Filipino people of Spanish ancestry

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Filipino people of Spanish ancestry
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Total population
Regions with significant populations
Metro Manila, Cebu City, Zamboanga City, Iloilo City, Naga City, Tigaon, Iriga City
Mostly Chavacano, Tagalog, and English, some Spanish-speakers still exist and other Philippine native languages
Roman Catholicism
Related ethnic groups
Spanish people, Filipinos, Filipino mestizos, Chavacanos

(*) The total number of historical immigrants is unknown, but the National Statistics Office of Spain reported that Spanish nationals residing in the Philippines numbered 3,110 as of January 1, 2012.

Spanish Filipinos are Filipino people whose racial make-up contains either full or partial Spanish ancestry. These Filipinos are mostly descendants of migrants to the Philippines (a Spanish colony from the late 15th century until 1898), who intermarried with the archipelago's indigenous Austronesian ethnic groups such as the Tagalogs, Cebuanos and Ilokanos, among others.

The actual percentage of modern Filipinos inside and outside of the Philippines with Spanish ancestry is unknown, as is that of all other types of mestizo (Asian, American, Hispanic, etc.). This is because past governments and the modern Philippine Statistics Authority do not account for the racial background or ancestry of an individual when gathering data.



Admixture has been an ever present and pervading phenomenon in the Philippines as early as the arrival of the Spaniards on the late 16th century. The arrival of Spanish abruptly halted the spread of Islam further north into the Philippines and intermarriage with Spanish people later became more prevalent after the Philippines was colonized by the Spanish Empire.[citation needed]

Japanese, Indian, and Chinese presence had been recorded in the Philippines since the 9th century that mixed extensively with the local population.[1][2][3] During the Spanish colonial era, large-scale migrations of Chinese to the Philippines resulted in even more intermixing.

Spanish colonization[edit]

A Filipina of Spanish ancestry, in the 19th century.

The Spanish colonization in 1565, prompted the establishment of Spanish rule over the Philippines that lasted for about 333 years. Spanish people came mainly from Mexico and Spain, and the Philippines was ruled as part of the Viceroyalty of New Spain, with its capital in Mexico City until Mexico's independence in 1821, when the Philippines started to be governed directly from Spain.

Early Spanish who were born in Spain (Peninsulares) and Mexican settlers (Criollos), the latter being mostly of either European or Mestizo heritage known as Americanos (Americans), were mostly explorers, soldiers, government officials, and religious missionaries, among others. Many of them settled in the islands and eventually married or inter-bred with the indigenous population.

Descendants of a pure Spanish migrant from Spain Don Benito Toral y Alvarez and Filipino-Spanish Consuelo Garchitorena y Borjal.

In some provinces in Luzon, Mindanao and the Visayas, the Spanish government encouraged foreign merchants to trade with the indigenous population, but they were not given certain privileges such as ownership of land. From this contact, social intercourse between foreign merchants and Filipinos resulted in a new ethnic group. These group were called Filipino mestizos (mixed-race individuals). Some of their descendants, emerged later as an influential part of the Philippine society, such as the Principalía (Nobility).

Between 1565 and 1815, Hispanics from Mexico and Spain sailed to and from the Philippines as government officials, soldiers, priests, settlers, traders, sailors and adventurers in the Manila-Acapulco Galleon, assisting Spain in its trade between Europe and Latin America (Spanish America) and Latin America and the Philippines.

