Who are the Filipinos?

The Filipinos are really too complex to box-in: their ancestry and heritage is so rich it belies the simplicity of their ways. They are essentially still the fiercely freedom-loving island people the Spaniards found, which brings up the charm the world loves. But today, they are also a rationally modern people, Western in mode and manner, adept where their Asian neighbors are still learning—language, for one.

                They were not really just islanders though; the Spaniards discovered a people who had organized settlements engaged in on-going trades with ancient peoples of the Far East, not only with the Chinese but also with Persians, Arabs, and much to their surprise, a trade they had dreamed of—spices, exotic pearls and porcelain among loads of goods they later shipped on galleons that plied a straight ocean route from Manila to Acapulco and back loaded with gold, silver and European imports, if any number of the galleons could make it, to the banks of the Pasig.

                But their coming did not only benefit the Spanish monarchy then ruled by Philip II after whom the islands, which the colonizers rigged up 7, 107 of them to comprise an archipelago, was named. The Spaniards linked the Philippines immediately to worlds on the other side of the hemisphere, Europe, and gifted the Filipinos with Christianity that to this day sets them apart in values and traditions from the rest of Asia.   

              The Philippines was already a nation when all of Asia still existed under sun rulers and brassy sultanates. A nation, indeed, but a servile people under colonizers who, it now appears, kept up their harshness because they could not put down the fierce spirit of the Filipinos. Nor could they understand them—how could the Spaniards with the Filipinos’ heritage mix of Oriental mysticism and Malayan wanderlust?  

                Despite an apparent ‘cowing down’ in spots, both the Spanish and the American colonizers, who took over after a mock battle, had to keep up their iron hand because rebellions and revolts hardly ever ceased; they erupted spasmodically in many parts of the archipelago. (In quite an increasing volume of local history being put together now in the Philippines, several unrecorded events are turning up for the first time; these include fights waged and won by Filipino guerillas during the WWII.) The Filipinos had not ceased to be an island people in this sense—lovers of free earth, water and sky, free to be who and what they want to be.

                 Indeed, multiple cultures make up their consciousness, and a complex of racial genes comprises their make-up. Nowhere does this sharply surface than in another country, where they are pitted against the very cultures that they also carry. They are no less who they are even if they have adapted to other cultures, albeit, out of necessity.

                  This explains their flexibility, a trait that has since been noted world-wide where Filipinos have migrated or gone for work: Whether it be in the Americas or in Europe, Asia and even the Middle East, a Filipino blends because he has in him part of where he goes yet is apart because of all that he is.


Alegria Albano-Imperial, “Celebrating the Filipino”, (2007) an unpublished article in full, published in part as commentary,