during meals. So, Apo Sinti had his special table in the kitchen. A rather small one. He always ate ahead of everybody. Apo La Paz herself, not a maid, would set the table. Then she'd have him called. He'd come, sit down, and eat silently. She'd be bustling in the kitchen -- checking the food a-cooking on the stoves, the setting of their huge family table, the gradual filling up of the dining room with people, food, and the drinks and sweets which were on another table ready for serving. During all this she would check on Apo Sinti -- saw to his glass of iced water which had to be replenished always, and the banana which was his preferred fruit. They did not speak with each other. He ate all that was served him. She knew exactly how much rice he ate and what viands he preferred and how much of these he consumed. Then as silently as he came in, he'd leave. Apo La Paz would then call one of the maids to clean the table and place it in one corner of the kitchen.

“One Sunday morning, Apo Sinti staggered to a traysikad, a bicycle with a side car, even before the mass ended in our one Catholic Church proximate to the town plaza. He didn't make it back to their house. He had a heart attack. Apo La Paz cried, but she didn't wail. She saw to all the funeral arrangements. She was the overseer of the wake. After the funeral she retired to her room. She had to be called for the family meals. She receded into silence. After a month, she died.

“The second story, has to do with the old couple across our house. I don't remember their names. They were a very quiet, self-contained husband-and-wife. They married late, it seems. Their only child was a loquacious tall male who since childhood manifested strong signs of effeminateness. The son was away for high school. And then a terribly extended medical schooling. They didn't seem to mind. The old man hardly went out of the house. The old woman we hardly saw. All that I remember of them is her standing around as he watered the many plants their son loved. Their yard was a veritable garden. Every few days a young boy would sweep the yard. The old couple would be seated in their veranda. I have no recollection of their voices. But they did talk with each other. I could see them from our own second-floor veranda.

“One day the old man fell ill. The young boy called my father, who was a medical doctor. My father said it was serious. After three days he died. The effeminate son came back and made quite a scene in his wailing and flailing about. He returned to his medical school after the funeral. We only got news of the old woman from the young boy who stayed with her. He was the son of one of their tenants. He said that she refused to go out of her room. He served her her meals there. She receded into silence. After two weeks, she died.

Understanding the Filipino Kinship Structure

Because of the closeness of the immediate family, all familial ties are recognized. Anyone who is remotely related is known as a cousin. Indigenous tribes live in clan groups. Marriage into another clan may mean that the individual is considered dead to his or her clan.

According to laonlaan.blogspot.jp: “The Filipino family displays great solidarity. Emphasizing loyalty and support of the blood group, frequently to the neglect of social organization of broader dimensions such as town or nation or even law. To expound further, the basic social unit of the Filipino society is the elementary family of mother, father and children, and the extended bilateral family which includes consanguinity relatives of both the mother and father. The influence of the family permeates all facets of Philippine society. It is the primary unit of corporate action about which social, economic, and religious activities revolve. Religion is family and home-centered to a notable degree. Economic activities, agriculture, fishing and cottage industries commonly involve all adult members of the family in cooperative labor; with the children included as well. Large corporations in the Philippines are characteristically family-owned. Nepotism in government and business is widespread; a reflection of family cohesiveness. [Source:laonlaan.blogspot.jp, June 19, 2010 |::| ]

“In the typical village, political organization is weakly developed. Activities are usually organized on the basis of familial alliance and common economic and ritual interests. Leadership is provided by the dominant family (or families), the primary determinants of the leadership being wealth and the size of the kin group. In a typical town/village election, you will find that the qualifications of a candidate will not matter if he is running against someone from the dominant family in the area. No matter how good a candidate’s qualification and experience is, the candidate with most family members would surely win. |::|

“‘The cohesiveness of the family also has a powerful influence upon interpersonal relationships, particularly with non-kinsmen. An offence against one of its members is interpreted as a threat to the whole family and families often stand up for each other whether or not their objective is right or wrong. The family provides a secure environment for its members, in sharp contrast to the often uncertain and delicate relationships with non-relatives …’ The Filipino nuclear family is bilateral; relatives of both husband and wife count equally as relatives, unlike matrilineal or patrilineal societies. To the Filipino kinship group, it is the child who establishes the kinship bond, from the child’s grandparents, uncles and aunts, and down the line, forming the common link to both families. This is why children are very important to the kinship group.” |::|

