It’s been a while since I’ve written anything here, but I guess if anything, the death of the Queen is something to write about. I’ve kinda been wondering about her death for the past couple of years, how a shift that would be. Many people, including my mother, lived and died with only one monarch in the British throne. Now I get to see one pass, one that’s been there for seven decades. The lady’s been in our money for so long. She’s a staple in ‘Kid’s in the Hall’ and many Canadian sketches. We used to sing “God Save the Queen” right after singing “Oh, Canada” back in school (The national anthem followed by the royal anthem). She’s as ubiquitous to Canada as the moose and the beaver.
I asked a British friend if it’s strange that I’d feel upset over the Queen’s passing. He thought it odd. I think it odd too. Afterall, she doesn’t really affect me much, nor does the monarchy. But I guess I’m mourning not just the death of from what I know is a pretty decent monarch that presided over the whitling away of the British empire’s colonies, but also the passing of a Canadian symbol.
I’m not a fan of the monarchy for its tabloid drama. I don’t watch ‘The Crown’ either. I really find all of the drama behind the royals a bit tacky, and I could only imagine how mortified as a parent and a grandmother the Queen must’ve been throughout each scandal. My wife was never a fan of the Queen due to her perceived coldness during Diana’s death. But people do acknowledge that she did bow over the late princess’ casket, something that was never done. It was always vice versa; subjects bow to the Queen and the Queen never bows to anyone. That bow shows love, respect, and humanity, as much as the tabloids would love to cast the Queen as the villain during the princess’ death.
If there’s anything I’m not happy about, but I really can’t blame her for, was the way Prince Andrew’s scandal was handled. The man clearly had illegal relations with minors and the Queen made it disappear. I realize she’s dealing with her own son, but the whole thing cast such a dark, disgusting shadow over the monarchy. The prince was caught being a pedophile, and the Queen had to fetch money from her purse to bail her son out. It was disappointing. I would’ve let the courts handle the whole thing instead of sorting it out in the shadows. Sure, the prince had to give up privileges and military ranks, but so did Prince Harry. One is a criminal pedophile, while the other is just someone who wants to protect his wife from the paparazzi. What Prince Andrew got was barely a slap on the wrist.
Looking at the monarchy, it would seem like the Queen’s biggest challenges came not from external forces but more from her own family.
Now of course there’s bitterness towards the monarchy over its colonial past, but I really don’t think the Queen is responsible for much of it. As I mentioned, she presided over the shrinking of the British empire, preserving as much diplomatic relations with the country’s former colonies as she could. In Canada, we are fully not divorced from the authority of the monarchy since many of the agreements with the First Nations were with Canada’s colonial powers at the time. But it’s not like Britain lords over Canada, except maybe once in a while when some British idiot would remark to me that, “we used to own you guys.” To which I would reply, “as someone with a Filipino background, technically it’s the Spanish that used to own me. Also, your racism is showing.”
God bless the Queen. It’s like a good distant grandmother has died. The Queen is dead. Long live the King.
Korea had a series of dictators and strong men. Park Chung-hee, while credited with helping improve Korea’s economy, he abused his office, declared martial law, and persecuted his opposition, and was eventually assassinated in 1979. He was never elected, but grabbed power after leading a military coup. Many conservatives still worship him, crediting him for Korea’s current economic standing, ignoring the abuse during his reign. This led to the election of his daughter Park Geun-hye as president. She was president from 2013 until 2017 until she was impeached and convicted due to corruption.
I though it was incredible that Koreans allowed her to seize power back in 2013, especially after her father served for five consecutive terms, aggressively controlling any opposition and free speech. I’m sure every country has their political family dynasties, but didn’t Koreans learn their lesson with the father of Park Geun-hye?
Eventually, after the Sewol tragedy, when around two hundred students died in a ferry accident and the government showed an incredible display of incompetence, the dominoes started falling for Park Geun-Hye. Stories of corruption, unusually vain behavior, being controlled as a puppet by her advisor, etc. ignited protests around the country, resulting in her impeachment and eventual arrest. She was just recently pardoned by the outgoing president due to her ailing health.
Marcos Jr. Is the new president of the Philippines. People never learn.
His family’s corruption was the stuff of both legends and parody. He put the country under martial law for a decade and had political enemies assassinated or disappeared. Free speech was muffled and many people lost many family members when he was presidency. All the while, his family was stealing billions of pesos and hiding them in accounts overseas. During his reign, Marcos had the gal to put his giant face on a mountain while he was still alive. A proper dictator move. And still Ferdinand Marcos’ son got elected. This happened following the tenure of another strong man with plenty of blood in his hands, President Duterte.
I have seen this movie before. Filipinos never learn. This is why the felon ex-president Erap Estrada eventually got elected as mayor of the country’s capital soon after his release. I don’t have high hopes for the Marcos presidency. Populism is king in the Philippines, and Filipinos will never be able to vote themselves out of poverty. At 92, I’m not sure if Imelda Marcos would resume he insane shoe-buying habit, but I’m sure one way or another, we’ll hear stories of corruption sooner other than later.
This is a redundant and sad movie.
Korea’s kinda similar, recently electing a conservative populist who seems to have no idea how government works. But his election was more of the population’s rejection of the last president’s bungling of the housing prices. With Yoon beginning his presidency yesterday, it’s going to be a long five years.
Seems like it’s a good time for conservatives and would-be strong men.
Dave Chappelle opined on the impact and importance of Manny Pacquiao. He mentioned that the women being sent overseas to do domestic work contributes considerably to the Philippine economy, leaving behind men to take care of children. Generations of children in the Philippines are growing up without their mothers. I quote, “Men are left rearing their children, twiddling their thumbs, waiting on their wives’ cheques. These men have been fucking emasculated.” But then suddenly, Manny Pacquiao, with his fists, reinstates Filipino men’s masculinity with his fists. Now, this was a small part of a longer spiel that involves Manny Pacquiao’s views on the LGBTQ community, and yeah, Dave Chappelle has his own issues with them as well, but I’m here to talk about his rather skewed view about Overseas Filipino Worker (OFW) women and male masculinity.
He got this wrong. He got this so wrong.
