CHAPTER VI: Philippines Country Study
SECTION I: CULTURE
The Philippines is a family-oriented society. Scholars have noted that from their very earliest socialization, Filipinos are taught not to think of themselves, but to think of the family, the barangay, and the town. In addition, the ethnic diversity of the country reinforces this introverted process. Thus, it is more common for the citizenry to think not in terms of a nation of Filipinos, but in terms of representatives of towns, districts, and ethnic backgrounds. In addition to the family, the Catholic Church is a dominant influence. Most importantly, the Church has instilled in the people a sense of patience, a conviction that this life is merely preparation for a more glorious life to come. This outlook contributes to popular acceptance of the economic and social imbalances that exist in the country. Some six million Filipinos make up the so-called cultural minority groups or tribal Filipinos – a minority which nevertheless comprises 12 percent of the total population. Included in this are four million Muslims.
In the Philippines, the stability of family and community takes precedence over personal desires. The subsistence economy also helps to dictate the authoritarian structure of the family in which control can be enforced at any level of seniority. In Philippine society, self-esteem becomes equated with stature, and one’s position in the social order, regardless of actual function, is of major importance. Control is asserted less by physical resistance or punishment than by a sense of public shame or, in extreme cases, by ostracism. Either of these controls is more effective than any appeal to guilt feelings. The pressure of obligatory relations is summed up in the concept of reciprocity. The chief exception to hierarchical structure in the family is the Philippine wife, who is legally her husband's equal. Today, women hold national public office and executive and professional positions at all levels of society.
The Philippine class structure has been remarkably unchanged throughout the centuries. Of the total population in 1992, it is estimated that about 1 percent is considered in the upper class (large landowners, highly successful professionals and businessmen, and upper echelon government officials); 12 percent in the middle class (minor officials, certain educators, most businessmen, and owners of medium size farms); 32 percent in the upper lower class (skilled laborers, government clerks, most teachers and office workers, owners of small farms and general stores); and 55 percent in the lower class (unskilled laborers, owners of less than 5 acres of farmland, most tenant farmers, landless farm laborers, the handicapped, and most household servants).
Philippine society is relatively homogeneous, especially considering its distribution over some 7,100 islands. Muslim and upland tribal peoples represent the most obvious exceptions, while approximately 90 percent of the society remains united by a common cultural and religious background and ethnically referred to as Lowland Christians.
The people of the Philippines are called Filipinos. According to some anthropologists, the Philippine Islands have 45 ethnographic groups distinct in economic and social life, language, and often-physical type. Among physical groups, the Visayans (also called Bisayans), who inhabit the sugar rich central islands, constitute the most numerous divisions. They are usually subdivided into three groups: the Cebuano in the center, Samar-Leyte in the east, and Hiligaynon in Panay and Western Negros. The Visayans are characterized as being the most carefree and the most Spanish in their music and folkways.
In Luzon, the Tagalogs, from the provinces adjacent to Manila, are the most home-loving and learned of Filipinos; the Ilocanos, from the north, the most energetic, thrifty, and migratory; and the Pampanguenos, from the central plains, the sharpest in trading. The Muslims of the far southern islands are considered the most independent Filipinos.
The Muslims, also referred to as Moros, are the largest of the organized non-Christian minorities, constituting approximately 4 percent of the population. There are many Muslim groups, each with distinct cultural and linguistic habits. The three main groups are the Tausog, Maranaw, and Magindanaw. Other non-Christian groups, also referred to as Upland Tribal Groups, adhere to indigenous religious beliefs and practices. The mountain people of northern Luzon include the Ifugaos, Bontocs, Benguets, Kalingas, and Apayaos. Nomadic Ilongots roam the range of eastern Luzon. The Mangyans of Mindoro and the Manobos, Bukidons, and Bagobos of Mindanao all practice slash-and-burn cultivation. The non-Christian minorities have been treated as marginal Filipinos. Adequate political representation has not yet been extended to all of these groups. They have been less successfully assimilated by intermarriage than have the Chinese, Spanish, and American mestizos, or mixed groups.
