Episode 8: The Masa — Why we need to listen to them (Part 2)

WiseOwl PH
15 min readNov 19, 2020

Communication is powerful. So let’s talk about it!

In the last episode, we talked about how the masa is doing during the pandemic. Now we discuss why we need to talk about the masa when doing communication for social change.

The Owls (Oya, Joza, and Mika) are joined by Leo Laroza, the director for communication and information technology at SWS; and Wati Doctor, the president of Thinkscape Research.

OYA: I’m Oya.

JOZA: I’m Joza.

MIKA: And I’m Mika.

OYA: We are Wise Owl.

MIKA: WiseOwl is a consultancy firm that specializes in communication for social change.

MIKA: In the last episode, kinumusta natin ang masa sa panahon ng COVID-19. We confirmed what we already know: Their main concerns are hunger and a source of livelihood, and they see an uncertain future ahead. Pero bakit nga ba natin kailangang pag-usapan ang masa when we talk about communication for social change? Again, we have with us two experts, one on quantitative research, and the other on qualitative research. The first is Leo Laroza, the director for communication and information technology for the Social Weather Stations or S-W-S. The second is Wati Doctor, the president of Thinkscape Research. So Wati, sino nga ba ang masa?


OYA: So, socioeconomic class C, which is the middle class and then D and E, would you know what percentage of the population is C2-D?

WATI: Around 60 percent yung C2D combined.

OYA: Pero Wati di ba merong pang class E, kasama rin ba yun sa masa?

WATI: Kasama sila. They’re 31 percent or 30 percent ng total Philippines.

OYA: That’s over 90 percent.

MIKA: And here’s Leo’s definition of the masa:

LEO the masses, we call them the class D. They comprise up to 75 percent of the total sample that we get. We don’t establish quota in interviewing. We just ah discover them on field and it is consistent that we get 75 percent, class D. The richest group would be the combined AB and C, and that would comprise only about 5 to 8 percent. And then the rest would be the poorest of the poor, the class E. So when we’re talking about public opinion, survey results on a nationwide basis, it is safe to say that whatever is the national opinion, it more or less will reflect the opinion of the masa.

MIKA: And how does S-W-S classify economic classes?

LEO: The quality of the house. How well maintained a house, the quality of their neighborhood. there’s also the urban or rural factor to consider. If you have a big house but ah you are in a rural setting for example, maybe you’re not ah you’re not a masa maybe you are a class C for example. And of course we have the government’s definition. They use a combination of income, a combination of the kind of food that the household consume.

MIKA: To recap, the masa comprises 75 to 90 percent of the population. Therefore when you talk about getting the pulse of the Filipino people, it’s the pulse of the masa. That’s why we need to talk about the masa if we want to properly do communication for social change. But back to defining the masa.Now that S-W-S can’t safely conduct surveys face-to-face, they redesigned their methodology so they’d be able to do interviews through phone calls.

LEO: We were faced with a dilemma about how can we disaggregate the respondents according to socioeconomic status or socioeconomic class. So, what we did was we looked for a substitute variable or a proxy variable that can give us an idea about the current situation of the household in terms of socioeconomic class. So, we looked at our latest data from the December 2019 survey that’s the last survey that SWS conducted using the traditional face-to-face area-based household-based interviews. So there we saw that when we look at economic class we saw that class ABC or the well-off group, they have higher proportions of college graduates compared to the masa or the destitute class E. So, from that pattern alone we kind of decided that the best way to determine socioeconomic class using phone interviews would be educational attainment. From that data we also saw that although across all classes the biggest proportion for all those groups are the junior high school graduates. So that’s the new masa.

MIKA: So now we know who the masa is, pre- and mid-pandemic. Here’s Joza.

JOZA: At least for me I think ang dali for us to assume kung ano yung iniisip ng masa, kung sino yung masa, and then it leads to parang different assumptions na na hindi naman na necessarily totoo for them. So we wanna understand the masses more.