How Filipino Kinship Structure Can Get a Foreigner Into Trouble

According to laonlaan.blogspot.jp: “Why is it important for a foreigner to understand the Filipino kinship structure? You are driving along the motorway when suddenly a boy dashes in front of you and you hit him. What would you do? Foreigners would say, you get out and find help and apologize the boys parents. WRONG! Not in the Philippines! In instances like this it is better to pick the boy up immediately and take him to the nearest hospital. It would be very risky to linger in the site because as more village folk gather at the scene the emotional atmosphere builds up; a mob of the injured boy’s relatives could get physical. Should one find himself involved in a road accident, where a mob has started to grumble, it may be better to drive off quickly and report to the nearest police station. Village and town folks in the Philippines are of one or two kin groups’, they will definitely sympathize with the victim, who is a kin, and resent the outsider. [Source: laonlaan.blogspot.jp, June 19, 2010 |::|]

“Kinship structure motivates the Filipino’s behavior . The Filipino values “”hiya””, “”amor-propio””, “utang na loob” and “ “pakikisama” ” very often apply only within each kinship grouping rather than in universal fashion. An outsider is viewed as fair game and a different set of values is applied to deal with such persons or groups. For example, it is to be expected that a tourist will be charged more than others, but once the ‘tourist’ has been identified as a guest or friend of someone within the group, the tourist gets a fair price because he is no longer seen as a passing outsider.” |::|

Here are some other instances: “Example 1: An American Peace Corps worker assigned to a rural area loves to bathe in the river in a skimpy bikini and walk about the village in tight shorts. While hiking by herself in the forest she is sexually assaulted by two men and when she runs back to the village for help, in place of sympathy, the village response is that she had provoked the situation by being a ‘Sexy American’. |::|

Example 2: An American scientist has worked out a program to improve the poultry stock in the Philippines by introducing a fine breed from the United States. At great expense, the exotic roosters are distributed to selected farmers in several barrios. The scientist then takes to the field to inspect the progress of the poultry improvement project. Having been informed of the coming visit of so important a personage, one farmer, in keeping with Filipino hospitality, makes preparations to welcome the VIP with the best he could offer. On his arrival at the farmer’s house, the American scientist is treated to a small feast-and on his dinner plate is the prize chicken, fried. The Filipino host feels only the best will suffice for his honored guest and, of course, the exotic bird is the best he has to offer.” |::|

Compradrazco (God Parenthood) in the Philippines

Susan Russell of Northern Illinois University wrote: “The Roman Catholic emphasis on godparents became known as compadrazgo, which celebrates the alliance of two families in marriage. The godparent institution is a common and important institution in countries like the Philippines (and Malaysia) where marriages traditionally were arranged between families. In these areas, long before the advent of Islam or Christianity, it was considered customary and desirable for the heads of two friendly families to cement their 'alliance' by arranging an appropriate marriage for their children--in many cases while their children were still very young. The goal of such arrangements was to ensure that each family's child (and eventual married couple) would always have concerned advice and support from all of their affinal (or in-law) relatives as well as blood relatives so as to enable them to establish themselves firmly in the future. [Source: Professor Susan Russell, Department of Anthropology, Northern Illinois University, Center for Southeast Asian Studies Northern Illinois University, seasite.niu.edu \^/]

“Personalism is an important social value in Manobo society, and this is clearly evident and also shared among the lowland Christian Filipinos. Specifically, friendly relations are materialized during Christian rituals of baptism and marriage when parents of baptized and married children socialize with their neighbor-friends. Roughly the same age group/set as the parents of the baptized and married children, friends--usually non-consanguinous kin and those that they have known intimately in the workplace--are taken in as ritual sponsors. \^/

