In recent years, the Philippines, along with numerous other “developing” nations of the world, has experienced an accelerated change in many of its basic social institutions. To put it simply, we can describe these changes as part of the transition from a traditionalized, agriculturally oriented socio-economic structure to one more in line with the goals and institutions of a modern industrial society. The actual situation, however, is more complex, and a number of other factors not necessarily related to industrialization have been involved. These include changes in the demographic structure, shifting loci of political power, and the “demonstration effect” of numerous external agencies which have widened both taste and aspiration horizons.
For a description of the characteristics typical to this traditional Filipino socio-economic system, see
While the Census data on farm size is not reliable and comparisons not too meaningful, the fact that little change appears to have occurred in the modal and average size of Philippine lowland farm units between 1903 and 1948 is suggestive. Not only farm unit sizes, but the cultural system itself is largely unchanged. The descriptions of lowland rice culture given to us by Paul de la Gironiere over a century ago (Twenty Years in the Philippines [New York, 1854], pp. 310–315) are as typical today as they were in the early part of the nineteenth century.
Also noteworthy is the similar pattern of social development, including extensive tenancy, small size farm units, and class bi-polarizations that have emerged in such recent “frontier” areas as Nueva Ecija, the Cagayan Valley and even Mindanao. At the turn of the century, these areas were all sparsely settled with a high percentage of uncultivated lowlands. Today, the “frontier” aspects of the areas have disappeared, and the populations have largely melted into the mould of typicalness.
See: Census of the Philippine Islands, 1903, IV, 184–5, and Summary Reports of the 1948 Census of Agriculture, p. 12;
The preliminary figure announced by the Bureau of Census and published in The Philippines Free Press, June 25, 1960, p. 6, was 27,473,000.
The construct of “labor force” included all persons ten years old and older employed, or unemployed and wanting work. As to percentages, it accounted for sixty-five per cent of the population ten years or older. About ninety per cent of the labor force (88.9 per cent), however, fell into the fifteen to sixty-five year old age grouping, and over seventy per cent in the prime working ages of fifteen to forty-four years.
Much larger figures for total arable land are frequently found in the literature on Philippine resources. For example, the National Economic Council, Three-Year Development Plan for FY 1959–60 to FY 1961–62 states that 17.2 million hectares is potential agricultural land. Other estimates ranging from twelve to sixteen million hectares are not unusual in both official and unofficial reports. These confusing “high” estimates result from considering all land not necessary for adequate soil cover on severe slopes as “potential agricultural land,” and, at the higher figures, suggest that the mountainous Philippines have a uniquely high percentage total of all its lands that can be cultivated.
No comprehensive and systematic study has been made of the problem, but Dacanay, in 1950, suggested that 14.3 million hectares was necessary for balance of soil cover, leaving 15.4 million hectares for other purposes. Of this remaining total, however, he noted 5.2 million hectares classified as open and grassland which he described as “marginal, sub-marginal, or poor land from an agricultural point of view.” Even with extensive use of improved soil management, he estimated less than half of this open and grassland would be appropriate for agricultural uses.
Since roads, building sites, airfields, and other non-agricultural uses of land must also come out of the total land available, a figure of ten to eleven million hectares appears to be an estimate erring on the high side, if anything.
Still the best general survey of the problem of land use in the Philippines, but with particular attention to upland areas, is
Estimate of the Division of Agricultural Economics, D.A.N.R., as reported in the Central Bank News Digest, Vol. XI, No. 36, September 1, 1959.
There is an element of distortion in relating a single “average Filipino farmer” to a particular farm area magnitude, as the relationship developed is invariably that of peak work load limitations, rather than full utilization of the farmer's total available labor flow.
Mechanization of Philippine agriculture has increased slowly but steadily over the past fifteen years, particularly in the sugar industry. In 1959, 5,223 agricultural tractors were reported to be in use in the Philippines, 1,999 of which were in the sugar growing province of Negros Occidental. The use of tractors in the rice industry is now becoming more common, and the Central Luzon rice bowl had over a thousand tractors operating in 1959.