MIKA: And so in the course of your work Wati, through Thinkscape bakit importante yung research when it comes to comms?

WATI: Kasi di ba you have your comms people or your brand people. And sometimes, yung background nila, iba dun sa background ng masa. Or yung mga tao na gusto nilang kausapin. So we’re the people who bridge the gap. So we, kumbaga, we bring to you what the masa people think and feel and hopefully maintindihan nyo rin para yung communications na gagawin nyo eh maiintindihan rin nila.

MIKA: So what does the mass market think and feel? Here’s Leo.

LEO: We regularly ask how much attention people give to a list of events or or issues. For example, just this December 2019 we tested around thirteen news events, and, we noticed and it’s also based on survey history that the masa, they don’t pay as much attention compared to the upper class on issues overseas. Maybe with an exception of Donald Trump because US has always been close to the hearts of the Filipinos. They’re more interested in local politics. They’re more concerned about the SK elections compared to the upper classes. The upper classes would have more attention on the senators for example. Anything that’s of a nationwide scope. But not the masses, they look at their mayors, they look at their barangay captains. The reason why some opinions about the drug war there’s a very big support for example the campaign against illegal drugs as a whole the tokhangs when they happen in a certain area, they’re not identified as actions of the local officials. So only the police is visible. But the intention to have a drug-free society of course is something that’s favorable for the general Filipinos. But then the apprehension comes in when we are now talking about nanlaban we’re talking about mistaken identities.

MIKA: Kung mas may pakialam ang masa sa local issues,

then what are the national ones that they care about?

LEO: A national issue becomes something of importance to the masa when it’s involves a natural calamity, a disaster. or a disease we tested the question about the reemergence of polio in the Philippines. What else? The health of the president it’s not it’s not politics anymore because when you’re talking about a president, he’s the highest ah figure, that ah we have. His health, the way he disrespects international organization, the way he would speak, the way he would act in front of- in the presence of women for example even married women.

OYA: do they look at- yung examples mo kasi parang personal attributes or conduct rather than policy? Do they care at all about policy?

LEO: Yes they do. What I mentioned about the campaign against illegal drugs. We’ve been monitoring that for a long time and that’s where we found that there is across all economic classes, there is a a general support but apprehensions on the methods that’s being conducted. Now, it does not automatically reflect on how they view the president. The president still enjoys a honeymoon as of ah December 2019. But we attribute it not because of economic classes. We attribute it because of the geographical support. Mindanao next to Luzon has the biggest adult population. The voting population’s very big in Mindanao.

JOZA: pero curious ako actually nung sinabi mo na when the people parang are interested in national issues uhm, or namention mo kanina when the president parang merong mga attacks on like international organizations or say mga misogynistic na mga balita regarding the president, do the masses see yung mga ganung klaseng balita as something na they should be concerned about or is it like parang form of entertainment for them?

LEO: There’s no connection with how they view the president’s personal actions with how he performs as the president of the Philippines. For example, many people, including the masses, say na what he did in Korea with the married woman is a vulgar thing. But if you look at how this group calling it vulgar, and this group calling it not vulgar, how they view the president, it’s still you know they’re both positive when it comes to how satisfied they are with the performance of President Duterte as president. But we do know that a big factor for the people’s very positive evaluation of him as a president has to do with how the people feel about themselves. So there’s the gainer, the feeling of being a gainer and also optimism that I will be better in the next twelve months.

MIKA: Let’s pause for a bit and define what gainers and losers are. To figure out respondents’ well-being, the S-W-S asks them whether they are better or worse off now compared to a year ago.

JOZA: Ano iyong mga factors na nakikita nilang bumuti sa buhay nila

LEO: The number one determinant for feeling good about yourself is really to bring down prices of basic commodities, inflation. Another question is about the optimist-pessimist. Here we ask, looking at your quality of life, now to twelve months ahead, would you say that you will be better, will be the same or will be worse off? And traditionally we get a lot of optimist. So the same respondents who says I’m worse off now compared to a year ago, mahirap ang buhay, hindi kami kumita things like that. But I believe we will be better in the coming year.

