FILIPINO SOCIETY

FILIPINO SOCIETY

Philippine concepts about debt repayment and kinship responsibilities plays a major rile in how society structured. The family and the Catholic church are characterized the main bonding forces in Filipino society (See Family). The countryside is divided into barangay (rural communities) that have their own leaders or chiefs. Some say Philippine society is more like a Latin American society than an Asian one.

Asianjournal.com reports:“Some anthropologists describe the Filipino society as a “high-context” culture in comparison with the Western “low context” societies. It is believed that in the Philippines a “yes” is “yes,” but “no” is “maybe.” Though “maybe” of the Filipino may appear indecisive to Westerners, yet it shows the Filipinos well-mannered ability not to directly hurt the other person’s feelings. By contrast, the “low-context” behavior of Western societies is described as abrasive, impersonal, untactful, and direct. [Source:asianjournal.com]

The Filipinos have two groups within their approach to studying the psychology of their people. Kapwa, togetherness, has Ibang Tao (other people) and Hindi Ibang Tao (not other people). Within the Ibang Tao (“outsider”) construct there are five domains: 1) Pakikitungo: civility (In Confucian ethics, right behavior meant right demeanor towards authorities, parents, and elders); 2) Pakikisalamuha: act of mixing (a social value that is primarily communitarian and Confucian. It espouses the ability to adapt); 3) Pakikilahok: act of joining (participation of the entire community to help a person); 4) Pakikibagay: conformity (this runs into conflict with individuality which many Filipinos in fact willingly throw away in favor of conformity with demands of those who are in charge); 5) Pakikisama (being united with the group). The Hindi Ibang Tao (“one-of-us”) construct has three domains: 1) Pakikipagpalagayang-loo (act of mutual trust); 2) Pakikisangkot (act of joining others); 3) Pakikipagkaisa (being one with others). [Source: Jeff Harvie, filipinawives.wordpress.com, September 2, 2014]

See Separate Article FILIPINO CHARACTER AND PERSONALITY Under People

“Amor Propio” (Self-esteem) and Smooth Interpersonal Relationship (Sir)

According to asianjournal.com: Philippine society is characterized by many strong positive traits, such as “amor propio” (self-esteem) and smooth interpersonal relationship (SIR). Filipinos are sensitive to criticisms on their own self-esteem and intuitively sharp to the self-esteem of others as well. Anything that hurts one’s self-esteem is not allowed because it endangers smooth interpersonal relationships and harmony in society. Filipinos highly value their “being-in-relation,” or find their identity in the kinship group to which they belong, such as “kamaganak” (family), or “kababayan” (townsfolk). Because of this cultural trait to find one’s identity always in relation with the community or group, it is not surprising for a Filipino to always look for levels of connectivity to establish personal and social relationships. (Taga-saan ka sa atin? “Where are you from the Philippines?”) [Source: asianjournal.com]

“However, those positive traits can also give rise to deception, pretension, and hypocrisy. To achieve smooth interpersonal relationship and not to embarrass self and others, a Filipino will avoid open conflict and frank dialogue, or give in to community or group pressure. A Filipino will still show a happy face even if he is hurting, and refrain from expressing anger, in order not to lose face, displease others and sever one’s ties with the kinship group. Because the family and kinship ties are of the highest value for a Filipino, he would sacrifice his personal integrity, true feeling, and principles to remain in good standing with the kinship group. This negative attitude gives rise also to clannishness. Beyond his community, family, and clan, the Filipino could care less, because he does not expect support, loyalty and trust beyond his immediate group or family. The Filipino could care less for the greater good and welfare of the majority, as long as they do not impact on his clan and community. This attitude is a stumbling block to the nation’s building [Ibid]

