Although digital modes of communication are increasingly becoming ubiquitous, some information channels and discussion spaces within the community remain highly important especially in the grassroots level. In the barangay (village), local leaders hold face-to-face activities to disseminate information, as in the case of public consultations, health seminars, among others. As the "basic unit of governance", the barangay "serves as the primary planning and implementing unit of government policies, plans, programs, projects, and activities in the community", as per the 1991 Local Government Code of the Philippines. Although insufficient funding hinders "any significant infrastructure development or institution building in the barangay" level, it is still found to be effective in "resolving people disputes" and attending to "civic and civil matters" (Punongbayan, 2018). For this reason, barangay leaders are tapped by higher officials in introducing programs to constituents and soliciting support during electoral campaigns.
Barangay officials are also starting to use digital tools in increasing community participation especially during assemblies. For instance, in some villages, the councils use Facebook and even Twitter for information dissemination and event documentation. The "Events" feature of Facebook is even used by a number of barangay councils as far as the northern Mindanao region in the southern Philippines (Gepuela, 2017). The Philippine Communications Operations Office, tasked with disseminating information about the executive branch of the government, declared in 2018 that it will provide satellite receivers with internet access to the over 42,000 barangays in the country (Musico, 2018).
For barangay workers and volunteers, the SMS was also described as a "convenient" way to instruct or to inform stakeholders (Sumaylo, 2013, p. 106). For example, in Sumaylo’s (2013) study, barangay health workers (BHWs) in a village in Mindanao reported that text messaging is the most commonly used medium in their work. Interestingly, SMS is still perceived as an "informal" channel in the community, so BHWs feel the need to "reinforce" this with "face-to-face interaction" (p 106). In most rural areas where 3G and 4G signal are either absent or inconsistent, it is not surprising that text messaging appears to be the most commonly used medium by those working in the grassroots level, reinforced by face-to-face interaction and vice versa.
Religious leaders in the community are also a force to be reckoned with, as church activities and gatherings become venues for networking, information dissemination, or simply connecting with groups of the same interest. An overwhelming 86 percent of the population is Roman Catholic, thus the label "only Christian nation in Asia" (Miller, 2019), an outcome of over 300 years of Spanish colonisation. About six percent belong to other nationalised Catholic denominations, while some two percent belong to over 100 Protestant denominations.
The country also has a four percent Muslim minority, most of which are in the southern part of the archipelago (according to the Philippine Statistics Authority in 2017, 93 percent of Muslims in the country reside in Mindanao), and a two percent minority following "non-Western", indigenous beliefs (Miller, 2019). In Mindanao, several areas have suffered under decades of conflict between the Philippine military and Muslim armed groups, such as the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) and its splinter group Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). It should be noted, however, that these groups also have Lumad members, or members from indigenous groups. As Özerdem and Podder (2012) noted, recruitments into such groups "is not simply about religion or ideology", such categorisation is a "simplification of its underlying support base" (p 521). Deeply entrenched poverty, geographical location, and a "disparity in governance delivery" are also decisive factors (Communicating with Disaster Affected Communities, 2012; p 8; Özerdem and Podder, 2012, p 521). The insurgency is rooted on the struggle for self-determination – the autonomy of the Moro people in a reclaimed ancestral domain. The 40-year conflict has left at least 120,000 dead in affected areas (Ishii, 2013).
Filipinos in general have "conservative" views on issues, owing largely to their adherence to Catholic teachings (Lipka, 2015). For instance, 67 percent of Filipinos find divorce "morally unacceptable", which for comparison is three times the number of Americans who share the same view. In fact, apart from the Vatican, the Philippines is the only country in the world that does not allow any form of divorce (except for Muslims). Ninety-three percent of the population also view abortion as immoral, which makes the country the most "universally opposed to abortion on moral grounds" among the 40 nations surveyed in a 2015 study by Lipka. Ironically, church attendance among Catholics has declined by 24 percentage points from 1991 (64 percent) to 2017 (40 percent) (Social Weather Stations, 2018), posing the question: is the influence of the Catholic church fading in Filipino communities? The decline in church attendance can also be discussed vis-à-vis the outright hostility of the incumbent Philippine president toward Catholic bishops (Reuters, 2019). President Rodrigo Duterte has denounced the bishops in several profanity-laden speeches after the latter criticized the administration over the anti-drug operations that have claimed over 5,000 lives (Reuters, 2019). However, empirical research has yet to be done to examine the links between attitudes toward the current administration and church influence.
As a predominantly Christian country, the Philippines is home to hundreds of religious festivals – known as the "fiesta" – honoring the patron saint of the town or city. Such occasions become venues for community gatherings as people participate in a string of activities on the day or even the week of the festival, which includes a mass, processions, games, beauty pageants, parades, among others. Many of these festivals were a kind of "religious syncretism", in which Filipino indigenous beliefs and practices (Filipinos mostly held "animistic" beliefs prior to Spanish intervention) were blended with European Catholic practice (Russell, 2010). Catholic missionaries were also believed to have created the "fiesta" to "gradually persuade the population to convert to the Roman Catholic faith" (Ethnic Groups Philippines, 2016). Other festivals are rooted on farming traditions, appreciation for nature (such as the Halamanan Festival in Bulacan province), and the promotion of the flagship product or commodity in the area.
