Whenever I notice a foreign feature about my classmates or friends, whether it’s their chinky eyes, freckled skin, fair complexion, or a feature that I know is not Filipino, if they do know what it is, they would respond by saying that they are pure Filipino. This is not true. There is no longer such a thing as pure Filipino. Or there are, but they belong to the indigenous groups if the Philippines. The traditional Filipino is short, brown skinned, has kinky hair, thick lips, and a flat nose. These groups are few and live far away from society. They have avoided the foreign influences of our country.
Let me give a brief history lesson based from what I have learned in school. We have been colonized by the Spanish (333 years), British (for two weeks and this fact isn’t really know), Americans (50 years), and Japanese (3-4 years). Long before that, we were trading with our Asian brothers and sisters through the bridges that connected Asia to each other, at least until the tectonic plates moved and we were separated. Then we had to travel through boats. Some of these traders have intermarried with the Filipinos. When our colonizers came, many settled in the Philippines and married our people. With all these intermarriages going around, obviously or blood would be mixed. Unlike our Japanese, Chinese, and Korean counterparts, we do not have distinctive features. I have posted a picture of my graduating batch and as you can see; our eyes come in all sizes, skin tones in varying shades, and different height statures.
Whenever I travel to other Southeast Asian countries, I’ve noticed that depending on our features, we can blend in anywhere. In China, Japan, Malaysia, and Thailand, I’ve seen Filipinos who I thought were locals (in that country) until they spoke Filipino. Of course, we would not be mistaken as pure Chinese, Malay, etc but a mix of different races. The locals in that country would ask if my family was part *insert foreign race here* and we would say no because we honestly didn’t know or yes if they asked if we were part Chinese (we are).
Even our language is a mixture of different words. There are Spanish, Chinese, Japanese, and plenty of other foreign words thrown in the mix. I think we’re even going through an identity crisis because of all the foreign influences we have. I do not know if this is a good thing or a bad thing (the effects of colonization). Our language, culture, food, and actions have been influenced by many colonizers, most especially by the Spaniards and Americans.
When the Spaniards colonized us, they have stripped us of our identity and if I were to be honest, I wish the other countries just left us alone because they have fucked us up. Badly. They removed us of our religion, government, culture and before they came, we actually had equal status with men. I remember back when I was twelve, this half Spanish classmate of mine tried to defend her country by saying that “had the Spanish not colonized us, we would still have remained like the Indians.” These were her exact words and I think what she had in mind was the image of Indians from Peter Pan (which I know is a popular stereotype). I wanted to smack her head then and there because contrary to popular belief, our white colonizers did not save us and we were already an advanced civilization before they came. We had our own writing system for crying out loud! Here is a link to show what we were like before the Spaniards “liberated” us: http://www.filipiknow.net/life-in-pre-colonial-philippines/. This doesn’t mean that I hate Spain (though to a VERY small extent, I do). Yes, I detest their ancestors for what they did to my countrymen but at the time, the incredibly corrupt friars and priests who took over our country were hiding what they were doing from the Spanish government. At least from what I was taught in school, when our national hero went to Spain, he realized that the Spanish officials the King sent were not doing their job and were hiding it from him. Spain really had no idea what was truly going on in their colony because of the Friars deception.
So what really makes a Filipino, a Filipino? I am a Filipino and proud of my heritage and culture. But we have so many parts of the Filipino identity that was given to us, not our own. From the Spanish, we have siestas, food, religion, beso-beso greeting, money (we use Peso currency), Spanish surnames (common ones are Sanchez, dela Cruz, Garcia, Carlos, Lopez, etc) and the Filipino version of numbers is the same ones used in Spain. From the Chinese – food, clothes (camisa de chino, loose trousers, wooden slippers), toys (tops, sungka, cards, and kites), respect the elderly, and importance of eldest children (this isn’t applicable to all families). Then from the Arabs, we have the Islam religion, Roman numerals, government, use of calendar and several words used in the Filipino language. I could make an entire list of all the foreign influences in this blog but there are too many to mention and it might bore my readers. Heck, when I was an elementary student, for many years I had to make a list of each country that influenced us and what they were. At the time, I knew them by heart.
So what was the point of this entire article? I wanted to give my readers a brief background of the Philippines and the different cultures that have influenced us as well as its effects. Who knows, maybe you’ll go here and wonder why we don’t look alike (unlike the Chinese, Koreans and Indians). Guys, not all Asians have slit eyes. ) The Philippines is a melting pot of different cultures and this makes us pretty unique. I love my country and culture and wouldn’t have it any other way.