Data furnished by Agricultural Economics Division, Department of Agriculture and Natural Resources, in a letter dated October 18, 1960.
The rigidity of factor proportions in “traditional” agriculture, and the inapplicability of the economist's conventional marginal tools and “the theory of the firm” implicit in our treatment of this problem have been discussed in: “An Introduction to Econocological Theory,” Malayan Economic Review, Vol. V, No. 1, April 1960.
The very concept of unemployment was unknown in the Philippines at the turn of the century, and the descriptive literature of the first decade of the century is filled with statements about labor shortages and the possible desirability of bringing Chinese coolie labor to work in the expanding agricultural enterprises.
In recent years, and at an accelerated rate since the end of the Second World War, unemployment has become a widely recognized problem. Many people are now treating it as the most critical and basic of the economic problems facing the nation.
Estimates of unemployment in any underdeveloped area like the Philippines are largely a function of definition, and are in no way comparable to figures used in the industrially developed nations of the world. A basic defect lies in the absence of any meaningful measurement of underemployment. Nevertheless, total unemployment estimates in 1956 by the Philippine Statistical Survey of Households were 1,182,000 out of a labor force of 9,497,000, or over 12.5 per cent. P.S.S.H. Bulletin, Series No. 1, Vol. 1, 16.
By settlement I am referring to an organic population unit such as a city, town, or village. The 1903 Census used municipal administrative districts which were frequently composed of several dozen scattered settlements, many of which had no easy means of communication with one another. Under this term, over fifty municipal districts were reported with populations in excess of fifteen thousand. Fortunately, the Census broke down the populations of these districts by discrete settlements and I have used the latter in my definition above. The 1918 Census follows this conceptual definition of a population unit.
See, for example,
In 1902, the Filipino school system had 928 Americans teaching throughout the various islands. A large percentage of the teachers in both the private and public school systems at present are American-trained.
The Philippine educational system, both public and private, has been a prime carrier of a Weberistic “Protestant ethic” in the Philippines, since the turn of the century. Emphasis on “pluck, not luck,” “the sanctity of work,” and the desirability of continuously striving to improve one's material surroundings are all to be found in the American-oriented educational system of the twentieth century. It is worthy of note that much of the leadership in the spreading of the “Protestant ethic” was supplied by American-trained Catholic educationists, particularly the Jesuits.
Tagalog was the most widely spoken language at the time. Overall literacy (i.e., the ability to read and write in any language) was reported to be 20.2 per cent for the whole Philippines. Since an estimated eighty-seven languages in addition to Spanish were spoken in the Philippines at the time, mere literacy was not sufficient for widescale communication.
The Philippine Commission Report of 1900 mentioned a figure of seventy per cent literacy for the Tagalog areas, but this appears to be far too high, since the 1939 literacy in the same area was less than this.
Some indication of the extremely small number that used the written word for communication can be seen in the Census of 1903 report on newspapers and periodic literature. In 1902, forty-one publications were recorded. Twelve of these were in English and served the relatively large American community almost exclusively. Twenty-four were in Spanish and four were in Tagalog. Of the total circulation for all periodicals, of 68,236 only 3,422 were in the native languages.
Unpublished data. Bureau of Census and Statistics, May 1951.
Copin, op. cit., 566–567.
This is my own estimate, based on a number of sources which provide partial figures, and subsequent reports of later years. Luthringer, for example, estimates the 1903 money supply as 30,000,000, exclusive of bank notes, Chinese subsidiary coins, various types of copper coins, and various Spanish coins. Kemmerer states that currency in circulation in 1910 varied between 41.5 and 48.7 million pesos. Annual Treasury Reports were published from 1913 on, and according to the 1913 report the total money supply as of December 31 was 50,376,236 pesos.
Central Bank, Annual Report, 1950, and News Digest, Vol. XII, No. 8. The exact figure reported for December 30, 1959, was 1,842.1 million pesos.
In the absence of long-term National Income estimates for the Philippines, it is difficult to provide empirical evidence of a secular increase in the velocity of money circulation. Nevertheless, the few indicators that do exist in the banking records, suggest increasing velocity of circulation, at least in the formal transaction sense.