Hispanic culture in the Philippines

Hispanic influence on Filipino culture (Spanish: Influencia hispánica en la cultura filipina) are customs and traditions of the Philippines which originated from three centuries of Spanish[1] colonisation. Filipinos today speak a variety of different languages including Cebuano, Tagalog, Ilocano, Ilonggo, English and Chavacano. There are thousands of Spanish loanwords in most Filipino languages. A Spanish-Based creole language called Chavacano is also spoken in communities in Mindanao (notably Zamboanga where it is the official language, as well as Davao and Cotabato), and Luzon (Cavite). The Philippines, having been one of the most distant Spanish colonies, received less migration of people from Spain, compared to the colonies in the Americas, Latin America. Most of the influence during the colonial period came through Mexico, rather than directly from Spain, as the Philippines was governed as a territory of New Spain. Mexican and Spanish influence is evident in many aspects of Philippine culture including religion, architecture, language, music, fashion, cooking, and traditions.


Before the Spanish colonisation, there were already a mixture of cultures, the native people similar to Melanesians and Australian Aborigines, a majority population of Malays and Polynesians, and small groups of people from other Southeast Asian countries. The Philippines and Guam were the furthest colonies from Spain, and it was decided that they would be governed from Mexico, as it was a lot closer. Because of this the Philippines received significant influence from Mexican culture.


The most common languages spoken in the Philippines today are English and Filipino, which is based on Tagalog. Spanish was an official language of the country until the change of government in 1987, which led to Spanish being dropped as an official language for political reasons. However, the government of ex president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, a Spanish speaker herself, reintroduced the study of Spanish into the state-school system. After the US invasion in 1898, the Americans embarked on a policy of dehispanicisation and urged the Filipino government to choose Tagalog and English as the official languages. There are around 3 million Spanish speakers, of whom a minority still speak Spanish in public; these people are mostly of Hispanic origin. For anyone from a Hispanophone nation the Philippines is strangely recognisable to them since the Spanish influence has remained strong to this day.

The Spanish spoken in the Philippines today has a great affinity with Mexican Spanish. Filipino Spanish contains many Mexican Spanish loanwords of Nahuatl origin which were first incorporated into Mexican Spanish, and which do not exist in European Spanish. Examples include nanay (nantl), tatay (tatle), bayabas [from guayaba(s), guava], abokado (avocado), papaya, sayote, zapote, and palengke.

Various Filipino languages have significantly assimilated aspects of the Spanish language, and contain thousands of loanwords. Numerous words, and some grammatical concepts of the Spanish vocabulary, are used in Chavacano, Cebuano, Tagalog, Bicolano, and Ilocano.

Name of the Philippines

The name of the Philippines comes from the king of Spain Philip II. It was given by the Spanish explorer Ruy López de Villalobos who named the islands of Samar and Leyte "Las Islas Felipinas" (The Philippine Islands), during his expedition in 1543. Throughout the colonial period, the name Felipinas (Philippines) was used, and became the official name of the Philippines.

There are many provinces in the Philippines with Spanish names, such as Nueva Vizcaya, Nueva Écija (Nueva Ecija), Laguna, Isabela, Quirino, Aurora, La Unión (La Union), Marinduque, Antique, Negros Occidental, Negros Oriental, Nueva Segovia and Valle de Compostela.

Many cities, and towns are also named in Spanish, such as Medellin, La Libertad, Naga City (prior to 1919 was known as Nueva Cáceres), Las Piñas, Prosperidad, Isabela, Sierra Bullones, Angeles, La Paz, Esperanza, Buenavista, Pilar, La Trinidad, Garcia Hernandez, Trece Martires, Los Baños, and many more. There are numerous other towns and cities named after saints, such as San Fernando, Santa Rosa, San Isidro, San José, San Juan and San Pablo, as well as after Spanish places like Madrid, Santander, Toledo, Cádiz, Valencia, Murcia, Lucena, and Pamplona.

Other native Filipino names are spelled using Spanish orthography, such as Cagayán de Oro, Parañaque, and Cebú.