In a study done on 10 barangays or villages in the province of Batangas, community members "strongly agreed that [festivals] help in the preservation of local culture and traditions" (Gonzales, 2017, p 14). Festivals also "help recreate the image of the town" in tourism (p 14), but several critics pointed out that indigenous rituals can be distorted and festivals can be heavily "commercialised", losing the essence of the event as a community practice. In the case the Panagbenga festival, the annual flower festival in the northern city of Baguio, critics believed that "the solemn and sacred traditions of the ethnic people [are] being reduced as mere entertainment to tourists" (The Manila Times, 2016).
The Philippines is home to about 14-17 million indigenous people belonging to around 110 ethno-linguistic groups (United Nations Development Programme or UNDP, 2013). These people were largely excluded from the waves of colonisation since the Spanish rule, thus retaining most of their animistic beliefs and rituals. There is a rich diversity of practices, beliefs, and forms of communication (such as oral literature) among the indigenous peoples, but they "remain among the poorest and most disadvantaged peoples" (UNDP, 2013). Although Philippine law through the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act of 1997 guarantees the right of indigenous peoples to their ancestral domains, they often suffer under "exclusion, loss of ancestral lands, displacement, pressures to and destruction of traditional ways of life and practices, and loss of identity and culture" (UNDP, 2013). As of 2017, some 3,000 Lumad, the largest indigenous group based in Mindanao, have been forced to evacuate due militarisation (accredited schools were shut down), aerial bombings, and harassment (Save Our Schools Network, 2017, cited by Rappler, 2017). According to the United Nations State of the World’s Indigenous Peoples, foreign large-scale mining in the country has displaced Lumad communities from their ancestral lands (Rappler, 2017).
Mobile technologies are slowly being adopted in indigenous communities in remote areas. In a study by Zapata (2016), the Applai and Bontok Igorot communities in the Cordillera mountain welcome the use of mobile phones as a convenient way of sharing information, which reduced the work of visiting all homes in the community. Zapata (2016) found that mobile communication in these communities is heavily guided by the "indigenous social code" (p 1) and is limited by economic and infrastructure restraints (not everyone has a phone and most phones are handed down by wealthier relatives in the city).
Although there is an attempt to include traditional and folk art as topics of learning in Philippine schools, "the efforts have not been sustained long enough to create substantial impact" and are also "largely undocumented and isolated" (Loza, de Guzman, and Jose, 2008, p 125). Worse, there is little educational emphasis on rediscovering the "use of indigenous art materials which should be well considered for their cultural, environmental and economic values" (p 125), a reality that continues despite the declared intention of the Philippine Commission on Higher Education to "advance learning, research and the enrichment of the country’s historical and cultural heritage."
In some of the conflict-torn areas in the country, traditional forms of communication, such as theatre, can provide people with the means to cope with or to heal from trauma, as well as regain their sense of community and promote the advocacy of peace. For example, in Bau’s (2017) study on the UNICEF "Art for Development" programme in a displaced people’s camp in Zamboanga, she observed that by collaborating in art forms, in this case puppetry and photography, adolescents "begin to build a broader sense of peace and understanding" and "recognise the importance of their role in identifying problems and solutions together with others (p 10). In a study of 2008, Schank and Schirch already noted that a group of theatre artists was travelling in various parts of Mindanao to promote "peaceful co-existence" among Muslim, Christian, and indigenous communities. "Arts-based interactions" were also found to be helpful in healing and coping with stress following natural disasters, noted Zerrudo (2016), who discussed examples from the Philippines and Nepal. In these examples, people revisited community folklore on which their performances (story-telling, creative play, music, among others) are anchored. Zerrudo wrote that "as community rituals sprung from creative engagement with catastrophe become central to our "everyday," we have the potential to protect land and sea through nuanced environmental conservation while recording and perpetuating our rich cultural narratives" (p 169).
In much of the countryside where mobile technologies and internet access are largely unreliable, face-to-face interaction and traditional forms of communication play an important role in the campaigns waged by belligerent groups. In the case of the New People’s Army, for example, members sometimes hold "cultural nights" in which the community is invited to performances promoting the ideology and praxis of the Communist Party of the Philippines, as reported by a primary source who refuses to be named due to security concerns.
When it comes to music, there appears to be a strong preference for music produced by foreign artists among the younger population. Although many of these artists are US-based or Western, Korean artists are also becoming widely popular. Filipino artists, particularly the independent or "indie" artists, took advantage of the disruptive digital technologies in the form of streaming services like Youtube and Spotify (Beltran, 2018). However, making a living out of music in the country is full of practical struggles. According to Schoop, a post-doctoral researcher in musicology who spent most of the decade doing fieldwork in the Philippines, the number of artists who can make a living out of music in the country is "so small that, in all her time spent doing fieldwork in the Philippines, [she] mostly encountered musicians who…had to have day jobs to make ends meet." Nevertheless, the country still has artists producing music in local languages or dialects, mostly aired in the local or regional radio stations. However, there is no empirical data on the reach and following of (or appreciation for) these "hyperlocal" songs, as well as the life narratives of these artists.
In both rural and urban communities, the everyday Filipino becomes an artist during special occasions (birthday parties, festivals, weddings, among others) where karaoke or videoke singing is the primary leisure activity. For Sood (2011), "it is an understatement to say that Filipinos love karaoke", as almost every household has a karaoke system or something similar.