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Population, Social Structure

Family relationships are the basic building block of Philippine society. Each Filipino is at the center of a large circle of relatives, usually extending to third cousins. Marriage is rarely permitted for members of the same kinship circle. The kinship circle is customarily enlarged through compadrazgo, or ritual co-parenthood, the Catholic custom of selecting godparents to sponsor one's child at baptism. In the close-knit Filipino family, members are provided assistance when needed and expected to give their first loyalty to their kin. In rural areas the barangays (villages) contain sitios, or clusters of households, of an extended family. The social support provided by these close-knit communities is reflected in the absence of such institutions as retirement homes and orphanages.

Filipino women, usually called Filipinas, have more social equality than women in most countries in Southeast Asia. Since precolonial times, their social status has been generally equal to that of men. In the bilateral kinship system that is traditional in the Philippines, descent is traced equally through both male and female lineages. Because a woman's lineage is equally valued, her rights to property and inheritance are not questioned. Today educated women in the Philippines are strongly represented in politics, business, and the professions. At home women usually manage the family income and are the primary caretakers of children.

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