Saturday, October 13, 2007

Filipino fashion during Spanish colonial period: Part 3




New York University
Sheer Realities

The paintings below displayed the preferred skin type for mestizos in the Philippines: white, however, I've included a photo of real historical mestizos which in itself shows that not all mestizos necessarily had white skin, in fact, many times white skin only shows up in castizos or those with more than 50% European or Chinese blood. But of course, as to be expected in most books written about the Philippines, the writer of this article didn't use the historically correct term of castizo or criollo, because like most writers are who write about the Philippines, he was probably not as educated in the colonial history and social stratification system of former Spanish colonies, which is so important to understand if you're going to understand Filipino history and lacking in most writers who write about the Philippines, which leads to the miseducation of the Filipinos and inevitably, the world about our country's history.

Historical preference: the Philippines has its chosen few.
(Special Section: The Philippines Survey) John Andrews.

Most developing countries encourage a sense of
their uniqueness. Nationalism, patriotism,
chauvinism: all play their part in exorcising
memories of colonial inferiority. Some countries,
like Singapore, speak explicitly of "nation
building"; others-for example, Arab
countries-stress a golden age which may yet
return.

The Philippines is different. True, there is a
sense of national identity. Newspaper columnists
(dozens of them, each capable of churning out a
couple of thousand entertaining words a day)
deplore the way foreigners, be they American
multinationals or Australian sex-seekers, exploit
brave but innocent Filipinos. Senators and
congressmen rail against America's bases as an
affront to Philippine independence. Taxi-drivers
and shop assistants say Cory should now let Marcos
return "because he is a Filipino".

But the sense of nationhood is a tide moved by
external forces. Television, radio and the
ubiquitous pop music are Americanised, or anyway
westernised. Over 400,000 Filipinos work overseas;
thousands more would like to join them. Bar girls
dream of finding an "Americano" husband to
transport them "stateside". Even cabinet members
cherish green cards that permit work and residence
in the United States. Objectively, it is a
national tragedy: each woman who goes as a maid to
Hong, kong or as an "entertainer" to japan, each
man who goes as a crane driver to Saudi Arabia
represents a family broken for two, three or more
years. But those involved react subjectively-the
lure of foreign wealth and sophistication is a
powerful antidote to heartbreak, and a stint
abroad confirms the belief that foreign is better
than Filipino.

Does it matter? The answer must be yes.
Resource-poor Taiwan, South Korea and Singapore
have all prospered through will-power and hard
work. Just think what the Philippines, so blessed
with natural resources, might have achieved with
even a modicum of national discipline and
cohesion. Instead, a country which 30 years ago
was arguably Asia's richest after japan is now
almost as poor as Indonesia.

Who is to blame? Filipinos, uniformly devout in
Asia's only Christian country, will attribute
responsibility to God, the Americans and the
Spanish. In all cases, they are right. Divine
decree has sprinkled the Philippines over a
typhoon-prone Pacific archipelago of around 7,100
islands. Anthropologists claim there are Ill
different cultural and racial groups speaking some
70 different languages, from Muslim Malays in the
southern islands of Sulu to Episcopalian Igorots
in the Cordillera mountains of Luzon. Nobody would
pretend it is a promising recipe for a sense of
national integrity.

What makes it still less promising is the
country's nuances of class and colour. "Filipinos"
exist only as a definition of citizenship. Reality
is a brown-skinned peasantry of Malay origins and
an elite whose skins have the lighter hues of
Spain and China. Filipinos are too friendly to be
bigots, and the melting pot of history-Chinese
traders and Spanish soldiers needed local wives or
concubines-rules out fantasies of ethnic purity.
But all Filipinos are aware of their place in the
spectrum: peasant women whiten their faces before
going to a dance; and in last year's campaign for
the Senate the high-born candidates would publicly
apologise for suntans caught on the hustings.

