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Vol. 10, No. 1, Byron Josue de Leon


Contents>> Vol. 10, No. 1

Peasant Violence in Early Nineteenth Century Philippines and Guatemala: The Cases of Apolinario de la Cruz and Rafael Carrera in Comparative Perspective

Byron Josue de Leon*

*Independent Scholar
e-mail: bjdeleon.lorini[at]

DOI: 10.20495/seas.10.1_119

The Philippines and Guatemala belong to a common indigenous Hispanic cultural sphere defined by the presence of large numbers of pre-Hispanic populations and their transformation by the institutions and rule of a shared history within the Spanish Empire. In the first half of the nineteenth century both regions were undergoing analogous fiscal pressures and economic transformations toward capitalist modes of agricultural production. They were also being introduced to global markets: the Philippines under the tutelage of a colonial regime and Guatemala under an inexperienced and dysfunctional federation of states. The brunt of the economic changes fell mostly on the lower castes of their societies, indigenous peasants. During the 1830s and early 1840s, despite efforts by the authorities in the Philippines to modernize and universalize the management of tribute in the colony, the territory’s fiscal system varied throughout the archipelago. By 1841, the year of the cofradía’s uprising in the province of Tayabas, tribute administration remained under the old corruption-plagued system led by alcaldes mayores and gobernadorcillos. These factors help to explain the background and motivations for the early nineteenth century peasant revolts led by Apolinario de la Cruz in the Philippines and Rafael Carrera in Guatemala.

Keywords: colonialism, peasant violence, Philippines, Guatemala, Apolinario de la Cruz, Catholic Church, state repression, cofradía

Vol. 10, No. 1, Vivek Neelakantan


Contents>> Vol. 10, No. 1

“No Nation Can Go Forward When It Is Crippled by Disease”: Philippine Science and the Cold War, 1946–65

Vivek Neelakantan*

*Consortium for the History of Science, Technology and Medicine, 431 Chestnut Street, Philadelphia, PA 19106-2426, United States
e-mail: vivekneelakantanster[at]

DOI: 10.20495/seas.10.1_53

This article outlines a notion of postcolonial Philippine science. First, it touches on the links between science, medicine, the Cold War, and nation building. Second, it examines the niche occupied by applied sciences, particularly nutrition, agriculture, and medicine, in nation building. Between 1946 and 1965, Philippine presidents understood science functionally, in terms of harnessing the country’s natural resources for economic development; and strategically, in terms of the Philippines being a regional leader of the free world in Southeast Asia. To realize the Philippines’ Cold War aspirations, they mobilized technical assistance from the US. The Bataan Rice Enrichment Project (1946–49) and the establishment of the International Rice Research Institute (1962) indicated a shift in the emphasis of US assistance from economic aid to technical cooperation in the field of nutrition and agriculture.

Through a close study of the Philippine Medical Association, this article examines inner tensions between physicians who advocated an individualized treatment of disease and those who advocated mass campaigns. Between 1946 and 1965, a mobilization mentality suffused the practice of science in the Philippines such that the pursuit of knowledge would lead to unanswered Cold War questions—particularly socialized medicine—expanding healthcare access to rural areas.

Keywords: Philippines, postcolonial science, Cold War, disease eradication, Bataan Rice Enrichment Project, International Rice Research Institute, Philippine Medical Association, socialized medicine

Vol. 8, No. 2, Andrea Malaya M. RAGRAGIO and Myfel D. PALUGA


Contents>> Vol. 8, No. 2

An Ethnography of Pantaron Manobo Tattooing (Pangotoeb): Towards a Heuristic Schema in Understanding Manobo Indigenous Tattoos

Andrea Malaya M. Ragragio* and Myfel D. Paluga*

* Department of Social Sciences, College of Humanities and Social Sciences, University of the Philippines-Mindanao, Barangay Mintal, Davao City, Philippines; Institute of Cultural Anthropology and Development Sociology, Faculty of Social Sciences, Leiden University, Wassenaarseweg 52, 2333 AK Leiden, Netherlands
Corresponding author (Ragragio)’s e-mail: amragragio[at]

DOI: 10.20495/seas.8.2_259

Pangotoeb refers to the traditional tattooing among the Pantaron Manobo of Mindanao, a practice that has not been given a systematic description and analysis before in Philippine or Mindanao studies. After giving a review of early historical and recent reports on this practice, this article provides an ethnographic description of Pantaron Manobo tattooing on the following aspects: (a) the tattoo practitioner (and her socio-symbolic contexts); (b) tools and techniques; (c) variations in body placements; (d) basic designs; and (e) the given reasons why present-day Manobo tattoo themselves. In terms of Philippine tattooing technique, this study highlights the importance of distinguishing three modal hand movements: hand-tapping, handpoking, and incising techniques; this last is unique to Mindanao relative to the rest of the Philippines and perhaps Southeast Asia. This paper also opens a comparative and exploratory cognitive approach in studying Manobo tattooing practice. Calling for a methodological declustering of the study of tattooing from its frequent association with male/warrior identity, this article concludes by selecting a limited set of figures that appears to be an enduring schema underlying Manobo tattooing practice: (a) the central role of the female gender; (b) the unique importance of the navel/abdomen as a tattooing region of the (female) body; and (c) the importance of the “ridge-pole” (and the “house” in general) in naming tattoo figures and attributing significances. These appear to be more resonant with many other aspects of Manobo culture to warrant giving this schema a heuristic value for future studies.

Keywords: tattoo, Manobo, Pantaron, Mindanao, Philippines, indigenous peoples, gender, cognitive schema

I Introduction

A systematic anthropological documentation of the pangotoeb, the indigenous tattoo practice of the Manobo from the Pantaron highlands (Fig. 1) of southern Mindanao, Philippines, is yet to be done. The present paper is a contribution towards this direction. It reviews the available historical accounts of the tattoo, from the earliest available records dating to the late nineteenth century, up to more recent documentation in ethnographies and visual media. The article will also present firsthand ethnographic data from interviews and observations regarding the present tattooing practice of the Manobo along the Talomo River and Simong River in Talaingod town, Davao del Norte Province, and the Salug River in San Fernando town, Bukidnon province. The data this article presents include what the designs of the tattoos are and their meanings, where they are placed on the body, and what reasons the Manobo give for their tattooing. Interviews with tattoo practitioners1) also reveal that the Pantaron Manobo tattooing technique of incising is unique from the other indigenous tattooing techniques in the Philippines, and perhaps Southeast Asia.


Fig. 1 The Pantaron Highlands


The initial aim of this research was to fill in a gap in the ethnographic description of indigenous tattooing practices in Mindanao. Unlike the tattooing practice of various groups in the Cordilleras of northern Luzon (e.g. Salvador-Amores 2013; 2002; Wilcken 2010), Mindanao tattooing has not yet been the focus of a systematic ethnographic study. In the course of developing this ethnographic description, the study evolved further interpretive directions. Meaningful connections between the tattoos and other daily objects that link them to other aspects of Manobo life began to emerge from the interviews and observations. It is this network of associations that the final section of this paper explores, forwarding them to be local “systems of representation” (Geirnaert-Martin 1992, xxviii), or “metaphors for living” (Fox 1980, 333) that may be used to describe or make sense of tattooing’s place in Pantaron Manobo society. This direction is similar to what Schildkrout (2004, 328) would describe as a “Levi-Straussian” perspective which saw body art as “a microcosm of society” that represented ideas of spirituality, social status, hierarchy and leadership, and gender and kinship relations.

Godelier (2018, 479–484), in his recent comprehensive assessment of Levi-Strauss’s structural approach still emphasized the value of analysis guided by the Levi-Straussian keywords of “structure” and “transformations,” and reiterated the continuing importance of pursuing inquiries about enduring “cognitive schemas” for the present twenty-first century social science agenda. Departing from classical structuralism, this research has been open to closely listening to local, subjective views, and paid attention to what focal images surfaced in discussions of Manobo tattooing, and how they resonate with other domains of activities. In presenting a heuristic model that may guide further studies, this paper also follows Mosko’s (2009 [1985], 1; cf., Salazar 1968) suggestion to continually explore the “analytical validity of indigenous categories” while remaining aware of the dynamism of the Pantaron Manobo as a group affected by current global economic and political forces.

I-1 Collecting Manobo Tattooing Information

The ethnographic data presented here was collected in the period between 2007 and 2015. Prior to 2013, only initial observations about the tattooing were done as these were field visits that were not centered on investigating tattooing. Data was more systematically collected from 2013 until 2015 through directed interviews with pangotoeb practitioners, recipients, and other knowledgeable persons in the community, such as elders, leaders, and epic chanters. The main field site of the study were the villages located along the Talomo River (see Fig. 2 and Fig. 3 for location maps), but visits and interviews were also conducted in villages on the Salug and Simong Rivers. During interviews, the same set of questions were asked in order to triangulate the replies of each interviewee. Interviews began with asking the interviewee for basic biographical details (age, if it is known, village of birth, village of residence, names and places of birth of lineal relatives including ascending generations, if they could still be remembered). Tattoo practitioners were asked to describe the process of tattooing, what items are used, and what behavioral or bodily observances must be done throughout the process. Tattoo practitioners and other tattooed persons were also asked to recall their own experiences of getting tattooed, or seeing others get tattooed.


Fig. 2 Mindanao Areas Mentioned in This Paper


Fig. 3 Talomo and Simong Rivers of Davao del Norte


Photographs of tattoos were also taken during these occasions, with the consent of, and utmost consideration for, the individuals involved. However, the actual process of tattooing was not witnessed by the researchers for no such opportunity presented itself during the intermittent field visits between 2013 and 2015, and the researchers deemed it improper to instigate a tattooing session at their behest. There was, however, two occasions in which the tattoo practitioners spontaneously offered to simulate the tattooing technique using the underside of a cassava peel. This allowed us to observe the hand movements of the practitioners and more closely examine the marks that the technique makes.

Photo elicitation was used in order to identify the names of the tattoo designs. The researchers showed the interviewees photos of tattooed persons and close-ups of his or her tattoos, and asked them if individual motifs or groups of motifs had names. This was an effective approach in identifying designs as many Pantaron Manobo are unused with using a pen and paper to draw designs. Additionally, during interviews it was not always the case that there were tattooed persons present whose tattoos may voluntarily be used as a reference when talking about designs and their names. The photos used were photos that were taken by the researchers during initial visits and interactions in the area beginning in 2007. The persons pictured were therefore those who were still living in the Pantaron area, and the interviewees were frequently acquainted with or related to the persons in the photo. This ensured that the photos used were as well-embedded in the social context of the study area as possible (Banks 2007, 60), since the objective of photo elicitation was primarily to identify the names of the designs, and not to elicit other comments (Rose 2012; Banks 2007).

These qualitative accounts are supplemented by quantitative data collected in 2014 when, in the month of April, Pantaron Manobo from Talaingod town evacuated to Davao City in the midst of counter-insurgency operations in their area. Working with the village leaders and the evacuation center secretariat committee, 90 families (or 15 families from each of the six villages located along the Talomo River) with a total of 2392) individuals were randomly selected and surveyed in order to glean a socio-demographic picture of the Manobo pangotoeb.

II Locating and Naming the Tattooing Groups: “Ata” or Pantaron Manobo?

In the formal literature (anthropological, historical, and linguistics), the Pantaron Manobo are broadly identified as “Ata Manobo” or simply “Ata.” Frank Lebar (1975, 63, as contributed by Aram Yengoyen) has given the most authoritative anthropological account (outside of linguistics) of the “Ata” in his three-volume summing-up work on the “ethnic groups” of Southeast Asia under the Human Relations Area Files. However, compared to other entries about other indigenous groups in Mindanao, the “Ata” is given the shortest space (half a page) and thus the briefest discussion in this work.

Up to this time, little progress has been made in the representation of this “Ata” group in both the scholarly literature and in popular view, even with additional research from Gloria and Magpayo (1997), Bajo (2004), and Tiu (2005). Tiu (2005) attempted to deepen this inquiry further by posing what he called the “Ata puzzle” to problematize this naming and classification of a group of people (Tiu 2005, 47–116).

The present use of the term “Ata” is complicated by its being interchangeably used with a separate category “Agta” that is more commonly understood to refer to Negrito groups on the separate island of Luzon. Such a usage has historical roots (beginning with Jesuit records in the latter half of the nineteenth century), and has been inherited by succeeding writers and documenters, and used with varying degrees of circumspection.

From the perspective of groups encompassed by this study (who are often included under the label “Ata Manobo” or “Ata”), “Manobo” simply means “human being.” “Ata” also has a derogatory connotation for Manobo leaders who were interviewed (note a similar observation from Bajo 2004, 26). When asked what they called themselves, they referred to the river closest to their settlements: thus, those who live near the Talomo are the “Matigtalomo,” those near the Salug are “Matigsalug,” those near Simong are “Matigsimong,” and so on. The crucial role of rivers in geographical orientation as well as self-ascription must be foregrounded to provide further clarity about what social science scholars mean when they refer to the Manobo living in the highlands of Pantaron.

Despite these distinct self-labels, the Matigtalomo and Matigsimong (on the Davao del Norte province side of the Pantaron mountain range), and the Matigsalug and Matigtigwa/Tigwanon (on the Bukidnon province side), consider each other as kin, and share a common language and material culture, so much so that it can warrant the ascription of a collective name for them. In keeping with their convention of referring to a major prominent feature of their homeland, the term “Pantaron” Manobo after the mountain range that is their ancestral domain is apt.

In the villages covered by this study, many remain un-Christianized and un-Islamized, and still practice subsistence agriculture (rotational or swidden farming; see discussion of “Ata”/“Talaingod” practices in Gloria and Magpayo 1997, 15–90), with land ownership based on usufruct. But today, planting cash crops like abaca and corn and tending small stores are becoming common, as some individuals are drawn into the practicality of procuring some basic needs from the lowlands. This is especially true for villages accessible to motorcycles.

As individuals and as communities, they retain a degree of traditional geographic mobility. Matigtalomo Manobo regularly cross the borders of Talaingod in Davao del Norte and San Fernando in Bukidnon to look for work (often as day workers for clearing fields for planting) and to visit kin. Villages may also move from one location to another, sometimes after the death of an important person in the village (such as a local leader called the datu), and at other times for economic purposes, such as taking advantage of subsistence agricultural lands that may still be more productive. Cultural expressions such as epic chanting, the singing of oranda (short, spontaneous sung verses for welcoming guests and for amusement) and, needless to say, tattooing, are also still practiced.

III Documenting Manobo Tattooing: Historical and Contemporary Accounts

This section presents an overview of the available historical and contemporary documentation of traditional tattooing in Mindanao. The geographical locations mentioned here encompass a wider area than just the Pantaron Mountain range. As far as the authors are aware, there is no such synthesis as yet of these works. It is done here to give other scholars a general view of what had been observed and recorded about traditional tattooing in Mindanao, how it was practiced and what its purposes were, as well as to provide the primary references that may be consulted about this topic.

The earliest mention of tattooing in Mindanao that the authors have encountered was in a letter written by the Jesuit missionary Saturnino Urios to his Mission Superior dated April 12, 1879. In it, Urios related how, while he was in Butuan in northeastern Mindanao, “a flotilla of 27 boats filled with men and women, known in these Mindanao regions as ‘Manobos’” arrived. He described the passengers thus: “They wore their pretty costumes, their hair long, their bodies tattooed like some of the European convicts,” and added that they belonged “to the ranches of lower Agusan” (Arcilla 2003, 46).

A few years later, from 1881 to 1882, the German explorer Alexander Schadenberg (1885) traveled round Southern Mindanao. He observed how “Bagobo”3) youth (both boys and girls) of the Mt. Apo area were, at the age of approximately 12, tattooed on the arms, hands, chest, and legs. Schadenberg claimed to have seen more than one tattooing session, which he emphasized was carried out not by the Bagobo themselves, but by an “Ata,” a distinct group from the Bagobo. The tattooing involved cutting the skin with a small knife called sagni and then rubbing in soot from burnt bamboo. His publication included an illustration of the tattooed upper arm of a Bagobo, as well as an illustration of the sagni knife used for tattooing. Later in the same decade, the Jesuit missionary Fr. Pablo Pastells briefly mentioned in a letter to his superior that the Manobo in the province of Agusan tattooed themselves by “means of a needle and powdered charcoal” (1906 [1887], 277).

At the turn of the twentieth century, Cole (1913) wrote that the groups of people he called “Tagakaolo” and “Ata” decorated their bodies with tattoos, but that he failed to see any among the “Bagobo.” Benedict (1916), on the other hand, noted that there were “a few cases” of tattooing among the Bagobo, which she wrote was done by an “Ubu (Ata) man, from a place in the far north . . .” (265, parenthesis in the text). Benedict herself was unable to travel to areas inhabited by the group she called Ubu/Ata, and was thus unable to see if and how the Ubu/Ata practiced this amongst themselves. However, her observation of a travelling tattoo practitioner is similar to that noted by Schadenburg three decades before.

The accounts mentioned so far are brief, but the following works of Garvan (1931) and van Odijk (1925) are comparatively more substantial. Both these accounts derive from observations among the Manobo of Agusan, a lowland province to the east of the Pantaron Mountain Range, and so share many details in common. This is generally the same area from which came the “Manobo” that Urios saw in 1879, and that Pastells wrote about in 1887.

According to Garvan and van Odijk, both men and women were tattooed upon the start of puberty. Tattoos were placed on the arms, chest, and torso, but only women were tattooed on the calves. Tattoos were placed by puncturing the skin, and then rubbing the punctured area with soot accumulated from burning tree resin (van Odijk said this resin comes from a tree commonly called dongon-dongon, while Garvan identified this resin as coming from Canarium villosum, with the common name saí-yung).

Van Odijk reported that the tattoo instrument consisted of three needles tied in a bundle. While Garvan did not mention what kind of instrument was used, he wrote about the specialists who were tasked with carrying out this operation. Garvan (1931, 56) stated that these specialists were “nearly always a woman” or persons he described as “hermaphrodites,” individuals who adapted feminine behaviors but did not engage in sexual intercourse.