I remember Chappelle saying that he read Pimp: The Story of My Life, and that he’s basically a student of Iceberg Slim. I can’t believe how he can’t see the similarities between Iceberg Slim’s life of taking advantage of women and having them work for him to the life of women OFWs. Chappelle himself said that fathers are “twiddling their thumbs” while their wives are out there in the Arabian peninsula and other places overseas working for slave wages and opening themselves to abuse and exploitation. Now, pardon me, and I don’t mean to compare Filipina OFWs to prostitutes, but I have issues with Chappelle seeing the men in these relationships as emasculated victims when they are more closer to being pimps.
Patriarchy is ingrained in Philippine culture. The first man in Philippine mythology was named “Malakas” (strong) and the first woman was “Maganda” (beautiful). As head of the household, he used his strength to beat his children out of the house because there were simply too many of them. He treated them more like pests than children. All of this while his wife simply let it happen, a passive actor. To this day, men are the heads of households. Celebrities and politicians still make hay out of their macho image. And despite twice having women heads of state, Filipino women still lag behind in women’s rights. The Catholic church doesn’t help in this matter either, with abortion being illegal and access to birth control a perpetual controversial issue.
According to a recent survey, 25% of Filipino women have experienced physical, sexual, or emotional abuse from their husband or partner. As surveys go, I tend to think that with such a sensitive topic, the percentage could be higher. Shame, denial, and fear makes reporting partner abuse more difficult to do compared with other types of crime. And now let’s look at OFWs. There are an estimated 2.2 million OFWs. 56% of OFW’s are women. 58% of these women work as living assistants and domestic workers. That’s around 700,000 women working as OFWs. In 2020, only 5000 cases of abuse were reported by OFWs. This can be anything from physical and sexual abuse, to workplace and contractual disputes. Let’s imagine that half of these cases are with women. That’s 2,500 out of 700,000. But again, as with surveys and sensitive subjects, I tend to believe that abuse is under reported, especially if the women’s employers are holding their passports and virtually control their existence in their respective countries.
Or maybe I’m just imagining things. Maybe my math is totally off. Maybe things are so good overseas that only less than 1 percent of women OFW ever suffer abuse.
The world is not made of candy and rainbows.
So women are sent overseas to live as domestic helpers, basically on call for most of the day as they live with their employers. They’re in a foreign environment, away from their children, friends, and relatives, probably occasionally facing discrimination and abuse, and most of the money they earn, they send back home to their husband and children back home. All of this, while the husbands twiddle their thumbs as Chappelle puts it. Does this sound like Filipino men are emasculated? Was Iceberg Slim emasculated when women worked for him while he twiddled his thumbs waiting for his cut of their pay? No. He was seen as an alpha male, in control of his women. And I can’t help but see the men who send their wives overseas to work as domestic helpers while they stay at home and wait for their remittance cheques as being lazy. They’re not pimps, but they sure get the better end of the deal in the relationship.
44% of OFWs are men. Why can’t that be higher? Why can’t the roles be reversed and have Filipino men be out there working while their wives stay at home, take care of their children? I’m not trying to be sexist and put women in the kitchen. But women are physically more vulnerable than men. Why would so many men put their wives at so much risk when there’s overseas work that men OFWs can do? Maybe they don’t want to be living assistants or domestic helpers, but they can work in other unskilled labor sectors like agriculture and manufacturing. I’ve met a few of these men OFWs in these fields before. (I sold my old computer to one. Gave him a great deal.) They are sending their money home to their wives and children. Why can’t there be more of them?
The thing is, the men who stay at home, I’m sure not all of them are lazy, perhaps they are also working. Good for them. Perhaps they are setting up their own businesses with the help of remittances from overseas. But it’s very hard to argue that they aren’t living a much better and more secure life in their home country compared to their wives overseas. Their neighbors are probably jealous that they get to spend time at home while they receive remittances which are likely higher than the average wage in the Philippines. They get to still be with their family and friends, heck, they can even go drink with their buddies late into the night. There is no isolation, prejudice, and constant risk of abuse. They are not emasculated. And if Dave Chappelle thinks that merely being the primary caregiver of children is emasculating, then he needs to get on with the times. The man doesn’t have to be the primary breadwinner. And yes, perhaps that “woke” statement is going against my main argument here, but I suspect that the majority of the men whose wives are overseas aren’t helpless actors in their situations. They don’t have to be “emasculated.” They can actually take action, keep their wives at home, and go overseas instead.
They don’t have to just sit there and wait, suffering the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune. Their wives are out there, working hard, missing their family, and sacrificing so much! These husbands could actually take up arms against a sea of troubles and by opposing them, end them. (I apologize, I just saw ‘The Tragedy of Macbeth’ and have Shakespeare’s lines from many of his plays on my head all day.)
Lastly, the idea that a boxer holding a long undefeated record would reinstate another person’s masculinity is laughable to me. Pacquiao’s success is his success. His masculinity is his masculinity, not the country’s; the same way his dumb comments about the LGBTQ is his and not anyone else’s. Yeah, he’s a boxing champ, and some Filipino men are still at home waiting for their wife to send them cheques from Dubai while they take care of the kids. It doesn’t change anything. This Filipino infatuation with macho figures is a pox on the country and just reinforces outdated patriarchal ideas. And if anything, I would say Filipinos and Filipino men need to get off from idolizing Pacquiao already and have better figures to look up to.
Dave Chappelle is wrong. Women OFWs, just like all OFWs, are modern-day heroes to the Philippines. But the husbands of the women OFWs are not emasculated. That is an insult to their autonomy.
Since the Spanish colonization of the Philippines, Filipinos seem to have been used mainly for their skills and labor. First it was within the country, growing and exporting crops for the Spanish empire. Then when the Americans took over in the 1900s, Filipinos started working in the US’ agricultural sector. They were sent to Hawaii as well as Mainland United States. This partly explains the considerable Filipino population in Hawaii. The other reason is that Filipinos also served in the US military, beginning in World War II. The Americans also began drawing educated Filipino professionals, including nurses, doctors, accountants, and engineers. Non-professionals also began working in other countries as artists, musicians, and laborers.
The former president and dictator Ferdinand Marcos instituted the Labor Code of the Philippines, which eventually created the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (later becoming part of the Department of Labor and Employment), which basically functioned as the middle man between countries and Filipinos looking to work overseas. By 2023, the Department of Migrant Workers is set to be launched, looking over the rights, benefits, and welfare of overseas workers.