Evolution of Philippine Society

The Philippines continued to be primarily a rural society in 1990, despite increasing signs of urbanization. The family remained the prime unit of social awareness, and ritual kin relations and associations of a patron-client nature still were the basis for social groupings beyond the nuclear family, rather than horizontal ties forged among members of economically based social classes. Because of a common religious tradition and the spread of Pilipino as a widely used, if not thoroughly accepted, national language, Filipinos were a relatively homogeneous population, with the important exceptions of the Muslim minority on Mindanao and in Sulu and southern Palawan provinces, and the upland tribal minorities sprinkled throughout the islands. Filipinos shared a common set of values emphasizing social acceptance as a primary virtue and a common world view in which education served as the principal avenue for upward social mobility. Cleavages in the society were based primarily on religious (in the case of Muslims versus Christians), sociocultural (in the case of upland tribes versus lowland coastal Filipinos), and urban-rural differences, rather than ethnic or racial considerations. [Source: Library of Congress *]

Improvements in the national transportation system and in mass communications in most parts of the archipelago in the 1970s and 1980s tended to reduce ethnolinguistic and regional divisions among lowland Filipinos, who made up more than 90 percent of the population. Some resistance to this cultural homogeneity remained, however, and continued regional identification was manifested in loyalty to regional languages and in opposition to the imposition of a national language based largely on Tagalog, the language of the Manila area. *

Large numbers of rural migrants continued to flow into the huge metropolitan areas, especially Metro Manila. Filipinos also migrated in substantial numbers to the United States and other countries. Many of these migrants, especially those to the Middle East, migrated only to find temporary employment and retained their Philippine domiciles. *

There has been a significant shift in the composition of the elite as a result of political and economic policies following the end of the administration of President Ferdinand E. Marcos in 1986. Some of the elite families displaced by the Marcos regime regained wealth and influence, and many of the families enjoying power, privilege, and prestige in the early l990s were not the same as those enjoying similar status a decade earlier. The abolition of monopolistic marketing boards, along with some progress in privatization, has eliminated the economic base of some of Marcos's powerful associates. *

As a result of economic policies that permitted fruit and logging companies to expand their landholdings, previously formed by tribal people, and to push farther and farther into the mountains to exploit timber resources, upland tribal people have been threatened and dislocated, and the country's rich rain forests have suffered. Despite government efforts to instill respect for cultural diversity, it remained to be seen whether minorities and the ecosystem they shared would survive the onslaught of powerful economic forces that include the migration of thousands of lowland Filipinos to the frontier areas on Mindanao, as well as the intrusion of corporate extractive industries. Even if these influences were held in check, the attraction of lowland society might wean the tribal people from their customary way of life. *

Although it would seem that the continued high rate of population growth aggravated the state of the Philippine economy and health care, population growth did not seem to be a major concern of the government. Roman Catholic clergy withdrew cooperation from the Population Control Commission (Popcom) and sought its elimination. The commission was retained, and government efforts to reduce population growth continued but hardly on a scale likely to produce major results. *

Philippines Society and Kin System in 1919

In 1919, A. L. Kroeber of The American Museum Of Natural History wrote: “The principles characterizing native society in the Philippines are : 1) A lack of political structure or sense, except where foreign influence, chiefly Mohammedan, is clear. 2) The place of political organization is taken by an organization on the basis of actual kinship, modified secondarily by community of residence or economic interests. 3) The stratification of society into wealthy, poor, and economically deficient is emphasized by the translation of these classes into nobility, free, and slaves. 4) There is no chieftainship other than as based on the combination of personal qualities with preeminence among the nobility, that is, precedence in wealth. Excep- tions are again due to Mohammedan — or Christian — influence. 5) Property being wholly transmitted by inheritance except for some consump- tion in sacrifice, and rank inclining to follow wealth, there is a strong tendency for social status to be hereditary. 6) The mechanism of law is economic instead of political. Legal claims are enforced only by the threat or exercise of violence, and adjusted by transfers of property. 7) There are no totems, clans, nor any system of exogamy between artificial kin groups. 8) Women are socially the equals of men. This is clear from their position in marriage, descent, and the holding of property. The division of labor between the sexes is on a physiological rather than a social basis. [Source: A. L. Kroeber, The American Museum Of Natural History, 1919 ^*^]

“The distinctive traits thus are the importance of blood kinship and of economic factors, the insignificance of political and exogamous or ''arbitrary" aspects of society, and the non-differentiation of the sexes. These features reveal Filipino society as simple and ''natural" in character; that is, close to its biological substratum, and comparatively free from the purely social creations or elaborations that tend to flourish in many other parts of the world. ^*^

