Spanish influence on Filipino culture

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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 traditions of the Philippines which originated from three centuries of Spanish[1] colonisation. 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. Chavacano, a Spanish-based creole, is spoken in the Zamboanga Peninsula (where it is an official language), Davao, and Cotabato in Mindanao, and Cavite in Luzon.

The Philippines, having been one of the most distant Spanish colonies, received less migration of people from Spain compared with the colonies in the Americas, Latin America. Most of the influence during the colonial period came through Mexico, rather than directly from Spain, as the Philippines was governed as a territory of New Spain.


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 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 and Sulu which, before its Islamization and Spanish colonization, was also an Indianized Rajahnate under its first ruler, Rajah Sipad the Older.


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[edit]

The name of the Philippines comes from the king of Spain Philip II. It was given by the Spanish explorer Ruy López de Villalobos 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[edit]

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.


Filipino which belong to the Austronesian ethnic groups of the Southeast Asian Region. The natives of the Philippine Islands may be related to the Chamorro people in Guam and the Marianas Islands(Immediately renamed 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 Region as a group of islands, but are rather different for the Pacific Islanders belong to the Polynesian, Micronesian, and Melanesian ethnic groups of the Pacific Ocean Region. 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(Japanese) who migrated only during the time of Spanish colonial period, 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.[2] 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. The Philippine Statistics Department does not account for the racial background or ancestry of an individual. Different estimates of this mixed descent, either by the parent side, it is calculated that some 3,500,000 to 5,000,000 possess memorable or direct Spanish descent while the remaining 1/3rd of the population, around 33,000,000 to 35,000,000 possess minority or trace Hispanic descent.

Nevertheless, a quick-count of the automosal DNA analyses of Filipinos registered in 23andme (An organization focused on genetic origins) show that 55 out 58[citation needed] samples (A vast majority of people from the Philippines) as well as the National Geographic's Genographic project show that most Filipinos have European ancestry, but present only in minor or trace amounts and this is accompanied by a small amount of Native-American admix too.[citation needed]


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 balot City.


Arts, literature and music[edit]

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, Mexican, Peruvian 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.

See also[edit]


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