Spanish Filipinos

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Spanish Filipinos
A Spanish Filipina mestiza wearing the traditional Maria Clara gown of the Philippines and the long hair tradition of Filipino women during the colonial era.
Total population
4.852 Self-identified as "Spanish"
2.1% of all foreign ethnicities (2020 census)[1] 5% of all the population that were paying tribute during the Spanish colonial era (1700s).[2][3]
Regions with significant populations
Philippines, Spain, United States
Filipino, other Philippine languages, Spanish, Chavacano, English
Christianity (Catholicism)
Related ethnic groups
Filipinos, Filipino mestizos
Spanish diaspora
Flag of the Hispanic people
Regions with significant populations
Metro Manila, Zamboanga City, Cebu City, Vigan, Iloilo City, Bauang
Spanish (Philippine), Filipino, English, Chavacano
Roman Catholic

Spanish Filipino (Spanish: hispanofilipino / español filipino / español insular / criollo; Filipino/Tagalog: Kastílâ / Espanyól / Español; Cebuano: Katsílâ / Español Hiligaynon: Katsílà / Español) is a term encompassing Filipinos of Spanish descent, or via the Spanish diaspora in Hispanic nations. Many trace their ancestry to early settlers from Spain and New Spain who settled in the Philippines during the Spanish Crown’s ownership of the territory which was ruled through Mexico City, and later, Madrid.

The conquistador Miguel López de Legazpi sailed from Mexico, conquered parts of the islands, and founded the first Spanish settlement in Cebu in 1565. Later he established Manila as the capital of the Spanish East Indies in 1571. The Philippine Islands were named after King Philip II of Spain and it became a territory of the Viceroyalty of New Spain which was governed from Mexico City until the 19th century, when the First Mexican Empire obtained independence. From 1821, the Philippine Islands were ruled directly from Madrid, Spain.

Spaniards are referred to by Filipinos as "Kastila" (Castilian), in the Malay fashion, from the Portuguese name for the former Kingdom of Castile, now a region of Spain.

They are also referred to as "Spanish Filipino", "Español Filipino" and "Hispano Filipino".

Sometimes, they are also referred to colloquially as Tisoy, derived from the Spanish word mestizo, as over time, a lot of them have intermarried with the locals or the Chinese settlers. But among the middle-class or upper-class “racial purists’, this particular practice may be frowned upon.


Fort Santiago

They are represented in all levels of Philippine society and are integrated politically and economically in the private and government sectors. However, their population (and in turn their participation) has declined since the onset of the Republic under Japanese control. There were anti-Spanish killings in Manila in 1944 despite the collaboration of some, and attacks in Luzon by communist rebels in the late 1940s after independence. Some opted to move to Mexico, the United States or US-held Puerto Rico in 1944-1945 (especially those that were in import-export in Manila and Cebú.) And in the 1970s and 1980s, there was an exodus of a few hundred back to Spain, or to Mexico.

In 1987, Spanish ceased to be a co-official language.

Jaime Augusto Zobel de Ayala.

Spanish Filipinos are present within several commerce and business sectors in the Philippines and a few sources estimate companies which comprise a significant portion of the Philippine economy are owned by Spanish Filipinos like International Container Terminal Services Inc., Manila Water, Integrated Micro-Electronics, Inc., Ayala Land, Ynchausti y Compañia, Ayala Corporation, Aboitiz & Company, Union Bank of the Philippines, ANSCOR, Bank of the Philippine Islands, Globe Telecom, Solaire Resort & Casino, and Central Azucarera de La Carlota, to name but a few.[4][5][6][7][8]



Though the definition of the term Hispanic may vary, it generally refers to people, cultures, or countries related to Spain, the Spanish language, or Hispanidad. It is commonly applied to countries once part of the Spanish Empire, particularly the countries of Latin America, Equatorial Guinea, and Spanish Sahara. The Spanish culture and Spanish language are the main traditions.[9][10]

The Philippines is no longer a Spanish-speaking country, the Tydings–McDuffie Act having laid the groundwork in 1934 for public education to be conducted in English.[11] However, Filipinos retain many Hispanic influences because of three centuries of Spanish colonization, including being part of New Spain and later Spain itself.[12]