“The kinship schemes accord well with these institutions. The equality of the sexes is reflected in the paucity of the sex-limited terms of relationship and in the total absence of any terms implying the sex of the ego or person to whom the relationship exists. The failure to sepa- rate kindred in the male and female line may be connectible with the same equalizing of the sexes in actual life; or with the want of clans and other artificial exogamic groups which in order to maintain their identity must reckon descent unilaterally; or with both factors. The organiza- tion of society on a basis of blood is likely to have something to do with the disinclination to distinguish lineal and collateral relatives. Even the tendency to treat the spouse's kin as blood kin may have some con- nection with the social balance or non-differentiation of the sexes. At any rate, where the social status of men and women is markedly and fortifiedly distinct, it seems extremely unlikely that a man could feel his wife's father to be sufficiently identical with his own father for him to call him father : the psychology of the terminology would clash with the psychology of the relation as it does not clash in Filipino life. ^*^

“As to the question whether kinship terminologies may be construed rather as reflecting institutional or linguistic or vaguer psychological conditions, the present material points to the following inferences. Kinship systems are considerably but superficially modified by linguistic and even dialectic factors. The effect of these factors is great enough to make the prediction of any specific institution from any specific term or set of terms extremely venturesome. Institutions and terminologies unquestionably parallel or reflect each other at least to the degree that a marked discrepance of plan is rare. Institutions probably shape terminologies causally, but in the main by influencing or permitting a logical scheme. In a sense this logical scheme under- lies both institution and terminology, so that the correlation between them, although actual, can be conceived as indirect. Development of particular terms or their denotation under the influence of institutions may occur to a greater or less extent, but is constantly liable to distortion by linguistic factors. The influence on kinship terminology of general levels of culture — those other than narrowly social or institutional ones, seems not to have been seriously examined. The present case shows that such influence may be rather less significant than might be expected in a transition from a state of comparative savagery to one of comparative civilization.” ^*^

“The simplicity and adaptability” of the Philippines kin “system are obvious. It operates with its meager resources by merging most collateral with lineal kin; by mostly treating connections by marriage as if they were blood kin, with the logical implication that spouses are one person; by not distinguishing sex, except in parents, perhaps uncles and aunts, and possibly siblings-in-law ; and by nowhere bifurcating, that is, discriminating the line of descent, the sex through which relationship exists. The primary consideration is generation; this is slightly elaborated by hesitating and inconsistent introduction of the factors of collaterality, sex, marriage, and absolute age. Reciprocity is of moment. Self- reciprocal terms occur in every language, and in the Philippines as a whole are found in every class of relationships except the parent-child group. *^*

Social Stratification in the Philippines

According to everyculture.com: Filipinos believe in the need for social acceptance and feel that education can provide upward mobility. Color of skin, beauty, and money are the criteria that determine a person's social position. Light coloring is correlated with intelligence and a light-skinned attractive person will receive advancement before his or her colleagues. Family position and patron-client associations are useful in achieving success. Government officials, wealthy friends, and community leaders are sponsors at hundreds of weddings and baptisms each year. Those connections are of great importance. [Source: everyculture.com /=/]

Money to buy consumer goods is an indicator of power. Wealthy people lead western lifestyles. They travel abroad frequently and pride themselves on the number of Westerners they have as friends. Since few people outside Manila have a family car, owning a vehicle is a clear statement of a high social level. Houses and furnishings show a person's social position. Upholstered furniture instead of the traditional wooden couches and beds, rows of electrical appliances that are never used and area rugs are all important. Sending one's children to the best schools is the most important indicator of social position. The best schools often are private schools and are quite expensive. /=/

There are three social classes in the country based on income and national wealth. The members of the rich class represent about 10 percent of the population but own or earn about 90 percent of the wealth of the country. They are composed of wealthy industrialists with big corporations and owners of large haciendas or plantations. The members of the middle class represent about 20 percent of the population. They are composed of professionals (doctors, lawyers, etc.). The members of the lower or poor class comprise about 70 percent of the population but they only earn or share 10 percent of the wealth. They often cannot earn enough to be able to buy necessities in life, save for emergencies or for future needs. The poor could become rich by education and by hard work. [Source: Canadian Center for Intercultural Learning+++]

