Geography and HistoryBy admin On February 7, 2008 Under History
The Republic of the Philippines is a rugged 1,000 miles long archipelago bounded on the north by Taiwan and on the south by Indonesia. It is a nation of 7,100 islands and islets with a mountainous tropical climate. Most of the people live on the costal plains of the largest islands (of the approximately 500 islands that are inhabited). These islands are divided into three major geographic groups: 1) Luzon, the largest and one of the most northern islands (where Manila and the capital, Quezon City, are located), Mindoro, and Palawan; 2) the Visayas or central islands, which include Cebu, Negros, Leyte, Panay, Samar, Masbate, and Bohol; and 3) Mindanao, the southern most island (Gochenour, 1990; Pan Asian Parent Education Project [PAPEP], 1982; Winter, 1988).
Filipino’s have developed certain stereotypic perceptions about people from these respective island groups. Ilocanos, who inhabit a barren region called Ilocos in northern Luzon, are people who have endured many hardships throughout history and are perceived as being Spartan, industrious, thrifty, and proud of their culture. Tagalogs, who live in the central plains and southern area of Luzon, are viewed as more cosmopolitan, urbane, nationalistic, and Western oriented. The people of the Visayan or the central islands have been described as being a cross between Ilocanos and Tagalogs. The people of Mindanao have been highly influenced by Islam and Muslim cultures (PAPEP, 1982).
In 1521, Magellan led a Spanish expedition to make the official European discovery of the archipelago that was later named the “Filipinas,” in honor of the Spanish prince who became Phillip II, King of Spain (Winter, 1988).
As the first western people to come to the Philippines, the Europeans imported “colonialism” the idea of owning a territory thousands of miles from home, inhabited by people culturally and racially different from themselves. Spain’s conquest of the Philippines was followed by 400 years of Spanish rule. The majority of native people were reduced to being landless peasant sharecroppers. The Catholic Church owned vast tracts of land and controlled the educational system (Karnow, 1989).
Missionaries, government officials, and representatives of the Spanish empire thus imprinted upon the culture and consciousness some of its most enduring characteristics, thought the did not change the basic culture. Most of the population was converted to Hispanic Catholicism, and the visible aspects of culture (e.g., personal names, vocabulary, urban architecture, fine arts, dress, cuisine, customs) were profoundly influenced or modified (Harper & Fullerton, 1994). Modification is mistaken for total change, but the inherent cultural values stayed virtually in tact. The brand of Catholicism introduced by the Spanish, is not the same as the Catholicism practiced by the Spanish, but modified by the Filipinos to fit their Animist roots. The “Saints,” were acceptable substitutes for the many gods they worshiped.
Centuries of Spanish rule also imposed a severe colonial mentality and left Filipinos with “a legacy of attitudes that are firmly embedded in society: an equation of light skin with status, the identification of foreign with authority and indigenous with inferiority, and a conception of officialdom as a system serving its own ends, not those of the people” (Gochenour, 1990, p. 6)
Inspired by reformers such as the martyred Jose Rizal, the spiritual foundation for the independence was laid down and the development of an emerging national consciousness eventually led to the Philippine Revolution toward the close of the 19th century. In the context of the Spanish-American War, American military forces arrived in Manila in 1898 as allies of the s against the Spanish. Although the rebels were promised Philippine independence in return for their support in land battles against the Spanish, they were ultimately betrayed. Following the Spanish defeat, the Philippines was ceded to the United States and became America’s first and only colony (Harper & Fullerton, 1994). American leaders claimed that while they had not entered the war to gain territory, they did not believe that the Philippines was yet ready for independence (Winter, 1988).
In later explaining how he had made the decision to approve the annexation of the Philippines, President William McKinley said he had gone down on his knees to pray for “light and guidance” from the “ruler of nations” and had been told by God that it was America’s duty to “educate, uplift, and Christianize” these (despite the fact that their nation had been Catholic for centuries). He echoed the sentiments of American Protestant clergy leaders who sought to fulfill the “manifest destiny” of the Christian Republic through the conquest of Asia (Harper & Fullerton, 1994; Takaki, 1989).
