Filipinos do not know it yet but dynasties may actually be good for the country

It’s been glaringly obvious that the Philippines is a feudal society and has been ruled by dynasties since time immemorial. Dynasties, after all, are essential in a society renowned for its Heritage of Smallness. Nick Joaquin in that seminal essay observed:

However far we go back in our history it’s the small we find–the nipa hut, the barangay, the petty kingship, the slight tillage, the tingi trade. All our artifacts are miniatures and so is our folk literature, which is mostly proverbs, or dogmas in miniature. About the one big labor we can point to in our remote past are the rice terraces–and even that grandeur shrinks, on scrutiny, into numberless little separate plots into a series of layers added to previous ones, all this being the accumulation of ages of small routine efforts (like a colony of ant hills) rather than one grand labor following one grand design.

[Photo courtesy Yahoo! News.]

Indeed, without our oligarchs’ predisposition to accumulating immense wealth by mobilising the Philippines’ vast labour pool to develop and harvest the country’s rich natural resources at scales that are way beyond the reach of the smallness of the typical Filipino’s mind, aspirations, and ambition, the Philippines today will still be a subsistence hunter and gathering barter economy.

It is common knowledge that most Philippine oligarchs, taipans, and industrialists are descended from immigrants coming from societies with long track records of success in the risky businesses of global trade, exploration, and conquest — Chinese traders, Spanish and American adventurers, and Indian money lenders. It was these people who brought in experience in the building of large scale stuff, whether they be complex organisations, production techniques, and multinational logistics, transport and supply chains. Contrast to that Joaquin’s take on native Filipinos and “our native aversion to the large venture, the big risk, the bold extensive enterprise.”

In short, the Philippines needs its dynasties and their collective ability to do big time stuff — the sorts of world-class things that native Filipinos, left to their devices, may never have gotten around to building.

So what then are we to make of this current thinking amongst the chattering classes that Philippine dynasties need to be dismantled? Well, it depends on what ordinary non-dynastic Filipinos have to offer as an alternative. Back in the 70’s and up to the mid- to late-80s, the rallying cry of the Philippine activist fiesta, for example, was that Filipinos needed to be free and democratic to prosper. So the antithesis of that aspiration was then made out to be President Ferdinand Marcos who represented the stuff about Philippine politics that needed to be dismantled. That happened in 1986 and since then, Filipinos were supposedly “free” and “democratic”. And yet the question of whether that “freedom” and “democracy” was actually achieved in the Philippines remains a debatable notion to this day what with the creative ways some people continue to apply to game the system and the hollow-headed manner with which the electorate plays ball with them every single election.

Did a transition from authoritarianism to democracy really change the Philippines at a fundamental level?

I hear nothing but head-scratching…

Now we find people like former UP president Jose Abueva asserting that dynasties are a threat to democracy. Are they, really? Even while the question of whether democracy is really delivering results where they matter to ordinary Filipinos remains unresolved, Abueva uses “democracy” to underpin the So What? test we subject the notion of dynasties to. Thus:

So what if dynasties are “a threat” to democracy?

Considering that democracy’s benefit to ordinary Filipinos is, by itself, debatable to begin with, why then should we worry if dynasties (if we are to believe our “activists” when they tell us they are baaaadddd) are a “threat” to it?

England itself as well as much of Europe (and, for that matter, much the world from which the most excellent societies emerged from today) were ruled by dynasties. They built the wondrous structures and developed the vast systems that made their countries great. The architectural wonders of Italy that millions of tourists gawk at every year, for example, were built by warlords, avaricious popes, and wealthy aristocrats all motivated by lust for power, vanity, and addiction to conquest. In England, as I mentioned a while back, the politics and power plays amongst its dynastic rulers pretty much make up the stuff of its written history with the quaint sufferings of the peasantry serving as mere footnotes.