Both Garvan and van Odijk drew comparisons between tattooing and embroidery. Garvan noted that the “hermaphrodites” who were also tattoo practitioners were also skilled in embroidery, and that tattooed designs were similar to those stitched onto jackets. Van Odijk made the same observation, and added that the application of both (tattoos on the skin and stitching on cloth) were done freehand, with no pre-applied pattern to be followed (see Fig. 4a and Fig. 4b). It is following these observations that both authors surmised that the reason tattooing was done was to beautify the body. Van Odijk (1925, 990) called it a “lust for adornment” [lust voor opschik, in the original Dutch] and Garvan (1931, 56) simply said that “tattooing is merely for the purpose of ornamentation.” In relation to this, van Odijk definitely stated that “[t]o be tattooed or not does not indicate recognition of rank or status, of being free or being a slave” [Het niet of wel zich laten tatoueeren duidt niet op erkenning van rang of stand, van vrij-zijn of slaaf, in the original Dutch] (1925, 990), though Garvan wrote that he was told that under Spanish colonial rule, tattoos were also used to identify captives who were sold as slaves.


Fig. 4a Agusan Manobo Chest Tattoo, from Antonius van Odijk (1925)


Fig. 4b Agusan Manobo Arm Tattoo, from Antonius van Odijk (1925)


In the decades after the publication of Garvan’s and van Odijk’s works, no other studies were made of Mindanao tattooing until Manuel’s work among the Manuvu in the Marilog District in Davao City in the 1950s to 1960s (originally published in 1973, and re-published in 2000). Manuel discussed Manuvu tattooing as a rite of passage for adolescents and as a mechanism for fostering social cohesion. Tattooing was carried out on both males and females, and was associated with other bodily modifications such as teeth filing (for both sexes) and circumcision (for boys). Manuel added that both tattooing and teeth cutting were done by specialists who were given “gifts” (Manuel 2000 [1973], 95) (he did not specify what kinds of gifts) in exchange for their services, and that Manuvu parents made sure that their children underwent these processes.

For Manuel, Manuvu tattooing signified group identity, conformity, and inculcating “an integrative we-feeling” (ibid., 305) that subsumed individuals within the larger group. However, Manuel was unable to provide ethnographic cases to demonstrate, nor did he elaborate further on, how tattooing performed these social functions.

Other studies published since only cursorily mention tattooing. A publication by the non-government-institution Tri-People Consortium for Peace, Progress, and Development of Mindanao (TRICOM 1998) reiterated previous general observations of Manobo tattooing on the wrists, legs, waists, and breasts for ornamental purposes or for the identification of captives. Bajo’s (2004) study of Kapalong Manobo briefly mentioned the difference in designs between tattooing for women and men, and that these were meant to be decorative and symbolic of indigenous pride. A comment regarding pangotoeb by Western Bukidnon Manobo Francisco Polenda (2002) is brief enough to be quoted in full:

Another kind of arm ornamentation [zayandayan] is tattooing [pengeteb]. Anyone, men, women, or children may be tattooed [ebpengetevan]. It is done [Emun pengeteb] by making small incisions [penuris: cf. Bahasa Indonesia, menulis, ‘to write’]4) in the skin with a sharp knife [ebpenurisen kes lundis te megarang he kurta] and any design may be made [ibpengeteb is ed-iringen], a name [ngazan], a bird [tagbis], or a human [etew] figure. (Polenda 2002, 158, emphasis and insertion of terms in brackets added; see pp. 391–392 for the original Western Manobo categories used)

Traditional Mindanao tattooing has also been the subject of two television documentaries: “Ang Tipo Kong Babae” (My Type of Woman) by the program I-Witness, which aired on March 7, 2005 (Tima 2005), and the photo-documentary “Burdado” (Embroidered) by the program Reel-Time, which first aired on August 19, 2012 (Arumpac 2012). The former tackled tattooing in the context of notions of beauty among different Philippine indigenous groups, while the latter—which focused on the Manobo of Arakan Valley—attempted to situate tattooing within Arakan Manobo spirituality.

From this review, it is apparent that there is still much that can be done for a properly contextualized and in-depth cultural analysis of Manobo tattooing. Many of these works are limited only to noting that such a practice exists among some Manobo groups. Nevertheless, there are some observations in these accounts that may still help raise relevant questions about Manobo tattooing as it is practiced today and the changes that it has undergone. First, the nineteenth- and early twentieth-century accounts are consistent in pointing out that tattooing was closely associated with specific groups of people: the “Ata” of the Davao highlands (Schadenberg 1885; Cole 1913; Benedict 1916) and the “Manobo” of Agusan (Urios in Arcilla 2003; Pastells 1906 [1887]; van Odijk 1925; Garvan 1931). While the “Bagobo” are also tattooed, it is clear from Schadenberg’s (1885) and Benedict’s (1916) account that they are only able to do so via an “Ata” practitioner. These observations suggest that the native inhabitants of Mindanao recognized distinct groupings among themselves based upon cultural practices like the ability to tattoo. Moreover, these accounts also reflect that tattooing was a channel for mobility of “Ata” practitioners, as well as the interaction between distinct local groups—possibly a sustained practice until the American colonial era.

Though the “Ata” and the Manobo of Agusan are located in contiguous areas in the eastern half of Mindanao, these early accounts also point to different tattooing techniques. According to Garvan (1931, 15), in the Agusan area tattoos are applied with the “puncturing of the skin”; van Odijk (1925, 992) similarly says that with the tool composed of bundled needles, “the skin is punctured according to the figures to be drawn” [Met deze stift beprikt men de huid volgens de te teekenen figuren, in the original Dutch]. In contrast, the only account of tattooing among the Ata (that of Schadenberg’s) tells that they used a short knife that “cuts” or “incises” [ziemlich tiefe Einschnitte, i.e., “pretty deep cuts or incisions” (Schadenberg 1885, 10)] instead of punctures.

The first two techniques resemble that of the indigenous groups in the Cordilleras of Northern Luzon wherein pointed instruments (such as needles) are used, which are either tapped or poked on to the skin. Hand-tapping is also the documented practice among neighboring Austronesian-speaking groups such as the Atayal in Formosa (now Taiwan), the Kayan in Borneo, and in many islands in the Pacific (Krutak 2007; Gell 1993; Thomas 1995). The third technique (after “hand-tapping” and “hand-poking”) is the “cutting” or “incising” technique of the Manobo of Pantaron that is discussed in this article.

Another common observation is that tattooing was associated with puberty, though only Schadenberg and Manuel explicitly stated that tattooing was a rite of passage. Ornamentation was also a commonly cited reason for tattooing. Later sources such as Manuel (2000 [1973]), Bajo (2004), and TRICOM (1998) also include “indigenous pride” and “indigenous identity” as reasons for tattooing. A contribution of the two television documentaries cited above is that the voices and views of the people themselves who practice tattooing have been heard and placed on the record.

IV Manobo Tattoo Practices: Social Relations, Techniques, Body Placements, Designs, Reasons

The Manobo term for tattoo is pangotoeb, and this applies across Manobo groups such as the Agusan Manobo, Arakan Manobo, the Kulaman Manobo, the Matiglangilan, Matigtalomo, and the Matigsimong, the Matigsalug of Marilog and Kitaotao, the Tigwanon, and the Western Bukidnon. The term was first recorded by Garvan (1931), which he spelled, erroneously, as pang-o-túb; based upon the actual syllabication of the Manobo interviewed for this study, it should have been pa-ngo-túb. The following section will discuss five important aspects of Manobo tattooing: (a) social relations of tattoo practitioners and recipients; (b) comparative tools and techniques; (c) body placements and relation to the idea of self; (d) basic elements and designs; and (e) given reasons for having tattoos.

IV-1 Social and Symbolic Relations: Tattoo Practitioner and Tattoo Recipients

The tattoo practitioner, called a mangotoeb, can be either a male and a female. However, notably, all the tattoo practitioners the authors have been able to interview are female. Additionally, all the other practitioners to whom the authors have been referred but have been unable to interview are also female, except for one. Lastly, most of the deceased tattoo practitioners whose names are still remembered are also female. The explanation offered by the Pantaron Manobo was that women tattoo practitioners could tattoo both men and women, while men tattoo practitioners could only tattoo fellow males, because a man touching the body of a woman who was not kin is deemed inappropriate.

This gender pattern is different from the Cordillera peoples in Northern Luzon where male tattoo practitioners were more common (Salvador-Amores 2013, 68). But women being dominantly or exclusively given the role of tattoo practitioner and holder of knowledge related to tattoo meanings is recorded among the Kayans in the early twentieth century (Hose and McDougall 1912a, 252; Hose and Shelford 1906, 68), in southeastern Papua New Guinea (Barton 1918, 24), the Ainu of northern Japan (van Gulik 1982, 192), and the Atayal (Ho 1960, 46).

The skills of the mangotoeb are transmitted informally. Future tattoo practitioners began as children who observed older mangotoeb in practice. These mangotoeb are also often an elder relative such as their mother or aunt. Malin,5) a mangotoeb, recalled how she would spend the whole day with her aunt, who would allow her to observe: “Very early in the morning I would start, until the sun reaches there [points to the west].” Soon after, and without any prodding, these young girls would move on to practice cutting the underside of a cassava peel, which simulates human skin, while others would try tattooing their age-mates, such as close friends, sisters, or cousins.

There is the added element to Malin’s story of having dreamt that she should be a tattoo practitioner after she fell asleep while observing her aunt at work for the first time. She did not expressly read this, however, as a special “message” (as dreams may be interpreted to be)—as she said, it was “just a dream.”

There is no period of formal apprenticeship, but budding practitioners who show a talent for it are encouraged by their older relatives to continue. This informal form of guidance is made possible by the fact that young, would-be mangotoeb practice in open or public spaces (such as in front of their houses) where their work may be seen by others. There is no formal rite of recognition that one has already attained the status of mangotoeb. A mangotoeb begins to be recognized as such when word of her/his skill begins to spread and other fellow Manobo begin to seek out her/his services.

A skillful mangotoeb can be very busy. Malin recalls her aunt working as a mangotoeb: “So many people would come . . . sometimes as much as 10 [in a day]. And sometimes, she would do nothing else for two days straight but to tattoo.” Lunid, whose deceased mother was a famous mangotoeb, claimed that her mother would tattoo from 10 to 15 individuals a day.

What is common among the interviewed tattoo practitioners is the element of enjoyment. As youngsters, they already had an initial attraction to the tattoo practice, which is why they would observe their local mangotoeb at work. They persisted in this role because they “liked” it; in the words of Erinea, a Matigsalug practitioner, tattooing was “kaupiyahan,” or “a joy.”

Both men and women are tattooed. Many elder Pantaron Manobo cannot reckon their exact calendar age, and so their age at their first tattoos cannot be exactly determined. However, they all agree that for the women, their first tattoos were placed before menarche. Both elderly men and women recall that they were first tattooed before marriage. Another way to convey their estimation of their age when they were first tattooed is to point to one of the pre-pubescent children who would always be milling about during interviews and say that “I was that age” when he or she first got tattooed (the ages of these children fall between 8 to 10 years of age).

At present, children are still allowed and even encouraged by their parents to get tattoos. Jo and Min (who were both 15 years of age at the time of the interview in 2015) were 13 and 11 years old respectively when they were first tattooed along with eight other friends. Their parents had told them that a gigantic creature called the Ologasi would eat people who did not have tattoos. Jo added that the tattoo “is pleasing to see,” and that seeing the tattoos of others makes one also want to be tattooed. Their friend Niki, who was 14 years of age at the time of the interview and who was tattooed with her elder sister a few years before, said that they “were thankful” after getting tattooed because they would no longer be taken by the Ologasi. When asked if they were afraid at the time they were tattooed, all three teenagers answered that they were not.

When asked about what preparations they did beforehand, they said that they readied baliog (beads), tikos (leglets made of fiber), and some food that they must give to the mangotoeb. However, being a mangotoeb is not seen by the Pantaron Manobo to be a lucrative occupation or economically rewarding role. Sometimes, as Malin told us with a touch of humor, it was she who had to feed the tattoo recipient: “I would be the one to spend for the person to be tattooed . . . the stomach is soft if it is empty, so it needs to have something inside it so that it will be full and taut [so that the tattoo will be applied better].”

Nevertheless, it is required that the tattoo recipient give even just a small item to the mangotoeb in return. This is similar to Manuel’s observation that a “gift” (2000 [1973], 95) must be given to the specialist who carries out the tattooing. When asked what sort of items can be given, the immediate answers given by mangotoeb and other Manobo adults are the aforementioned beads, leglets, and food. The value of this item is not what is at stake here but rather, the giving of this item serves to “remove the blood from the practitioner’s eyes,” referring to the blood that is shed by the recipient that the tattoo practitioner sees during tattooing. If this blood is not “removed,” it is believed that this will result in the failure of the practitioner’s eyesight in the future.

A similar view was also recorded among the Kayan in the early twentieth century. A small gift generically called “lasat mata” (which may be beads or any small item) must be given to the female tattoo practitioner, and “if it were omitted the artist would go blind” (Hose and McDougall 1912a, 254). In Kayan language, lasat mata literally comes from the categories “eyes” (mata) and “to wipe clean” (lasat)6) (Southwell 1980, 114, 139). This denotes that the name of the gift for the Kayan practitioner follows a similar logic as that of the Pantaron Manobo practice of “removing the blood from the eyes” of the tattoo practitioner, also through gift-giving (although the Pantaron Manobo do not give a special name to the gift given to the mangotoeb).

During the tattoo process itself, the only prohibition, called liliyan or pamaleye, has to do with the recipient grabbing hold of someone as the tattoo is being applied. According to Malin, “If you get a tattoo, you cannot grab on to me even if it is very painful, because I can be victimized during a pangayaw [raid]. . . . If you grab [the mangotoeb], her life is placed in danger. If there is a raid, she will be the one taken, or killed.” For the Matigtalomo (the group to which Malin belongs), grabbing on to anyone while being tattooed will effectively doom that person in a future pangayaw. But for Erinea, a Matigsalug mangotoeb, this restriction applies only to the tattoo practitioner, and that the tattoo recipient may touch other people present as the tattoo is being applied. However, because the researchers have not yet observed first-hand the actual application of the tattoo, the question of whether this taboo is still actively observed is still open for direct verification.

Apart from the requirement of giving an item to the practitioner and the prohibition against grabbing someone whilst being tattooed, the Manobo today do not recount any other practices related to the supernatural in the process of tattooing. There are no prayers said before, during, or after the tattooing, and the recipient can immediately resume normal activities right after being tattooed.

As for post-tattoo care, the mangotoeb recommend that the tattooed portion of the body be covered with clothing for the next three days. Additionally, the portion of the body that was tattooed should not be washed with water in order to keep its dark color. An epiphyte called the kagopkop may also be applied at this stage (see below).

IV-2 Manobo Incising Technique as a Third Modal Technique in Southeast Asian Tattooing

In Northern Luzon, the general term for tattoo is batok (Salvador-Amores 2013). Among the Manobo, the term batok is also present as a verb that refers to a staccato cutting motion. This cutting motion approximates the application of the tattoo using a bladed tool. However, the process of being tattooed is simply called pagpapangotoeb, with the pangotoeb as root word and the prefix pagpa—denoting “the process of,” hence, the process of being tattooed.

The specialized bladed tool for tattoo application is called goppos, but without the goppos the ilab, or a short knife that is also used to prepare betel-chew, can also serve. The goppos or the ilab, held by the practitioner like a pen, is wielded with quick batok motions upon the skin to cut short dashes a few millimeters in length and in depth, producing the basic element of pangotoeb design.

This technique is distinguished from the hand-tapping and hand-poking processes that are both present in the northern Philippine Cordilleras (ibid.). The first important difference concerns the tool: both hand-tapping and hand-poking use a sharp point (such as needles or lemon thorns), either singly or bundled together, hafted onto a wooden stick (ibid., 91, 95). In hand-tapping the stick with the hafted needles or thorns is hit with a separate tool (often another stick) repeatedly. This percussive motion drives the pointed tool to strike the skin with the tip of the needles or thorns to prick the skin and allow the ink to seep in. In hand-poking, the pointed tool is pushed directly by hand by the practitioner to pierce the skin; this does not require a second implement.

“Pricking” the skin is also how early Spanish chroniclers described the tattooing process among the Visayans in the Central Philippines whom they first encountered (Alcina 2012, 143; Chirino 1904 [1604], 205; Bobadilla 1905 [1640], 287; Morga 1904 [1609], 72). Chirino (1904 [1604], 206) stated that pricking was done “with sharp, delicate points,” while Loarca (1903 [1582], 115, 117) claimed that “small pieces of iron dipped in ink” were used. According to Scott (1994), Loarca wrote this account in Iloilo in the island of Panay, and Jocano (2008 [1968], 23), in his very brief description of tattooing among the Sulod of Panay, wrote that tattoos called batæk “are pricked into the skin with a needle or any pointed iron instrument.”

Alcina (2012, 143) described “sharp instruments” or “little combs, made of brass,”7) that “pricked the flesh,” and according to Colin (1906 [1663], 63–64) tattooing was done “with instruments like brushes or small twigs, with very fine points of bamboo. The body was pricked and marked with them until blood was drawn.”

While hand-tapping and hand-poking with pointed tools result in points, cutting with a knife produces dashes. As mentioned above, applying the pangotoeb is similar to the process described by Schandenberg (1885). The ilab knife also resembles the sagni (in Plate III Fig. 17 of his manuscript; see Fig. 5a and Fig. 5b) knife Schadenberg said is used by the “Ata” tattoo practitioner. It is also apparent from the woodcut illustration of an example of tattooing in Schadenberg’s manuscript (in page 10; see Fig. 6) that the overall design is composed of small dashes. Aside from hand-tapping and hand-poking with pointed tools that prick or pierce, the Pantaron Manobo pangotoeb thus presents a third technique in indigenous tattooing in the Philippines that utilizes a bladed tool, and entails incising, or cutting, small dashes instead of puncturing the skin.


Fig. 5a Fig. 5a Bagobo Material Culture, from Alexander Schadenberg (1885); The Bagobo Sagni is in the Square


Fig. 5b Pantaron Manobo Ilab


Fig. 6 Bagobo Tattoo on the Upper Arm, from Alexander Schadenberg (1885)


Among Philippine groups that practice skin modifications, this technique of incising may be comparable instead to the scarification of various Negrito groups as reported by Garvan (1963) in the provinces of Tayabas (now Quezon), Bulacan, Rizal, Zambales, Camarines Norte, and Camarines Sur, all in Luzon. Various tools that were used to wound the skin are bladed implements like the bolo and betel-knife, as well as other tools made of bamboo and stone. However, Garvan did not clarify if certain tools were associated with particular groups or areas, or if different tools were used within the same group or area. Garvan’s illustrations of samples of scarification designs (Garvan 1963, 50) show that the resulting marks also consist of lines and dashes that are similar to the Manobo tattooing.

