THE PHILIPPINES CONTINUED to be primarily a rural society in 1990, despite increasing signs of urbanization. The family remained the prime unit of social awareness, and ritual kin relations and associations of a patron-client nature still were the basis for social groupings beyond the nuclear family, rather than horizontal ties forged among members of economically based social classes. Because of a common religious tradition and the spread of Pilipino as a widely used, if not thoroughly accepted, national language, Filipinos were a relatively homogeneous population, with the important exceptions of the Muslim minority on Mindanao and in Sulu and southern Palawan provinces, and the upland tribal minorities sprinkled throughout the islands. Filipinos shared a common set of values emphasizing social acceptance as a primary virtue and a common world view in which education served as the principal avenue for upward social mobility. Cleavages in the society were based primarily on religious (in the case of Muslims versus Christians), sociocultural (in the case of upland tribes versus lowland coastal Filipinos), and urban-rural differences, rather than ethnic or racial considerations.
Improvements in the national transportation system and in mass communications in most parts of the archipelago in the 1970s and 1980s tended to reduce ethnolinguistic and regional divisions among lowland Filipinos, who made up more than 90 percent of the population. Some resistance to this cultural homogeneity remained, however, and continued regional identification was manifested in loyalty to regional languages and in opposition to the imposition of a national language based largely on Tagalog, the language of the Manila area.
Large numbers of rural migrants continued to flow into the huge metropolitan areas, especially Metro Manila. Filipinos also migrated in substantial numbers to the United States and other countries. Many of these migrants, especially those to the Middle East, migrated only to find temporary employment and retained their Philippine domiciles.
There has been a significant shift in the composition of the elite as a result of political and economic policies following the end of the administration of President Ferdinand E. Marcos in 1986. Some of the elite families displaced by the Marcos regime regained wealth and influence, and many of the families enjoying power, privilege, and prestige in the early l990s were not the same as those enjoying similar status a decade earlier. The abolition of monopolistic marketing boards, along with some progress in privatization, has eliminated the economic base of some of Marcos's powerful associates.
As a result of economic policies that permitted fruit and logging companies to expand their landholdings, previously formed by tribal people, and to push farther and farther into the mountains to exploit timber resources, upland tribal people have been threatened and dislocated, and the country's rich rain forests have suffered. Despite government efforts to instill respect for cultural diversity, it remained to be seen whether minorities and the ecosystem they shared would survive the onslaught of powerful economic forces that include the migration of thousands of lowland Filipinos to the frontier areas on Mindanao, as well as the intrusion of corporate extractive industries. Even if these influences were held in check, the attraction of lowland society might wean the tribal people from their customary way of life.
Although it would seem that the continued high rate of population growth aggravated the state of the Philippine economy and health care, population growth did not seem to be a major concern of the government. Roman Catholic clergy withdrew cooperation from the Population Control Commission (Popcom) and sought its elimination. The commission was retained, and government efforts to reduce population growth continued but hardly on a scale likely to produce major results.