Spanish Philippines[edit]

Between 1565 and 1898, Hispanics from Latin America and Spain sailed to and from the Philippine Islands. This contributed to the assimilation of Hispanics into everyday society. According to an 1818 study by the renowned German ethnologist Fëdor Jagor entitled The Former Philippines thru Foreign Eyes, not less than one third of the inhabitants of the island of Luzon were descendants of Spaniards, mixed with varying degrees of South American, Chinese, and Indian ancestry and the vast majority of military personnel then had Latin American origins.[13]


Spanish Philippines is the history of the Philippines from 1521 to 1898. It begins with the arrival in 1521 of European explorer Ferdinand Magellan sailing for Spain, which heralded the period when the Philippines was an overseas province of Spain, and ends with the outbreak of the Spanish–American War in 1898.

The Spanish conquest of 1565, prompted the colonization of the Philippine Islands that lasted for 333 years. The Philippines was a former territory of the Viceroyalty of New Spain until the grant of independence to Mexico in 1821 necessitated the direct government from Spain of the Philippines from that year. Early Spanish settlers were mostly explorers, soldiers, government officials, religious missionaries, and among others, who were born in Spain and Mexico called Peninsulares (Spanish migrants living in the colony) or Criollo (Spaniards of pure blood), who settled in the islands with their families to govern the colony, and the majority of the indigenous population. Some of these individuals married or inter-bred with the indigenous Filipino (Austronesian/Malay/Malayo-Polynesian) population while most married only other Spaniards. Their succeeding generation called Insulares (Spaniards or Hispanics born from the islands), became town local officers, and were granted with haciendas (plantation estates) by the Spanish government. In some provinces like, Vigan, Iloilo, Cebu, Pampanga, and Zamboanga, 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 indigenous people resulted in a new ethnic group. These group were called Mestizos (mixed-race individuals), who were born from intermarriages of the Spaniards and merchants with the indigenous Filipino (Austronesian/Malay/Malayo-Polynesian) natives. Some of their descendants, emerged later as an influential part of the ruling class, such as the Principalía (Nobility).

The Spanish implemented incentives to deliberately entangle the various races together in order to stop rebellion:[14][15][16] - It is needful to encourage public instruction in all ways possible, permit newspapers subject to a liberal censure, to establish in Manila a college of medicine, surgery, and pharmacy: in order to break down the barriers that divide the races, and amalgamate them all into one. For that purpose, the Spaniards of the country, the Chinese mestizos, and the Filipinos shall be admitted with perfect equality as cadets of the military corps; the personal-service tax shall be abolished, or an equal and general tax shall be imposed, to which all the Spaniards shall be subject. This last plan appears to me more advisable, as the poll-tax is already established, and it is not opportune to make a trial of new taxes when it is a question of allowing the country to be governed by itself. Since the annual tribute is unequal, the average shall be taken and shall be fixed, consequently, at fifteen or sixteen reals per whole tribute, or perhaps one peso fuerte annually from each adult tributary person. This regulation will produce an increase in the revenue of 200,000 or 300,000 pesos fuertes, and this sum shall be set aside to give the impulse for the amalgamation of the races, favoring crossed marriages by means of dowries granted to the single women in the following manner. To a Chinese mestizo woman who marries a Filipino shall be given 100 pesos; to a Filipino woman who marries a Chinese mestizo, 100 pesos; to a Chinese mestizo woman who marries a Spaniard, 1,000 pesos; to a Spanish woman who marries a Chinese mestizo, 2,000 pesos; to a Filipino woman who marries a Spaniard, 2,000 pesos; to a Spanish woman who marries a Filipino chief, 3,000 or 4,000 pesos. Some mestizo and Filipino alcaldes-mayor of the provinces shall be appointed. It shall be ordered that when a Filipino chief goes to the house of a Spaniard, he shall seat himself as the latter's equal. In a word, by these and other means, the idea that they and the Castilians are two kinds of distinct races shall be erased from the minds of the natives, and the families shall become related by marriage in such manner that when free of the Castilian dominion should any exalted Filipinos try to expel or enslave our race, they would find it so interlaced with their own that their plan would be practically impossible.[17]