The extremely affluent and politically powerful elite still controls most of Filipino economy, business and political activities. The middle class is small and the lower middle class much larger. Its members live in urban areas and, typically, can only meet some of their extend family needs with no social safety net to fall back on. There are large numbers of urban poor who live in substandard dwellings on land they rarely have formal rights to use, who face food security problems and have serious deficiencies in meeting basic human needs. +++

Barangay

A barangay, formerly called barrio, is the smallest administrative division in the Philippines and is the native Filipino term for a village, district or ward. In colloquial usage, the term often refers to an inner city neighbourhood, a suburb or a suburban neighborhood. The word barangay originated from balangay, a kind of boat used by a group of Austronesian peoples when they migrated to the Philippines. Municipalities and cities are composed of barangays, and they may be further subdivided into smaller areas called purok (zones), and sitio, which is a territorial enclave inside a barangay, especially in rural areas. As of September 30, 2012, there were a total of 42,028 barangays throughout the Philippines. [Source: Wikipedia]

The original “barangays” were coastal settlements of Malayo-Polynesian people who came to the Philippines archipelago from other places in Southeast Asia. Most of the ancient barangays were coastal or riverine in nature as most of these early settlers relied on fishing for protein and income. They also traveled mostly by water up and down rivers, and along the coasts. Trails always followed river systems, which were also a major source of water for bathing, washing, and drinking.

The term "barangay" may also colloquially refer to a large group of people. An example is Barangay Ginebra, the name of supporters of the Ginebra San Miguel basketball team. In 1999, the team was renamed Barangay Ginebra Kings in homage to its fans.

History of Barangay

When the first Spaniards arrived in the Philippines in the 16th century, they found well-organized independent villages called barangays. The name barangay originated from balangay, a Malay word meaning "sailboat". The first barangays started as relatively small communities of around 50 to 100 families. By the time of contact with Spaniards, many barangays have developed into large communities. The encomienda of 1604 shows that many affluent and powerful coastal barangays in Sulu, Butuan, Panay, Leyte and Cebu, Pampanga, Pangasinan, Pasig, Laguna, and Cagayan River were flourishing trading centers. Some of these barangays had large populations. In Panay, some barangays had 20,000 inhabitants; in Leyte (Baybay), 15,000 inhabitants; in Cebu, 3,500 residents; in Vitis (Pampanga), 7,000 inhabitants; Pangasinan, 4,000 residents. There were smaller barangays with less number of people. But these were generally inland communities; or if they were coastal, they were not located in areas which were good for business pursuits. These smaller barangays had around thirty to one hundred houses only, and the population varies from one hundred to five hundred persons. According to Legazpi, he found communities with twenty to thirty people only. [Source: Wikipedia]

The coastal barangays were more accessible to trade with foreigners. These were ideal places for economic activity to develop. Business with traders from other Countries also meant contact with other cultures and civilizations, such as those of Japan, Han Chinese, Indian people, and Arab people. These coastal communities acquired more cosmopolitan cultures, with developed social structures (sovereign principalities), ruled by established royalties and nobilities.

During the Spanish rule, smaller barangays were combined to form towns. Each barangay was headed by the cabeza de barangay (barangay chief), who formed part of the Principalía - the elite ruling class of the municipalities of the Spanish Philippines. This position was inherited from the first datus, and came to be known as such during the Spanish regime. The Spanish Monarch ruled each barangay through the Cabeza, who also collected taxes (called tribute) from the residents for the Spanish Crown.

