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From Familial to Oligarchic Politics

Adrian V. Remodo


Politics in Bikol in particular and in the Philippines in general is undeniably a politics of few families. A “political name” plus strong machinery is a time-tested formula to win the game called election. While it is also true that there are some rare instances where a politician is born out of people’s initiative, his/her fight will be a bloody fight, a fight that passes through the eye of the needle, and more often than not, an affiliation to a strong political party, which is still dominated by the same few strong political families, is a big help, if not the solution. This paper attempts to develop a political philosophy from this becoming normative affair of our political life. Using Bikol’s sadiring tawo, I shall argue that our deep familial consciousness is the same reason that governs our socio-political affairs. We live and die being conscious of our kinship affairs. From this social situation, a pressing ethical issue emerges: how do we relate to the ibang tawo, that which is othered by the hegemonic magkasaradiring tawo? From this problematic, this paper further develops a conjecture that from this social philosophy, oligarchic politics takes shape. The last reflections shall attempt to redirect the exclusivist notion of sadiring tawo to being an ethical standard that is based on an inclusivist understanding of this concept.


Filipino values are inherently ambivalent. Sociologists affirm that the value that prods a Filipino/a to action is or can be the same value that can make him/her a fulltime bummer. Well known, of course, is our bahala na attitude. On the one hand, it makes us courageous to pursue our dreams however uncertain they may be. With faith to the Divine, we Filipinos path the uncharted seas if only to look for our survival. OFWs are the best example of this positive bahala na. They are the ones who brave the land that is stranger to them, only taking recourse on stories on how the foreign land is a greener pasture than the Philippines. On the other hand, with the bahala na notion, one can go with his life carefree with that will happen, delaying that which should be done urgently. The family is a value that works in this way for us.

Gabriel Marcel affirms that selfhood begins in one’s loving encounter with her family. One’s capacity to say I is rooted at the experience of being one with her family that teaches her what constitutes that I-ness. Marcel states thus that “[m]y family, or rather my lineage, is the succession of historical processes by which the human species has become individualized into singular creature that I am…I share with them as they do with me—invisibly; they are consubstantial with me and with them.” 1 The child is the cross point of historical processes of her lineage. These historical processes constitute her identity which is essentially a shared identity, that is, an identity which is unique to her yet at the same time an identity of a bigger social organization called family or clan. This bigger social organization is the first awakening to the fact that selfhood is never a solitary notion but is always an involved or shared one. As the child grows, her familial involvement is the source of pride or the lack of it; her family name becomes the first determinant of her social stature. With pride, Marcel continues, the child becomes aware of her family’s name or reputation and hence “it [pride] behooves me to prove myself worthy…it is a constructive sentiment, helping me give me foundations on which to establish my conduct.” 2 In her bigger field of identity, therefore, the child is awakened to the wealth, or the lack of it, of his lineage. This is among the first things that introduce her to what the child calls “self”. This Marcelian exposition of the relationship between the birth of the self and the pre-exisiting social structure called family is not far from Bikol’s notion of sadiri, our term for self. The sadiri is born when it realizes that she is different from the other, the iba. There is a story of a dog who happens to pass by a river, and there, it saw another dog carrying a bone. Growing jealous of the bone, the dog barked at the other dog he saw at the river, without realizing that it is his own image that he sees, and thereby losing the bone for his hearty meal. This story illustrates selfhood. The sadiri is aware of her pagsasadiri. Sadiri niya an saiyang sadiri, the self owns itself. Essential then for the sadiri is the act of owning or appropriation. To own one’s sadiri is to have an awareness of her totality and thus the other is that which does not belong to her act of being a self. Wilmer Tria notes hence, “an iba pwedeng maribong kun sisay an sadiri alagad an sadiri dai nanggad mariribong kun sisay sya. Sya an kagsadiri kan saiyang hawak. Sya an kagsadiri kan saiyang pagkayaon.” 3 It is in this act of owning that she becomes

1 Gabriel Marcel, Homo Viator , trans. Emma Crauford (New York: Harper Torchbooks, 1962), 68.

2 Ibid., 76.

3 Wilmer Joseph S. Tria, Ako asin an Kapwa Ko , Ikaduwang edisyon (Naga City: Ateneo de Naga University Press, 2007), 83.

