After President Benigno Simeon C. Aquino III delivered his final State of the Nation Address on July 27, Sen. Grace L. Poe had this to say in an interview, “All of the important and key [officials in his administration] who come out with tough decisions are women. So I am grateful to the President for seeing the potential and courage of a woman.”

Poe’s remark reflects incontrovertible evidence presented by an NBC Universal-sponsored study on the modern Asian woman, “The high-heeled warriors.”

This research notes that Asean women account for 32% of senior management roles, easily surpassing the 21-percent global share.

Asian women’s prominent status extends to the home where 31% of them are chief income earners and heads of household.

Remarkably, the NBC findings also show that Filipino women who are in senior management roles (39 percent) outshine American women in that aspect (only 17 percent).

Reinforcing this asset are the educational accomplishments of Filipino women, 85 percent of whom hold undergraduate or graduate school diplomas.

The Asean average of 73% pales in comparison.

The current data and our leaders’ keen appreciation of Filipino women’s distinguished contributions to society are resoundingly echoed by my groundbreaking study of 620 Bicolano women which yielded a 95-percent confidence level in the results with a margin of error of 5 points.

In this pioneering work, I hypothesized that Bicolano women, mired in a 70% regional poverty rate far exceeding the current national self-rated poverty rate of 51% are burdened by feelings of personal powerlessness or the belief that human beings are helpless victims of fate and uncontrollable external forces such as luck and random events.

Powerlessness is synonymous with learned helplessness whose symptoms include chronic depression and persistent feelings of incompetence and worthlessness.

Employing a causal modeling approach, I extended this basic hypothesis with the proposition that powerlessness generates sequelae of crippling perceptions such as low self-esteem, low expectations of success in personal ventures, and a weak propensity for self-improvement.

Much to my delight and burgeoning Filipino pride, I found that despite the overwhelming specter of poverty’s daily grind, Bicolano women unequivocably displayed, instead of powerlessness, strong perceptions of self-efficacy or personal control, conceptualized as the perception that inherent ability and individual effort determine the consequences of one’s actions.

Such high levels of personal control generated among Bicolano women a causal chain of elevated self-esteem or self-worth, a pronounced propensity for self-improvement, albeit relatively low success expectations.

Fortunately, my account does not end here with an anti-climactic tone because my research further unearthed the reality that potential powerlessness, as a likely fallout of poverty, was effectively countered by Bicolano women’s strong achievement ethic as measured by an original and validated scale tapping respondents’ valuation of and regard for merit- and effort-based achievements.

Moreover, the debilitating effects of powerlessness were overshadowed by Bicolano women’s high educational attainment, evidenced by a higher percentage of baccalaureate and graduate school degrees compared to that of their male counterparts.

Similarly, also compensating for the paralysis of powerlessness was the presence of a nurturing and supportive kinship system composed of the nuclear family, an ever-present extended family, and an extensive “adopted kin” network of peers, colleagues and intimate lifelong friends.

Even the Bicolano women’s low success expectations were mitigated by an unwavering achievement ethic transformed into inspired action, commendable educational credentials, and an all-pervasive, protective mantle provided by overarching and highly influential support groups.

We Filipinos generally enshrine our women on a pedestal with the concomitant awe, deep admiration, respect and caring.

With our women working as partners with the menfolk, there is absolutely no reason why we, as a united front, cannot soon achieve a developed-country status, a widely-held contention of 80 percent of our countrymen, per the President’s valedictory SONA.

All we need now is to get our act together and start pronto to subsume personal interest to the common weal, eschew mediocrity and pettiness in our communities and, most importantly, conscientiously elect leaders with inspired and articulated national and global visions.

These visions should be combined with an empathetic, compassionate heart open to emergent ideas, fearless and unwavering in molding a proud and united nation where the good of all along with the least of our brethren trumps unbridled personal ambition and egocentric materialism.


Freddie R. Obligacion, sociology professor, consultant and dissertation/thesis mentor, is an alumnus of the Ohio State University-Columbus (MA, Ph.D. Sociology) and the University of the Philippines-Diliman (MBA Honors, BS Psych., magna cum laude). He is currently researching leadership attribute preferences, presidential polling techniques, as well as the social-psychological correlates of environmental degradation, prejudice, gender inequality, Filipino religiosity, and educational achievements. Contact This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

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