Outside of the Philippines, among the Ainu, van Gulik (1982, 188) wrote that “no use is made of needles” to tattoo. Instead, they use “a small knife with razor edge by means of which the flesh is incised.” In the survey of tattoo technologies Ambrose (2012) provided in his exploration of connections between tattooing and Lapita pottery, cutting with sharp-edged tools (like obsidian flakes) is present in Melanesia (particularly the Admiralty Islands, New Ireland, New Britain, New Guinea, the Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, New Caledonia), but is not noted elsewhere in Oceania or Island Southeast Asia. Drawing from historical documentation (from the nineteenth century) of the practice in Manus Island in the Admiralty Islands, Ambrose (Ambrose 2012, 13) described tattooing in the area as “made up of a series of short lines or cuts,” or of “repeated parallel cuts of about 5mm.”

The pigment used for the tattoo is the soot from a chunk of salumayag, or almasiga in Tagalog (Agathis philippinensis [Warb.]), a hardened tree resin that quickly ignites if placed near a flame. The burning salumayag is placed below a kaldero (metal pot), and the accumulated soot from the flame of the burning salumayag is carefully scraped off. This same method of collecting soot for ink is done among the Kalinga (Salvador-Amores 2013), the Kayan (Hose and Shelford 1906, 68), and the Ainu (van Gulik 1982). The mangotoeb then moistens his or her fingers with water, dips them in the collected soot, then rubs the soot on to the wounds that have already been made by the goppos. The pigment is simply allowed to stay onto the wounds without being washed off to ensure that it stays.

Another important plant source is the kagopkop, an epiphyte that has not yet been scientifically identified thus far. This is not used during the time of tattoo application, but when the wounds of the tattoo are healing, as indicated by the itching the recipient feels at the tattooed area. At this stage, heated nodules of kagopkop are rubbed onto the tattooed area not only to soothe the itching, but also to keep the black coloration darkly vibrant. Nowadays, with the reduction of forests from which these plant materials are normally gathered, soot from burned rubber tires is also considered to be suitable ink by some tattoo practitioners.

IV-3 Body Placements of the Tattoos

The mangotoeb say that the recipient’s preferences are followed with regard to what design, what part of the body is to be tattooed, and how extensive the tattoo will be. Currently, adult Manobo also claim that it is up to the individual Manobo whether to get tattooed or not. Thus there are individuals with the complete repertoire of tattoos, some with just a few lines, some with what appear to be unfinished tattoos, and some with no tattoos at all. Not being tattooed is not viewed negatively, and no terms exist which distinguish a tattooed person from a non-tattooed person.

Though there is some leeway for the preferences of the individual recipient, these preferences are limited by the recipient’s sex, prescribed locations, and the suite of designs. The Pantaron Manobo traditionally only tattoo specific portions of the body: the forearms from the wrists up to just below the elbow, around the abdomen and back, breasts, and the distal third of the leg ending at the ankles. Though both Garvan (1931) and Schadenberg (1885) had noted the presence of tattoos on the upper arms, the authors have not encountered members of the older generation of Pantaron Manobo with upper arm tattoos. They generally consider these to be “new” (in Bisaya lingua franca, bag-o) or derived from the modern tattooing of non-Manobo. This may suggest a difference in tattoo placement on the body between the Pantaron Manobo of today on the one hand, and the Agusan Manobo and the Bagobo (as observed by Garvan and Schadenberg respectively) on the other.

There are further regulations with tattoo placement in terms of sex. The forearm tattoos can be found on both men and women, as are those on the breast or chest area (see Fig. 7). But the tattoos on the abdomen and lower leg are said to be restricted to females. While they relate the former to their belief that tattoos can help “ease childbirth,” no reason is provided for the restriction of tattooing on the lower legs to females.


Fig. 7 Pantaron Manobo Male Chest Tattoo


IV-4 Basic Elements and Designs

If broken down to its most basic element, the pangotoeb is composed entirely of short dashes. This is a function of the bladed tool (either the goppos or the ilab) used in tattooing and the batok motion of cutting, rather than puncturing, to which it lends itself best—resulting in short, cut dashes instead of points. Even designs that appear curvilinear from afar are rendered as conjoined short segments of straight dashes.

The short dashes made by cutting are, by themselves, not named, but grouped combinations of dashes are. The identification of these named groups presented an interesting methodological challenge, especially in delineating their borders within, for example, the wider abdominal or forearm tattoo. This was compounded by the blurring of tattoos due to time on the body of our more elderly interlocutors. It was the interlocutors themselves who came up with the solution by simulating tattooing with a cassava peel and applying some soot to allow the patterns to be visible. As explained in the section above regarding the process of becoming a mangotoeb, this technique is one way by which a budding tattoo practitioner trained him or herself. The resulting lines on the cassava peel are neat and well-defined, making it easier to distinguish which dashes go together as group.

The dominant figural designs of the pangotoeb are simple geometrical shapes like circles, triangles, squares, and lines. Some figurative designs are derived from, or seen as, objects found in nature, such as the paloos (monitor lizard) (Fig. 8 r, s, t), and the salorom (fern) (outer borders of Fig. 8 r). Parallel diagonal lines are called linabud, from a medicinal grass called labud. Other designs are abstract, such as the ngipon-ngipon (teeth-like)—a pair of parallel dashes placed one after another. These segmented dashes sandwich an unbroken straight line called the pisol (the repeated bands in Fig. 8 a, c, d, f, h). The pisol is distinguished from a straight line occurring by itself, which is called a linayon. The linayon, in turn, may either be thin or thick (Fig. 8 n, o, p, q).


Fig. 8 Variation of Pantaron Manobo Tattoo Designs


The ngipon-ngipon and the pisol combination, if it appears on the ankle, is called by a different name: kinorow (Fig. 8 i). This comes from korow, a Manobo time-keeping instrument to remind one of a future event that aids in counting the days prior to that particular event. The korow consists of a strip of rattan knotted according to the number of days; the person holding on to that strip must cut one knot for each day that passes until the event that is waited for arrives.

The panalinsing and tirog are two other distinct named groups of tattoo designs. The panalinsing is commonly a border motif consisting of a central vertical line crossed by several shorter segments along its length which, blurring with age, appears as thick horizontal lines (top borders of Fig. 8 m, n, p, q).

Like the panalinsing, the tirog too can function as a border, but may be integrated within a thicker design band, for example on the forearm (Fig. 8 m, n, q). The tirog is a ladder-like image (Fig. 8 m, n, q). The tattoo practitioners and other Pantaron Manobo adults interviewed were explicit in saying that the tirog functions as the lower border of the abdominal tattoo (which, as a whole, is also referred to as pangotoeb). Indeed, it can be considered the foundation of the abdominal tattoo, for it is the first design band of the abdominal tattoo that is applied (Fig. 8 b, g). Further, practitioners and informed adults are likewise explicit in saying that the placement of this tirog band is based upon the navel. The navel is purposefully centrally placed between the “rungs” and “handles” of the ladder-like tirog (Fig. 8 a, b). The placing of the tirog corresponding with the navel serves as the caudal terminus of the entire abdominal pangotoeb. Once affixed, several succeeding bands of the ngipon-ngipon-pisol group are tattooed on. These are topped with the liliongan design, composed of an inverted “V” and a horizontal dash on top of its apex (topmost layer in Fig. 9). Liliongan is also the term for the ridge-pole of the Manobo house, a significant component of the house structure that will be further discussed below.


Fig. 9 Liliongan or “Ridge-Pole” Design


There is another set of abdominal tattoos that are less commonly placed. This short band, applied below the individual’s navel, is called bagakis (see Fig. 10 and Fig. 11, right), composed of tirog, ngipon-ngipon, and linayon. While the abdominal pangotoeb can occur by itself, the bagakis that the researchers have seen so far only occur with a complete abdominal set, suggesting that the bagakis is placed after the abdominal pangotoeb, possibly at a later stage in the life of the individual.


Fig. 10 Two of our Manobo Interlocutors Who Have Abdomen Tattoos


Fig. 11 Female Abdomen Tattoos; on the Right Picture, Note the Bagakis Design below the Navel


The forearm pangotoeb, present on both men and women, is more a loose combination of designs (some individuals have “mismatching” tattoos on the left and the right arms). The linayon is almost always present (Fig. 8 m, n, o, p, q); less frequently, the tirog, ngipon-ngipon, and figurative designs like the linabud. A forearm tattoo is finished off with the panalinsing border on both the proximal and distal ends of the forearm group (Fig. 8 m and p).

Men and women have breast tattoos, but the designs are different for each sex. The design group (which does not have a properly articulated group name) for men are placed around the nipple; for women it is above it.

The breast tattoo for women consists of linayon, ngipon-ngipon, tirog, and a short band at the top called papinuan. On applying the tattoo, the first mark to be made is a line right above the areola, which, like the tirog corresponding to the navel, demarcates the caudal extent of this tattoo group. This line is called the binunsuran; this term’s root word is bunsud, which primarily means “beginning,” and secondarily as “the foot of the ladder into the house” (SIL 2016, entry on “bunsud”). Binunsuran is also the term for the bottom edge of a shield (banwaloy), which is likewise struck to the ground by a Manobo bagani (warrior) during warrior display. The women’s breast and chest tattoos depicted in Garvan (1931, see Plate 1a and 1b; see Fig. 12) do not resemble the breast tattoos for Pantaron Manobo women. At this point, it can be underlined that these important, and rare, early twentieth-century images from Garvan (1931) (Fig. 12) and van Odijk (1925) (Fig. 4a and Fig. 4b) give some indications of the difference between the tattoo designs of the Manobo of the Agusan plains, and the highland Pantaron Manobo.


Fig. 12 Agusan Manobo Designs, from John Garvan (1931)


The breast tattoo for men is a circular design consisting of several straight lines called dalan extruding radially from the areola, ringed by repetitive panalinsing demarcating the circular pattern (Fig. 8 j, k, l).

IV-5 Why the Manobo Tattoo Themselves

The reason most often spontaneously given for getting a tattoo from both old and young Manobo alike is that it protects the bearer of the tattoo from the creature called the Ologasi. The Ologasi is a giant that is said to eat untattooed persons when the baton (an event similar to the notion of “the end of days”) occurs. The Ologasi appears as a villain in the story of Manobo folk-hero Banlak and his kin as they traveled on a boat to “the other world” where “there was no more death.” According to the tale the authors recorded in 2014, and another version from Bajo (2004, 157–165), the Ologasi blocked Banlak’s company at the portal to “the other world” and demanded that Banlak give the giant his sister in exchange for passage. Banlak agreed, and left his sister behind as the rest of the group made their way to “the world with no death.” That tattoos protect against the Ologasi is also a reason that is present among the Matigsalug Manobo of Marilog.8)

Another common reason for getting a pangotoeb is that the tattoos would serve as a “light” to guide the soul to the afterlife after one dies. Among the Pantaron Manobo, the realm into which the departed enter after death is called the Somolow. This belief appears to be more widely recorded across Mindanao, as this is recorded to be present across these other Manobo groups: the Matigsalug of both Marilog and Kitaotao (Tima 2005), the Kulaman (TRICOM 1998), Kapalong (Bajo 2014), and Arakan Manobo (Arumpac 2012).

The link between tattoos and the afterlife is one that is also widespread among various groups in Southeast and East Asia. Tattoos for the Kalinga served to make one recognizable to and “worthy to live with the deceased ancestors” in the jugkao or afterlife (Salvador-Amores 2013, 133). The same function—of tattoos allowing one entry into the afterlife—was briefly mentioned by an unnamed Spanish chronicler in the sixteenth century for the Ibanags of northeast Luzon (Scott 1994, 264). The Kayan in the early twentieth century believed that after death, tattoos “act as torches in the next world” (Hose and Shelford 1906, 67), without which their souls would be left in total darkness. Also for the Kayan, tattoos on the hands of a successful headhunter was said to allow him to be able to easily cross the single log that served as the bridge into the afterlife. This log was said to be guarded by, and incessantly disturbed by a supernatural being called Maligang, and so being tattooed facilitated a soul’s crossing of it (Hose and McDougall 1912b, 41).

Among the Bugotu of the Solomon Islands in the nineteenth century, the “mark” of an outline of the frigate-bird had to be “cut” on their hands before they were accepted in the hereafter (Codrington 1957 [1891], 180, 257), and a tattooed Ainu woman is “assured of life after death in the realm of her deceased ancestors” (van Gulik 1982, 214). For the Atayal, an ancestral spirit stood guard at the end of a long bridge leading into the spirit world. If the dead person could “pass the test of adulthood”—i.e., tattoos associated with headhunting for men, and exceptional weaving for women—then that person could cross quickly to the other side; if not, souls had to take a longer route to reach their final destination (Ho 1960, 9).

Other cited reasons are more physical than metaphysical. For some Pantaron Manobo, the thick tattoo band that encircles women’s stomachs is believed to ease childbirth. This is echoed by the Arakan Manobo who say that tattoos signify strength for women, and allow them to work in the fields (Arumpac 2012). This association with childbearing and birthing is the only physically therapeutic purpose ascribed to Manobo tattoos, unlike among the Kayan (Hose and Shelford 1906; Hose and McDougall 1912a, 248) and Dayaks (Lumholtz 1920, 347) in Borneo, where tattoos helped cure other illnesses.

Finally, in interviews with some Pantaron Manobo, they also say that the tattoo functions as a marker of their identity, that is, “to be recognized as Manobo” (in Bisaya lingua franca: para mailhan na Manobo). At present, the Pantaron Manobo do not associate tattooing with ascribed or achieved status. Neither do they explicitly consider tattooing as a rite of passage; the recollection of elders that they were tattooed before menstruation and marriage may be suggestive in this regard, but they also do not say that tattooing is today a requirement to become marriageable or to become an established member of Pantaron Manobo society.

V Declustering the Study of Tattooing from Male, Warrior Identity

The preceding discussion of the reasons for tattooing given by the Pantaron Manobo may raise the question of the common association of tattooing with “male” gender roles and “warrior” attributes and activity. This association is reflected in both popularized presentations (e.g. Wilcken 2010; Krutak 2012 [2005]) and academic literature. For example, historian William Henry Scott (1994, 20) plainly states that tattoos among sixteenth-century Visayans “were symbols of male valor: they were applied only after a man had performed in battle with fitting courage and, like modern military decorations, they accumulated with additional feats.” In his typology of groups that remained “unhispanized” until the end of the Spanish colonial period, Scott (1982, 132) underlined that in “warrior societies” (such as the Agusan Manobo, Mandaya, Bagobo, Tagakaolo, Blaan, Isneg, Tingguian, and Kalinga), a “distinct warrior class . . . are recognizable by distinctive costume or tattoos.”

Following this line, Junker (2000, 348) categorizes tattoos as “warrior insignia” that signified success in warfare and the prestige that comes with it. More recently, in arguing that the body (lawas) is instrumentalized by the community’s inner self (kaloobang bayan), Villan (2013, 69) asserts that it is the “duty of the tattooed (Visayan) warriors” (or nabatukang hangaway)9) to “maintain the life, breathing (ginhawa), and pride (dangal)” of their community (bayan) through “raiding (pangangayaw) and waging of battles [against the enemies] (pangungubat).”

In the case of sixteenth-century Visayas, a close rereading of the primary sources will show that tattooing as such was not the exclusive domain of “warriors.” Women, who presumably did not fulfill “warrior” roles, were nevertheless tattooed as well, albeit to a lesser degree (Chirino 1904 [1604]; Alcina 2012; also see The Boxer Codex [Souza and Turley 2016]).10) Amongst the men, Alcina’s (2012) reliable account is informative in this regard:

. . . one thing is certain: all the Bisayan men usually tattooed themselves, except those who were called asug. . . . Not all, however, practiced it in the same way nor did they execute it all at one time.

They began tattooing themselves at about the age of twenty years and up; although some, overcome by fear, deferred it until they were filled with shame when a little older they agreed to allow themselves to be tattooed.

. . . Among them it was a sign of cowardice not to tattoo oneself, for they said that if such an individual lacked the courage to suffer the pricking of friendly needles, how could he ever bear the pain of the spears of the enemy?

For this reason, the bravest among them would add more tattoos, aside from the customary ones. (Alcina 2012, 141, 143, emphasis added)

Alcina then proceeded to describe a set of designs that he described to be “the ordinary type of tattooing used by all of them” (ibid., 143). His observations imply that tattooing was an ordinary practice that can be present among men and women of whatever status and social-heroic expectations. Further, the distinction of those who were recognized as “bravest” lay not in the presence of tattoos per se, but the amount or degree of their application. As Esteban Rodriguez (Anonymous 1903 [1559–68], 126) of the Legazpi expedition observed in 1565, “these Indians wear gold earrings, and the chief wears two clasps about the feet. . . . All the body, legs, and arms are painted; and he who is bravest is painted most” (ellipse in original published text).

The close association between tattooing and warrior identity was reinforced in American colonial scholarship on the “headhunters” of the northern Cordilleras, and this frame has persisted even in recent studies, as Salvador-Amores (2002, 110) noted. In response to this, she endeavored to uncover other meanings, symbols, and functional roles of Kalinga tattooing apart from, or beyond, this familiar frame (Salvador-Amores 2002). Nevertheless this remains to be the point of departure of her study on ritual, identity, and tattoo decline in Ilubo, Kalinga (ibid.), and she continued to grapple with this question in her more extensive treatment of Butbut tattooing (Salvador-Amores 2013), where she wrote:

A number of sources suggest that Butbut tattooing is best understood within the context of headhunting and of the maingor (warriors). I have long argued that for the Kalinga, tattooing is not only associated with headhunting, but that it has a deeper cultural meaning. Tattooed elders told me that in the past, whiing (chest tattoos) men denoted bravery exhibited in defending the village against enemy attacks. The tattoos also determined which hierarchical social roles the men would occupy (ibid., 115–116, emphasis added).

The present article believes that this common and popular axiom of closely associating “tattooing” with “warriorship” (and “headhunting” or “social hierarchy”)—almost elevated as the paradigm when approaching Philippine indigenous tattooing—needs to be fully reassessed. The possible appropriation of tattooing by a “warrior group” within a broader (tattooed) community, like the colonial-period Kalinga, (maingor, Salvador-Amores 2013) must explicitly be addressed as a separate inquiry in itself. Scott (1982, 144), approaching from a different direction, had already placed a finger on the issue when he wrote that the “class of warrior elite” was “not a warrior class among nonwarriors, but a class of superior warriors in a society where all males are expected to be warriors”—probably a fitting description of sixteenth-century Visayan society. Philippine tattooing as an object of study thus needs to be declustered from this spontaneous “warriorship” paradigm. It is not a historical nor ethnographic given that our understanding of indigenous tattooing be confined to “raiding” and “warriorship” (or as indicative of “courage” and “heroism”). As the current study shows, tattooing among the Pantaron Manobo assumes a totally different baseline configuration. The next section details the social domains in which Pantaron Manobo tattooing is located.