whole and at home with her being. Another term that proves that ownership is essential to selfhood is ako: it both means I and acceptance. In as much as the sadiri realizes that she belongs to bigger relationship, she becomes aware that her selfhood is not hers alone but actually is originally a sharing to the structural selfhood or identity of the family that she belongs into; the child’s concept of being a sadiri rests on the lineage or genealogy that owns her family name. May kagsadiri kan saiyang sadiri. As F. Landa Jocano purports, “kinship lies deep in the heart of every Filipino. It is the core of Filipino social organization—actually, its nucleus. It affects, if not dominates, the formation, structure, and functions of Filipino institutions, relationships, values, and worldview.” 4 For us, this genealogical bond extends not only to nuclear family set up but extends even to the whole angkan or clan of both the father and the mother. Here, the sadiri becomes aware that she has the sadiring tawo: that which is part of one’s genealogy; the members of one’s kinship; the members of the angkan that, by virtue of blood relationship or by rituals, impose a claim on one’s own identity. 5 Hence, the sadiring tawo is crucial to one’s pagkamidbid sa sadiri or self- consciousness. In a setting where the family is “the primary vehicle for the socialization of the young; the source of emotional and financial support for its members; and the chief claimant of loyalty” 6 the sadiring tawo trains the member of the angkan according to its own worldview, rules, and concept of selfhood. The new sadiri is claimed by her sadiring tawo as their own, their pagsasadiri. Thus, the child, by virtue of her being born in this particular angkan, ought to pay respect to all who are called her sadiring tawo. Randolf David describes this as very traditional to us, even something we cannot run away from. In the advent of the many theories that tries to pursue the ideal that the self is a project that is yet to be achieved, David affirms that we cannot deny the element of “destiny” when it comes to shaping our selfhood. Even the greater projects of

4 F. Landa Jocano, Filipino Social Organization: Traditional Kinship and Family Organization (Quezon City:

PUNLAD Research House, INC., 2000), 13.

5 It is a potent rese arch agendum in the future the analysis of the tension of the colonial beginnings or introduction of the Western notion of “family” to the pre - colonial angkan system which may give wider view on the politics of sadiring tawo . We have to bear in mind that t he term “family” is not endemic to our language compared to the term kapag - arakian which I surmise to be the social arrangement that gives way to the logic behind sadiring tawo. A question that can be asked along this conjecture is that whether the Western family logic remains a foreign notion to our psychology and sociology that no matter how we try to operate under this influence, we always retreat to this precolonial notion of kapag - arakian, a notion that is heavily relies on blood relationship. Neverthe less, for the purposes of this paper, we take the family as an operational term that is already a given in our society today.

6 David G. Timberman, A Changeless Land: Continuity and Change in the Philippine Politics (Pasir Panjang :

Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, 1991 and New York: M.E. Sharpe Inc., 1991), 16.

imagining a self away from what history might have given us brings us even closer to this “destined self” which means our being (possibly) forever entrenched into our genealogy which, like the traditional societies, “bind their members to custom. A destiny is never self-chosen; one is born into it. Through magic or homeopathic practices, one may seek to alter one’s destiny, but in the end, the individual stands powerless. He must resign himself to what he is and what he was, banishing all illusions about being able to craft or transform himself willfully.” 7 This of course has a positive side. The sadiring tawo is the first to offer a shoulder in moments of needs. As sadiring tawo, anyone who despises the kadugo is seen as a worthless person; to turn one’s back to kasadiring tawo is to dissociate one’s self to the whole genealogical identity. There is an unwritten rule within a particular group of magkasaradiring tawo that they have to stand for each other come hell or high waters. A child then while developing her sense of pagiging sadiri is never alone. She grows immersed in this community of presences that happen to be her sadiring tawo. It is in being immersed in this first community that he learns her self projects. Tria puts it thus:

An pamilya iyo an tataghan sa pagpapakatawo. Ini an tataghan nin sarong lumbod na boot tanganing sya magin sarong sayod na tawo na andam na makipagkapwa. Digdi naghahalat na mahimsa an saiyang pagkayaon tanganing ihiras sa iba. 8

Moreover, the care for the sadiring tawo also takes root from another strong Filipino value of the utang na boot as brought about by the familial sense of being responsible to the welfare of the members of this genealogical relationship. As such, the one who does not recognize her sadiring tawo after some period of time is banned from the angkan and is labeled mayong utang na boot. The one who forgets the sadiring tawo is the person who fails to join the pride, and becomes proud of his pagsadiri, which, as already said, can be understood as self and his properties. Consequently, as the sadiring tawo then develops strong support system, it can also determine its ibang tawo. Generally, there are two ways where the ibang tawo is determined. First is by bloodline default, that is, the Other is whoever who does not belong to kinship by virtue of her carrying a different family name. The Other belongs to other roots, to another family tree. The second is by disowning when a member of

7 Randolf S. David, Nation, Self and Citizenship : An Invitation to Philippine Sociology . Intro. Josephine Dionisio, Gerardo Lanuza, Arnold Alamon (Quezon City: Depa rtment of Sociology, University of the Philippines, 2002), 210.