The country’s main industries are varied, from manufacturing, ship building, tourism, etc. But as of writing this article, around 10% of the country’s GDP is through remittances sent by Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs). This can be any laborer from skilled doctors to house helps. For decades, they have helped support countless of households and raised them to the middle-class, especially with the average monthly salary in the Philippines being 12,500 pesos ($240 US) in 2021. One can only imagine how much remittances can help with such a dire salary. One person working overseas can significantly improve a household’s lifestyle even if the OFW is only earning a meager salary by the overseas country’s standards. Now, imagine if this OFW is doing technical work. The remittances could potentially cover the salary of one or two people working in the Philippines of more, depending on the amount.
This is why it is in the best interest of the Philippine government to encourage Filipinos to work overseas, despite the long-term brain drain it might incur. Sure, the country is losing medical professionals, scientists, and engineers who decide to work abroad, but A) can companies in the Philippines compete with the salary these professionals can potentially earn in another country? And B) the remittances they send would be significantly higher than an OFW working as a blue collar laborer. This is not unique to the Philippines, however. One of the nurses who helped my mom was from China. Working in Canada as a hospice nurse, he used to be a surgeon in China. Better salary plus democracy, I don’t blame him for moving and working in Canada.
As countries develop and their populations move to jobs in cities, more and more industries in countrysides need migrant laborers to supplant the shortage of local workers. Take South Korea for example. Most Koreans are leaving their hometowns and moving to Seoul and its satellite cities in the hopes to work in its many conglomerates. Agricultural and manufacturing industries are then increasingly becoming more dependent on OFWs. It is not uncommon to see farmers or fishing boat captains leading a group of Filipinos to work in the absence of willing locals. An interesting aside, farmers in Korea are also left wanting for brides since many Korean women do not want to work in farms and take care of their in-laws in the countryside. This leaves Korean men in the countryside looking for partners overseas, particularly China, the Philippines, and Vietnam, creating matchmaking industries in Korea and these countries.
Growing up in the Philippines however, I learned of the term “japayuki,” which had a derogatory implication, suggesting that women OFWs in Japan working in the entertainment industry or “japayukis” are actually working in some form of prostitution. Technically, “japayuki” means any Filipino working in Japan, so foreign men doing manual labor or people working in a technical or medical field are indeed “japayukis,” but the word and the nebulous meaning of an “entertainment” visa feeds into the term suggesting prostitution. A couple of things however. One, in Korea, many foreigners who are arrested for prostitution in the country are either in the country on an entertainment visa or a tourist visa. Two, when I was in Hong Kong, I happened to stumble upon a very upbeat and packed bar with a big band playing. Lo and behold, it’s a group of male Filipino musicians on stage, most probably in the city on an entertainment visa. So yeah, despite the two things I mentioned not being in Japan, there’s probably a bit of truth on either takes on the term “japayuki.”
OFWs are referred to locally as “modern-day heroes” not only for the fact that they are overseas, away from their families and scrimping away in order to send money back home, but sometimes they are subject to abuse by their employers, not to mention sometimes stigma at home, especially with the term “japayuki.” And again, working overseas or being away from one’s family in order to support them is not a uniquely Filipino thing; Nearly a quarter of a million Sri Lankans live and work in the UAE. But in the Philippines, it is about 10% of the GDP. One in ten Filipinos work overseas. In Korea, they have a term, “gireogi appa” or goose dad. This refers to Korean fathers working in Korea in order to finance their families overseas. These fathers probably deal with the same loneliness as OFWs, but they’re definitely better paid and the money they send goes outside of Korea and does not come into the country.
13% of male Filipino workers are categorized as unskilled laborers. This mean they could either be working as living assistants or domestic workers. For women, the percentage is 58%. These are low-wage, unskilled work, and women are more vulnerable to abuse by their employers. They can also suffer stereotypes of being uneducated, submissive, or simply be mail-order-brides. It’s a heavy burden to bear and yet, Filipina domestic helpers seem to be ubiquitous. I’ve seen them here in Seoul employed by US expats. Also in Hong Kong, I’ve witnessed thousands of domestic helpers gather on their Sunday day off around Victoria Park in Causeway Bay to have lunch together, catch up with friends, gossip, and pray. Often living with their employers and having limited free time, I thought the gathering in Hong Kong was a way for local domestic helpers not only to reconnect with the Filipino community but also as a survival skill, to collect a bit of peace and sanity after a busy six-day week.
As I mentioned in another article, the concept of a poorly paid house help was a product of Spanish colonization. Rich families would employ someone from a poorer caste to perform domestic chores. To this day, many Filipino families would employ “katulong”s (house helpers) or “yaya”s (nannies), and these families don’t necessarily have to be especially rich in order to afford a house help. It seems that Filipinos have taken the concept of “katulong” and turned it into a service that could be exported.
OFWs are not just limited to working in different countries however. Many are working in companies whose countries are questionable at best.
A friend of mine from the Philippines once surprised me when I learned that she started working as a photographer for a cruise ship. “What a totally random occupation!”, I thought. Later, I learned that Filipinos are some of the best targets for cruise companies to employ. For one, many Filipinos have a strong maritime heritage, and another is that English is spoken as the official second language. Filipinos also have a reputation for being polite and hospitable. Unfortunately, cruise companies work in a legal limbo. Royal Caribbean for example is registered in Liberia. Policing labor practices or even investigating crimes is a gray area at sea and the government of the Philippines is willing to turn a blind eye to these things. Compensation for injury or a lost limb while working in a cruise ship can be notoriously low, if they’re even awarded. Cruise work is also notoriously long with time off counted in hours rather than days. Despite all of this, however, Filipinos are willing to risk working in a cruise ship in order to send remittances. Looking at the salary of different cruise ship occupations, the lowest ones are more than double the average salary in the Philippines. Twice in Manila, I’ve chatted with bartenders in hotels, later learning that they both got their training working in cruise ships. Apparently, about 30 percent of OFWs work in cruise ships, tankers, or other shipping vessels.
So yes, God bless the OFWs. They are indeed heroes, working away from their families and opening themselves up to abuse and exploitation. If only the Philippines had a better economy and the lure of working overseas will no longer be as strong. Fortunately, business process outsourcing seems to be getting more and more popular in the country, with the Philippines being more attractive to businesses than India. I hope those jobs get to replace working overseas and that more people get to stay in the country with their families.