The Chinese have managed the economy as financiers and entrepreneurs, but they are not naturalized citizens. Contacts with China from the 10th century on have resulted in a group of mixed Filipino-Chinese descent, which accounts for a minority of the population. Spanish-Filipinos and Filipino-Americans may be distinguished by their fairer complexion, taller stature, and aquiline nose structure.
Roman Catholicism is the dominant religion in the Philippines. It is the religion of about 83 percent of the population. Although the Philippine Constitution calls for separation of church and state, the Catholic Church is still able to manipulate some government policy decisions. Islam pre-dates Catholicism by about three centuries, but has remained confined to the Sulu Archipelago and the provinces of Mindanao. Approximately 5 percent of the population practices the Muslim religion. Protestantism, also a minor religion in the Philippines, is practiced by approximately 9 percent of the population. Another 3 percent of the population follows Buddhism and other minor religions.
The formal education system in the Philippines offers six years of elementary instruction followed by four years of high school. In 1975, only 21.7 percent of Filipinos who were 25 years or older had completed elementary school. Recently, however, 61.5 percent of the eligible population now completes elementary school, and approximately 30 percent of the eligible population now attends high school. Ninety percent of males and females over age 15 can read and write. Elementary education begins at 7 years of age and is provided free of charge at public (government-administered) schools.
Secondary education, which is also available free in some areas, begins at the age of 13 and lasts for up to four years, comprising two equal cycles. There is a common general curriculum for all students in the first two years and more varied curricula in the third and fourth years, leading to either college or technical vocational courses. In 1988, 98 percent of all children in the relevant age group were enrolled at primary schools, while the comparable ratio for secondary enrollment was 54 percent. The total enrollment at elementary schools in 1989-90 was 10.3 million, while secondary school enrolment was 4.0 million. Instruction is in both English and Filipino at the elementary level, while English is the usual medium at the secondary and tertiary levels. In 1989, a new curriculum for secondary schools was implemented; Filipino was to be the language of instruction for all subjects except mathematics and sciences. Among the population aged 15 and over, the average illiteracy rate in 1990 was estimated at 10.3 percent (males 10.0 percent, females 10.5 percent). The 1991 budget allocated 39 billion pesos (15.5 percent of total expenditure) to education, culture, and training.
D. Important Tips
The Philippines has been influenced by the Chinese, Malayan, Spanish, and American cultures. Consequently, many aspects of these different cultures are evident in the unique Filipino society. Although casual and fun loving, Filipinos are sensitive people; insincerity is easily detected and can ruin a relationship. Individualism is less important than the family. Bringing shame to an individual reflects on his family and is avoided at all costs. Interdependence is more important than independence; a family member will often sacrifice personal goals or desires to help the family or another family member. Likewise, making social relationships run smoothly is often seen as being more important than expressing personal views. A Filipino may even consider frankness to show a lack of culture. In general, Filipinos have a more relaxed view of time and may not always begin meetings or appointments promptly.
Accepting a favor obliges a Filipino to repay with a greater favor, although never with money. Innovation, change, and even competition are sometimes considered risks that could bring shame if a person fails. Making changes in social or religious habits may be considered as being ungrateful to parents. Fatalism is a common attitude, characterized by the expression Bahala na, which means, roughly, “Accept what comes and bear it with hope and patience.” Success may also be attributed to fate rather than ability or effort. The Latin idea of machismo is evident in the Philippines; the ideal man is a macho man. Men often make comments about women passing by on the street, but these are ignored.
SECTION II: GEOGRAPHY
The Philippines is one of few developing nations in the world with a functioning democracy. The Philippines also enjoys moderate economic growth, balanced between technology exports, manufacturing, agriculture, and services. An Archipelago nation of over 7,700 islands, the Philippine economy is enhanced by its location near major international shipping lanes, but also limited by transportation difficulties and its vulnerability to hurricanes and volcanic activity. Communist insurgent groups in the central and northern islands and Muslim secessionist groups in the southernmost islands affect Philippine internal stability. The Philippines has few external threats, the most significant being PRC encroachment upon its territorial and maritime claims in the South China Sea.
