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Filipinization: a process

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Whenever I pass by the tianguê-filled streets of Baclaran or Divisoria, I am reminded of those that are in South America. Fruit vendors found in almost all parts of the country —even in posh Macati City— are no different at all from their Latino counterparts with regards to the manner of selling, the bodily movements in conducting trade.

The similarities are striking.

Whenever I visit my dad’s hometown of Unisan, I am astounded by the población’s network of roads: they horizontally and vertically crisscross each other. And at the heart of the small town itself is the old church. Indeed, the architecture of Unisan’s población is a perfect trademark of the Spanish friar-engineer’s ingenuity. And almost all old towns all over the archipelago follow this “square-shape” pattern.

Fiestas, the wheel, town cemeteries, plowing, spoon and fork, social graces, the guisado, rondalla, potato, papaya, camote, La Virgen María, paper and book culture, la mesa, la silla, painting, old street names and our family surnames, Holy Week and Simbang gabí, the bahay na bató, the calendar that we use, the name of our country, our nationality, etc. All these items, techniques, and concepts that were once foreign to us are now considered endemic. Without these, it is unthinkable for a Filipino to even exist. But these things that are crucial for our everyday existence are taken for granted like the the clouds in the sky.

There are two simple ways to determine what a Filipino is: by his name and by what he eats. Like most Filipinos, I have a Spanish name (José Mario Alas), but my diet is Asian (I eat rice). These determinants make me a unique product of a Western-Eastern symbiosis. This blending is what makes me a Filipino. I recognize both sides, but what surfaces the most is my Hispanic side for it completes my Filipino national identity. But Fr. José S. Arcilla, S.J., couldn’t have said it better:

Even if we peel off our Asian traits, we will remain “Filipino”. Remove our Hispanized ways and local idioms and we could no longer be recognized as Filipino.

"España y Filipinas" por el pintor famoso, Juan Luna.

The heritage bequeathed to us by Spain is not only ubiquitous: they are part of our lives. They are, in fact, our very lives. Our hispanic traits are what make us true Filipinos. This claim does not intend to glorify Spain, neither should it be misunderstood as a “longing to become a Spaniard,” which is very ridiculous to say the least (frankly speaking, I care less about today’s Zapatonto-led Spain). This is merely an acknowledgment of facts regarding our true Filipino Identity which is based on our Hispanic heritage. Also, to acknowledge our Hispanic past doesn’t necessarily mean that we have to negate everything that came before it. That can never be undone in the first place. This is just a matter of calling a spade a spade.

Indeed, if we strip away everything Asian from our identity, the Hispanic attributes will still remain. And these attributes are the same ones that the whole world can see in each and every Hispanic country scattered around the globe. But if we take away everything Hispanic in us to give way to purist nationalist dictates, then we will cease to become Filipino. We will disintegrate back to what we were before the conquistadores came: disunited; separated into a myriad of tribal kingdoms; perpetually aggressive towards one another.

In other words, if we remove our Hispanic traits, it will not harm the Hispanic world one bit. What will remain is the “Malay” or “Austronesian” in us that never made us Filipinos in the first place. The pre-Filipino Malay/Austronesian is composed of many tribes (Tagalog, Ilocano, Tausug, Ilongo, Pampangueño, etc.) that were never one, never united as a compact nation. The scattered Malay/Austronesian tribes in this archipelago which we now call our own before the Spaniards came never aspired into uniting with one another to become a much bigger nation because each tribe already thought of itself as a nation. To a pre-Filipino Bicolano’s mind, why should they unite with the pre-Filipino Cebuanos just to become another nation?

This they never thought of. And it took a foreign power for us to realize this Filipinization that we treasure to this very day.

This is the importance of reassessing our nation’s history. I always claim that ours is perhaps the most unique in the world because it is so mangled, so distorted. We continuously badmouth the nation (Spain) who virtually created us, complaining all the time that they “raped and destroyed our culture” even though we use cuchara and tenedor during meals while eating adobo or any guisado-based dishes, look at the calendario everyday, check out the time with our relój, say para to the jeepney driver, celebrate the Holiday Seasons, plan to visit Spanish Vigan to see the fantastic houses there, etc. But why continue this baseless, foolish, and counterproductive hatred? The Spaniards are no longer here. And we continuously deny the strong fact that without Spain, the concept of what a Filipino truly is as we know it today would have never existed. And by attacking our Spanish past, we are only harming ourselves, not Spain.

Rather than focus on personages, dates, and places, Philippine History teachers should focus more on the process of Filipinization. The word “history” comes from the greek verb historeo which means to “learn by inquiry”. So that is what teachers of Philippine History should do: inculcate into the minds of their students to inquire about the past, their past. History should not be about memorization of dates, places, events, names, etc. History is not a memorization contest. Although it is understandbale that, as much as possible, we should just leave historical facts to speak for themselves, it could not be feasible if our educators themselves continue to condition the minds of our young students into hating a past that should not be hated at all. In our particular situation, we all must learn how to reassess and inquire about the process of Filipinization. Why? Because of this so-called crisis of national identity which many scholars today erroneously claim we have.

As I have argued before, our national identity never left us. It has been with us all this time. A systematic false teaching of Philippine History just made us think that we do not have one.

“Ang hindí marunong lumiñgón sa pinangaliñgan ay hindí macacaratíng sa paróroonan”, says an old Tagalog proverb. But how can we move forward, how will we be able to determine where we are going if we do not know where we have come from? We always look into a mythical pre-Hispanic past, yearn for it, but that era of our lives was never us. It was only the catalyst to Hispanization which was really Filipinization. And this process gave birth to who and what we are today. The “pre-Hispanic Filipino” was never us. We have to calmly accept that fact, the way we have to accept natural disasters as part of our reality.

Más mabuti siguro tayo ñgayón cung hindí tayo sinacop ng mğa Kastilà. This is a very defeatist observation that has been prevailing for about a century already, for it has no basis most especially if we are to review our country’s economic history. Why aspire of “reverting” to a pre-Filipino past that never was?

The Philippines is such an ungrateful nation. We deserve to be poor. Thus, for all the unfounded badmouthing that we have thrown against her, we owe mother Spain an apology, and not the other way around.

It is time that we Filipinos should go back to our roots. Our real roots. That way, we will be able to steer the course of our national destiny.

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50 responses »

  1. I totally agree with you that Spain deserves the gratitude of the Philippines for the greater good she has brought us. There is the saying ‘you have to take the bad with the good’.

    It is a unique place that we have in Asia and rather than belittle it, ignore it, deny it or be embarrassed by it, we should acknowledge it and take it for its advantages.

    Reply
    • The tiangge style can actually be improved…by putting their place.
      The rolling vendor is also visible in Indonesia.

      Many good things come from our own Austronesian peoples, as much as bad things come from them. I’m sure that the native Austronesians have the wheel technology, metalwork, and of course, the balangay. We already had our own social graces way long before the conquistadores came. The house arrangement in Bahay na Bato is still based from the Bahay Kubo.

      Asian, Pacific Islander and Hispanic are simply labels. Filipino comes before these labels.

      Spoon and fork usage is common to our Southeast Asian Neighbors. Kamayan is a very Filipino way of eating. We eat like the Indonesians and Malays, and a bit more like Northern Indians, but not like the Arabs and Southern Indians.

      Adobo is a Spanish term of our cooking technique of stewing, but it is indigenous. Our adobo can have any consistency from a dry stew to curry. Sauteeing with spices can also be Indian.

      Identity can evolve. The term “Filipino” used to refer to Spanish people born in the Philippines, much like what the term “Australian” is used to refer to a descendant of a Brit who settled there. Nowadays, the term “Filipino” almost always refers to the Austronesian native from the Ivatans to Manobos to Ifugao people to Tausugs, aside from the lowlanders like most of us.

      To say that Spain deserves an apology from us is quite a stretch. Has the country that brought forced labor to us, the country that sent rejects from Spain, the country that simply put Rizal in the entertainment section during his execution, given an apology about these things? I don’t know if we’re even with Spain now, though. LOL

      Nevertheless, we still need to embrace the Latin influences Spain brought as much as we embrace the Austronesian, the American, the East Asian, Indian and
      Arabic influences.

      Reply
      • Hello Alberto,

        After reading your comment, I started to wonder: what is really your point?

        I am sorry to say, sir, that all your arguments are off-mark with what I have been advocating, that our national identity is based on our Hispanic past. Now, let me answer your points one by one to prove why you are off-mark…

        “The rolling vendor is also visible in Indonesia.” —— And your point is? I’m sorry, Alberto. I really don’t understand. I do not deny that the “rolling vendor” is visible in other countries. But if what you’re trying to point out is that we got the tianguê or the “rolling vendor” culture from our Asian neighbors, then you are mistaken. The concept of the rolling vendor was not introduced here by our neighbors. Also, our tianguê system of conducting trade is more Latino than Asian.

        “Many good things come from our own Austronesian peoples, as much as bad things come from them.” —— Old news. Many already know that.

        “I’m sure that the native Austronesians have the wheel technology, metalwork, and of course, the balangay.” —— I will not contest that. But did they bring the wheel technology here? No. It took a European power (Spain) to introduce the wheel technology in the country (our country) that they created. As with regards to metalwork, it has nothing to do with who or what we are today. The balañgáy only served as a catalyst, but it also had nothing to do with the Filipinization process.

        In our country, who uses the balañgáy today? Nobody.

        “We already had our own social graces way long before the conquistadores came.” —— Off-mark again. The social graces that I refer to are the ones that are still being practised today and that were taught to us by the Spaniards. Pre-Filipino tribesmen didn’t even know what a handshake meant. The Spaniards taught us that.

        But what you said is true. The pre-Filipino tribesmen had social graces of course. However, when you use the pronoun “we”, who are you referring to? If you answer “all Filipinos”, then please be advised that the social graces of the Ilocanos were far different from the social graces practised by the tribes of Mindanáo. Ibá-ibá. The social graces that these pre-Filipino tribes practiced are even hardly followed nowadays, nor do they exist at all. For instance, Ilongo elders back then smelled their loved ones as a show of endearment. They literally used their noses. But who is doing that nowadays? Aside from the fact that I am not an Ilongo, I don’t even do that to my wife and kids. I embrace them, I kiss them, but I don’t use my nose to show my love for those people who are special to me. Do you?

        If I may add to that, the “mano pô” system is a sign of respect for the elderly. That is so Filipino and I will be surprised if you do not agree to it. But was that ever practiced before the Spaniards came? Of course not, because it was the friars who taught the Filipinos the “mano pô” as part of the social graces that we now follow up to this day.