VI Towards a Heuristic Schema Underlying Pantaron Manobo Tattooing

The ethnographic, geographic, and demographic data, even at this preliminary phase, surfaces important elements which, when taken together, form lines of association or concordance. The most important element in Pantaron Manobo tattooing is the central role of the “female” gender, both in the socio-demographic and the symbolic realms. Two other objects are associated with this female figure in Pantaron Manobo tattooing practice: (a) the unique importance of the navel/abdomen as a tattooing region of the (female) body; and (b) the significance of the “ridge-pole” (and other parts of the house) as a named tattoo motif. These appear to be more resonant with many other aspects of Pantaron Manobo culture to warrant giving this schema (this female—navel/abdomen—ridge-pole/house links) a heuristic value that will be expanded below.

That tattooing can be said to be predominantly “a female domain” is consistently shown in the ethnographic and demographic data (see Fig. 13). Overall, more females tend to be tattooed than males: 82% of females aged 10 years and above11) are tattooed, as opposed to only 46% of males above 10 years of age. This pattern is also true across each village surveyed. Females also appear to receive tattoos earlier: all three individuals who were younger than 10 years of age and who had tattoos were girls. With regard to the sex of the tattoo practitioner, a significant majority (89%) of the tattooed individuals reported that they were tattooed by a female practitioner. At present, although the Pantaron Manobo do not say that it is forbidden for males to become a tattoo practitioner, the tattoo practitioners identified in the course of this research were all females except for one. It is relevant to note here again that women tattoo practitioners enjoy more flexibility in their practice in terms of touching the bodies of both female and male recipients.


Fig. 13 Highlights of the Tattooing Survey Results


There are body locations of tattoos that they say are exclusively female, namely, the abdomen and the lower leg. As given above, there are only four traditional body areas that are preferentially tattooed: the abdomen, the forearm, the breast, and the lower leg. Across the six villages, the abdomen is the body part most frequently tattooed, consisting of more than half of the recorded tattoos (54%). While the leg tattoos are too rare to impact the demographic figures, the assertion that this is a “female” tattoo is made by the Pantaron Manobo, and Garvan (1931) and van Odijk (1925) make the same observation among the Agusan Manobo.

The “ridge-pole” of the “house,” as mentioned earlier, is a prominent figure in abdomen tattoo images. As an architectural element, this object is also rife with symbolic meaning. In the epic narratives of the Pantaron Manobo and in their ordinary conversation, the forging of relations between families through marriage is expressed as “linking the liliongan of two houses.” For Austronesian homes, the ridge-pole is what Fox (2006, 13–14) calls a common “ritual attractor” that may be specially decorated and where ancestor spirits and supernatural forces dwelt or converged. And with the overall visual prominence of the roof in traditional houses in Southeast Asia, the roof is often taken to be a synecdoche for the house structure as a whole and the social relations contained within it (Waterson 2009).

From another line of associational link, the navel, which marks the beginning of the abdominal tattoo, is an important symbolic link to pregnancy, childbearing, and, again, the house. In some groups in the Philippines and Southeast Asia, the keeping or burying of the umbilical cord and placenta of children born in a particular house within its environs is a practice that is said to ensure their safety, and to forge a connection between them (these children may leave their home and family of orientation as they grow older) and hearth and home (Cannell 1999; Ng 2006). The abdominal tattoo’s image, the whole complex layers of figures taken as one, is in fact also read by one of our interlocutors as denoting a “house” in general.

The protective function of the tattoo also has a gendered dimension, as the victim of the Ologasi creature is the female sibling of Banlak. That tattoos protect a person physically (for example, in childbirth) and spiritually (against malevolent creatures) could be related to the abdomen (and its internal organs) as the seat of well-being across various Filipino ethnolinguistic groups (Salazar 1995 [1977]; Paz 2008), as captured by the pan-Philippine category ginhawa. Ginhawa and its cognates, such as goinawa in Manobo, are related to physical, emotional, and spiritual well-being, as manifested in being able to “breathe well” and take in nourishment (Paluga 2012; Salazar 1995 [1977]). Lastly, the belief that tattooing eases childbirth relates it further to females.

In sum, there is a heuristic case to be potentially pursued in future Manobo tattooing studies that should trace these entities, figures, and metaphors linked to what the authors want to point as a “female—abdomen/navel—house/ridge-pole” schema. This schema can be seen as linking “tattooing” (pangotoeb) to at least eight other local Manobo categories: the “ridge-pole” (liliongan) of the “house” (baloy); the “abdomen” (gottok); the “navel” (pusod); the “female” (boyi) gender role; the “giant of the portal to the other-world” (Ologasi); the concept of “breathing and well-being” (goinawa); and the idea of “‘homeland” (ingod) (see Fig. 14).


Fig. 14 Pangotoeb and Other Linked Categories


Because the idea of an “ancestral domain” is, needless to say, a sustained view among Philippine indigenous peoples, the figure of the Pantaron Manobo “homeland” (ingod) cannot be overemphasized, especially in the context of tattooing. Two villages along the Talomo appear to be geographic “way-points” that play an important role in tattooing. The villages of Laslasakan and Bagang are most often reported to be the village of origin of tattoo practitioners: 19% of respondents say that their practitioner had been born in Laslasakan, while 16% say that theirs had come from Bagang. This result suggests two possible interpretations: either many tattoo practitioners were born in these villages, or the most prolific tattoo practitioners (even if they are in actuality few in number), were born in these villages. These two villages are also the most frequently reported location where respondents say they got tattooed (19% in Laslasakan and 15% in Bagang).

That Laslasakan and Bagang are the two most prominent villages for tattooing fits their being culturally meaningful to the Pantaron Manobo who live along the Talomo River. Based upon the authors’ earlier ethnographic work, Bagang appears to be a spiritual center where Manobo baylan or spiritual practitioners (shamans and healers) periodically converge during times of crisis. This meeting, called pahahano, is signaled when baylan from different villages have the same dream. They thus come together to discuss the possible portents of such an event, to chant the epic entitled Tolalang, and to listen to the admonitions of their bujag (elders).

On the other hand, if Bagang is more of a spiritual center, Laslasakan is historically linked to more “secular” but specialized pursuits like metalworking. Laslasakan is also recognized even among the Manobo themselves as the village famous for the oranda, their spontaneously sung verse substantially shorter and more variable than a fixed, full-length epic. The authors infer that tattooing straddled the “sacred” and “profane” spheres of Manobo life, an inference that is also supported by the direct ethnographic data and data from the literature of the spiritual and “practical” correlates of the practice.

To conclude, this article posits as a heuristic guide that entities linked by our proposed schema fall into place as longue durée category-nets with several lines of association in social, symbolic, and demographic levels. Seeing them as a network of notions (or cognitive and linguistic categories) with degrees of cultural valence gives us a glimpse of what it is like to “think about and do tattooing” in the world of the highland Manobo. What this evokes is a limited but meaningful cluster of terms or objects featuring “irresistible analogies” (Bourdieu 1990), operative as a durable schema among the Pantaron Manobo.

Accepted: March 15, 2019


Initial seed funding for this study was provided by the University of the Philippines-Mindanao Office of Research in 2013–14. More substantial support in 2015 was provided by the University of the Philippines-System Enhanced Creative Work and Research Grant (Grant Number ECWRG-2015-1-004). AM Ragragio’s Early Career Grant (Grant Number EC-KOR-45049R-18) from the National Geographic Society allowed more intensive fieldwork for this research. Our BA Anthropology students, Petal C. Cagape, Geallaika O. Delideli, Karen Joyanne B. Chua, and Rose Marry Tranquilan, collected the survey data, and conducted interviews, transcriptions, and translations during the 2014 evacuation of the Pantaron Manobo to Davao City. An earlier version of this article was read and commented upon by Ramon Guillermo and Zeus Salazar. The comments from the anonymous reviewers have greatly refined and sharpened the arguments of this article and are very much appreciated.

All photos made as basis for the figures were taken by AM Ragragio and Anthony Montecillo, which were rendered into figures by Sherwin Puntas. Fig. 1 composite photo was taken by M. Paluga. All maps were processed by M. Paluga using georeferenced data from NAMRIA topographic maps and the PRISMA software of PBCP (Philippine Biodiversity Conservation Priorities).


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1) Following Salvador-Amores’ terminology, nuancing the phrase “tattoo practitioner” from “tattoo artist” (2013, 68–70).

2) The actual number of individuals randomly selected from the sampling frame (list of all in the evacuation center) was 396, but we did not include in the tabulation those below 10 years of age (our cut-off for “tattooing age” among the Pantaron Manobo).

3) The “Bagobo” (or “Tagabawa”) is a distinctly named ethnolinguistic group who mostly reside in what is now Davao del Sur province.

4) Cf. Guillermo et al. (2017, xiv): “‘tulisan’ (from ‘tulis’/‘menulis’ [to write]) generally means something ‘written’ or ‘writings.’”

5) All names of interlocutors are pseudonyms.

6) Southwell (1980, 114) has the following entry for lasat (note the example for the second definition, “wiping clean”):

LASAT (verb) . . . l. rubbed or worn by abrasíon; . . . 2. wiped clean; uh lasat nah ngah aleng te’ neng ka’ anan dih – that soot on your face has been wiped clean. 3. to wipe dry; . . . 4. a wooden pat or bat for flattening soft surface. 5. an eraser or cleaner. 6. sandpaper; . . . .

7) These may be similar to what Ambrose (2012) called “multi-toothed tattooing blades,” common throughout Oceania (also see the illustrations of these tools in this cited paper).

8) This specific information from Marilog (downstream Salug) is from Pilarte (2012); we have independent verification of this among upstream Salug villages.

9) In his paper, Villan (2013) equates, without historical warrant, the category “tattooed warrior” with the colonial term “Pintados,” which actually refers both to warrior and non-warrior Visayans.

10) And assuming that even if they did—and more research is needed in this regard—then this begs the question of why, as warriors, they were not fully tattooed as the “tattooed-warrior” paradigm would call for.

11) The lower age limit of 10 years was set in accordance with the ethnographic observation that it is at this age that Pantaron Manobo frequently begin to be tattooed, as per their own reckoning.


Vol. 5, No. 1, TADEM

Contents>> Vol. 5, No. 1 

The Rise and Fall of Virata’s Network: Technocracy and the Politics of Economic Decision Making in the Philippines

Teresa S. Encarnacion Tadem*

* Department of Political Science, College of Social Sciences and Philosophy, 2nd Floor Bulwagang Silangang Palma, Roces Ave., cor. Africa St., University of the Philippines, Diliman, Quezon City 1101, Philippines

e-mail: teresatadem[at]

The influence of a technocratic network in the Philippines that was formed around Cesar E. A. Virata, prime minister under Ferdinand Marcos, rose during the martial law period (1972–86), when technocracy was pushed to the forefront of economic policy making. Applying concepts of networks, this essay traces the rise and eventual collapse of Virata’s network to a three-dimensional interplay of relationships—between Virata and Marcos, Virata and the International Monetary Fund and World Bank, and Marcos and the United States. Virata’s close links to social, academic, US, and business community networks initially thrust him into government, where he shared Marcos’s goal of attracting foreign investments to build an export-oriented economy. Charged with obtaining IMF and World Bank loans, Virata’s network was closely joined to Marcos as the principal political hub. Virata, however, had to contend with the networks of Marcos’s wife, Imelda, and the president’s “chief cronies.” While IMF and World Bank support offered Virata some leverage, his network could not control Imelda Marcos’s profligacy or the cronies’ sugar and coconut monopolies. In Virata’s own assessment, his network was weakened when Marcos’s health failed during an economic crisis in 1981 and after Benigno Aquino’s assassination in 1983. In those crises, Imelda Marcos’s network and Armed Forces Chief of Staff General Fabian Ver’s faction of the military network took power amidst the rise of an anti-dictatorship movement. The United States’ switch of support from Marcos to Corazon Aquino sealed the demise of Virata’s network.

Keywords: Philippines, Cesar E. A. Virata, technocracy, Ferdinand Marcos, networks

An important network that has emerged in the Philippines is that of technocracy. It was seen in the 1960s during the pre-martial law period (1960–72), but its significance rose rapidly during the martial law period (1972–86), when technocracy was thrust into the forefront of the country’s economic policy making. In general, the attraction of technocracy to government leaders generally emanates from the system the latter represent, “in which technically trained experts rule by virtue of their specialized knowledge and position in dominant political and economic institutions” (Glassman et al. 1993). This paper argues that the politico-economic clout of the technocracy is based also on the strength of its network(s) in connecting with the important centers of power in society. I use Albert-Laszlo Barabasi’s (2002) definition of network:

not just a simple interconnection between two objects, but one which comprises of a complex series of links, nodes, hubs, and clusters, all in varying configurations and density, and differing in strength in terms of their linkages with each other or within themselves.

My article will look into how Barabasi’s concept has been applied

to the study of politics . . . and how these concepts help us understand the dynamics of coalition, compromise or contention among and between actors, parties, movements, and institutions. (Abinales and Onimaru 2010, 1)

I will apply the concept of networks in looking at factors that have strengthened as well as hindered a particular technocracy network in the Philippines, i.e., the network of Cesar E. A. Virata, who during the martial law period was viewed as the “chief technocrat.” He was President Ferdinand Marcos’s minister of finance, and later on prime minister. The paper aims to trace the evolution of the political and economic clout of Virata’s technocracy network as well as the factors that caused the collapse of the network. In particular, it will highlight how Virata’s technocracy network was thrust into power by a three-dimensional politico-economic relationship among the following networks: Virata’s relationship with the leadership, i.e., Ferdinand Marcos; his relationship with the International Monetary Fund and World Bank; and Marcos’s relationship with the United States. These relationships intertwined with each other and highlighted the success as well as the collapse of the Virata technocracy network.

This paper hopes to contribute to the writings on Philippine technocracy as well as the networks approach in Philippine politics. As I write this article, I have not come across any writings on the Philippine technocracy using the political networks approach. This may be understandable, as writings on Philippine technocracy have been sparse and have generally used the political economy framework1) or the social/cultural approach.2) This article, therefore, seeks to contribute to the literature on the networks approach in the following manner: (1) it applies this approach to the study of technocracy; (2) it uses political network analysis as opposed to the general trend of major analytical studies in the fields of sociology, anthropology, and communications; (3) it seeks to introduce a Philippine perspective in particular, and a Southeast Asian perspective in general, to the study of network analysis vis-à-vis the more dominant Western-oriented approach; and (4) the article’s study of network analysis is applied also to politics in stable situations, i.e., “normal politics” under the authoritarian Marcos regime from a technocrat network perspective.

I Defining the Technocracy and Their Network(s)

Technocrats are situated in a crucial network in society, which is the middle class. The middle class is also referred to as the “intermediate class” in the development process and politics. This network is crucial in the Third World because “middle class personnel occupy the niches of the state apparatus” (Johnson 1985, 15). The particular network of the technocrats is the new middle class, which came about according to C. Wright Mills after World War II, “with the new technocratic-bureaucratic industrialist capitalist economy” (as cited in Glassman 1995, 161). The middle class in the Third World is largely a “new middle class” consisting of technocrats who are salaried employees of large corporations, government bureaucrats, as well as managers and service workers (Glassman 1995, 350).

This new middle class, which the technocracy is part of, is defined also by neo-Weberians,

who make clear distinctions between the capitalists and the middle-class. For Mills, the new middle-class is the result of the demise of the entrepreneurial capitalism and the rise of corporate capitalism with its army of managers, technocrats, marketers and financiers. The middle-class is therefore the skilled workforce of capitalism and expands with it. (Robison and Goodman 1996, 8)3)

The power of the technocracy network is, therefore, found in its middle-class roots, which paved the way for the education and consequent expertise of its members as well as the position it occupies in the state apparatus.

This is clearly seen in Cesar E. A. Virata’s middle-class family background.4) His father was a mathematics professor at the University of the Philippines who later became the acting president of the university. He is related to Emilio Aguinaldo, a Philippine national hero. He actually describes himself as coming from a “poor” family despite owning hectares of land.

One could say that Virata’s description of himself as belonging to the “middle class” is best seen in the context of which class the technocrats perceived themselves to belong to in Philippine society. Placido Mapa Jr., who served in several positions during Marcos’s martial law regime—such as chairman of the Development Bank of the Philippines (1976–79), director general of the National Economic Development Agency (NEDA) and Socio-Economic Planning, and president of the Philippine National Bank (PNB) (1983–86)—viewed himself as belonging to the upper class. This was understandable, as his mother’s side belonged to the very wealthy sugar landed elite clan of the Mapa-Ledesma-Lizares while his father’s side belonged to the wealthy landed elite family of the Alunans. These families originally hailed from the province of Iloilo and migrated to Bacolod, Negros Occidental.5) As was the case with the Philippine elites, Mapa attended the boys’ schools of De La Salle—run by the La Salle brothers—for his elementary and high school education. For college he went to the Jesuit-run Ateneo de Manila University. Like the other Philippine elite scions whose families paid for their graduate studies in the United States, Mapa went to the United States for his higher studies. He obtained a master’s degree in Economics from the Jesuit-run St. Louis University in 1957 and a doctoral degree in Economics from Harvard University in 1962. His class background was unlike that of Virata, who did not have the means to go to private school or a family wealthy enough to pay for his graduate studies in the United States.

Virata, however, would not be considered lower class like another Marcos technocrat, Manuel Alba. Alba, who was the dictator’s NEDA deputy director general for planning and policy from 1975 to 1981 and minister of budget from 1981 to 1986, considered himself as coming from the lower class, i.e., from a very poor family. As he pointed out, his father was a municipal treasurer in the lower ranks of the government bureaucracy and his mother was a plain housewife. He was the fourth in a family of 11 children, and the family did not have any landholdings. Like Virata, he was able to take advantage of the public school system, where he graduated as valedictorian in both elementary and high school. He remembers vividly how he went to school without shoes as his family could not afford them, and how his family members as well as other relatives all pooled their resources to see him through school. His educational background enabled him to enter the elite University of the Philippines (UP), where Virata also studied. For Alba, going to UP was a great achievement as it was considered an iconic institution and being a UP alumnus was a “ticket to everywhere.”6)

After obtaining a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration from UP, he worked in the country’s top accounting firm of SyCip Gorres Velayo (SGV). It was after he passed the Certified Public Accountant exam that he joined the faculty of the UP College of Business Administration (CBA) as an instructor. Through the UP CBA he obtained a fellowship from the US Agency for International Development to pursue graduate studies in the United States. In 1961 he obtained an MBA with a specialization in Marketing and Transportation from the University of Minnesota. He later received another fellowship to pursue a PhD in Management Science and Business Administration (with Marketing, Economics, Transportation Management, Operations Research, and Social Psychology as specialized areas) at Northwestern University, which he completed in 1967.

