The Philippines in the Spanish imagination

27 Apr

To celebrate 200 years of Latin America, my university has organized various activities around Spain’s  ex-colonies. This week saw the inauguration of a series of conferences entitled La Hispanidad en América. The organizers have filled the corridors with posters promoting the conferences (see photo). The countries where Spanish influence has reached are colored green, while the rest of the world map is in very faint pink. When I saw the poster, one thing immediately came to mind: the Philippines is not colored green! Then I calmed down and thought of course we’re not part of America (as they call Latin America). So it’s ok if we’re not colored green on the map. We can do with the light pink. But that brings me to my next point.

When I arrived in Spain in 2008 I realized how ignorant I was about our ex-“mother” country. It was absent from my imagination, except for Padre Damaso and guardia civil, and some other Spanish sounding word, like the filipinized version of Castilla (kastila). After talking to people here (even history scholars, mind you), I became aware of another very enlightening thing. The ignorance is mutual! The Philippines is generally absent from the Spanish imagination (even scholarly historical memory). In one Latin American history class I asked if we were going to talk about, or even just mention the Philippine revolution. The teacher politely advised me not to even expect it because the independencias tardías were not part of the program. Fine.

I think when older Spaniards hear “Philippines” they think “Los últimos de Filipinas” and the tragic loss of the Antilles in 1898. When they hear “Asia” or “Extremo Oriente” they think of China. I could be wrong but I have a feeling that history faculties here (at least in one university I know whose name I won’t mention) are digging up lost and forgotten relations with China using the Philippines as a jumping board, if they remember it at all. Of course this forgetfulness of the past is further reinforced by maps like the one I show you now, right? Obviously, I’m not blaming anyone for this mutual act of shelving the past. I know that as I write, many people here and in the Philippines in the areas of culture, commerce and industry are trying to pick up the pieces to reconnect severed ties. I’m glad they’re doing it. Why? Because Spain is part of our heritage, no matter how much we have filipinized Spanish traditions. And the Philippines is a small chunk of Spain’s past, despite the bitterness of 1898.  Written by Grace Concepcion.

Filipinos: Latinos of Asia or Little Brown Americans? Photo from Kapisanan Philippine Centre for Arts and Culture

6 Responses to “The Philippines in the Spanish imagination”

  1. R. Reyes October 28, 2011 at 2:18 am #

    I came across your website by chance. I am a Filipino American who speaks Taglish and fluent castillian Spanish. It is weird because many people still remembered Philippines, mostly the elderly, and they never had any problems with me. It was quite refreshing because at least we were an echo in their past. Many “latinos” don’t recognize Philippines or Filipinos and it is so shocking how many castillianisms we have in tagalog.

    • Dan October 29, 2011 at 5:43 pm #

      Thank you for your comments. If I’m not mistaken, there are at least 5000 Spanish words in Tagalog and there are more in Visayan languages. Our colonialist past, even if we don’t want it, we reject it, it’s already part of our identity.

      • Me July 29, 2012 at 4:56 am #

        Hi there! the article you have written is quite interesting and it gives me a lot of information about the view of other countries to the Philippines. I am a Filipino and I love the Philippine history a lot same as well with the other Latin American countries that became a Spanish colony.Your articles caught my attentions and push me to share my point of view about the Philippines. Many people around the world even Filipinos still doesn’t know that Spanish was an official language of the Philippine govt. and was used as a mandatory school subjects until the change of a new constitution in 1973 Spanish language was forcefully removed as the Filipino language, and it was under Pres. Aquino regime when this language lost its space in the Filipino society. To be honest, as the new generation Filipino, I am very disappointed when the language of our former colonial master wasn’t acknowledge in our modern society, why? because Spain contributed a lot into our culture. We have the religion, architecture, literature, and many more, even our national heroes knows how to speak Spanish and they much preferred it especially through their writings.We are the Spanish replicas in Asia, but more Filipinized, and I proud on it. We have hispanic culture and we need to value it, coz there will be no Filipinos with out it. The only thing which I wanted to tell is we must embrace our roots as a Malay at the same time love our hispanic and asian cultures.

      • Dan August 2, 2012 at 10:10 pm #

        Whether we like it or not, Spanish culture is part of our culture as Filipinos. We know the damage caused by colonization but on the other hand, it also contributed to the richness of our heritage.

        Spanish is being taught again in the Philippines. We hope that this is not only done to meet the demands of the market but also to enrich and broaden the cultural and intellectual maturity of our kababayans.

  2. Carles Xabier October 11, 2012 at 5:24 pm #

    It’s time to restore the Spanish language and eliminate the Tagalog-based Filipino as a national language. Why? Most of the Tagalogs living in non-Tagalog areas are not interested to learn other languages. They have a feeling of superiority. I don’t celebrate the national language month in August because it is only for Tagalogs. Orgulloso de ser Visaya y Hispano-Filipino. Viva la lengua castellana!!!

    • Duchess Allison Shane October 5, 2013 at 5:43 am #

      true 😦 Id rather study spanish than tagalog

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