A. Summary Data
The Philippines officially consists of 7,107 islands of which only 2,000 are inhabited. Only about 500 of the islands are larger than a square kilometer, and 2,500 of them are not even named. In order of size, the biggest islands are:
|Luzon||104,683 sq km|
|Mindanao||94,596 sq km|
|Palawan||14,896 sq km|
|Panay||12,327 sq km|
|Mindoro||10,245 sq km|
|Samar||9,949 sq km|
|Negros||9,225 sq km|
|Leyte||6,268 sq km|
|Cebu||5,068 sq km|
|Bohol||4,117 sq km|
|Masbate||4,047 sq km|
The total area of the Philippines is 300,000 square kilometers. From north to south the Philippines stretch for 1,850kmand from east to west for 1,100km. The highest mountain is Mt Apo, near Davao in Mindanao, at 2953 meters. Mt Pulong, east of Baguio in north Luzon, is the second highest at 2,930 meters. There are over 37 volcanoes in the Philippines, 17 of which are classified as being active, including the Mayon Volcano near Legaspi in south Luzon. The longest rivers are the Cagayan River, the Rio Grande de Pampanga, and the Agno in Luzon; and the Rio Grande de Mindanao and the Agusan River in Mindanao.
The islands of the Philippines can be conveniently divided into four groups:
- Luzon, the largest and northern most island and the site of the capital, Manila. The nearby islands of Mindoro and Marinduque, which are sandwiched between Mindoro and Luzon, are generally included with Luzon.
- The island of Mindanao and the Sulu Archipelago, which dominates the southern portion of the archipelago.
- The tightly packed island group known as the Visayas, which fills the space between Luzon and Mindanao. There are seven major islands in this group: Panay, Negros, Cebu, Bohol, Leyte, Samar, and Masbate. Cebu is the central island of the group and Cebu City is the shipping center for the entire Philippines. From here ships run to places throughout the country.
- The province of Palawan off to the west, which is dominated by the island of Palawan, but also includes more than 1,700 other islands.
SECTION III: CLIMATE
The climate in the Philippines is typically tropical – hot and humid year round. Although the actual weather pattern is fairly complex, it can roughly be divided into January to June (dry) and July to December (wet). January is usually the coolest month and May the hottest, but the temperature does not fluctuate far from 25°C (80°F) year round.
December to February are the “cool dry” months, while March to May are the “hot dry” months. It rains nearly every day from July through September. In May, Manila usually has daytime temperatures of 35-40oC (65o-104oF), and at night it does not drop much below 27oC (81oF). This is the time of year when rich citizens of Manila head for the perpetual spring of Baguio and the mountain provinces.
The best time to travel is from December to May. In December and January, however, you must contend with the rains on the east coast. March through May are the summer months. Normally, for large areas of the Philippines, the rainy season starts in June. However, over the past decade, the dry season has occasionally extended into July.
Travel around the Philippines is not really affected by the occasional downpour, but more by the unpredictable typhoons that usually come with the wet, monsoon season from May to November. The southwest Visayas and Mindanao lie beneath the typhoon belt. Typhoons usually blow in from the southeast.
The Pacific Ocean coastline, comprising Luzon, Samar, Leyte, and Mindanao, lies in the path of the northeast trade winds, ensuring a mild oceanic climate. The winter monsoons take place from December or January to May and bring rain to the Pacific coast, but primarily dry pleasant weather to the rest of the land. The summer monsoon blows from June to December or January and brings heavy rains to the Manila area. The typhoons in the Pacific region are predominantly in the Marshall and Caroline Islands. They travel in a northwesterly direction towards the Chinese mainland between June and November, mainly in August/September.
SECTION IV: TRANSPORTATION AND COMMUNICATIONS
Inexpensive bus service is available throughout most large cities and suburbs. Although schedules are frequent, Philippine buses are considered unsafe and uncomfortable by U.S. standards. Pick pocketing is quite common on buses, and bus drivers often drive recklessly. Both local and long distance buses announce only the final destination. Depending on the distance, the trip costs 90 centavos for the first five kilometers, then 25 centavos for every further kilometer. In Manila the air-conditioned bus is very popular, but more expensive.
