- Women in the Philippines
The role of women in the Philippines is explained based on the context of
Filipino culture, standards, and mindsets. The Philippines is described to be a nationof strong women, who directly and indirectly run the family unit, businesses, government agencies and haciendas. Although they generally define themselves in the milieu of a masculine dominated post-colonial Asian Catholic society, Filipino women live in a culture that is focused on the community, with the family as the main unit of society. It is in this framework of Philippinehierarchical structure, class differences, religious justifications, and living in a globally developing nation wherein Filipino women struggle for respect. Compared to other parts of Southeast Asia, women in Philippine society have always enjoyed a greater share of legal equality.Clamonte, Nitz. Women in the Philippines, Compiled from [http://www.ozamiz.com/earthcalls/women.html "Gender Awareness Seminars"] , developed and facilitated by Nitz Clamonte, Ozamiz.com (undated), retrieved on: 11 July 2007] [http://countrystudies.us/philippines/44.htm The Role and Status of Women] , U.S. Library of Congress, CountryStudies.us (undated), retrieved on: 11 July 2007] Laya, Jaime C. and Michael Van D. Yonzon, [http://www.pia.gov.ph/philtoday/pt03/pt0309.htm Through the Years, Brightly: The Tadtarin] ; and Joaquin, Nick. The Summer Solstice, PIA.gov (undated), ] Vartti, Riitta (editor), “Women writers through the ages; The Spanish era”, [http://www.filippiinit-seura.fi/firefly.html The History of Filipino Women's Writings] , an article from Firefly - Filipino Short Stories (Tulikärpänen - filippiiniläisiä novelleja), 2001 / 2007] , retrieved on: April 12 2008, "...Filipinas (i.e. Philippine women) enjoy a reputation of power and equality compared to most of their Asian neighbors..."; "...The Spaniards of the 1500s were horrified by the revolting liberty and too high social status of the woman, mujer indigena, in the islands just conquered by them. Women could own property and rule the people, act as leaders of rites and ceremonies of the society, and divorce their husbands..."; "The Conquistadors and the friars quickly changed this with the European model, where women's place was at home and not in prominent positions. As a consequence, during hundreds of years, education was given only to upper class girls, who were trained to become beautiful, submissive, capable to stitch embroidery, and suitable to marriage. The nun institution offered the only possibility for a career and teaching was the only educated occupation allowed to them..."]
The pre-colonial social structure of the Philippines gave equal importance to maternal and paternal
lineage. This bilateral kinshipsystem accorded Philippine women enormous power within a clan. They were entitled to property, engage in a trade and could exercise their right to divorce her husband. They could also become village chiefs in the absence of a male heir. Before the arrival of the Spaniards, Filipino women could also achieve status as medicine women or high-priestesses and astrologers.Karnow, Stanley. "In Our March 3 1990, 536 pages, ISBN 0-345-32816-7] cite book
author= Shah, Angilee
publisher=UCLA International Institute
title=Women's Political Role on Rise in Philippines
accessdate=2007-07-12 (based on a lecture and election studies by Prosperina D. Tapales, professor of public administration at the University of the Philippines, Diliman, Quezon City, Philippines)] cite web
title=Women in Contemporary Philippine Local Politics
author=Proserpina D. Tapales
publisher=UCLA International Institute: UCLA Center for Southeast Asian Studies
colonizationof the Philippines, the Spaniards relegated the Filipinas to a secondary position in society, while glorifying and assigning the Virgin Maryas a model for Filipino women. The arrival of the Spaniards and Catholicism also fixed the native Filipino women's role to the church, the convent and the home.
