Date: Wed, 22 Feb 1995 21:30:49 -0500
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Subject: Re: (Fwd) Suffrage in the Phi...

Women's Suffrage in the Philippines

From a dialog on the PhilippineStudies-L, February 1995

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Subject: Re: (Fwd) Suffrage in the Phi...

It would be nice if somebody knowledgeable about the topic could summarize women's suffrage in the Philippines vs. the experience in the West and Asia. It could then be a good springboard in discussing women's issues and women's role in the Philippines.

My thinking is that despite the "machismo" and "double standard" traits that supposedly characterize Filipino society, women in the Philippines have faced less discrimination compared to their counterparts in Western, Mideastern, and North Asian countries. I believe this stems partly from the economic difficulties in the Philippines which have forced women into the labor force early on, thus achieving economic and social equality. Also isn't there the image of the Filipina wife as the one who manages the household budget?

Would like to hear what you think.

Message-Id: (23FEB95.10475976.0013.MUSIC@MUSIC.LIB.MATC.EDU)
Date: Thu, 23 Feb 95 09:41:59 CST From: "James F. P. Hardy" (HARDY@MUSIC.LIB.MATC.EDU)
To: (
Subject: Re[2]: (Fwd) Suffrage in the Phi...

I'd like to add my ten centavos worth to the topic. In the middle and lower income levels my observations lead me to the conclusion that women are more likely to seek and find opportunities to survive, make an income, manage their own lives, dominate the domestic sphere, and manipulate men that non-Filipinos expect or are accustomed. While the Philippine men may possess a machismo viewpoint, it is often no more than a fantasy or something that is lived out in the company of fellow males; in the women's world or mixed company the women usually maintain either clear or implicit control. Any responses by Filipino males to the contrary may be taken as an emotional reaction to damaged pride; the reality is that, in the Philippines, women of the middle and lower income levels generally wield considerable influence over their male relatives, companions, and contemporaries --- not to mention the fact that they are almost driven to maintain their own financial resources and social independence.

James F. P. Hardy (HARDY@MUSIC.LIB.MATC.EDU) Tele(414)481-4558
HMail: 3339 E. Bottsford Av., Cudahy WI 53110 FAX (414)229-3680
West Pacific Rim, Micronesian & Celtic Studies, Gender Relations

Date: Fri, 24 Feb 1995 16:57:26 +1100
From: (Lulu Turner)
Subject: Re: (Fwd) Suffrage in the Philippines
Forwarded mail from (Bernard B Floresca)

Mga kaibigan,

"I was approached by a women's group at AT&T; in preparation for Women's History Month (March). Anybody have any info? Please get it to me ASAP. It's kinda late considering I got the info only today, but anything will be appreciated."

Try to get a copy of: FILIPINO WOMEN AND PUBLIC POLICY, Edited by Proserpina Domingo Tapales. Pp. 59-107 of the book is devoted to: 'Voters, Candidates, and Organizers: Women and Politics in Contemporary Philippines', with statistics up to 1988/89.

"a. Statistics : What is the participation level of women in countries where women have the rights to vote?"

From lowest to highest turnouot rate (%) in the period 1947-88: 66.80 (1982, Males=65.89); 90.15 (1984, males=88.74). In 1988 it was 79.15 (males=78.66). Source: Table 4 of Tangcangco above. Sorry, I have no figures for 1992.

"b. Suffrage movement : How it started, What were the issues addressed when this movement started and how has voting rights changed the issues?"

All this is in Tangcangco, pp. 62-64, but briefly:
Although there women had already started organizing at the turn of the century (e.g. Logia de Adopcion, a masonic lodge of Filipino women, 1893; The Associacion de Damas de la Cruz Roja [Women's Red Cross Association]), it was the Associacion Feminista Ilong (Association of Ilonga Feminists), led by Pura Villanueva Kalaw, which aimed at achieving suffrage for Filipino women. It took six years, however (1912), before a nationwide campaign for women's suffrage was launched (1912), with the help of two American suffragettes, Carrie Champan Catt and Aleta Jacobs. Pro-suffrage campaigns took the form of lobbying government officials, holding rallies and conferences. Their efforts resulted in the passage of the suffrage bill in the Philippine Legislature 1933; implementation of the Administrative Code which a llowed women to vote in 1935; and the ratification of women's suffrage rights in a national plebiscite in 1937.

