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Spain and the Philippines

Posted March 5th, 2017 at 06:04 AM by ayasachan
Updated March 15th, 2017 at 07:12 PM by ayasachan (I revised and wrote additional informations.)

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"España y las Filipinas" made by a Filipino painter, Juan Luna y Novicio in 1886.

English Title: Spain and the Philippines
Spanish title: España y las Filipinas
Tagalog title: Espanya at ang Pilipinas

The Spaniard woman or the "Mother" was drawn with wide strong shoulders while the Filipino woman or the "child" was illustrated as graceful and brown-skinned. Both were wearing female dresses known as "traje de mestiza" or "dress of the mestiza". The dressing of the women shows the cultural character, class consciousness, and social transformations resulting from 19th century Hispanization. Both have their backs to the viewer, heading towards a far-away horizon, while embarking on the steps of a staircase. Side by side, Spain was shown to be leading the Philippines along the path to progress and development.

Spain, a representation of the benevolent image of colonialism, is pointing ahead and guiding the humbly dressed Filipina to the right path. The painting appeared in the book entitled "El legado de España a Filipinas" (the Spanish legacy in the Philippines) with the accompanying caption stating: "España guiando a Filipinas por la senda del progreso" (Spain leads the Philippines on their way to progress). It is further described as a painting that once linked the colonized with its former colonists, a bucolic allegory of the master and the servant walking hand in hand.

This is my first blog in this site and I would like to share one of my favourite paintings which is shown above. Simple but lovely, isn't it?

The relationship between the two countries began with the arrival of European explorer, Ferdinand Magellan in the island of Eastern Visayas in 1521. It was all accident. The main goal of Magellan’s expedition is to reach the Spice Island which is the “Maluku Islands” that is located in Indonesia.

During that time, the Philippines wasn't a nation yet, it was just a place with natives who doesn't know the life outside the paradise their living in. They were not aware of the power and prestige of Europe; they were just people living a peaceful life near the blue oceans and lovely mountains.

Magellan decided to inform the islands to the king of Spain. As a strategy, he sought friendships with some of the local chieftains and natives, thence, he successfully convinced them to convert to Christianity. However, he was later killed by a local chief named Lapu-Lapu, who is very against foreign domination.

Over the next decades, other Spanish expeditions led by Ruy Lopez de Villalobos were send off to the islands and in year 1543 and with a success, the 7,107 islands were unified into a single nation. Villalobos gave the name to the archipelago, “Las Islas Filipinas” (The Philippine Islands) in honour of King Philip II of Spain.

The Spain colonised the country for 333 years and it shaped the culture heavily.

Here are a few specific things that Spain influenced the Philippines during its reign.

The Spanish language made its way into the Filipino dialects. Today it is estimated that about 20% of Tagalog words are Spanish. In fact, the common Tagalog greeting "Kumusta?” was derived from the Spanish “¿Como esta?” ("How are you?").

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Just like any other Spanish colony, the Philippines is still using the currency called peso. Today, using Spanish numerals in the marketplace is very common.

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Did you know that the Philippines is the only predominantly Christian nation in Asia? That’s because when the Spanish took over, they brought their long tradition of Catholicism with them. It was part of the Spanish conquest to convert all the natives to Christ through their Catholic tradition. Today as a result, the Catholic church still remains a very powerful force in the Philippines. For example, divorce is illegal because of the Catholic church’s influence in the government and law-making. Many Filipinos still celebrate and participate in many Catholic holidays and customs. Practically everywhere you go you will see big Catholic cathedrals. In many homes, you’ll see pictures of the virgin Mary or the last supper, and many people carry around rosaries with them. On public transportation are plastered posters of Jesus and Mary and religious sayings. Because of the Spanish conquest, there is a strong tradition of Christianity among the Filipino people.

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A perspective image of the Manila Cathedral.

One very interesting thing that the Spanish changed about the Philippines was the use of native last names. In 1849, the Governor General sent out an order that all families were to choose a new last name from a list of Spanish last names. Examples are: Cruz, Fernandez, Flores, Garcia, Ramos, Reyes, Torres, Vasquez, Valdez, Villanueva, Ortiz, etc. However, some Filipinos before chose not to change their original last names. Examples are: Macaraeg, Matapang, Masipag, Dimaguiba, Guinto, Magsaysay, Makapagal, Batungbakal, etc.

During the Spanish rule, westernized culture gradually began to seep into the Filipino way of life. Western music, dance, art, recreation and customs were adopted by Filipinos. Even their beliefs and perspectives about life experienced a bit of a drift away from Eastern muslim philosophies to a more westernized perspective.

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A Filipino couple dressed in traditional clothing, camisa de chino and traje de mestiza.

During the Spanish reign, they established Catholic-run schools. Friars and nuns were usually the teachers. The Filipino people were literate before the Spaniards ever arrived, but they added new subjects to their academia such as math, Spanish language, and business. One of the well-known educational institution they established is the University of Santo Tomas in 1611.

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Front elevation photograph of University of Santo Tomas as of 2017.

The Spaniards brought with them their own cuisine and many of these foods were adopted into the Filipino diet. They also introduced forks, spoons, plates, and cups to the Philippines. To this day, forks and spoons are used when eating (but not knives). However, some Filipinos still prefer to eat the truly native Filipino way, without any utensils.

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A traditional Philippine cuisine, "Caldereta".

I hope you enjoyed this blog! Thank you for reading!
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Total Comments 2


  1. Old Comment
    Very nice painting and very nice post.
    Posted April 12th, 2017 at 02:27 AM by martin76 martin76 is online now
  2. Old Comment
    ayasachan's Avatar
    @martin76, thank you.
    Posted April 14th, 2017 at 04:18 AM by ayasachan ayasachan is offline

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