A Brush with Philippine Oligarchies

Luis Bienvenido Foronda
2 min readOct 29, 2020

Last September 2020, I was invited by a group to write on the history behind Philippine oligarchies. The advocates, who call themselves the ‘Socio-Political Grill’ (SPG) released a series of infographics that were meant to educate a social media audience.

The team was composed of people from various backgrounds ranging from education, political science, economics, and developmental studies majors.

The project was conceptualized as a response to the ever-growing need to evaluate the political scenery in the country which has since been dominated by the elite ruling-class causing an overgrowth in political dynasties.

A series of four illustrations that sum up the concept and history of Philippine oligarchies (SPG, 2020).

From the outset, the goal of the project was to provide brief histories, portfolios, and controversies that have since been linked to mandalas (centers of power) in the Philippines.

Originally, the project was meant to isolate and evaluate powerful Filipino politicians from a behavioralist appraisal of nepotism and redistribution of wealth. Yet when the team consulted with me, I suggested that they approach the topic by looking at the smallest unit in society — the family.

I broached the idea of using definitive readings in Philippine Social History like Dante Simbulan’s Modern Principalia (University of the Philippines Press); Shiela Coronel, et al’s The Rulemakers (Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism); and Alfred McCoy’s An Anarchy of Families (Ateneo de Manila University Press).

These books called to attention how various authors tried to form concepts on the Filipino ruling oligarchy as a family that better narrates the dynamics as its own mandala in Southeast Asia.

I also suggested visual representations to be used and managed most of the social media engagement.

SPG’s appraisal of these notions was critical in citing the economic, historical, political, and legal developments of each family in coming to power.

In hindsight, the project calls to mind the right and privilege of every Filipino citizen, young and old, to vote responsibly in the upcoming local and national elections in 2022.

The families evaluated were the Ayalas, Marcos, Lopez, Cojuangco-Aquinos, and Villars. SPG’s series will go on from September till December of 2020.

You may find more of these here: https://www.facebook.com/TheSPGrill.