Mexicans of European or Mestizo heritage known as Americanos (Americans) also arrived in the Philippines during the Spanish colonial period. 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 Latin America and the Philippine Islands.[citation needed]

Spanish East Indies[edit]

Cabildo Street, Intramuros, Manila, 1890s

The Spanish East Indies (Indias orientales españolas) were the Spanish territories in Asia-Pacific from 1565 until 1899. They comprised the Philippine Islands, Guam and the Mariana Islands, the Caroline Islands (Palau and the Federated States of Micronesia), and for some time parts of Formosa (Taiwan) and the Moluccas (Indonesia). Cebu was the first seat of government, later transferred to Manila. From 1565 to 1821 these territories, together with the Spanish West Indies, were administered through the Viceroyalty of New Spain based in Mexico City.

Captaincy General of the Philippines[edit]

The Captaincy General of the Philippines (Spanish: Capitanía General de las Filipinas; Filipino: Kapitanyang Heneral ng Pilipinas) was an administrative district of the Spanish Empire. The Captaincy General encompassed the Spanish East Indies which included the modern country of the Philippines and various Pacific Island possessions, such as the Caroline Islands and Guam. It was founded in 1565 with the first permanent Spanish settlements.

For centuries all the political and economic aspects of the Captaincy were administered in Mexico by the Viceroyalty of New Spain, while the administrative issues had to be consulted with the Spanish Crown or the Council of the Indies through the Royal Audience of Manila. However, in 1821, after Mexico became an independent nation, all control was transferred to Madrid.


In the late 1700s to early 1800s, Joaquín Martínez de Zúñiga, an Agustinian Friar, in his Two Volume Book: "Estadismo de las islas Filipinas"[2][3] compiled a census of the Spanish-Philippines based on the tribute counts (Which represented an average family of seven to ten children[18] and two parents, per tribute)[19] and came upon the following statistics:

Data reported for the 1800 as divided by ethnicity and province[2][3]
Province Native Tributes Spanish Mestizo Tributes All Tributes[a]
Tondo[2]: 539  14,437-1/2 3,528 27,897-7
Cavite[2]: 539  5,724-1/2 859 9,132-4
Laguna[2]: 539  14,392-1/2 336 19,448-6
Batangas[2]: 539  15,014 451 21,579-7
Mindoro[2]: 539  3,165 3-1/2 4,000-8
Bulacan[2]: 539  16,586-1/2 2,007 25,760-5
Pampanga[2]: 539  16,604-1/2 2,641 27,358-1
Bataan[2]: 539  3,082 619 5,433
Zambales[2]: 539  1,136 73 4,389
Ilocos[3]: 31  44,852-1/2 631 68,856
Pangasinan[3]: 31  19,836 719-1/2 25,366
Cagayan[3]: 31  9,888 0 11,244-6
Camarines[3]: 54  19,686-1/2 154-1/2 24,994
Albay[3]: 54  12,339 146 16,093
Tayabas[3]: 54  7,396 12 9,228
Cebu[3]: 113  28,112-1/2 625 28,863
Samar[3]: 113  3,042 103 4,060
Leyte[3]: 113  7,678 37-1/2 10,011
Caraga[3]: 113  3,497 0 4,977
Misamis[3]: 113  1,278 0 1,674
Negros Island[3]: 113  5,741 0 7,176
Iloilo[3]: 113  29,723 166 37,760
Capiz[3]: 113  11,459 89 14,867
Antique[3]: 113  9,228 0 11,620
Calamianes[3]: 113  2,289 0 3,161
TOTAL 299,049 13,201 424,992-16

The Spanish Mestizo population as a proportion of the provinces widely varied; with as high as ninteen percent of the population of Tondo (The most populous province), to Pampanga Thirteen point seven, Cavite at Thirteen percent and Bulacan at Ten point Eight Percent to as low as Five Percent in Cebu, and sometimes completely lacking in far flung areas.[2][3]


La Mestisa Española (A Spanish Filipina) by Justiniano Asuncion

In Asia, the Philippines, a former Spanish overseas province, was the only Spanish-speaking sovereign nation. Spanish was the lingua franca of the country from the beginning of Spanish rule in the late 1500s until the first half of the 20th century. It held official status for nearly half a millennium before being redesignated as an optional language in 1987. However, Spanish still remained a very important language up until the mid-20th century, with a gradual decline over the decades.[20] As of 2010, some groups have rallied to revive the language and make it a compulsory subject in schools.[21] Development of demand for Spanish speakers within the Call Center and Business Process Outsourcing industries led to its reinvigoration. Classes in the Instituto Cervantes are often full because of this.[citation needed][timeframe?]