In all ironies, it was only when the peasantry — the English masses — were wiped out by disease that their true power actually emerged. A series of epidemics known as the “Black Death” that swept across Europe over the latter half of the fourteenth century decimated its human population. In England, a population of 6 million was almost halved by the pestilence. The aftermath of that devastation yielded an interesting outcome, however. Peter Ackroyd, in his book The History of England – Foundation describes what happened…

Yet the pestilence had slow but permanent effects on English society. The shortage of labour [as a result of the population decline] had the immediate result of increasing both the level of wages and the chances of employment. The phenomenon of the landless or impoverished peasant wholly disappeared. But the rising demands of the working people who had survived, their worth now doubled by the epidemic, provoked a reaction from the landowners and magnates. The knights of the shires, in particular, perceived a threat to good order.

An Ordinance of Labourers was passed by a parliament in 1349, forbidding employers to pay more for labour than they had before the pestilence. The same Act deemed that it was illegal for an unemployed man to refuse work. The measures were not realistic. Many workers and their families could simply move to another district and to a more generous employer who was willing to ignore the law. Some migrated to towns, for example, where there was great demand for manual labourers such as masons and carpenters. A ploughman might become a tiler. More than enough work was available.


Many younger people now possessed their own holdings of land. And the best land did not remain vacant for long. There had once been too many farmers and labourers working too little soil, but now they were dispersed over the countryside.

Indeed, Abueva himself seems quite aware of what the real issue is in the Philippine setting today…

The rapid expansion of our electorate, consisting of more and more poor people, insecure and dependent voters, and increasing political competition have increased the cost of campaigning and incumbency for the political leaders acting as patrons of their constituents.

Our continuing semifeudal society and premodern political culture shape our dysfunctional elections, political parties, presidential form of government and unitary system of national-local government relations.

Unfortunately, like most Filipinos brought up on the notion that rich and powerful people left to their devices will necessarily do the right thing as far as the “greater good” is concerned, Abueva fails to see the wisdom in that little snippet he wrote. Instead his call is directed towards Philippine legislators to do, this “right thing” that runs counter to all their personal interests — to enact that much-vaunted “anti-dynasty” law.

Good luck with that. As English history has shown, the oligarchy will not change unless there is a clear and present threat to their personal wealth and power. Only Filipinos can provide that threat. But the power to do so comes at a cost.


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57 Comments on "Filipinos do not know it yet but dynasties may actually be good for the country"

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It is okay as long as The Ruling Class lop their own for breaking their own Royal Laws…..;-)


As long as President Noy and the people he is supporting are leading, good governance remains. Unlike the former, they werent good because of the mere fact that their corruption cases can fill up an over 9000 square meter warehouse.

A schizophrenic society run by a bi-polar president from a corrupt clan without the benefit of a decent education. i.e. a train wreck in progress. Self interest without personal values or any class/style, just thugs with stolen money/land. As a non-achiever, lazy, and a reluctant president p-noy is proving to be the worst – the runt of the litter. But a useful puppet for the chinese mafia in makati business club and uncle cojuangco. The system/divide which has been created is fundamentally in line with chinese thinking of one party rule by the elite who have legal impunity, control of… Read more »

The new country manager of ibm made an interesting, and worrying comment in a recent interview.
She said that all blogs in philippines are now being monitored and analysed ( using STAIRS technology i imagine which they first developed and uk govt used in 70’s).
Adding ” we can then change the mind set of individuals” !!
No doubt ibm have big contract out of the intelligence fund.
And another part of the control strategy for internet.

‘So what if dynasties are “a threat” to democracy? Considering that democracy’s benefit to ordinary Filipinos is, by itself, debatable to begin with, why then should we worry if dynasties (if we are to believe our “activists” when they tell us they are baaaadddd) are a “threat” to it?’ Because even our brand of democracy, for all its faults and for all its failures and for all its smallness, is still better than wading through the uncharted waters of trusting the familiar dynasties to lift us — not just their families but the whole nation, and not just from an… Read more »

Maybe u r one of those at the end of the govt/ibm propaganda assembly line – sending out inane comments to blogs/posts which are flagged with key words in various text algorithms.
a room full of caradang’s trolls
You clearly dont have thoughts/opinions of you own but just seem to replicate motherhood statements or something produced for you to copy and paste. How sad.
And a waste of my time other than to expose your simplicity, duplicity, and lack of intellect or integrity.