When the Americans arrived, "slight changes in the structure of local government was effected". Latter, Rural Councils with four councillors were created to assist now renamed Barrio Lieutenant; it was later renamed Barrio Council, and then Barangay Council. The Spanish term barrio (abbv. "Bo.") was used for much of the 20th century until President Ferdinand Marcos ordered their renaming to barangays in the 1970s. The name survived the 1986 EDSA Revolution, though older people would still use the term barrio. The Municipal Council was abolished upon transfer of powers to the barangay system. Marcos used to call the barangay part of Philippine participatory democracy, and most of his writings involving the New Society praised the role of baranganic democracy in nation-building. After the 1986 EDSA Revolution and the drafting of the 1987 Constitution, the Municipal Council was restored, making the barangay the smallest unit of Philippine government.

Powerful Families in the Philippines

Hrvoje Hranjski of Associated Press wrote: “Philippine elections have long been dominated by politicians belonging to the same bloodlines. At least 250 political families have monopolized power across the country, although such dynasties are prohibited under the 1987 constitution. Congress — long controlled by members of powerful clans targeted by the constitutional ban — has failed to pass the law needed to define and enforce the provision. "Wherever you go, you see the names of these people since we were kids. It is still them," businessman Martin Tunac, 54, said after voting in Manila. "One of the bad things about political dynasties is they control everything, including business." [Source: Hrvoje Hranjski, Associated Press, May 13, 2013 |=|]

“School counselor Evelyn Dioquino said that the proliferation of political dynasties was a cultural issue and other candidates stood little chance because clans "have money, so they are the only ones who can afford (to run). Of course, if you have no logistics, you can't run for office." Critics worry that a single family's stranglehold on different levels of government could stymie checks against abuses and corruption. A widely cited example is the 2009 massacre of 58 people, including 32 media workers, in an ambush blamed on rivalry between powerful clans in southern Maguindanao province. |=|

Ana Maria Tabunda from the independent pollster Pulse Asia said that dynasties restrict democracy, but added that past surveys by her organization have shown that most Filipinos are less concerned about the issue than with the benefits and patronage they can receive from particular candidates. Voters also often pick candidates with the most familiar surnames instead of those with the best records, she said. "It's name recall, like a brand. They go by that," she said. |=|

The American anthropologist Brian Fegan, writing in "An Anarchy of Families," a book published in the 1990s, told the New York Times that "the Filipino family is the most enduring political unit and the one into which, failing some wider principle of organization, all other units dissolve." Filipinos look at political continuity as merely the transfer of power among family members, Fegan said. Thus, they also look at political competition in terms of rivalry between families. "A family that has once contested an office, particularly if it has once won it, sets its eye on that office as its permanent right," Fegan said. [Source: Carlos H. Conde, International Herald Tribune, July 16, 2005 \~/]

Political Family Dynasties in the Philippines

Politics in the Philippines has been dominated by powerful families for as long as anyone can remember. Aquino was the wife of a opposition leader. Arroyo was the daughter of a president. In 2004, Arroyo’s son and brother-in-law held Congressional seats and five relatives of Aquino were in Congress and one was a Senator. Even the Marcos family remains powerful and influential in Philippines politics, especially in northen Luzon. Many local positions and governments are dominated by clans and powerful and wealthy families.

One Philippine political analyst told the Washington Post, “Some dynasties have made positive contributions, but by and large the dynastic system in the Philippines has stunted the growth of real democracy. It is not representative of the broad majority in any place.” Efforts to reduce the hold on power of local families by establishing term limits has meant that families hand over power from one family member to another.

The system of family dynasties has its roots in U.S. colonial rule when initially voting rights were only granted to Filipinos with property and education, allowing the landed aristocracy to attain a monopoly of power in the provinces. The United States also put in place a Congressional system that allowed families to establish local fiefdoms rather than fostering competition through an electoral list system.

This trend is beginning to change in some places. Grace Padaca, a former radio commentator, was elected governor of Isabela Province in 2004. She moved into the mansion of the former governor, from the powerful Dy family, thought he had built for himself. Padaca won by nonstop campaigning and dedicated grassroots volunteer movement.