You should also have look at Belinda Aquino's "Women and Politics in the Philippines," a paper submitted to the Project on Women and Politics Worldwide (Hubert Humphrey Institute, Center of Women and Public Policy, Univ. of Minnesota [July 1990]).

Date: Fri, 24 Feb 95 10:21:39 EST
From: "Vel J. Suminguit" (ANTVJS@UKCC.UKY.EDU)
Subject: Re: Re[2]: (Fwd) Suffrage in the Phi...
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That women in the Philippines have relatively high status compared to Western and Middle Eastern countries has pre-historic basis. Before the Spaniards colonized the Philippines, women were in highly esteemed leadership positions. Even during the Spanish occupation, some revolutionary leaders were women, e.g. Gabriela Silang among others. To some extent it is still true today (e.g., Cory Aquino, Sen. S. Ramos, etc.). Among ordinary citizens, women usually control the inflow and outflow of the household cash income. I'm not sure however if women are treated fairly in the factories assembly line. Does some of you out there know if women receive the same pay as men doing the same job in the assembly line?

-- Vel

Date: Sat, 25 Feb 1995 10:25:28 -1000
From: Nobue Suzuki (nbszk@uhunix.uhcc.Hawaii.Edu)
Subject: Suffrage & gender roles
Message-Id: (CMM.

I'm just following up what Vincet Pollard has posted earlier. From an anthropologist's viewpoint, it is important to look into other cultural threads or factors that are producing gender relations. And what is more important is to distinguish different levels as Vince has commented. I would add that we should dinstinguish the level of ideology and that of practice and the interrelationships of the two. That is how ideologies are drawn upon in everyday practice and are also manipulated for different purposes

I've been studying the experiences of Filipino wives in urban Japan and am finding out very interesting things going on. The Filipino wives I know have taught me that it is wrong to assume that Filipino brides are all oppressed by "MCP" Japanese men. They are not silenced Christian dolls as some have been portraying that they are.

At last, this is just a reminder of what Vince said: yes, it is important not to generalize from just one example. Regional, religious, and ethnic (incl. the "minority") variations are real.


Date: Mon, 27 Feb 95 11:08:28 CET
From: (CEPEDA, Oscar)
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Subject: Re[2]: Suffrage & gender roles

If I may add my 10 groschen worth of ideas to an interesting discussion: :-)

I'd like to add my ten centavos worth to the topic. In the middle and lower income levels my observations lead me to the conclusion that women are more likely to seek and find opportunities to survive, make an income, manage their own lives, dominate the domestic sphere, and manipulate men that non-Filipinos expect or are accustomed.

If you may pardon my dissenting view, I think the points esposed are typical textbook knowledge and off the mark of reality. One only has to read the tabloid magazines in Manila, e.g. 'Abante', 'People's Tonight', 'Pare ko', etc. and you will see how women in the lower income families are really faring i.e. a lot of cases of rape, and spousal abuse, and of marital disputes, of which women are the victims. The fact is that poor families in the city (especially in the slums) are often in a tremendous pressure to survive. And very often, the victims are the ones who are least able to defend themselves. i.e. children and women.

Interesting. I think the tie between economic independence and social position is valid and useful when looking at gender issues. After living ) in the US for 3-4 years, I sense that the gender friction here is partly due to the fact that women have not been historically as economically active as men.

And that Filipinas, contrary to the American experience, have been more historically as economically active as men ? Pardon me, but I don't think that's true.

Isn't that how the "stay at home, take care of the kids" role got started? Women didn't work because they didn't have to. Nowadays, as the need for double-income households rises, more and more women are opting to work and have careers, thus putting them on a more equal footing economically, which in turn increases their political voice.

Women are opting to work and have careers is a normal phenomenon in the modern world. Yes, it is true that Filipinas have increased political voice as compared to the *Philippines' historical past*, but to imply that the status of women in the Philippines are more in a highly elevated position as compared to the so-called *developed countries (particularly USA)*, is I think totally wrong.)

