Pinoy Game Of Thrones: More On The Filipino Attitude Towards Competition

Fallen Angel wrote a great, thought provoking post on the Filipino attitude towards competition and you can find it here.

One part of the post that I’d like to try to elaborate on is this:

Filipino society is basically one big survival of the fittest jungle. Individual Filipinos will step on each other to get that shiny new gadget first. Or they may step on each other to catch the train or bus commute home. They might even conduct pissing contests on who can break rules and regulations to the greatest extent – without getting caught, of course.

Is there something that needs to be clarified about this seeming contradiction?

I think that the micro level competition he describes also happens on the macro level and this is something I wrote about, quite lengthily in “P17.5 Billion Mactan Cebu International Aiport Upgrades Doomed By Dysfunctional Pinoy Competition Culture”

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In essence, when it comes to business or politics on a national scale, there are never any winners and there are just cheaters as well as those who were cheated.

But that’s merely the understanding that we get if we judge merely by the appearance of things or fall into the trap of mistaking accusations of cheating from either side as being anything truthful.

A deeper look into the macro level of competition, perhaps reveals that we have a misunderstanding of what the real game is.

On one hand, it would appear that the game would be one that is called regulatory capture.

Regulatory capture is a form of political corruption that occurs when a regulatory agency, created to act in the public interest, instead advances the commercial or special concerns of interest groups that dominate the industry or sector it is charged with regulating. Regulatory capture is a form of government failure; it creates an opening for firms to behave in ways injurious to the public (e.g., producing negative externalities).

In such a game of “regulatory capture”, businessmen for instance attempt to control the regulators of their industry either by bribes or various forms of coercion.

In the case, for instance, when several corporations compete in a government bid, businessmen attempt to bribe and/or coerce the head of the regulating agency and/or the bids and awards committee or even set things up so that bidding would be unnecessary.

And the thing that this macro competition has in common with micro competition is this: There is only one rule and that is to WIN AT ALL COSTS.

On the other hand, as far as WINNING AT ALL COSTS is concerned, the bigger game is to achieve absolute dominion over the country’s political and economic life — to sit on the Iron Throne.

I think, in the past, Filipinos attempted regulatory capture through the Prayles or Friars who pretty much ran everything in the country or the Principalia.

Frailocracy in the Philippines

To ensure the reader completely understands the power of the friar, Rizal dedicates a whole chapter (chapter 11) in describing the bosses of the town of San Diego where majority of the novel’s events takes place. According to him, the two great powers in the town were the parish priest, Father Salvi, and the Commander of the local detachment of the Constabulary, the lieutenant. The mayor of the town was a mere lapdog of the church and the guardia civil. There were frequent clashes between the two great powers (albeit behind one anohter’s backs), with the priest and the lieutenant playing tricks in order to secretly sabotage the other.

The friars did not only control the religious aspect of the community; they had a say in everything.

Knowing all these you may ask, “Why was the Church so powerful then?”Indeed, who gave them this power? Is it the government? After all, the government owes its foundation and strength to the Church. A study of our country’s history indicates that when Spain conquered the Philippines, they utilized the pwoer of religion to manipulate Filipinos. Spain used the cross to put our country under her rule and the Philippines wouldn’t be a colony if it weren’t for, among the other things, the work of the missionaries. The government relied so much on the Chruch, as supported by a statement of Pilosopo Tasio in a conversation with Ibarra:

“…the Government itself sees nothing, hears nothing and decides nothing except what the paraish priest or the head of a religious Order makes it see, hear, and decide. It is convinced that it rests on them alone; that it stands because they support it; that it lives because they allow it to live; and that the day they are gone, it will fall like a discarded puppet (Rizal, 144).”

The very nature of the government also contributed to the growth of power of the religious orders. The instability of the administration in Spain led to frequent changes in the colonial government;thus, the power of the friars was consolidated because they were the only thing constant.


The people also gave the Church their money; for the promise of eternal life and salvation, they spent their savings on indulgences, masses, candles, and other religious tokens. In reality, these didn’t cleanse the soul; its sole purpose was that of enriching the friars. Aside from these, the religious orders had another source of income. They owned vast stretches of agricultural lands that they made the natives pay for in exchange for a viable livelihood, which was farming. Amassing so much wealth only served to strengthen the economic prestige of the friars upon which so much of their power rested.

The Philippines Under Frailocracy

As the pope gave the king of Spain the power of patronato real, the State and the Church in the Philippines was unified. Thus, the colonial government appoints and pays the salaries of the archbishops, bishops and the parish priests. The government also funds the churches, schools and charities run by these religious orders.

In order for these missionaries to have a self-sustainable life, land estates known as ‘friar lands’ were granted to them thus, making them land owners and later on merchants. They started to become influential not only economically but also politically. They reigned supreme even in government matters. Some even acted as governor-general until 1762. One example is Manuel Rojo, the last archbishop to hold such high position. Another development is the scarcity of secular priest to manage the parishes. These vacancies led to the appointment of the regulars, especially in the rich and developed parishes. These events started frailocracy or monastic supremacy in the Philippines.


As the friars become powerful, abuses among the Filipinos took place. The issue about the friar lands became one of the reasons for the outbreak of the Philippine Revolution. Majority of the lands, especially in the Tagalog region, were owned by the friars. Foreclosure of mortgages and outright land grabbing were frequent. Abuses made by the friars among his constituents/ flock were observable. The secularization of the parishes also became an issue since the regulars won’t give up their parishes to the Filipino seculars.