People of other ethnicities, such as Amerindians (Mexican Indians) and Africans, also settled in the Philippines after serving as members of the crew on Spanish ships. Some of these individuals married Filipinos of different ethnic groups and classes and integrated into Philippine society. This contributed to the assimilation of the Hispanics into everyday society and according to an 1818 census, about 1/3rd of the inhabitants of the island of Luzon were mixed with varying degrees of Spanish ancestry and that the vast majority of military personnel have Latin-American origins.[4] The soldiers that were sent from Spain's Latin-American colonies to the Philippines were often made up of Mulattoes, Mestizos, and Indios (Amerindians).[5]

Racial integration[edit]

As opposed to the policies of other colonial powers such as the British or the Dutch, the Spanish colonies were devoid of any anti-miscegenation laws. Moreover, the Catholic Church not only never banned interracial marriage, but it even encouraged it. The fluid nature of racial integration in the Philippines during the Spanish colonial period was recorded by many travelers and public figures at the time, who were favorably impressed by the lack of racial discrimination, as compared to the situation in other European colonies.

Among them was Sir John Bowring, Governor General of British Hong Kong and a well-seasoned traveler who had written several books about the different cultures in Asia, who described the situation as "admirable" during a visit to the Philippines in the 1870s.

Another foreign witness was English engineer, Frederic H. Sawyer, who had spent most of his life in different parts of Asia and lived in Luzon for fourteen years. His impression was that as far as racial integration and harmony was concerned, the situation in the Philippines was not equaled by any other colonial power:

Language and Culture[edit]

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Most common languages spoken today are Chavacano, the only Spanish-based creole language in Asia; Tagalog (a local dialect with some words borrowed from Spanish), and English, which is used in the public sphere. Many other Filipinos also speak other Philippine languages.

Today, only a minority of Filipinos speak Spanish, only some mestizos from older generations, those with links with Spain, America or other Spanish-speaking areas and recent immigrants, have preserved Spanish as a living spoken language,[8] although many Spanish cultural traits still remain, most notably the adoption of Christianity among the majority of Filipinos. Thanks to Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, a Spanish-speaking filipina the Philippine government has reinstated the instruction of Spanish at schools with a view to generalising its instruction nationally.

Notable people[edit]

In the Philippines, there are some people who trace their roots back to the first Spanish settlers of the country through their surnames.[9] Due to the introduction of the Catálogo alfabético de apellidos in the mid-19th century, it has become increasingly difficult to validate ancestral claims made by those who hold Spanish surnames.[10] Today, some of those with precise ancestral ties can be found in politics, commerce, arts, entertainment industry and professional sports. Others have emigrated and later returned or settled down in another country.

Among the most notable Filipinos with direct Spanish ancestry are:


  1. ^ Philippines History, Culture, Civilization and Technology, Filipino
  2. ^ The Cultural Influences of India, China, Arabia, and Japan | Philippine Almanac
  3. ^ Ancient Japanese pottery in Boljoon town | Inquirer News
  4. ^ Jagor, Fëdor, et al. (1870). The Former Philippines thru Foreign Eyes
  5. ^ Letter from Fajardo to Felipe III, Manila, August 15 1620.(From the Spanish Archives of the Indies) ("The infantry does not amount to two hundred men, in three companies. If these men were that number, and Spaniards, it would not be so bad; but, although I have not seen them, because they have not yet arrived here, I am told that they are, as at other times, for the most part boys, mestizos, and mulattoes, with some Indians. There is no little cause for regret in the great sums that reënforcements of such men waste for, and cost, your Majesty. I cannot see what betterment there will be until your Majesty shall provide it, since I do not think, that more can be done in Nueva Spaña, although the viceroy must be endeavoring to do so, as he is ordered.")
  6. ^ L. Hunt, Chester, "Sociology in the Philippine setting: A modular approach", p. 118, Phoenix Pub. House, 1954
  7. ^ Frederic H. Sawyer, "The Inhabitants of the Philippines", p. 125, New York, 1900
  8. ^ "Race Mixing and Westernisation in Latin America and the Philippines". Venezuela. Retrieved 2002-08-23. 
  9. ^ France-Presse, Agence. "Spain’s Queen Sofia arrives in Philippines". 2 July 2012. Retrieved 24 August 2013. 
  10. ^ "The semantics of 'mestizo'". 27 July 2012. GMA News. Retrieved 24 August 2013.