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Filipino, in a jiffy

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Antipolo by Fernando Amorsolo, the first Filipino to be honored as a National Artist (1972). Amorsolo was a Spanish-speaking Roman Catholic Tagalog painter from Manila. To make it simpler, he was a Filipino visual artist.

Three attributes make up a Filipino:

1) Hispanic culture, with Malayan Malayo-Polynesian elements as a substrate.
2) The Spanish language.
3) Christianity (Roman Catholic Religion).

Without any of these three attributes, I will only be a half-baked Filipino, a Filipino merely by citizenship. Nothing more. Nothing less.

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14 responses »

  1. The First and perhaps the Second can be revived.

    Reply
  2. If we’ll talk about the modern-day definition of “Filipino”, I respectfully disagree with 1 and 3.

    In my point of view, the Hispanic is the substrate where the Austronesian is the superstrate. That is for number 1. Let’s compare the situation of the Philippines today with the situation of France during the Dark Ages.
    The Franks invaded Gaul, then part of the Roman Empire. The Vulgar Latin there had a Latin vocabulary and significant parts of grammar (Latin superstrate) with a Germanic substrate (phonology and a few grammatical aspects). In this case, the Franks who assimilated lost their Frankish tongue and started speaking Old French. The Franks who remained in their homeland started speaking Old Dutch and Old Franconian.
    In this situation, the Spaniards who assimilate here with the natives will lose their language. The Franks lost their language through simple assimilation. The the Spaniards were pretty much forced to assimilate or go back to Spain or face harrassment from the Americanized, war-weary and betrayed (by some of the Spaniards who naively thought that Japan invading Philippines will send this land back to Spain) natives.

    With number 3, Islam was growing when the Spaniards arrived in these territories for the interest of the State and Church combined. Most of the Tagalog and Kapampangan region were Muslim due to their rulers being related to the Bruneian Royalty.
    When the Spaniards started setting up their settlements (or as many Filipinos will say, colonize) the Philippines, they settled at the lowlands out of convenience. Those who stayed at the mountains or outside the Spanish settlements kept their religion.
    The friars and the Spaniards pretty much demonized Islam. Even their state laws required the converted Muslims and Jews to eat pork, which is forbidden in their diet, just to prove they were Christian. When they saw Muslims whom they could barely conquer out of either their prowess or due to another colonial power interfering the Spaniards, they called the Muslims “Moros” in reference to the Moors they defeated (and later expelled, along with the crypto-Jews).

    By the way, the Leyenda Negra was actually based on the truth witnessed by the conquistadores of Latin America. After that, England and other countries used what the country did against them.

    As for your statement, this will only be true with the historical definition.

    Reply
    • Hello Albertus,

      Your contention on my first premise is off-track. I am referring to culture. Your refutations pertain to language shifts.

      Islam was never growing when the Spaniards arrived in these territories. The Arabs who converted the natives to the Islamic faith did not do the favor of disseminating the Mohammedan thought to other places. “Islamic Manila” didn’t become Muslim through convert missionaries from Mindanáo and vice-versa. Other than that, the Muslims that the Spaniards found in Luzón (the Tagalog and Capampañgan regions today) were the equivalents of today’s “lapse Catholics”. They were just Muslim by affiliation. But by heart? If you say yes, then Spanish chronicles should have documented the difficulties of converting the natives to the Christian faith such as what they had experienced in Mindanáo’s Muslim parts.

      “The friars and the Spaniards pretty much demonized Islam. Even their state laws required the converted Muslims and Jews to eat pork, which is forbidden in their diet, just to prove they were Christian.”

      This is not “demonization”. Logic dictates that if a Muslim/Jew converts to Christianity, this person should follow the laws of the new faith. And vice-versa.

      And if you read Pigafetta’s chronicles (as well as early Spanish accounts), you’ll be surprised that the “Muslim” tribespeople they encountered offered them, fish, rice, wine, fruits (mostly bananas), and pork.

      “When they saw Muslims whom they could barely conquer out of either their prowess or due to another colonial power interfering the Spaniards, they called the Muslims “Moros” in reference to the Moors they defeated (and later expelled, along with the crypto-Jews).”

      During that epoch, the similarities between the Muslims in Spain and the Muslims in Mindanáo are striking for one major reason: Islam. But whether the term Moro was derogatory or not, it’s already history. And —correct me if I’m wrong— I believe today’s Mindanáo Muslims are no longer offended by that term. They even had it evolved into something else, something which they carry with pride: Bangsamoro.