Land Ownership in the Philippines

Large amounts of arable land remain in the hand of absentee landowners who were given land grants during the Spanish colonial period. Although land reform legislation has been passed, loopholes allow owners to retain possession. Those responsible for enacting and enforcing the legislation often come from the same families that own the land. Peasant groups such as the HUKs (People's Liberation Army, or Hukbong Magpapayang Bayan ) in the 1950s and the NPA (New People's Army) at the present time have resorted to guerrilla tactics to provide land for the poor. There is an ongoing demand to clear forests to provide farmland. The clearing technique is slash and burn. Environmentalists are concerned because timber is destroyed at random, eliminating the homes of endangered species of plants and animals. [Source: everyculture.com]

An important legacy of the Spanish colonial period was the high concentration of land ownership, and the consequent widespread poverty and agrarian unrest. United States administrators and several Philippine presidential administrations launched land reform programs to maintain social stability in the countryside. Lack of sustained political will, however, as well as landlord resistance, severely limited the impact of the various initiatives. [Source: Library of Congress *]

Farm size is a significant indicator of concentration of ownership. Although nationwide approximately 50 percent of farms in 1980 were less than two hectares, these small farms made up only 16 percent of total farm area. On the other hand, only about 3 percent of farms were over ten hectares, yet they covered approximately 25 percent of farm area. Farms also varied in size based on crops cultivated. Rice farms tended to be smaller; only 9 percent of rice land was on farms as large as ten hectares. Coconut farms tended to be somewhat larger; approximately 28 percent of the land planted in coconuts was on farms larger than ten hectares. Sugarcane, however, generally was planted on large farms. Nearly 80 percent of land planted in sugarcane was on farms larger than ten hectares. Pineapple plantations were a special case. Because the two largest producers were subsidiaries of transnational firms--Del Monte and Castle and Cooke--they were not permitted to directly own land. The transnationals circumvented this restriction, however, by leasing land. In 1987 subsidiaries of these two companies leased 21,400 hectares, 40 percent of the total hectarage devoted to pineapple production. *

Land Reform in the Philippines

Land reform has been a concern since independence. Spanish and American rule left arable land concentrated in the hands of 2 percent of the population and those owners will not give up their land without compensation. Attempts made to provide land, such as the resettlement of Christian farmers in Mindanao in the 1950s, have not provided enough land to resolve the problem. Until land reform takes place, poverty will be the nation's primary social problem. [Source: everyculture.com]

In September 1972, the second presidential decree that Marcos issued under martial law declared the entire Philippines a land reform area. A month later, he issued Presidential Decree No. 27, which contained the specifics of his land reform program. On paper, the program was the most comprehensive ever attempted in the Philippines, notwithstanding the fact that only rice and corn land were included. Holdings of more than seven hectares were to be purchased and parceled out to individual tenants (up to three hectares of irrigated, or five hectares of unirrigated, land), who would then pay off the value of the land over a fifteen-year period. Sharecroppers on holdings of less than seven hectares were to be converted to leaseholders, paying fixed rents. [Source: Library of Congress *]

The Marcos land reform program succeeded in breaking down many of the large haciendas in Central Luzon, a traditional center of agrarian unrest where landed elite and Marcos allies were not as numerous as in other parts of the country. In the country as a whole, however, the program was generally considered a failure. Only 20 percent of rice and corn land, or 10 percent of total farm land, was covered by the program, and in 1985, thirteen years after Marcos's proclamation, 75 percent of the expected beneficiaries had not become owner-cultivators. By 1988 less than 6 percent of all agricultural households had received a certificate of land transfer, indicating that the land they were cultivating had been registered as a land transfer holding. About half of this group, 2.4 percent, had received titles, referred to as emancipation patents. Political commitment on the part of the government waned rather quickly, after Marcos succeeded in undermining the strength of land elites who had opposed him. Even where efforts were made, implementation was selective, mismanaged, and subject to considerable graft and corruption. *

Land Reform Efforts Under Corazon Aquino

The Corazon Aquino government introduced laws in the 1980s and 90s to break up big landholdings and limit individual property ownership to roughly 12 acres. Under the law, landowners could either sell their land to the government at prices set by the government or sell it voluntarily, preferably to peasants, and receive a cash bonus. According to the plan peasants would receive loans and financial assistance from the government and pay back loans at a discounted rate over 20 years. The Department of Agrian Resources was set up to hand over the transfer of land. As of 2002, it had managed to give out about 80 percent of the 10.6 million acres targeted by the plan to 1.8 million peasants.

