RURAL SOCIAL PATTERNS
Typical rural Philippine nipa house, constructed of locally
available bamboo and nipa-leaf thatching.
In 1990, nearly six out of every ten Filipinos lived in
villages or barangays. Each barangay consisted of a
number of sitios (neighborhoods), clusters of households
that were the basic building blocks of society above the family.
Each sitio comprised 15 to 30 households, and most
barangays numbered from 150 to 200 households. As a rule,
barangays also contained an elementary school, one or two
small retail stores, and a small Roman Catholic chapel. They were
combined administratively into municipalities.
In the larger center, one could find a much more substantial
church and rectory for the resident priest, other non-Roman
Catholic churches, a number of retail stores and the weekly
marketplace, a full six-year elementary school and probably a
high school, a rice and corn mill, a pit for cockfights, and the
homes of most landowners and middle-class teachers and
professionals living in the municipality. This urban
concentration was not only the administrative center but also the
social, economic, educational, and recreational locus. This was
particularly so where the center was itself a full-scale town,
complete with restaurants, cinemas, banks, specialty stores, gas
stations, repair shops, bowling alleys, a rural health clinic,
and perhaps a hospital and hotel or two. Television sets were
found in most homes in such towns, whereas some barangays
in remote areas did not even have electricity.
In the rural Philippines, traditional values remained the
rule. The family was central to a Filipino's identity, and many
sitios were composed mainly of kin. Kin ties formed the
basis for most friendships and supranuclear family relationships.
Filipinos continued to feel a strong obligation to help their
neighbors-- whether in granting a small loan or providing jobs
for neighborhood children, or expecting to be included in
neighborhood work projects, such as rebuilding or reroofing a
house and clearing new land. The recipient of the help was
expected to provide tools and food. Membership in the cooperative
work group sometimes continued even after a member left the
neighborhood. Likewise, the recipient's siblings joined the group
even if they lived outside the sitio. In this way,
familial and residential ties were intermixed.
Before World War II, when landlords and tenants normally
lived in close proximity, patron-client relationships, often
infused with mutual affection, frequently grew out of close
residential contact. In the early 1990s, patron-client reciprocal
ties continued to characterize relations between tenants and
those landlords who remained in barangays. Beginning with
World War II, however, landlords left the countryside and moved
into the larger towns and cities or even to one of the huge
metropolitan centers. By the mid-1980s, most large landowners had
moved to the larger cities, although, as a rule, they also
maintained a residence in their provincial center. Landowners who
remained in the municipality itself were usually school teachers,
lawyers, and small entrepreneurs who were neither longstanding
large landowners (hacenderos) nor owners of more than a
few hectares of farmland.
In the urban areas, the landowners had the advantages of
better education facilities and more convenient access to banking
and business opportunities. This elite exodus from the
barangays, however, brought erosion of landlord-tenant and
patron-client ties. The exodus of the wealthiest families also
caused patronage of local programs and charities to suffer.
The strength of dyadic patterns in Philippine life probably
caused farmers to continue to seek new patron-client
relationships within their barangays or municipalities.
Their personal alliance systems continued to stress the vertical
dimension more than the horizontal. Likewise, they sought
noninstitutional means for settling disputes, rarely going to
court except as a last resort. Just as the local landlord used to
be the arbiter of serious disputes, so the barangay head
could be called on to perform this function.
The traditional rural village was an isolated settlement,
influenced by a set of values that discouraged change. It relied,
to a great extent, on subsistence farming. By the 1980s, land
reform and leaseholding arrangements had somewhat limited the
role of the landlords so that farmers could turn to government
credit agencies and merchants as sources of credit. Even the
categories of landlord and tenant changed, because one who owned
land might also rent additional land and thus become both a
landlord and a tenant.
In many barangays, the once peaceful atmosphere of the
community was gone, and community cohesion was further
complicated by the effects of the New People's Army (NPA)
(see The Communist Insurgency
, ch. 5). If residents
aided the NPA, they faced punishment from government troops.
Government troops could not be everywhere at all times, however,
and when they left, those who aided the government faced
vengeance from the NPA. One approach that the government took was
to organize the villagers into armed vigilante groups. Such
groups, however, have often been accused of extortion,
intimidation, and even torture
(see Civil-Military Relations
Economic organization of Philippine farmers has been largely
ineffective. This fact has worked to the disadvantage of all of
the farmers, especially the landless farm workers who were
neither owners nor tenants. These landless farmers remained in
abject poverty with little opportunity to better their lot or
benefit from land reform or welfare programs.
Even in the 1990s, the pace of life was slower in rural than
in urban areas. Increased communication and education had brought
rural and urban culture closer to a common outlook, however, and
the trend toward scientific agriculture and a market economy had
brought major changes in the agricultural base
Agriculture, Forestry, and Fishing
, ch. 3). Scientific farming on a
commercialized basis, land reform programs, and increased access
to education and to mass media were all bringing change. In spite
of migration to cities, the rural areas continued to grow in
population, from about 33 million in 1980 to nearly 38 million in
1985. Rural living conditions also improved significantly, so
that by the early 1990s most houses, except in the most remote
areas, were built of strong material and equipped with
electricity and indoor plumbing.
Data as of June 1991