        “The house arrangement in Bahay na Bato is still based from the Bahay Kubo.” —— Of course. Did I ever contest that? But the bahay na bató is Filipino. The bahay kubo is something that is considered indigenous. Pre-Filipino even (talagá namán, eh). The bahay kubo represented everything indigenous. The bahay na bató represented everything Filipino. Appreciating our Hispanic past doesn’t mean that we have to negate everything that came before it. But it was our Hispanic past who embraced the indigenous and “Asian” (i.e., Chinese) in us. And speaking of Asian…

        “Asian, Pacific Islander and Hispanic are simply labels. Filipino comes before these labels.” —— I will have to agree to that. The term Filipino, actually, is just a concept. There is no such thing as a Filipino race. I am a Filipino. My bestfriend Arnaldo Arnáiz is a Filipino. But he is an Ilongo. On the other hand, I’m from the Tagalog-Criollo race. But by virtue of Hispanization, Both Arnaldo and I are considered Filipinos. We embrace this concept as if it’s considered as a race already. But strictly speaking, Filipino is just a concept, but an esteemed one. Asian, by the way, is a misnomer. It was just coined by piggy capitalists from imperialist nations.

        “Spoon and fork usage is common to our Southeast Asian Neighbors.” —— I beg to disagree. But whether or not it’s true, our Southeast Asian neighbors never taught brought the spoon and fork to our ancestors.

        “Kamayan is a very Filipino way of eating. We eat like the Indonesians and Malays, and a bit more like Northern Indians, but not like the Arabs and Southern Indians.” —— Yep. Even my wife and daughter eats that way (but not all the time!) which I find a bit disgusting, hehe! That should not be contested here. What should be contested is your use of the adverb “very”. Eating with the use of one’s hands may be a Filipino way of eating, but it is not “very” Filipino. Otherwise, a majority of the nation would have been eating this way. But that is not the case. Anyway, I do not deny that the Filipino Identity is all Hispanic. Of course not. Didn’t you read what I wrote in this blogpost?

        These determinants make me a unique product of a Western-Eastern symbiosis.

        “Adobo is a Spanish term of our cooking technique of stewing, but it is indigenous. Our adobo can have any consistency from a dry stew to curry.” —— No it is not. It is Mexican. There may be similarities to some indigenous cooking, but Adobo is definitely Mexican. It’s already a closed issue.

        “Sauteeing with spices can also be Indian.” —— Let me repeat your words: “can also be…” I rest my case. =)

        “Identity can evolve. The term “Filipino” used to refer to Spanish people born in the Philippines, much like what the term “Australian” is used to refer to a descendant of a Brit who settled there. Nowadays, the term “Filipino” almost always refers to the Austronesian native from the Ivatans to Manobos to Ifugao people to Tausugs, aside from the lowlanders like most of us.” —— Yes. As I have written above, the term Filipino is just a concept. But this concept was moulded from our Spanish past. It originated from there. Now if I may take a step further, let me just say that today’s indigenous (like the Aetas, for example) are also considered as Filipinos. No doubt about it. But they are Filipinos only by virtue of nationality. But historically and anthropologically speaking, they are not Filipinos because they were not Hispanized.

        “To say that Spain deserves an apology from us is quite a stretch.” —— No it’s not. Spain really deserves an apology from ungrateful Filipinos such as Zeus Salazar of UP).

        “Has the country that brought forced labor to us, the country that sent rejects from Spain, the country that simply put Rizal in the entertainment section during his execution, given an apology about these things? I don’t know if we’re even with Spain now, though. LOL” —— LOL? Now let me give you something to LOL about, Alberto. The polo y servicios is not as terrible as what it was taught to to Filipino students. Haven’t you even stopped to think that without the polo y servicios, there would have been no roads, no bridges, no churches, no galleons, and no government buildings back then? All those structures and buildings are for the benefit of the natives themselves, not the Spaniards. Besides, many of those structures built through the polo y servicios are still around are being used up to this very day. Many of them are even tourist attractions.bah

        Also, history teachers are wont to imply that the polo y serviciosequated to slavery. Of course not. In case you didn’t know, able-bodied men were recruited and were even given a salary! Oo, may sueldo silá. So it is not exactly correct to say that it was forced labor. Besides, sick people and the elderly were not allowed to render their services. If that ever happened, then that is the time that we can truly call it forced labor.

        Now about the rejects, I really had to LOL on that one. I would hardly call Miguel Hurtado de Corcuera a reject. Carlos María de la Torre wasn’t. And many more. Yes, there had been officials who were “exiled” here. But not all. With the way you wrote that remark (“the country that sent rejects”), you were implying as if Spain perpetually sent rejects here. That was not always the case. Come on. We are already in an age of ecumenism and international understanding, Alberto. To continue harboring hatred and/or disdain against our Hispanic past is a sign of intellectual maturity. Walá na silá dito, chong (that should answer your sarcastic “I don’t know if we’re even with Spain now” quip, which I do not appreciate). Now let me LOL this time. =)

        And finally, about that “Rizal in the entertainment section during his execution” thingie. Entertainment section? Are you referring to a periodical? You should know that the Spanish government in Manila didn’t find Rizal funny (that is why they had him executed). Neither is this comment of your because it might only put more wood into the flame. So you have to clarify your statement.

        By the way, Spain did apologize for executing Rizal. That was many years ago. You must have missed it. But they shouldn’t have apologized. I have already read the official verdict on Rizal’s execution (published in Manuel Leguineche’s Yo Te Diré. La verdadera historia de los últimos de Filipinas (1898-1998)). Rizal really deserved to die for his writings (more on this in a future blogpost).

        “Nevertheless, we still need to embrace the Latin influences Spain brought as much as we embrace the Austronesian, the American, the East Asian, Indian and Arabic influences.” —— I believe the Chinese and (most especially) the Spanish had more cultural impact to our present-day society.

        Regards.

        Pepe Alas

        Reply
      • “I do not deny that the “rolling vendor” is visible in other countries. But if what you’re trying to point out is that we got the tianguê or the “rolling vendor” culture from our Asian neighbors, then you are mistaken. The concept of the rolling vendor was not introduced here by our neighbors. Also, our tianguê system of conducting trade is more Latino than Asian.”

        - In what ways? In Thailand, you also have to haggle the price of the goods. But the mere presence of rolling vendors does not necessarily mean that Spain brought it to us.

        “‘I’m sure that the native Austronesians have the wheel technology, metalwork, and of course, the balangay.’ —— I will not contest that. But did they bring the wheel technology here? No. It took a European power (Spain) to introduce the wheel technology in the country (our country) that they created. As with regards to metalwork, it has nothing to do with who or what we are today. The balañgáy only served as a catalyst, but it also had nothing to do with the Filipinization process.

        In our country, who uses the balañgáy today? Nobody.”

        I got news for you: http://www.balangay-voyage.com/index.php?pg=read-article&newsid=2077

        http://www.pinoyexchange.com/forums/showthread.php?t=437263
        Before the conquistadores came, we used to be known by our neighbors as “Seludong” which included the Kingdom of Luzon and Sulu. It was a group of political alliances with numerous kingdoms. We’re basically connected with Indonesia and Malaysia.
        Going to the wheel, it was probably ubiquitous before Rajah Humabon and Rajah Sulayman’s time.

        “The social graces that I refer to are the ones that are still being practised today and that were taught to us by the Spaniards. Pre-Filipino tribesmen didn’t even know what a handshake meant. The Spaniards taught us that.

        But what you said is true. The pre-Filipino tribesmen had social graces of course. However, when you use the pronoun ‘we’, who are you referring to? If you answer ‘all Filipinos’, then please be advised that the social graces of the Ilocanos were far different from the social graces practised by the tribes of Mindanáo. Ibá-ibá. The social graces that these pre-Filipino tribes practiced are even hardly followed nowadays, nor do they exist at all. For instance, Ilongo elders back then smelled their loved ones as a show of endearment. They literally used their noses. But who is doing that nowadays? Aside from the fact that I am not an Ilongo, I don’t even do that to my wife and kids. I embrace them, I kiss them, but I don’t use my nose to show my love for those people who are special to me. Do you?

        If I may add to that, the ‘mano pô’ system is a sign of respect for the elderly. That is so Filipino and I will be surprised if you do not agree to it. But was that ever practiced before the Spaniards came? Of course not, because it was the friars who taught the Filipinos the “mano pô” as part of the social graces that we now follow up to this day.”

        Going to the social graces used then, I do lament the loss of these old social graces the way you lament the waning Hispanic influence in Manila.

        As for your “mano po” system, there is another answer that it can be Austronesian.
        http://answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20080202171323AApErJ5

        The Bahay na Bato is reminiscent to our neighbors to their layouts. It can be pretty close to the longhouse layout in Borneo.

        The spoon and fork usage of our neighbors parallels that of ours when the white men came in our countries.

        “‘Kamayan is a very Filipino way of eating. We eat like the Indonesians and Malays, and a bit more like Northern Indians, but not like the Arabs and Southern Indians.’ —— Yep. Even my wife and daughter eats that way (but not all the time!) which I find a bit disgusting, hehe! That should not be contested here. What should be contested is your use of the adverb ‘very’. Eating with the use of one’s hands may be a Filipino way of eating, but it is not “very” Filipino. Otherwise, a majority of the nation would have been eating this way. But that is not the case. Anyway, I do not deny that the Filipino Identity is all Hispanic.”

        The kamayan is what most provinces in the Philippines use and prefer, reserving their cutlery for feasts. I witnessed it and I have many contacts who do that. From the simple construction worker to the normal folks in the provinces to even some of the ordinary folk in Manila, it is preferred. That is why I say that it’s “very” Filipino. Also it’s how our neighbor countries eat. My sources from some construction workers I meet, my father, my uncles, the Philippine movies (though crappy, tell some truth), the household help up to my distant cousins can verify and justify this.

        Reply
        • ALBERTUS: “- In what ways? In Thailand, you also have to haggle the price of the goods. But the mere presence of rolling vendors does not necessarily mean that Spain brought it to us.”

          PEPE: In so many ways, my friend. It’s not just about haggling. The color, mood, the environment, the structure (not the physical built but the “community” of êtiangués), almost everything excluding the language, for Filipino tianguê vendors today no longer speak Spanish, of course. And yes, Spain did bring the concept of the rolling vendor. Again: it was the Spaniards who brought to the islands the wheel technology. And the concept of buying was not yet in effect during pre-Filipino days. Barter trade was practised. There were no vendors nor anything similar to the tianguê here back then.

          You should not focus solely on our Asian neighbors to find out who the Filipino is, Alberto. Hindí mo itó mahahanap sa canilá. In this regard, you have to be fair. A piece of advice: after studying the various cultures of countries surrounding us, you should give Philippine History a good, hard second look, this time using Latin American lenses.

          ALBERTUS: “‘In our country, who uses the balañgáy today? Nobody.’ I got news for you: http://www.balangay-voyage.com/index.php?pg=read-article&newsid=2077

          PEPE: Nacú namán, oh. ¡Hahaha! Alberto mío, lumang balita na itó. This was so last year. Sinúsubaybayan co pa ngâ itó, eh. And I could not help but laugh at their folly. The first thing that went into my mind was this: what in the world were these adventurists trying to prove in the first place? LOL!!!