      And speaking of history…

      “As for your statement, this will only be true with the historical definition.”

      Yes, it is true. I am speaking from a historical standpoint. But our national identity is based exactly on our history, that part of our history when we were given form, charactar, identity. Not Malayan, not Spanish, but FILIPINO.

      It is a sad fact that our history is mangled by lies, hispanophobia, leyenda negra, a yearning for a past that never was, and a colonial mentality stemming out from a US-centric education, all this in the name of neocolonial oppression. Why mangle history? To make us forget who we really are, and what we really were.

      If we fail to recognize and realize all this by ignoring the historical basis, then all this talk of “searching for a national identity” will continue till kingdom come.

      Best regards,

      Pepe Alas

      Reply
  3. I also believe that language is also culture. A language will embed the prejudices of a certain people.

    The statement of betrayed Filipinos—I took it from a book named “Basques in the Philippines” by Marciano M. de Borja. This was mentioned in Chapter Nine (During the American and Japanese occupations).

    Going back to the Muslim groups in the Philippines, they will most likely offer pork to outsiders since the neighboring groups were animist or Hindu. Among themselves, they will not eat it, I believe.

    The spread of Islam is not be done by Arabs or Indo-Muslims, but by neighboring Austronesian groups.

    I do not know about these lapsed Muslims or Catholics, but I think the natives have converted to gain something or to follow their leader. We need both Spanish and Malay chronicles about these.

    Reply
    • “I also believe that language is also culture. A language will embed the prejudices of a certain people.”

      No. Language is a component of culture, or its medium. The medium can be the message, but language will always be an agent of cultural dissemination. Yes, both culture and language are intimately related, but you should take into account that the latter is determined by the former, and not the other way around.

      But if you still insist for an analogy between language and culture to refute my first statement, (“Hispanic culture, with Malayan elements as a substrate”) it is preferrable that you provide cultural examples and not language shifts to avoid confusion.

      “The statement of betrayed Filipinos—I took it from a book named “Basques in the Philippines” by Marciano M. de Borja. This was mentioned in Chapter Nine (During the American and Japanese occupations).”

      OK then. But I don’t see how this proves (or disproves) my premises of what defines a true Filipino.

      “Going back to the Muslim groups in the Philippines, they will most likely offer pork to outsiders since the neighboring groups were animist or Hindu. Among themselves, they will not eat it, I believe.”

      We should not always rely on hunches. Let’s go for facts.

      We are a Christian nation for almost 500 years. But even in this era of Facebook, many Filipinos still believe in asuáng, culam, and the like despite being heavily Christianized. When the Spaniards arrived in our archipelago, the very few Mohammedan communities have been Muslim for less than 200 years. In the same manner, they should not be expected to have fully embraced Islam. So it should not be doubted that the natives never feasted on pork (but they really did; old chronicles other than Pigafetta’s can attest to that).

      “The spread of Islam is not be done by Arabs or Indo-Muslims, but by neighboring Austronesian groups.”

      Exactly my point. It was never done by pre-Filipino natives who were converted to the Mohammedan faith. Compare that to the Spanish times: we had the Beatas of Intramuros, to name just a few. We had the native secular clergy as well. It only goes to show that the converts embraced it, and are willing to spread it to all corners of the archipelago, and even beyond. Islam was never embraced by the natives. If so, they would have spread it themselves rather than wait (and then rely wholly) for an alien force to do it for them.

      “I do not know about these lapsed Muslims or Catholics, but I think the natives have converted to gain something or to follow their leader. We need both Spanish and Malay chronicles about these.”

      Definitely. And they were not forced. During the synod of 1599, the natives were asked if they opted to have the King of Spain as their natural sovereign. It was but natural for them to ask what they would get in return. And so for the next 333 years, they got their answer in the form of new technology, domesticated animals, new farming techniques, arts and culture, etc. that has formed the Filipino National Identity.

      Reply
  4. I’m thinking about this. Seems a very narrow view of what “culturally Filipino” is, based on a narrow slice of history. Lots of history before the Spanish and much has changed in the last 100 years, in particular.

    Are you saying that non-Catholic ethnic minorities (here before everyone else, Spanish, Islamic or others) are not culturally Filipino?

    Or Filipinos who have left the Catholic faith? Not culturally Filipino anymore?

    The huge majority of Filipinos who no longer speak Spanish.. not culturally Filipino?