These are the most popular means of transport for short journeys. The jeepneys are reconstructed Jeeps which were left in the Philippines by the U.S. military after World War II. They are colorfully painted, and the tops are decorated with a multitude of mirrors and statues. Most jeepney routes are prescribed, and the fares start at 90 centavos for the first five kilometers, then 25 centavos for every kilometer thereafter. When you want to get off, just bang on the roof, hiss, or yell “Jeepney para.”
Outside of urban areas, it is important to negotiate a price before setting out on a long trip over unfamiliar territory. Before you start, ask other passengers about the price, or check in a nearby shop and then confirm the price with the driver. This may save you an unpleasant situation upon reaching your destination. Jeepneys usually only leave when full (or overflowing) with passengers; therefore, you must allow for long waiting periods. If you climb into an empty jeepney and the driver takes off immediately, it means he usually will try to charge you for a “special ride.” If you do not want this, you must make it clear to him that you are only prepared to pay for a “regular ride.” It costs about P600 to rent a jeepney for a day, more if the roads are in bad condition, and gas is extra.
If several men get into the jeepney after you and try to sit near you or get you to change seats, get out immediately. They may be trying to rob you.
Taxis have meters, or they are supposed to. Flat-fare arrangements will always work out to the driver’s advantage, although some meters turn over more quickly than normal. In spite of fines of up to P5000, countless taxis still have rigged meters. Pay particular attention to the digital price display if the driver honks the horn every few seconds. Sometimes horns and meters are linked up and the meter adds a unit every time the horn is sounded. As with taxis everywhere in Asia, make sure the meter is turned on when you start. The most reliable taxis seem to be Golden Cabs, but unfortunately there are not many around. Taxis waiting in front of large hotels, bus stations, ports, and airports nearly always have rigged meters. It is usually worth walking to the next street.
These are bicycles with sidecars for passengers. As transport becomes increasingly motorized, they are becoming rarer even in the provinces. Prices start at about P25 per person for a short trip.
International air travel can be arranged from Manila. Airlines connecting Manila with other points in the Far East include Air France, China Airlines, Cathay Pacific, KLM, Korean Airlines, Northwest, Pakistan International, Philippine Air Lines, and Japan Airlines. Northwest has the most flights to the United States. In 1987 there were 87 airports in the Philippines. In addition to the international airports at Manila and Mactan (Cebu), there are four alternative international airports: Laoag City, Ilocos Norte; Davao City; Zamboanga City; and Puerto Princesa City. Philippine Airlines maintains domestic and international air services. The Bureau of Air Transportation implements government policies for the development and operation of a safe and efficient aviation network.
Train travel is not recommended because of unsafe roadbeds, substandard cars, and frequent thefts.
Inter-island ships sail almost daily with calls at major Philippine ports. Although accommodations are not first-class, traveling on ships can be adventuresome and enjoyable. However, during peak travel periods, ships are quickly overcrowded. At all times ship travel may be hazardous because of lack of enforcement of safety regulations. Characteristics of normal sea travel in and around the Philippines are:
- As many people as possible crammed into the smallest possible space.
- Bunks welded to every available bit of floor space.
- Overflowing toilets due to no water and overuse.
- Lousy food, very little drink available, and the boat arriving several hours late.
- Nauseated passengers if it is slightly rough.
Radio and television programs in the Philippines resemble those in the United States. They are commercial and highly competitive. Many programs are in English. Many popular U.S. series are carried in English, but many locally produced shows are in Tagalog. Local news and public affairs programs are usually in English. The Philippines currently have about 315 radio stations, with 45 in the metropolitan Manila area. There are also 29 television channels throughout the nation, with 7 in the Manila area. Sky cable TV is also available.