          This link that you gave me, Alberto, does not disprove my claim that nobody is using the balañgáy anymore. This link that you shared is 100% irrelevant to what you are trying to prove (whatever that is). That “news” that you gave me is all for show. It is nothing but a cultural project. Don’t you get it? The balañgáy is practically not part of our culture anymore. It is nothing but history. You go to any region in the Philippines: Luzón, the Visayan group of islands, in Mindanáo. Who in the world is using your beloved balañgáy? Again, my answer: nobody. Nobody is using this ancient vessel anymore to fish nor to engage in any maritime trade anywhere in the Philippines, my friend. Keep that in my mind. The balañgáy is part of our ancient culture and history. The “Voyage of the Balañgáy” is purely a cultural project.

          On another note, this balañgáy project led by that Mount Everest climber even stalled in some island for a few days during its voyage because the vessel could not handle the large waves of tropical depressions and typhoons. I read about it in the Inquirer. And I was laughing like sh*t. It only proved that the balañgáy was in no means capable of helping build or unite an archipelagaic nation such as the one we have right now. Our nation was built through a larger vessel called the Spanish galleons. Nuff said.

          ALBERTUS: “Going to the social graces used then, I do lament the loss of these old social graces the way you lament the waning Hispanic influence in Manila.”

          PEPE: Lament all you want for the loss of pre-Filipino social graces. I will respect that. But I will not share your grief, because I am proud to be a Filipino. Those social graces that you yearn for are part of our history as a people. But those are no longer Filipino. On another note, I beg to differ when you said that the Hispanic influence in Manila, or in the whole country for that matter, is waning. No it is not. You should rather say that what is waning is the Spanish language, not the Hispanic influence. We are still a Hispanic nation sans the language. But if you’d ask me, I will not even say that the Spanish language here is waning. No way. As a matter of fact, there is already a renaissance, a clamor, for this language to be brought back to our country. And it started all the way since Gloria Macapagal de Arroyo visited Spain a few years ago. Please click here. And please do use a translator to read it because I do not really know if you understand Spanish or not.

          ALBERTUS: “As for your “mano po” system, there is another answer that it can be Austronesian.
          http://answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20080202171323AApErJ5

          PEPE: Again, let me repeat your words: “it can be”. So I rest my case again. =)

          ALBERTUS: “Before the conquistadores came, we used to be known by our neighbors as ‘Seludong’ which included the Kingdom of Luzon and Sulu. It was a group of political alliances with numerous kingdoms. We’re basically connected with Indonesia and Malaysia.”

          PEPE: We? ¿Sinong “we“? What islands and/or group of people comprised this “we” that you are referring to? That is what you should avoid: using “we”. You should first understand what a Filipino is before using confusing pronouns.

          And you mentioned the Kingdom of Luzón and Sulú. So what exactly does that prove? And what about Cebú? Surigáo? Zamboanga? My current home, San Pedro Tunasán, La Laguna? Why weren’t these places included in this Seludong that you are talking about? Did this Seludong contribute anything to the Filipino being? Furthermore, there is no such thing as a “Kingdom of Luzón”. But you’re probably referring to claims of a “Majapahit” empire which, up to now, is still a theory. It can be theorized that the name Luzón comes from Seludong. But for the sake of argument, let us say that it is true. If so, then what? Does that prove that there was already a Filipino nation back then? Was Guimarás, for instance, already a part of this empire that comprised a “mythical” pre-Hispanic Philippines? The answer is an emphatic NO. That “empire” did not even cry foul when Spain “robbed” Luzón from her.

          ALBERTUS: “Going to the wheel, it was probably ubiquitous before Rajah Humabon and Rajah Sulayman’s time.”

          PEPE: I love repeating that: “probably”. =) Don’t give me probabilities, Alberto. I go for facts.

          ALBERTUS: “The Bahay na Bato is reminiscent to our neighbors to their layouts. It can be pretty close to the longhouse layout in Borneo.”

          PEPE: Ang culít namán, ¡hahaha! (easy Pepe, easy). Again, read my online lips: The Filipino (not just the person but the culture, the architecture, the cuisine, the music, etc.) is an amalgam of Oriental and Occidental. Haist. Capagod na, ay…

          And for the 739,568,930,489th time, the spoon and fork were brought here by the Spaniards.

          ALBERTUS: “The kamayan is what most provinces in the Philippines use and prefer, reserving their cutlery for feasts. I witnessed it and I have many contacts who do that. From the simple construction worker to the normal folks in the provinces to even some of the ordinary folk in Manila, it is preferred. That is why I say that it’s “very” Filipino. Also it’s how our neighbor countries eat. My sources from some construction workers I meet, my father, my uncles, the Philippine movies (though crappy, tell some truth), the household help up to my distant cousins can verify and justify this. ”

          PEPE: No justification is needed, Alberto. I believe you. Besides, I have my wife here (who is a certified provinciana) to prove what you’re saying. The camayan way of eating is Filipino. But it is inappropriate to use “very”. To be Filipino, one must be Hispanized. The practice of camayan has been practised way before Hispanization. So technically speaking it is not even Filipino. But since, as I keep on saying everytime, the Filipino is an amalgam of the East and West, many cultural practices here were embraced by the Hispanic. To say that the camayan is “very” Filipino is already contradictory and almost lacks sense to a cultural anthropologist’s mind.

          Reply
      • ‘“Has the country that brought forced labor to us, the country that sent rejects from Spain, the country that simply put Rizal in the entertainment section during his execution, given an apology about these things? I don’t know if we’re even with Spain now, though. LOL” —— LOL? Now let me give you something to LOL about, Alberto. The polo y servicios is not as terrible as what it was taught to to Filipino students. Haven’t you even stopped to think that without the polo y servicios, there would have been no roads, no bridges, no churches, no galleons, and no government buildings back then? All those structures and buildings are for the benefit of the natives themselves, not the Spaniards. Besides, many of those structures built through the polo y servicios are still around are being used up to this very day. Many of them are even tourist attractions.bah

        Also, history teachers are wont to imply that the polo y serviciosequated to slavery. Of course not. In case you didn’t know, able-bodied men were recruited and were even given a salary! Oo, may sueldo silá. So it is not exactly correct to say that it was forced labor. Besides, sick people and the elderly were not allowed to render their services. If that ever happened, then that is the time that we can truly call it forced labor.

        Now about the rejects, I really had to LOL on that one. I would hardly call Miguel Hurtado de Corcuera a reject. Carlos María de la Torre wasn’t. And many more. Yes, there had been officials who were “exiled” here. But not all. With the way you wrote that remark (“the country that sent rejects”), you were implying as if Spain perpetually sent rejects here. That was not always the case. Come on. We are already in an age of ecumenism and international understanding, Alberto. To continue harboring hatred and/or disdain against our Hispanic past is a sign of intellectual maturity. Walá na silá dito, chong (that should answer your sarcastic “I don’t know if we’re even with Spain now” quip, which I do not appreciate). Now let me LOL this time. =)

        And finally, about that “Rizal in the entertainment section during his execution” thingie. Entertainment section? Are you referring to a periodical? You should know that the Spanish government in Manila didn’t find Rizal funny (that is why they had him executed). Neither is this comment of your because it might only put more wood into the flame. So you have to clarify your statement.

        By the way, Spain did apologize for executing Rizal. That was many years ago. You must have missed it. But they shouldn’t have apologized. I have already read the official verdict on Rizal’s execution (published in Manuel Leguineche’s Yo Te Diré. La verdadera historia de los últimos de Filipinas (1898-1998)). Rizal really deserved to die for his writings (more on this in a future blogpost).’

        About the polo y servicios, now I understand what you’re trying to say. It’s basically closer to a compulsory labor in an at-will employment mode.

        We know that Spain did not always send rejects. It’s only during the late 1600′s to the late 1880′s that Spain sent them, according to our history teachers.

        In Spain’s newspapers during that time, Rizal’s execution was in an entertainment section, according to a few history teachers I had. I know it’s inflammatory, but I’m not bluffing.

        We didn’t have a chance to see the apology of Spain. But we can’t be able to read it anyway, we no longer know Spanish.

        Reply
        • The polos y servicios are crucial to Philippine development. I am so aghast that it has been demonized over the years. Compare the polos y servicios to the kind of labor that we have. Labor today feeds only a few individuals. The results of the polos y servicios, on the other hand, were for the benefit of the indios and other settlers in the archipelago.

          Alberto, I will only talk about Rizal’s execution having been published in the entertainment section of Spanish newspapers IF I have totally lost control of my mental faculties. =)

          “We didn’t have a chance to see the apology of Spain. But we can’t be able to read it anyway, we no longer know Spanish.” I still believe that Spain should have never apologized at all. Therefore, I am glad that a majority of Filipinos do not know about it.

          Again: it is us who should apologize to Spain for our bad and biased history teachers and numbskull scholars and other “Filipinos” who think exactly like you do. Sorry, but that’s the way I see it.

          Reply
      • Pepe, if you say history is about inquiry, then why don’t you inquire both sides? Whenever I say “can be,” it is an alternate view. Most say that the “mano” is Spanish, but try looking at an alternate view that it’s Malay. A historian goes to artifacts, aside from written material.

        The Majapahit empire has a documented historic account, Nagarakretagama and Pararaton, therefore, it’s not mythical. Even the language is in a syllabic script close to the Tagalog baybayin.

        I will agree with you that the Spaniards gave the first Westernization influence. The Americans have become the second wave. I will also agree that our current lowlander culture has East and West components in it.

        My point is that the Hispanic influence is important, but overrated. Our culture still has a very important Austronesian component. Therefore, many of us cannot buy the argument of “Keep the Hispanic, discard the Asian and the Filipino will remain.”

        Culture is defined as the evolved human capacity to classify and represent experiences with symbols, and to act imaginatively and creatively; and the distinct ways that people living in different parts of the world classified and represented their experiences, and acted creatively.
        “Culture is the deeper level of basic assumptions and beliefs that are shared by members of an organization, that operate unconsciously and define in a basic ‘taken for granted’ fashion an organization’s view of its self and its environment.” — Edgar Schein

        Spain does not need to apologize to us as much as we do not need to ask for an apology to Spain. Spain has its share of sneering, jeering snobs as much as Philippines has its share of rabid Hispanophobes.

        The best thing we can do is simply know, recognize, acknowledge and accept the strong Western influence, that is the Spanish and American Influence. To thank them is not that necessary.

        Reply
        • Hello Alberto,

          History indeed is about inquiry into the past. But what you are doing, dear sir, is not inquiry. You are obviously offering an alternate view (your words). To a logical mind, that is clearly not about inquiry. For why should I look into an alternate reality when facts have already been gathered, agreed upon in a logical manner, and accepted?