“Thus, interdependent social relations among the parties concerned are initiated/constructed and maintained in the said ritualized events. They assume the roles of patrons and clients. Patrons appropriate their status and role as their clients seek their spiritual godparenthood guidance. This comes--of course--with material motivations. Ritual sponsors, the patrons, are addressed ninong/maninoy and ninang/maninay by the baptized and married couples whom the godparents reciprocally call ina-anak. Patrons are sought for by their prospective kumpares and kumares (clients), the parents of the baptized and married children, because sponsors/patrons are perceived to be helpful in the clients’ lives as well as in their children’s in the future, guaranteeing emotional support, job placements, recommendations, source of loans in times of need and crises. In addition, ritual sponsors also find the patron-client arrangement beneficial because their clients give them deference and loyalty. \^/

“Given the personalism that is so pervasive in the Philippines, compadrazgo creates interpersonal networks. Anyone doing a transaction in the Philippines would know how important these connections are in getting things done. With this in mind, patrons can be construed as some kind of a social capital. \^/

Compadre System in the Philippines

John Miele wrote in liveinthephilippines.com: The Compadre System, or the “Extended Family” is the basis of Filipino social structure. When they say “Extended Family” that doesn’t mean that there is a blood relationship, or even a marital relationship. Some “family members” are chosen, rather than being truly related. The Compadre System is a kinship system which extends one’s relationships beyond one’s immediate family to include up to about 400 people. Can you imagine? 400 people! One thing that I often hear from foreigners who marry in the Philippines is that their wife (or husband!) has so much family, and they probably will not even meet all of them, much less remember them all. While it is true, some of these people that are called “cousins” or “uncles or aunts” may not actually be blood relatives at all, but rather “adopted” extended family. [Source: John Miele, , liveinthephilippines.com, January 13, 2009 ^=^]

“Basically, the way that Filipino society is structured starts out with the individual himself. The individual person is really not the focus, as the group or barkada is much stronger, and the individual is expected to conform to the others, and not really show individualism like we we westerns do. The next layer of the society, in relation to the individual is the blood relationship. This would include immediate family (parents, brothers, sisters), and extend out to cousins, aunts, uncles, nephews, nieces and such. Anybody who has a blood relationship with that individual would be part of this layer of that person’s kinship system. The blood relationship would usually extend out to around 100 people, although that number would certainly vary. ^=^

“The next layer of this system is the marital relationship. As one family member marries another person, then the two families join into each other’s kinship system. In the USA, where I come from, the families of two people who marry generally do not form a relationship with each other, unless they are very, very close to the people who marry. Of course, the groom would become close with the bride’s family, and vice versa. Here, though, the ties between families of people who marry become much closer and go much deeper. This layer of the kinship system extends the “family circle” up to around 200 or 300 pepole. That extended family is starting to get kind of big, don’t you think? ^=^

“OK, we still have one more layer to look at. That layer is the Ritual Kin. This generally consists of people whom you choose to be kin, instead of them being chooses by blood or by others who decide to marry. As an example, if a couple has a baby, when the baby is baptised, the couple chooses “Ninongs” and “Ninangs” for the child. The English equivalent of this would be Godfathers and Godmothers. In my society, though, usually there is one Godfather and one Godmother. Here, there can be many of each. I suppose any number can be chosen, but in general 3 or 4 of each will probably be chosen. Basically, once you have served as a Ninong, you become a relation to each of the other Ninongs, each of the Ninangs, and the family of the child. Recently, I served as Ninong for a child of a friend. The photo you see above in this article was taken at a lunch that we all enjoyed together after the Church service. The friend who’s child was baptised is a very good friend, and a reader of this site. I am not going to identify her, because I don’t know if she wants to be publicly identified. If she wants to, she can do so in the comments. While we were having lunch, one of the other Ninongs came to me and said “we are Kompare now” which means that we are sort of “family” to each other, or at least very close friends. Probably more than just friends, though, it’s a special relationship. Now, this not only includes baptisms, but weddings, and such too. Imagine how the extended family can grow when these relationships are added! The Ritual Kin extends the Kinship system of the individual out to around 400 people, although there is not set rule, and it can be more or less than the number I gave. ^=^