8 Tria, 106.

becomes iba-ibahon, which means she no longers embodies the character of the magkasaradiring tawo. Jocano thus writes:

Should individuals choose to deviate from the existing kinship rules, they take the risk of being sanctioned by the other members of the group. These sanctions are expressed in traditional ways, like ostracism, gossip, and scandal. Or, if the espoused behavior changes are accepted, these become the new rule of conduct specific to the position they occupy within the kinship domain. 9

The way a sadiri sees the world, thus, begins and can end with how the sadiring tawo raises her. As this is the case, the magkasaradiring tawo plays a definitive role as to what kind of society we will have. As Timberman further notes that in the Philippines, “inter-family relations can determine personal friendship and enmities, marriages, and political and economic alliance.” 10 From the familial setting hence, society is formed, and in our case, “[a]ll sorts of community life are – as shown above – organized around the family, from economic endeavors, to religious fiestas and, last, but not least, political parties.” 11 As affirmed however at the beginning of this section, Filipino values are inherently ambivalent. Thus, while on the one hand the value of sadiring tawo offers a solid institution where the members can rely on, on the other hand, “the strength of blood and ritual ties discourages trust among non-family members to create a ‘we- versus them’ mentality.” 12 With strong sense of identification that happens in the group of magkasaradiring tawo, the ibang tawo can be possible forever be an outsider to the goods that circulate only within the particular magkasaradiring tawo. As an iba, it is outside of the family’s circle of support, influence, and care. Under this logic, the sadiri is not the keeper of the iba. 13 Randy David even argues that the phenomenon of Filipino diaspora actually follows this rationale, that is, strictly speaking, OFWs feel only

9 Jocano, 15.

10 Timberman, 17.

11 Lukas Kaelin, Strong Family, Weak State: Hegel’s Political Philosophy and the Filipino Family (Quezon City: Ateneo de Manila University Press, 2012), 97.

12 Timberman, 17.

13 Important in understanding this notion is the concept of “sakop.” The Other is not part of the “sakop” or scope of the influence of sadiring tawo. For a lengthy discussion, see Leonardo Mercado , Elements of Filipino Philosophy (Tacloban City: Divine Word University Publications, 1974)

obliged to help his own family, even his angkan, and the fact that the Philippines benefits from their dollar remittances comes but accidental to their main intention. 14 Hence, with the sadiring tawo mentality, we fall prey to kanya-kanya system. Good becomes centralized to a particular group of magkasaradiring tawo. As Kaelin notes, “attitude and recognition towards other people depend fundamentally on the question whether they are related…As soon as relatedness is established, the interaction gets a familial tone and trust is established.” 15 The Other, being an object of mistrust, becomes an outsider to the group of relatives. In a society operating under this framework, Jocano further argues:

Kinship, as a framework of relationship, is narrower in scope than other institutional structures of Philippine society. It is familistic and egocentric. The statuses it confers and the roles it allocates are limited to descent, affinity and ritual relationships. However, its influence in structuring relations and in shaping behavior is transcendental; it permeates the entire social system. 16

Bikol’s use of sadiring tawo therefore shares the meaning of kinship or angkan. What is peculiar, however, lies in our use of sadiri as the word that delineates what is the same and what is the other. While the Tagalogs call their angkan as kamag-anakan, sadiring tawo speaks a lot more in this sense. It highlights ownership as constitutive of selfhood and social organization. Thus, the magkasaradiring tawo owns a good that is theirs alone, material or immaterial. 17 From the philosophy of sadiring tawo flows the dialectics of the ideological dakulang tawo and sadit na tawo: as one is born in angkan nin darakulang tawo or the opposite of it. Dakulang tawo is the family of the wealthy, powerful, the landowner, and the educated; the sadit na tawo is the voiceless, the property-less, the descendant of the tumatawo of the landlords. Tumatawo speaks a lot for us here. The dakulang tawo, having amassed great wealth, plays as the real tawo of the society: she is the self, the sadiri, that has attained an identity in the society; the tumatawo only who shares in the pagkatawo of

14 This also, David argues, is due to the government’s failure to provide the basic goods of its people and therefore they feel that they have to look for the mea ns of survival on their own and for their own family. See Randy David, Reflections on Philippine Sociology (Quezon City: University of the Philippines Press).

15 Kaelin, 95.

16 Jocano, 14.

17 While the Tagalog’s use of ka — in kamag - anak readily shows mutual relationship, sadiri as the marker in Bikol’s familial character can speak of being owned much as it shows selfhood that is rooted in one’s sadiring tawo. This meaning is both contained in the word sadiri that the Tagalog kamag - anak d oes not.

the dakulang tawo. The sadit na tawo remains an Other, an ibang tawo, and can only speak of selfhood if she becomes a property (by employment or by other means) of the dakulang tawo. With the philosophy of sadiring tawo, one is therefore led into at least three notions: (1) the strong familial based on familial relations which includes both the nuclear and the extended members becomes a definitive marker of the values that define one’s own self worth; (2) a discussion of the good becomes particular only to one’s sadiring tawo and thereby the Other is possibly forever ostracized from the distribution of this good; and (3) for the Other to somehow share the power of the hegemonic magkasadiring tawo and by doing so, being owned (which, again, is the condition of selfhood) by the dakulang tawo is the way to have crumbs of selfhood. The first element is a good starting point of our social philosophy, but the other two points make it really problematic. Generosity can surely start at home, but when it ends there, we are in trouble for sure.