          I keep on looking at both sides: your Austronesian/Malayan/whatever and my “Hispanic bias”. And —believe it or not— I weigh them all the way Lady Justice does. And it so happens that I see more of our Filipino being from our Hispanic past. What is Asian (or Austronesian) in us was even brought here by Spain: the wheel, the carabao, the abacá, etc.

          “The Majapahit empire has a documented historic account, Nagarakretagama and Pararaton, therefore, it’s not mythical.”

          I did not say that the Majapahit empire is mythical. I believe in it due to existing historical records. You failed to comprehend the context of my words. What I wrote in our previous exchange was ““mythical” pre-Hispanic Philippines“, a kind of “nation” construed to be already existing even before the Spaniards “invaded us”, already a compact country often (and erroneously) compared to our nation’s existing status quo, i.e., an independent, free state. I am not referring to the Majapahit empire.

          We’re not really an independent country. But that’s another story. Anyways…

          “I will agree with you that the Spaniards gave the first Westernization influence. The Americans have become the second wave. I will also agree that our current lowlander culture has East and West components in it.”

          Colonization, colonization. Hmmm… I’ve been cooking something up about that topic. Stay tuned if you must.

          “My point is that the Hispanic influence is important, but overrated.”

          Overrated? The leyenda negra exists, Alberto. Look around you. Spain and her influence in the Philippines have been in perpetual attack even before your grandparents and mine were born. Those few who understand and defend our true legacy are being maligned and have been subject to various catcalls and name-calling (maka-prayle, maka-kastila, colonial-minded traitors, etc.). That is why —with much regret— I call our country a nation of ingratos.

          “Our culture still has a very important Austronesian component.”

          For the nth time: just because I keep on extolling our Hispanic past and influence does not mean that I have already negated everything before 1521.

          “Therefore, many of us cannot buy the argument of “Keep the Hispanic, discard the Asian and the Filipino will remain.”

          Nick Joaquín, National Artist for Literature, has something to say about that…

          If we had emerged from the 300 years of Spain not Christian in faith nor Christian in culture we could dismiss those 300 years as an irrelevant interruption of our history. But since it was those years that shaped what we are today, it’s as impossible for us to reject them as for a tree to cut off its roots.

          You can read the rest of it here. Please do have the time to do so. :-)

          Oh, and one more thing, Alberto: please stop giving me definitions about what culture is, what a historian does, and all that pedagogic blah. It is very condescending. I do not want to brag that I already know all about it, being a scribbler and a wide reader for as long as I can remember. But you know, sharing stuff like that is demeaning already. I don’t like that, I’m sorry. In our exchanges, have I ever defined to your face what history means? What cultural anthropology is all about? Or the definition of cultural dissemination? No.

          Therefore, if you think that I do not know anything about culture, or if you believe that everything that I have been writing in my blog is filled with errors, then simply prove your point rather than sound like a dictionary.

          Thank you.

          Reply
      • I read Nick Joaquin’s essay. I have a lot of respect with some of his points, but I’m skeptical with a few of these.

        In the Austronesian lens, Philippines is part of the Nusantara or Austronesian territories. Since the mother tongue of the peoples are in the Austronesian languages, it follows that the thought will flow Austronesian style. Language is culture. The neighboring countries do call us “brothers” separated by whites. When Magellan came in, they had an Austronesian from Sumatra named Henry the Black.

        In the Asian lens, the territories comprising of the modern-day Philippines, we had trade contacts, but these are minor. Chinese and Javanese records see tributary states in those territories.

        In the Latin (and Catholic) lens, according to Nick Joaquin, the friars tried infusing their native religion with their religion (which has become ours and distinguished us from Indonesia and Malaysia). In that way, they created a distinct native culture. However, when the Suez canal opened up, they discovered that they were used as a colony. Revolts started from then on.

        In the American lens, they brought numerous technologies and telecommunications and their language. However, they are cunning people, setting their economy to their advantage. In this case, they still used us as a colony. They just acted on their interest, just like what Spain did.

        I wasn’t condescending when I gave definitions. Just using the word to prove the point in a way that it fits the definition. If you wew offended, tough luck.

        Reply
        • Hey Alberto.

          Funny thing that you had no bad things to say using Austronesian and Asian lenses. But with the Latin/Catholic and US WASP lenses, you easily find fault. So much for impartial reasoning…

          And please refrain from using the term “American” when referring the Northern Americans because our Latin American brothers are Americans, too.

          “I wasn’t condescending when I gave definitions. Just using the word to prove the point in a way that it fits the definition. If you wew offended, tough luck.”

          Tough luck, eh? Now I’m totally convinced that the Tagalog word BASTÓS is either Austronesian or Malay. ;-)

          Reply
      • As far as I remember, history is not always relying on written records. It is also relying on the context of the neighbors and material culture.

        http://antipinoy.com/parliament_fits_the_philippines/

        This is where I sourced the idea that the “mano” is also present in our Southeast Asian neighbors. In Malay, it’s called the “salam.”

        If the Philippines will continue the actions to revive indigenous Indian, Arab and Chinese traditions to pass off as their own, then downplay American and more so the Hispanic influence, they might as well change name of the country, you agree? Because in this context, Filipino is Catholic Christian, not atheist or Muslim.

        Reply
    • Actually, I don’t mind having some Spanish influences in our country, like food, architecture etc. along with many other influences from other cultures/countries that make us “Filipino” today. My main problem here is with the statement:

      “Spain deserves the gratitude of the Philippines for the greater good she has brought us. There is the saying ‘you have to take the bad with the good’.”

      Really? So, people should be thankful, for without the Spaniards there would be no things such as…let’s see… Catholicism? Christianity? Let’s not forget the Philippines even today has many religions, beliefs and even lack of belief in deities (atheism). Things like religion, horse-racing, and siestas don’t make a great nation. The Spaniards did not necessarily bring anything ‘good’, even if they did, it’s not substantial enough to care about.

      Should the Native Americans be ‘grateful’ to those who killed off most of their population? It’s like an abusive mother telling her child to be thankful that she gave birth to him, when in fact that doesn’t make it ALL RIGHT – the abuse has been done, and that child does NOT have to be “grateful” to his mother.

      Moreover, I will not agree with the saying ‘you have to take the bad with the good’, especially if the ‘bad’ is -REALLY- bad…Think rape, torture, mass murders and instilling fear. People are not to be grateful to Spain. To be respectful to them? YES, ABSOLUTELY. GRATEFUL? WHY? Do we HAVE to be? That IS quite a stretch.

      Spain brought a lot more suffering than good and the ill-effects of the colonization still lingers today. I’m not going to be ‘grateful’ to Spain for Spanish food, horse-racing, baroque architecture, siestas and Spanish surnames knowing those came with a (very high) price.

      Go back in time and experience for yourself what it was like under Spanish rule in the Philippines… of course we don’t have time machines, but we do have history to learn from. Theoretically, it might actually be good for Americans or China to take over the Philippines so that our whole system can change for the better…but hey, I’m sure you’d be one of the first on that plane if that ever DID happen.

      “It is a unique place that we have in Asia and rather than belittle it, ignore it, deny it or be embarrassed by it, we should acknowledge it and take it for its advantages.”

      I agree it is a unique place…but every country in Asia is unique, so what’s your point? It’s not like the more “Asian” we are the less “unique” we become. Our Spanish influences aren’t what makes us unique, if that’s what you’re implying.

      I’ve traveled a lot. I assure you no one ever identifies Filipinos as Spanish or even Latinos or Mexicans. I found myself more in common with Malaysians, Indonesians and even Bangladeshis I met. I had a friend back in high school who was Spanish, and me and my other friends were pretty much shocked that her ‘maids’ addressed us as ‘Senorita’ as they served us food. WHAT. I don’t know many households in this country that has that ‘culture’, except for those who are actually Spanish themselves.

      HK has a lot of British influences but that does not mean their culture or identity cannot exist without British influences. They don’t have to be grateful to the British – did it ever occur to you that people are also capable of forming their own culture/ideal society without armies storming their way into their land?

      And when you say ‘embarrassed’… about what specifically? About practicing Spanish culture? Because I don’t think Filipinos are even embarrassed by that. I’m sure many of them want to be Spanish even if they don’t want to admit it.

      We have many OTHER influences aside from those coming from Spain…that mixture of cultures is what makes us Filipino. That’s my observation.

      Reply
      • I was just being direct. I was not implying anything. If it appears rude, well, that’s your interpretation.

        As a Filipino, I can sense that you’re giving a certain type of insult. Look for your etymologies before using it to insult. I remember it coming from the Spanish word for “coarse.”
        I’m neither the most refined nor the most personal forero in this blog, I can type certain things bluntly in a way many people would interpret as rude, but whatever I type questioning your stand, don’t take it personally. You’ll benefit from this.

        In the Asian lens, when I said “tributary state,” it’s almost like a vassal-state in definition, which is not a good way to describe a state.

        In the Austronesian lens, I will also have to say that different Austronesian nations will have occasional wars and bickering with one another.

        Given these details and given the vibes each influence gives, we must have a rough idea on the vibe the Philippines must give. In other forums, they want to change the name of the Philippines to Seludong, Maharlika, Bayanihan or whatever, due to the current vibe of people wanting to do away with the Spanish influence and unifying the Austronesians.

        And when I say Asian, I encompass South Asians (Indians and Indo-Muslims) and East Asians (Chinese sphere of influence).

        Reply
      • Great post. Why has no one responded to this?

        Reply
  2. alfonso velázquez

    Bien dicho, Pepe.

    Reply
  3. Tama! Nakakalungkot lang talaga na ang history at tuturuan tayo na magkaroon ng hatred. Let us move on!

    Reply
  4. USA forzó la separación de Filipinas, Cuba y Puerto Rico. Pero creo que si hubiéramos seguido estando unidos, con el tiempo hubiera pasado lo mismo.

    Los filipinos no tenéis que disculparos por nada, en tal caso sería España por trataros de la manera que lo hicieron entonces y por no protegeros de los ataques americanos.

    De todas las colonias que tuvo España, sin duda la que peor fue tratada fue Filipinas y aún así, en todos los blogs que he podido leer, en foros y más sitios de internet habláis con un cariño con el cual hace que podáis estar orgullosos de cómo sois.

    Dios os bendiga.

    Reply
  5. no hace falta ninguna disculpa amigo Pepe.
    A mi me basta el continuo cariño y el amor que expresais en esta bitácora y en otras.
    Me entristece sin embargo que siga habiendo “ciegos” en Filipinas.

    ¿te imaginas una Filipinas completamente bilingue en español/inglés ? Sería el puente económico en Asia entre España/Europa y toda América. Ahora mismo, Filipinas es sólo el carro de los despojos de los gringos y de los chinos. Un país empobrecido cultural y económicamente.

