I once had a discussion regarding some pinoy traits, particularly about “welfare-state” mindset. I point out that one root of this kind of attitude is feudal mentality. At first I was surprise when the person I’m chatting with said “Ay, meron palang ganyan”. But then I realize that most of us, especially those raised in urban areas, doesn’t understand, haven’t experienced or didn’t encounter a “master-serf” relationship.
In a feudal society such as those in the Middle Ages, the king grants lands to his trusted lieutenants (knights). In return, he has a guaranteed standby army to do battle and settle his war at a wave of his hand. Within this turf, the knight is the absolute ruler, judge and executioner of every denizen who settles it. He also assures the safety of these people from marauders and harassment from other knights of nearby fiefdom. In return he taxed his subjects in a form of a percentage share of their produce and enlists able bodied men to fight his battle or the king’s war. In the Philippines, this practice still exists in the south and has evolved into another form of symbiotic relationship in the central regions.
Before the Lopezes monopolized public utilities and became media moguls, they were landlords and their source of income was sugar. If you have read “An Anarchy of Families” by Alfred McCoy, a section is dedicated to the rise to power of this family. A chapter of it mentions my grandfather’s hometown. It is a sleepy agricultural town in the upland part of my province. It was only mentioned because it’s where the first “sakadas” came from. Locally, it’s famous (infamous?) for two things; its fearless people, skilled in the martial art called “eskrima” and its razor-sharp, meter length bolo called “talibong”. I have a notion that because of their sword skill, they were hired to put into good use their mastery of the weapon by cutting sugarcane instead of limbs and torsos.
In the old days, during summer, a lot of farmers are idle after the rice planting season is over. It was also sugarcane harvest time. This was where my grandfather comes in. He recruits these farmers, shipped them out from the port of Iloilo to work in the sugar plantations of Negros. Sounds familiar? OFW diaspora is not a recent phenomenon. We’ve been doing it since 19kupong-kupong, only then it was in a national level.
Because of this annual “part-time” job they got, they in turn pledges their political alliance to my grandfather. Back then, you are somebody if you can guarantee 500 votes to a politician. You are a “lideres”. I remember when I was young, during election people would flock in my grandfather’s house, waiting for him to tell them whom to vote. But it has its drawbacks. My aunt, a physician, would treat patients for free because they are “kaapin” (political ally) or “tawo ni lolo” (grandpa’s men). Most are poor but some have means enough to pay her with a hen or a dozen eggs. They run to our family for advice for every problem they got, from domestic issues to legal guidance to governmental red tapes. In the bright side, the stronger your political base, the nearer you are to the people who pulls the strings. If you play your cards right, favors are easy to dispense when you got aces up your sleeves, the reason why I promised myself not to work for the government. What you know isn’t enough. You need political ladder to climb up.
People who are use to this kind of relationship bring this kind of mindset when they venture for a better life in the cities. And since they’re cut-off from their former benefactor, when problem arises, they seek the next best thing, either blame or cry for help to any politician or the government itself.
A former president knows very well this kind of mentality of the urban poor. He capitalized on it and they love him in return no matter what. The sad thing is he got their loyalty for a kilo of rice and two cans of sardines.