Filipinos are a curious lot. It is hard to classify them as a people. For example, although the Philippines is located in Asia, Filipinos are never classified as Asians in demographic surveys. Nor are they considered Hispanic or Latino although the Philippines was a colony of Spain for 300 years. One would think that with all those half-bloods or mestizos that the colonial Spaniards spawned in that country, not to mention their Mexican counterparts, Filipinos would have been classified as such. So, they’re in that gray country between the two, and therefore, the census-takers just check the box that says “Filipino” for ethnicity.
And now, we face a conundrum: Is a Filipino defined by his origin or his blood? Or the various foreign influences on him? His languages? His foods? His religion or his beliefs? One can only surmise that he is a combination of all these. Just as a Frenchman or an Englishman is defined so, then it must also be with a Filipino.
Yet, one’s character is defined by the nation one comes from. People think the French are amorous, the English haughty, the German severe, the Latino hot, and so on. What do people think of the Filipino? I have heard them described as hard-working, patient, thrifty, resourceful, and so on, ad infinitum. One can’t really put a label on them as Filipinos differ from one another depending on what part of the country they come from.
Why is that, you ask. It’s because the Philippines is made up of islands – 7,100 to be precise. It’s an archipelago on the western edge of the Pacific Ocean, made up of three major islands, Luzon in the north, Visayas in the center, and Mindanao in the south. And the influences on all these differ like night and day.
Do you know that if Filipinos didn’t have Filipino (Tagalog plus other languages) as their national language, or English as their second language, they wouldn’t be able to understand one another? And do you know there are between 120 and 175 languages or “dialects” as they call them, besides Tagalog, in the Philippines? We even have a kind of creole Spanish called Chabacano, which is spoken in Zamboanga and some parts of Mindanao in the South.
Talking about the South, that’s where Muslim Filipinos live – making up almost eight percent of the total population of mostly Catholic Philippines. Those in the north and Central Philippines are mostly Catholic, and a sprinkling of Christians. (Next week: Filipino Religions and Beliefs)