    Reply
    • I would agree that Spanish must be a co-official language, but English and Malay, not Tagalog, must be official. Maybe a trilingual Philippines must make her in a better situation. Malay was the lingua franca of what is modern-day Indonesia, Malaysia and Philippines. Spanish would help the Filipino communicate with Spain and Latin America (including Portugal Italy, to a certain extent). English has helped us speak to many parts of the world from USA & Canada (we understand their English best), Germanic Europe (UK included), the British Commonwealth, and numerous parts of the Middle East.

      For now I can only agree that Philippines is under a very powerful influence of China and USA.

      How can you say that Philippines is culturally impoverished with this statement?

      Reply
      • “How can you say that Philippines is culturally impoverished with this statement?”

        Albert, read Juanlu‘s statement again: Ahora mismo, Filipinas es sólo el carro de los despojos de los gringos y de los chinos.

        That should answer your question.

        Reply
    • Todavía creo que los filipinos ingratos deberían pedir disculpas a España. España merece una disculpa. Ya es hora.

      Reply
  6. Estimados Amigos;

    La influencia española en Filipinas es notable no solo culturalmente sino tambien en el idioma, pues las lenguas que se hablaban en Filipinas antes de la presencia española eran bastante reducidas en sus expresiones y España dejo su impronta de nuevas expresiones y vovablos que se incorporaron a las diversas lenguas habladas en el archipielago. Respectod e la influencia yanki, les puedo decir que decidieron imponer el ingles por al fuerza y si nos remitimos a la historia de Filipinas podemos apreciar que la invasion de los yankis dejaron nueve millones “nueve millones” de filipinos y filipinas exterminados (estos son datos ciertos y comprobables) ¿Ustedes creen que España remotamente acabo con la vida de tantos filipinos y filipinas en sus mas de trescientos años de permanencia?
    Amigos no sigan creyendo en las bondades de un conquietador yanki que solo les importa chuparles los beneficios hasta el ultimo suspiro y luego solo les deja miseria. Usa no es Gran Bretaña, pues los ingleses mal o bien dejaron civilizacion al igual que lo hizo España o Portugal, pero los yankis solo les dejaron “barbarie” a los pueblos que sometieron.
    Saludos Marcos

    Reply
  7. HugoChavezFrias

    Pepe, do you also happen to have read about South American history, especially their Wars of Independence from Spain?

    viva Mexico! viva Latino Americana! viva Chavez!

    Latino Heat Forever!

    Reply
  8. What if the Filipinos had different surnames? If only the ones with Spanish descent have Hispanic surnames?

    http://www.asianweek.com/2008/08/26/name-change-for-the-philippines/

    Reply
  9. Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla

    Pepe, I feel sorry for you… I blame Mr. Gomez-Rivera for the brainwashing that he has bestowed upon you… too bad… you idolize Spain so much… be more nationalistic and not colonial mental. :-)

    Reply
    • Miguel, I have never idolized Spain. I don’t remember a time that I have idolized a foreign country, even Spain. That’s hilarious. But I do appreciate her involvement in Philippine History because if not for her, then there would have been no Philippines as we know it today geographically and ethnically speaking. I extol my country’s Spanish past, but not Spain.

      And nobody, not even Señor Gómez, has the power to brainwash me. I am not as stupid as you think I am. Therefore, it is I who should feel sorry for you because you have misunderstood me. I hope that you are not always like that: judgmental.

      And no, Señor Gómez is not the type of person who brainwashes people. You do not even know the man personally, so why speak ill of him? Although I admit that it was Señor Gómez who has moulded me into what I am today, I did not accept everything he taught me hook, line, and stinker. It was a gradual process. I first weighed in all the facts I learned from him before believing outrightly. And through the years, I did find out that everything he said to me about our national identity is true. However, we still do not agree in certain topics. For example, he still considers Andrés Bonifacio (inspite of his fanatical crimes) as a national hero; I don’t.

      And before you start talking about colonial mentality and the like, you better understand what colonization really means. Once you know, then you can start arguing with me.

      Reply
  10. Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla

    ha??? Andres and fanatical crimes? what exactly do you mean? when he revolted against his colonial master? oh no… its not crime, its nationalism; love for country!

    and I did not know that Gomez-Rivera considers Bonifacio as a national hero instead of Dr. Rizal… wow… well, I guess Im dead wrong about Gomez-Rivera…

    and Pepito, Im sorry if I hurt you somehow; t’was not my intention in the first place. I hope we can be good friends. we can hang out sometime and talk about Spanish language restoration efforts for Filipinas.

    gracias:-)

    Reply
    • It’s a long story, Miguel. I still have to write about it. But I already did write something about the Katipunan a few years ago. You can read it here:

      http://skirmisher.org/true-history/the-slime-that-was-the-katipunan/

      But now, I regret writing in that kind of language. Reading this essay, I noticed how immature I was. I should have never used immature language. I’ll tone it down when I have time.

      “and I did not know that Gomez-Rivera considers Bonifacio as a national hero instead of Dr. Rizal…”

      I guess my use of the term “national hero” got you confused. Señor Gómez still considers Rizal as the national hero. The premiere national hero. I believe he is already irreplaceable. I should not have used “national” to avoid confusion.

      “wow… well, I guess Im dead wrong about Gomez-Rivera…”

      There you go again, dude…

      Reply
  11. Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla

    @Pepito:

    Ok, ok. I’ll just try to understand Mr. Gomez-Rivera more by reading his weblog. Thanks for the links. :-)

    Reply
  12. and …..The Austronesian speaking peoples are a population in and that speaks languages of the family and share common descent from ancient aboriginal peoples of Oceania. .Archaeological evidence demonstrates a technological connection between the farming cultures of the south Southeast Asia and Melanesia and sites that are first known from mainland China whereas a combination of archaeological and linguistic evidence has been interpreted as supporting a northern southern China and Taiwan origin for the Austronesian language family.

    Reply
  13. Yea i would definitely have to agree with you…I went to a school in the states and it had quite a big population of Filipinos.Everyday my Filipinos friends would say there so Exotic looking to other Asians because they have a history with the Spanish conquistadors ..Yet to be honest i never saw anything Exotic They looked like your Typical Filipino.Yet they argued that he she looked like she was from Mexico or Spain.I can tell you she did not look nothing near it until my friends from Spain and a Latino..approached her and easily Beat her in the argument.Its very sad that Most Filipinos in the U.s Australia etc do not accept there heritage and cultural history!Because the fact is they look very similar to there neighbors Indonesia Vietnam Thailand Malaysia etc.But not every Filipino is like that in the United States or any other western country . Yes there are some that claim they are Spanish but meanwhile I just look at them and think But you do not look it at all! If they were really Hispanic they would be Speaking Spanish and up least have some sort of European Spanish feature!In my point of view its hard to observe this!But some do have European features..but that s a very little minority ..Sure we have some Hispanic and American influence in our Culture But for the most part we share it much more with Asian culture Malay culture just look at our daily life..your language for example..the words Ako Mabuti Pangit Kamusta etc You can find those words in the Indonesian Language!

    Reply
  14. While we share the same cause (to revive the Spanish language and restore its status as an official language in the country), I cannot agree that we owe a debt of gratitude to Spain, much less owe her an apology for anything.

    The so-called benefits we enjoyed as a result of colonization are incidental. They are an inheritance born out of circumstances, rather than gifts from the kindness or altruism of Spain.

    One would have to be unbelievably naive to think the Spaniards built these roads, bridges, and other structures through Polo y Servicio for the betterment of the ‘Philippines’ (ie. for us). Remember that the Philippines at the time was a part of Spain and her Empire. They did it for ‘Spanish Philippines’, which was theirs and NOT ours. Spain was merely tending to one of her ‘properties’ so to speak. We and Latin America were investments for the future of the Spanish Empire.

    Say a thief steals your car, cleans it, and then gives it a fresh paint job and a better engine. If he is eventually caught and forced to return the car to you, are you supposed to thank him for ‘improving’ it? Do you look at him with a starry-gaze saying “Thanks to you, I get to drive such a great car”? Of course, not.

    Likewise, we do not owe Spain for taking our lands, enhancing them for her purposes, and then later returning them to us as her empire collapsed. Sa ibang salita, sinuerte tayo. You better believe that if she had her way and if her empire persevered, then the natives of the islands or of Latin America never get their lands back and there is no ‘unique Filipino identity’ to write about.

    My analogy to our experience of colonization is that of a painful yet life-changing experience (the death of a loved one, time in prison, etc). You would likely not want to re-live these events if you had the choice but at the same time, you recognize that it has shaped you as a person. As you move on, you come to embrace it as a part of yourself. And in the same vein, I realize that although Hispanization is a product of an exploitative process (Colonialism), it is all in the past and for better or worse, it is an inseparable part of who I am as a Filipino. And because it is a part of who I am, I appreciate that part of my heritage.

    However, it is completely different to suggest that we should be grateful to Spain itself. That my friend, reeks of subservience, an inferiority complex and a severe case of colonial mentality. The nostalgia and awe with which you describe our Spanish past or the way you refer to Spain as ‘Mother’ makes it almost seem like you would like to be under her once again.

    Without Spain there is no “Filipino” and no “Philippines”. But that is a moot point. Who is to say that what we are right now is better than whatever else we would have become without colonization? Perhaps we’d be a different country. Perhaps more than one country given our geography. Who knows? Either way, we would have made it to the 21st century just the same. It’s not as if we were a lower-species who would have become extinct or could not have become anything respectable without your precious “Mother Spain”. We’d be different alright, but different doesn’t mean worse. To suggest otherwise is to say that our people were inherently inferior to the Spaniard. Disgusting.

    Reply
    • Hello José,

      Thank you for dropping by.

      First of all, I would like to react to your opening statement (which, in a way, is also an opening rebuttal to your contradictions to this blogpost). You said that you share my advocacy of reinstating the Spanish language back to our country. Thank you very much. But why do you want it back? Just because Spanish is part of our culture, history, and heritage? In those are the only reasons, it will be somewhat superficial considering that, in reading this comment of yours, you seem to harbor a seeming enmity towards that part of our history which had actually formed our identity. Bringing back the Spanish language to our cosmos for the mere heck of it will not do it any justice especially to what had already transpired in our recent history.

      Nowadays, the Spanish language should also be brought back not only for those noble reasons of culture and heritage conservation but in order for us to know the historical truth as well as give completion to the Filipino Identity. Now, if you cannot agree that the Philippines owe a debt of gratitude to Spain, much less owe her an apology for anything, then that is your call, and I will have to respect that. The reason why I say such things that disgust you is because Spain and her legacy in the Philippines have been demonized so much that I thought it is high time to even the odds, bring proper weight to the scales, because that is the way it should be. That is the correct thing to do.

      “One would have to be unbelievably naive to think the Spaniards built these roads, bridges, and other structures through Polo y Servicio for the betterment of the ‘Philippines’ (ie. for us).”