When Spain lost the Spanish-American War in 1898, the Philippines was ceded to the United States of America. America introduced the public education system, a catalyst for the change in women's roles in Philippine society. The democratic concepts of elections and political parties were also influential factors to the psyche of Filipino women. Through the American-patterned school system, Filipino women became
professionals.Vartti, Riitta (editor), “Women writers through the ages; The U.S. Period”, [http://www.filippiinit-seura.fi/firefly.html The History of Filipino Women's Writings, an article from Firefly - Filipino Short Stories (Tulikärpänen - filippiiniläisiä novelleja), 2001 / 2007] , retrieved on: April 12 2008, "...They (i.e. Filipino women) were now, for the first time equally with men, accepted to study..."; "...Their problem was the resistance of the patriarchal society..."; "...The first woman president Corazon Aquino was elected to power..."; "Many women writers, especially those from the capital area, participated in the development of the media since the 1930s..."; "...In the turn of the 1970s began a period of cultural revolution, student movements and new rise of nationalism. For the women writers it meant social awakening, commitment and protest..."; "...The Filipinas now wanted to create their own images by themselves..."]
Modern-day Philippine women play a decisive role in Filipino families. They handle the money, act as religious mentors, and could also arrange the marriages of sons and daughters, striving to improve the family’s dynastic connections. The emergence of
Corazon Aquino, Imelda Marcosand Gloria Macapagal-Arroyoas political figures shows that Filipino society respects women, in spite of its male chauvinism, and in spite of women being often portrayed as surrogates of their husbands.
metropolitanwork realm, firms and businesses generally hire Filipino women for less pay and lower positions. Typically, a man is hired for the professional position and the women for the secretarial position, despite their having an equal level of education. The Filipina will not only receive smaller wages, but also additional secretarial functions. This “servile mindset” begins in childhood. In school, boys are often elected to organizational positions such as president and vice-president, while the girls are either members or holding treasurerpositions. Young girls try to justify their worth through hard work and by being responsible pupils. Compared to Filipino men, Philippine women carry the obligation of continuing to support their family financially after their school years and marriage. The man, on the other hand, keeps his salary and holds no obligation to the family.
However, current trends in Human Resources Management paved the way in equalizing this perceived notion of inequality. As can be seen by a lot of women holding high ranking positions in both big and small organizations. There are a lot of women holding managerial positions in banks, government and even in multinational companies.
Rural and tribal clan setting
ruralareas, the Filipino woman belongs in the home. The children approach her for money and help. She is the family's treasurer. She supports the children’s educational needs. For non-family members who require support, the wife is the person to be approached. However, the wife is neither the person who makes the final decision or the person who hands out the money.cite web
title=Philippines: The Role and Status of the Filipina
publisher=Ecyclopedia of the Nations
In contrast, however,
Juan Flavier, a physician, an authority on community development, and a former Philippine senator, described in his book "Doctor to the Barrios", that "whether some (Filipino) men are willing to admit it or not"... "rural women in the Philippines wield consideratble authority," the housewife in particular. This is especially if the housewife, who is often referred to as the "Reyna ng Tahanan" (Queen of the Home), is convinced of the benefits that will be gained from a certain practice such as the concept of family planning in the barrios. Flavier also mentioned that "In the Philippine barrio, the one responsible for the home" and its management "is the wife... she holds the key to... household... development."Flavier, Juan Martin. "Doctor to the Barrios", "Experiences with the Philippine Reconstruction Movement", Chapter 10: Family Planning in the Barrios, New Day Publishers (1970/2007), p. 157, ISBN 9711006634.]
Marriage and relationships
In rural areas, it is rare for a Filipino female to stay single. Permanent or prolonged single status is not always possible. It is only recently in ethnic communities that men and women have arranged their own marriages. Traditionally, the tribal council of elders and the family of the boy arranged the matches. The woman's family had little say, and the woman herself had no say at all. For example, based on
Subanentribal tradition, men can take on more than one wife, and the women are treated as the property of men. This interpersonal process, however, is already undergoing change.