The phenomenon is not unique to the Philippines.
There are, for example, parallels in Brazil and
Venezuela. Nor should the impact on individuals be
exaggerated. It is probably easier being a brown,
Malay-faced Filipino than being dark in America.
But the harm is in the implied social rigidity.
The Philippines, despite almost a century of
democratic institutions, remains a feudal society.
The top one fifth of the population receives half
the country's income. Famous family names-Lopez,
Laurel, Romulo, Soriano, Zobel, Cojuangco, Ayala,
Aquino-crop up constantly in the arenas of power,
both political and financial. Too often, the name,
not the policy, is the key to success. One
academic claims the economy is effectively
controlled by a mere 60 families. A matter of
birth Blame both Spain and America. The former, in
over three centuries of colonisation, created the
Philippines' elite; the latter, in an occupation
lasting from 1898 until 1946 (with an unkind
japanese interruption from 1941 to 1945),
preserved it. At the top came the mestizos: those
whose blood was mixed". The best mestizos had
mainly Spanish blood, with just a dash of indio-or
native-genes. The next best were Chinese mestizos.
Both groups prospered. They leased land from the
Catholic friars and sublet it to the indios. They
gained still more land because the law limited an
indio's debt to just 25 pesos. The indio would
evade the law by selling his land to the mestizo
with the right to repurchase it later. It was an
early form of loan-sharking; invariably the indio
failed to find new money with which to repurchase
his land.

And so the fair-skinned mestizos became rich. The
lines between Chinese and Spanish blood were
blurred into a more-or-less single aristocracy as
the Chinese hispanicised their names (the
syllables of the Aquino name and the president's
own Cojuangco clan tell the tale). By the end of
the nineteenth century the top educated families
were the ilustrados-the "enlightened" who would
lead the fight for independence against a selfish
Spain. In the event, they were pre-empted by
America, which had gone to war with Spain over
Cuba. America's victory meant Spain's surrender of
not just Puerto Rico but also Guam and the
Philippines. In the process, the ilustrados were
co-opted by an America which could not quite admit
to building an empire. Instead, America, with a
patronising concern for its "little brown
brother", would help the Philippine elite turn the
country into a "showcase of democracy".

The concept has a soothing logic. Why not enlist
the favoured few in the evolution of a system that
will help the less fortunate? But there is a flaw
beneath this veneer. Democracy is based on the
will of the majority; by definition, the elite is
a minority. And the Philippine elite, like any
other, is hardly likely to surrender its
privileges voluntarily. Indeed, hardly any
criticism today attaches to the Laurel family for
collaborating with the japanese: they and others
were preserving the continuity of Philippine
leadership "in the interests of the people".

The Economist, May 7, 1988 v307 n7549 pS4(3)
COPYRIGHT Economist Newspaper Ltd. (England) 1988

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Kay Pee said...

Greetings from Abiva Publishing House, Inc.!

Abiva is a Philippine publisher offering textbooks in basic education. Our Kamalayang Panlipunan (History) author wishes to include in his textbook the illustration of Spanish Mestizos clothing featured in this blog entry (as seen http://bp0.blogger.com/_bjeVPmM61xY/Rw_n0AQPLxI/AAAAAAAAAz8/WnmNq9NqgMU/s1600-h/Spanish_mestizos2.jpg). In light of this, may we respectfully request your permission to reprint the illustration being referred to in the link provided.

We sincerely hope for your favorable response to our request. Please send us your reply stating your permission and/or other conditions we need to comply with.

Thank you so much!

Kay Pee said...

Greetings from Abiva Publishing House, Inc.!

Abiva is a Philippine publisher offering textbooks in basic education. Our Kamalayang Panlipunan (History) author wishes to include in his textbook the illustration of Chinese Mestizo Costume clothing featured in this blog entry (as seen in http://bp3.blogger.com/_bjeVPmM61xY/Rw_nmwQPLvI/AAAAAAAAAzs/wL-w2lRery4/s1600-h/chinese_mestizo_costume.jpg). In light of this, may we respectfully request your permission to reprint the illustration being referred to in the link provided.

We sincerely hope for your favorable response to our request. Please send us your reply stating your permission and/or other conditions we need to comply with.

Thank you so much!

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