A Spanish-Filipina Mestiza

Most Filipinos of Spanish descent are considered to belong to regional ethnic groups in the Philippines because they speak their respective regional languages. They also use English in the public sphere, and may also speak Tagalog and other Philippine languages. Spanish was, along with English, the co-official language in the Philippines from the Spanish Colonial Period until 1987 when its official status was removed.

Spanish heritage in Zamboanga

Only a minority of Spanish-descended Filipinos speak Spanish; some Filipinos of Spanish descent, particularly those of older generations, of elite and middle-class status and recent immigrants, have preserved Spanish as a spoken language. In addition, Chavacano (a criollo language based largely on Spanish vocabulary) is spoken in the southern Philippines, and forms one of the majority languages of Zamboanga del Sur, Zamboanga del Norte, Zamboanga Sibugay, Basilan and is mostly concentrated in Zamboanga City. It may also be spoken in some parts of the northern Philippines.


Due to a decree by the Spanish government in 1849 to establish a census, Filipinos (of Indigenous descent) may have Spanish or Spanish-sounding surnames; The government distributed a book of surnames for the use of all Filipinos.

Philippine Spanish[edit]

Philippine Spanish (Spanish: Español Filipino, Castellano Filipino) is a Spanish dialect and variant of the Spanish language spoken in the Philippines. Philippine Spanish is very similar to Mexican Spanish due to Mexican emigration to the Spanish East Indies (Philippines) during the Galleon trade. A constitution ratified in 1987 designated Filipino and English as official languages.[22] Also, under this Constitution, Spanish, together with Arabic, was designated an optional and voluntary language.[23] It is now spoken mostly among Spanish Filipinos; however, its speakers have declined in numbers over the past few decades.

Socioeconomic status[edit]

Filipinos of Spanish descent currently constitute much of the upper and middle classes. Many are either in politics or are high-ranking executives of commerce and industry, entertainment and sporting ranks. A number of elite Filipino family dynasties, political families and the elite clans are of Spanish origin.

Recent immigration[edit]

According to a recent[timeframe?] survey, the number of Spanish citizens in the Philippines regardless of ethnolinguistic affiliation was about 6,300 of the Philippine population[citation needed] with the vast majority of them being actually Spaniard-Filipinos, but excluding Philippine citizens of Spanish descent.

Cultural influence[edit]


Chavacano or Chabacano [tʃaβaˈkano] is a Spanish-based creole language spoken in the Philippines. The word Chabacano is derived from Spanish, meaning "poor taste", "vulgar", for the Chavacano language, developed in Cavite City, Ternate, Zamboanga and Ermita. It is also derived from the word chavano, coined by the Zamboangueño people.

Six different dialects have developed: Zamboangueño in Zamboanga City, Davaoeño Zamboangueño / Castellano Abakay in Davao City, Ternateño in Ternate, Cavite, Caviteño in Cavite City, Cotabateño in Cotabato City and Ermiteño in Ermita.

Chavacano is the only Spanish-based creole in Asia. It has survived for more than 400 years, making it one of the oldest creole languages in the world. Among Philippine languages, it is the only one not an Austronesian language, but like Malayo-Polynesian languages, it uses reduplication.


Cover of the Doctrina Christiana featuring Saint Dominic with the book's full title. Woodcut, c. 1590.
Pages of the Doctrina Christiana, an early Christian book in Spanish and Tagalog. The book contained Latin and Baybayin suyat scripts. (1593)

Philippine literature in Spanish (Spanish: Literatura Filipina en Español) is a body of literature made by Filipino writers in the Spanish language. Today, this corpus is the third largest in the whole corpus of Philippine literature (Philippine literature in Filipino being the first, followed by Philippine literature in English). It is slightly larger than Philippine literature in vernacular languages. However, because of the very few additions to it in the past 30 years, it is expected that the latter will soon overtake its rank.