The Philippines, being a group of islands with villages separated by mountainous regions, there are a number of creation myths coming from different groups of populations. There’s the Lumawig, the great spirit myth coming from the Igorot population, the creation stories from Bagobo, Bilaan, etc. I’m not an expert on the subject, but I grew up being taught the Tagalog creation story, which is probably the most common one.
In the beginning, the world was nothing but sea and sky. A great bird that was tired of flying stirred up the sea to create some land on which to land and rest. The sky and the sea created some islands and the bird built a nest on one of them. The sea breeze and the land breeze married and gave birth to a bamboo plant. The great bird split the bamboo and out of it came a man and a woman. I believe they were named “Malakas (strong)” and “Maganda (beautiful).” They married, had numerous children, and they became the origin of all races due to a bit of child abuse. Yes, child abuse.
The couple got sick of having so many children that the father began beating his children with sticks. The children hid in different places around their house. Those who hid in hidden rooms became chief of islands, those who somehow hid inside the house’s walls became slaves. The children who ran outside became free men. Those who hid in the fire pit became black people (or the local “Negritos”). The ones who fled to the sea and later came back became white people.
The latter part regarding child abuse was not widely taught, but it’s still part of the creation myth nonetheless. It’s interesting to note that patriarchy and child abuse is baked into the culture from the creation myth itself. That’s something I’ll be writing about later. But speaking of baking, another Filipino creation myth involves god baking men out of clay and it exemplifies the special place of Filipinos in the eyes of the creator.
After creating everything in the world, god decided he needed a caretaker to oversee all of his creation. He created man out of clay and baked him under the sun in order to animate him. At first, he didn’t bake man long enough. This created white people. Next, he baked man too long, and this created black people. Finally, he baked man “just right,” and this created the Filipino race. To modern ears, the story sounds like a mixture of Goldilocks and racism.
Now, those are taught in school as myths. There might be some variations to the stories, but they’re basically the same stories.
What was taught to children when I was growing up as the scientific and accepted theory of where Filipinos came from was through a series of migrations, the “wave migration” theory.
The first settlers of the archipelago were the “Negritos.” They arrived around 10,000 years ago. The term “negrito” is a Spanish diminutive which means “little black person,” but seems to be widely accepted in the country. There are over thirty ethnic groups in the Philippines which are grouped as “Negritos” sharing similar characteristics and cultures. They were mostly hunter gatherers but some also practiced agriculture.
The second settlers were the Austronesians. They theory called them “Indones,” believing that they came from Indonesia. They arrived around 4,000 years ago and formed their own different groups as well as alliances with different populations of Negritos.
The third to land and settle in the archipelago were the “Malays” around 900 CE. They mostly inhabited the southern part of the country while the Indones settled through most of the archipelago. Now I remember having some trouble differentiating Indones and Malays when I was first introduced to the concept. In my young mind, I thought they were too similar.
This theory is Beyer’s Wave Migration Theory, but I remember it being taught only as “wave migration.” I’m not sure how strong the archaeological evidence is for this theory, but I think people believed it mainly due to the credibility H. Otley Beyer, the founder of the Anthropology Department of the University of the Philippines; that and the Filipinos’ commonality with their neighbors. Filipinos certainly share a lot of physical and cultural similarities with Malaysians and Indonesians. Malaysian and Indonesian can even sound like Tagalog or other Philippine languages sometimes. Heck, during my trip to Bali, I was confused for a local a couple of times.
I think what is more widely accepted as plausible these days is the Out-of-Taiwan theory. Archaeologist Peter Bellwood suggested that Austronesian peoples originated from the island of Taiwan, and from there, migrated across Southeast Asia, East Africa, and the Pacific. It began around 6,500 BC and continued until 3,500 BC. What’s interesting about this theory is that while the Austronesian people spread to different islands across the world, in Taiwan itself, the Indigenous or Austronesian people only account for 2% of the people, with 97% of the population being ethnic Han Taiwanese.
The theory is supported by linguistic, archaeological, cultural, and genetic evidence. According to the theory, Austronesian settlers arrived in the Philippines from Taiwan around 2200 BC. Once there, they assimilated with the Negritos who arrived earlier. Arriving in Luzon, they spread southwest towards Borneo, Indonesia, and Malaysia. They even spread much further east to Madagascar at around 500 CE. They spread southwards to New Guinea all the way to New Zealand, arriving there by around 1200 CE. They spread east all the way towards Easter Island and Hawaii by around 900 CE. The Austronesian people share similar cultural characteristics, technologies, and took with them similar domesticated plants and animals.
Instead of the Philippines being a receptacle of different waves of settlers, after the Negritos settled, the archipelago basically became a launching port for the Austronesian expansion. The previous “wave migration” theory was wrong and had it the other way around. The Austronesian people originated from Taiwan and spread from the Philippine archipelago. The Out-of-Taiwan theory connects Filipino ancestry with Malaysians, Indonesians, as well as Melanesians and Polynesians. Which again, might explain why I was once confused for a local native the last time I was in Hawaii.
Now, I didn’t really learn about the Out-of-Taiwan theory until a Taiwanese classmate taught me about the existence of an Aboriginal population in Taiwan. I didn’t know they existed. And really, who could blame me since they’re only 2% of the population. But it wasn’t until I dove deep into the subject did I come to learn about the Out-of-Taiwan theory. Now maybe I’m old and I’m showing it by my knowledge of the curriculum I was taught when I was young, but I wonder if young Filipinos these days are still taught the “wave theory.” I mean, if it wasn’t for a chance encounter and a random conversation about aboriginal population, I wouldn’t even have know about the Out-of-Taiwan theory and the scope of the Austronesian expansion.
I’m not the best person to talk about Filipino heroes. There are names that Filipino children are taught and grew up knowing. Jose Rizal is the national hero of the Philippines. He was a member of the Filipino Propaganda movement against the Spanish occupation and the author of Noli Me Tangere and El filibusterismo. Andres Bonifacio was “The Father of the Philippine Revolution.” Marcelo del Pilar was one of the leaders of the Reform Movement in Spain. Apolinario Mabini was known as “The Brain of the Revolution.” And there are many others. From the earliest hero, Lapulapu, a chief who killed Magellan but also died in the Battle of Mactan, Filipinos made heroes from those who opposed the Spanish occupation, a period which lasted for 333 years. Even the first Filipino saint, St. Lorenzo Ruiz, was sent to Japan and eventually to his martyrdom due to a false accusation that he had murdered a Spaniard during the occupation.