Kinship Terminology in the Philippines

In his analysis in the 1919 paper “Kinship Terminology in the Philippines,” A. L. Kroeber starts off by describing the main family members: “Father: amq. Magindanao uses also hapa, which is either a loan from Malay, or a non-differentiation of use of a term for uncle and father. Mother: ina. Malay alone shows ihu and mak, of which the latter seems to mean both aunt and mother, parallel to hapa. Son, Daughter: Luzon and Malay, anak; Mindanao, anak or ivata; but either term means child generically. Husband and Wife: asawa is the commonest term. It seems always to have the generic meaning of spouse. [Source: A. L. Kroeber, Anthropological Papers, The American Museum Of Natural History, 1919 ||||]

“Brother, Sister: The material is incomplete, but indicates greater variablity than for any other set of relationships. The outstanding features are (1) normally a generic term for any brother or sister, which is perhaps the most frequently used; (2) normally, but not always, separate terms for older sibling and younger sibling; (3) no distinction for sex except for older brother and sister in the languages of the two most civilized peoples, Tagalog and Malay; and (4) an enormous variability of the terms used. The commonest are agi, ari, ali, adik, which denotes variously sibling or older sibling or younger sibling or doler sister, and occurs in almost every language; kaka for older sibling, of either or both sexes, in Tagalog, Moro, and Malay; and ka-hesat, ka-pated, otad, and tulang, all meaning sibling generically. each in two or more separate languages. Other terms have only local usage, and are therefore mostly late coinages. It is noticeable that paucity and generalization of terms, both as regards sex and age, is greatest among the rude pagan peoples, in Mindanao as well as Luzon. Christians and Mohammedans are more given to particularizing. Whether they have elaborated or the pagans have reduced their terminology is not clear. The former process seems the more likely because the culture of the Tagalog and Moro and Malay has visibly formed by accretion of im- portations, whereas there is no evidence that the culture of the pagans has suffered reduction in respects other thar kinship. However, separate terms for older and younger sibling do occur among the pagans also. It seems therefore that two impulses may long have been opera- tive in all the languages; one to distinguish age among siblings, the other to class all siblings together. More widely comparative Malaysian studies will no doubt settle this point. But sex distinctions are clearly an accompaniment of more composite culture, and not original. ||||

“Uncle, Aunt, Nephew, Niece. One outstanding feature is the absence of distinction of the Hne of descent. Only Subanun has manak for father's brother and g-aya for mother's brother, and both these terms stand etymologically isolated in the list. The other notable trait is the poverty of specific terms for this class of relationships. So far as data go, every language lacks a stem meaning nephew-niece, but uses either its word for "child" outright, or a derivative from "child," or "child" plus a descriptive epithet. To a less degree, corresponding usage prevails for uncle and aunt. The Igorot use either "father" and "mother," or a derivative therefrom, or the term alitao. Kankanai alone has ikit for aunt, which occurs in Bontok for grandparent. Tagalog derives uncle from father, and for aunt uses ali, which may be an original sibling term. Moro has special words, hapa and hahu, of which the former occurs in Sambal and in Malay for father and uncle, while habu is replaced by Malay mak, denoting both the mother and the aunt. It is notable that in Malay these two generic words hapa and mak are augmented by sudara or su when they are to specify the collateral relative. The general inference from the data at large is that there are no ancient specific terms for uncle, aunt, nephew, or niece, or if there were, that there has been a general inclination to their disuse. ||||

Grandparents and Grandchildren. The prevalent term for this entire group of relations is apo. As this is also a term of deference, it appears that it is either a common noun which was applied to elders and grandparents and then by reciprocity to grandchildren; or that it is an originally reciprocal kinship term, whose application tc older relatives predominated in native consciousness and thus was extended into an honorific. A second stem is represented by Tagalog nuno, Malay nenek, grandparent. Tagalog retains apo for grandchild, Malay has replaced it by chuchu. Nowhere is sex distinguished in this class of relatives. ||||

