You are on page 1of 6

1

AN OVERVIEW OF PHILIPPINE CULTURE

Introduction Before the coming of the Spaniards the Filipinos had a civilization of their own. The various aspects of this civilization doubtless came partly from the Malays who settled in the country and partly from a response to the new environment. The customs and traditions, the government and mode of living have, to a great extent, come down to the present and may be found in remote rural areas which have so far succeeded in resisting the impact of modern civilization. For this reason, many of the customs and practices of the pre-colonial Filipinos are still operative in many parts of the country, a circumstance that is, in a sense, advantageous for it offers an observer first-hand materials for the reconstruction of the distant past. Philippine culture is a blend and mixture of Western cultures and Eastern cultures, which makes for a very interesting and distinct culture. There are American influences, Asian influences, Spanish influences, and Malay influences that affect the diversity of this culture. There are also many traditions of the Philippines, including: kissing the hand of someone who is older than you to show them respect, holding family reunions for all birthdays and holidays, and eating pancit on their birthdays

Geographical Location: The Republic of the Philippines, a nation of 7,107 islands is located on the Pacific Rim of Southeast Asia. Her neighbor on the north is the Republic of China (Taiwan or Formosa), while on the west is Communist Vietnam. Further west is Thailand. Immediately to the south of the Philippines is Indonesia and to the southwest are Malaysia and Singapore. The Philippines is separated from her nearby Asian neighbors by several bodies of water - the Pacific Ocean on the east, the South China Sea on the north and west, and the Celebes Sea and the coastal waters of Borneo on the south. Two thousand of its islands are inhabited. Luzon, the largest island with one-third of the land and half the population, is in the north. Mindanao, the second largest island, is in the south. The islands are volcanic in origin. Because the country is volcanic, the small islands have a mountainous center with coastal plains. Luzon has a broad central valley in the northern provinces along the Cagayan River and plains in the midlands near Manila, the capital. Mindanao and Panay also have central plains. Northern Luzon has two major mountain ranges: the Sierra Madres on the eastern coast and the Cordilleras in the center. The highest peak is Mount Apo in Mindanao at 9,689 feet (2,954 meters). The weather is hot because of the country's closeness to the equator. The temperatures are constant except during typhoons.

Ethnic Relations The Philippine culture is rich in customs and traditions. Philippines culture reflects the complexity of the history of the Philippines through the combination of cultures of foreign influences. Early inhabitants are believed to have reached the area over land bridges connecting the islands to Malaysia and China. Negritudes( Negritoes) and a group of Austronesian speaking people called the Malay people were the first people to settle the islands of the Philippines who brought with them influences from Hindu, Malay and Islamic cultures, twenty-five thousand years ago. Later immigrants came from Indonesia. After the land bridges disappeared,

immigrants from Indo-China brought copper and bronze and built the rice terraces at Banaue in northern Luzon. The next wave came from Malaysia and is credited with developing agriculture and introducing carabao (water buffalo) as draft animals. Trade with China began in the first century C.E. Filipino ores and wood were traded for finished products. Ninety-five percent of the population is of Malay ancestry. Pre-Hispanic and nonChristian Philippine cultures are derived from the Indigenous tradition of the Austronesian primitive tribes called Malayo-Polynesian. The other identifiable group is of Chinese ancestry. Sino-Filipinos are envied for their success in business. They have maintained their own schools, which stress Chinese traditions.

A. Early Political System And Laws The Filipinos lived in settlements called barangays before the colonization of the Philippines by the Spaniards. As the unit of government, a barangay consisted from 30 to 100 families. It was headed by a datu and was independent from the other groups. (The Tagalog word barangay came from the Malay word balangay, a boat that transported them to the islands.) Usually, several barangays settled near each other to help one another in case of war or any emergency. The position of datu was passed on by the holder of the position to the eldest son or, if none, the eldest daughter. However, later, any member of the barangay could be chieftain, based on his talent and ability. He had the usual responsibilities of leading and protecting the members of his barangay. In turn, they had to pay tribute to the datu, help him till the land, and help him fight for the barangay in case of war. In the old days, a datu had a council of elders to advise him, especially whenever he wanted a law to be enacted. The law was written and announced to the whole barangay by a town crier, called the umalohokan. The only written laws of pre-colonial Philippines that have survived are the Maragtas Code and the Code of Kalantiaw, both prepared in Panay. Some historians believe that the Maragtas Code was written by Datu Sumakwel, one of the chieftains from Borneo who settled there. As for the Code of Kalantiaw, it was said to have been promulgated by the third chief of Panay and possibly a descendant of Datu Sumakwel, Rajah Kalantiaw, in 1433. W. Henry Scott, however, has disputed the authenticity of the Code of Kalantiaw. There were four classes of society. They were the ruling class (datu), the freemen and notable persons (maharlika), the commoners (timawa), and the dependents and slaves (alipin). The alipin were of two kinds: the aliping namamahay, who were household servants, and the aliping saguiguilid, who were slave workers. When the Spaniards arrived in the Philippines, the indios (natives) had reached different levels of political development, including simple communal groups. During the colonization of Spain, the Philippines became a province of Spain until the country gained independence on June 12, 1898. The country had a republican form of government that was developed during the Commonwealth Period. It had three branches: executive, legislative, and judicial. The first constitution, based on the United States Constitution, was written in 1935. The present political system of the Philippines was basically pattered after the U.S., with a bicameral legislature; however , a president has a term of six years. Family relationships are the basic building block of Philippine culture and society. Each Filipino is at the center of a large circle of relatives, usually extending to third cousins. Marriage is rarely permitted for members of the same kinship circle. The kinship circle is customarily enlarged through ritual co-parenthood, the Catholic custom of selecting godparents to sponsor ones child at baptism. In the close-knit Filipino family, members are provided assistance when