Getting the last 30 percent was difficult. In many cases it was the best land and it was owned by the richest and most powerful landlords, who had thwarted government effort to claim the land using lawyers, armed militias and political influence. In many cases the landowners create conditions, namely high montage rates, that made peasants feel they have no choice but to lease back land to the landowners under terms that made them worse off than they were before.

The failure of the Marcos land reform program was a major theme in Aquino's 1986 presidential campaign, and she gave land reform first priority: "Land-to-the-tiller must become a reality, instead of an empty slogan." The issue was of some significance inasmuch as one of the largest landholdings in the country was her family's 15,000-hectare Hacienda Luisita. But the candidate was quite clear; the land reform would apply to Hacienda Luisita as well as to any other landholding. She did not actually begin to address the land reform question, however, until the issue was brought to a head in January 1987, when the military attacked a group of peasants marching to Malacañang, the presidential residence, to demand action on the promised land reform killing 18 and wounding more than 100 of them. The event galvanized the government into action: a land reform commission was formed, and in July 1987, one week before the new Congress convened and her decree-making powers would be curtailed, Aquino proclaimed the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program. More than 80 percent of cultivated land and almost 65 percent of agricultural households were to be included in a phased process that would consider the type of land and size of holding. In conformity with the country's new Constitution, provisions for "voluntary land sharing" and just compensation were included. The important details of timing, priorities, and minimum legal holdings, however, were left to be determined by the new Congress, the majority of whose members were connected to landed interests. [Source: Library of Congress *]

Criticism of Aquino's plan came from both sides. Landowners thought that it went too far, and peasant organizations complained that the program did not go far enough and that by leaving the details to a landlord-dominated Congress, the program was doomed to failure. A World Bank mission was quite critical of a draft of the land reform program. In its report, the mission suggested that in order to limit efforts to subvert the process, the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program needed to be carried out swiftly rather than in stages, and land prices should be determined using a mechanical formula rather than subjective valuation. The World Bank mission also was critical of a provision allowing incorporated farm entities to distribute stock to tenants and workers rather than the land itself. The scheme would be attractive, the mission argued, "to those landowners who believed that they would not have to live up to the agreement to transfer the land to the beneficiaries." The mission's recommendations were largely ignored in the final version of the government's program. *

On June 10, 1988, a year after the proclamation, Congress passed the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law. Landowners were allowed to retain up to five hectares plus three hectares for each heir at least fifteen years of age. The program was to be implemented in phases. The amount of land that could be retained was to be gradually decreased, and a non-land-transfer, profit-sharing program could be used as an alternative to actual land transfer. *

Especially controversial was the provision that allowed large landowners to transfer a portion of the respective corporation's total assets equivalent in value to that of its land assets, in lieu of the land being subdivided and distributed to tenants and farm laborers. In May 1989, the 7,000 tenants of the Aquino family estate, Hacienda Luisita, agreed to take a 33 percent share of the hacienda's corporate stock rather than a portion of the land itself. Because the remaining two-thirds of the stock (the value of non-land corporate assets) remained with Aquino's family, effective control of the land did not pass to the tillers. Proponents of land reform considered the stock-ownership provision a loophole in the law, and one that many large landowners would probably use. Following the example of the Hacienda Luisita, thirty-four agrocorporations had requested approval for a stock transfer as of mid-1990. Although legal, the action of the president's family raised questions as to the president's commitment to land reform. *

It is difficult to estimate the cost allowing for inflation of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program. Early on, in 1988 estimates ranged between P170 billion and P220 billion; the following year they were as high as P332 billion, of which P83 billion was for land acquisition and P248 billion for support services and infrastructure. The lowest mentioned figure averages to P17 billion a year, 2.1 percent of 1988 GNP in the Philippines and 8.9 percent of government expenditure that year. The sum was well beyond the capacity of the country, unless tax revenues were increased substantially and expenditure priorities reordered. To circumvent this difficulty, the Aquino government planned to obtain 50 to 60 percent of the funding requirements from foreign aid. As of 1990, however, success had been minimal. *