The Philippines was also occupied by the US and the Japanese, but the Americans had a relatively less directly antagonistic and more complicated relationship with the Philippines despite a three-year strife. To this day, the US remains a partner and an ally of the country. As for the Japanese occupation, which Filipinos fought with the help of US support, figures like guerrilla leaders Luis Taruc, Terry Magtanggol, and Marcos Agustin are not as famous as the ones who led Filipinos against the Spanish.
So if there are better sources for Filipino heroes out there, what am I to write about? Well, I have a couple of bones to pick. The first one is with Emilio Aguinaldo, the man on the 5-peso coin. He was a veteran of several revolutionary wars and was officially the first and youngest president of the country, the First Philippine Republic, which lasted about two years before the break of the Philippine-American War. He was a brave and brilliant soldier and leader when he was younger. I will not take that away from him.
After his first capture by the Americans, he took an oath of allegiance to the United States. However, during this time, his former allies who fought the Spanish alongside him are still fighting what they see as colonial forces, who are this time the Americans. Andres Bonifacio instituted the Tagalog Republic which refused to recognize the government of Emilio Aguinaldo, especially since it now surrendered to the Americans. Bonifacio and his brother were captured and implicated in a crime allegedly done by those under Bonifacio’s command. In a sham trial with a jury filled with Aguinaldo’s advocates and a defense attorney that believes his client was not innocent, both Bonifacio brothers were found guilty and sentenced to death, but later to exile. This was later reversed back to execution.
Aguinaldo is also believed to have ordered the assassination of Antonio Luna, one of the most brilliant generals fighting against the Americans at the time. Luna was invited to a location via telegram sent by Aguinaldo for a meeting, only to be confronted by army officials he considered enemies once he arrived at the meeting location. Luna never received a telegram that the meeting with Aguinaldo was cancelled, if there ever was a telegram. He and his companions were slaughtered in a plaza in front of a church immediately after the failed meeting. After the death of Luna, Luna’s men were left demoralized and eventually surrendered to the Americans.
After the attack on Pearl Harbor, the Japanese invaded the Philippines. Aguinaldo famously sided with the Japanese and implored General Douglas MacArthur and the Americans to surrender to the Japanese. He naively believed that the Imperial Japanese Army would free the Philippines from American occupation and finally give them independence. Someone should’ve told him the meaning of “imperial.” This is the Japanese empire that enslaved people, did horrible experiments on prisoners, tortured POWs, and raped women in the countries they invaded. He later became part of what many considered a puppet government and discouraged guerrilla warfare, spreading anti-war and pro-Japanese propaganda. As much as I love current day Japan, the Imperial Japan of the past was disgusting. Aguinaldo must know what the Japanese were doing at the time and what they are capable of. He cannot be that naive. The Rape of Nanjing was in 1937, just a few years before the Japanese invasion of the Philippines in 1941.
Later, when the US defeated the Japanese and regained control of the country, Aguinaldo went into hiding and was later arrested as a Japanese collaborator. He would’ve spent his last days in prison if he wasn’t pardoned by Manuel Roxas, the country’s fifth president.
Now, despite his earlier actions as a revolutionary, doesn’t his later actions as a leader seem slimy and unprincipled? Jose Rizal and Andres Bonifacio bravely faced firing squads. I’m not sure if the older Emilio Aguinaldo would do the same. He seems more a conniving politician than a revolutionary. If it weren’t for the Americans, maybe the Philippines would still be a Japanese colony, all with the help of Aguinaldo. I wouldn’t want this man’s face in coins.
Another hero I have an issue with is Juan Luna, the celebrated Filipino artist. While I admire The Battle of Lepanto and think it’s a masterpiece, I’m frankly not a fan of Spoliarium. I think it was only elevated by the commendations of his friend Jose Rizal who compared the abuse and indignities suffered by gladiators under Roman rule to that of the Filipinos under the Spanish. As a piece, I do not find it exciting at all. Even the name is gibberish to me. I suspect it is made up the same way vomitoriums don’t really exist. I also find it odd to elevate him so much when most of his famous works are done in the European classic tradition with European themes; there’s not many that connect to the Philippines and the culture of the country. I’m not even sure if Jose Rizal’s interpretation of Spoliarium is Juan Luna’s intent or if it was just incidental.
Juan Luna was a bully, a serial wife abuser, and a double murderer. I think his success and being a pensionado got into his head and wouldn’t think twice to abuse his wife who he eventually shot dead through a door along with his mother-in-law in a fit of jealous rage. After being arrested and charged, he was acquitted on the grounds of crime of passion and temporary insanity; insanity over his wife’s unfounded infidelity. This was 1893 and misogyny was to be expected, but it still saddens me how women seemed to be so disposable back then. Now many artists are famously horrible to women or their muses. Auguste Rodin was not particularly good to Camille Claudel. But she was able to rise as a renowned artist herself and certainly didn’t die from gunshot wounds from Rodin.
What’s fascinating is that even after the double murder, Juan Luna was still able to continue his career and even be a part of the Philippine Revolution. This is like letting OJ continue his career successfully and even be elevated as a hero even after the murder of his ex-wife. There are better Filipino artists out there: Felix Resurreccion Hidalgo, Guillermo Tolentino, and Fernando Amorsolo. None of them are sociopaths.
No hero is perfect, of course; most of the US’s Founding Fathers kept slaves. But I think it would help to know some of the less known history of the Philippine’s heroes. I say this because I actually grew up hearing a lot about Juan Luna, not really knowing that he was such a despicable human being.
Lastly, while I have nothing negative to say about Jose Rizal, there’s an argument that Andres Bonifacio, “The Father of the Philippine Revolution” is more deserving of the title national hero. Rizal inspired Bonifacio in his revolution, but Philippine historian Renato Constantino argues that Rizal was a “United States-sponsored hero” who was against the Spanish occupation and already passed away before he could make any comments regarding the American occupation. Andres Bonifacio fought and lost in the Philippine-American War. Rizal had a more diplomatic approach to change while Andres Bonifacio was more radical and troublesome with occupiers, including the Americans. His guerrilla warfare could even be compared to that of Che Guevarra, famously assassinated by the CIA. Even at a young age, I thought that Rizal seemed privileged: traveling overseas, socializing with elites, romancing women, etc. Most historians believe that Jose Rizal was unknown to many Filipinos at the time since he was often overseas and frequently associated with the elites. Contrast this with Bonifacio who had an image of someone who was down in the trenches fighting with the people. I found it odd that Jose Rizal was the national hero compared to someone who had a more direct hand in Philippine independence and similarly had to face a firing squad.