In marriage, rural women, particularly those belonging to tribal communities, do not present their feelings to their husbands, particularly regarding love and sex. This is because traditionally the husband owns his wife and makes the decisions regarding her body. She can neither ask for nor deny her husband’s wishes. Because of this cultural mindset, women in Philippine rural areas experience higher rates of domestic abuse than those from urban areas. Women have no control over the number of children they have. As a result, rural communities are confronted with the growing global reality of overpopulation. Socio-economically, there is not enough land or alternative means of living.
divorceis viewed as negative and destructive in the Philippines, because of a tradition that stipulates and emphasizes that the family is the core social unit, especially for the Filipino wife. Divorce is not perceived as a solution to any matrimonial-related problem because it hinders the development or progress of the basic community unit. Therefore, husband and wife are obligated to fix problems within the boundaries of marriage.
It should always be noted, though, that pre-colonial women in the Philippines enjoyed equal status with men. Prior to colonization, both men and women could get a divorce for the following reasons: failure to meet family obligations, childlessness, and infidelity. Children regardless of sex and properties were equally divided. Since a man needed to pay a dowry to the woman's family, she was required to give it back should she be found at fault. If the man was at fault, he then lost the right to get back his dowry.
The pre-colonial society valued offspring regardless of sex. Female children were as valuable as male ones probably because of their economic implications, which was the family getting a dowry from suitors or prospective husbands and their capacity to help in the family's economic, social and political activities.
Change, influences and interventions although the
Roman Catholic Churchhas changed its position on the role of women in marriage, the Filipina as a wife is still secondary to her husband. She is the “servant” and the "helper".
In urban areas, single Filipinas have become liberal due to western influences. Although it is still culturally unacceptable for a single Filipino woman to ask a man on a date or to show interest in a man, Filipinas have learned to use body language to show their interest and openness to a relationship.
In rural communities, Filipinas are still not allowed to be too liberal. They are required to stifle their personality and sexuality, and should show a total lack of interest in intimacy with men to maintain reputation and self-respect.
Filipino women and work
Traditionally, rural and tribal women do all the work. The scope of their functions include cooking, cleaning, teaching the children, washing clothes, repairs, budgeting, and managing the farm. After the husband has finished tilling the farmland, the wife does the planting, the daily maintenance, the carrying of water, and the harvesting. Normally, the husband helps in the harvesting, but the tribal woman has the responsibility to find food for the family. She also acts as the mediator between her children and her husband. She manages practically everything but she does not have control over finances or in decision-making.
In general, Filipino women find pride in their work. They do not find themselves alienated from their chores because they work with, around, and for their families. This family-oriented mindset gives them a sense of dignity and responsibility. The family and the children are the primary priority in a Filipina's life.
Filipino women and Philippine politics
Despite the introduction of an American-based school system and the transformation of Filipino women into educated and professional members of Philippine society, their participation in Philippine politics was slow. This was primarily because engagement in politics is considered "dirty," and due to the traditional concept that holds that women cannot take positions higher than their husbands. But this idea introduced by colonization that Filipino women historically and traditionally belonged in the home, the church, or the convent, is also changing. A recent study revealed that there is a re-emergence of the empowerment of Filipino women through the political process, just as they were prior to the arrival of the ancient conquerors from Spain. Philippine women are rediscovering their strengths "even if they are not [directly engaged] in the electoral process." Filipino women had been successful in implementing policies by becoming executive staff members, advisers to politicians, and as advocates within non-governmental organizations.
Modern-day Filipinas are making strides in electoral politics by initiating more female-oriented programs. They are performing well as leaders, although generally, Filipino women still often earn political seats by having fathers and husbands who are politically connected, a "dynasty system" that hinders other Filipino women from joining the electoral process. Other factors that prevent full-engagement of other well-qualified Filipinas from the Philippine political scene are the expense in politics and the importance of the family name.
Participation of Filipino women in Philippine politics was encouraged during the Beijing Declaration in 1995 at the
United Nations' Fourth World Conference on Women. In February 2005, however, a United Nations review on the progress of Philippine women and their role in politics revealed that despite "an increase in the quality of female politicians, there was not enough increase in" the number of women participants in government activities. From 1992 to 2001, Filipino women had been elected as local chief executives, functioning as mayors, governors, and captains of villages. One influential factor contributing to the increasing number of female politicians, is the elevation of Corazon Aquino and Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo as Philippine women Presidents.
