Leslie E. Bauzon, "Influence of the Spanish Culture," translated to Nihonggo and published as "Firipin bunka eno Supein no eikyo" in Shizuo Suzuki and Shinzo Hayase (eds.), TONAN AZIA NO JITEN FIRIPIN (ENCYCLOPEDIA OF SOUTHEAST ASIA: PHILIPPINES), Kyoto: Dohosha, 1991. Pp. 195-196.
Spain colonized the Philippines from 1565 to 1898. The Spaniards ruled the Filipinos for 333 years. Spanish influence on the Philippines and the Filipino inhabitants was immediately visible following the imposition of Castilian colonial sovereignty. The Spaniards transplanted their social, economic, and political institutions halfway across the world to the Philippine archipelago. The colonial masters required the native Filipinos to swear allegiance to the Spanish monarch, where before they only had village chieftains called "datus;" to worship a new God, where before they worshipped a whole pantheon of supernatural deities and divinities; to speak a new language, where before they had (and still have) a Babel of tongues; and to alter their work habits, where before they worked within the framework of a subsistence economy. The Spanish landholding system based on private ownership of land replaced the Filipino system of communal landownership. Thus, when the Spanish rule ended, the Filipinos found many aspects of their way of life bearing the indelible imprint of Hispanization.
To administer the Philippines, the Spaniards extended their royal government to the Filipinos. This highly centralized governmental system was theocratic. There was a union of Church and State. The Roman Catholic Church was equal to and coterminous with the State. Therefore, the cross as well as the scepter held sway over the archipelago. While the State took care of temporal matters, the Church took care of spiritual matters and hence preoccupied itself with the evangelization and the conversion of the Filipino inhabitants from their primal religion to Roman Catholicism. The Spanish friars wanted the Philippines to become the "arsenal of the Faith" in Asia. In the process, the Spanish Catholic missionaries helped in the implantation of Castilian culture and civilization on Philippine soil. This is because Spanishness was equated with Catholicism. The two terms were virtually synonymous with one another. One was not a genuine Spaniard if he was not a faithful Roman Catholic believer.
The imposition of the Roman Catholic faith upon the Filipino population permanently influenced the culture and society of the Philippines. This is due to the fact that the Spanish friars who undertook the immense task of evangelizing the Filipino natives looked at their missionary work and endeavor as involving more than simple conversion. By Christianizing the Filipinos, the Spanish Catholic missionaries were in effect remodelling Filipino culture and society according to the Hispanic standard. They would be Hispanizing the Filipinos, teaching them the trades, manners, customs, language and habits of the Spanish people. This influence is evident even in the way we tell time ("alas singko y media"), in the way we count ("uno, dos, tres"), and in the family names we carry ( De la Cruz, Reyes, Santos, etcetera).
The Filipino populace embraced Spanish Roman Catholic Christianity almost unquestioningly. The Spanish authorities congregated the scattered Filipino population into clustered village settlements, where they could more easily be instructed and Christianized under a friars eye. This policy paved the way for the emergence of the present system of politico-territorial organization of villages, towns, and provinces. At the same time, the compact villages which were literally under the bells of the Roman Catholic Church permitted the regular clergy to wake up the villagers each day, summon them to mass, and subject them to religious indoctrination or cathechismal instruction. This process enabled the Church to play a central role in the lives of the people because it touched every aspect of their existence from birth to growth to marriage to adulthood to death. Whether the natives clearly understood the tenets and dogmas of the Roman Catholic Church is of course another matter. Some scholars claim that the Spaniards only superficially Christianized the Filipinos, most of whom learned to recite the prayers and chants by rote, without any idea as to their meaning. Some native inhabitants became only nominal Christians. At any rate, there is no denying the fact that many Filipinos defended the Catholic faith devotedly.
Through the Church and its zealous missionaries, the Filipinos learned new techniques and procedures involving the cultivation of agricultural crops introduced from Mexico, one of Spains colonies in the New World. For example, prior to the imposition of Castilian rule, the Filipinos practiced swiddening or slash-and-burn agriculture. This farming technique involved clearing a hillside or a patch of land, cutting down the trees, burning the trunks, the branches and the leaves, removing the rocks, and then planting through the use of a pointed stick to create a hole on the ground into which seeds were thrown. Then the farmer simply waited for harvest time to arrive. This situation changed when the missionaries taught the Filipino natives horticultural techniques requiring intensive cultivation of land through better irrigation and water management so as to lessen their dependency on rainfall. In addition to teaching the Filipinos new farming methods and introducing to them new crops such as maize, avocado, tomato, and cacao, from which the nutritious drink of chocolate was derived, the Spanish friars taught the rudiments of reading and writing to the natives, not to mention useful trades such as painting, baking and locksmithing.
In the course of Spanish colonization in the Philippines, the friars constructed opulent Baroque-style church edifices. These structures are still found today everywhere across the country and they symbolize the cultural influence of Spain in Filipino life. The opulence of these edifices was clearly visible in the ornate facades, paintings, and sculpture, as well as in the behavioral patterns of the people and in the intricate rituals associated with Roman Catholic churches. While it is true that the Spaniards exploited labor in the construction of the imposing Baroque-style sanctuaries for Roman Catholic worship, it is also true that these same edifices became the means by which Filipino artistic talents and inclinations were expressed. The carpenters, masons, craftsmen, and artisans were mainly Filipinos. In this way, the Roman Catholic Church and religion influenced Filipino architectural and building style, even as the rituals and festivities of the Church influenced Filipino dances, songs, paintings, and literary writings. Through these influences, the Church afforded the Filipinos abundant opportunities for both solemn rites and joyous festivities and celebrations known as "fiestas." The services inside the Catholic churches often spilled out into the thoroughfare in the form of colorful and pageant-filled religious processions in which the rich and the poor participated. Dining, drinking, and merrymaking often followed or accompanied such religious activities. During these feasts, Spanish culinary specialties like "paella" (a dish consisting of a mixture of rice, chicken and shellfish), "arroz valenciana" (glutinous rice and chicken cooked in coconut milk), and "lengua" (sauteed ox-tongue usually with mushroom sauce) became part of the local table fare. The rites and feasts served to provide relief from the drudgery of humdrum village existence, to release pent-up social and economic frustrations, or to foster community spirit and unity.
Finally, it is worth mentioning that the Spaniards enriched the Filipino languages through lexicographic studies produced by the friars. Many Spanish words found their way into the Tagalog and Visayan languages. The Spanish words somehow fitted into the phonetic patterns of the Filipino languages. These Spanish words like "mesa" (table), "adobo" (marinated cooked food), and others are commonly used today in the daily practical transactions of the Filipinos with each other. Ironically, the friars came up with excellent studies on Filipino culture and languages even as they sought to overthrow this same culture through their implantation of Spanish civilization.
The influences from Spain have become permanently embedded in Filipino culture. The Filipino people themselves have internalized them. They cannot be undone anymore. For good or bad, they have catapulted the Filipinos into the world of Spanish culture, into the world of Spanish civilization and its products. Nevertheless, it must be said that the Filipinos did not receive the cultural influences from Spain sitting down. They responded in a way that demonstrated their capacity to master the new and to balance the new against the old, in a way that called for their capacity to bring values and principles to bear with a critical and informed judgment, and in a way that called for them to be able to sift what is essential from what is trivial. Thus they responded selectively to the novelties the Spaniards brought with them to the Philippine Islands. The Filipinos accepted only those that fitted their temperament, such as the "fiesta" that has become one of the most endearing aspects of life in these islands, and made them blend with their indigenous lifestyle to produce a precious Philippine cultural heritage.HOME