The Philippines is a Southeast Asian country composed of more than seven thousand and one hundred islands. Its capital is Manila and it’s a developing country with a population of about 90 million people. Filipinos, the people of the country, speak Filipino, the national language, and English. The country has a long history of colonialism, having been subject to the rule of three foreign nations: Spain, the United States, and Japan. These three colonial periods in the history of the country produced lasting effects on its culture, political system, economy, and geography.
Although the Philippines has a long history of being a colony, its people had resisted colonizers when the interests of the country were endangered. The first colonizers of the country were the Spanish. It’s believed that nearby territories in Southeast Asia traded with the Philippine islands long before the Spanish came. The first recorded resistance against Spanish colonization occurred in 1521 when Spanish explorers, led by Ferdinand Magellan landed in Mindanao, the southernmost region of the country (Schirmer & Shalom, 1987, p. 193).
According to historians, the Spaniards claimed the islands as Spanish territory and violated the women of the natives. They also attempted to baptize the natives as Christians, resulting in the resistance of some of the natives. Native leaders then decided to make war with the Spaniards and consequently killed the crew members, including Magellan. The Philippine history of colonialism did not end with the death of Magellan, however. In 1565, the Spanish returned to the Philippine islands with superior imperialistic techniques and weaponry.
Within ten years, most of the seven thousand one hundred islands of the country had fallen to Spanish rule (Schirmer & Shalom, 1987, p. 193). Through coordinated resistance movements across the country, the Philippines was able to break from Spanish rule in 1898, the first complete liberation of an Asian country from a European colonizer. Philippine independence though was short-lived because Americans, who fought the Spaniards to free Cuba, eventually annexed the archipelago as part of their strategy to achieve global dominance (Go & Foster, 2003, p.
148). Filipinos resisted their colonization by the United States, resulting in the Philippine-American war. The US tried to suppress the resistance of Filipinos through various techniques, including the establishment of a US government in the country. Just as the US and the Philippines were finishing plans for independence, however, Japan invaded the country during World War II. The Philippines and the US, now working together, defeated the Japanese colonizers in 1944. The US granted the Philippines its independence in 1946 .
Today, the Philippines still bears the unmistakable marks of its long history of colonialism. The Filipino language, which is mostly composed of the native dialect of Tagalog, includes many Spanish terms. Words like “mesa” (table), “libro” (book), “lugar” (place), and “kalye” from the Spanish “calle” (road) are just some examples of the Spanish language’s impact on the native tongue (Schirmer & Shalom, 1987, p. 204). It’s not only in the Filipino language that the long Spanish rule is evident, however. Many elements of Filipino culture have traces of Spanish colonization.
For instance, many Filipino families today still practice the Spanish siesta or sleeping during the afternoon. Traditional Philippine clothes like the “camisa de chino” for men and the “baro’t saya” for women look like derivatives of traditional Spanish dresses. While the Spaniards ruled the Phillipine islands for the longest time among all other colonizers, Americans perhaps have the deepest impact on the culture of the country. Today, many Filipinos, including the government, treasure the supposed friendship of the Philippines with the United States.
The Philippine government has constant contact with the US government and is very vocal about its support of US policies and stands on global issues. The English language is spoken or at least understood by most Filipinos living in the country. Hollywood films do not need to be translated to the Filipino language in order for locals to understand the content. Malls in the country are lined with American shops which many Filipinos frequent. The local media is filled with American films and songs which people tune in to every day.
In fact, many Filipinos learn the English language through the media and not through schools, although the English language is taught in elementary and high school (Go & Foster , 2003, p. 198). The Philippine government also derives many things from its American counterpart. The government has a President, Senate, House of Representatives and judiciary arm. It is protected by an armed force with the president as its commander-in-chief. Perhaps the most glaring difference between the Philippine and the US government is that the former does not adopt the federal system.
Charter change movements in the country recently however, are trying to change that to adopt the federal system (Go & Foster, 2003, p. 153). Since the Japanese colonization of the Philippines was short-lived, it left few lasting impacts on the country. The Japanese government still supports the victims of its invasion today, though, especially the veterans of the war and its victims. The Japanese colonization of the country is taught at history classes, ensuring the awareness of young Filipinos of their unfortunate past with Japan (Ikehata & Yu-Jose, 2003, p. 328).
Past wounds have made the Philippines a very open country to all nations and races of the world. Many Filipinos today love Japanese culture, which is exported to the country mostly in the form of anime (Japanese animation) and computer products. The Philippine government also works together with the Japanese government to improve the lives of citizens (Ikehata & Yu-Jose, 2003, p. 328). The geography of the country also bears many marks of colonialism. Manila became the capital city of the country mainly due to the fact that it has ports that welcome ships from other territories.
Manila though is not the most prosperous city in the Philippines today. Quezon City, also located in the national capital region, has a wider area and grows at a tremendous pace. Makati City, the Philippine business center, is dotted with skyscrapers that house many multinational companies that do business in the country (Espiritu, 2003, p. 23). The Philippines is a rich source for cheap and skilled labor for many developed countries worldwide because of the Filipinos’ mastery of the English language.
There is a booming outsourcing and call center industry in the country which provide young Filipinos with stable jobs. It’s very convenient for American companies to hire call center agents in the country because Filipinos know the English language by heart. Compared to other sources of labor in the world, Filipinos are easy to train to adopt the American English accent. Filipinos are also known as hard-working individuals, making them tempting investments to multinational companies (Espiritu, 2003, p. 23). Resistance though doesn’t disappear even in this age of friendship with past colonizers.
There are still many social movement groups in the country that promote the interests of the country by resisting the influence of the United States and other foreign nations. These nationalistic groups follow developments in the government to ensure that Filipino interests are not compromised because of foreign interests or corruption within the government. Some of these groups also recruit members from schools and mobilize them through protests or demonstrations (Pomeroy, 1992, p. 25). The Philippines is now free but experts claim that modern forms of imperialism are still affecting many aspects of the country.
Although the age of colonialism is over because the US and other foreign nations cannot put up governments in the Philippines anymore, their cultural influences are still felt by Filipinos as globalization speeds up. Accepting foreign influences in the culture, government and economy of the country is not necessarily disadvantageous to Filipinos, but it’s always best to focus on their own interests as a nation. The development of the Philippines will be faster once it learns to balance the lessons it learned from colonialism with the present realities it confronts. References Espiritu, Y. L. (2003).
Home Bound: Filipino American Lives Across Cultures, Communities, and Countries. University of California Press. Go, J. and Foster, A. L. (2003). The American Colonial State in the Philippines: Global Perspectives. Duke University Press. Ikehata, S. and Yu-Jose, L. N. (2003). Philippines-Japan Relations. Ateneo de Manila University Press. Pomeroy, W. J. (1992). The Philippines: Colonialism, Collaboration, and Resistance. International Publishers Co. Schirmer, D. B. , & Shalom, S. R. (1987). The Philippines Reader: A History of Colonialism, Neocolonialism, Dictatorship, and Resistance. South End Press.
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