Patronato Real

The Patronato (literally: “Patronage”) system in Spain (and a similar padroado system in Portugal) was the expression of royal patronage controlling major appointments of Church officials and the management of Church revenues, under terms of concordats with the Holy See. The resulting structure of royal power and ecclesiastical privileges, was formative in the Spanish colonial empire. It resulted in a characteristic constant intermingling of trade, politics, and religion.[1]

The friars, of course, although being perhaps the dominant or ruling class in the Philippines were not the only ruling class.  The Philippines had its aristocracy too or Principalia.

To implement a system of indirect rule in the Philippines, king Philip II ordered, through a law signed on 11 June 1594, that the honors and privileges of governing, which were previously enjoyed by the local royalty and nobility in formerly sovereign principalities (who later accepted the catholic faith and became subject to him),[g] should be retained and protected. He also ordered the Spanish governors in the Philippines to treat these native nobles well. The king further ordered that the natives should pay to these nobles the same respect that the inhabitants accorded to their local Lords before the conquest, without prejudice to the things that pertain to the king himself or to the encomenderos.

King Philip II of Spain, who decreed the retention of the rights of Filipino indigenous nobles.

The royal decree says: It is not right that the Indian chiefs of Filipinas be in a worse condition after conversion; rather they should have such treatment that would gain their affection and keep them loyal, so that with the spiritual blessings that God has communicated to them by calling them to His true knowledge, the temporal blessings may be added, and they may live contentedly and comfortably. Therefore, we order the governors of those islands to show them good treatment and entrust them, in our name, with the government of the Indians, of whom they were formerly lords. In all else the governors shall see that the chiefs are benefited justly, and the Indians shall pay them something as a recognition, as they did during the period of their paganism, provided it be without prejudice to the tributes that are to be paid us, or prejudicial to that which pertains to their encomenderos. [19](Título:vii; ley xvi)


By the end of the 16th century, any claim to Filipino royalty, nobility or hidalguía had disappeared into a homogenized, Hispanicized and Christianized nobility – the principalía.[14] (p118) This remnant of the pre‑colonial royal and noble families continued to rule their traditional domain until the end of the Spanish regime. However, there were cases when succession in leadership was also done through election of new leaders (cabezas de barangay), especially in provinces near the Manila where the ancient ruling families lost their prestige and role. It appears that proximity to the seat of colonial Government diminished their power and significance. In distant territories, where the central authority had less control and where order could be maintained without using coercive measures, hereditary succession was still enforced, until Spain lost the archipelago to the Americans. These distant territories remained patriarchal societies, where people retained great respect for the principalía

The principalía was larger and more influential than the pre‑conquest indigenous nobility. It helped create and perpetuate an oligarchic system in the Spanish colony for more than three hundred years. [1](p331)[8](p218) The Spanish colonial government’s prohibition for foreigners to own land in the Philippines contributed to the evolution of this form of oligarchy. In some provinces of the Philippines, many Spaniards and foreign merchants intermarried with the rich and landed Malayo‑Polynesian local nobilities. From these unions, a new cultural group was formed, the mestizo class.[v] Their descendants emerged later to became an influential part of the government, and the principalía.[20]

I think that what we are really seeing, in as far as competition on the macro and micro levels are concerned goes back to rule following which was articulated by Ilda:

There is very little evidence that Filipinos are capable of living by the “rule of law”. The society is quite extraordinary in the sense that simple rules and regulations whether on the road or in the work place are for the most part ignored.

Because, really, what are rules anyway if you are a ruler?

13 Replies to “Pinoy Game Of Thrones: More On The Filipino Attitude Towards Competition”

  1. Spain was under Islamic rule (under the Moors) for many centuries. In some Islamic states; religion, Mullahs and Ayatollahs have the final say. Like Iran…the Sharia law, which was derived from the Islamic Koran is the law of the land. There is no boundary between Mosque and State…

    Spain used religion to conquer us; to colonize us and to give us Spanish culture.
    Feudal Oligarchy which was the remnant of Spanish colonization is still with us. Family political dynasties are still with us. The stranglehold of Religion is still with us. Look at the Catholic Church, and the INK, used by politicians; as power players in politics.

    It may take many more years for us to learn…and get away from these influences that hinder our progress…

      1. It means : our country, “to progress”….the situation/condition of the country is stagnant, because of these “negative traits, we got from our colonizers…we alone can remove them…nobody can…politicians want the “status qou”…because they replaced the colonizers…

        1. Things can be different, but it can hardly be called progress.

          Progress is an illusion.

        2. HT, you should grow up and stop blaming your ancestors, your leaders, your government…

          If you currently have problems, believe it or not, it is of your own making.

  2. “Regulatory capture” has been going on for centuries.

    Look at ‘The Sherman Anti-trust Act’ in the USA or even Quantative easing(currently in phase 4) in the Japan/U.K. or U.S.A. all propping up the currency while devaluing others and thus creating a ‘race to the bottom’.

    Well, “Bottoms up” and ‘Welcome home’!!!! it can be recognized at a glance, but little can be done about it.

  3. it certainly seems like the secular world has not reached the fail-ippines yet.
    BUT, it is here and waiting for you to ‘come on over’. The secular world isn’t mad either and will welcome you to join in whenever you are ready!!!!

    Divorce laws anyone?

    1. I think the LGBT community may want to amend the civil code for two reasons, to allow for gay marriage and divorce.

      1. @Paul Farol:

        The governemnt officials are to blame…not me. They are in power…you yourself should grow up, you voted for them…I will continue to blame them, until I get results…or a better government will come out…

        1. the individual filipino is not blameless. but not blaming any other factors (including ancestors, leaders, government) in the hindrance of the filipino individual is absurd.

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