In the case of Virata, his middle-class background enabled him to go to UP, where he gained his technocratic expertise. His ties to the university’s academic network were further reinforced when, after graduating with a degree in engineering, he taught at the UP College of Business Administration. His being a UP faculty linked him to another important network of US government fellowships; Virata was able to access a fellowship from the Mutual Security Administration, a forerunner of the US Agency for International Development, which sent him to pursue a master’s degree in Business Administration with a major in Industrial Management at the Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania. This opened up another vital network for Virata, which was the US academe.

When he came back to the Philippines, Virata added another important network to his social, academic, and US networks. He was recruited into SGV, which brought him into the business community network. He worked full time in SGV until he was called back to teach at UP in December 1965. He went on to become a professor as well as dean at the UP College of Business Administration. Virata then combined two networks that complemented each other, academe and the business community.

II The Technocracy Network during the Pre-Martial Law Period

What brought Virata into the technocracy network was his recruitment into government, which was facilitated by his academic network. The latter began in December 1965, when Rafael Salas7)—who was then UP vice president under President Carlos P. Romulo—invited him to join the Finance Transition Committee and the Agriculture Transition Committee, where he later became a member of the Presidential Economic Staff (PES). For Virata, it was Salas who had a major influence on Marcos with regard to the latter inviting technocrats and academics to join the government.8) Virata’s academic network, therefore, linked him to the government, with no less than President Ferdinand Marcos personally inviting him to be part of his administration. Marcos represents an important hub in the government network for the technocracy. As pointed out by Barabasi, the role of the hub is to connect different communities together, and these hold the system together (Barabasi 2010). Moreover, hubs are defined as the central point of activity, interest, or importance. The most highly connected nodes are the hubs (Barabasi 2009, 192). President Marcos was the hub in government that held together the different political, economic, and social networks of Philippine society, which the technocracy network was part of.

II-1 Redefining the Technocracy Hierarchy

Virata’s entry into the government’s technocracy network may be described as the “new kid on the block” effect, which is most present in networks. This is because there were already other technocrats who were part of the key economic policy-making bodies, namely, the Project Implementation Agency (PIA) and the National Economic Council (NEC). The pre-martial law technocracy hierarchy had Armand Fabella as the director of the PIA and Mapa as his deputy. Fabella, like Mapa, belonged to the upper class of Philippine society, and his family owned coconut lands in Pagsanjan. Their wealth was enough for his father to study at the University of Chicago. Fabella’s father became the first Filipino Certified Public Accountant in the United States, where he added to his wealth through engagement in the stock market.9)

Virata, on the other hand, was Mapa’s deputy when the latter was the head of the PES, which replaced the PIA. Mapa’s other deputy was Alexander Melchor. Mapa said that since he could depend on his reliable PES deputies, he could spend most of his time outside the office meeting with congressmen.10) It was, however, to Virata that Marcos gave the important position of secretary of finance in 1970 and not to his two seasoned technocrats, Fabella and Mapa. One probable reason for this was that Fabella and Mapa originally came from the Macapagal administration, and when Marcos came into power Fabella had to leave as he was Macapagal’s PIA director. Another reason in Mapa’s case could have been that since he was Fabella’s deputy and could stay on with the help of endorsements from family friends and relatives, Marcos may have been wary of him as he came from the upper class, specifically the influential sugar bloc. This bloc wielded a power that Marcos may not have been comfortable with. Moreover, Mapa’s family had a political track record, with his grandfather and father having held political positions in government. As pointed out by Mapa, his grandfather was a member of the first National Assembly during the time of President Manuel Quezon, which was the Commonwealth period, and his father was secretary of agriculture and natural resources under President Elpidio Quirino (1948–53).11)

As for Fabella, his entry into the Marcos administration was facilitated in 1969 by Benjamin “Kokoy” Romualdez, the younger (and said to be favorite) brother of First Lady Imelda Marcos, who saw the need for Fabella’s technical expertise. Romualdez asked Fabella to help out in the Marcos government in a program put together by the executive assistant of Vice President Fernando Lopez. He later became a consultant with the Central Bank.12)

As noted by Onofre D. Corpuz, Marcos’s minister of education, as well as by Virata and Mapa, Marcos was not comfortable with technocrats who were “politically threatening.” They observed this with Marcos’s executive secretary, Salas, who was considered a brilliant “technopol,” i.e., a person who had the skills of a technocrat as well as a political strategist and who belonged to the sugar landed elite class. They felt that Marcos was not comfortable with him. Sensing that he did not have Marcos’s support in his political ambitions, Salas left the government to head the UN Agency for Population. He was succeeded by another technopol, whom Marcos was also not comfortable with. This was Alejandro Melchor, a graduate of the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis. Corpuz and the other technocrats felt that Marcos was politically threatened by Melchor because the latter was close to the US military. Thus, Marcos abolished the position of executive secretary. As is clear, Marcos was not the type of person who was willing to take chances even with the best and the brightest. Salas was very careful about this—about the rule of power to never compete with your boss—very early in the game. Nevertheless, Marcos still felt threatened by him.13) According to Horacio “Boy” Morales Jr., who was identified with the “Salas boys”—those who worked closely with Salas—Marcos did not like technopols or political technicians. As for the likes of Virata, Morales felt that they were not true technocrats because they were academicians.14) Morales believed that since Virata had no political ambitions and did not belong to the upper class like Fabella and Mapa, he was not a political threat to Marcos. In addition, Virata was able to catch the attention of Marcos by having a quality that the latter liked: they both shared the same economic concern of boosting foreign investments in the country as well as encouraging an export-oriented economy.

II-2 Consolidating the Virata Technocracy Network

Virata transformed from being a node in the technocracy network into being a hub. He consolidated his relationship with the technocrats of the Macapagal period—Fabella and Mapa—albeit transforming it into a different kind of relationship where he was now “senior” to them because of his position as secretary of finance. According to Mapa, it was Virata who offered him a position in government when telling him about the possibility of the Philippines occupying a seat on the World Bank Executive Board. He offered the position to Mapa and asked him whether he would be interested in going to Washington. Mapa thought it was a rare and excellent opportunity, which he said he grabbed; and so the Philippine government nominated him.15) Thus, from 1970 to 1974 he was alternate executive director in the World Bank and for a short while also alternate executive director of the IMF.16)

Virata added other technocrats to his network. These included Vicente T. Paterno as chairman of the Board of Investments (BOI) in June 1970. The BOI was established to provide greater incentives for foreign investment. Another technocrat whom he recruited was Gerardo Sicat, who replaced Filemon Rodriguez as the head of the NEC in 1970. Like Virata, Sicat did not agree that the path to development was through heavy industrialization and protectionism. He was also supportive of trade and export industries.17) Their other allies in government were Placido Mapa Jr. and Armand Fabella, who shared a belief in Virata’s development paradigm. Like Mapa, Fabella was open to dealing with the World Bank and IMF when he was the director of the PIA during the Macapagal administration, and he continued with this role during the pre-martial Marcos administration.

II-3 Working Closely with Virata

The technocrats saw the importance of working closely with Virata. For example, Mapa as finance secretary would usually communicate either with Virata or with Central Bank Governor Gregorio Licaros when it came to policy decisions. But many times, he said, he would take his own initiative and just let Virata and Licaros know what he had done. He felt he could do this because he was confident of his relationships with them. In general, they shared the same perspectives in economic planning.18) Thus, Mapa pointed out that in his position as alternate executive director of the World Bank and IMF, he no longer received direct instructions from Marcos. He got all his instructions from Virata, Licaros, or Marcos’s Executive Secretary Alejandro Melchor. He added that if he needed any instruction, he would also route it through them. However, Mapa clarified that although he had a history of communicating directly with Marcos, as a matter of protocol when he was in the World Bank he would be careful to route communications through Virata, Licaros, or Melchor.19)

The technocrats generally agreed with Virata’s suggestions, as well as vice versa. The exception was Sicat, whom Virata described as a hard-core advocate of liberalization, unlike Virata, who saw the need to make compromises to assuage the powerful and contentious Filipino families in the business community. An example of this was Sicat’s opposition to the concept of pioneer and non-pioneer industries, which Virata instituted with other fellow technocrats. The measure was intended to find some ways of defining which areas foreign investors could freely venture into and which would be preserved solely for Filipino interests.20) This was to temper the animosity of Filipino entrepreneurs against foreign competition. The policy stipulated that industries that had not been in operation or established in the Philippines would be categorized as “pioneer.” They could be 100 percent foreign-owned. But industries that Filipinos had started and were operating—for example, cement—would be called “non-pioneer.” Virata had to correct Sicat’s view and explain to him that the purpose was to avoid conflict between foreign and domestic investments.21) Paterno also shared Virata’s views. As he pointed out, Sicat and he were not attuned to each other as Sicat was very much concerned with liberalization and market forces while Paterno was more in favor of guided industrial development. For Paterno, market forces were fine for countries that were already established but not for countries like the Philippines, which still had to build up their industrial capability.22) Both Virata and Paterno point to their engineering background as a cause for their differences with Sicat, who Virata notes was a pure economist.23)

Virata, therefore, became the hub of this network that defied a scale-free model and had no place for dominant latecomers, i.e., where all nodes were identical (Barabasi 2010). His importance is seen more in a competitive environment where fitness plays a role, as represented by Virata’s economic perspective, which was shared by Marcos. For Virata, such a concern was brought about by his SGV or business community network when he traveled around the country while working for SGV. This network brought him also to Taiwan and Korea, whose development very much impressed him.24) The SGV node of the business community network, and therefore of Virata, gave him a certain development perspective that Marcos also shared. The technocracy network of which Virata was a hub was able, therefore, to link with the crucial Marcos hub of the government network. As pointed out by Barabasi (2009, 64) hubs are special:

They dominate the structure of all networks in which they are present, making them look like small worlds. Indeed, with links to an unusually large number of nodes, hubs create short paths between any two nodes in the system. . . .

Through the Marcos hub, the Virata technocracy network was linked with another hub of the government sector, which was the Philippine Congress. This was because Virata’s initial task as a government official was to help the government formulate and shepherd the passing of the Investment Incentives Act of 1967 to attract more foreign investment into the Philippines. This would be the base for the importance of Virata’s technocracy network to Marcos and would give him a prominence over the other technocrats, some of whom had been there even before he came. As pointed out, between “two nodes with the same number of links, the fitter one acquires links more quickly” (ibid., 95). By 1970, Marcos had appointed Virata as secretary of finance and a member of the Monetary Board of the Central Bank of the Philippines.

Virata’s economic perspective as well as the task assigned to him by Marcos opened up two crucial hubs for him: the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. Marcos would appoint Virata as the point person in trade negotiations and representations in these international financial institutions and Consultative Group25) meetings.26) By 1970, he also served as the Philippine governor to the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank.

This opened a vital economic network for Virata, which was propagating an economic paradigm of trade and investment liberalization under a free market regime. Virata’s technocracy network acquired a truly central position in the larger network of economic decision making, which Barabasi describes as reserved for nodes that are simultaneously part of many large clusters (ibid., 61). Virata’s technocracy network wittingly or unwittingly became an important source of support for the IMF and World Bank. This was highlighted when Virata as head of the NEC replaced the traditionally nationalistic Hilarion M. Henares and his technocracy allies, e.g., Alejandro Lichauco. Henares’s NEC during the Macapagal administration (1961–65) was at loggerheads with the economists in the influential PIA, who were pressing for an open-door policy for foreign investments and foreign loans, mainly from the IMF. Marcos’s victory in the 1965 presidential election against Macapagal signaled the marginalization and consequent downfall of the nationalist technocracy network of Henares-Lichauco and the domination of Virata’s open-door economy technocracy network. What characterized Virata’s network, therefore, was the power law degree distribution of a scale-free network, which predicts that most nodes have only a few links, held together by a few highly connected hubs (ibid., 71). Virata was connected to two very influential hubs: the Marcos and the IMF/World Bank hubs.

II-4 Technocracy and the Networks of Political Allies

The nationalist technocratic network, however, would continue to have allies in the Philippine Congress network. This consisted of no less than then Senate President Gil Puyat, who was also the head of the National Economic Protectionism Association (NEPA), an important network of nationalist economists, businessmen, and entrepreneurs. Marcos would, however, provide Virata with the network of allies he needed in Congress; these came mainly from Marcos’s Nacionalista Party, a potent political hub. This was the hub that helped Virata and Marcos pass the Investment Incentives Act. Its major members for this purpose were Senator Jose W. Diokno, head of the Senate Committee of Economic Affairs; Senator Jose Roy, head of the Committee on Finance and chair of the Ways and Means Committee; and Congressman Lorenzo Sarmiento, head of the House of Representatives Committee on Economic Affairs, who helped craft the investment bill in 1967. They were also working on replacing the Basic Industries Act of 1961.27) Virata worked closely with Senator Diokno in particular. They succeeded in having the bill passed despite opposition from Senate President Puyat. Virata relied on the political acumen of Diokno and Sarmiento in talking to their colleagues in Congress and in strategizing on how to have the bill passed. Marcos, therefore, had influential party mates in Congress who shared his, Virata’s, and the United States’ economic perspective. One of the major results of the Investment Incentives Act was the reversal of laws against foreign participation in the country’s vital industries such as rice and corn and other forms of agribusiness. The act also enticed foreign oil companies to enter into service contracts for the exploration and development of Philippine oil fields (Bello and Rivera 1977, 115). In 1970, the Export Incentives Act was tackled and passed. The act allowed foreign-owned firms to export 70 percent of their manufactured goods. All these laws paved the way for the entry of foreign investor networks into the country, something that the IMF and World Bank as well as the US government wanted.

II-5 The Marcos Hub and the Virata Network

Marcos, as Philippine president, was an important connector, which is considered to be a significant component of the social network. Connectors are generally described as “nodes within an anomalously large number of links which are present in diverse complex systems . . .” (Barabasi 2009, 56). For the Virata network, this may explain why Marcos was a crucial hub, particularly because of the support Virata received from Marcos’s political allies in Congress. Despite the allies in Congress, Marcos’s support for Virata’s technocracy network would prove to be most vital as it had to rely on the leadership’s political acumen against the nationalist network. The latter network was represented by, among others, Senator Lorenzo Tanada, who challenged the entry of Dole Corporation as a major investor in agriculture in the country by declaring the control by transnational corporations of large tracts of agricultural land as unconstitutional. Local capitalists such as Senate President Puyat of Puyat Steel and Manilabank informed Virata that he would not approve the Philippines’ entry into the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade prior to the Kennedy Round in 1968. For the United States, the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade was an avenue by which it could further liberalize the world economy. In general, Virata said, government policies to allow the entry of foreign companies—such as Lonestar, a cement company from Texas—were met with hostility by their local competitors.28)

For Virata, there was an explicit division of labor between technocrats and the political leadership. To seek his guidance, the technocrats would tell Marcos, “Mr. President, you know, we don’t know politics.”

He would reply, “Do your best in your own field, and you let me know whether we can implement it politically. I will help you in that aspect.”29)

As far as Virata was concerned, Marcos could deliver. Thus, the strength of Virata’s technocracy network seemed to hinge on political support from Marcos. For Virata, one of the reasons why Marcos could deliver was his political network in Congress, particularly with regard to what Virata considered to be the most powerful bloc, the sugar bloc. Virata wanted to impose a 20 percent export tax, which he wished to get passed by Congress as an anti-inflationary measure and to finance government deficit. He knew he could not do it if the sugar bloc did not agree. But he said that Marcos had some room to maneuver as the bloc was not monolithic and Marcos was able to forge alliances with a particular faction in the bloc represented by Roberto Benedicto—Marcos’s classmate at the UP College of Law—and the Montelibanos, among others. Marcos also used his powers as president to persuade the other protectionist blocs in Congress to go along with the government’s policy of opening up the economy. For example, with regard to logging concessionaires, Marcos could withhold their license to log if they did not support his government policy. Virata viewed Marcos as a strong politician whom people would call a “dictator,” and that was even before he declared martial law.30)

The pre-martial law period, therefore, highlights the dominance of Virata’s technocracy network, which consisted of like-minded technocrats such as Mapa, Fabella, Sicat, and Paterno. Given his position as secretary of finance, Virata was head and shoulders above the rest, and they worked closely together with him. They were strongly supported by the network of Marcos’s political and economic allies in Congress and the business community respectively. What further boosted this support was backing from US networks, particularly the IMF and World Bank hubs, which agreed with the economic policies Marcos and Virata’s technocracy network were pushing for. What brought them all together was the shared economic vision of liberalization and the pursuit of an export-oriented industrialization policy. This enabled them to reinforce their relationship with their political and economic allies in the political and business communities.

The Virata network’s prominence, therefore, cannot be described by the scale-free model whereby the node’s (in this case Virata’s) attractiveness was determined solely by its number of links. What emerged as more important was the Virata node’s fitness to play a role in a competitive environment (Barabasi 2009, 95). In this way, the Virata node compared to the node represented by nationalist economists, e.g., Hilarion Henares, had the advantages of a fitness connectivity product that is able to link with a higher product, i.e., Marcos and the IMF/World Bank; this, therefore, made it more attractive than the node represented by the nationalist economists. Because the Virata node was able to acquire links following a power law, it was able to develop into a hub as its network displayed “fit-get-rich” behavior, meaning that the “fittest node will inevitably grow to become the biggest hub” (ibid., 103).31)

III The Virata Technocracy Network during the Martial Law Period

Given this context, it was not surprising when Fabella observed that Cesar Virata was a rising star.32) For Marcos, however, the importance of Virata’s network was confined mainly to the economic sector and did not cover the political arena, which apparently was more important for Marcos. This was seen in his declaration of martial law, which did not involve any of the technocrats. The political network that worked with Marcos in the declaration of martial law was the “Rolex 12.” This was the collective name for 12 of the closest and most powerful advisers of President Marcos during the martial law years in the Philippines from 1972 to 1981.33) The origin of the name Rolex 12 came from a widespread story that each associate received a Rolex watch from Marcos himself, although this was allegedly proven to be untrue.34)

As Virata pointed out, none of the technocrats were part of Marcos’s inner circle, which planned the declaration of martial law. Virata also pointed out that “nobody among us said we wanted martial law.” He emphasized, “I had not heard any of my colleagues say that they wanted martial law.”35) This was understandable because in terms of economic policy making, Virata saw that Marcos could basically get what he wanted and thus there was no need for martial law to pursue the government’s economic policies. In other words, Marcos seemed to have the networks he needed to obtain his objectives. The United States, which had strongly supported the Virata technocracy network, was also kept in the dark with regard to Marcos’s declaration of martial law. Nevertheless, the United States supported it, and this gave the go-ahead to the IMF and World Bank to continue extending loans to the Philippines through Virata. Thus, the two important hubs that gave the Virata network leverage were in alliance with each other with regard to the declaration of martial law.