MIKA: S-W-S also looks at two more things to gauge well-being: Self-rated poverty, which asks the head of a household how he or she would describe his or her family: mahirap ba, o hindi mahirap. There’s also hunger.

LEO: Those four quality of life indicators that SWS uses and those four indicators recently have been performing very well.

MIKA: Remember, this was BEFORE the COVID crisis hit. Here’s Oya.

OYA: Their good well-being translates into their perception of government performance. More specifically the president’s performance.

LEO: Yes. But we have seen before how events can affect a president’s performance. Let me share you what happened to President Ramos. He had a double whammy. First the rice crisis, and then the Flor Contemplacion execution in Singapore. It was so bad that the word plummet that really applies to what happened to him. So, if a leader cannot be fully protected or it cannot guarantee his continued good ratings if events like the Flor Contemplacion, it affected people’s emotions. The rice crisis, it affected the people’s stomach. The same thing with the Mamasapano. But there’s no saying what what the tipping point is. But we are sure from survey history that if any of those well-being indicators are performing poorly, you can be sure that anything can happen, just like what happened to Erap. It’s just about same number of losers, just barely outnumbering the gainers. And then suddenly the unopened envelope came, came about. So it was so easy for the discontented public to just join the rally.

MIKA: We’ve touched on how the mass market views current affairs, including politics.

Now let’s look at their concerns and aspirations.

Here’s Wati, with Oya and Joza.

WATI: They really don’t aspire to be rich as in rich rich. Gusto nila kumportable. Ang thinking nila kasi dun, kapag masyado kang mayaman, or kapag mayaman ka, marami rin namang prob- problema. So for them, basta kumportable, nakakakain tatlong beses sa isang araw, May baon yung mga anak ko, meron tayong kakainin bukas. May pambayad kapag merong nagkasakit, okay na.

OYA: That’s really interesting kasi madaming mga let’s say in the in advertising, when we do marketing ganyan, andami mong makikita na tinatawag na aspirational na mga materials and ads that yung parang portray really luxurious lives.

WATI: Andyan yung aspiration na yes, ang ganda nyan gusto ko nyan. But at the end of the day, alam kong hindi ko makukuha yan. So uunahin ko muna yung pagkain, uunahin ko muna yung tuition, uunahin ko muna uniform ng anak ko.

JOZA: So going into that territory. Curious lang talaga ako to learn kung ano yung mga specific na naririnig mong aspirations from the masses.

WATI: Mainly it’s to be able to provide for their family. Makakain ng tatlong beses. Isama mo na yung merienda dyan. Tapos makapagbigay ng baon. May pagkain para bukas. Yung alam mo yung hindi mo na iisipin na, anong kaka- ahm meron ba kaming pera para bukas, kasi alam mong meron kang panggastos. So at lea- assured ka you get to eat three times a day, may pambayad ka sa school. Kung tatanungin mo na’y naman yung mga let’s say millennials or yung mga Gen Z na masa, they also aspire for travel. Kase nakikita rin nila yung sa social media eh.

MIKA: Now that we know their aspirations, let’s look at the masa’s attitudes toward social change. Here’s Oya and Leo.

OYA: How do they perceive their ability in whatever way to make change or contribute to reforms?

LEO: We have majority saying that a person like me can do something to fight corruption in the government. It’s the same feeling of optimism that they can do something when we ask about political efficacy. The question goes, for a person like myself, what I do will not matter the government will not listen to me. And we have a majority disagreeing with that statement. Meaning they believe government will listen there’s no feeling of helplessness. there’s no shortage in terms of hope. Or optimism that one can be heard by the government. But we would like to know more about what concrete steps they want to do. We have a special project with Oceana asking about how far will you go to protect the environment. there are several steps like donate, go out and clean. There’s no shortage in terms of people saying they will do all these things, the concrete steps. It’s only when actions that involve monetary matters like donation. That’s the only time when we see that responses are slightly lower among the masses.