      But that is the exact truth. All this infrastructure, many of which can still be seen today, are for us. Were they built solely for them? Definitely not. You should know by now that through the

      You said so yourself: the Philippines at the time was a part of Spain and her Empire. But to say that “they did it for ‘Spanish Philippines’, which was theirs and NOT ours” reeks of historical rejectionism of facts that are, sadly, clearly unacceptable to today’s generation educated in the language of the US WASP invader.

      What you should remember is this: most of the Spaniards who went here were not military nor even migrants/businessmen. Believe it or not, most were friars: for over 300 years, around 12,000 of them came. And it was virtually them who kept these islands of ours intact, and not through military force. As a matter of fact, during that time, when one goes to a far-flung village anywhere in the Philippines, the only white face that one will usually encounter was that of a friar.

      To further expound this: Fr. Pedro Payo, O.P. wrote in a letter (dated 26 November 1887) that it was them, the friars, who kept the provinces in utmost peace and submission (obviously via Christianity) even with scanty military forces.

      “Spain was merely tending to one of her ‘properties’ so to speak.”

      You may even delete the “so to speak” idiom. The Philippines was an overseas province of Spain. Thus, we were properties of the Spanish Crown. But the more correct term would have been “territory” since we are speaking of lands.

      To say that we were mere “Investments” are incorrect. When Spain united the various archipelagic tribes into the Filipino nation that we know today, the intention of finding riches may have been on their minds. Unfortunately for them, the Philippines offered no gold nor spices (the gold mines of Paracale in Camarines Norte were to come later, but those did not enrich Spain). To put it more frankly, the Philippines have become a severe economic liability to Spain.

      In relation to the last sentence above, let me share briefly what Nick Joaquín wrote in the book MANILA, MY MANILA: “The story goes that, on being told once again that money was needed to complete the walls of Manila, King Philip II rose and, shading his eyes, peered out a window. ‘Considering how much they’re costing,’ said the king, ‘I should be able to see the top of those walls from here.’”

      There had been times when Spain already gave up on the Philippines because it cost the Spanish Crown too much (hardly an “investment”). In various letters to the Spanish Crown throughout three centuries, friars pleaded the peninsular government to spare the Philippines from abandonment. To them, the Philippines is a “treasure trove” of souls yet to be converted wholly. More importantly, it was a friar dream to finally convert the heathen lands of China to the Christian fold. The Philippines to them was a perfect “launching pad” to the realization of that dream (abruptly stopped due to the tumult of the 1890s).

      With all due respect, your analogy of a stolen car beautified then returned later on to the original owner is off-mark. Spain did not “steal” the Philippines. In the first place (and I keep on repeating this), there was no “Philippines” back then to speak of. When the first batch of Europeans came here in 1521, they were not looking for a “Philippines” to conquer (or, in your words, “colonize”). It was happenstance. And even when the second batch arrived in 1565, there was still no “Philippines”. What they found here were several warring tribal states, independent from one another. There was the “kingdom” of the Tagalogs, the “kingdom” of the Ilocanos, of the Tausugs, of the Lumads, the Bicolanos, Cebuanos, etc, all of them thinking that they are their own country. You can even put it this way: the archipelago back then was composed of various cultures, or perhaps a Malayan nation of various cultures, but in “inchoate” form. Had the Spaniards not arrived, nobody knows for sure what would have happened to this inchoate form. We can always speculate, give theories, but all these suppositions will be a waste of time and scholarly effort. What’s done is done. For better or for worse, our came the Filipino from Spanish colonization.

      Speaking of colonization, I could not help but suspect that you have rather ill-feelings towards that part of our history (“Likewise, we do not owe Spain for taking our lands, enhancing them for her purposes, and then later returning them to us as her empire collapsed. Sa ibang salita, sinuerte tayo. You better believe that if she had her way and if her empire persevered, then the natives of the islands or of Latin America never get their lands back and there is no ‘unique Filipino identity’ to write about.”). Please be advised that the context of colonization from the English version is different.

      The confusion that “culture change” has brought us upset the vehicle of expression and definition of certain terms and even historical concepts. It has upset not just our sense of values; it has also upset the true meaning of the word “colonialism”.

      The following statements may be hard to accept and might even disgust you all the more. But I will still invoke my right to say it, especially since I know that this is all based on historical truth and logic…

      Filipinos nowadays tend to think that the colonialism that happened under Spain was similar to that of the US version. We are made to believe that the historical process of colonialism under Spain who, after all, gave us national maturity and redemption, was equal to the Anglo-Saxon colonial process that happened in North America and Australia. But the English version is a colonialism that ended with the aboriginal races of the territories conquered through force of arms to make way for the settlers. Here in the Philippines that was not the case. Tagalogs still exist. Bicolanos still exist. Even the Ifugaos, although not converted, still remain. There was no annihilation, no subjugation, no aggressive invasion took place.

      “Americanized” in thinking, today’s Filipinos have a misconception of what they mean by the word “colonialism”. This misconception stems from the fact that in English the word colonialism has become synonymous, for reasons of history itself in England and in English-speaking nations— with racial, economic, and cultural “destruction” and (most especially) “exploitation”, not to mention fomenting the concept of “inferior” races. As such, today’s generation of English-speaking and -thinking Filipinos

      In Spanish, the word “colonialism”, believe it or not, does not mean or connote any kind of exploitation or annihilation of races, economies, and cultures. Colonialism in Spanish, in view of the history of Spain in the Americas and the Philippines, means “salvation, enlightenment, education, a rapprochement with the one true God, and respect for the dignity of man. And all the results have been the fusion of races, creating new cultures, and the establishment of a strong, young, and sovereign nations. So strong and self-reliant we had become under Spain’s colonial rule that we even had the nerve to break away from her. To summarize: the Spanish colonial experience is synonymous to Christianization, for it was Christianity that saved Europe from the Dark Ages.

      And just in case, for the sake of argument, that the Katipunan rebellion never happened, and that we had remained under Spain after the turn of the century, the Filipino Identity would still have prevailed, and I dare say in a much better form than today. Furthermore, the trend of colonial powers during the last century was that of giving independence to their respcetive overseas territories even after the last world war (UK and Hong Kong, Portugal and East Timor, to name a few).

      “My analogy to our experience of colonization is that of a painful yet life-changing experience (the death of a loved one, time in prison, etc). You would likely not want to re-live these events if you had the choice but at the same time, you recognize that it has shaped you as a person. As you move on, you come to embrace it as a part of yourself. And in the same vein, I realize that although Hispanization is a product of an exploitative process (Colonialism), it is all in the past and for better or worse, it is an inseparable part of who I am as a Filipino. And because it is a part of who I am, I appreciate that part of my heritage.”

      But this analogy again is wrong. That analogy claims of a bitter period in our lives — why then fight for the return of the Spanish language, a reminder and vehicle of that bitter past? The death of a loved one, time in prison? These are all fallacies. The colonial experience under Spain was not a time of mourning but a celebration: the coming of the wheel, Christianity, architecture, influx of food culture, etc. I will no longer enumerate, hoping that you already know all this. And assuming that you do, why the fallacious analogy?

      If our Spanish colonial experience was a time of mourning, a bitter phase of our lives as you claim, then believe me, I will never waste my time maintaining FILIPINO eSCRIBBLRES (or for that matter ALAS FILIPINAS).

      I hope you do realize that there has been too much hispanophobia going around for the past few decades, that is why I am singing a different tune, that of gratitude to Spain. Showing gratitude to Spain for the cultural dissemination that we received from her is not a sign of subservience nor inferiority complex. That exists only in your mind. In my case —as was the case in Joaquín, José Rizal, Claro M. Recto, Jesús Balmori, Manuel Bernabé, Cecilio Apóstol, Evangelina Guerrero de Zacarías, Enrique Magalona, Modesto Reyes, and a host of other Filipino greats—, I am simply giving credit where credit is due. Because we both know that it is the right thing to do.

      “The nostalgia and awe with which you describe our Spanish past or the way you refer to Spain as ‘Mother’ makes it almost seem like you would like to be under her once again.”

      That is farthest from my mind. I don’t care about the Spain of today. Both Spain and the Philippines today have “cultural amnesia”; both do not “know each other anymore”, like a drug addict mother and a prostitute daughter, or something like that. I am merely celebrating a glorious past that has produced renaissance men such as the writer-doctor Rizal, the chemist/musician/war tactician Antonio Luna, the gifted Guerrero family of Ermita, etc.

      I keep on getting this “Pepe is reeking of colonial mentality” accusation. No worries. I do not deny that. Yes, I am a victim of colonial mentality. But after having read the foregoing (what colonialism really meant under Spain), now you know why I as a self-respecting Filipino am not ashamed of it.

      Before I wrap this up, I noticed your use of the objective first person plural pronoun “us”. There is a tendency to refer to our pre-Filipino selves which is dangerously erroneous. There was never “us” before the Spaniards came. The concept of a Filipino was not yet existing. The “us”, the “we” only began to form when we started to become a nation.

      In 1599, the previously existing native ethnic states went into the Filipino State as co-founding members. They incorporated themselves with the Filipino State when they elected the Spanish King (Rey Felipe II) as their natural sovereign (page 23 of THE HISPANIZATION OF THE PHILIPPINES by John Leddy Phelan, University of Winsconsin Press, USA, 1959). This election was verified during a synod-plebiscite held also that year.

      From that time on, and after forming part of the 1571 Filipino State, our pre-Hispanic ancestors also accepted Spanish as their official and national language with their respective native languages as auxiliary official languages. Thus, the previously autonomous Ethnic States that existed before 1599 were respectively the ones that belonged to the Tagalogs, Ilocanos, Pampangueños, Bicolanos, Visayans, Mindanáo Lumads, and the Moro Sultanates of Joló and Maguindanáo.

      Aside from these indigenous or native Ethnic States, the pre-Hispanic Chinese of Mayi-in-ila Kung shing-fu, or what is now known as Manila, likewise joined the Filipino State when they accepted the King of Spain as their natural sovereign. More so, because they knew that they would become the chief benefactors of the Manila-Acapulco Galleon Trade that would in turn last for 215 years.

      Hence, all of the above mentioned people became, ethnographically and politically, Filipinos as well as Spanish citizens or subjects when they freely accepted the Spanish King (Rey Felipe or King Philip II) as their natural sovereign in 1599, resided in the Philippines to do business, and paid taxes to His Majesty’s Manila government. It is because of this historical event that the Spanish language is an inseparable part of every Filipino’s individual, collective, and national identity. Because of this fact, Philippine education today, to be truly Filipino, must have Spanish as its medium of instruction as was the case before the Americans came, since without a notion of this language no Filipino can say that he is truly Filipino in his identity (Caviteños and Zamboangueños should, and can, start with their own Chabacano vernacular).

      But now this has gone too long. And I must be boring you now. :D You have compelled me to write the longest commentary I have ever done on my own blog, And I think this reply of mine is even longer than the blogpost itself, haha! Congratulations. :-)

      Again, thank you for commenting and for the intelligent exchange of ideas. God bless you.