During the martial law period, Marcos would be the hub that kept the different and important networks together. Marcos was then a one-person hub supported by various networks, chief among which were the technocrats, the military, and his relatives and cronies. These were also said to be the three legs that propped up the martial law regime, a.k.a. Marcos. All the crucial political and economic networks, which included the United States, had to deal with Marcos. As for Virata’s network, it was tasked by Marcos with continuing to deal with the IMF and World Bank. Virata’s network did not have links with Marcos’s military network.

Thus, for Virata’s network, it did not seem a problem that they were kept in the dark on the planning of martial law. The new regime consolidated Virata’s technocracy network in implementing, wittingly or unwittingly, the IMF and World Bank’s development paradigm of trade and investment liberalization under a free market regime albeit under an authoritarian capitalist state-led economy. With the abolition of Congress, martial law made it easier for Virata to pass economic policies such as the amendment of the Tariff Code, which allowed the Philippines to enter into the Tokyo Round of Trade Negotiations in 1974.36) This was because of the abolition of the power of the nationalist network in Congress. As Virata pointed out, before the declaration of martial law numerous bills were bundled up in Congress but this was no longer the case under martial law, as the bills were cleared by the decreeing powers of the president.

III-1 The Strength of Virata’s Technocracy Network

The strength of Virata’s technocracy network was that it continued to be connected to Marcos as its major hub and from this hub it was given the authority to deal with the IMF and World Bank hub. With this structure, Virata did not see martial law as undermining his network’s clout, although for him there was really no need for martial law. Nevertheless, it did not seem to matter for the Virata network whether economic decision making was being undertaken under an “elite” democracy or an authoritarian regime. What seemed to be important to Virata was that he continued to have the backing of Marcos. And more important, this did not hamper the Philippine government’s and his relationship with a crucial network, i.e., the IMF and World Bank.

Martial law, therefore, reinforced the relationship, as Virata’s importance to Marcos continued with the role he played as the government’s point person with the IMF and World Bank. For Virata this role was understandable as he believed that international institutions had better two-way communications with technocrats; he pointed out that technocrats were better qualified than politicians to understand development policies. He and Marcos continued to share the perspective that they needed the IMF and World Bank for further trade liberalization as signified by the Philippines’ entry into the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade.37)

It was through Virata’s network that the IMF and World Bank were able to take a more aggressive stance in influencing the economic policies of the martial law regime. This was seen in 1979, when the two institutions initiated the “industrial reform program” in the country as the last stage of Philippine export-led industrialization. This plan consisted of the following policies: drastic dismantling of protective tariffs, withdrawal of subsidies from local enterprises, creation of better incentives for foreign investments, and establishment of more export-processing zones to enable multinational corporations to take advantage of low-cost Filipino labor (Bello and Kelly 1981, 3). One network that benefited was the foreign business community, particularly the American Chamber of Commerce (Business International Research Division 1980).

As for Virata’s relationship with the technocrats in his network, it was further strengthened during the martial law period. As Mapa narrated, when he was appointed president of the Development Bank of the Philippines (DBP) in 1976, when its previous head—Leonides Virata, the uncle of Cesar Virata—passed away, he said that he would follow what Leonides had instituted, which was to informally consult and coordinate or just exchange notes with his fellow heads of economic agencies every Friday over lunch. His fellow heads included the secretary of finance, the Central Bank governor, the secretary of commerce, and the heads of the PNB, DBP, NEDA, and Budget. Mapa felt that Marcos valued their opinions. He observed that the people Marcos had working for him—for example, other Cabinet members and other heads of institutions—would be attuned to his thinking. As Mapa pointed out, what they would try to do first among themselves was to avoid—and to help each other overcome—conflicting positions. Thus, it helped that they got together regularly to coordinate with each other.38)

As Mapa noted, there were many policies that were not under their control. He noted that Virata would try to talk to President Marcos about some things but would not always get what he wanted. In some instances, they found themselves on a collision course with First Lady Imelda Marcos. The projects of the First Lady that they opposed included her Cultural Center of the Philippines and the Light Railway transit.39)

In Fabella, Virata recognized important traits that could be of use to Marcos. Fabella said that under the Macapagal administration he was a Cabinet member, but under Marcos’s martial law regime he was designated in 1980 as chairman of the Presidential Reorganization Committee. Fabella noted that while he was doing the reorganization, Virata and other members of Marcos’s Cabinet had the habit of asking him how the proposed changes would affect their respective departments. Noticing this, Fabella said it was Virata who told him that he should be present at all the meetings. For Fabella, this was a tremendous opportunity to find out how things were going. In relation to this, Fabella credits Virata with maintaining some form of balance; he perceived the others as “thieves.” It was for the above reasons given by Mapa and Fabella that they and other technocrats expressed their respect for Virata.40)

The Virata network during the martial law period was further boosted by the entry of two other technocrats into government; these were Virata’s former students at the UP CBA, Jaime Laya and Manuel Alba. Alba was originally brought into the Marcos government by Onofre D. Corpuz, whom Marcos appointed as president of the University of the Philippines from 1968 to 1971 and minister of education from 1975 to 1979. Alba was Corpuz’s student in his UP undergraduate years. After Marcos won the 1965 presidential elections, Corpuz set up the Development Academy of the Philippines, which was to provide training for career professionals with the aim of strengthening the bureaucracy. Corpuz also had Alba appointed as executive director of the Presidential Commission to Survey Philippine Education from 1971 to 1973 and founding executive director of the Educational Development Program Implementing Task Force. The task force was created to implement all foreign-assisted projects in education. In 1973, Alba left government to take on the post of director of the East-West Center, Technology and Development Institute, in Honolulu. In 1975, Sicat asked him to be the deputy director general for planning and policy at NEDA.41) This ushered in Alba’s entry into Virata’s technocracy network. Laya was also pulled into government by Sicat. He served as Sicat’s NEDA deputy director general in 1974. He was also concurrently the deputy governor of the supervision and examination sector at the Central Bank. In 1975 he was appointed as minister of budget, and in 1981 he was appointed as governor of the Central Bank. From 1984 to 1986 he was the minister of education, culture, and sports. While in government, Mapa said that Laya worked closely with Virata and Melchor.42)

III-2 Hindrances to Virata’s Technocracy Network

The links of Virata’s network with Marcos and the IMF/World Bank were not enough to establish the network as a “winner-take-all” one with no potential challengers. The winner-take-all network as described by Barabasi (2009, 103) refers to one in which the fittest node grabs all links, leaving very little for the rest of the nodes. Such networks develop a star topology in which all nodes are connected to a central hub, in this case the Marcos hub. However, Virata’s network faced several challenges.

One was that Marcos compartmentalized his technocrats.Virata had his own network, composed mainly of former UP-based technocrats whom Virata nurtured, such as Sicat,43) the first director general of NEDA; Alba, minister of budget; Laya, governor of the Central Bank; and those who worked closely with him, such as Mapa44) and Paterno.45) What they had in common, with the exception of Mapa, was that they all came from UP. Virata was the mentor of Alba and Laya in the UP College of Business Administration. He also sent them abroad to pursue their PhD. These people composed Virata’s network, which was responsible for accessing loans from the IMF and World Bank. The recruitment of technocrats into Virata’s network can be described as what Barabasi refers to as prior acquaintanceship, which

allows directors to vouch for prospective recruits. Therefore, the small-world dynamics help the creation of a powerful “old boy network”, or corporate elite, that has unparalleled influence in economic and political life. (ibid., 206)

The Virata network had to operate together with other technocrats who had their own networks and worked independently of the Virata network. One was the network of Roberto Ongpin,46) minister of trade and industry. His strength seemed to lie in his purported ties with the Chinese community, where he was known to have allegedly operated the “Binondo cartel,” which was regarded as a de facto Central Bank. Virata did not approve of Ongpin’s Binondo cartel, although he agreed with Ongpin’s support for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations’ 11 industrial projects that Paterno did not agree with. Paterno preferred to support small and medium-scale industries. He also was not too comfortable with the big loans being given by the IMF and World Bank, as he believed they would only breed corruption.47) The other network was that of Geronimo Velasco, minister of energy. This network included the contacts Velasco made during his stint as the highest salaried person in the Philippines when he was an executive in Dole Philippines. Marcos, thus, made sure that the economy was not left in the hands of one technocrat’s network, i.e., Virata’s. This was also a way of dividing and conquering the technocrats. Ongpin and Velasco, therefore, can be described as “new kids on the block” who were not accounted for in a scale-free model, just like Virata. That is, they had “intrinsic qualities that influence the rate in which they acquire links in a competitive environment” (ibid., 95). More important, they were able to establish a direct and strong link with the potent Marcos hub.

Aside from the disagreement between Virata and Paterno with regard to the 11 ASEAN industrial projects, Virata also had disagreements with Minister for Planning Sicat, who was in favor of a full-blown export-oriented industrialization of the Philippines, unlike Virata. This was exemplified even during the pre-martial law period, when Sicat also did not agree with Virata’s concept of “measured capacity,” which the Philippine Chamber of Industries was pushing in order to avoid overinvestment and which led to the waste of scarce capital resources. The intention of this was that the BOI had to study market demand, including external demand. The BOI would only approve of capacities with some allowance for a particular industry, so that the economy would not waste Philippine resources. This, of course, went against the principles of the free market economy, which was the reason Sicat did not agree with it.48) But Virata felt that scale was important for economic progress and that there was a need to reach a certain scale that was economical and competitive if the Philippines was to achieve economic progress. For Virata, the level of protection or subsidy was an important policy to guide Philippine business, and he believed that this was true also for foreigners, whose interest was to secure a share of the market and to exploit the country’s resources.49) With regard to Placido Mapa, Virata did not agree with his opposition to the birth control methods that were being advocated by the IMF and World Bank. Mapa was a member of what was viewed as the ultra-conservative Opus Dei, while Virata was a Freemason and he and his relatives were supporters of the Philippine Independent Church, which was considered more progressive than the Catholic Church. Despite these differences, the members of Virata’s technocracy network generally gave in to him. It was because of this that Virata held an influential position in his network, where he could be defined as one of the hubs. Hubs can be likened in the business community to individuals who communicate with more people about a certain product than does the average person. With their numerous social contacts, they are among the first to notice and use the experience of the innovators. Though not necessarily innovators themselves, their conversion is the key to launching an idea or an innovation. If the hubs resist a product, they form such an impenetrable and influential wall that the innovation can only fail. If they accept it, they influence a very large number of people (ibid., 130).

III-3 First Lady Imelda Marcos

What seemed to be a formidable obstacle to the Virata network was First Lady Imelda Marcos and her own technocracy network, consisting of, among others, Conrado “Jolly” Benitez,50) her brother Benjamin “Kokoy” Romualdez,51) and Roman “Jun” Cruz.52) One of Virata’s many major disagreements with Mrs. Marcos was over the establishment of her Ministry of Human Settlements. Virata felt there was no need for this, as there was already a National Housing Authority. Virata also felt that the idea of human settlements was just a “U.N.-flavor of the month thing just like the current concern for the environment.”53) He also said no to several of the First Lady’s projects, but he believed that she would get her funds from the private sector and from the Government Service Insurance System (GSIS) under Cruz. The government, however, would have to pay off all her debts. As he pointed out, he refused a number of the First Lady’s requests since her projects were not in the budget, and because of this she called him “Dr. No.” Eventually, some of the buildings became government buildings. The loans extended by the private sector and the GSIS to Mrs. Marcos, which went into the establishment of government buildings, had to be repaid by the Philippine government.

Another incident that highlighted Virata’s clash with Imelda Marcos’s network was when the former, in an attempt to curb corruption in government offices, wanted to put certain safeguards in the GSIS, the Social Security System54) or the SSS, and the Retirement and Separation Benefits System or the RSBS. One safeguard was to put the GSIS and SSS under the office of the Insurance Commission. Virata said he wanted to do this to preserve the integrity of these pension and insurance funds by having sound investment guidance. He believed that the funds could be subject to abuse. Virata pointed out that Gilbert Teodoro Sr. of the SSS agreed with him but that Cruz of the GSIS would not, because he was very supportive of the First Lady’s projects, having extended advance financing to a number of them. Virata said that the president did not approve of his recommendations on the grounds that these institutions had their own charters and trustees.55)

There was an incident in 1982, when the country was at the height of its rescue operations for collapsing firms, when Mrs. Marcos wanted to appropriate US$12 million from the Cabinet and presidential funds to host a film festival in Manila. Virata put his foot down and refused to accede to this demand; Marcos, realizing the gravity of the country’s economic situation, agreed with him. This, however, did not deter Mrs. Marcos from getting US$111,111 from the coffers of the Ministry of Human Settlements, which she headed (Sacerdoti 1983, 48).

III-4 Virata and the Network of Oligarchs and Politicians

As for the oligarchs, Virata acknowledged that Marcos shielded the technocrats from them by reducing their political and economic powers. But he acceded that Marcos also instituted his new oligarchs because they were his supporters.56) In relation to this, Virata was also challenged on how to navigate among the politicians, i.e., the government’s allies who lost the elections. Virata felt that this was the most difficult part as these politicians thought that the government projects were helping their opponents politically.

III-5 Virata and the Network of Marcos’s Chief Cronies

Virata accepted that he, and no one else, could interfere in the interests of Marcos’s chief cronies, Roberto Benedicto and Eduardo “Danding” Cojuangco. For Virata, as far as the technocrats were concerned, his technocracy network was no match for Benedicto and Cojuangco. Aside from the chief cronies having direct access to the president, Virata noted that they had their power base. From Virata’s point of view, the technocrats were just interested in finding out what Benedicto and Cojuangco were doing and how these two chief cronies of Marcos were affecting the other sectors. When the technocrats saw that they were taking more than they deserved, that was the time Virata’s network spoke up. The leverage of Virata’s network vis-à-vis the chief cronies was its link with the IMF and World Bank, ergo the United States, which were not happy in general with the cronies’ monopolization of industries. An example was Cojuangco’s monopoly of the coconut industry, especially the takeover of US coconut oil processing firms. This went against the IMF and World Bank’s economic mantra of free competition and liberalization. To show its disapproval of crony monopolies, the US government even filed a lawsuit against Cojuangco and Juan Ponce Enrile’s57) coconut conglomerate—Granex, Crown Oil Corporation, and Pan Pacific Commercial—for conspiring to create a shortage of oil in order to drive up prices (Bello et al. 1982, 191). In general, however, Virata’s network was able to stand its ground against these three major networks—Marcos’s cronies and relatives, and the networks of oligarchs and politicians—as the IMF and World Bank continued to give loans to the Philippines that Virata’s network was responsible for negotiating.

Ironically, however, the technocratic centralization encouraged by the IMF and World Bank allowed for an increasing concentration of power in President Marcos’s hands, which translated into further support for crony interests. This was because a major consequence of centralization was the lessening of checks on the leadership, which allowed the monopoly of state power by the networks of relatives and friends of the Marcos regime. Members of this ruling bourgeois network used the government as a vehicle to enrich themselves. The crony networks, which are also referred to as “bureaucrat capitalists,” greatly benefited from the local technocrats’ efforts to attract foreign capital because they had the right connections with the regime to either enable them to enter into joint ventures with multinational corporations or to avail of foreign loans acquired by the state (ibid., 105). Moreover, the technocrats were said to have tolerated Marcos’s cronies as they both shared a common concern with bringing the country’s major export crops under the control and supervision of the state. Conflict of interest, however, ensued between these two parties on the question of whether or not export crops should become a center of state or private accumulation. The technocracy believed the former, while the cronies believed otherwise. The Virata technocracy network believed that the cronies would use this source of private accumulation to achieve their political ends (Hawes 1984, 238).

This was exemplified in the coconut levy controversy pitting the Marcos cronies led by Cojuangco against Virata. The Marcos cronies imposed a coconut levy on farmers, which the technocracy viewed as a double tax on the latter. Virata argued that the levy should be abolished because it further depressed the already low price paid to farmers for their copra and was not at all beneficial to the coconut farmers (Bowring 1982, 8). Marcos initially sided with Virata and agreed to have the levy abolished but later reversed his decision during a Cabinet meeting while Virata was abroad. Virata is said to have tendered his resignation, which Marcos refused. The former consoled himself by saying that he would not abandon the struggle for economic liberalization (ibid.).

The opposition experienced by the Virata network can be described as the manner in which the fitness model “allows us to describe networks as competitive systems in which nodes fight fiercely for links” (Barabasi 2009, 106), in this case, the link to the Marcos hub. The Virata network also defies the scale-free model, which “reflected to our awakening that networks are dynamic systems that change constantly through the addition of new nodes and links” (ibid.). In the case of challenges to the Virata network, it did not matter how many cronies or technocrats Marcos added to his network; what was important was the nature of the competition they posed to the Virata network. When it came to accessing IMF and World Bank loans, none of them could compete with Virata’s technocracy network.

III-6 The Emerging Political Value of the Virata Technocracy Network

It is in the area of accessing IMF and World Bank loans for the Philippine government that the Virata network may be described as the “star” dominating the vast majority of links to the Marcos hub. Opposition from the Imelda Marcos and crony networks further strengthened the Virata network’s links to the IMF-World Bank hub, as these two financial institutions saw Virata’s network as a bulwark against crony corruption in the Marcos government. The IMF-World Bank group was said to pressure the Marcos regime to lift martial law and declare a New Republic in 1981 headed by a Cabinet composed of World Bank technocrats: Finance Minister Virata, appointed as prime minister; Industry Minister Roberto Ongpin; Central Bank Governor Jaime Laya; Minister of Planning Placido Mapa; and Alejandro Melchor, who served as a Cabinet-rank presidential adviser and executive secretary to Marcos during the earlier years of martial law (Bello et al. 1982, 184).