MIKA: Oya also asked Wati about this.

OYA: Okay since, we’re also- this show is also about social change, I wanted to ask kung in terms of the mass market. What’s their attitude towards social problems and their parang ah, propensity towards action to change society?

WATI: Uhm, pagdating sa classes, I don’t see or I don’t think may difference. It’s more of I guess generation. Kase, pagdating sa mga social issues, may boses na yung kabataan. Mas nagsasabi na sila on social media. Since marami na silang nakikita ngayong information, mas willing sila magshare ng thoughts nila and opinion about issues.

OYA: What about making that jump towards action? what is their propensity to actually act on issues?

WATI: Tumugma yan dun sa sinabi ng isang mentor ko na since you have social media, galit ka sa gobyerno, galit ka sa isang tao, labas mo yan sa social media. After that tapos na. Move on ka na.

OYA: So enough na they won’t do it in the

WATI: They won’t do it in the real world unless unless merong isang tao na mag-instigate ng movement.

OYA: So dapat may mauna, may magshow ng way.

WATI: May mauna, yes.

OYA: I would think from our earlier discussion, it would have to be parang kailangan mong timplahin din kasi kung sobrang dalas naman nakikita nya nagrarally sasabihin naman nya ay galit galit lang yang mga yan, wala namang nangyayari.

WATI: Kasi iba yung everyday ka lang nega nega nega, yung naririnig mo on TV, etc. Pero kung let’s say, rally yan, makabuluhan, tugma sa belief ko, I will join.

OYA: Okay. It has to be tugma sa belief ko.

WATI: Yes.

OYA: Now the puzzle is, how do those people na nagrarally convince those na hindi pa tugma ang beliefs to join?

WATI: Alam mo dati iniisip ko, kapag kinausap mo yung tao, makoconvert siya eh. Pero kase kelangan nyang makita kung ano ba ang bakit ako maniniwala sa’yo? Kelangan nyo sagutin bakit sya masama para sa’ken. Kase sa ngayon, wala naman akong nararamdaman eh. Di ba? bakit ako magagalit? That’s one. Two, kung totoo yang sinasabi nyo na side A is bad, ano ang maganda sa inyo? Why should I choose your side? Three, kung maganda yan if I choose your side, ano ngayon ang magiging epekto sa’ken?

OYA: Okay, we’ve been talking about trying to understand the masa, no? So that we can communicate to them, how do we relay our messages But let’s flip it. How do they get themselves heard? What have they tried before? Has it worked?

WATI: May mga channels, you have your social media. You have you yung tumatawag yung mga tao.

WATI: Maraming gumagawa nun di ba? Pumupunta sila sa barangay para magsabi ng dinaing nila. Pero that’s basically it.

JOZA: Naalala ko dati na nagkukwentuhan tayo about actually parang wag mong wag nating iunderestimate yung kagustuhan ng mga tao na marinig sila. Sobrang tumatak sa isip ko yun kasi nga actually minsan iniisip natin dahil masa parang statistics lang sila, numbers sa mga mata natin. Pero sa totoo lang yung aspirations nila, yung concerns nila very clear kung saan nila gustong dalhin yung buhay nila, ano yung gusto nila from a lot of people. Minsan tayo lang mismo hindi tayo nakikinig talaga sa kanila.

WATI: Gusto nilang marinig sila, pero kung ang kausap nila ay sasabihin sa kanila na O sige okay na yan, tama na yan, saan pa sila pupunta? So there has to be someone who will really listen to them. And usually nakikita nila to sa yan kay Joel Reyes, kila Tulfo, di ba? Kase ikaw pwede kang lumapit don, kakausapin ka nila.

JOZA: Kase nga minsan akala natin napapakinggan na natin sila pero hindi pa pala enough yung channels and opportunities na binibigay natin for them to be able to share their problems or their insights.