Contributions to Philippine society
Promotion of a female-inclined agenda that is beneficial to the whole of Filipino society - instead of being "specifically geared toward the well-being of Filipino women" - had been the priority of female leaders. These empowered women focused on the needs of their constituents in general, including agricultural and employment issues. In particular, they created child-friendly communities that are equipped with adequate daycare facilities and nutritional provisions. They established provincial offices for women and raised funding for these projects. At the national level of Philippine society, women leaders made progressive changes which benefited Philippine women. Corazon Aquino's 1987 executive order, known as the Family Code. Aquino's Family Code "eliminated gender bias in adultery cases and introduced annulment into a country that did not permit civil divorces." Another code in 1991 suggested the creation of "sectoral representation in local councils" and the "creation of special seats" such as a representative for women and a representative for workers. However, despite of a non-implementation setback of this 1991 code, a 1992 bill was passed that allowed women to enter military academies and other male-dominated organizations. The 1992 bill also enabled Filipino women to establish credit and own land without the consent of a father or husband. Women now are also active in sports and outside activities, They are now free to engage in any activity which they think seem to fit their personalities and gain additional knowledge and skills. Before women are for closets only meaning they have to stay in the house to take care of the children, attend to all house chores. Now most of the Filipino women excel in any field they choose and prove to be a pride of the Philippine nation.
Filipino women in art
In his paintings of Filipino women, the
Philippine National Artist Fernando Amorsolorejected Western ideals of beauty in favor of Filipino ideals He said that the women he painted have "a rounded face, not of the oval type often presented to us in newspapers and magazine illustrations. The eyes should be exceptionally lively, not the dreamy, sleepy type that characterizes the Mongolian. The nose should be of the blunt form but firm and strongly marked. ... So the ideal Filipina beauty should not necessarily be white complexioned, nor of the dark brown color of the typical Malayan, but of the clear skin or fresh colored type which we often witness when we met a blushing girl"."Paras-Perez, Rodriguez. "Amorsolo Drawings" ( [http://www.lopezmuseum.org.ph/gallery_amorsolo.html excerpt available online] ) (1992), ISBN 9491386742.]
* [http://www.ncca.gov.ph/about_cultarts/articles.php?artcl_Id=72 "A Celebration of Herstory: Filipino Women in Legislation and Politics, Perspective, About Culture and Arts"] , NCCA.gov.ph,
October 27 2003(Taken from the Historical Framework for the Centennial Celebration of Women in Politics and Legislation, sponsored by Ugnayan ng Kababaihan sa Pulitika, National Centennial Commission - Women Sector and Committee on Women, House of Representatives, BayView Hotel, Manila, June 25 1998), retrieved on: July 16 2007
*Conlu, Prudencia V., [http://www.fao.org/DOCREP/x0274e/x0274e05.htm#P70_8673 "Role of Filipino women in fisheries community"] , [http://www.fao.org/DOCREP/x0274e/x0274e00.htm Development of Fisheries in the Region: The Role of Filipino Women in Fishing Communities] (presented by Professor Prudencia V. Conlu, Dean, College of Fisheries, University of the Philippines in the Visayas, Miag-as, Iloilo. Philippines), FAO Corporate Document Repository, FAO.org, 1994, retrieved on:
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* [http://www.lawphil.net/statutes/presdecs/pd1975/pd_633_1975.html Creating a National Commission on the Role of Filipino Women] , Presidential Decree No. 633, Malacañang Palace, Manila, LawPhil.net,
January 7 1975, retrieved on: July 16 2007
* [http://www.un.org/womenwatch/daw/followup/beijing+5stat/statments/philippines7.htm "Women 2000: Gender Equality, Development and Peace for the Twenty-first Century"] , Statement by Dr. Amelou Benitez Reyes, Chairperson, National Commission on the Role of Filipino Women, Head of Delegation, Twenty-third Special Session of the General Assembly, New York, UN.org, June 5 to 9 2000, retrieved on:
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*Rivera, P.C., [http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/sites/entrez?cmd=Retrieve&db=PubMed&list_uids=12338131&dopt=Abstract "Women in Development: The Road Toward Liberation"] , NCBI.NLM.NIH.gov and PubMed.gov, 1979, retrieved on:
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*Philippine Legislators' Committee on Population and Development Foundation, [http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/sites/entrez?Db=pubmed&Cmd=ShowDetailView&TermToSearch=12179238&ordinalpos=6&itool=EntrezSystem2.PEntrez.Pubmed.Pubmed_ResultsPanel.Pubmed_RVDocSum "Philippine Laws and Policies on the Status of Women"] , NCBI.NLM.NIH.gov and PubMed.gov, 1992, retrieved on:
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*Executive Order No. 348 of 17 February 1989, [http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/sites/entrez?Db=pubmed&Cmd=ShowDetailView&TermToSearch=12344104&ordinalpos=18&itool=EntrezSystem2.PEntrez.Pubmed.Pubmed_ResultsPanel.Pubmed_RVDocSum "Approving and Adopting the Philippine Development Plan for Women for 1989 to 1992"] , Philippines, NCBI.NLM.NIH.gov and PubMed.gov, 17 February 1989, retrieved on:
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*Blake, Matthew. [http://www.bansa.org/culture/filipina "The Role and Status of the Filipina, A Country Study: Philippines"] ,
The Library of Congress, Bansa.org, March 30 2006, retrieved on: July 16 2007
* [http://www.aworc.org/bpfa/res/crep/ph00001.html Philippines: Specific Commitments Made at Beijing, Beyond Beijing: Taking Root and Gaining Ground Asia Pacific Development Centre - Gender and Development Programme (GAD-APDC)] , (This report is based on the proceedings of the Legislative Symposium on the government's implementation of the Beijing Platform for Action held on
September 29 1997, Philippines. The Committee on Women, House of Representatives and the Philippine NGO Beijing Score Board co-organized the symposium. The Committee on Women has the mandate to conduct congressional oversight on the implementation of laws and international instruments affecting the conditions of the Filipino women. The Philippine NGO Beijing Score Board is the main NGO network working with the government to monitor the implementation of the Platform for Action. During the Legislative Symposium, the report of the government was presented by Aurora Javate de Dios of the National Commission on the Role of Filipino Women who is also the Philippine representative to CEDAW), 1998, 260 pp., AWORC.org, retrieved on: July 16 2007
*Caoile, Gloria T., [http://www.imdiversity.com/villages/asian/history_heritage/archives/caoile_celebrating_filipino_women.asp "In Celebration of Filipino Women"] , "Tambuli Magazine", IMDiversity.com, retrieved on:
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*Former President Fidel V. Ramos (FVR), [http://www.mb.com.ph/issues/2005/01/03/MAIN2005010325656.html Cites Role of Women in Nation's History and Development] ,"The Manila Bulletin Online", MB.com, 2001, retrieved on:
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* [http://www.filippiinit-seura.fi/firefly.html The History of Filipino Women's Writings, an article from Firefly - Filipino Short Stories (Tulikärpänen - filippiiniläisiä novelleja), 2001 / 2007] , retrieved on:
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* [http://www.ncrfw.gov.ph National Commission on the Role of Filipino Women] , retrieved on: April 09, 2008
* [http://www.lawphil.net/administ/ncrfw/ncrfw.html National Commission on the Role of Women, LawPhil.net] , retrieved on:
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* [http://unescap.org/esid/GAD/Resources/FocalDirectory/philippines.asp Name of Organization: National Commission on the Role of Filipino Women, United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific, UNESCAP.org] , retrieved on:
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* [http://www.lib.berkeley.edu/SSEAL/SoutheastAsia/seaphil.html Philippines, Women's Studies, Bibliography, LIB.Berkeley.edu] , retrieved on:
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Filipino women writers
National Commission on the Role of Filipino Women
Culture of the Philippines
History of the Philippines (pre-1521)
Maria Rosa Luna Henson
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