needed and expected to give their first loyalty to their kin. In rural areas the villages contain clusters of households supporting an extended family system within the Philippines culture.

B Religion Early form of religion Bathala was the supreme god of the pre-Spanish Filipinos. They attributed to Bathala the creation of the heavens, Earth, and man. There were lesser gods and goddesses, like a god of death, a god of agriculture, a goddess of harvest, sea gods, river gods, and the like. It was also believed that things found in nature were full of spirits more powerful than man. Spirits of dead relatives were also revered. Sacrifices were offered to all of them. The ancient Filipinos believed in the immortality of the soul and in life after death. Disease or illness was attributed to the whims of the environmental spirits and the soul-spirits of the dead relatives. The pre-Spanish Filipinos also revered idols, called anitos in Tagalog and diwata in Visayan. These seem to be the counterparts of the present saints, to whom Filipinos offer prayers and food, much like their ancestors did. Many existing health beliefs and practices in the Philippines are rooted back in the precolonial period. This includes magico-religious elements, such as beliefs in spirits and sorcery as causes of illness, as well as empirical aspects such as the use of medicinal plants. Archaelogical sites in the Philippines have yielded skeletal remains showing intricate ornamental dental work and the use of trephination (boring a hole into the skull as a magical healing ritual). Today's traditional medicinal practitioners can trace their origins back to the pre-colonial period - the psychic surgeons, with their flair for drama, parallel the pre-hispanic religious practicioners (babaylan and catalonan) who also played roles as healers.

Introduction of Islam The Islamization of Southeast Asia was generally accomplished by peaceful means through Muslim traders, missionaries, and teachers. They went to Java, Sumatra, Jahore, Malacca, Borneo, and nearby islands to conduct their mission. To speed up the conversion process, these proselytizers usually married into the families of the rich and ruling class. By the 13th century, most of the lands in Southeast Asia were Islamized. From there, Islam filtered to Mindanao and Sulu, the southern part of the Philippines, in the 14th century. In 1380, an Arab teacher, Mukdum, arrived in Sulu from the Malay peninsula to preach Islam. He built the first mosque in Simunul, Sulu. Around 1390, he was followed by Raja Baginda, a minor ruler of Menangkabaw, Sumatra. About 1450, Abu Bakr, a Muslim scholar, came to Sulu and married Paramisuli, the daughter of Raja Baginda. After Baginda died, Abu Bakr established a sultanate form of government with himself as sultan. Islam then spread rapidly to all parts of Sulu. Serif Kabungsuan was responsible for the spread of Islam in Mindanao. He led a force of Muslim Samals from Jahore that conquered the natives of what is now Cotabato and converted them to Islam. He also married into an influential family and founded the first sultanate of Mindanao, with himself as head. On the other hand, Muslim Malay traders from Borneo spread Islam to the natives in Manila and in the provinces of Batangas, Mindoro, and Pampanga. When the Spaniards arrived

in the Philippines during the first half of the 16th century, many parts of Luzon, including the large native kingdoms of Manila and Tondo, had already been Islamized. However, the further spread and influence of Islam were cut short by the conquest and Spanish colonization of the Philippines starting in 1665. Today, The Philippines is one of two predominantly Roman Catholic nations in Asia-Pacific, the other being East Timor. Over 90% of the Philippine population are Christians. About 5% Muslims and another 5% either practice Pagan religions, Buddhism, Hinduism or practice no religion at all. C. Education Filipinos regard education as the path to upward mobility. Ninety percent of the population over ten years of age is literate. In pre-Spanish times, education was informal unstructured in some areas. Children were provided more vocational training and less academics (3 Rs) by their parents and in the houses of tribal tutors. When the Spanish arrived in Manila, though, they were surprised to find a population with a literacy rate using a system of writing known as Baybayin, The early Filipinos wrote on many different materials; leaves, palm fronds, tree bark and fruit rinds, but the most common material was bamboo. The writing tools or panulat were the points of daggers or small pieces of iron. Once the letters were carved into the bamboo, it was wiped with ash to make the characters stand out more. Sharpened splits of bamboo were used with colored plant saps to write on more delicate materials such as leaves. Under the Spanish, education of indigenous population was initially left to religious orders, with primary education being overseen by parish friars who generally tolerated the teaching of only religious topics. The Spanish missionaries established schools immediately on reaching the islands and wherever they penetrated, church and school went together. The Doctrina Christiana was the first book printed in the Philippines in about 1590 to 1592. The four largest groups of missionaries were responsible in building schools in the Philippines. The Augustinians opened a school in Ceb in 1565. The Franciscans in 1577 immediately took to the task of teaching the natives how to read and write, besides industrial and agricultural techniques. The Jesuits in 1581 also mainly concentrated on teaching the young. They were followed by the Dominicans in 1587, who started a school in their first mission at Bataan. Free public school system was established during the first decade of American rule upon the recommendation of the Schurman Commission. Free primary instruction that trained the people for the duties of citizenship and avocation was enforced by the Taft Commission per instructions of President William McKinley. Chaplains and non-commissioned officers were assigned to teach using English as the medium of instruction. When the Americans established a highly centralized public schools in 1901, the Thomasites came to the Philippines due to the shortage of teachers to teach in the public schools. They were scattered throughout the islands to establish barangay schools. D. Influence Of Western And Other Asian Culture Spanish colonization of the Philippines lasted for more than three centuries. There is a significant amount of Spanish-Mexican influence within Filipino culture, customs and traditions. The occupation by Spain and the unifying factor of Catholicism were the first steps in creating a national identity. Filipinos became interested in attaining independence in the middle of the nineteenth century.