There are PLDT (Philippines Long Distance Telephone Company) offices in Manila as well as at other central locations. A visitor can also make international calls from the Manila Hilton, but there is a 25 percent surcharge for non-guests. It is far cheaper to make station-to-station rather than person-to-person calls from the Philippines; charges are about 25 percent less. It is best to call outside of business hours (of the country being called) when the waiting time will be considerably less. On Sundays there is a 25 percent reduction in the charge. In the Philippines, the AT&T international access number is 105-11.
In contrast to overseas calls, local calls in the Philippines are difficult. It can take a ridiculously long time to be connected. The lines over long distances are bad; international calls are a breeze in comparison. You cannot find telephones everywhere in the Philippines. In an emergency try the nearest police station, which in many rural areas will have the only telephone for miles around. Telephone numbers are always changing, so check a local directory before calling.
The international telegram service is fairly prompt and reliable, but internal telegrams are likely to be delayed. There are several telegram companies. To overseas destinations, 12-hour telegrams cost about P8 per word. Within the Philippines, a telegram to Cebu from Manila, for example, costs about 80 centavos a word and takes five hours. To compare, a telex to Europe costs P60 per minute (= four lines) through Eastern Communications.
The Filipino postal system is generally quite efficient. Post offices are closed on Sundays and public holidays. During the Christmas period from mid-December to mid-January, mail is delayed by up to two months. If items such as film are sent by mail, it is best to send it by registered post. Parcels have to be wrapped with brown paper and secured with string. In most hotels there is a packing service for guests, and for a few pesos more, an employee will take the package to the post office. Although the postal service is usually competent, it is not recommended that you send money through the mail. Letters with banknotes inside tend to mysteriously disappear, even if they are registered.
SECTION V: HEALTH
The general level of sanitation in the Philippines is lower than that in the United States, but is high compared with many other developing nations. An increase in Manila's population, as in other urban areas, has greatly overtaxed city water supplies, sewage, garbage disposal, street cleaning, and utilities. Caution must be exercised regarding the public water supplies in the Philippines. At times during the dry season, low main water pressure results in questionable water potability in certain areas. As a general rule, it is advised to boil water before drinking and brushing teeth or use bottled water.
Even in large urban areas such as Manila, open sewers and waste disposal can be found. Food handling and market sanitation practices in some areas may not be adequate from a public health standpoint. Most urban areas are trying to improve city sanitation conditions and educate people in public health and sanitation measures. However, these programs have not reached all levels of the society. Cockroaches, ants, mosquitoes, fleas, termites, rats, and mice abound in the Philippines; and malaria is still a problem in the outlying areas of the nation.
Prevalent diseases of military importance include malaria, all types of diarrheas, typhoid fever, gastroenteritis, hemorrhagic fever, helminthiasis and other parasitic infections, filariasis, schistosomiasis, sexually transmitted diseases, pneumonia, and other respiratory infections. AIDS is also a mounting concern in the Philippines; with no system in place to test the national blood bank, the probability of a rapidly escalating infection rate is high. Another health consideration is the severe climate of the Philippines. The continuous heat and humidity can cause loss of stamina among personnel and increase the deterioration of equipment and other material. Mildew, fungus, and arthropod infestations are also common.
Dangerous flora and fauna abound in and around the Philippine Islands. All plants, animals, and marine life should be considered potentially life threatening until otherwise positively identified. The following is a list of the most prevalent and dangerous flora and fauna: centipedes, black scorpions, black widow spiders, numerous types of cobra, coral and sea snakes, yellow spotted pit viper, speckled pit viper, stonefish, scorpion fish, court cone, sea wasp, jelly fish, zebra fish, gunpowder plant, ligas plant, and lipay plant.
Preventive Measures. The occasional gastrointestinal upsets and colds are almost unavoidable. Through normal precautions and care, serious diseases, such as cholera, typhoid amebiases, bacillary dysentery, and intestinal parasites, are avoidable. Select eating establishments carefully, and drink only bottled water or beverages. Boil all water that is used for cooking or drinking. Prior to entry into the Philippines, personnel should be inoculated against typhoid, tetanus, diphtheria, poliomyelitis, and cholera. The best way to protect against sexually transmitted diseases is abstinence, for even the use of condoms is not 100 percent effective.
