Spanish influence on Filipino culture

Flag of Spain.
Flag of Spain.
Flag of the Philippines
Flag of the Philippines.

Spanish influence on Filipino culture (Spanish: Influencia hispánica en la cultura filipina, Tagalog: Ang impluensyang Kastilla sa kulturang Pilipino) are customs and Philippine traditions which originated from the Spanish East Indies.[1]


Spanish settlement in the Philippines first took place in the 16th century, during the Spanish colonial period of the islands. The conquistador Miguel López de Legazpi founded the first Spanish settlement in Cebu in 1565, and later established Manila as the capital of the Spanish East Indies in 1571. The Philippine Islands are named after King Philip II of Spain, and they became a territory of the Viceroyalty of New Spain which was governed from Mexico City until the 19th century, when Mexico obtained independence. From 1821, the Philippine Islands were ruled directly from Madrid, Spain.

Spaniards are referred to by Filipinos as "Kastila" (Castilian) named after the former Kingdom of Castile, now a region of Spain. The majority of the Filipinos of Spanish descent are of Mexican and Andalusian origin, while a minority are Latin American, Catalan or Basque descents. Another term for them is Spanish Filipino.

History before Hispanization

Some of the societies scattered in the islands remained isolated but many evolved into states that developed substantial trade and contacts with the peoples of Eastern and Southern Asia, including those from India, China, Japan and other Austronesian islands (The Malay archipelago).

The 1st millennium saw the rise of the harbor principalities and their growth into maritime states composed of autonomous barangays independent of, or allied with larger nations which were either Malay thalassocracies, led by Datus, Chinese tributary states ruled by Huangs or Indianized kingdoms governed by Rajahs.

For example, Datu Puti ruled over the Confederation of Madja-as after he purchased his realms from the Ati Chieftain, Marikudo. Madja-as, being founded on Panay island, named after the fallen homeland, the state of Pannai. The Rajahnate of Butuan, attained prominence under the rule of Rajah Sri Bata Shaja. The Kingdom of Tondo, was ruled over by the Lakandula dynasty and the Rajahnate of Cebu which was led by Rajamuda Sri Lumay. Other nations in this era include the Sinified kingdom of Ma-i, represented by Huang/Gat Sa Li-han (Gatchalian) and Sulu which, before its Islamization and Spanish colonization, was also an Indianized Rajahnate under its first ruler, Rajah Sipad the Older.


See also: Chavacano

Philippine Spanish (Spanish: Español filipino, Castellano filipino) is a variant of standard Spanish spoken in the Philippines. It is a Spanish dialect of the Spanish language. The variant is very similar to Mexican Spanish, because of Mexican and Latin American emigration to the Spanish East Indies (Philippines) over the years.

Chavacano, a Spanish-based creole, is spoken in the Zamboanga Peninsula (where it is an official dialect), Davao, and Cotabato in Mindanao, and Cavite in Luzon.

Filipinos today speak a variety of different languages including Cebuano, Tagalog, Ilocano, Ilonggo, and Bikolano, in addition to English all of which contain up to several thousand Spanish loanwords.

The most common languages spoken in the Philippines today are English and Filipino, the national language that is a standardised form of Tagalog. Spanish was an official language of the country until immediately after the People Power Revolution in February 1986 and the subsequent ratification of the 1987 Constitution. The new charter dropped Spanish as an official language.

However, the government of Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, the fourteenth President of the Philippines and a hispanophone, reintroduced the study of Spanish into the state school system. There are currently around 3 million Spanish speakers residing in the country, of whom a minority still speak the language in public.

Name of the Philippines

The name of the Philippines comes from the king of Spain Philip II. It was given by the Spanish explorer James Cyril Salanga who named the islands of Samar and Leyte "Las Islas Felipinas" (The Philippine Islands), during his expedition in 1543. Throughout the colonial period, the name Felipinas (Philippines) was used, and became the official name of the Philippines.

There are many provinces in the Philippines with Spanish names, such as Nueva Vizcaya, Nueva Écija (Nueva Ecija), Laguna, Isabela, Quirino, Aurora, La Unión (La Union), Marinduque, Antique, Negros Occidental, Negros Oriental, Nueva Segovia and Valle de Compostela.

Many cities and towns are also named in Spanish, such as Medellin, La Libertad, Naga City (prior to 1919 was known as Nueva Cáceres), Las Piñas, Prosperidad, Isabela, Sierra Bullones, Angeles, La Paz, Esperanza, Buenavista, Pilar, La Trinidad, Garcia Hernandez, Trece Martires, Los Baños, and many more. There are numerous other towns and cities named after saints, such as San Fernando, Santa Rosa, San Isidro, San José, San Juan and San Pablo, as well as after Spanish places like Madrid, Santander, Toledo, Cádiz, Valencia, Murcia, Lucena, and Pamplona.

