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Definition of Society

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Linton defined society as a “group of people who have lived and worked together long enough to get themselves organized and to think of themselves as a social unit with well-defined limits”.  In his definition, he highlights grouping and association as the core adhesives of a society. In congruence with the no-man-is-an-island cliché, many sociologists contemplate the importance of society as an avenue for coexistence and survival of each individual.

        It is further posited that society strengthen and develops roles and relationships among individuals who are part of it. On the other hand Farooq (2011) deeply stressed that it is the interaction and development of relationships within a group which leads to the creation of a society. A group of players in a basketball team is not considered a society but a simple aggregate of people. Within a society patterns and groupings in the basis of likeness and differences arise. Likeness gives way to the development of certain groups and relations among people having similarity in one or more aspects like profession, age, sex, residence, kinship an etc. Human life without differences in cultural conditions or circumstance makes society monotonous and very limited. Very little change is expected in this instance. Differences permit variation of human behavior and social division. With this, man becomes dependent on society for basic needs.


The Philippine Cultural Environment

        In the Philippines, society is very much affected by the influences of primary ancestors and colonizers. Before the Westerners discovered the country, Malay and Chinese culture greatly permeated our local society. A mixture of Arab and Indian blood were added to the racial mixture of Fiipinos during the trade years. Spanish colonizers imbued their traditions to the country in more than 300 years of occupation. The most notable modification to our society is the introduction of Christianity. Later on, Americans and Japanese came and amalgamated their cultures into our archipelago. Sirali states that “Philippines is a combined society, singular as a nation, but it is plural in that it is fragmented geographically and culturally”. The nation is divided by religion, dialect, caste and geography.

        Christian Churches and Muslim mosques provide spiritual anchor to the nation. The American educational system expanded by Filipinos has become an emblem of socioeconomic progress. Persistence of strong family ties and revival of barangays as the smallest government unit are indicators of strong Asian heritage and high Western influence.

Daily Society

        Filipinos take kinship and debt repayment (utang na loob) as major components of the society.  Daily life generally revolves around an “extended” family which includes parents, elderlies, aunts/uncles, cousins and other relatives. Members typically gather for big life events like baptisms, birthdays and marriages. Whether it is a big occasion or everyday meal, major meals in many Filipino societies are built around boiled or steamed rice. Slacks and dresses based on European designs are very common in urban areas. During special occasions traditional dresses are worn by important people.

The Pros of Filipino Society

  1. High context culture – simply means  that in the Philippines, “yes” is “yes” and “no” is “maybe”. Though “maybe” may be viewed as indecisive by Western cultures, it clearly shows the ability to become sympathetic and compassionate enough not to harm the feelings of others. In contrast, the low context upbringing of Westerners may be viewed as impersornal and untactful.
  2. Adaptability and resilience – Filipinos have gone through many hardships in the past. Colonizers and frequent natural disasters have tested the resolve of the country. Amidst adversities, it is not uncommon to see many members of the society carry on with positive outlook in life. Because of hard economic conditions, many Filipinos adapted by finding sustenance in various work found in the local as well as in the international employment market. This is evident in the recent huge growth of OFWs.
  3. Strong interpersonal relationship. Filipinos are keen on things that degrades the self-esteem of others. They value relationships and find their identity in the group or community where they belong to. It is common for Filipinos to look for connectivity in establishing personal and social relationships such as in the case of “Taga saan ka sa atin?” or “Kilala mo ba si ganito?”.
  4. Kinship – may be termed as “pakikipag-kapwa” in the local tongue. It is common to see relatives collectively raise a sum of money in times of need like when a loved one is brought to the hospital or when an elderly dies.

The Negatives of Filipino Society

  1. Insincerity and pretension – to avoid dents in good relationships and not to embarass others, many seem to avoid open conflicts or frank dialogs. Many Filipinos give in to society or group pressure in hopes of preserving harmony within their kinship group. A Filipino will still show a happy face even is he or she is hurting to avoid dissonance in his surroundings. This does not go well because true feelings, integrity and principles are sacrificed for the acceptance of the group.
  2. The cons of extended family – unlike Western countries, Filipino households still give value to the head of the family as the the supreme decision-maker. Even after reaching their legal age, children are still expected to follow what their parents wishes especially when it comes to financial and relationship matters. The society gives utmost value to what parents or elderly decides compared to what the individual decides for him/herself. This has become inevitabe because of the strong extended-family culture wherein individuals still stay inside their parents home for many years even after becoming financially self-sufficient. Individuals are often hampered in their desire to be independent economically and financially.
  3. The cons of “Utang na loob” culture – It is common in every household to expect the elder siblings to support their younger siblings and parents after they become capable of earning money. Whenever relationships with parents is smeared the concept of “utang na loob” is brought up. It is the idea that a child “owes” his or her parents for providing him an education, clothing, shelter, comfort and love. Ryan (2013) argues that the notion of “utang na loob” or invisible debt is a form of abuse. It is implied that a child was provided basic needs, not because he is loved, but because a future return was expected. Oftentimes, individuals are restricted from being economically independent because they carry on the burden of assuming the liabilities of parents.
  4. Lack of awareness on financial security – many elderly end up as economic burdens of their children because of their lack of awareness for financial security. Children are considered as retirement plans as they are expected to provide and care for their old parents when they retire. This instance creates financial burden to their children who are also trying hard to meet up their financial ends with their current families.
  5. Extravagant feasts and celebrations – Filipinos manifest a very Latin tradition of gathering all relatives to unlimited degrees during special occassions like feasts, marriages and birthdays. This may seem to be a form of hospitality but oftentimes it is an avenue for households to gain social acceptance among their kin. Even if its not economically-feasible, people would find avenue to provide sumptous meals in their banquets to feed their numerous guests. Many couples are left without safety cash nets after their wedding celebrations and many families are left with looming debts after glorious feasts.



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