Some Spanish influences in the Philippines:


a. The Spanish Governor General of the Philippine Islands, Narciso Clavera, decreed the

systematic distribution of surnames and the implementation of the Spanish naming system for Filipinos and Filipinas
b. The name of the Philippines comes from the king of Spain Philip II and some names of

Philippine provinces, like Nueva Ecija, Laguna, Isabela, La Union, to name a few
c. Religious festivals like festival of the "Santo Nio" (Holy Child Jesus), the largest being

held in Cebu City


d. Folk dance, music, and literature have remained intact in the 21st century were

introduced from Spain, and Mexico in the 16th century


e. The cuisine in the Philippines reflects the influences of Spanish, like Pochero, mammon,

galletas, etc Despite the oppressive control of the Spaniards, native Filipino Culture progressed and developed especially in the outskirts of Manila. The literary world became rich in legends, epics, folktales, riddles, country songs, wise cracks and etc. The United States colonized the Philippines from 1898 until 1946. American influences are evident in Philippine culture by the use of the English language, and in contemporary pop culture, such as fast-food, music, film, and sports. American influences can be seen in the country's system of education, literature, art, architecture, science, industry, home, food, clothes, religion, pastimes, music and dances. Filipinos took education seriously which resulted to the high social status of some Filipinos. The Filipinos learned how to read, speak and write English in a short matter of time. The free exchange of goods between the United Stated and the Philippines ended when the U.S. Congress approved the Tydings-Mcduffie Law. Through the Homestead Act, the right to own any civil land up to 24 hectares was given to any Filipino. The Protestant religion was accepted by the Filipinos. The social status of Filipino Women during the American period was elevated to a higher status. They were allowed to participate in politics, to work in the government, and to pursue their studies in college. Other developments were introduced like health and cleanliness were improved. Transportation and communication in the Philippines were developed. The influence of the American culture brought about good and bad aspects to the Philippines. Many roads and bridges were constructed. New technologies were introduced to the country. These technologies helped the Philippines' industries and agriculture. All these developments were made for the convenience of the Americans in the Philippines most especially the businessmen. Philippine people might have enjoyed some benefits but they were not the real reasons why such developments were made. The rules that had been imposed by the Americans to the Filipinos in relation to health and education also had negative effects. The Americans imposed these rules to achieve their main objective, which is to colonize and use the country and its people. Education was the most useful means or ways in pursuing a peaceful relationship with the Filipinos. Through education, the Americans influenced the Filipinos in terms of the way they eat, to love the American culture and most of all, to prioritize American products. Other Asian ethnic groups such as the Chinese, and Japanese have been settling in the Philippines since the colonial period, and their influences are evident in the popularity of mahjong, jueteng, Filipino martial arts, and other Asian cuisine.

Guide Questions 1. Trace the early beginnings of the Filipinos through a fact charts. 2. What are some of the religious beliefs of the early Filipinos? Were they like the Greeks? Cite some specific similarities that you know. 3. What was Spains greatest contribution to Philippine civilization? 4. Can we consider education as Americas greatest legacy to the Filipinos? Cite proofs to prove your answer.

Sources "A Brief History of the Philippines from a Filipino Perspective". Health Action Information Network. "A predominantly Indigenous Paternal Heritage for the Austronesian Speaking Peoples of Insular Southeast Asia and Oceania". Stanford University http://www.tribo.org/history/history3.html. Retrieved 2006-08-21. Abinales; Donna J. Amoroso (2005), State and society in the Philippines, Rowman Littlefield, pp. 9293 Bautista, Veltisezar. The Filipino Americans (From 1763 to the Present) Their History, Culture, and Traditions Culture of The Philippines - history, people, clothing, traditions, women, beliefs, food, customs, family Damon L. Woods (2006), The Philippines: a global studies handbook Health Alert Special Issue 116- 117. Health Action Information Network (HAIN), Quezon City,Philippines.