A list of some famous Philippine literature in Spanish follows:

Doctrina Christiana[edit]

The Doctrina Christiana was an early book of Roman Catholic Catechism, written in 1593 by Fray Juan de Plasencia, and is believed to be one of the earliest books printed in the Philippines.[24]

The original front cover of Noli Me Tangere

Noli Me Tángere[edit]

Noli Me Tángere (Latin for "Touch me not") is a fictional novel written by José Rizal, one of the national heroes of the Philippines, during the colonization of the country by Spain to expose the inequities of the Spanish Catholic priests and the ruling government.

Originally written in Spanish, the book is more commonly published and read in the Philippines in either Filipino or English. Together with its sequel, El Filibusterismo, the reading of Noli is obligatory for high school students throughout the country.

El Filibusterismo[edit]

El Filibusterismo (lit. Spanish for "The filibustering"[25]), also known by its English alternative title The Reign of Greed,[26] is the second novel written by Philippine national hero José Rizal. It is the sequel to Noli me tangere and, like the first book, was written in Spanish. It was first published in 1891 in Ghent.

The novel's dark theme departs dramatically from the previous novel's hopeful and romantic atmosphere, signifying the character Ibarra's resort to solving his country's issues through violent means, after his previous attempt at reforming the country's system have made no effect and seemed impossible with the attitudes of the Spaniards towards the Filipinos. The novel, along with its predecessor, was banned in some parts of the Philippines as a result of their portrayals of the Spanish government's abuse and corruption. These novels, along with Rizal's involvement in organizations that aim to address and reform the Spanish system and its issues, led to Rizal's exile to Dapitan and eventual execution. Both the novel and its predecessor, along with Rizal's last poem, are now considered Rizal's literary masterpieces.

Mi último adiós[edit]

"Mi último adiós" (English; "My last farewell") is a poem originally written in Spanish by Philippine national hero Dr. José Rizal on the eve of his execution by firing squad on December 30, 1896. The piece was one of the last notes he wrote before his death; another that he had written was found in his shoe but because the text was illegible, its contents today remain a mystery.

Notable Spanish Filipinos[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Including others such as Latin-Americans and Chinese-Mestizos, pure Chinese paid tribute but were not Philippine citizens as they were transients who returned to China, and Spaniards were exempt