Virata, however did not agree with this perspective. As he pointed out, Mrs. Marcos wanted the position of prime minister, which the Marcoses’ colleagues in the Kilusang Bagong Lipunan (Movement for New Society, or KBL)58) nominated her to. He said he was taken by surprise when President Marcos preferred him for the position. When asked in our interviews how true the write-ups were, particularly in the Far Eastern Economic Review (Tanzer 1981; Sacerdoti and Tasker 1983), that his selection as prime minister was because of pressure from the United States in general and the IMF and World Bank in particular—as they did not like the corruption of the First Lady and the Marcos cronies—Virata was dismissive, although he said that he was aware of the reference to him as an “Amboy.”59) Whether this is true or not, what is significant is that Virata’s ascendancy to the position of prime minister highlighted his value to Marcos. This situation seems to have transformed the Virata technocracy network into what Barabasi (2009, 237) calls the hierarchical modularity or the modular scale-free network, which makes multitasking possible. As elaborated by Barabasi, while the

dense interconnections within each module help the efficient accomplishment of specific tasks, the hubs coordinate the communication between the many parallel functions. Bottlenecks and slowdowns are inevitable if the same module is simultaneously confronted with several tasks. (ibid., 234)

The United States, through the IMF and World Bank, therefore, was perceived to have pressured Marcos to accord the Virata network not only economic responsibilities but also political responsibilities as well as make sure that crony corruption was kept in check.

A major hindrance to Virata’s economic and political responsibilities was the emergence of a consolidation of hubs, epitomized by the KBL political party network. During the KBL caucus early in 1985, Mrs. Marcos bemoaned that some of her projects, such as the Kilusang Kabuhayan at Kaunlaran (Movement for Livelihood and Development), received insufficient funding. This complaint was followed by Marcos’s chief crony Benedicto, whose monopoly of the sugar industry was frowned upon by the IMF and World Bank. Benedicto accused the technocrats of allowing the IMF to exert undue influence on the local economy. He urged the KBL not to accede to the demands of these financial institutions. Labor Minister Blas Ople supported this accusation by saying that the country had already given up its sovereignty to the IMF (Bowring and Sacerdoti 1983, 54). Such a situation highlighted how Virata’s network clashed with four powerful networks under the KBL umbrella that were all part of the Marcos hub: Imelda Marcos’s network of technocrats, Marcos’s crony network, Marcos’s political allies, and networks of Cabinet officials who were not economic technocrats but believed that they were being undermined by the Virata network under the tutelage of the IMF and World Bank. What occurred here was also an acknowledgment that for the umbrella KBL network, the Virata technocracy network could undermine the hubs it represented thanks to support from the IMF and World Bank.

The growing opposition to the Marcos dictatorship seemed to also favor Virata’s network, as this gave it more leverage on Marcos not to support the crony interests. This was seen in 1984, when the political opposition against Marcos called a bank run on government and crony banks, such as the government’s PNB and the United Coconut Planters Bank. Virata said Marcos had passed a decree saying that the governor of the Central Bank would be obligated to restore the funds of banks that had been affected. Virata believed it was Cojuangco’s group that had crafted that decree. Cojuangco was then head of the United Coconut Planters Bank. Central Bank Governor Jose Fernandez60) and Virata did not agree with the decree. Virata told Marcos, “Mr. President, this signed decree has no parallel or precedent in international law.”61) He added that when “the Central Bank helps an institution they have to follow certain procedures, like you must have acceptable security, and Monetary Board approval.” Virata told Marcos it would not be good if the decree was made public. Marcos instructed his Executive Secretary Juan (Johnny) Tuvera62) not to release that decree.

Marcos’s withdrawal of the decree further signified the need for the Virata network of technocrats to access IMF and World Bank loans, without which the country could not survive. Thus, despite opposition from his party members in the KBL, Marcos came out with a statement saying, “[T]he KBL central committee since 1972 has always reviewed all policies and programs adopted by the Party but which are now claimed by new managers.” This was his way of signaling to his party members to stop their attacks on the technocrats (Rocamora 1983, 6). The technocrats would go on to take over almost all the crony-owned companies that had been saved by the government during the economic crisis.

At this point, the Virata network may have acquired the status of a star hub in the category of the winner-take-all network, where there seemed to be no potential challenger. As Fabella noted, several of the policies the technocrats were able to pursue were because of Virata. He described Virata as supportive, and Fabella knew his limits and how far he could push. For Fabella, it did not matter if the government ran into a fiscal crisis, as the technocrats knew it was coming and could not do anything about it.63)

Furthermore, what transpired seems to have destroyed the hierarchy of hubs—the hubs of the cronies, relatives, and political allies—characterizing the scale-free topology and turned the Virata network into a starlike network, with a single node grabbing all the links (Barabasi 2009, 103–104). A probable reason for this is that the cronies and relatives, e.g., Imelda Marcos, Cojuangco, and Benedicto, were also contained within their own specific sectors—Cojuangco in the coconut industry and Benedicto in the sugar industry. And in the case of Imelda Marcos, although she had political and economic power through her Ministry of Human Settlements and as governor of Metro Manila, her access to resources was also dependent on the loans that the Virata network was able to avail of through the IMF and World Bank. All these dynamics, however, were dependent on decisions made by Marcos.

IV The Collapse of the Virata Technocracy Network

All the above factors were not enough to sustain Virata’s network, which was brought to an end by the collapse of its most important hub: the Marcos hub. This may be described as what Barabasi calls a series of cascading failures, which is when a network collapses and its failure shifts loads or responsibilities to other nodes:

If the extra load is negligible, it can be seamlessly absorbed by the rest of the system, and the failure remains effectively unnoticed. If the extra load is too much for the neighboring nodes to carry, they will either tip or again redistribute the load to their neighbor. Either way we are faced with a cascading event, the magnitude and reach of which depend on the centrality and capacity of the nodes that have been removed in the first round. (Barabasi 2009, 120)

Virata’s fellow technocrats in his networks were very much aware of the problems that the First Lady as well as Marcos’s cronies were creating for them. In reaction to this, they tried as much as possible to support Virata, whom they regarded as their senior in terms of responsibilities. It was against this background that Virata was appointed as prime minister in 1981. Mapa noted that during this time, so as not to be isolated, he needed to work with other agencies as a coordinator and referee because there were conflicting positions among different ministries and agencies. He said that he would try to do everything through Virata, as he was prime minister. He said that he and his fellow technocrats would support Virata, and many times during Cabinet meetings there would be conflicts, but they would ask for a committee to be formed to referee. Many times, Mapa would end up being the chairman of that committee. As Mapa observed, it was very hard to get colleagues to reconcile their differences. He pointed in particular to Secretary of Energy Geronimo Velasco and Secretary of Trade and Industry Roberto Ongpin, who were difficult to control as they had direct lines to the president. In the case of Velasco, Mapa felt that he sided more with the technocrats but when there were some matters that affected him, he would go directly to the president. In general, however, Mapa felt that Virata was very good in terms of going back to the president and also trying to keep Velasco and Ongpin in line.64)

Nevertheless, this cascading failure, as perceived by Virata, could not be stopped due to Marcos’s failing health. As Mapa noted, when the president got sick there seemed to be a power vacuum and Virata and Melchor tried to salvage the situation. There were, however, areas where they were not in a position to do anything.65) The situation was aggravated by the assassination of ex-Senator Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino on August 21, 1983, which gave tremendous impetus to the growing opposition against Marcos. The assassination of Ninoy Aquino came at a time when the economy was reeling from a world recession and a deterioration of the country’s terms of trade, which were gradually causing a number of companies—including crony-owned ones—to collapse. In 1981 the situation worsened further when Dewey Dee, a Chinese businessman, left the country with US$100 million worth of unpaid debts. This adversely affected the financial system and several big business establishments. Another blow to the Philippine economy came when Mexico defaulted on its debt payments in 1982. Virata may have managed to control the situation in the beginning, but after Ninoy Aquino’s assassination things got out of hand, particularly because Marcos was sick and not in command of the situation.66) Imelda Marcos and Armed Forces Chief of Staff General Fabian Ver, representing a faction of the military network loyal to Marcos, took control.67) This did not bode well with the United States, as it despised the Imelda Marcos-General Ver network. What resulted was that the hierarchy of highly connected hubs was taken out, with Marcos no longer in command. This proved to be the final blow to the networks that were linked to this hub, including Virata’s technocracy network.

The situation led also to the loss of support for the Marcos government from a crucial sector, which was the business community, particularly the middle class. With the growing corruption, human rights violations, and socioeconomic inequalities, the business community—led by the Makati Business Club—together with the Catholic Church hierarchy began to voice their opposition against Marcos.68) The business community initially tolerated the corruption of Marcos’s cronies, but when the economy began its downturn and the government used state funds to rescue the crony companies, the business community began to move toward the side of the opposition. Their major complaints were the following: (1) they felt that the government was unable to curb graft and corruption; (2) they said the technocrats were too bureaucratic and arrogant and lacked practical experience; (3) they resented the bailout of crony companies; (4) they disapproved of the technocrats’ blind loyalty to the policies of the IMF and World Bank group, which led to the centralization and streamlining of the local economy such that it benefited only foreign investors and not their local counterparts (Bello et al. 1982, 191).

The loss of support from the business community, Church, and middle-class networks was significant for Marcos, because the United States viewed these networks as important sources of legitimacy for Marcos’s martial law rule. Before the business community and Church hierarchy joined the opposition, the major source of opposition was the mainstream Left, i.e., the Communist Party of the Philippines, its armed group, the New People’s Army, and its illegal united front, the National Democratic Front or the CPP-NPA-NDF. Between the mainstream Left and Marcos, the United States would of course support the latter. But the United States could not ignore that the CPP-NPA-NDF was also drawing from the other disenchanted sectors of society, i.e., the lower classes, the marginalized, and even some segments of the middle and upper classes. For the United States, the repercussions of the policies of a technocratic regime were not only economic but political as well. The determination of the technocracy to produce an apolitical and pro-business atmosphere gave the leadership a legitimate excuse to depoliticize the Filipino people. This was implemented in various forms, e.g., the imposition of authoritarian controls on the flow of information, the elimination of leaders of national movements, and the denial of civilian rights (Stauffer 1974, 173). Joint ventures between technocracy-manned state corporations and multinational corporations led to adverse socioeconomic consequences, e.g., the displacement of people. Small farmers, fishermen, and quite a number of the urban poor were forced to evacuate their land and sea locations to pave the way for industrial and agricultural projects such as export processing zones, a copper sintering plant, a nuclear plant, and export-crop plantations (ibid.). Tribal Filipino communities were evicted from their ancestral lands to pave the way for infrastructures such as dams to provide electricity and irrigation in order to entice foreign capitalist business ventures into far-flung areas. This led to the cultural genocide of at least 4.25 million tribal Filipinos (Rocamora 1979, 2).

All these developments led to the burgeoning of an anti-dictatorship struggle in the country. With the business community and Church hierarchy networks joining the ranks of the opposition and, more important, the emergence of Aquino’s widow, Ma. Corazon “Cory” Aquino, as the leader of the opposition, the United States began to see Aquino as a palatable alternative to Marcos.

The ultimate push for the United States to support the opposition was the defection within the military led by Marcos’s Defense Minister Juan Ponce Enrile and his military aide, Col. Gringo Honasan, as well as Philippine National Police Chief Fidel V. Ramos. The three of them with their supporters in the military joined the civilians to wage the 1986 People Power Revolution against the Marcos dictatorship. Virata’s network did not have any links with Enrile or Ramos or, for that matter, Marcos’s military network. Virata did not even know that his own military assistant, Lt. Col. Angelo Reyes,69) was a member of the Reform the Armed Movement of the Philippines.70)

The withdrawal of US support for Marcos also severed the relationship of the Virata technocracy network with the IMF and World Bank, since the latter relationship was the basic reason for Marcos’s support of Virata’s network. Previously, there had been some who defected from Virata’s technocracy network: Director General of the National Economic and Development Authority Gerardo Sicat Jr. resigned in 1981 and left the country in 1985 for a World Bank position in Washington, DC; and Vicente Paterno, minister of trade and industry and later on of public highways, resigned from government in 1980.71) Both could no longer tolerate working for the Marcos government. There was no problem in replacing them, and their desertions were not drastic enough to break down the Virata network. As pointed out by random theory, when nodes are removed randomly, there are a fraction of nodes that indicate a critical point has been reached whereby the network breaks apart: “If you remove more nodes from the critical fraction, then it would break apart into different pieces” (Barabasi 2010).

Virata knew that the critical fraction had been reached even before the 1986 People Power Revolution. This realization came about when he was in the United States, in the middle of negotiating loans for the Philippines with the IMF and World Bank. He was seeking a debt moratorium because the Mexican default of 1982 had triggered an economic crisis in the Philippines. Such macroeconomic failures, as pointed out by Barabasi (2009, 209), “can throw entire nations into deep financial disarray.” Moreover, because the Philippine economy was part of a highly interconnected network of financial institutions, the breakdown of some selected nodes—in this case, the crisis in the Mexican economy combined with the inability of the IMF and World Bank to immediately resolve it—set off a cascade of failures that shook up the whole economic system, especially in the Philippines. It did not help that because of Marcos’s growing unpopularity, the issue was not given priority by the two international financial institutions. When Virata sought a meeting with the IMF and World Bank, the institutions told him that they could not field any personnel to talk at that time and that the only window they could give Virata’s economic team was after the World Bank meeting. Finally, they selected October 17, 1983 as the date for the meeting. In the meantime, Aquino was assassinated in August 1983 and the situation took a turn for the worse.72) At that point, Virata told Marcos he could no longer do his job and he might as well resign, but Marcos told him to stay on.73)

This seemed to be a recognition by Virata that his relevance to Marcos was dependent on Marcos’s relationship with the United States, which determined Virata’s relationship with the IMF and World Bank. Virata’s predicament can be equated to what Barabasi (ibid., 105) describes as the “fit-get-rich” behavior of scale-free networks, which prevails in the marketplace when there is a hierarchy of operating systems such that the most popular is followed by several less popular competitors. Such a hierarchy is present in most industries. In Virata’s case, his popularity and leverage hinged on his being able to obtain the IMF and World Bank loans that the Philippines badly needed. In this respect, Marcos’s relatives, cronies, and political allies could not compete with Virata’s network. But Virata was gradually losing this network. And, as pointed out by Barabasi (ibid., 110), “vulnerability is due to interconnectivity”; this can be applied to the Virata network’s links with Marcos and the IMF and World Bank.

The validation of this claim, as Virata pointed out, came with Ninoy Aquino’s assassination, when Virata saw his own relationship with the IMF and World Bank sour. He noted that the two financial institutions were beginning to withhold or tighten assistance. When Virata inquired about economic assistance to the Philippines, the IMF and World Bank would reply that the matter was being processed or considered.74) Virata blamed this on the United States’ diminishing support for Marcos. He observed that the United States was beginning to talk to opposition members and sizing up possible successors, and he noted the continuous bad press on the Philippines in the United States. Virata’s dependence on Marcos to access US support, which helped to facilitate World Bank and IMF assistance, may have proven to be the Virata network’s Achilles’ heel, as described by Barabasi (ibid., 117–118):

[T]he findings indicate that scale-free networks are not vulnerable to failures. The price of this unprecedented resilience comes in their fragility under attack. The removal of most connected nodes rapidly disintegrates these networks, breaking them into tiny noncommunicating islands. Therefore, hidden within their structure, scale-free networks harbor an unsuspected Achilles’ heel, coupling a robustness against failures with vulnerability to attack.

Marcos’s calling of snap elections under US pressure may have spelled the end of his support for the Virata network. Virata advised Marcos not to call snap elections as he had tenure of office. But he claimed that Marcos called snap elections because the United States was portraying the president as losing control, and that was why he wanted a fresh mandate even though his term had not ended.75) After the snap elections, which Marcos won by only a slight margin, Virata offered to resign as minister of finance. He suggested to Marcos that since the margin of victory was so slim, perhaps it was time for change. Virata was not yet planning to resign as prime minister, because he wanted the Batasang Pambansa (National Assembly) to be convened so he could personally present his resignation to the legislative body—since the assembly had elected him.76) He added that he could also be charged with dereliction of duty if he resigned as prime minister. But eventually Virata learned that Marcos had offered Enrile the position in order to stop the People Power Revolution.77)

The power, therefore, of Virata’s technocracy network lay mainly in the support it could get from the US and Marcos hubs, and consequently such support translated into how Marcos needed Virata in order to access loans from the IMF and World Bank. This situation characterizes Barabasi’s (ibid., 112–113) failures in random networks, whereby “there is a critical threshold below which the system is relatively unharmed. Above this threshold, however, the network simply falls apart.” In this case, the Virata hub’s inability to continue performing its task brought down the network.78)


Cesar E. A. Virata had links to social, academic, US, and business community networks that thrust him into government. In government, he developed his own network; the importance of this network was its link with the Marcos hub, which kept the different political, economic, and social networks together. What strengthened and allowed Virata to consolidate his own network in government was that he shared with Marcos a common economic concern, i.e., bringing in investments to the country and the pursuit of an export-oriented economy. This economic perspective opened him up to the IMF-World Bank hub. During the pre-martial law period, the Virata network clashed with the network of nationalist economists of the government’s National Economic Council (NEC) as well as nationalist politicians and local capitalists, as they were against the open-door policy of the economists in the Project Implementation Agency, where the Virata network was embedded. When Marcos became president, the nationalist economists were booted out and the Virata network reined in the NEC. The Virata network, however, had to contend with the nationalist networks in Congress, i.e., those against liberalization. But Marcos’s party members from the Nacionalista Party, who were part of the Marcos hub, supported the Virata network’s open-door policy, i.e., liberalization of the economy. This helped the latter to pass the Investments Act and the Export Incentives Act. Marcos’s support for the Virata network would prove to be most crucial. Marcos’s political strength among the agricultural and industry blocs lay in his network of political and economic allies such as Benedicto, who represented a faction of the powerful sugar bloc. Marcos also made use of his leverage as president to make the other blocs, e.g., the logging concessionaires, behave. Virata’s was, therefore, only one of the networks that connected to the Marcos hub. Its importance was its ability to access loans and foreign assistance from the IMF and World Bank for the Marcos hub.

