Monday, May 4, 2009

Who Else Heard This Myth From Western Friends?

Myths abound in Filipino culture. And they're all lovely. But one myth comes from Western friends, and I don't know who else have heard this one: that Filipino society is matriarchal.

Do you think so?

Amorsolo - Ina at Anak
Painting by Fernando Amorsolo entitled "Ina at Anak" as featured in

We have a matricentric society. But are we matriarchal? That is the question.

I found interesting discussions about this in the net too:
  1. The word "matriarchal" is used loosely by commenters "The Saint" and "Ira" to refer to their experience about gender biases in schools and in corporations;
  2. Commenter "Annabelle" used the word "matriarchal" because we have a woman for a President;
  3. Commenter "Fatherpose" (obviously a non-Filipino) used the word "matriarchal" to impress their perception that Filipino men are "wimpy"
  4. A Wapedia entry entitled "Religion in the Philippines" debatably interprets the major roles played by women in pre-colonial Filipino history to mean that the Filipinos are basically matriarchal.
Interestingly, "Matt T" answered the question "Why (sic) some say that the Philippines is a Matriarchal Society?" by "ChiliConCarne" this way...
According to University of the Philippines anthropologist Michael Tan, the Philippines is a PATRIARCHIAL AND MATRICENTRIC SOCIETY.

Meaning, the fathers head the family while the family is closer (in both location and relationships) to the mother's family.
ChiliConCarne chose Matt's as "Best Answer."

You may also choose to read Michael Tan's articles in his official website and in his unofficial website.

Do we agree with Michael Tan that the Philippines is patriarchal and matricentric?

Despite general perception to the contrary, Filipino society holds women with high esteem. We don't take a woman's word lightly. We respect it as a word of an equal.

Evidence of that can be found in the following:
  1. First, ancient Filipinos believe that man and woman come from two sections of the same bamboo pecked by a bird.
  2. Second, historians have now established that Filipino women in pre-colonial times had rights, held property, conducted business, and had a public life, something that their western counterparts at that time can only dream of.
  3. Third, hey, just look around guys! Gender equality is now enshrined in our Constitution, with full support of our male-dominated Con-Con members.
So, are we patriarchal? matriarchal? matricentric?

I'll leave that discussion to the academics.

Meantime, what do these things mean to our boys? It seems that at this point, it is clear that our challenge as fathers is to become models for our boys in helping them grow into...
  1. MEN who can make good decisions for the good of everyone, men and women alike, without getting swayed by western stereotypes. If western people think offering a seat to a lady is treating her as inferior, Filipinos offer a seat to a lady because of what's written in a Filipino's DNA: that a woman is a revered equal in the family and in society.
  2. MEN who espouse values that solicit respect and admiration from both men and women. Eighteenth century wild wild west machismo may make you look cool among other men, but it does not work in our society. What's despicable for either men or women is despicable for society. Period. Don't push it.
Does your boy see what you want him to learn and become?

May your boy model you rightly.

1 comment:

  1. Filipino (our) culture is partly matriarchal but definitely a gynocentric just like any other culture out there. Here are reasons why this is true:

    1.) Men's lives are dispensable" - here used to be a Spanish colony and from them we inherited social rules such as "women and children first" and "never hit a woman" can only point to women being a protected class

    2.) "Macho" men exists to please women and get their attention - this one is pretty obvious IMO but if isn't; women crave attention and high status men provides a good chunk of it

    3.) Filipino as majority of society are emotional thinkers/voters (which BTW is a feminine trait)

    Ever notice that young filipino men if not thugs are effeminate and needy while young women are more brazen? Just something I'm observing more and your welcome to dispute my


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