Filipino Spanish surnames

On 21 November 1849 the Spanish Governor General of the Philippine Islands, Narciso Clavería, decreed the systematic distribution of surnames and the implementation of the Spanish naming system for Filipinos and Filipinas, thereby producing the Catálogo Alfabético de Apellidos (“Alphabetical Catalogue of Surnames") listing Spanish, Filipino, and Hispanicised Chinese words, names, and numbers. Thus many Spanish-sounding Filipino surnames are not surnames common to the Hispanophone world. However, Spanish nobility and colonial administrator surnames were explicitly prohibited.

The colonial authorities implemented this decree because too many (early) Christianized Filipinos assumed religious-instrument and saint names. There soon were too many people surnamed "de los Santos" (“of the Saints”), "de la Cruz" (“of the Cross”), "del Rosario" (“of the Rosary”), "Bautista" (“Baptist”), et cetera, which made it difficult for the Spanish colonists to control the Filipino people, and most important, to collect taxes. This Spanish naming custom countered the native Filipino naming custom wherein siblings assumed different surnames, as practised before the Spanish Conquest of the Philippine Islands.

Moreover, because of this implementation of Spanish naming customs (given name -paternal surname -maternal surname) in the Philippines, a Spanish surname does not necessarily denote Spanish ancestry.


The majority of Filipinos are descendants from Austronesian peoples. These people are closely related to the Chamorro people in Guam and the Mariana Islands. Although there are lots of other ethnicities in the Philippines, such as the native population related to the Aborigines of Australia and Melanesians. There are also Chinese, Japanese, and Indians.[2][3][4][5][6][7]

Official percentage of Filipinos with Spanish ancestry is unknown. The Philippine Statistics Department does not account for the racial background or ancestry of an individual. Different estimates of this mixed descent, either by the parent side, it is calculated that some 3,500,000 to 5,000,000. In other cases it is also estimated with a proximity of 17,000,000 to 36,550,197 people of Hispanic descent. But none of these estimates are supported by genetic studies.[8]


The Philippines is one of two predominantly Roman Catholic countries in Asia, the other being East Timor. About 90% of the population are Catholics. About 5% are Muslim, and about 5% practised other religion, and those with no religion.

Filipinos at home set up altars in the Hispanic tradition, adorned with Catholic images, flowers, and candles. During fiestas, most communities organise church services and religious processions in honour of a patron saint, hold funfairs and concerts, and feast with a variety of Filipino foods.


All major Roman Catholic holy days are observed as official national holidays in the Philippines. Spanish-Mexican culture and Christianity has influenced the customs and traditions of the Philippines.

Every year on the 3rd Sunday of January, the Philippines celebrates the festival of the "Santo Niño" (Holy Child Jesus), the largest being held in Cebu City.


Arts, literature and music

Hispanic influence is based on Indigenous, and European tradition. Folk dance, music, and literature have remained intact in the 21st century. These were introduced from Spain, and Mexico in the 16th century, and can be regarded as largely Hispanic in constitution, which have remained in the Philippines for centuries.


Main article: Filipino cuisine

The cuisine in the Philippines reflects the influences of Spanish and Asian cuisine.

They include:


In the business community, the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI) plays an integral role in the economic, political and social development of the nation. Historically, the chamber can be traced back as early as the 1890s with the inauguration of the Cámara de Comercio de Filipinas. This organisation was composed mainly of Spanish companies such as the Compañia General de Tabacos de Filipinas, Fábrica de Cerveza San Miguel, and Elizalde y Cía, among other Spanish, and Philippine companies.

During the first half of the 20th century commerce, and industrial trades with other Hispanic countries declined due to the United States administration of the Philippines. However, the resurgence of trade between Spain and Latin American nations had risen toward the closing of the century. 1998 marked the centennial celebration of Philippine independence, and opened a new opportunity for both Hispanic and Filipino businesses to reconnect their historic ties as trade partners.

See also


External links

This article was sourced from Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. World Heritage Encyclopedia content is assembled from numerous content providers, Open Access Publishing, and in compliance with The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., Public Library of Science, The Encyclopedia of Life, Open Book Publishers (OBP), PubMed, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and USA.gov, which sources content from all federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government publication portals (.gov, .mil, .edu). Funding for USA.gov and content contributors is made possible from the U.S. Congress, E-Government Act of 2002.
Crowd sourced content that is contributed to World Heritage Encyclopedia is peer reviewed and edited by our editorial staff to ensure quality scholarly research articles.
By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. World Heritage Encyclopedia™ is a registered trademark of the World Public Library Association, a non-profit organization.