After elaborating on the defining role of sadiring tawo in the way we organize our social relationships, I now proceed to argue that our politics, in Bikol and in our country in general, follows this logic of familial power relations. I shall expose that the way we choose our leaders and play our socio-political affairs in general is highly oligarchic in nature and this takes root in sadiring tawo philosophy; oligarchic politics is sadiring tawo politics. Meanwhile, the short review of our political history that follows aims to discuss that while we may have a negative attitude towards sadiring tawo politics, it is, on the contrary, the very system that we were having since precolonization. Thus, Kaelin reports that even the Former Sen. John Osmena himself acknowledged that an anti-dynasty law “runs contrary to the social vein of our society.” 18

A. Short Review of the Historical Beginnings of Philippine Oligarchy Dante Simbulan’s work, The Modern Principalia: The Historical Evolution of the Philippine Ruling Oligarhy, offers a thorough and excellent exposition of the elite system of governance from Pre-Philippine History to the Post-American War governance in the Philippines. 19 Simbulan traces the elite system as springing from barangay as the

18 Kaelin, as quoted in Mojares, The Dream Goes on and On , 312.

political system of the pre-colonization time. He writes that “the barangay which was family-government structure, generally of 30-100 families although there were some large barangays and barangay confederations having up to 7,000 inhabitants.” 20 From here, “Barangay society was divided into three major classes: (1) the maharlika or nobility; (2)the timawa, or freemen; and (3) the serfs and slaves (aliping namamahay or aliping sagigilid.” 21 Early on that time, the chieftain or the Datu is the wealthiest in the society, and the respect given him extends to his angkan. Quoting Antonio de Morga, Simbulan further reports that:

The descendants of such chiefs, and their relatives, even though they did not inherit the lordship, were held in the same respect and consideration. Such were all regarded as nobles, and as persons exempt from the services rendered by the others or the plebians. 22

As a political leader, the Datu’s role is varied, hence:

He was a lawmaker, judge, chief executive, and military leader. As judge he was often assisted by a group of elders called maginoos who also belonged to the maharlika class. He had control of the land although the actual title was vested in the barangay. He also controlled trade, fishing, etc. 23

The concentration of political powers to the Datu of course led him to be the most powerful in the land. Gerona claims that this was one of the ancient categories for one to be called oragon. From Pre-Colonization to Spanish time, oragon already connotes a strong hold on power whose meaning can be as extreme as from being a warrior to being sexually promiscuous. He writes that “dahil ang datu ang puno ng baranggay at pinakamakapangyarihan sa lahat ng maginoo, ito ang antas ng pamayanang katutubo na humahawak ng kapangyarihang likas at kapangyarihang

19 Dante C. Simbulan, The Modern Principalia: The Historical Evolution of the Philippine Ruling Oligarchy (Quezon City: The University of the Philippines Press, 2005).

20 Ibid., 1 4.

21 Ibid.

22 Antonio de Morga (Jose P. Rizal’s edition). Sucesos de las Islas Filipinas (1609) as quoted in Simbulan,


23 Ibid.

higit sa katutubo. Likas ito, ayon kan Foucault, dahil sila ang humahawak ng intrumento ng kapangyarihan tulad ng babae, ginto, lupa, at mga alipin.” 24

This political system however was changed when the colonizers came with their concept of the nation as the political organization. From the very concentrated power of the Datu, the encomienda system introduced by the Spaniards transferred the dominion of the natives over the vast lands to the encomenderos, the Spaniards who are most loyal to the king. Consequently, the natives who were once enjoying the vast fruits of the land and are only indebted to the power of the their native leader became subjects

of the encomenderos who monopolized trade.

Part of the divide and conquer technique of Spanish colonization included also

the subtle transferring of political power. The Datu became the cabeza da baranggay while

a stronger political power brought by wider scope of sovereignty called alcaldias

headed by the Spanish alcalde mayores, and the pueblo, headed by the gobernadorcillo which was “elective, with the franchise limited to the twelve most senior cabezas who made three nominations in the presence of the parish priest, the outgoing gobernadorcillo and the Spanish alcade mayor. The final choice was made by either by the central government or, in the case of more remote provinces, by the provincial governor.” 25 With this political line-up, the principalia class was born. The inclusion of the locals or the indios to the governing body proved to be a good strategy. The former datus did not feel much deprived of power since they shared the power structure of the colonizers. In fact, they became Hispanized as vividly portrayed in Jose Rizal’s novels. While still being indios, they became part of the principalia. Later, they became the mestizos, or the one with Hispanic blood, spoke the