  1. ^ "Ethnicity in the Philippines (2020 Census of Population and Housing)". Table 5. Archived from the original on July 20, 2023. Retrieved December 25, 2023.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m "ESTADISMO DE LAS ISLAS FILIPINAS TOMO PRIMERO By Joaquín Martínez de Zúñiga (Original Spanish)" (PDF). Archived (PDF) from the original on March 9, 2016. Retrieved February 3, 2024.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t ESTADISMO DE LAS ISLAS FILIPINAS TOMO SEGUNDO By Joaquín Martínez de Zúñiga (Original Spanish)
  4. ^ "The Basques's contribution to the Philippines". Archived from the original on January 22, 2018. Retrieved May 12, 2016.
  5. ^ "Ayala Group". Archived from the original on July 28, 2011. Retrieved May 12, 2016.
  6. ^ "Aboitiz and Company - About Us". Archived from the original on August 12, 2022. Retrieved May 12, 2016.
  7. ^ "ICTSI - BOD - Enrique K. Razon Jr". Archived from the original on September 26, 2018. Retrieved May 12, 2016.
  8. ^ "ANSCOR - History". Archived from the original on August 17, 2022. Retrieved May 12, 2016.
  9. ^ "Archived: 49 CFR Part 26". U.S. Department of Transportation. Archived from the original on February 18, 2017. Retrieved January 19, 2016. 'Hispanic Americans,' which includes persons of Mexican, Puerto Rican, Cuban, Dominican, Central or South American, or other Spanish culture or origin, regardless of race...
  10. ^ "SOP 80 05 3A: Overview of the 8(A) Business Development Program" (PDF). U.S. Small Business Administration. April 11, 2008. Archived from the original (PDF) on October 6, 2016. Retrieved January 19, 2016. SBA has defined 'Hispanic American' as an individual whose ancestry and culture are rooted in South America, Central America, Mexico, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, or the Iberian Peninsula, including Spain and Portugal.
  11. ^ "THE PHILIPPINE INDEPENDENCE ACT (TYDINGS-MCDUFFIE ACT) 1934" (PDF). San Diego State University : Department of Political Science. March 24, 1934. Archived (PDF) from the original on December 27, 2022. Retrieved January 24, 2023. Provision shall be made for the establishment and maintenance of an adequate system of public schools, primarily conducted in the English language.
  12. ^ "The Hispanic Identity of Filipinos: A Short History". Seton Hall University. Archived from the original on September 21, 2022. Retrieved September 21, 2022.
  13. ^ Jagor, Fedor; et al. (2007). "Part VI People and Prospects of the Philippines". The Former Philippines Through Foreign Eyes. Echo Library. ISBN 978-1-4068-1542-9. Archived from the original on February 18, 2023. Retrieved October 20, 2016.
  14. ^ Historical Conservation Society. The Society. 1963. p. 191.
  15. ^ Sinibaldo De Mas (1963). Informe secreto de Sinibaldo de Más. Historical Conservation Society. p. 191.
  16. ^ Shubert S. C. Liao (1964). Chinese participation in Philippine culture and economy. Bookman. p. 30.
  17. ^ Emma Helen Blair (1915). The Philippine Islands, 1493-1898: Relating to China and the Chinese. A.H. Clark Company. pp. 85–87.
  18. ^ "How big were families in the 1700s?" By Keri Rutherford
  19. ^ Newson, Linda A. (April 16, 2009). Conquest and Pestilence in the Early Spanish Philippines. Honolulu, Hawaii: University of Hawaiʻi Press. ISBN 978-0-8248-6197-1. Archived from the original on March 8, 2023. Retrieved February 3, 2024.
  20. ^ The National Archives (archived from the original on September 27, 2007), Houses the Spanish Collection, which consists of around 13 million manuscripts from the Spanish colonial period.
  21. ^ "Spanish is once again a compulsory subject in the Philippines". Archived from the original on July 16, 2011. Retrieved July 19, 2010.
  22. ^ Article XIV, Section 3 of the 1935 Philippine Constitution Archived June 15, 2013, at the Wayback Machine provided, "[...] Until otherwise provided by law, English and Spanish shall continue as official languages." The 1943 Philippine Constitution Archived June 14, 2013, at the Wayback Machine (in effect during occupation by Japanese forces, and later repudiated) did not specify official languages. Article XV, Section 3(3) of the 1973 Philippine constitution Archived June 15, 2013, at the Wayback Machine ratified on January 17, 1973 specified, "Until otherwise provided by law, English and Pilipino shall be the official languages. Presidential Decree No. 155 Archived October 3, 2013, at the Wayback Machine dated March 15, 1973 ordered, "[...] that the Spanish language shall continue to be recognized as an official language in the Philippines while important documents in government files are in the Spanish language and not translated into either English or Pilipino language." Article XIV Section 7 of the 1987 Philippine Constitution Archived January 26, 2022, at the Wayback Machine specified, "For purposes of communication and instruction, the official languages of the Philippines are Filipino and, until otherwise provided by law, English."
  23. ^ Article XIV, Sec 7: For purposes of communication and instruction, the official languages of the Philippines are Filipino and, until otherwise provided by law, English. The regional languages are the auxiliary official languages in the regions and shall serve as auxiliary media of instruction therein. Spanish and Arabic shall be promoted on a voluntary and optional basis.
  24. ^ Lessing J. Rosenwald (1593). "Lessing J. Rosenwald Collection". Library of Congress. World Digital Library. Archived from the original on February 3, 2024. Retrieved November 28, 2010.
  25. ^ The Subersive or Subversion, as in the Locsín English translation, are also possible translations.
  26. ^ The Reign of Greed by José Rizal. Archived from the original on September 25, 2022. Retrieved April 24, 2008.