Cousin. There is no general word. Mohammedans and Chris- tians use a variety of terms with European significance. The Igorot also have distinct words, which however seem to mean really kinsman, companion, or friend. It is likely that the Tagalog, Moro, and Malay terms originated similarly. ||||

Parent-in-law, Child-in-law. Sex is not distinguished except in Magindanao, which appears to use the father-uncle and mother-aunt terms. Ifugao says merely father, mother, or child. Magindanao uses a derivative from child for child-in-law. Nabaloi employs a self- reciprocal derivative from apo, grandparent-grandchild. Kankanai and Bontok have a distinct term katukangan for parent-in-law, the ending of which may reappear in Subanun ponongangan: both words are obviously expanded from simpler stems. The terms for child-in- law in these three languages are not available. Tagalog has a distinct word for child-in-law, manugang, and possibly for parent-in-law, hianan. Mala}^ follows a different principle from the Philippine languages : mentua is parent-in-law, menantu child-in-law. If these two terms go back to the same root, they constitute the only case of even approximate verbal reciprocity in Malay. ||||

“Brother-in-law, Sister-in-law. So far as the data go, each language normally has terms of its own. Kankanai kasud, brother-in-law, re- appears in Bontok, and aido, sister-in-law, in Ifugao, but in each case with the more generic meaning of sibling-in-law. Nabaloi also does not discriminate sex. Tagalog does. It seems therefore that the distinction is characteristic of complex as contrasted with simple civilization. Malay adheres to a different principle : the sex of the person denoted is indeterminate, but there appear to be distinct words according as the connection is through one's spouse or sibling. The two Malay terms however reappear in Tagalog, although with different meaning. ||||

Other Connections by Marriage. Bontok and Tagalog possess terms, which seem to be etymologically related, by which the spouses of sib- lings refer to each other. For Tagalog two terms are given as used by the parents of spouses. These may be formed on the analogy of Spanish consuegros. Ifugao sometimes adds -on to the words for father, mother, uncle, aunt, to designate the spouses of kin of an older generation. There are likely to be unrecorded terms, corresponding to those here mentioned, in other languages. ||||

Step-relatives. Tagalog calls step-parents uncle or aunt. Magin- danao similarly uses its uncle-father term bapa for stepfather. In other languages data are lacking. Malay adds tiri precisely as we prepose ''step-." This does not appear to be a native Filipino practice, and probably represents an adaptation of Malay to Eurasiatic practice. ||||

Blood Feuds in Mindanao

Blood feuds persist in Muslim Mindanao, in the southern Philippines. Longstanding blood feuds are known as "rido." Studies funded by the Asia Foundation and the U.S. Agency for International Development found there had been more than 1,200 clan feuds in the south since the 1930s. According to AFP: Muslim clans in the southern Philippines are well known for waging prolonged feuds, typically over land, political power or influence. They often use armed followers to attack each other. Such feuds claimed more than 5,500 lives and displaced thousands between the 1930s to 2005, according to the Asia Foundation. During such feuds, the government including the military, typically tries to negotiate for peace between rival sides rather than move to apprehend the contending parties. [Source: AFP, July 12, 2013]

Simone Orendain wrote in PRI, “What rido is, why and how it happens is not the easiest thing to explain. On one level it looks like a relatively simple Hatfields versus McCoys type of feud. But on another level it's more like gang warfare. Take Fatmawati Salapuddin's example. She has spent countless hours mediating between clans enmeshed in ridos. In the 1990's in Salapuddin's hometown in western Mindanao, her father's family and her mother's nephew fought over the same piece of lucrative farm land — with landmines, mortar shells and other weapons. "There were about 20 people killed on each side. They were already firing bombardment mortar, shelling, to the other side," Salapuddin said. [Source: Simone Orendain, PRI, July 25, 2011 /~/]