I believe the strength of the Filipina is not isolated to the lower and middle income groups alone.

I believe Filipinas in the lower and middle income groups, just like in any other countries, have the least strength as compared to their more affluent and educated upper-income counterparts.

And here another factor comes into play, namely, maids. In the Philippines and in other Southeast Asian countries it is common for middle class (not only upper class households) to have a maid (or a whole *staff* of domestic help). The maids and nannies take care of the kids and the household, thus freeing the more affluent woman to pursue professional or political ambitions that make her "strong". In Southeast Asia women (at least more of them) are thus not forced to choose: career or family? And there is no social onus on women professionals.

Maids are themselves women. I don't see how having maids contribute to the general upliftment of the status of women.

---- Oscar Cepeda

Date: Thu, 2 Mar 1995 19:01:43 -0600
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Subject: Re[4]: (Fwd) Suffrage in the Phi...

On Mon, 27 Feb 95 11:59:11 CET; Oscar Cepeda wrote:

If I may add my 1 groschen worth:

I think the statement is half-true and and half-false. That women in the Philippines have relatively high status compared with Middle Eastern countries is true. This is due, in large part, to religion. But compared with Western countries -- I think it's false

---- Oscar Cepeda

i'm very glad to see oscar inject a healthy dose of reality into this interesting discussion thread.

as a follow-up to his thoughts and as a counter point to what has been said so far about class and gender roles in the philippines, when we talk about the "lower class", we're really talking about poverty, aren't we? maybe we should then also consider a different analysis, one that is rooted in the concept of the feminimization of poverty which is still the most salient economic and political reality of majority of women in the philippines and many parts of asia. this analysis was best forwarded by elizabeth eviota in her paper on "the articulation of gender and class in the philippines" in the book "women's work: development and the division of labor by gender" (edited by eleanor leacock and helen safa, published first in 1986 i believe), from which i summarize (pardon the "textbook" citing, oscar!).

the analysis begins with the fact that cultural and familial role expectations in the philippines are such that women take care of the children and maintain the household while men provide for the household's material needs. in such an arrangement, the man's relationship with economic assets and resources (and by extension to the public sphere of politics and power) is DIRECT, while the women's is INDIRECT, mediated through her husband. but that's only the ideal. in most households, economic necessity requires that women work also. but the condition and terms of her relationship to economic activity is still qualitatively different from men's:

  1. economic responsibility is added as a second burden to women on top of their childrearing obligations: result? more contraints on her time and energy:
  2. her relation to the labor market is seen as that of earning a second wage, thus, she is often PAID LESS for her efforts or channelled into low-paying jobs, or discriminated against, or easily fired as suits labor-market demands.
  3. women may have a direct relationship to economic assets but not to the fruits of those assets. for example, women in agriculture and services work as UNPAID FAMILY LABOR.

eviota's conclusion is that capitalism profits from the subordinate position of women in three ways: from their unpaid housework, from their unpaid family labor in non-household work, and from their work as low-paid wage-earners outside the home. this, i believe, is what it means to be FEMALE and POOR in the philippines.

and what of its consequences? i will not go into the usual marxist polemics on the subject for the answer is not so simple. for yes, there are multiplicities and contradictions in women's lives in the philippines that i, as a filipina, both celebrate and feel indignant about.

well i can go on and on. many of you out there can surely think of other aspects of these multifaceted realities/images of filipina women's lives - their sources, their consequences. but please indulge me one last point. here in chicago, my american colleagues are always asking me about that one famous filipina who owned 2000 pairs of shoes. nobody knows that another filipina is heading the united nations fourth world conference on women in beijing this september.

waiting to hear your thoughts/reactions...

to the filipina woman, may she always be strong and beautiful!


Maria Emma D. Liwag, Committee on Developmental Psychology
Beecher 305, Psychology Dept., University of Chicago
5848 S. University Ave., Chicago IL 60637
Office #: (312) 702-3799 Home #: (312) 667-3816