SECTION VI: THE ECONOMY
After several false starts, the Philippine economy is finally poised for a take-off. The country's economic growth for 1994 was 5.1 percent, about double the 1993 growth rate. An indicator of investor enthusiasm is the Philippine stock market, whose performance in 1993 has been described as the best in Asia. The Philippine composite index climbed a staggering 193 percent, the third largest gain in the world. Foreign investments of $522 million in 1993, most from Asians nations, nearly doubled that of 1992. The Philippines has also made significant progress in its relations with Malaysia, ending nearly 30 years of a “cold war” between the two nations. As a result, Malaysia is now the biggest single investor in the Subic Bay Freeport.
The economic resurgence of the Philippines has also attracted other Asian countries, including Japan, China, South Korea, Taiwan, and Singapore. Currently, Japan is the number one investor in the Philippines, having injected about $110 million in 1993, up 65 percent from 1992. Singapore's investment of $38 million in 1993 was an increase of nearly 800 percent over that of 1992.
However, one of the biggest economic problems facing the Philippines is its growing $32 billion foreign debt. Currently, payments to service the foreign debt eat up 43 percent of the national budget. In an effort to relieve this pressure, the Philippine government has been allowed to restructure its debt with its creditors and postpone some payments by 15 to 20 years. Another problem still facing the Philippine economy is trying to deal with the after effects of the U.S. military withdrawal. The Subic Bay Naval Base provided income, either directly or indirectly, for approximately 160,000 Filipinos and their dependents. Prior to the U.S. withdrawal in November 1992, the U.S. government was the second largest employer in the Philippines, second only to the Philippine government.
SECTION VII: INTERNAL AND EXTERNAL THREATS
A. Internal Threat
Instability is a fact of political life in the Philippines. There are basically three groups that continue to disrupt or have the ability to disrupt national peace: the New Peoples Army (NPA), the Muslim separatist movement, and the Reform the Armed Forces Movement (RAM) and Young Officers Union (YOU). Although disruptive, none of these groups has the ability to threaten the current government.
The first and foremost of these groups is the communist-backed insurgency. Jose Maria Sison, who adopted the Maoist revolutionary model as the basis for the insurgency, founded the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) in 1968. The CPP’s plan was to use its military arm, the NPA, to gradually assume control of the countryside and eventually restrict government influence to urban areas. Once this goal was realized, conventional warfare was to be used to finally defeat government forces. However, the NPA has been unable to acquire sufficient strength and support to overpower the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP). In fact, in recent years the NPA numbers have been shrinking due to political compromises by the Philippine government and AFP military successes. Currently, the NPA numbers no more than 7,000 combatants.
A second threat facing the AFP is the Muslim separatist movement centered on the southern island of Mindanao. This movement centers on the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), which seek Muslim autonomy from the central government. Another extremist Islamic group is the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG). The ASG mostly confines its actions to random kidnapping and bombings. Although organized resistance fragmented and diminished in the 1980s, in recent years, the number of attacks from Muslim insurgents has increased. The Muslim insurgents number approximately 15,000-19,000 guerrillas.
Still another threat to the Philippine government is the organization of disillusioned former military officers known as the RAM/YOU. The members and supporters of these organizations have been involved in at least seven attempts to overthrow the Philippine government. In recent years, support for their activities has weakened and their numbers have diminished. However, a small cadre of dedicated members remains and still has some potential to reestablish a destabilizing influence in the nation.
B. External Threat
Although the Philippines has been involved in territorial and commercial disputes with several of its neighbors, it currently perceives no major external threat to national security. Its military occupation of, and historical claim to, several Spratly Islands (known to the Philippines as the Kalayaan group), however, could prove to be a future flashpoint between the Philippines and other claimants, such as Vietnam, Malaysia, Taiwan, and the People’s Republic of China, especially if a major oil or other commercially exploitable resource is discovered.
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