The people of this new American possession were seen by their guardians as backward natives to be “civilized” by Americans seeking to carry the “white man’s burden” (Takaki, 1989). The goal of annexation thus was based on an ideology of racial and religious supremacy while being further justified in terms of corresponding commercial and military gains. In response to this betrayal and seizure, Filipinos continued their struggle for independence this time against the United States. The ensuing Philippine-American War (1899-1902) was waged by the United States to overcome the so called “Philippine Insurrection.” This bitter and bloody campaign required two thirds of the U.S. Army and resulted in the deaths of nearly 1 million Filipinos (Gochenour, 1990; Harper & Fullerton, 1994; Winter, 1988).
One form of colonialism thus was replaced with another. Americans, in the presumed spirit of white paternalism and benevolence, saw themselves as best owers of education, religion, public health, development, and democracy to their “little brown brothers” (Gochenour, 1990). In fact, the American educational system was adopted, and English (which children were required to speak in school) was made the official language (Kang, 1996). Thirty years later, the Philippines became self-governing, and the Tydings-McDuffie Act of 1934 promised complete independence by 1946. However, the country remained a territorial possession of the United States, which retained control over its economy and military forces.
World War II came abruptly to the Philippines. The Japanese attacked Manila within a few hours after Pearl Harbor and took over the country 5 months later. A million s perished during the war, which also devastated the country and its economy. However, the ultimate Japanese surrender and close of World War II in 1945 brought the return of the exiled Philippine Commonwealth Government to Manila. With U.S. financial aid, it undertook the enormous task of reconstruction and rehabilitation. Moreover, the United States kept its promise and, on July 4,1946, the Philippines was finally granted its long sought independence and proclaimed the Republic of the Philippines (Harper & Fullerton, 1994; Winter, 1988).
A long history of external domination and influence remains potent in life and thought. None of the attitudinal legacies of the Spanish were removed by 4 decades of U.S. rule. Yet, the pervasive Americanization of culture also occurred-as evidenced by the fact that years after independence, school children were still learning the American Pledge of Allegiance, and their education focused more on the United States than on neighboring countries in the Pacific. Two successive colonial eras led to the popular saying: the character is a product of “350 years in a convent and 50 years in Hollywood” (Harper & Fullerton, 1994, p. 1). Contemporary culture is thus a composite of foreign and indigenous elements, a mixture of Malay, Madrid, and Madison Avenue. “Neither history nor geography permitted the Filipinos time to consolidate their parochial and isolated strands into a culture integrated enough to repel outside pressures and influence” (Gochenour, 1990, p.5).
Throughout centuries of colonialism, Filipinos have nevertheless avoided becoming “carbon copies” of their rulers. They have pursued a dual historical path of understanding, accommodating to, placating, or opposing the overwhelming power foreigners have exercised in their lives while simultaneously preserving what is essentially in themselves (Gochenour, 1990).
Filipinos do have a unique relationship with the west and share decidedly a heritage of many significant ideas and values rooted in Euro Christian ethics, But their basic traditional social and cultural characteristics contrast sharply with those of western world, certainly the US. The “national character” and sense of identity is thus complex. And there is a question as to whether or not they even have a national identity. Some believe, as I do, their allegiance does not extend past their province. Some believe it is limited to the extended family. It is certainly stronger within that group.
Although the Philippines is located geographically in Asia, “there is a general sense of being neither this nor that, of sharing something of the Pacific islands, of being heavily influenced by Spanish and American cultures, as above. Further examination of the unique history of the Philippines and of immigration to the United States serves to illustrate how this country has been a “Pacific Bridge” between many cultures. The Chinese were a powerful influence before the US and the Spanish came, and still are them most powerful force here, in my opinion. That is where the money is, though contrary to popular belief, not all Chinese here are rich. Chinese residents, who do not forsake their culture, were born and raised here, Chinese have a strong social and economic influence that is often either overlooked or underestimated. The focus is on the more obvious Spanish and American influence, a big mistake in my opinion.