Peeling off the layers.

The complicated culture and history of the Filipino people is becoming more and more visible both in media and in publications as the country gains interest from the global community due to a currently strong performing economy, an escalating territorial dispute with China, and a developing tourism industry. There has been many misrepresentations about the country and its people because of the lack of knowledge of both visitors and the Filipino people themselves. Through this blog I hope to expose the different aspects of our indigenous, colonial and present-day identity in the hope to help Filipinos and visitors alike to understand the genuine heritage of the peoples of the Philippine archipelago.

Let us first consider that the Filipino people before the arrival and colonization of Spain and America never really considered themselves to be one group but rather a constantly evolving landscape of different tribes, kingdoms and states. In fact, the whole region of South East Asia is a collection of extremely diverse groups of people with borders only later established by former European powers.

The Philippines is indeed a modern invention retained by revolutionaries at the turn of the 20th century, with originally good intentions for the establishment of an independent state that would allow for freedom and self determination. Sadly this has also caused the erosion and homogenization of the cultures and languages it wishes to preserve.

Most of the recognized Philippine indigenous groups would agree that only the lowland Christianized and Westernized inhabitants of the country should be labelled ‘Filipinos’ as they are who they have always been and was never really ‘conquered’. This is especially true for the Igorots, the Moros, and the Lumads, who maintain a strong connection to their identity. Marginalized groups such as the Aeta, Ati, Agta, Bajao, Mangyan, the tribes of Palawan, and the tribes of Panay barely has the ability to maintain their vanishing territories and cultures let alone promote it.

Despite of knowledge of the many atrocities committed during the colonial eras, many low-land Filipinos still cling to the notion that they are Hispanic or Americanized because of the influences of the Christian and Catholic Churches, Hollywood, and the misguided idea that it is more prestigious. Who then is the true Filipino?

In reality Filipino is merely a name we adopt to identify to a person born of parents from the territory of the Philippines. Fickle as it may seem we are stuck with it and the only way it would resonate to all of us is to celebrate our joint history and take pride in the richness and diversity of our people. We must ensure that we preserve what we have left and also protect it from the corruption of modern aesthetics.

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