OYA: It’s partly why we’re doing this episode also because we sort of believe that yung if if we’re going to effect talagang meaningful social change, nasa kamay ng masa yan kase sila yung marami, sila yung pinakamalaking effect sa kanila, mga ganyan. Pero if they’re they’re only effective in small circles, ewan ko. Baka pinipilit ko rin ano na magkaron ng paraan pero papaano siya magkakaron ng parang bigger impact even outside their communities. Para medyo kunwari if, policy let’s say national level yung solusyon para sa problema nila sa community, hindi eh sila naririnig sa national level eh.

WATI: I think kailangan silang bigyan ng paraan para ah parang give them the tools to be heard or to do something. Kasi mayroon rin yang ano pag-iisip na magsasaka lang naman ako, ano anong magagawa ko? Hindi nga ako nakatapos ng pag-aaral, anong magagawa ko? May makikinig ba sa’kin? Edi dyan na lang kay boss, at least sya may makikinig pa sa kanya. May thinking na ganun eh. Anong magagawa ko? Maliit lang naman akong tao. So kelangan tanggalin yung isipan na yun, maliit kang tao, wala kang magagawa.

JOZA: Ako gusto ko yung sinasabi ni Wati na halimbawa dun na lang sya say boss nya, papakinggan sya tapos makikinig sa kanya. Gagawan ng paraan. Kase minsan yan yung nagkukulang sa’tin na mga advocates and communicators. Oo, nakikinig tayo pero walang aksyon na kasunod. Kasi ang hirap kapag like I’m guessing kung masa ka di ba? Na salita ka lang ng salita, sinasabi nila pinapakinggan ka nila, pero wala namang nagbabago dun sa mga hinihingi mo or dun sa mga daing mo.

OYA: True and then the other side of it also na naisip ko naman is that there are also some people who are very very well meaning and who really want to solve the problems you know, eradicating poverty, etc. etc. Mga development people. Pero actually hindi naman talaga nakakakausap ng totoong mga masa.

MIKA: May problema talaga ang representation eh. You need to present yourself. Mahirap pag ibang tao yung on behalf of you yung nagsasalita kung ano yung problema mo. Kailangan ikaw mismo. Kase hindi naman talaga nya gets eh.

WATI: Tsaka yung sa mga research na ginagawa ko, whenever I do focus group discussions, lalo na kapag political or social development. Andyan yung pagkatapos ng usapan sasabihin ng mga tao na nakausap mo, aabot ba yan?

OYA: Sana hindi sila magsawa kasi sometimes nakakailang beses na ring I would think na umasa sila na may mangyayari tas yung wala. Tas alam mo after a while, hmm wala namang mangyayari dyan, bakit pa?

WATI: Which is yun yung nakikita natin kapag may election di ba? Gumagawa tayong research. They want kumbaga, it’s the same old issues, uhm, they want someone new, but at the end of the day, yung mga nananalo sila pa rin. Bakit? Kase at the end of the day, one. May iniisip sila na may magbabago ba? Pangalawa, dun na lang ako dun sa nakilala ko na. Kung, kung walang nagbago, at least status quo. Walang nawala sa’ken.

MIKA: And that was the second of three episodes of Give A Hoot that we’ll be dedicating to the masa. We learned who the mass market is, what their aspirations and attitudes are, and what is missing in how we talk — and listen — to them. Next, you’ll be hearing about how they consume media. Who do they trust? And what do they think of the ABS-CBN shutdown? Did it affect them at all? Thanks again to our guests Leo Laroza and Wati Doctor. And to the people who made this possible, specifically PumaPodcast, the Spark Project, and our backers. Shoutout to our producers Tricia Aquino and Diosa Quinones, and Mark Casillan, our sound guy, and our audio editor Niko Bolante.

OYA: I’m Oya.

JOZA: I’m Joza.

MIKA: And I’m Mika.

JOZA: Look for WiseOwl PH on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Medium. You can visit our website wiseowl.ph. We’d love to hear from you. Send your feedback to hoot@wiseowl.ph.

MIKA: Use your voice. Give a hoot!