“In Muslim Mindanao, family squabbles like these can easily escalate into mini-wars, because of the sheer number of people involved. First of all "families" here aren't just mom, dad and the kids. They are clans made up of hundreds of parents, children, brothers, sisters, cousins, aunts, uncles and grandparents. Salapuddin said deadly fights can erupt over power, disputed land, or simply trying to preserve someone's "good name." "It's a terrible thing because people get killed, people get displaced, properties are burned, you know," she said. /~/

“And like many seemingly senseless conflicts, ridos can last for generations. "If the clans say, 'we need to fight this group so we're not vulnerable to predation,' family members and clan members, will join in that fight," said Francisco Lara, an anthropologist who studies the phenomenon in Mindanao and schedules meetings with peace workers during hurried lunches in Manila. "Able-bodied men from a very young age will be trained in the process of involvement in clan wars." What's more, some clan members belong to Muslim separatist groups or private militias, which mean they have easy access to weapons. /~/

“Lara said part of the reason that ridos persist is cultural. Well before the Philippines became a country, Muslims in Mindanao had something similar to a feudal system. And as in any feudal structure, power struggles are inevitable. "Mindanao has never really been part of the fold, so called, of the country, of the archipelago. Definitely represents something that is part of the old," Lara said. Another problem is geography. Because the region is far from the seat of power, governments have been unwilling, or unable, to provide support. Instead, he said, Spanish colonizers in the 1500's and Americans in the late 1800's co-opted leaders of elite families to keep order, plying them with money and political power. "The government has not even been able to extend its administrative reach, so in those areas only the clans can provide protection, only clans can provide welfare to local community members," Lara said. /~/

“Peace workers say constituents don't see any perks from the deals with the government, so basic needs like school upkeep and infrastructure go unfunded. Plus, jobs are scarce. They say constituents would just as soon pick up a gun to survive in this type of environment, helping Rido to flourish. And, they say, from the outside, parts of the region look like the "wild, wild west." At a café in Manila, Mussolini Lidasan assesses the situation in his western Mindanao province. He said plain old ignorance is a big culprit in rido. He said it's reaching a point where they can't see beyond the next personal affront or the next power-grab. And Lidasan said it's time the government stepped in directly to help. /~/

"As long as injustices are there, as long as our people are illiterate they have no access to education and as long as there are no clear government programs to uplift their socio-economic conditions," Lidasan said, "then this will go on, on and on and on." It may be hard, though, to change the culture, either of rido or the government itself. Many say that clan leaders have become akin to mob bosses. And like organized crime leaders, they get involved in politics, delivering votes for national politicians, allegedly reaping financial perks for their efforts.” /~/

Study of Blood Feuds in the Southern Philippines

Carlos H. Conde wrote in the New York Times, a 2007 Asian Foundation study “said "rido" is a "type of conflict characterized by sporadic outbursts of retaliatory violence between families and kinship groups as well as between communities. It can occur in areas where government or a central authority is weak and in areas where there is a perceived lack of justice and security." Two common causes of this type of conflict are political disputes and quarrels over land. [Source: Carlos H. Conde, New York Times, October 26, 2007 )*(]

“The project's researchers, which included Islamic scholars and anthropologists, found that, from the 1930s to 2005, there had been 1,266 cases of clan violence in Mindanao, in which 5,500 people were killed and thousands were displaced. Of these cases, 64 percent have not been solved, the perpetrators never identified nor brought to justice. )*(

“Clan violence in Mindanao, it said, has caused death and suffering, destroying of property, crippling the local economy, displacing communities, and sowing fear among communities. Gutierrez Mangansakan 2nd, a Muslim Filipino film maker, knows only too well the impact of clan violence: his family battled another for years. He was only eight in 1985 when his family and the other clan began a conflict that lasted for more than two decades. He said he saw shootings in his village that triggered it, and the situation worsened, he said, until family was forced to leave. )*(

“The Asia Foundation intends to use its study to try to resolve more cases of clan violence and deal with it constructively. "The Asia Foundation published this book to empower communities to break the cycle of violence," said Wilfredo Torres, who coordinated the research and edited the book. In doing the study, he said, "we have already seen the positive results of fresh, constructive dialogue through a better understanding of 'rido.' " )*(