Castilian language, lived in the cabeceras, and most importantly, were given the chance

to have education. Truly, those who had been given these chances become the elite in

the society, the ones who became part of the alta sociedad, the ones who differed from the ordinary indios. Racial mixing, however, was not limited to the Spanish mestizos. We remember from our history lessons than the Chinese were already having contacts with the natives

through their trade and commerce. This in turn produced the Chinese mestizo population which until now is well known for building business empires. In a research conducted by Tomas de Comyn, there were already 2, 398.5 Chinese mestizos out of 59,

24 Danilo Madrid Gerona, Oragon in Sawikaan 2007: Mga Salita ng Taon . Eds. Romulo P. Baquiran and Galileo S. Zafra ( Quezon City: The University the Philippines Press, 2008), 70 - 71.

25 Simbulan, 19 - 20.

900 indios in Camarines as early as 1810. 26 “Like their Chinese fathers, the mestizos were primarily merchants at first but soon expanded into landholdings. Starting as inquilinos (lessees) of haciendas owned by religious corporations and other landholders, the Chinese mestizos accumulated wealth by subletting the lands they leased for profit, or by employing indio kasamas (share tenants) who were treated as serfs and not fairly compensated.” 27 These Chinese and the Chinese mestizos soon gain prominence in society through their accumulated wealth that they soon become accepted in the alta sociedad. Thus far, we see that early on in the history of our nation building, elitism is already at work. From the concentrated power of the datu, to the Hispanized principalia and with Chinese’s prominence, wealth as defined in land accumulation and businesses, and power as defined in government position and education, were already the standards of belonging to the alta sociedad and the ilustrados. Going back to our discussion on the Philosophy of the sadiring tawo, we can see that generally there are two classes of the angkan, or of the magkakasarading tawo. The one is the elite group of magkasaradiring tawo, and whose bloodline were held at high esteem in the society as they are the ones who held positions in the land and the owners of the lands. This forms the hegemonic class of the dakulang tawo. Even up to now, political families can trace either Spanish or Chinese origins. Hardly does anyone who comes from the less influential clan, the other group of the magkasaradiring tawo, can rise to political prominence. Like the old times, political power is just transferred from one sadiring tawo to its other members. Politics until now is defined by the terms of the principalia class. They remain the mga oragon, the darakulang tawo.

B. The American Politics and the Philippine Party System

From Pax Hispanica, what comes next in our history as a nation is the Pax Americana. As a government borne fresh from the Philippine uprisings against the Spaniards, one of the big challenges that America had to hurdle over was the armed revolutionaries who at that time were burning with fervor either for Philippine independence or for the inclusion of the Philippines as a Spanish province and thereby giving it representation to the Mother Spain. America and its notion of democracy however offered new windows for the Filipinos who were already tired with the Spanish monopoly of power. With the

26 Tomas de Comyn, Estrado de las Islas Filipinas en 1810 in Simbulan, 24.

27 Ibid., 25.

American democracy, famous for its slogan “a government of the people and for the people,” rooms for participative politics were opened up, and hence political parties were born. Notwithstanding its significance until today, the creation of political parties was a political tactic. For Gealogo, there are at least two main reasons for the introduction of political parties in the land:

The first was the realized need by the American colonizers to put forward a viable avenue for political participation by Filipinos as a counterpoint to the armed resistance of the Filipino revolutionaries against colonial occupation. The electoral exercise and the attendant formation of political parties will therefore present itself as an alternative reaction to American rule by Filipinos who would otherwise be involved in armed resistance. The second is the need to attract a significant number of Filipino elites into the fold of colonial governance. The electoral process would ensure elite participation in the colonial political project of integrating the well-to-do members of the society to the institutionalization of the colonial administrative control over population. 28

With the creation of political parties hence, power was supposed to be decentralized. State and the Church, one of the issues Filipinos hated most under Spanish colonization, was finally separated (at least in principle). America’s self- appointed mission of “restoring” democracy to nations like Afghanistan in our times is as true in the period of its Philippine colonization. Nevertheless, it was only a case of emperor wearing a new robe. With their goal of recruiting the same elites that came from the principalia class of the Spanish times, true decentralized political participation remained a far-fetched dream. The same angkan, the same magkasaradiring tawo occupied political positions. What caused the elites to continue ruling is the very requirement of the American electoral system: a former seat as municipal captain, gobernadorcillo, alcalde and other offices from the past colonial era; a real property to the value of 500 pesos or an annual pay of thirty pesos or more of the established taxes; and Spanish and English literacy. 29 Thus, the earliest political parties, namely the Nacionalista and the Federal Parties, with those mentioned requirements, were essentially both elitist parties,

28 Francis A. Gealogo, History of the Political Parties in the Philippines in Oligarchic Politics: Elections and the Party - List System in the Philippines . ed. Bobby M. Tuazon, foreword Dr. Elmer Ordoñez (Quezon City: CenPEG Books, 2007), 2 - 3.