Johnny Derp


Nah, Dapwetan is just a moron without any clue on how to be an effective troll. Asa lang kasi siya sa walang kwentang propaganda na binibigay ng boss niyang si carandang. Post ng post, walang kahit anong epekto. Pagnahaharap sa hamon, linilihis niya ang topic. Pag ang topic sa blog post ay tungkol sa ibang bagay, magpopost nanaman siya ng hindi related sa isyu. Pag related naman ang isyu sa boss niya, napipikon at naasar talo. No matter what dapwetan does, he still won’t win any arguments against us.

Amir Al Bahr
Interesting to note that in Malaysia, Dr. Mahathir Mohamad was different from his predecessors as prime minister in that he was a commoner – he was not a member of the aristocracy or any prominent political or religious family at that time. Although widely criticized as an outspoken critic of the West and as being akin to a dictator, he is also known as the one who started Malaysia on the road to modernization, and one who was brave enough to tell the Malays to their faces just how flawed their culture and mindset are. The question is, after our… Read more »

Nangpucha na yang listahan ng Basurero!

Hyden Toro

So, we vote for the whole family, instead of the person. Including : Katulong, yayas, drivers, etc…What an idiot , we are…


dapitan like Fishball and Co. are amusingly omnipresent on most articles. Guys, let’s keep it cool and don’t feed the trolls. They’d never falter with whatever argument you throw back at them because either they’re that delusional as any squatter-minded Pinoy out there or they’re testing your extent. Once you don’t mind them, they’d get tired of their futile efforts in the long run.


Political dynasty is a proof that politics is family business!!!

Considering the current mindset of majority of Filipinos political dynasty would only flourish more in the years to come until perhaps some miracle happens that would awaken them from their delusions of “contended” lifestyle or perhaps they are literally slaves to these few political families. In the current Filipino culture there is no clear line which defines right and wrong. To them the context of right can be some of the these few examples: what could feed them in their next meal, relieve their call of nature (piss) even anywhere, sing with their karaoke so loud that it could be… Read more »

Dynasties is not a threat to Democracy, it is harmful to common tao.

Dynasties doesnt work either

Didnt work in Egypt

Failed in China and Japan etc…

I dont see how it is going to be good for the Philippines. Remember the Ampatuan Massacre?


Not good because the economy has been growing.

If there’s ever a thing of accomplishments past or present-day, peace efforts by whatever deferment or stay in the implementation, befool or just make them the realm, work on it make them possible of what needs we really should be aspiring for to be the least, people who need to live in peace in Mindanao is mine to be joyful about. Meaning, no more killings. If this is not nice then what is? The Bangsamoro ‘framework’ is fine by me as a practicing Catholic, because we used to live in total harmony before. Restoring them shouldn’t be surprising for us… Read more »
Research my colleagues and I did for my outfit however poignantly could not bode well with idea of families in political dynasties as any to help ease up the nation’s squalid economy. This system the country is adopting patronize family in ‘dynasty rule’ controlling politics in the country is actually the impediment why we remain ‘the sick man of Asia’. Control of our country’s wealth and politics beholden to just the few elite will bury as deeper in misery owing to unrestrained farming out of government borrowings to few of this rich people and stashing them abroad invested in the… Read more »

This author has no clue. Time has change. Due to advance education and technology, people are more smarter than these oligarch. If u look at American slavery, if blacks did not gain independence during the era of slavery, we would not have a George crum, Joseph Dickinson, Patricia bath or a barrack Obama. This is the same concept in the Philippines!