In the summer of 1976 I wandered around northern Luzon in the Philippines, during a period of martial law imposed by elected-president-turned-dictator Ferdinand Marcos. I headed up into the mountains to Bontoc. An anecdote tied to that visit will help set up several themes of the class. My time in Bontoc included a hike up the mountains to Maligcong and its terraced rice fields. You can now find an online travel guide, but at the time I visited there was no road, no electricity, no phone, and certainly no guide (FYI neither personal computers nor the internet had been invented). And only one person in the village spoke any English, a boy who was the first ever to attend high school. He could recall but one foreign visitor, a Japanese anthropologist who had spent a month or two there (my memory of that detail is hazy, but I’ve just gotten a 1978 Japanese-language publication through Interlibrary Loan).
So what is life like in such a village? It was within walking distance of a local college, in a small city that had electricity, at least some of the time, regular bus service and two lodging establishments. But the village itself was supported by subsistence agriculture, which provided little cash income and no means for most to access healthcare or education. How does that shape the strategies families adopt? What can be done locally to improve their lives? And how do policies at the national level enhance, or limit, what can be done?