29 Ibid., 4.

notwithstanding of course the different political ideologies of their parties, namely, statehood and integration of the Philippines with the United States for the Federal Party, and immediate independence for the Nacionalista. 30 Thus for, Carl Lande, these two parties “were essentially competing factions of actually one ‘party’, a ruling party elite that had the same analysis of social conditions, the same political norms and the same programs of government.” 31 Our party system hence takes off from the sadiring tawo philosophy albeit in another form. The sadiring tawo is no longer simply the kadugo or the angkan; not only by bloodlines do they form a collective but also by rituals of political ambitions do they become one. The constant seeking for the hegemonic dakulang tawo makes one realign herself to a more powerful sadiring tawo now named party. This is the logic behind turncoatism which for the then LDP President Angara “is the most destructive aspect of Philippine politics. That is why there is no stability or continuity in political parties because the winners from the other parties usually go to the majority ruling party which usually controls the perks, pork barrel and privileges.” 32 Present day politicians therefore are not so far from the Datu politics. Like the angkan of the datus who enjoyed the same honored and privileged stature, politicians become one with the parties who can offer them better and secure way of continuous political career, regardless of differences in ideologies. Working under sadiring tawo politics, the politician has to be one with the angkan who has the name, who has a powerful lineage, and of course, who resembles the beginnings of the principalia. Sadiring tawo politics is so pervasive that even the multi-party system does not guarantee the eradication of the elitism in politics; different parties but same names dominate them. The institutionalization of the Party List system offered new hopes for true representation and thereby achieving the democratic ideal of wider political participation. Instead of voting for individual politicians, voters now choose for parties that carry the banner of the marginalized and underrepresented sectors of the society. Thus, under this system, the decentralization of powers to the elite is hoped to be achieved soonest as the other group, the sadiring tawo of the voiceless now takes a seat in the House of Representatives. It is very potent power that the elite has to reckon



31 Carl H. Lande, Leaders, Factions and Parties as quoted i n Eric Gutierez, et.al., All in the Family : A Study of Elites and Power Relations in the Philippines (Quezon City: Institute for Popular Democracy, 1992), 5.

32 Roland G. Simbulan, Contemporary Politics in the Philippines: The Configuration of Post - Edsa I Political Parties in Oligarchic Politics: Elections and the Party - List System in the Philippines . ed. Bobby M. Tuazon, foreword Dr. Elmer Ordoñez (Quezon City: CenPEG Books, 2007), 28.

with. Groups like workers, veterans, women, immigrants, youths and others soon found a place where an equal footing in politics beamed new hopes. The party list system promised the ibang tawo to be finally included in the long history of politics dominated by the hegemonic magkasaradiring tawo. However, oligarchy has taken so deep roots in Philippine politics that the still elite dominated government proved to be a thick wall that the ibang tawo cannot collapse easily. Thus, despite the series of bills that are supposedly reflective of the true state of what the hegemonic sadiring tawo considers its ibang tawo, “legislations which harm the poor have been passed with alacrity, indicating that Congress still remains not only the bastion of the elite but a maker of laws that marginalize the people. Party list legislators parlayed their role to protect the interests of the masses they represent only to find themselves often voted out in deliberations and shunned through brash tactics and arm-twisting of the House leadership.” 33 More than hampering bills that favor the marginalized, “progressive party lists are not only the most vilified but also hunted down, its leaders persecuted, many of its members killed, while forces within the government engage on covert efforts to bar entry to Congress.” 34 Party lists too proved to be not immune with enchantment to power so as not to fall prey to traditional politics of the oligarchic magkasaradiring tawo. Millionaires, businessmen, the highly educated, soon gained posts as representatives of the poor, the landless, and the uneducated. 35 What is sadder in this situation of party list system is when the poor and the marginalized are organized for the political ambitions of the few. We are aware of the proliferations of these party lists and the essential question is which among these groups truly count as true representation of the marginalized? And which among these groups play the chameleon game of politics? From this discussion of the general Philippine political condition, a closer look at our particular Bikol politics can make our points even sharper. To do this, let us take at the following names 36 :

33 Manalansan, Jr., 51.

34 Ibid., 91 - 92.

35 See the reports of t he assets and liabilities of party list representatives from 12 th to 13 th Congress in Manalansan, Jr., 65 - 67.

36 Commision on Elections, http://ww w.comelec.gov.ph/?r=Elections/2013natloc/ListOfCandidates/CertifiedListOfCandidates (April 28, 2013) This data is meant to show how few families have been dominating the electoral scene. While there may be other families who may merit being in this present ation, I only choose the family names of those who have the largest number of running candidates for the 2013 election. “Common” knowledge (which is also verifiable by future researches) about how long these families have been seating in elected positions abounds.