Another person who supposedly advocated for making Jose Rizal the national hero instead of Andres Bonifacio was Emilio Aguinaldo; Emilio Aguinaldo who allegedly had a hand in the execution of Andres Bonifacio. Why would he give someone the honor of national hero when he was instrumental in his demise? That, and he was also very much in line with the forces that Andres Bonifacio was fighting against.
God bless Jose Rizal and his sacrifice. He is a hero; I will not argue that he’s not. But I cannot help but think that his elevation to national hero over Andres Bonifacio was part of American propaganda. You wanna be a hero and save your country? Write a book and traffic in allegories. Don’t be a guerilla fighter.
Traveling in Osaka with a Spanish friend of mine, we passed by a restaurant that specializes in Filipino dishes. Nonplussed, he recognized many of the Filipino words written outside of the restaurant.
“Erm, dude, the Spanish occupied the Philippines for three hundred years!”
Ferdinand Magellan landed in the country in 1521, then later set about converting the locals to Christianity. The island of Mactan resisted the Spanish which later resulted in the Portuguese explorer’s death. The leader of Mactan, Lapulapu, was hailed as the first hero of the Philippines. The discovery of the archipelago started the Spanish occupation with Miguel Lopez de Legazpi arriving from Mexico in 1565. later making Spanish Manila the capital of the Spanish East Indies. Superior technology, Catholic missionaries, and dividing and conquering separate villages helped conquer and unite the archipelago. The name of the country is derived from King Philip II, the king of Spain from 1556. Many of the provinces, cities, and towns continue to have Spanish names, such as Las Pinas, Los Banos, Camarines Sur, San Fernando, San Juan, Pamplona, etc.
Having a Spanish surname doesn’t necessarily mean a person has Spanish ancestry. The Alphabetical Catalogue of Surnames is a book of Spanish surnames in the Philippines published in response to a decree that established Spanish family names and surnames to colonial subjects. Catholic converts took surnames like “de los Santos (of the Saints)” or “de la Cruz (of the Cross),” while others took well-known Spanish surnames. Surnames were given to one family per municipality, avoiding surnames being based on ethnic background or association. The surnames available however were based on provincial capitals, secondary towns, and smaller villages. Thus, a person who has a certain surname would most likely have roots in a specific town. I myself have a Spanish surname: Reyes. Reading up on this topic, I didn’t realize that my surname had a coat of arms!
Some Filipinos however chose not to change their surnames. Indigenous Filipino names include Abay, Katindig, Lacsamana, Mapili, etc. Researching the topic, I found out that the surname Bagonggahasa exists, which unfortunately means “newly raped.”
The Catholic faith is probably the most influential and enduring legacy of the Spanish. Around 80% of Filipinos are Catholics and the island is dotted with many ancient Catholic cathedrals. The Philippines calendar is filled with religious holidays, and Christmas and Easter are celebrated as proper sacred holidays. It is not uncommon to see Filipinos wearing crucifixes and have homes decorated with crucifixes and statues of saints and the Virgin Mother. So yes, thank you Spain for that ever-present Catholic guilt! (Guilt, a key factor in developing obsessive-compulsive disorder)
One things about the Catholic faith and the Spanish influence is that through them, western culture permeated the archipelago. Customs and philosophies became more westernized in what was one a predominantly Eastern Muslim country. Slaves or “alipin”s existed in the Philippines prior to colonization. When the Spanish came, the Laws of the Indies already forbade holding Filipinos as slaves. However, seeing that native tribes in the Philippines would use slaves, some soldiers seized non-Christians and took them as slaves. Later, the encomiendas system was instituted in the country. It was a Spanish labor system where a conqueror takes on natives as slaves, while the slaves in turn get education as well as protection from their masters. Slavery was not as commercial as it was in the Americas, and most slaves were tasked with doing household chores. Later when Spain fully outlawed the use of native slaves, it opened the import of foreigners for slave use, particularly Africans. Even some Filipinos had African slaves working in their homes back then. The use of a non-family member as a house help is a Spanish legacy. With the classes between the rich and the poor remaining, especially between city and country-folk, Filipinos to this day still continue to commonly have poorly paid helpers in their households called “katulongs.”
Arts and culture have been heavily influenced by the Spanish occupation. Artists have been trained and commissioned to produce works with European tastes in mind. Juan Luna, a Filipino revolutionary hero and national artist, was famously trained in Europe. With galleons from Spain and Mexico arriving in Manila and with Filipinos being sponsored to study and train abroad, Spanish influence in the arts permeated Filipino culture. Even the art of fine embroidery was introduced to the Philippines by Spanish friars. Some folk dances as well as the fashion which had heavy Spanish influence introduced during the occupation still remain in the country.
Filipino cuisine has also been heavily influenced by the Spanish. The name themselves betray their Spanish origins: lechon, leche flan, paella, embutido, puchero. The most popular alcoholic beverage in the Philippines is San Miguel beer. Not only is the name Spanish, but beer itself was originally brought in from Spain. Food and drinks in the Philippines can mirror those in many Latin countries. I remember visiting a Spanish restaurant here in Seoul and having the empanada and thinking, “this is no different from the ones in the Philippines.” The Spanish brought with them their cuisines, and they also brought with them non-native crop plants including corn, guava, avocado, coffee, papaya, and squash. Growing up in the Philippines, I learned a folktale regarding the origin of corn. It was about a girl obsessed with her silky hair who later turned into the plant. I think it’s a more entertaining picture than simply saying it’s a plant crop brought in from Mexico.
As I initially referenced, there are plenty of Spanish words that made it into the Philippine vernacular. 20% of words in Tagalog are Spanish or Spanish in origin. The use of numbers in counting money and telling time is also done in Spanish. I imagine a Filipino learning Spanish would find it simpler compared to other languages, much like an English speaker learning a Germanic language or a Korean learning Japanese. A common Tagalog greeting “Kamusta” was derived from “Como esta,” the Spanish greeting. Heck, many Filipino profanities have Spanish roots.
