Period: 3 June 2003 - 12 December 2003. Country: Philippines
(1) Social Change in Coconut Farming Areas in Luzon, Philippines: A Case Study in Laguna Province
FUJII Miho   (Division of Southeast Asian Area Studies)
Key Words: Smallholder, Economic Activity, Coconut Farming, Land Ownership, "Upland" Area

The cultivated fields on Mt. Banahaw and San Cristobal, referred to as "homestead," were cleared by the villagers' ancestors. Because the area is on state land, the fields are not subject to private ownership despite being tilled for a number of generations. In the 1970s, the villagers lived in huts on the mountain slopes to cultivate vegetables.
Young farmers cultivate vegetables on the mountain slopes, 600 meters above sea level. They reluctantly work on vegetable farms due to a lack of other job opportunities despite having finished high school.
(2)  In my doctoral dissertation I am exploring how and what social changes have taken place from the end of World War II until the present in a coconut farming area in Laguna Province, the Philippines, by analyzing the local people's kinship organization, land tenure and economic activities from a historical perspective.
           Coconut cultivation has a long history in my research area, which lies on the slopes of Mount Banahaw in Laguna Province, southern Tagalog. The province was widely known as a production center of coconut liquor (lambanog) in Luzon already in the mid-19th century. During the subsequent American colonial period, it developed as a center for the coconut industry in southern Tagalog. Coconut cultivation is still predominant in the mountainous and hillside areas of the province. The total area under cultivation accounts for about 70% of the entire farmland of the province.
          Most researches on rural communities in Luzon have focused on land ownership and sharecrop relations in rice-cultivating villages in the "lowland." These researches have led to the accumulation of a large amount of detailed data on the conspicuous changes brought about by the green revolution and land reform in the Philippines on the social stratum.
          They also focus on factors of social contradiction, conflicts between landowners and tenant-farmers in lowland areas, and changes in the landownership system. As a result, there has been little research on small landholding farmers, along with the coconut cultivation areas which have not been subjected to land reform, in comparison to research on the rice-cultivating areas. Moreover, with regard to Laguna, the coconut-cultivating areas have been conceived as merely a peripheral region supporting the social structure of the rice-growing lowlands. In general, therefore, the lowland Christian communities of Filipino society have been the main focus of research on land issues.
         People in the research site and in Laguna Province in general regard the coconut areas at the foot of Mount Banahaw and the hillsides as "upland" (itaas) areas, as distinguished from the lowlands. The ecology, land ownership, and livelihood in the "upland" areas are different from those in the lowland rice farming areas. Therefore, while sharing many cultural elements with the lowland Christian society, the "upland" areas can be considered to be a relatively independent and distinctive area.
          This research focuses on land, the most valuable asset in most small landholding farm societies in the "upland" areas. It analyzes the process of change in the relations between land use and family land ownership, and elucidates the mechanism of social change in the "upland" areas.

(3) For the present fieldwork, I carried out field research for a total of five months in 2003 (June 3rd - September 29; November, 10 - December 12) at the foot of Mt. Banahaw and Mt. San Cristobal in Laguna Province, the Philippines. I selected as my site of research a village in this area where many of the people are small landholding farmers.
           Because this research examines the link between land ownership and social relations, it focuses on two aspects relating to the land issue:
          First, it looks at the changing social organization in an "upland" area in Laguna Province in relation to the kinship system, and the role of land ownership in this process of change. In addition, informal interviews were conducted to collect data on land use and ownership both inside and outside the village in the 1970s and at present. Topics included the size of land owned by the villagers, the types and number of crops being cultivated in each land parcel, and other uses of land such as hog-raising. Moreover, based on these data, I made several cadastral and land-use maps. Second, the research examines the local conditions for livelihood at the research site. It looks at the village people's recognition of the space in which they make their living, and their land use. The following three points were clarified as a result:

  1. The social hierarchy is based on the size of land holdings. When asked about the situation in the past and at present, people in the village offered responses such as: "We are different from the villages in the lowland. In our village there are neither big landowners nor landless people. That is why our village has neither millionaire nor poor persons unlike those in the lowland." Likewise, they often emphasized that there were no differences among the village people, because they were almost equal. In reality, however, there are social differences among the people in the village based on land ownership. Research on the size of land ownership from a historical perspective shows that some people have owned much more land than others, although they are not comparable to the big landowners in the lowland rice-cultivating areas.
  2. Land ownership is inseparable from the concept of "honor." For the villagers, of the various land parcels that one person possesses in different parts of the mountainous area constitute one entire property. When it has been maintained and inherited for several generations, it gives the family a high ranking in the social strata. These landholding families are not willing to sell even small pieces of land, and try to retain them as much as possible. In turn, those who belong to this higher social stratum are expected by the village people to behave with "honor." The expected behavior is commensurate to the scale of the property and is displayed by "giving" generously to those who belong to the lower stratum. Thus the village people classify themselves into either the "giving" or the "receiving" side. Such a relationship could be clearly observed both in religious ceremonies and in mundane economic activities, the latter of which are not only determined by market economy forces but are intricately entangled with acts of "honor."
  3. The villagers make detailed classifications of their land according to its elevation, terrain, soil and so forth. Based on this classification, they carefully select suitable crops for each parcel and infer when the best season for planting them is. This local knowledge on land and agriculture is closely intertwined with many aspects of land use, land ownership and resource management.
21st Century COE Program -Aiming for COE of Integrated Area Studies-  HOME