Villafuerte, LRay

Member, House of Representatives, 2 nd District, Camarines Sur

Nacionalista Party

Villafuerte, LRay, Jr.

Provincial Governor, Camarines Sur

Nacionalista Party

Villafuerte, Luis

Provincial Governor, Camarines Sure

Nationalist People’s Coalition

Villafuerte, Nelly

Member, House of Representatives, Camarines Sur, 3 rd District

Nationalist People’s Coalition

Fuentebella, Arnie

Mayor, Camarines Sur – Tigaon

Nationalist People’s Coalition



Mayor, Camarines Sur – Sagñay

Nationalist People’s Coalition


Fuentebella, Wimpy

Member, House of Representatives, Camarines Sur, 4 th Distrct

Nationalist People’s Coalition

Alfelor, Emmanuel Jr.

Mayor, Camarines Sur – Iriga City

Nationalist People’s Coalition

Alfelor, Felix Jr

Member, House of Representatives, Camarines Sur – 5 th District

Nationalist People’s Coalition

Alfelor, Ganggang

Mayor, Camarines Sur – Iriga City

Liberal Party

Alfelor, King

Councilor, Camarines Sur – Iriga City

Nationalist People’s Coalition

Alfelor, Ruperto

Member, Sangguniang Panlalawigan, Camarines Sur – 5 th District

Nationalist People’s Coalition

Imperial, Harold

Provincial Vice Governor, Albay

Liberal Party

Imperial, Pem

Councilor, Albay – Ligao City

Liberal Party

Imperial, RB

Member, Sangguniang Panlalawigan, Albay – 2 nd District

Liberal Party



Councilor, Albay – Legazpi City

Nacionalista Party


Escudero, Antonio Jr

Provincial Vice Governor, Sorsogon

Nationalist People’s Coalition

Escudero, Chiz



Escudero, Dennis

Councilor, Sorsogon – Casiguran

Nationalist People’s Coalition

Escudero, Jun

Member, Sangguniang Panlalawigan, Sorsogon, 1 st District

Nationalist People’s Coalition

Escudero, Marilou

Mayor, Sorsogon-Casiguran


Escudero, Nanay

Member, House of Representatives, Sorsogon – 1 st District

Nationalist People’s Coalition

Escudero, Ramon

Vice-Mayor, Sorsogon – Casiguran

Nationalist People’s Coalition

Kho, Olga








Masbate - second district

Muslim Democrats

Kho, Tony

Provincial Governor, Masbate

Lakas Christian Muslim Democrats

Kho, Wilton

Mayor, Masbate - Cataingan

Lakas Christian Muslim Democrats

Thus, we can see that particularism as contained in sadiring tawo remains the climate of our political system. It remains an organization that is concerned with the welfare of its group, of its own sadiring tawo. This power play extends in the voters’ disposition during election. They would vote for their sadiring tawo as it gives them room for possible employment should their candidates win. On a national level, voters choose the candidate that comes from their region or district with the hope that their place will be given priority for development. When Raul Roco ran for presidency, I learned from my sadiring tawo that they are voting for Roco primarily because he is a Bikolano, and thus, “isay man an madamay sa Bikolano kundi an mga Bikolano?” Therefore, the question that we have to raise then after this critical review is how can we re-direct the Philosophy of sadiring tawo towards a philosophy that shall enhance Philippine politics?

IV. SADIRING TAWO AND SOCIAL IMAGINATION The last section of this paper tries to re-direct sadiring tawo from its highly angkan orientation to a philosophy that shall contribute not only to regional consciousness but to nation building efforts. As early as Plato’s time, oligarchy is already defined as “a government resting on a valuation of property, in which the rich have power and the poor man is deprived of it.” 37 It has to be noted that for Plato, oligarchy is result of the corrupted soul of those who were meant to be guardians and rulers, whom he forbade to have any private property—including women and children—as acquisition of these would necessarily distract them from doing their duties which are to guard and rule the entire polity. Plato justifies thus:

Both the community of property and the community of families, as I am saying, tend to make them truly guardians; they will not

37 Plato, The Republic VIII in The Dialogues of Plato. trans. Benjamin Jowett, ed. Mortimer J. Adler (Chicago: Oxford University Press, 1988), 405. All references to Plato will be taken from this edition of the Dialogues.

tear the city in pieces by differing about “mine” and “not mine”; each man dragging any acquisition which he has made into a separate house of his own, where he has a separate wife and children and private pleasures and pains; but will be affected as far as may be by the same pleasures and pains because they are all of one opinion about what is near and dear to them, and therefore they all tend towards a common end. 38