      Atentamente,

      Pepe Alas

      Reply
  15. Very well said Pepe!

    Reply
  16. José,
    regarding your question:
    “Who is to say that what we are right now is better than whatever else we would have become without colonization? Perhaps we’d be a different country. Perhaps more than one country given our geography. Who knows?”

    I think I have a pretty good idea, since you ask.

    You’re asking what if the Philippines had not been colonized by Spain?

    We can only speculate, but one thing is for sure:
    Had the Philippines not been colonized by Spain it would have been colonized by any other of the colonial powers, no doubt about it, The “whatever else we would have become without colonization” is simply not a realistic hypothesis.

    Every single place on Planet Earth has been colonized at one time or another. There were people in the islands before Spain, before the Muslims, and before the Malay, in the same way that there were Iberians and other tribes in Spain prior to the arrival of the Romans.

    The islands would have been colonized anyway, and chances are that it would have never enjoyed the same prosperity that made it become the second richest place in Asia, as it was in the late 19th century (in terms of per capita income).

    The “Perla de Oriente” would have most likely ended up being another exploited place where the local population was neglected in the same way it happened to most colonies at the time (specially its neighbors, Malaysia, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, etc.)

    Here’s a testimony from Frederic H. Sawyer, who cannot be accused in any way of being biased towards Spain. Quite the opposite, in fact. He was very critical of Spain, but he also recognized the facts in front of his eyes (he lived in Luzon for over 14 years)

    “Filipinos were as happy a community as could be found in any colony. The population greatly multiplied; they lived in competence, if not in affluence; cultivation was extended, and the exports steadily increased. Let us be just; what British, French, or Dutch colony, populated by natives can compare with the Philippines as they were until 1895?.”

    - Frederic H. Sawyer,
    “The inhabitants of the Philippines”,
    pp. 139,
    London, 1900

    Now, Filipinos have two options, try to wipe out over 3 centuries of common history and suffer an identity crisis as a result, or accept that period as part of the Philippines history, taking advantage of that heritage in the same way most countries around the world do. Look at the Alhambra, or the Aqueduct of Segovia, for example. Nobody in his right mind would say that those were memories of repressing times or such BS. Instead they take advantage of it and sell it off to tourists as part of Spain’s heritage.
    See link for sample:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aqueduct_of_Segovia

    The only thing that is preventing Filipinos from doing that is a false and outdated anti-Spanish propaganda used to brainwash the population after the war. But that’s over now, The US is long gone, how come there are still some fools trying to perpetuate those lies? They’re not doing their country any favor, let me tell you that. And if they’re trying to appear as amiable in American eyes , they’re only achieving being looked down upon.

    If the Philippines has the oldest Universities in Asia, older even than the oldest University in the US, that’s something a Filipino should be proud about and something that would have probably pissed off the United States government at the time. Same goes for all those infrastructures that Spain built and the US with much more economic power, didn’t bother to do.

    The “Perla de Oriente” was called that way for a reason, and that’s something that Filipinos should be proud about, more even so than the Spanish, because the people who worked building up the place were the natives, more than anybody else. All those infrastructures are above all Filipino, in the same way that the Alhambra or the Aqueduct of Segovia are above all Spanish.

    Reply
    • Good post, but you are directing it to the wrong audience.

      I am not one of those “Spanish is a language of oppressors” characters nor do I want to erase our colonial past.

      This has nothing to do with which culture is better between a hypothetically purely native culture either. The point of bringing up the possibility of an alternative history is to say that being occupied by Spain isn’t the best the best thing that happened to the native, so much so that his ancestors need to be thankful for anything.

      I am a proud Filipino who loves the Hispanic elements in his culture. But that is what they are, elements. And that is all we inherited from Spain, her cultural elements. Not the gift of culture, architecture, etc. Those broader categories would have existed with or without Spain.

      José

      Reply
  17. Thank you for the thoughtful response, Pepe.

    To begin, let me re-assure you that I ddo not harbor any bitter feelings towards that part of our past. I have no resentment towards Spain or our experience as her colony. In fact, my love for the Spanish language and my ability to discern between the revisionist (and pro-American) history we are spoonfed through our textbooks and the truth, has gotten me into many debates with the typical ignorant Pinoy who sees things as black and white.

    Second, I do not want the Spanish language revived for “the heck of it”. I want it revived because it was the language of my grandparents, my ancestors, my national anthem, my country’s heroes, and most of my country’s history. That is hardly for “the heck of it”. We speak and appreciate the Spanish language for the same reasons. I agree with everything you stated in your opening and closing statements with regards to Spanish.

    In fact, I agree with many of the things you have posted in this blog. This however, will be an exception. The idea that we owe Spain anything, let alone an apology, just does not sit well with me.

    You are correct in saying that colonization differed in the Spanish and American contexts. However, this is besides the point. I have never equated our experience under Spain with that of with the United States nor have I accused the Spaniard of being the murderer, rapist, or absolute evil that many Filipinos today label him as.

    The differences in the ‘connotations’ of the term colonization in English and Spanish don’t really matter either. Just because Christianization, instead of total annihilation of a race was one of the pillars of Spanish colonization, it doesn’t make it right. This whole salvation, enlightenment, one true God business only works from a Christian perspective. The natives didn’t need to be saved or shown the light. I am Christian, but I also believe in live and let live. You aren’t doing anyone any favors by trying shove your beliefs down their throats.

    Point is, I am not interested in any ‘perspective’ or ‘reason’ for colonization. I am only interested in the definition of the word, which is loosely defined as the process by which a metropole claims sovereignty over the colony and replaces existing social, economic, religious structures with their own. And naturally, this is a process that involves exploitation. It is unavoidable.

    Also, I think we are getting a little too caught up in semantics. I am well-aware of the fact that the Philippines did not exist prior to colonization. I also know that the 1st-person plural is problematic because there was no single nation at the time. But I used the word “Philippines” interchangeably with “the islands/lands” and “we/us” with “the natives” when referring to an experience that they all shared. Notice that using the latter would not have changed the substance of anything I said because I used them in proper context. Do not let it distract you from the analogy. Spain did claim the natives’ lands and they developed it for their purposes and for the betterment of the Spanish Empire. Infrastructure was not built and institutions were not set up solely for the Spaniard obviously, but he was the primary beneficiary in mind considering the long-term goal was expansion and settlement. My point here is the Spaniards did not come from half-way around the globe and expend ungoldy amounts of resources just because they were good people who wanted only the best for us. If that were the case, then we do owe “Mother Spain” a debt of gratitude, and maybe even an apology for being ingrates. But again, what we enjoy now as a result of the Polo y Servicio of the past fell on our laps upon independence, upon the crumbling of the Spanish Empire and the her gradually weakening grip over the distant islands. They were not ‘gifts’ given in goodwill, which I would be the first to be grateful for. Therefore, I cannot thank Spain for acting in HER interest just because circumstances now allow me to enjoy what was once HERS.

    And yes, the Philippines was an “investment” for Spain as were here other colonies. It was an “investment” because Spain “invested” time, money, and valuable resources to administrate the islands. The Philippines eventually became an liability for Spain’s outstretched arm, but as with them all, there are risks involved and not every investment wil yield a positive turn or a profit.

    But I’m glad you mentioned the logistical strains on Spain in managing the Philippines because that is another area wherein we “lucked out”. Our geographic location and the dearth of technology at the time are probably the biggest reasons why our native cultures have persevered even after centuries under Spanish rule. Our location was a significant obstacle to large-scale military relocation, settlement, and in turn, the inevitable cultural (and even racial) assimilation as was the case in Latin America. Had we been in the vicinity of the Mexicos, Honduras, and Perus of the world, there might have been a very real erosion of native culture and we might be a Mestizo nation just like the rest of them. Once again, circumstances prevailed.

    Lastly, the word “mourning” is a bit harsh. I prefer “hardship” and I do believe it is a fitting analogy to our experience of colonization. Believe me, I do not subscribe to the Black Legend, but calling colonization a time of celebration is a stretch. First of all, the time when we had a foreign power claim our land, exploit it, and aspire to assimilate our people and culture is nothing to be giddy about. As far as culture is concerned, ho-hum. I don’t see tocino, the wheel, and Spanish architecture as a cause for celebration to be honest. In fact, treating Spain’s cultural inheritance as a blessing to us (by virtue of giving thanks for it) is implying that we would have been worse off without it. As if the fate of inheriting a non-Hispanic purely native tradition was worse. As if being colonized by the great nation of Spain and being molded in her image was the best we could hope for. This all goes back to my remark about how the absence of Spanish rule would have simply lead to the formation of a different national identity (or identities if they never united) and a different set of cultural and traditions. There is no better or worse. We would have made it to the 21st century just fine without Spain’s help.

    José

    Reply
  18. Every occupying entity leaves behind a collection of good and bad. It’s up to you if you wanna reject the good of one colonizer because you prefer the other. As a multi-colonized population we shouldn’t be having such a hard time being opportunistic – that is, taking the good and discarding the bad. Every civilization that grew into an empire in the past two hundred years has had its own long history of colonization. It’s just that we Filipinos are still in our growing pains. England (relevant because it was from that origin that our Yankee colonizers originated) assimilated the Celts, Romans, Picts, Anglo-Saxons, Normans, Vikings, and whatever else long ago. Spain has had an even longer history of peopling…..Those two countries have obviously, long ago, dealt with the stigma of their colonial past. How long is it gonna take us?

    Reply
  19. Astutely pointed out, Jaime. And I completely agree.

    However, I think what is being contested here is whether or not Filipinos should be grateful to Spain or not. The acceptance of one’s colonial past does not imply gratitude towards one’s colonizer.

    This is something evident in many Mexicans today. They are cognizant of their Hispanic culture and they even converse in the Spanish tongue. They are very proud of their culture and identity even if most of it hails from their colonial history. That said, you will not hear them speaking about Spain like smitten teenage girls. They do not defer to Spain the way one would to a parent or authority figure. Heck, none of the Mexicans I know would ever call Spain “Mother”. It can be summarized in the phrase “Asi es”. It is what it is. You can love ‘who you are’ without taking the extra step and kissing the hand of your colonizer, just because part of ‘who you are’ is a result of your time spent under his rule.

    I do not hate Spain or its people. In fact, I’d love to visit the country and even study there one day. The past is the past. I don’t think that I need to kiss Spain’s ass to prove that I’m not a hater or that I’ve moved on unlike most of our Filipino brethren.

    Reply
    • Hello José,

      Thank you for the reply.

      I am glad that you have shed some light regarding your stand about the Spanish language in the Philippines as well as Spain’s historical relations to the Philippines. It appears that the only thing that you do not agree with me is how I seem to “bow down” too much to Spanish legacies as well as how I defined colonization.