Blood Feud Attacks in Mindanao

In July 2013, AFP reported: “Armed Muslim clans in the strife-torn southern Philippines are holding 11 people, including several children captive, as part of a decades-long feud, the military said. The tit-for-tat kidnappings are part of a battle for land between two clans that began 30 years ago on Basilan, a small, remote island dominated by Islamic militants and separatist rebels, said Colonel Rodrigo Gregorio. The feud has previously led to exchanges of gunfire and claimed about 20 lives from both sides, according to Gregorio, the regional military spokesman. "Hopefully, there won't be any violence. The two sides are still talking," he told AFP. [Source: AFP, July 12, 2013]

“The latest hostilities began when three daughters of clan leader "Commander Hassan" were abducted by a rival family on Basilan, said Gregorio. Hassan's armed followers retaliated by abducting 12 members of the rival clan, including seven children. Gregorio said the local government and military were negotiating with both sides and had successfully obtained the release of four children. The ages of the kidnapped children ranged from five months to 15 years, the military said. But it was not clear which of them were released. They are still trying to get the two rivals to release the rest of the captives while preventing any new outbreak of fighting, Gregorio added. Commander Hassan is a member of the Moro National Liberation Front, a former Muslim separatist rebel group, but the feud does not involve his organisation, the military said.

In March 2006, Reuters reported: “Three people were killed and four others wounded when two rival families exchanged gunfire in the restive southern Philippines, a military spokesman said. Major Gamal Hayudini said the gunbattle erupted when members of a local Muslim clan attacked a rival family on Panglima Sugala island in the Tawi-Tawi chain, the southernmost part of the Philippines. "We've rushed troops to the area to prevent fighting from escalating," Hayudini told reporters, saying the rival clans have been quarreling over farmland. "We're trying to prevent the conflict from spilling to other areas." [Source: Reuters, March 18, 2006]

Clan Feuds Fuel Separatist Violence in Philippines

In 2007, Carlos H. Conde wrote in the New York Times, “Clan violence has contributed greatly to bloodshed in the southern Philippines, with government forces and Islamic separatists often drawn into the violence unnecessarily, complicating the decade-long search for peace there, a new study shows. The study released by the Asia Foundation said that the peace process in Mindanao, the region in the southern Philippines where Islamic separatists have been fighting for self-determination since the 1970s, would have a better chance of succeeding if clan violence - called "rido" by Filipino Muslims - were addressed. [Source: Carlos H. Conde, New York Times, October 26, 2007 )*(]

“While clan conflict is common in many societies around the world, "rido" is unique in that it has, according to the study, "wider implications for conflict in Mindanao, primarily because it tends to interact in unfortunate ways with separatist conflict and other forms of armed violence." The government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, the main Islamic separatist group, have been engaged in peace negotiations since 1997 but no substantial agreement has been reached. According to the study, half of the clan violence documented occurred between 2000 and 2004. During this period, the cease-fire between the government and the Islamic front was broken many times by fighting caused by clan feuds. )*(

"Most of the hostilities during this period were complicated by 'rido,' " said Teresita Quintos-Deles, who was President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo's presidential adviser on the peace process from 2003 to 2005. In fact, Deles said Wednesday, fighting between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front decreased in 2004 and 2005 and most of the hostilities during that period were triggered by clan violence. Typically, according to the study, two warring families would petition either the Islamic front or the military for help. In many instances, feuding families were also members of the front or had connections with the military. "At times, local conflicts trigger large-scale armed confrontations between government and rebel forces," said the study, which cited several incidents of such confrontations. "In these events, parties to localized conflicts are able to exploit, deliberately or not, the military resources of both forces." )*(

Image Sources:

Text Sources: New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Times of London, Lonely Planet Guides, Library of Congress, Philippines Department of Tourism, Compton’s Encyclopedia, The Guardian, National Geographic, Smithsonian magazine, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, AFP, Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic Monthly, The Economist, Foreign Policy, Wikipedia, BBC, CNN, and various books, websites and other publications.

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© 2008 Jeffrey Hays

Last updated June 2015

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