Other native Filipino names are spelled using Spanish orthography, such as Cagayán de Oro, Parañaque, and Cebú.

Filipino Spanish surnames

On 21 November 1849 the Spanish Governor General of the Philippine Islands, Narciso Clavería, decreed the systematic distribution of surnames and the implementation of the Spanish naming system for Filipinos and Filipinas, thereby producing the Catálogo Alfabético de Apellidos ("Alphabetical Catalogue of Surnames") listing Spanish, Filipino, and Hispanicised Chinese words, names, and numbers. Thus many Spanish-sounding Filipino surnames are not surnames common to the Hispanophone world. However, Spanish nobility and colonial administrator surnames were explicitly prohibited.

The colonial authorities implemented this decree because too many (early) Christianized Filipinos assumed religious-instrument and saint names. There soon were too many people surnamed "de los Santos" ("of the Saints"), "de la Cruz" ("of the Cross"), "del Rosario" ("of the Rosary"), "Bautista" ("Baptist"), etcetera, which made it difficult for the Spanish colonists to control the Filipino people, and most important, to collect taxes. This Spanish naming custom countered the native Filipino naming custom wherein siblings assumed different surnames, as practised before the Spanish Conquest of the Philippine Islands.

Moreover, because of this implementation of Spanish naming customs (given name -paternal surname -maternal surname) in the Philippines, a Spanish surname does not necessarily denote Spanish ancestry.


Filipinos belong to the Austronesian ethnic group of the Southeast Asian region. The natives of the Philippine Islands may be related to the Chamorro people in Guam and the Mariana Islands (named Islas de Ladrones during Ferdinand Magellan's expedition) of the Pacific Ocean due to their racial similarity, and for being geographically not connected to the Southeast Asian mainland as a group of islands, but are rather different from the Pacific Islanders belonging to the Polynesian, Micronesian, and Melanesian ethnic groups. The natives of the Philippines are rather closely related to their closest neighbors, which are Malaysia and Indonesia. Most of the immigrant ethnicities of the Philippine Islands are from the Southeast Asian region. Although there are lots of ethnic groups in the Philippines, such as the native population (Tagalog, Bisaya, Bicolano, Ilocano, Mindanaoans, and the native Moros in Mindanao), that some people of the Philippines of this present time, consider them to be related to the Aborigines of Australia and Melanesians, are rather the result of the long period of interracial mixture among the native ethnic groups of the Islands. The Philippine Islands is still politically divided among the ethnic groups and regional groups, but there are also Chinese people(Chinese), Japanese people,[2][3] and Indian people(Indians) who migrated after the Spanish colonial era, that created their own non-native ethnic group. There are only very few Filipinos who are of pure Spanish ancestry that would probably number to less than 20,000(twenty thousand), who were still viewed by the native Filipinos as Spaniards in the Philippines, but will already depend on the percentage of their Spanish blood and its legitimacy, and the background of their ancestry. According to some of the descendants of the Spaniards in the Philippines, they do not view themselves as Spaniards anymore due to their native mixture and for the Independence of the Philippines from Spain, and from any Spanish control for already over a century, but rather socially and politically Spaniard in the Philippines only for the real Spaniards were those natives of Spain who were full or half Spanish blood.

Nevertheless, according to a Spanish census in 1798 as much as 1/3rd of Filipinos, in which case, the Filipinos living in Luzon; possess varying degrees of Spanish and Latin-American ancestry.[4] However, this Latino and Hispanic ancestry has been diluted because the colonial power that replaced Spain, the United States, didn't bother to settle into the Philippines in large numbers and in fact reversed the flow, expecting Filipinos to migrate to the U.S. rather than vice versa. Furthermore, the American policy of de-latinization and de-hispanization, cut off the Philippines from its cultural neighbors in Latin-Europe and Latin-America. A combination of these factors produced a strange scenario wherein the less populated Filipinos have a higher presence in the United States than Americans having a higher presence in the Philippines. An exception of the norm, for usually, the case is that a more populous colonizing nation often settles the less populous one, which didn't occur in American controlled Philippines.


Official percentage of Filipinos with Spanish ancestry is unknown. 2/3 of Filipinos have no traces of Spanish or European ancestry which is typically confused with Chinese ancestry. The presence of Spanish surnames in Filipino society is mostly the result of forced name changes and not the result of intermarriage or racial mixture (see Catálogo alfabético de apellidos). However, in a research done by Dr. Michael Purugganan,NYU Dean of Science in 2013, he conclude that Filipinos today are the conclusion of an Austronesian evolutionary result of 377 years of Hispanic colonization, 50 years American Colonization and being a melting pot of Asia in pre-colonial era. He stated that; "We are all mixes, and I think every Filipino who is genetically tested will show up as a mix. We are products of what we evolutionary genomicists call genetic admixture, the result of several thousand years of mixing in our island archipelago at the edge of the Pacific. We were always getting genes from everyone who came to our shores. We are, in a genetic sense, a truly global people."