Spain also established friar-run schools. It would seem that back then, throughout the world, the best way to take the native out of the natives is through religious schools. Spain however didn’t implement what was equivalent to the residential schools in Canada. I believe the Catholics were truly invested in elevating the Filipino population and making them part of the Spanish empire and not simply making them Spanish. The schools, along with a heavy helping of religious teachings, added business and math into the curriculum. It also opened the country to higher sciences being open to Spanish empire. One of the most well-known historic institutions which still exists to this day is the University of Santo Thomas. It was established in 1611.
Once the country was conquered, the Spanish deliberately implemented incentives through the taxation system the inter-mixing of races. At the time, there were twelve recognized ethnic groups in the country, though the categorization might not be reflected genetically. The categories consider where a person was born or whether they have converted to Catholicism. This makes it quite fluid and not very scientific. Peninsulares and Insulares for example are two separate groups, the only difference is that peninsulares are people of Spanish decent born in Spain while insulares are born in the Philippines. I’m not sure what genetic genealogy testing would show in the average Filipino. Filipinos are Austronesian in origin, but I suspect there might be more Han Chinese ancestry appearing in my case rather than Spanish. Despite the cultural influence of Spain, I’m just not sure about the prevalence of Spanish blood among modern-day Filipinos despite the number of mestizos and mestizas in the country.
A group of tourists in Seoul did take notice of me one time and asked me if I spoke Spanish, to which I replied, “Lo siento. No hablo Espanol.”
Regionalism is defined as the consciousness and loyalty to a distinct region. Populations within countries are not monolithic. There is not one Canadian population, but a group of separate populations united under one nation. The same can be said about many countries. Even South Korea, a country whose population is quite homogeneous exhibits regionalism, rearing its head most often in politics and in dating.
The Philippines consists of over seven thousand islands. The biggest islands in the Philippines, Luzon, Mindanao, Samar, etc. are mountainous and tend to separate populations into different regions. This encouraged a multi-cultural environment where different languages and dialects developed. Out of these languages, Tagalog, Cebuano, Ilokano, Ilonggo, Bikolano, Waray, Kapampangan, and Pangasinense became the most widely spoken, with Tagalog being made the official Filipino language. Of course, as a former US colony, you can add English to the mix of the most common languages in the country, but we’ll come back to that later in looking at regionalism.
Prior to colonization, regionalism already exists in the country. It is after all, only human to be loyal to the place where you were born and raised as well as to the people who speak the same language as yourself. Even when you go visit the Philippines right now, people who hailed from the same region tend to be more comfortable and have an easier time getting along. Ilocanos would be with Ilocanos, Cebuanos with Cebuanos. But when the Spanish colonized the country, they used regionalism to their advantage. They would favor one region over another in order to prevent a unified rebellion. With colonization comes the creation of Spanish Filipinos, the mestizos and mestizas. Now the term in current day Philippines can be used for any Filipino of mixed European, Chinese, or American ancestry, but back then it was exclusively for Spanish Filipinos who tend to be of a higher class compared to the general population. Interestingly, with languages, the Spanish occupation created a Spanish-based creole language, Chavacano, which today is still spoken by many Filipinos.
After the Spanish occupation, the United States introduced a different form of regionalism via immigration. This occurred in three waves: pre-World War II farm laborers (Hawaii, etc.), Filipinos in the United States Navy, and post 1965 family reunification and occupational immigrants (Espiritu, Y.L. (1995) Filipino American Lives). Filipinos began arriving in the United States during the occupation in order to study. These were either scholars sponsored by the government, and thus called pensionados, or those whose wealthy parents could afford to send their children overseas for higher education. It wasn’t until the United States started utilizing Filipinos as cheap plantation workers did migration significantly increase. The initial recruits where from Tagalog-speaking regions, then came the Ilocanos and the Visayans. When the Navy started recruiting Filipinos in their fleet, once again, it was most often the Tagalog-speakers who were often recruited.
The batches of immigration to the United States centered on specific regions created a gap in opportunity and wealth in the country. Now, even if a Filipino person can immigrate to the US today, their ability to create wealth is only beginning now, while someone from a different region already had generations of creating wealth and sending money back home.
So how does Filipino regionalism manifest itself right now? Well, like many countries, it created regional stereotypes that continue to this day. People from Tagalog and Kapampangan speaking regions tend to be more affluent. The capital of the country is in Manila, and with President Duterte being the first president not from a Tagalog-speaking region, he made a promise to institute a Federalist government and not focus all of the country’s wealth and development solely on the Tagalog-speaking capital. Tagalog-speakers have enjoyed quite the number of perks throughout history and to this day, they often employed people from poorer Visayan regions as cheap household laborers. Thus, Visayan is seen as a lower language. Visayans and Cebuanos in turn tend to be very proud of where they come from due to chips on their regional shoulders.
One time during a trip to the Philippines, I tested a rather harmless regional stereotype on a relative who is Ilocano (from an Ilokano-speaking region). His daughter was dating someone who was Kapampangan. Now, some Ilocanos believe that Tagalog and Kapampangan-speaking people tend to be braggarts due to their privileged history. Ilocanos in return are said to be notoriously thrifty because they had to travel to other regions, save up money, and send it back home. Without any knowledge of how his daughter’s boyfriend truly is, I asked him, “So I hear your daughter is dating a braggart.” With a sigh he goes, “Pretty much. He’s Kapampangan.”
Back to politics, voters tend to be swayed by regionalism as well, with people voting for the candidate most aligned to their region and language. It is why the election of Mindanao-born Duterte was monumental. Populism has defeated regionalism. Of course, regionalism in politics is not unique to the Philippines. South Korean politics is so heavily divided into regions when it comes to politics that I sometimes wonder why politicians even bother campaigning in a region that is so captured by their opponent. Every election, just like the United States, there are often only a handful of true battleground states.
When it comes to immigration, Filipinos can sometimes be regional as well. Sometimes those born and raised overseas are more comfortable associating with other natives, while newly-landed immigrants are more at ease with those of similar circumstances. Filipinos can sometimes feel insecure in the way they speak English, with Filipinos making jokes regarding mispronouncing or misappropriating English words. These jokes tend to be aimed at no one, but it can manifest into insecurity or a form of impostor syndrome, and seeing those who are more fluent in English to be more highly evolved or worldly.