Government claims that in the first three years of implementation the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program met with considerable success were open to question. Between July 1987 and March 1990, 430,730 hectares were distributed. About 80 percent of this, however, was from the continuation of the Marcos land reform program. Distribution of privately owned lands other than land growing rice and corn, 3,470 hectares, was insignificant not only in absolute terms, but it was also only 2 percent of what had been targeted. The inability of the Department of Agrarian Reform to spend its budget also indicated implementation difficulties. As of June 1990, the department had utilized only 44 percent of the P14.2 billion allocated to it for the period January 1988-June 1990. In part because of Supreme Court rulings, the Department of Agrarian Reform cut its land acquisition target in late 1990 by almost half from 400,000 hectares to 250,000 hectares. *

Income Disparity in the Philippines

Filipinos are also by income. There is a small wealthy elite and a multitude of rural poor. The richest 20 percent has an income 20 times higher than the poorest 14 percent and 75 percent of the Philippines’s land is owned by 2 percent of the people.

Household income or consumption by percentage share: lowest 10 percent: 2.6 percent, highest 10 percent: 33.6 percent (2009 est.). Distribution of family income - Gini index: 44.8 (2009), country comparison to the world: 42, 46.6 (2003). [Source: CIA World Factbook]

An analyst with Standard and Poor in Singapore told the New York Times. “People cannot enjoy the fruits of economic development because of the feudal ownership of the land.” The poor have a deep-seated suspicion of the urban elite, The elite sometimes refer to the poor as mabaho, mangmang and walang pinagaralan (foul-smelling, ignorant and uneducated). Under Marcos, the poor were encouraged to improve their lives by eating earthworms and snails for protein.

Different income groups lived in different neighborhoods in the cities and lacked the personal contact essential to the patron-client relationship. Probably the major social division was between those who had a regular source of income and those who made up the informal sector of the economy. The latter subsisted by salvaging material from garbage dumps, begging, occasional paid labor, and peddling. Although their income was sometimes as high as those in regular jobs, they lacked the protection of labor legislation and had no claim to any type of social insurance. [Source: Library of Congress]

Middle Class in the Philippines

In the cities, there existed a considerable middle-class group consisting of small entrepreneurs, civil servants, teachers, merchants, small property owners, and clerks whose employment was relatively secure. In many middle-class families, both spouses worked. They tended to place great value on higher education, and most had a college degree. They also shared a sense of common identity derived from similar educational experiences, facility in using English, common participation in service clubs such as the Rotary, and similar economic standing. [Source: Library of Congress]

The members of the middle class in the Philippines represent about 20 percent of the population. They are composed of professionals (doctors, lawyers, etc.). The middle class is small and the lower middle class much larger. Its members live in urban areas and, typically, can only meet some of their extend family needs with no social safety net to fall back on. The middle class feels too obligated to those in power to attempt to make societal changes. [Source: Canadian Center for Intercultural Learning+++]

Many members of what would be considered the middle class work abroad. Sometimes the pay of teachers and civil servants is so low that their income is below the poverty line and they are forced to live in slums.

Many people with college degrees can’t find work. Floyd Whaley wrote in the New York Times, “Julita Cabading, 56, a Manila resident with a college degree in accounting, had hoped to benefit from one of the government’s antipoverty programs. She said she had not been able to find work as an accountant because employers preferred to hire younger people, and she could not afford training to improve her job skills. So Mrs. Cabading earns the equivalent of about $3 a day selling newspapers, pens and gum along the sidewalk in Manila. When she applied for government assistance, she was told that she would need to wait at home as long as two months for a government representative to interview her. She was unable do this because she had to work at her small stand to pay her rent. She has since borrowed from a local lender and now she is in a common poverty trap in the Philippines: She is working at subsistence wages, without government help, to survive and pay off her loans. “The Philippines is improving,” she said while waiting for the next customer at her small stand. “But it hasn’t reached me yet.”[Source: Floyd Whaley, New York Times, June 19, 2013]

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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