The declaration of martial law highlighted the compartmentalization of the Virata network as an economic network, as the technocrats were kept in the dark about the declaration of martial law. It also highlighted the importance of Marcos’s political networks, i.e., those that were involved in the planning of martial law. The declaration of martial law also established Marcos as the major hub in Philippine politics, with which the Virata network was well-connected because of its important role in accessing World Bank and IMF loans. But this would only be the case for as long as the US hub, which the IMF and World Bank were connected to, supported Marcos’s declaration of martial law. Thus, the two very important hubs for Virata—the Marcos hub and the US network, or the World Bank and IMF hub—continued to give the Virata network the leverage it needed.

The Virata network, however, would go up against other formidable networks. Foremost was that of First Lady Imelda Marcos, who would use other sources of government funds, thus bypassing the Virata network, to finance her personal projects. Marcos allowed this to happen. The network of oligarchs and politicians who were all linked to the Marcos hub were viewed by Virata also as hindrances to his economic decision making, but they were not as significant as Marcos’s chief cronies, Benedicto and Cojuangco. Virata’s leverage vis-à-vis the chief cronies was the support his network received from the IMF and World Bank, which were not happy with the cronies’ monopoly over industries since that blocked the entry of foreign, particularly US, companies into the country. Marcos generally sided with his cronies but would later get pressured by the United States as well as the IMF and World Bank to curb crony capitalism by giving the Virata network not only economic but also political power, as seen in the appointment of Virata as prime minister. This was despite the opposition of networks under Marcos’s political party, the KBL, which were all linked with the Marcos hub and were up against the Virata network. These included Imelda Marcos’s network of technocrats and Marcos’s crony networks, political allies and networks, and Cabinet officials who were not economic technocrats. These networks all believed that they were being undermined by the Virata network under the tutelage of the IMF and World Bank. It is ironic that during the pre-martial law period this was not the case, as the Virata network had a good relationship with Marcos’s party members in the Nacionalista Party. During the economic crisis in the early 1980s, the Virata network had the upper hand as Marcos needed to get IMF and World Bank loans. Thus, Marcos also told his KBL party mates and their respective networks to stop criticizing Virata and his technocrats.

For Virata, the breakdown of his network was due to the failing health of Marcos during a period of economic crisis that was aggravated with the assassination of Ninoy Aquino. These situations witnessed the takeover of power by the networks of Imelda Marcos and General Ver’s faction of the military network. This led to the rapid decline of support for Marcos from the business community and the Church and an increase in support for the CPP-NPA-NDF. Both these networks joined forces to strengthen the anti-dictatorship struggle. The situation did not augur well for the United States, but it found an alternative to Marcos in the person of Corazon Aquino. By then the Virata network had begun to lose its support from the IMF and World Bank, and with the calling of snap elections by Marcos and his offer of the position of prime minister to Enrile, Virata saw the collapse of his network, which had lost its link with its two important hubs, those of Marcos and the United States. The shifting of US support to Corazon Aquino and the 1986 People Power Revolution also prevented the toppling of the US and IMF-World Bank hubs, which were perceived by the Philippine Left as having supported the Marcos dictatorship.

The rise and fall of the Philippine technocracy, therefore, was dependent on four important nodes that were transformed into hubs: the Virata, Marcos, US, and IMF-World Bank nodes. Virata became the hub for the technocracy dealing with the IMF and World Bank. The fate of this hub was also dependent on the power given to it by the Marcos hub, which controlled political and economic power, and the other hubs that were linked to it, e.g., Marcos’s relatives and cronies, the business community, political allies, and the military, among others. The IMF-World Bank hub was the one that extended the loans needed by the Marcos government through the Virata network. The loans, though, needed the approval of the United States. For Barabasi (2009, 211), one way of avoiding the cascading failures that brought about the downfall of the Virata network was to abandon hierarchical thinking, which he points out did not fit the network economy. He elaborates that in

traditional organizations, rapid shifts can be made within organizations, with any resulting losses being offset by gains on other parts of the hierarchy. In a network economy, each node must be profitable. Failing to understand this, the big players of the network game exposed themselves to the risks of connectedness without benefiting from its advantages. (ibid., 213)

For Barabasi (ibid., 192), the Achilles’ heel of the network was the vulnerability of the hubs. In the case of the technocracy network, as well as the other networks linked to Marcos, the Achilles’ heel was that they were dependent on Marcos; and when Marcos became ill, he could not stay in command. With the growing opposition to the Marcos dictatorship, the United States began to look for an alternative, and it found one in Corazon Aquino. The only member of the technocracy who joined the opposition was Paterno, who went on to become a senator as part of the Aquino administration’s senatorial lineup during the 1988 elections.

Virata’s dispensability was further seen after the 1986 People Power Revolution, when President Corazon Aquino appointed technocrats to important positions: among others Jaime Ongpin as secretary of finance and Jose Concepcion as secretary of trade and industry. Jose Fernandez was retained as Central Bank governor. With the exception of Solita Monsod, who was the NEDA director general, they all shared the same economic perspective or development paradigm of the IMF and World Bank. This assured the new Aquino government of continuing loans from these two international financial institutions and, more important, the support of the United States. What emerged is what Barabasi (ibid., 221) calls “a web without a spider,” where there is no centralized star network. Instead, there is a

hierarchy of hubs that keep these networks together, a heavily connected node closely followed by several less connected ones, trailed by dozens of even smaller nodes. No central node sits in the middle of the spider web, controlling and monitoring every link and node. There is no single node whose removal could break the web. A scale-free network is a web without a spider. (ibid.)

A web without a spider might have been possible under a democracy, but under an authoritarian political environment where Virata’s technocracy network prospered and later on collapsed, it would have been difficult to attain.

Accepted: January 21, 2016


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1) See Tadem (2012a; 2014, 345–348).

2) See Tadem (2013). My other writing which combine both frameworks are the following: Tadem (2015b; 2012a; 2012b).

3) In contrast, the lower-level white-collar workers and the declining blue-collar workers make up the lower middle-class segment of the new middle class (Glassman 1995, 307).

4) Virata’s father was a product of the public school system and was sent to Harvard University as a pensionado. His grandparents owned a fishpond, rice lands, and a coconut farm; and his grandmother made patis (fish sauce) (Virata, interview by Yutaka Katayama, Cayetano Paderanga, and Teresa S. Encarnacion Tadem, tape recording, November 21, 2007, RCBC Plaza, Makati City, Philippines).

5) Placido Mapa, interview by Yutaka Katayama and Teresa S. Encarnacion Tadem, tape recording, March 13, 2009, Metrobank Plaza, Gil Puyat Avenue, Makati City, Philippines.

6) Manuel Alba, interview by Yutaka Katayama and Teresa S. Encarnacion Tadem, tape recording, December 12, 2008, Third World Studies Center, G/F Palma Hall, College of Social Sciences and Philosophy, University of the Philippines, Diliman.

7) Rafael Salas would become Marcos’s executive secretary. Virata’s uncle Leonides Virata was at that time the director of economic research with the Central Bank. But this did not seem to play a part in Virata’s recruitment into government.

8) Cesar E. A. Virata, interview by Yutaka Katayama and Cayetano Paderanga, tape recording, December 13, 2007, RCBC Plaza, Makati City, Philippines.

9) Armand V. Fabella, interview by Yutaka Katayama, Cayetano Paderanga, Temario Rivera, and Teresa S. Encarnacion Tadem, tape recording, August 11, 2008, Fabella Residence, Harvard St., Wack Wack Subdivision, Mandaluyong City, Philippines.

10) Mapa, interview, March 13, 2009.

11) Placido Mapa, interview by Yutaka Katayama, Cayetano Paderanga, Temario Rivera, and Teresa S. Encarnacion Tadem, tape recording, March 27, 2009, Metrobank Plaza, Gil Puyat Avenue, Makati City, Philippines.

12) Fabella, interview, August 11, 2008.

13) Horacio “Boy” Morales Jr., interview by Yutaka Katayama, Cayetano Paderanga, and Teresa S. Encarnacion Tadem, tape recording, August 14, 2009, Third World Studies Center Office, Palma Hall, University of the Philippines, Diliman, Quezon City; Onofre D. Corpuz, interview by Yutaka Katayama, Cayetano Paderanga, and Teresa S. Encarnacion Tadem, tape recording, January 25, 2008, Corpuz Residence, UP Professors Village, Tandang Sora, Quezon City, Philippines.

14) Horacio “Boy” Morales Jr., interview, August 14, 2009.

15) Mapa, interview, March 13, 2009.

16) Mapa, interview, March 13, 2009.

17) Virata, interview, November 21, 2007.

18) Mapa, interview, March 13, 2009.

19) Mapa, interview, March 13, 2009.

20) Cesar E. A. Virata, interview by Yutaka Katayama, Cayetano Paderanga, and Teresa S. Encarnacion Tadem, tape recording, May 2, 2008, RCBC Plaza, Makati City, Philippines.

21) Virata, interview, May 2, 2008.

22) Vicente T. Paterno, interview by Yutaka Katayama, Temario Rivera, and Teresa S. Encarnacion Tadem, tape recording, August 15, 2008, 11th Floor Columbia Tower Ortigas Ave., Mandaluyong City, Philippines.

23) Cesar E. A. Virata, interview by Cayetano Paderanga, and Teresa S. Encarnacion Tadem, tape recording, September 30, 2008, RCBC Plaza, Makati City, Philippines.

24) Mapa, interview, March 13, 2009.

25) The Philippines Consultative Group’s chairman was from the World Bank. Its membership included representatives from the IMF and major lending countries such as the United States, large private bank consortia tied with the debt package, and the Asian Development Bank. This Consultative Group determines how public and private funds are to be spent as well as decides the country’s financial strategy, ranging from taxation policies to anti-inflation programs (Wellons 1977).

26) Virata, interview, December 13, 2007.

27) Cesar E. A. Virata, interview by Yutaka Katayama and Teresa S. Encarnacion Tadem, tape recording, November 23, 2007, RCBC Plaza, Makati City, Philippines.

28) Virata, interview, May 2, 2008.

29) Virata, interview, November 21, 2007.

30) Virata, interview, November 23, 2007.

31) For further details of Philippine technocracy and policy making during the pre-martial law period, see Tadem (2015b).

32) Mapa, interview, March 13, 2009.

33) “Rolex 12,”

34) The “Rolex 12” consisted of Philippine Constabulary Vice Chief Tomas Diaz, Minister of Defense Juan Ponce Enrile, Chief of the Armed Forces of the Philippines Romeo Espino, Chief of the Philippine Constabulary Metropolitan Command Romeo Gatan, Chief of the Philippine Constabulary Metropolitan Command Alfredo Montoya, Chief of the Intelligence Services of the Armed Forces of the Philippines Ignacio Paz, Chief of the Philippine Constabulary Fidel Ramos, Chief of the Philippine Air Force Jose Rancudo, Chief of the Philippine Navy Hilario Ruiz, Chief of the Philippine Army Rafael Zagala, Chief of the National Intelligence Security Authority Fabian Ver, and Eduardo “Danding” Cojuangco Jr. (

35) Virata, interview, December 13, 2007.

36) Virata, interview, May 2, 2008.

37) Virata, interview, November 21, 2007.

38) Mapa, interview, March 13, 2009.

39) Mapa, interview, March 13, 2009.

40) Fabella, interview, August 11, 2008.

41) Alba, interview, December 12, 2008.

42) Placido Mapa, interview by Yutaka Katayama, Cayetano Paderanga, and Teresa S. Encarnacion Tadem, tape recording, April 22, 2009, Metrobank Plaza, Gil Puyat Avenue, Makati City, Philippines.

43) Sicat was all set to join the Economic Growth Center at Yale University when Virata prevailed on him to chair the National Economic Council (Virata, interview, November 21, 2007).

44) Mapa together with Cesar Zalamea headed the Presidential Economic Staff when Virata was recruited to join this government agency.

45) Paterno said that Virata and Mapa were the ones who recruited him to the Board of Investments in 1969, when he was ready to leave his private sector job in the Manila Electric Company, Meralco (Paterno, interview, August 15, 2008).

46) Roberto “Bobby” Ongpin was Virata’s deputy in the Presidential Economic Staff. Ongpin also worked in SGV when Virata was with the accounting firm.

47) Paterno, interview, August 15, 2008.

48) Virata, interview, November 21, 2007.

49) Virata, interview, November 21, 2007.

50) Conrado Benitez obtained his PhD in Education at Stanford University and was considered to be an Imelda Marcos technocrat and her right-hand person for development projects.

51) Benjamin “Kokoy” Romualdez was known to operate the “real” Department of Foreign Affairs. He took the lead in the negotiations on the bases agreement with the United States.

52) Roman “Jun” Cruz headed the Government Service Insurance System, or GSIS, which is in charge of government employees’ pension funds.

53) Cesar E. A. Virata, interview by Yutaka Katayama, Cayetano Paderanga, and Teresa S. Encarnacion Tadem, tape recording, November 28, 2007, RCBC Plaza, Makati City, Philippines.

54) The SSS took care of the pensions of employees in the private sector.

55) Cesar E. A. Virata, interview by Cayetano Paderanga, Temario Rivera, and Teresa S. Encarnacion Tadem, tape recording, July 29, 2008, RCBC Plaza, Makati City, Philippines.

56) Virata, interview, December 13, 2007.

57) Enrile was Marcos’s minister of defense.

58) The KBL was the political party that Marcos created during the martial law period.

59) “Amboy,” an abbreviation for “American boy,” is a moniker used for someone who represents the interests of the United States (Virata, interview, November 28, 2007).

60) Fernandez replaced Laya as Central Bank governor. This was because Laya was accused of “window dressing” the dollar reserves of the Central Bank to prevent the IMF and World Bank from seeing that the level of international resources had reached a dangerously low level (Galang 1983, 72). Virata said they needed to get a technocrat who was not identified with the Marcos government, and Fernandez was such a person (Virata, interview, May 2, 2008).

61) Virata, interview, July 29, 2008.

62) Tuvera was Marcos’s senior presidential assistant from 1978 to 1986.

63) Fabella, interview, August 11, 2008.

64) Mapa, interview, March 13, 2009.

65) Mapa, interview, April 22, 2009.

66) Virata, interview, November 23, 2007.

67) Virata, interview, November 23, 2007. Ver was Marcos’s trusted aide. He was Marcos’s former driver and hailed from Ilocos Norte, the same province as Marcos. Marcos chose Ver to be the chief of the Armed Forces of the Philippines over his own second cousin, Fidel V. Ramos, who was viewed as the next chief with the retirement of Romeo Espino, due to seniority.

68) The Church hierarchy included Jaime Cardinal Sin, who together with Corazon Aquino called for the People Power Revolution in 1986. The Church hierarchy is considered as mainly appealing to the Filipino middle class.

69) Reyes became secretary of the Departments of Environment as well as Energy under the Gloria Macapagal Arroyo administration (2001–10).

70) RAM was the network of Honasan, which staged a mutiny during the 1986 People Power Revolution. It consisted of military officers who were disgruntled over the corruption in the military. RAM, which was nurtured by Enrile, consisted mainly of the lower ranks in the military, i.e., colonels, lieutenants, and others. Virata, who said he appointed Reyes as his director for information for the Office of the Prime Minister to monitor, in particular, intelligence reports, abandoned him during the 1986 People Power Revolution. Virata said he had to seek refuge in Cavite, where the governor was his friend (Virata, interview, November 23, 2007).

71) Paterno left the KBL after calling on the Batasang Pambansa (National Legislative Assembly) to institutionalize reforms such as a freer press, fair elections, and identification and punishment of those behind the Aquinas assassination (Situationer 1983, 152).

72) Cesar E. A. Virata, interview by Yutaka Katayama, Cayetano Paderanga, and Teresa S. Encarnacion Tadem, tape recording, June 24, 2008, RCBC Plaza, Makati City, Philippines.

73) Virata, interview, November 23, 2007; Virata, interview, June 24, 2008.

74) Virata, interview, November 23, 2007.

75) Virata, interview, December 13, 2007.

76) Virata, interview, June 24, 2008.

77) Virata, interview, June 24, 2008. Cesar E. A. Virata, interview by Cayetano Paderanga and Teresa S. Encarnacion Tadem, tape recording, September 2, 2008, RCBC Plaza, Makati City, Philippines.

78) What brought down the Marcos hub is based on the perspective of Virata as collaborated by secondary materials used in this article. There are, however, other views with regard to this—for instance, that the Marcos hub collapsed because of the strength of the opposition against Marcos led by Corazon Aquino and Jaime Cardinal Sin, which was complemented by the military mutiny of Marcos’s Secretary of Defense Juan Ponce Enrile and Philippine National Police Chief Commander Fidel V. Ramos.


Vol. 1, No. 1 of Southeast Asian Studies

Published in April, 2012


Caring for the Dead Ritually in Cambodia ・・・ John Clifford HOLT pdficon_large
State Recognition or State Appropriation?
Land Rights and Land Disputes among the Bugkalot/Ilongot
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Javanese Women and Islam: Identity Formation since the Twentieth Century ・・・ Kurniawati Hastuti Dewi pdficon_large
Research Report
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Book Reviews
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Caroline S. Hau and Kasian Tejapira, eds. Traveling Nation-Makers: Transnational Flows and Movements in the Making of Modern Southeast Asia. Singapore: National University of Singapore Press in association with Kyoto University Press, 2011, 318 p. ・・・ Thanet Aphornsuvan pdficon_large
Paulin G. Djité. The Language Difference: Language and Development in the Greater Mekong Sub-Region. Bristol: Multilingual Matters, 2011, 264 p.
Andy Kirkpatrick. English as a Lingua Franca in ASEAN: A Multilingual Model. Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press, 2010, 236 p.
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Kate Lazarus, Nathan Badenoch, Nga Dao and Bernadette P. Resurreccion, eds. Water Rights and Social Justice in the Mekong Region. London and Washington, D.C.: Earthscan, 2011, 285 p. ・・・ CHEN Jianming pdficon_large
Michael R. Dove, Percy E. Sajise and Amity A. Doolittle, eds.
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Lye Liang Fook and Chen Gang, eds. Towards a Liveable and Sustainable Urban Environment: Eco-Cities in East Asia. Singapore: World Scientific Publishing, 2010, 222 p. ・・・ Zhiqun ZHU pdficon_large
John Nery. Revolutionary Spirit: Jose Rizal in Southeast Asia. Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, 2011, 280 p. ・・・ Erwin S. FERNANDEZ pdficon_large