What I find amusing is that sometimes, even in a foreign country, Filipinos will still find a way to group themselves into their regions. This is not to say that Filipinos will discriminate based on their ancestral region, but they will often be more at ease with those from the same background as them. Growing up in Canada, I was amazed and bewildered that my father founded a group for Ilocanos in the city. I was like, “Why?” and “How did you find each other?” But most importantly, “Isn’t there already a bigger group for Filipinos that is not exclusive to Ilocanos?” This is like me starting a group in Seoul specifically for expats from Winnipeg. What are we supposed to do in this group? Listen to Burton Cummings and talk about the Winnipeg Jets?
Just as black people are not a monolithic group, the same can be said for Filipinos. Scratch that. The same can be said for any population, really. There are Filipinos who get along well with other Filipinos, there are there are those who get along better with Filipinos from a specific region or from a common background, and sadly there are those that hate other Filipinos.
Blame the islands, the mountains, and years of colonization.
Read a 2014 article about the effect of antidepressants on creativity. It’s about a study at the Max Planck Institute. Apparently, the flatness of mood, which is a great alternative to depression, can also be seen as “emotional blunting” which hurts creativity, especially for artists who work best in response to internal turmoil. Another article I read talks about an artist who found it difficult to write after a period of being on antidepressants. Now, I’m not sure if I’m experiencing a bit of this, but I’ve experienced a couple of periods of artist’s block and I don’t know whether to attribute it to medication, the lack of stimulus due to the pandemic, or just natural artist’s block. I seriously hope the antidepressants are affecting my creativity because given the choice of coping tools, I’d rather have art than medication.
One possible effect discovered by the study coining “emotional blunting” is that antidepressants negatively affected feelings of affection towards partners, especially among male participants in the study. Perhaps men are more prone to “emotional blunting” than women. Or to put it simply, women just care more than men, so much so, that their love emotions are more resistant to drugs. So yeah, antidepressants may cause less creativity and love… but hey, less depression and suicidal thoughts. If true, what a dilemma!
My sister proposed a writing project regarding Filipinos and the immigrant experience. It could be a book, a collection of essays, whatever. We’re just in the process of throwing ideas at the moment. I think it’s a good idea, especially with her being a mother of a couple of gen Z kids who might be disconnected from their heritage or would need some guidance regarding the culture of their parents. Admittedly, many of my entries regarding the Philippines, or perhaps even Korea, tend to be very critical. This is not coming from a negative spirit. This is coming from someone who wants things to improve. So yeah, perhaps in the coming months, I’ll be writing more about the immigrant experience instead of much else. Some ideas that come to mind include:
-“Kain na tayo.” The willingness of strangers to share their meals.
-Love the people, hate the politics. Why Filipinos will never vote themselves to prosperity.
-The long reach of Catholicism
-Filipinos and regionalism
-Spanish colonialism and its effects
-Filipino heroes and non-heroes; Juan Luna is a despicable scoundrel.
-The Out-of-Taiwan theory, and what the heck are we?
-The Overseas Filipino Worker
-No, Dave Chappelle, you are wrong about Filipino women overseas.
It’s really time for the Olympics to get cancelled. It’s time. We all can see the Olympics for what they are. They are a company interested in their own profits. They’re not about sports, camaraderie, or triumph over adversity. The sports and the athletes are just a secondary concern. What the IOC values more is licensing, advertising, and broadcasting the games.
The games have been slowly showing its hand in the past few Olympic games. A couple of years after the games were held in Beijing, people noted the abandoned structures that were hastily built for the games. Then people started questioning whether it truly is worth it to host the Olympics, especially when the money used for infrastructure could be used for so many other things. This was especially true when the Olympics were held in Rio. Last year, the Olympic park was closed due to safety concerns. Hosting the Olympics means spending money on infrastructure that would never be recovered, infrastructure that has a high probability of not being maintained after the games. But yeah, the countries/cities are losing money, but someone is getting rich out of all of the construction and other Olympics-related logistics.
As for the sport, Sochi Olympics has demonstrated that widespread cheating can occur with very little consequences to the athletes. After Russia was caught having a national doping program, they barely suffered any consequences for it, and many of their athletes were later allowed to compete under no flags. Pointless.
And now Tokyo, despite rising coronavirus cases, insists that the city will continue to host the games as scheduled. There will be no spectators, and athletes will not be required to get the vaccine, but will however be required to sign a waiver that they risk illness and death by competing in the city. Why is the UN allowing this? This is akin to South Korea’s old law of revoking foreigner’s visas should they learn they are HIV positive. What if they caught the virus in South Korea? (Instead of having brought the virus into the country) Isn’t that not their fault fully but also the fault of the environment they are in? The UN saw it as discrimination as well as a backwards policy that unfairly treats visitors to the country. In Japan, what if the athletes catch covid in the country and dies? Doesn’t the country or the IOC have any responsibility for it? Doesn’t this shift the blame for catching diseases fully on the visitors and not the country the same way South Korea did before with HIV?
Inviting a host of people from countries all over the world could potentially turn Tokyo into a hotbed for the pandemic and naturally, many of the people in Tokyo are against it. Around 80% of people in a recent survey wanted to have the games cancelled altogether. So the games aren’t really for the benefit of the city either. They don’t want to risk dying from covid should the worst happen as a result of thousands of athletes visiting. Even a group of Japanese medical professionals want the game cancelled. Japanese cities are not doing well with infections and vaccinations. As much as some people are saying that Tokyo has handled the pandemic well. They truly haven’t. They came into the pandemic with so much hubris, even allowing people to go out cherry blossom viewing in spring 2020. And now Americans are officially warning people not to visit the country for the Olympics.
As much as I love Japan, I can’t stand the conservative Japanese government. The Olympics has a policy of not allowing politics to be part of the games, and yet recently, Tokyo has been using a map that shows Dokdo, a Korean island, as part of Japanese territory. This revisionist claim is just par for the course for the Japanese government in the past couple of years. They have denied wartime atrocities and downplayed claims of sexual exploitation. South Koreans are understandably unhappy about the recent Dokdo fiasco and many are pushing to boycott the Olympics altogether.
I believe this push to have the Olympics in Tokyo this summer no matter what is simply companies trying to make good on their investments. I’m sure contractors and other beneficiaries to the Olympics, be it the Japanese government side, the corporate side, or the IOC, who were disappointed last year are still hoping that they can make money off of the event. And it truly doesn’t matter whether the events have people watching them on the ground. What truly matters is how many people will be watching the games on television and online. As for me, I think I’ll be watching better shows on Netflix instead. I can just read about whoever won whatever event on Twitter or Reddit.