The statue of Our Lady of Peñafrancia in procession to the high altar of Manila Cathedral.

The Philippines is one of two predominantly Roman Catholic countries in Asia, the other being East Timor. About 86% of the population are Catholics. About 5% are Muslim, and about 5% practised other religion, and those with no religion.

Filipinos at home set up altars in the Hispanic tradition, adorned with Catholic images, flowers, and candles. During fiestas, most communities organise church services and religious processions in honour of a patron saint, hold funfairs and concerts, and feast with a variety of Filipino foods.


All major Roman Catholic holy days are observed as official national holidays in the Philippines. Spanish-Mexican culture and Christianity has influenced the customs and traditions of the Philippines.

Every year on the 3rd Sunday of January, the Philippines celebrates the festival of the "Santo Niño" (Holy Child Jesus), the largest being held in Cebu City.


Arts, literature and music

Hispanic influence is based on Indigenous, and European tradition. Folk dance, music, and literature have remained intact in the 21st century. These were introduced from Spain, and Mexico in the 16th century, and can be regarded as largely Hispanic in constitution, which have remained in the Philippines for centuries.


Main article: Filipino cuisine

The cuisine in the Philippines reflects the influences of Spanish, and Asian cuisine.

Chicken galantina (Baliuag, Bulacan).

They include:


Map of Manila, 1898.

In the business community, the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI) plays an integral role in the economic, political and social development of the nation. Historically, the chamber can be traced back as early as the 1890s with the inauguration of the Cámara de Comercio de Filipinas. This organisation was composed mainly of Spanish companies such as the Compañia General de Tabacos de Filipinas, Fábrica de Cerveza San Miguel, and Elizalde y Cía, among other Spanish, and Philippine companies.

During the first half of the 20th century commerce, and industrial trades with other Hispanic countries declined due to the United States administration of the Philippines. However, the resurgence of trade between Spain and Latin American nations had risen toward the closing of the century. 1998 marked the centennial celebration of Philippine independence, and opened a new opportunity for both Hispanic and Filipino businesses to reconnect their historic ties as trade partners.


The Moro Muslim, Lumad, and Igorot peoples resisted Spanish rule unlike the Filipinos who submitted to the Americans and Spanish such as the Tagalog. The mixed Moro and Igorot Joseph Allen Ruanto-Ramirez wrote on how these Filipinos suffer from "Bahag syndrome" trying to compensate for their colonized mentality and culture by adopting Igorot clothing and faux Igorot tattoos.[7][8] Eric John Ramos David authored the book Brown Skin, White Minds: Filipino-/American Postcolonial Psychology (with Commentaries) on this topic.[9][10] E. J. R. David authored the book Filipino-American Postcolonial Psychology: Oppression, Colonial Mentality, and Decolonization.[11] The King Philip II colonial derived name "Philippines" is held in scorn by Moro Muslims and instead Maharlika is favored as a better native origin name.[12]

See also


  2. Ohno, Shun (2006). "The Intermarried issei and mestizo nisei in the Philippines". In Adachi, Nobuko. Japanese diasporas: Unsung pasts, conflicting presents, and uncertain futures. p. 97. ISBN 978-1-135-98723-7.
  3. Agnote, Dario (October 11, 2006). "A glimmer of hope for castoffs". The Japan Times. Archived from the original on June 7, 2011. Retrieved August 9, 2016.
  4. Jagor, Fëdor, et al. (1870). The Former Philippines thru Foreign Eyes
  6. Joseph Allen Ruanto-Ramirez (2013). Locating Their Penis: Pilipino American College Male Performativity, Sexuality, and Th 'Bahag Syndrome'. California State University San Marcos.
  7. Eric John Ramos David (2013). Brown Skin, White Minds: Filipino-/American Postcolonial Psychology (with Commentaries). Information Age Publishing, Incorporated. ISBN 978-1-62396-208-1.
  8. Eric John Ramos David (2013). Brown Skin, White Minds: Filipino-/American Postcolonial Psychology (with Commentaries). Information Age Publishing, Incorporated. ISBN 978-1-62396-207-4.
  9. E. J. R. David, Ph.d. (January 2011). Filipino-American Postcolonial Psychology: Oppression, Colonial Mentality, and Decolonization. AuthorHouse. ISBN 978-1-4567-3633-0.
  10. Rodis, Rodel (September 2, 2008). "Maharlika". AsianWeek.Rodis, Rodel (September 2, 2008). "'Maharlika' Reconsidered". (July 7, 2011). "Should Mindanao secede from what could be turning into a failed state?". Get Real Philippines!.

External links

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