Filipinos often ask questions like, “What would Philippines be like today had Spain not colonized the island nation? Would the Filipino character developed the way it is now had the Spaniards not succeeded in putting the natives in chains for more than three centuries?
What if the Americans observed the principle that “governments derived their just powers from the consent of the governed”  and decided not to stay in 1898 and allow the Filipinos to govern themselves? The Americans should have known better. That principle was the driving force of the declaration of their independence in 1776. It is touted to be the model for the right to self-determination, the very right that they deprived the Filipinos of when they colonized the Philippines. The Americans justified their occupation of the islands by saying that the Filipinos were not ready for self-governance. But how sure were they? And even…
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For a better appreciation of who and what the Filipino is one has to decipher the Filipino psyche and identify the factors that contributed to its formation. An in-depth analysis of the character of these people would require a thorough examination of their history and racial origins. The Filipino cannot be figured out by establishing assumptions based on stereotyping and by magnifying him using a supremacist lens.
The pre-colonial Filipino was a race whose culture and genetic pool was a mix of Negrito, Indones, Malay, Arab, Hindu and Chinese and whose spirit was either strengthened or weakened by the geographics of the island nation and its corresponding climate. There was a genetic and cultural identity flourishing in this part of Southeast Asia before the Portuguese explorer Magellan and his Spanish expedition landed in Mactan in 1521. There was a national identity and character evolving when the Spaniards, led by Miguel Lopez De Legazpi, came back in 1565 to establish a stronghold in what the Europeans would later on call “Las Islas Filipinas.”
What the discovery of the Laguna copperplate in 1989 accomplished was to prove that “a well-organized form of government based on customary law”  existed in the Philippines long before the Spaniards came. The pre-colonial Filipino was not a lost soul rescued by the Europeans from the dark ages. There was an emerging racial entity when they came and it veered away from its natural course of becoming when the colonizers from the West succeeded in subduing the natives.
For 333 years that the Filipinos were under the mercy of the Spanish conquistadors. There were pocket revolts the Filipinos staged in different parts of the country to overthrow the invaders from the Iberian Peninsula but were quelled. The most significant of those uprisings was that one led by Francisco Dagohoy in Bohol that lasted for more than 80 years (1744-1929). Those attempts to vanquish the conquerors from Spain did not succeed because of the following: they were lacking in national character; based on limited geographical scales; and caused by non-encompassing issues. It was only the 1896 revolution that succeeded which eventually led to the declaration of Philippine independence in 1898.
But it was short-lived.
The Americans who the Filipinos thought came to help them establish a republic had other agenda. They duped Emilio Aguinaldo, the leader of the revolt against Spain, into believing that they didn’t need any colony and that they came to free the natives from the yoke of Spain. Then, the Filipinos watched helplessly as the Spaniards, too proud to accept defeat in the hands of the Indios they enslaved for centuries, surrendered to the Americans instead and was paid $20,000,000 for all the improvements they made in the Philippine islands during their colonial rule. That’s one of the conditions set in the Treaty of Paris in 1898 which the two countries concluded without concurring with the Filipino people.
Would the Americans pay the Spaniards that huge amount (which is worth more than half a billion dollars today) and get nothing in return? The answer is a resounding NO. America, then an emerging world power, needed to flex its muscles in the Pacific. The Philippines was the most ideal place for that. So, the Americans, contrary to their promise which Aguinaldo said he naively believed, declared Philippines a territory ceded to them by Spain.
It was a painful experience for the Filipinos. After centuries of struggle against Spain they finally had a chance to chart their own destiny as a nation. But the Americans stood on their way. The Filipinos had to continue their search for that elusive freedom.
When the Spaniards left, the natives fought the more superior American forces. It was a case of a “David” having to contend with a “Goliath.” But in this version, Goliath subdued David. The Filipinos gallantly stood their ground but eventually lost the Fil-American war after three long years of struggle.
So, the Philippines changed hands – from one colonial master to another, from the Spanish yoke to that of the American.
As a consequence of its being colonized by those two countries in the West, into the nation’s cultural and genetic pool, Spanish and American elements were assimilated. Also, the experiences of the Filipinos in those years of foreign domination have undoubtedly affected the evolution of their character. Even the policies implemented by the Spaniards and the Americans when they took turns in ruling the said nation have strongly contributed to that transformation.
The 20th century saw the emergence of a post-colonial identity, a character, that is distinctively Filipino, a character forged by the mixing of Asian and European influences, by frequent battering from natural calamities, and by the long period of colonization.
How did colonization affect the formation of the Filipino character? How did Spanish cruelty and American treachery impact the evolution of Filipino values and traits?
During the campaign period for the May-2016 presidential derby, a few (or is it many or all?) Catholic bishops and priests openly expressed their disapproval of then candidate Rodrigo Duterte. Reportedly, priests used their homilies to dissuade the Catholic faithful from voting for the mayor of Davao City.
But they failed.
Whether the bishops and the priests like it or not, Duterte is the Philippine president for the next 6 years.
Before the May, 2016 elections, Duterte could be remembered saying, “I said let this election be a sort of a referendum, a sort of a plebiscite for the church and me.” And the Filipino people have spoken.
The Catholic Church, by taking sides and for singling out Duterte, initiated the animosity between them and the soon-to-be head of the Philippine government. It can be said that the clergy fired the first shots and they are supposedly wise enough to know that the outspoken Duterte, win or lose, will retaliate. They unwittingly stirred up a hornet’s nest.
For all the verbal salvos fired against him by the bishops and the priests the strongest response by Duterte was “the Catholic Church is the most hypocritical institution.” He has gone as far as accusing the bishops of not keeping their vow of celibacy. The incoming Philippine president also added that the clergymen sought favors such as cars from politicians.
Duterte threatened to expose what he termed as the sins of the past committed by the Church including priests whom he alleged to have had affairs with women. He even claimed that he was sexually abused by a priest when he was a child.
He urged the Catholic Church to just observe the “separation of the Church and the State” and not meddle with the affairs of the government.
After Duterte’s rants and shocking insults, the biggest church organization in the Philippines started singing a different tune.
Before the May 9 elections, one of the most outspoken among the bishops who attacked Duterte’s candidacy was Archbishop Socrates Villegas. The bishop has a reputation of saying what he needs to say but his response to Duterte’s tirades against the Church could be construed as generally reconciliatory. He said, “Mine is the language of peace that refuses the dark magic of revenge. Mine is the silence of respect for those who consider us their enemies but whose good we truly pray for and whose happiness we want to see unfold.”
But while the Archbishop spoke of the nobility in silence, a Catholic priest (whose name I don’t wish to divulge but he knows I’m referring to him should he get to read this article) continued his attack against president-elect Rodrigo Duterte. The exact words he wrote (as a comment to an article about the incoming Philippine President which he posted on his Facebook) goes, “6 years tau [sic] magtitiis.”
Translation: “We’ll suffer for six years.”
Duterte is yet to serve a day in office but the priest is seemingly certain that the Philippines will suffer during his term.
Can he see the future? Definitely not but one thing for sure the priest knows Philippine history. He knows pretty well that for 333 years, not just 6 years, the Filipinos suffered tremendously in the hands of Spanish conquistadores, aided by the Catholic Church. The priest, I’m sure, have read Dr. Jose Rizal’s “Noli Me Tangere” and knows one of the characters called Padre Damaso.
“Are the Spaniards really gone? Is Padre Damaso just a fiction character? Ask Duterte!