The Elitist Segment of the Filipino Society

The Elitist Segment of the Filipino Society

by Apolinario Villalobos

Before the Spaniards came during the 1500s, the inhabitants of the Philippine Archipelago were living according to the norms of the “datu system”. The “datu”, being the wealthy and landed ruled over the rest of the members of the community. For protection, lesser “datus” came under the rule of the “Sultan”. Within the communities, the lower members were further classified into different levels, such as slave and serf.

For their convenience the Spanish colonizers, adopted the “datu system”, so that communities were ruled through their respective “datu”. Some prominent Spaniards who were part of the colonizing expeditions were awarded portions of land under the “encomienda system”, although they, as “encomenderos” were mandated by the Spanish king to take care of the natives, referred then, as “casiques” who were within their domain. Later on, even the “datus” became victims of the system when their lands were eventually appropriated for inclusion in the encomiendas. In exchange for their “noble authority” as “datus”, they were given privileges. This system was prevalent in Luzon and Visayas where until today, plantations still exist.

When the Philippine Archipelago was ceded by the Spaniards to the Americans by virtue of the Treaty of Paris, signed in December 10, 1898, the encomienda system had become well-entrenched in the culture of the Filipinos. Spanish encomenderos intermarried with natives and their mestizo offspring took over the ownership of vast tracts of land. The Americans who saw the effectiveness of the encomenda system, continued its use, although, the task was not easy in some parts of the archipelago.

While the encomenderos of Panay and Negros Islands, practically, offered the administration of their communities to the Americans, in exchange for which, they shall be allowed to maintain ownership of their lands, in Luzon and Mindanao, imposition of authority had to be made forcefully and bloodily due to skirmishes that ensued.

The heat of liberalism felt by the educated natives during the latter part of the Spanish rule was intensified when the Americans came because of the educational system and liberal administration that they introduced. From then on, educated Filipinos competed with the landed elite in hugging the limelight in the political arena.

The misfortune that befell the sugar industry, however, eased out the landed gentry, almost totally, from political scene which is now occupied not only be the educated segment but by the adventurous who view politics as a lifetime career….personalities who, in time became the so-called “traditional politicians” (trapos). They usually start their political career as barangay, municipal or city councilors, moving up to the position of vice-mayor, mayor, governor, congressman, senator…and still aiming for the highest political position in the land.

Today, the Filipino elite, aside from the heirs of hacienderos, also includes educated native Filipinos and naturalized foreign business tycoons who consistently maintain their position in the list of the “Who’s Who” of the corporate world, and the “trapos” who became rich overnight, thanks to politics, because some of these “tycoons” have actually been or still are dummies of the rich “trapos”.

Agrarian Strife… root of poverty and Red Movement in the Philippines

Agrarian Strife…root of poverty

and Red Movement in the Philippines

by Apolinario Villalobos

During the pre-Spanish time, nothing was on record about any agrarian discontent in the country, as it developed only when the Spaniards came and imposed their “encomienda” system. The practice was maintained by the Americans who took over the grip on colonial reins, and worsened when the country became a Republic under corrupt Filipino leaders.

The country is an agricultural nation. But, because of agrarian problems in the provinces, the starving Filipinos sought a better life in the city, where they lived on pavements, under the bridge, along waterways, and slums. In the city they still suffer from poverty, but they are on their own, their life not controlled by landlords who bound them in perpetual debt. They rummage in dump sites for morsels of food and recyclable stuff that they sell to junkshops. Most often what they earn is not enough so that rather than stare at their children dying of hunger, they commit crimes – some petty, some grave. They resort to “running” drugs for pushers, go into prostitution, pick pockets, break into homes, and steal goods in groceries. Had life been good in the province where they tended rice fields and vegetable plots, they would have not spent precious savings for fare to Manila to seek a better life, but found another hell, instead.

The advocates of Communism saw an opportunity in the poor Filipinos’ discontent. They sowed the seeds of the Red ideology among them – successfully. The mass base of the Red Movement has become firmer and broader. Not content in Manila, young Red agents go to the provinces which before were peaceful tourist destinations, especially, the island provinces. In cooperation with the New People’s Army, they meld with the villagers who have been suffering from the exploitation of their landlords, and who did not need any elaborate persuasion….more success.

Meanwhile, instead of resolving the issue on agrarian unrest, the government since the time of Marcos is more interested in developing rice and corn fields into high-end subdivisions and malls. Foreigners in drove took the opportunity using their Filipino dummies. The idea of the government is to make the country at par with neighboring Asian counties that are resplendent in their progress, as well as, provide employment for thousands of graduates with sophisticated courses. Nothing came out of this idea due to corruption which evolved from bad to worst!

And, finally, the once rice-exporting proud nation has become an importer of rice from countries whose rice technicians derived their knowledge from the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), in Los Baῆos, Laguna – Philippines!

That is the gloomy picture and sad story of a country called, “Pearl of the Orient Seas”, somewhere in the Pacific. It is my country, but, I am still proud of it…though vehemently pray and hope that it will someday be transformed into a better place to live in, with the united effort of the persistent fellow countrymen who still remain “true” Filipinos…at all cost!