Is the Philippines a Matriarchal Society?

When I was in the Philippines I noticed things that from a Western point of view are quite strange.

My wife comes from a family of college and high school teachers. My mother in law used to teach in a college and my wife used to teach in a high school and almost all my wife’s aunts and cousins teach.

And what are their husbands’ jobs? They either farm or drive tricycles or jeepneys.

In my country women who teach or work as lawyers, engineers etc. always marry men who belong to their peer group. In the Philippines women who are teachers, lawyers or engineers marry janitors, farmers, tricycle drivers or even unemployed men. It is not uncommon to see men who nagtatambay (or hang out) with other men and drink beer or hard alcoholic drinks while their wives are working as professionals.

Once I accompanied my wife’s uncle while he was taking her wife to the school where she teaches in the mountain area of Donya Remedios Trinidad. His “job” is to take her to the school and take her back home.

Most Filipino families here in Italy are literally run by women. Women are usually the first to arrive in the country and their husbands usually follow after years. When they get here they struggle to find a job, and, even when they find one, they often earn less than their wives do, so what occurs is that they end up looking after their children.

The first time I visited the Philippines Gloria Arroyo was the president. Here in Italy we never had a woman as president, in the USA and other countries they never had a woman as president and yet the Philippines has already had more than one female president.

If you go to a bank in the Philippines you see women behind the counter most of the times, if you go to a marketplace you find women running the stalls. Women in the Philippines are actively involved in politics, they teach, they run businesses and so on.

Obviously in the Philippines there are plenty of men who are in positions of power and the current president is a man and he is the personification of the Filipino macho man, nevertheless women seem to really count in the Philippines.

Filipino men are quite often mayabang or kind of cocky, but this does not at all mean that they keep women submissive, on the contrary, often women run the economy of the household. Men act out their masculinity in other areas such as binge drinking, the way they drive and so on but, within the household, they are often henpecked.

The old women of the household in particular can be very domineering and often control every move men make.

If you are married to a Filipina and you find yourself living with her extended family, there is a chance that you will have to deal with the strong influence and the strong personality of your mother in law, especially if she was in some kind of position of power when she used to work.

Again, the way to go about dealing with the situation is awareness of what the Filipino culture is like. Women do count in the Philippines and the old women of the household can have a rather domineering attitude.

While you cannot afford to let yourself be put under the saya (henpecked) you cannot even try to edge your mother in law out.

Among the various aspects of the Filipino culture, the fact that the Philippines is a rather matriarchal society is certainly something to be well aware of if you are married to a Filipina.

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