The Spanish Philippines: Its History and Influence on 7,000 Islands
When you think of the Spanish language and countries that have been influenced by Spanish, what countries do you think of? Are there any countries outside of Latin America that come to mind? Some areas of the world have endured extreme cultural changes due to colonialism by the Spanish crown, including what once was called The Spanish Philippines.
The Spanish Philippines
The 7,000 islands that make up the Philippines have had a complex history, with raging battles and political influences both from within and from foreign countries. However, the most potent of all these forces continues to be the Spanish reign, which dominated the archipelago for more than 300 years.
The Pre-Spanish Philippines
Thousands of years ago, the first inhabitants traveled to the Philippines from neighboring Asian areas. Over the centuries, the islands were ruled by various native kingdoms, and they boasted of successful trading posts with the Chinese. In the 1300s, Malaysian and Indonesian missionaries brought Islam to the islands. Right before the Spanish arrived, the Philippines was a diverse nation with countries throughout Asia vying for trading positions on its islands.
The Era of Spanish Influence
The first Spanish travelers to reach the Philippines were not as successful as they had hoped. On his trip around the world in 1521, Ferdinand Magellan landed in the Philippines. He quickly gained favor with some of the locals, persuading many of them to convert to Catholicism. However, he was swiftly killed by Filipinos in the crossfire of a battle between two tribes.
Spain continued to try to settle the resistant Philippines for 40 unsuccessful years until 1565 when Miguel López de Legazpi established the first permanent Spanish settlement in Cebu, after which the entire country began to succumb to Spanish rule. From there, the Spanish slowly took over the Islamic control that had been in place since the 1300s and replaced their empire with a Catholic one. More Spanish arrived from Mexico, reaffirming the beginning of the Spanish Philippines. While the conquistadores took land and overruled local authorities, Catholic friars established churches, schools, and aid. This combination assured a solid Spanish influence in the Philippines that lasted for centuries and still lingers today.
The Road to Independence
The end of the Spanish Philippines began in 1872 with a revolt from Filipino nationalists near Manila. Several priests were killed by the Spanish in an attempt to end the revolution, but the Filipinos continued to seek independence. They formed the Katipunan group to fight for their freedom, which grew to have thousands of members. They officially started their fight for independence in 1896 after the Spanish attacked hundreds of Filipinos. Unfortunately, this revolution did not have the end result the nationalists wanted, as the fighting quickly came to a stalemate. But, thanks to events that were out of their control, the Philippines would soon be free from Spanish reign.
At the time, citizens of the United States heard about how the Spanish were handling the rebellion in the Philippines and vied for US intervention in the matter. This situation, along with a similar revolution, led to the Spanish declaring war on the United States.
In 1898, the Spanish-America war began and ended, which decided the fate of the Philippines. In the treaty between the two world powers, the Spanish ceded the Philippines to the United States. While the Philippines were free from Spanish rule, they would not gain complete freedom until almost 50 years later.
The Continued Influence of the Spanish Philippines
Even though the Spanish stopped ruling the Philippines hundreds of years ago, you can still clearly see their effects on the Philippines today. Take, for example, the name “Philippines.” It originates from one of the Spanish kings, Philip of Asturias. Additionally, the original capital of the Spanish Philippines remains the capital to this day: Manila.
Let’s explore some of the different aspects of the Filipino culture!
One of the most obvious ways that the era of the Spanish Philippines still affects the country is with language. About one-third (4,000) of the words in Tagalog are of Spanish origin, and around 6,000 words in other Filipino languages come from Spanish. Considering the Philippines have cultural influences from China, Malaysia, Japan, and the United States, the fact that about a third of the words come from Spanish shows just how influential the Spanish Philippines era was on the culture.
Let’s see just how similar some Tagalog words are to Spanish. Try reading just the Tagalog words first to see if you can guess what Spanish word they come from.
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Before outside influence, the main religions in the Philippines were mainly animistic. Over the years, Islam, Confucianism, Buddhism, and other religions predominant in Asia were brought to the Philippines. However, this island country is the only Christian nation in Asia because of the lasting impact of the Spanish Philippines. When the Spanish first arrived in the 16th century, one of their first acts was to convert the locals to Catholicism. Even though Islam had been flourishing for hundreds of years prior, the Spanish quickly dispelled the Muslim population as they were doing in Spain at the time. Removing competing religious threats and establishing Catholic schools helped solidify Christian roots in the Philippines. To this day, 92% of the population is Christian, over 80% belonging to the Catholic denomination.
When the Spanish started settling the Philippines, they brought with them numerous foreign foods that greatly changed Filipino cuisine. Some of these foods include avocado, coffee, papaya, guava, corn, squash, sausage, and pickles. Additionally, you can find popular Spanish dishes with a unique Filipino touch. Some favorites are paella, churros, leche flan, and lechon. However, these more authentic Spanish dishes are often enjoyed by the upper-class citizens, while the impoverished communities take the basic idea of these dishes and make them with foods more affordable to them.
Learn More about the Spanish Influence
Now that you know that Spanish has influenced more than just Latin America, why not learn more? Studying the Spanish language can give you a step up while traveling all over the world because you will be able to understand so much more than you think—even in countries like the Philippines! To learn more about the Spanish language and culture, take a free class with one of our native Spanish-speaking teachers. They can teach you so much about Spanish culture and influence, preparing you to travel the world (or even explore different cultures within your home city). Try a free class today! ¡Exploremos el mundo!
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