Notwithstanding its ethical and moral implications, for Plato the reason for these common lives of the guardians and the rulers is clear: universal good always takes precedence over particular good. As the ones who are in charged of taking the care of the rest of the population, they too are tasked to take everyone in the State as their whole family. Furthermore, the short review of the history of Philippine politics has showed us that the oligarchs have ruled us since the old times. Philippine economic setting also proves Plato’s point: whereas the rulers become richer and richer, ordinary people strive hard for their daily means of survival. Sadiring tawo philosophy falls under the same thread of failing to see the common good and fixing our sight on a particular good. Guardians and rulers fall into the business of taking wealth as their private property for the sake of their own family, and thereby becoming less and less concerned with their virtues as the leaders of the land. The dialectics between the sadiring tawo versus ibang tawo, as Plato points out, creates two classes: the first class, born with available wealth and power, becomes the citizens and are the ones who are entitled for leadership; the second, being deprived of wealth and riches, the Others who fall outside the care of the hegemonic sadiring tawo, they resort to criminal acts. Nonetheless, sadiring tawo philosophy offers us a very powerful platform on which we can hinge our political life. The ethics of pakikidumamay and pagmamakulog among the magkasaradiring tawo is what we need most in our politics. However, this potency of sadiring tawo philosophy to be a source of cohesion in a larger context of society is limited by its extreme personal character that it can despise the Other out rightly if no relationship is established. Sadiring tawo as a philosophy should not limit us from this highly angkan-based politics. There is an urgent need for us to go beyond this particularism that leads to political dynasties, undistributed wealth, and the constant tension between the rich and the poor. As we have seen earlier, the notion of sadiring tawo is highly concerned with its sakop, as one always feels responsible towards his sadiring tawo. What is difficult in our set-up to day is that the two classes of magkasaradiring tawo, that of the rich and the poor, are always on

38 Plato, Book V , 36 4.

the process of other-ing. One is always different to the other, and therefore, no genuine care for the common good is possible. The growing political apathy of the Filipinos concerning politics precisely takes root from this. We feel that the government has become a class of its own, where the main concern of our politicians ,is no longer the common good but only the good for their own families, for their own angkan, for their own parties. This situation only strengthens and perpetuates the social situation of the voiceless class of the magkasaradiring tawo as a class whose members are left on their own, and thus they have to struggle on their own, for their own. If the philosophy of the sadiring tawo, from its being highly angkan-based becomes decentralized so as to accept the whole imagined nation as the breadth of its ownness, its pagkasadiri, then it becomes a more welcoming philosophy rather than a marginalizing one. Sadiring tawo as a philosophy has to be destroyed from its totalizing tendencies, and from there, it needs to be reconstructed for it to be able to take the other’s kaibahan (difference) as its mean for an authentic pag-iiribahan, and hopefully for a more genuine solidarity. The Other is always there knocking and waiting to be welcomed in our fences of our particularistic mentality. For this to happen, an ethics of pakikisumaro is necessary:

Sa pakikisumaro nalalampasan an pagkakaiba dawa ngani iginagalang pa man giraray an kaibahan. Sa pakikipagkapwa na nakagamot sa pakikisumaro, dai na hinihiling kan duwang magkaibahan an saindang pagkakaiba kundi mas nahihiling na an pagiging saro. Bako na sana sindang magkaibahan, kundi magkasaroan nin boot na kun sain an gustong sabihon iyo na nahihiling na ninda an ka-bootan kan lambang saro. Ini an kahulugan kun kita minsasabi na, “nasasabotan taka huli ta bako na ikang iba sako. 39

This then is the challenge for the Philippine politics and the government that springs from it: to divest itself from oligarchic character so as to be true to its agenda of a true democratic government. For this to happen, the tawo that resides in the scope of the sadiring tawo should mean each and every Filipino trying to share in the good that has to be preserved and be distributed by the government; every family that longs to have social support; and ultimately the nation that longs for solidarity that does take away differences and diversity. Until the sadiring tawo is not decentralized, this politics will remain as it is: a politics of the few; a politics of the elite.

39 From my essay, An Dalan nin Pakikisumaro in Pagpukaw (Naga City: Ateneo de Naga University, Philosophy Department).

The same demand is true to the other group of the magkasaridiring tawo. The sadit na tawo must also decentralize itself and involve themselves in political exercises. They too have to break free from tutelages of their patrons who feed their particular good and have a consciousness of a more general society in choosing their social good. If they fail to do so, the socially paralyzing understanding of sadiring tawo philosophy will remain as it is. Thus, the philosophy of sadiring tawo if applied in national context, calls for responsibility to the common good more than the particular. This is challenge is also true to region-centered thinking. When we limit our good only to our particular region or if we vote for a candidate because of her regional affiliation and not because of her political platform, then we too are guilty of the particularistic tendency of sadiring tawo philosophy. Sadiring tawo philosophy has to loosen its particularistic stance and be able to authentically welcome the Other as a rightful claimant of social good. To democratize the sadiring tawo philosophy is to be conscious that we are each other’s keeper, something that, as of now, is but a dream in our highly oligarchic society.


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