Influence of Spanish in the Philippines: Understanding History and Beyond 

From being in love with guitar-based musical arrangements to embracing the Spanish telenovela culture in the early 1990s, the Philippines have a long-term relationship with the Spanish culture. From history to the present, the Spanish influence in the country and its people continue to amaze a lot of other nations.

Even when modernization has already engulfed the culture of traditional Filipino life, it cannot be denied that the Spanish influence remains strong enough and retains its power in defining what “being a Filipino” all is about.

Let us examine some of the most obvious and deeply rooted influence of Spanish in the Philippines and see why this fact is an interesting element in making your travel to the Philippines more meaningful.

Spain and the Philippine History 

To understand why there is so much influence of Spanish in the Philippines, it is critical to understand more about the nation’s history and its encounter with the Spanish regime. It was in the 1500s when the Spanish first settled in the Philippines. From the very minute, the Spanish conquistadors set foot in the Philippines, it was evident they were going to make a long-lasting mark.

The name of the country, Philippines, has been derived from the name of Spain’s king “King Philip”.

The Spaniards stayed in the Philippines for at least 333 years. This alone says so much about how much the foreign regime impacted and continues to take effect on the cultural growth and evolutionary development of the Philippines and its people.

Accordingly, the Spanish settlement in the Philippines in the 1500s certainly paved the way to redefining the constructs of what the Filipino society would look like. Even the last names of the Filipino families have that Spanish sound. Last names like Villanueva, Bautista, Federer, and many others, all determine a more definitive form of describing how much control the Spanish regime had over the very basic political and cultural lifestyle of the Filipinos.

Before the Spanish regime came, the Philippine islands were isolated from farther neighbors. The visitors that came to the country include traders coming from India, Japan, China, and other nations included within the Malayan Archipelago.

For this reason, before the Hispanization of the Philippines, the impact of the Indo-Malayan communities on Filipino society was evident especially in terms of the political arrangement in the country. Sultans and Datus were among the first rulers in the communities which kept the societies organized even before the Spanish regime arrived.

However, when the Spanish conquistadors arrived in the country, they offered a new and different form of civilization to the people. While Datus and Sultans had strong defiance against the control that the Spanish regime was imposing on the lands, they were convinced to accept governance due to the introduction of Christianity. This is the reason why the Philippines is recognized as the only Christian country in Asia. Unlike its neighbors China, Japan, and Thailand, which are countries deeply rooted within their traditions and their religions, the Philippines is among the first countries in Asia that embraced the Western culture fully.

Certainly, history tells so much about the many reasons behind the strong impact that the Spanish culture has on the established Filipino culture that the world knows about today.

Spain and the Philippine Culture  

Among the primary representation of the Spanish impact on the Filipino culture could be seen through the people’s daily encounters. The love of people for festivities that are connected to celebrating religious personas and saints are among those influences that largely affect the lifestyle of the people.

Another part of the regular culture of the members of the community is believing in superstitions that have a connection with different doctrines of the Christian belief. Not only do these beliefs become a part of the stories circulating in communities around the country, Filipinos who belong to traditional families often use these beliefs as primary guidelines to their daily lives. In all these, it could be understood that the Spanish impact in the Philippines is largely guided by the religious belief that the conquistadors and the Friars brought into the country.

Spain and the Filipino Language 

About 60% of the words recognized as part of the Filipino language, which is also known as Tagalog, present how much Influence of Spanish in the Philippines remains today.

Among the basic Filipino words which represents the Spanish influence include:

Story: Kwento

Window: Bintana

Shoes: Sapatos

Window: Bintana

These are only a few of the many words included in the Filipino vocabulary that are consistently used in casual conversations. Even during evolution in the Filipino language, it is obvious how the Spanish influence retains its power to the point of Tagalog being recognized as the Philippine’s national language.

Spain and Christianity in the Philippines

As mentioned earlier, the traditional communities that followed the leadership of Datus, Rajas, and Sultans were expected to follow through with the governance that Spain offers through the introduction of religion. Catholicism and its doctrines were a convenient belief that was presented to the early Filipino communities who believed in local deities. Because the people believed in the idea of a more supreme being to be guiding them and providing them blessings such as good harvest and great weather for a better and more comfortable living- it was easier for the Spaniards to get their interest through introducing an all-empowered God who has the capacity to both bless and punish them.

From one community to another, the Spaniards started conquering Filipinos and establishing churches along the way. Most of these churches remain strongly built within their original locations and are being visited by tourists and locals both for religious reasons and to admire the baroque-inspired designs of these places of worship.

The years that preceded the time of the Spanish settlement in the country retained their impact on Filipino society. Even with the introduction of Protestantism and other religious affiliations, at least 60 to 85% of the current population of residents in the Philippines still identify with Catholicism as their religious affiliation.