      I just want you to know that the connotation which I wrote yesterday to describe the Spanish colonization and differentiate it from the Anglo-Saxon version is not exactly a personal definition of mine. It is rather an observation. I’m sorry, but no matter how honestly objective I tried to be with these observations of mine, the result is always the same: Spanish colonization really differed from the US.

      Anyway, you already agree to that (“You are correct in saying that colonization differed in the Spanish and American contexts.”). So I believe bone of contention regarding that issue ends here.

      The only issue is how exploitation comes into play when we are to define colonization in both the Spanish and English contexts. It will be pointless if we continue arguing whether Spain exploited us or not, especially since we already have fixed biases. So it doesn’t matter anymore. You have already shown appreciation to a past that has shaped the Filipino Identity, so I’m OK with that. Anyway, for better or for worse, that “exploitation” did not enrich Spain nor made her into a superpower. Our natural resources back then were not put into danger compared to the American Occupation of the Philippines. So I rest my case.

      And no, the Philippines was not an “investment”. Territories are not considered as investments. Pouring in time, money, and valuable resources to administer the Philippines should not be considered as acts of “investments” by Spain. It is but natural to provide funds to one’s own territories. Since it appears to me that you are knowledgeable of past events, you should already know that we were a provincia de ultramar. A Spanish overseas province. Hardly a “colony”. Also, three hundred years is more than enough (actually, it was too much) for Spain to realize whether her Asian “investment” (us) would be profitable or not. You said so yourself. The Philippines was fast becoming a liability. Spain should have simply let us go. Three hundred years of bad investment was too much (proof of this was when Spain was forced to pay a measly sum of $20,000,000 to the US for the latter to acquire the Philippines Islands). With that amount, Spain hardly recovered what she had invested for three hundred years. It is safe if we assume that Spanish administrators and economists in Spain were not really that dumb to allow a losing “investment” such as the Philippines to harm the royal coffers for that long.

      Since you said that you do not subscribe to the leyenda negra, then I applaud you. That is something rare nowadays, and I am honestly happy to know that there are still young Filipinos like you who cannot be made to believe every single word that a US-centric education has taught us. However, Im a bit disturbed by this remark of yours: “I prefer ‘hardship’ and I do believe it is a fitting analogy to our experience of colonization.” But which era did not encounter hardship? As a long time student of Philippine History, I have come to know that our milieu is far worse compared to long ago. Yes, back then, there was poverty. Back then, there were hardships. But which era didn’t? Poverty and hardships were not the monopoly of the Empire days. But this is what I can tell you up front: there was no misery during those days, something that has been plaguing our generation now.

      “The differences in the ‘connotations’ of the term colonization in English and Spanish don’t really matter either. Just because Christianization, instead of total annihilation of a race was one of the pillars of Spanish colonization, it doesn’t make it right. This whole salvation, enlightenment, one true God business only works from a Christian perspective. The natives didn’t need to be saved or shown the light. I am Christian, but I also believe in live and let live. You aren’t doing anyone any favors by trying shove your beliefs down their throats.”

      Now I think I’m beginning to understand why Professor Fernando Ziálcita, during a chance meeting years ago in Instituto Cervantes, cautioned me not to include Christianity in discussions regarding our Hispanic past. Because it might foment misunderstanding or hatred. This is a very delicate issue, indeed. As such, I will not dare comment anymore on the above statement of yours. I’d rather write a full blogpost about it in the near future. Stay tuned to it if you wish. :-)

      By the way: showing gratitude towards Spain doesn’t necessarily mean that we are kissing their asses (your words). Perhaps all this study and reassessment of Spain’s cultural dissemination have confused the both of us. Whether or not “sinuerte lang tayo sa pagdatíng ng España dito” is besides the point. All those cultural gifts we received from them, inanimate or not, were beneficial to the indio, not to the Spaniard.

      In parting, please allow me to quote from one of my favorite filipinólogos, Nick Joaquín because we both share this sentiment of gratitude towards Spain (NOTE: Spain of olden times, not Spain of today):

      “To accuse the Spanish, over and over again, of having brought us all sorts of things, mostly evil, among which we can usually remember nothing very valuable, ‘except, perhaps,’ religion and national unity, is equivalent to saying of a not very model mother, that she has given her child nothing except life, for in the profoundest possible sense, Spain did give birth to us — as a nation, as an historical people. This geographical unit of numberless islands called the Philippines –this mystical unit of numberless tongues, bloods and cultures called a Filipino– was begotten of Spain, is a Spanish creation. The content of our national destiny is ours to create, but the basic form, the temper, the physiognomy, Spain has created for us.

      Towards our Spanish past, especially, it is time we became more friendly, bitterness but inhibits us; those years cry for a fresher appraisal.”

      Un abrazo.

      Reply
  20. ¡Hola de nuevo, Pepe!

    I want to start by apologizing if you at all felt offended by anything I said. I am passionate about what I believe in (as you are) but I do not wish to attack anyone personally in the process of articulating my thoughts.

    Back on topic, I think we have hit a dead end as far as the debate on whether or not the Philippines was an ‘investment’ to Spain. It is issue of semantics once more. I know what you are thinking when you contend that the Philippines was not an investment, but a territory of Spain. And you have the right idea. However, when I say investment, I do not mean it in a technical sense. As a business student, I consider ANYTHING that one expends any amount of time, effort or resources on (whether or not it turns a profit or becomes a liability) as an ‘investment’. I think that is where our disagreement in its definition might lie. Nevertheless, the underlying point was that as an ‘investment’ or as something Spain now considered her own, it was only natural for her the Philippines to be the recipients of new technology, infrastructure, etc. It all coincides with the betterment of the Spanish Empire in the long-term, an Empire we were a part of. Returning to the analogy of a thief, he upgraded the vehicle for his personal use in mind, not knowing that one day, his capture would restore ownership to you (and as such, the enhancements he put in). Now if someone were to voluntarily improve your vehicle whilst still respecting your total ownership of it, then that is different. In my opinion that is when you would owe that person a debt of gratitude.

    I agree that the Spaniard was not even close to as destructive and abusive as the American. But again, I am not arguing the extent of exploitation. Exploitation took place in BOTH colonial periods, albeit to varying degrees. Exploitation occurs, naturally, in ALL colonial relationships. It is not necessary for the Philippines to have been a gold mine of resources for it to have taken place. The simple act of claiming sovereignty over the different lands from the natives and using them for one’s purposes (expanding an empire, spreading a religion, settlement, for trade routes in the East, etc.) is an act of exploitation.

    I also agree that Philippine society is in a much worse plight today. Indeed, hardship isn’t exclusive to the Spanish era by any stretch of the imagination. I typed that post at about 3AM running on fumes so I don’t think that was the best word to use. What I wanted to say was that while it is important for Filipinos to be cognizant and very much appreciative of their heritage, I do not think it is right to demand that they look back at a time when their people were ruled over by a foreign power who was acting in her interests and not ours, and be thankful for it. I will save my gratitude for those who reach out to me and act in kindness and with my personal welfare in mind, rather than those with an ulterior motive (regardless of whether I get to enjoy the residual benefits of that motive one day).

    But alas, Pepe (no pun intended), to each his own. Regardless of our division on this issue, I have a great deal of respect for you and there are many, many other things you and I agree on.

    Saludos desde Toronto, Canada

    José

    Reply
    • Hello José,

      Sorry for the late reply. Been tackling domestic issues as of late.

      Going back to the “investment” analogy. The only real reason why I gave much thought to it was because of this earlier comment of yours (with added emphasis to certain words):

      “One would have to be unbelievably naive to think the Spaniards built these roads, bridges, and other structures through Polo y Servicio for the betterment of the ‘Philippines’ (ie. for us). Remember that the Philippines at the time was a part of Spain and her Empire. They did it for ‘Spanish Philippines’, which was theirs and NOT ours. Spain was merely tending to one of her ‘properties’ so to speak. We and Latin America were investments for the future of the Spanish Empire.”

      As can be gleaned above, the choice of words used seem to show an “unwitting resentment” towards this “investment”, that our indigenous ancestors really “just got lucky”. But in a more recent comment (“Nevertheless, the underlying point was that as an ‘investment’ or as something Spain now considered her own, it was only natural for her the Philippines to be the recipients of new technology, infrastructure, etc. It all coincides with the betterment of the Spanish Empire in the long-term, an Empire we were a part of.”), there is already an admission that Spain considered us her own after all, that we were not treated merely as properties. So I have to agree with you that this part of the argument has already reached a dead end.

      Also, lest I forget, the only reason that I used “mourning” to describe and/or refute another analogy that you recently made is because of your use of the phrase “the death of a loved one”.

      One last word about exploitation. I’m happy that it is both clear to both of us that “exploitation took place in BOTH colonial periods, albeit to varying degrees”. My points, exactly. Spain, however, claimed sovereignty over the archipelago we now call as our country not by force (re: the abovementioned synod-plebiscite of 1599). The natives asked the Spaniards what would they get in return when they consider the King of Spain as their sovereign ruler. All things were enumerated to them: Christianity, technology, etc. This event is on record. And it’s clearly not an act of exploitation.

      “What I wanted to say was that while it is important for Filipinos to be cognizant and very much appreciative of their heritage, I do not think it is right to demand that they look back at a time when their people were ruled over by a foreign power who was acting in her interests and not ours, and be thankful for it.”

      But looking further back, how does one define who a foreigner was? Even the Tagalogs and Pampangueños were foreigners. The pygmies were the original settlers in the first place. And they were driven out further to the highlands, were many of them still remain. Unlike today, the notions of what was “foreign” (in today’s context) or not was playfully walking on a very thin thread.

      And whether or not we discuss such things in further detail (to avoid another run-in with “semantics”), those indigenous natives (from the Tagalog tribe, from the Ilocano tribe, from the Ilongo tribe, etc.) were not “us”. Those conquistadores who conquered these tribes were not “us”, Neither of them were “us”.

      But their fusion with each other gave birth to “us”, the real “us”, the Filipino people, “born thru the intercourse of the Iberian and the natives” in the words of José Miguel García.

      The Philippines is such an ungrateful nation. We deserve to be poor. That must have surely hurt you. That must have surely hurt everybody else. Rest assured that, for my part, this is not an act of subservience nor “colonial mentality”. It is simply because our Hispanic past has had too much badmouthing from our generation (which I still consider to be truly ungrateful and even blind). That is why, out of disgust, I was compelled to write that we owe mother Spain an apology, and not the other way around.

      And yes, I still call Spain (that Spain of old already lost in memory) as our mother. Without her, there would have been no Philippines as we know it. But of course, you already know this. And for that I’m already contented and glad.

      What matters now is that we are on the same side, after all. And that is to bring back what should have never been removed from the Filipino cosmos.

      It is really nice having a respectful discussion with you, sir. Thank you and best regards. :-)

      Reply
  21. Pingback: The Filipino Spirit vs. Yolanda and the Bojol tremors: brief thoughts from a historical viewpoint | FILIPINO eSCRIBBLES

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