    I think your three-part definition was mostly true a hundred years ago. Now it is a nostalgic look at a “ideal” past. But even then, it doesn’t look any further into the past than a few hundred years. Everything Spanish is a fairly recent add-on and must of it (culturally, but even more so linguistically) is losing its grip in the modern Philippines.

    As for “book culture,” it’s interesting to note that sulat comes from Arabic, not Spanish.

    Reply
    • No, the Alas view is not as narrow as it seems to appear to American Protestant or Masonic “missionaries” in RP. As well as to those who wish to do an impartial study of Filipinos today.

      The three attributes are still very much present among the vast majority of those who call themselves Filipinos in the ethnographic and cultural sense.

      Even Webster’s dictionary defines FILIPINO along these terms although, as of late, it has been modifying its original definition in several past editions of this dictionary. Webster’s originally defined FILIPINO “as a member of a Christian tribe, as distinguished from the pagan and wild tribes and the Mohamedan Moros”. That definition has been shortened as of late. But that does not change the fact that in the earlier definitions, the one given here, which is the accurate one, continues to be obtaining and, therefore, continues to hold.

      Mr. Bill Davis should also be aware of the fact that the ethnographic definition of the Filipino has been under siege and alteration due to US American neo-colonial intervention, particularly on the part of what writer Samuel Hamilton calls the US WASP, particularly in the areas of language where English is compulsory, economics where the Filipino peso’s value is pegged to the US dollar’s value, and politics where Filipino politicians are dictated upon to make “developmental loans” from US-owned banks, or banks owned by those few US Jews and Masons that in turn own and control the entire US American people.

      There is one fact that US Americans like Mr. Bill Davis should take into account, and that is: Filipinos under Spain were Spanish citizens or subjects. But under the USA, Filipinos were never made US citizens. What the US should do is make the Philippines another State of their Union like they did to Hawaii, and like they want to do to reluctant Puerto Rico, so that ALL Filipinos will become US citizens. For one, that will justify compulsory English over them and the perpetual US intervention pointed out. And in the end, in view of the present threats from mainland China, the Philippines, as a member of the US Union, will be justified to be with America and not revert to China. Think!

      Reply
    • “Are you saying that non-Catholic ethnic minorities (here before everyone else, Spanish, Islamic or others) are not culturally Filipino?”
      Yep.

      “Or Filipinos who have left the Catholic faith? Not culturally Filipino anymore?”
      Yep.

      “The huge majority of Filipinos who no longer speak Spanish.. not culturally Filipino?”
      Yep.

      “As for “book culture,” it’s interesting to note that sulat comes from Arabic, not Spanish.”
      And it is equally interesting to note that, in spite of this “sulat-Arabic” trivia of yours, the fact remains that there were no books in our archipelago prior to the Spanish arrival.

      Regards.

      Reply
  5. Dear Pepe,

    Please allow me to introduce myself to you. My name is Shelley Tuazon Guyton, and I am independently conducting a research project on social media and national identity in the Philippines. Through this research, I hope to analyze the many ways people might envision themselves as a nation. This project is affiliated with the Anthropology Department at the University of the Philippines, Diliman; and, it is funded by the Fulbright Program for mutual understanding between nations.

    Your blog was found by performing a search for keywords “Filipino” and “identity” across wordpress.com. I enjoyed reading this post, and I also found it relevant to my project. I would be grateful if you would consider participating in a short online survey. The survey takes about 5-7 minutes to complete. Your input would help me very much with my research. You may access the survey online here: http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/CXLZQG8

    Please feel free to contact me with any questions or comments you might have. My email address is shelley[dot]guyton[at]gmail[dot]com. Also, you can access my bio and additional information about this project on my LinkedIn profile: ph.linkedin.com/in/shelleyguyton . Thank you again for your time.

    Cordially,
    Shelley Tuazon Guyton

    Reply
  6. By your definition, Filipino simply implies alienation of those born on these islands yet refuse to submit to the standards you have now just set on our identity. So be it. I won’t argue with the legitimacy of your standards; they certainly seem to employ historical basis, but at least now I know where you stand. It’s one thing to alienate US influence, but it’s a whole other ball game you’re playing here if you’re going to glorify the dead and obsolete. The only recourse I could see here, for people like me, would be to abandon the identity you have just determined and create a whole new one from scratch. I guess that’s the problem with these so-called Filipinos, we all seem to have a problem with abandoning things. LOL.

    Reply

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