Religion, Politics, and Rationality in a Philippine Community is a study of the relationship between material interest and ideological practises. Based on extensive fieldwork in a municipality of northern Luzon, the book explores the structural and cultural bases of religious belief and practise. Tracing the historical pattern of the local response initially to catholic conversion, later to American Protestantism and more recently to indigenous forms of Christianity. Dr. Pertierra argues that the complex response to conversion can be understood in terms of material-political interests in association with the attempts to retain meaningful cultural forms. Drawing from the classical tradition established by Marx, Durkheim , and Weber, but extending their sociological insights by incorporating more recent theory as well as modern anthropological techniques, this study questions the prevailing views of religious practise in Philippine society and challenges the theories of rationalisation found in Development and Modernisation theory.
Hiding (and wilting) from the 41 degree heat outside, I chose to read this. Had I not had an understandable interest in Philippine history and culture, I would still have selected this, for the pure joy of learning about a new country and culture. Although it’s important to remember that this book deals with data and research from the 1975-6; the value of understanding the present, far outweighs the changes in both community, and perhaps in the theory as well.
Using a fictitious name to protect the identity of the province and the privacy of individuals, the book starts off with a look at previous studies of Filipino communities, the results, and the flaws. In and of itself, I found this short tour of the subject to be both highly interesting and extremely intricate.
The focus of this study is to track religion (and its evolution, if I may use the word in such a context) to the wider social structure within which it exists. The reader is soon introduced to the balance of both spiritual (institutionalised and indigenous) and secular behaviours on the social climate of the community. Combined with an exploration of the economy, and family roles and ties, it soon starts to resemble an extremely complex puzzle to the outsider.
The book does a great job of explaining the various subjects, keeping everything simple. It’s well chronicled and well written, insights from other studies are put forward in support or opposition to the points Dr. Pertierra asserts. The book focuses on (in order):
- history and geography
- the economy, division of labour, and the system of stratification
- political and religious mobilisation and factionalism
- kinship and social order
- rituals and social structure
- indigenous beliefs, morals values, and behavioural models
- material interests and religious ideology
The divergences of Christianity between its various denominations is also amalgamated with indigenous beliefs and rites which have created a distinct set of practises. Birth and death rituals are associated with spirits for example, these rites seek to integrate or reorganise the community. The locals pick the parts of religion that fit in with their pre-Catholic traditions, these are tolerated or ignored by the Protestant (which arrived later with the Americans) and Catholic institutions despite their use in tandem. This is part of the ages old compromise that eases a religion onto a new set of believers.
The religious is balanced by the secular, and politics is separate entirely, despite the affiliations of religion being recognised amongst party members. The quirky geographical tug of war between the two Barrios of Luna and Bato for control of the administrative centre of the municipality is entertaining and shows how the secular ideas can divide despite the affiliations of faith.
Class roles, mainly focused on material possessions is also an issue looked at, further adding to how someone is seen within the community. A cash economy with fluctuating market forces is both as advantageous as it is problematic. The unpredictable outside forces (weather, prices) mean that there is more struggle in the modern era which is being forced more and more upon the farmers of rice and tobacco. There are prominent roles for women in terms of money lending, controlling budgets and the domestic front where as the men go in for politics, although villages elders of both sexes do get a big say in local matters.
I will mention one more interesting find before I wrap this up. When talking about family ties, people are less likely to remember the names of their dead grandparents than they are to know the names of their third cousins. Looking horizontally helps with political affiliations and networking whereas remembering your vertical family tree is seen as less advantageous with inherent rights or privileges less of a factor in everyday life. The former becomes more important as intermarriage between barrios adds even more ties for networking and alignment.
Elements of all of the above work together in most aspects of life and the socio-political structure whilst confusing to outsiders is impressive in its diversity and multiple dialects. This is just one small area of one province rich in complexity. It bodes well for investigations into different areas of this country. A very thorough and interesting work.