Spain and the Filipino Architecture 

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Besides the churches, a lot of government buildings still adapt to the old Spanish construction design. Falling in love with the history behind the design of Spanish buildings, a lot of cities and provinces decide to retain the original buildings. This does not only add up to the historical value that locations want to carry while also improving the way they get the attention of tourists interested to explore what their architectural culture has to offer.

Houses also considered very distinct appearances with these influences. Large houses often resided upon by rich families include the mix of the classic wooden built with the inclusion of stones that were supposed to make the structures stronger. The classic “Bahay na Bato” or House of Stone provides a picture of the cultural mix that defines the global feel of Philippine architecture. This mixes the influences of the Spanish and the Chines style embedded within the Filipino culture.

Even the classic Bahay Kubo which is a mix of bamboo and nipa hut has been restructured through the Spanish influences of adding in Capiz shells as part of the structural aesthetics of the windows. This way, the mix between Spanish and traditional Filipino architecture has been established.

Among the areas where these structures are still evidently found include Cavite, Cebu, and Ilocos Norte. Among these three, Ilocos Norte boasts Calle Crisologo that specifically represents the Old Spanish City that thrived in specific parts of Northern Luzon.

Spain and the Filipino Cuisine 

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Another exciting context of the influence of Spanish in the Philippines is the grand cuisine that they have left as part of the cultural contribution they left in the country.

During the beginning of the Spanish settlement in the Philippines, the Spanish conquistadors brought flour, corn, sausage, beef, avocado, beer, and sardines [to name a few] into the country. The extensive use of spices such as pepper, onion, garlic, and ginger, have also been introduced by the Spanish to the Filipinos and presented them with a new taste that lingers in the taste buds.

Other parts of the food culture that was influenced by the Spanish include the use of spoon, fork, and plate. Before the Spaniards came, Filipinos enjoy eating from hand to mouth. Nonetheless, as the Spaniards introduced the Western pattern of civilization and the separation of social status among members of the community has been established in the Philippines, using utensils when eating became a mark of higher or more civilized social status. Right now, this eating culture is already a part of the regular Filipino family’s behavior as they dine.

Sharing food with the whole community during large festivities is also part of the influence of Spanish in the Philippines. Because community Fiestas also reflected the Spanish culture in the country, it was evident that the preparation of food that is ready to feed the whole community is a sign of gratitude and the teaching of the Christian church to share the blessings to everyone especially to the poor.

Among the most popular dishes that prove the influence of Spanish in the Philippines through the years in terms of food culture and cuisine include embutido, morcon, paella, caldereta, and mechado. Using common and local ingredients available in almost every part of the Philippines, every region has its version of these particular dishes that highlight the unique taste of every region.

Spain and the Filipino People 

The Spanish regime is continuously being taught in schools.

At some point, some think that 333 years was too long and the abuse and control that the Spanish conquistadors used to manipulate the Philippines and its people was something unsettling. Nonetheless, the Philippines is not alone in this course of history. A lot of its neighboring countries in Asia have been under the leadership of a foreign government conquering their communities at one point in their history.

Through time, the members of the modern Filipino community have learned to love and adapt better to the Influence of Spanish in the Philippines and allow it to define their culture and their lifestyle as well as with the way they engage with others in the society.

There is certainly some positive and negative Influence of Spanish in the Philippines.

At present, the modern generation of Filipino entrepreneurs and tourism enthusiasts have learned to use these influences from the Spanish regime to their benefit. Through highlighting the grand history of the Philippines to providing excellent cultural and food experiences to local and international visitors within target locations in the country, visitors can now enjoy the authentic Spanish experience as they visit the Philippines.

Key Takeaway 

The Philippines is certainly known for its grand history.

The colorful mix of the different races that come and embraced what the Philippines had to offer certainly remained impactful especially in these modern days. Many of the chosen cities and provinces in the country are encouraged by the national government to preserve key elements in their communities that mark the settlement of the Spanish regime in their areas.

From the language to family identity to architecture to religion to regular daily culture to cuisine and the very attitude of the Filipino people, it was obvious how the Influence of Spanish in the Philippines retains its power in the way the people live in the country today.

Tourists, both local and foreign, can enjoy all the preserved outcomes of these influences.

Today, if you decided to visit the Philippines and some of its primary locations for cultural immersion or simply to see the historical sites in the country, you will surely not miss the value that the Spanish regime has in the developing modern Filipino community.

If you do decide to visit the Philippines as an individual traveler or with your loved one, or with your whole family, it is best to know the best time of the year to visit the Philippines and enjoy everything that the country has to offer.



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