Even though one of the smallest counties in Asia, Philippines has a long history of culture and civilization. It also has a relatively healthier economy, mainly dependent upon its ports and remittances from all over the world. To a large extent, the well-being of Philippines depends upon its female population; known as Filipinas, they are quiet and graceful but also strong and hardworking. So whether you are thinking of meeting women in the Philippines or wish to know better a woman of Philippine origin, here are a few traits you can be prepared for.
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Petite and graceful
Women from Philippines are known all over the world for their "morena complexion" and "chinita eyes". They are usually slim and graceful but not tall. They have slightly swarthy skin, dark hair and beautiful hazel eyes. Despite hailing from South-East Asia, women here do not have the typical Asian features that Chinese or Korean women have. This is probably due to a long history of racial amalgamation following three and a half centuries of Spanish rule and then a century and more of American influence. Thus Filipinas owe their attraction in part to Spanish blood, Chinese cultural traits as well as some influence of western civilization.
In Philippines, the Church is the centre of the community. Roman Catholicism has a strong presence here with Catholics making up an overwhelming 80.9% of the population, according to the country’s census in 2000. In part due to Spanish colonization, the Catholic Church has a substantial influence on the daily life of the people here. Thus women are traditionally devout and regular Church-goers; even the modern-day Filipinas maintain their religious roots and celebrate religious dates and Feast Days that are prominent in the Catholic calendar.
Close to her family
In Philippines, if the Church is the hub of the community, the basic unit is made of the family. Filipino women live in a culture that is totally focused on the family. Here family members and relatives are an intrinsic part of the social fabric and almost always more important than friends and co-workers. Filipina women are taught to respect their elders right from childhood; they usually live with their families until they get married. Even if a woman is over thirty, a professional and has the financial means to rent a room or a house, she usually prefers to stay with her parents and numerous relatives. This arrangement continues till she gets married in which case, she will move to her husband’s house, which again may or may not be housing his parents and siblings. The importance of family belonging has a firm influence in personal relationships of Filipinas. Unlike Europe and America, in the Philippines a girl usually shares her personal life with her family – any guy who she is dating or who is a suitor will be known to the family. This is the family’s way of evaluating the eligibility of the man in question and also to ensure that their daughter is not being taken for a ride.
Traditional gender roles
One result of being firmly embedded in the family network is that Philippine women have definite gender roles. like most Asian cultures, traditional Philippine society too believes that the place of the woman is in the home as a result of which duties like cooking, washing, keeping house and raising children are usually the lot of Philippine women, whether in cities or in rural areas. And even though modern appliances and economic independence may have lightened some of this load for the urban professional, in general domestic chores are still a typically female responsibility. And yet women in Philippines are not the metaphorical doormat in a patriarchal society. Whether or not they earn themselves, they usually control the family finances – determining who is to be given money and how much. Other than this, guiding her children’s education, spiritual activities and the family’s daily routine makes her a force to contend with. The country has always functioned on the strength of its women, who directly and indirectly run the family unit, businesses, government agencies and haciendas.
Another asset which has prevented Philippines women from being victimized in a traditional society is education. During the last part of the colonization of the Philippines, Isabella II of Spain, introduced the Education Decree of 1863 that provided for the establishment of at least two free primary schools, one for boys and another for girls, in each town under the responsibility of the municipal government. Later when Philippines were ceded to the United States of America, the latter introduced a new public education system which retained opportunity to every child regardless of gender. These initiatives have not gone to waste since women in Philippines are mostly literate ad many even well-educated. The modern Filipinas, especially those from the city areas, are thus good communicators, in speech and in writing. They have the ability to speak English well, way better than those from the neighboring countries.
Strong political presence
One aspect of society where the strength and education of Philippine women has been in the limelight is politics. The emergence of Corazon Aquino, Imelda Marcos and Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo as political figures shows that Filipino society have high regard on Filipino women, in spite of its male chauvinism. Modern-day Filipinas are making strides in electoral politics by initiating more female-oriented programs. They are performing well as leaders, although generally, Filipino women still often earn political seats by having fathers and husbands who are politically connected, a "dynasty system" that hinders other Filipino women from joining the electoral process. Other factors that prevent full-engagement of other well-qualified Filipinas from the Philippine political scene are the expense in politics and the notion that a woman has to look after her family first and any other commitments come later.
Thus like many emerging economies, Philippines owes a great deal of its success to the women of the country. Filipino women may not enjoy the same rights and powers as yet as their American and West European counterparts, but she can no longer be content with a limited role in life and is poised to take her family, society and country much further.