What was the Filipino like before the Spaniards came? How did all the influences through the centuries affect the character of the present day Filipino?
It has already been established that before we became known as the Philippines, our archipelago was first inhabited by the Negritos and soon after came the arrival of the Austronesian people who brought with them influences from the Malay, Hindu and Islamic cultures. The native culture of Austronesia is diverse, varying from region to region, although from what is known, they were basically seafarers. This diversity can be seen up to the present time as evidenced by the over 150 languages scattered throughout more than 7000 islands. Simply put, the Filipino culture is complex and confusing...a modern day Tower of Babel.
From our written history we are told that in spite of the Spanish, American, Chinese, Indian and Arab influences, the native Filipino has retained a distinct culture, positive traits like strong religious faith, respect for authority, high regard for amor proprio (self-esteem) and desire for smooth interpersonal relationships. These traits however made the Filipinos vulnerable to conquest and dominance. Why? Because when taken to extremes, these traits can result to fatalism, authoritarianism, clannishness and a willingness to sacrifice personal integrity making the Filipino an easy target for exploitation by the more sophisticated foreign colonizers: first, Spain and later, the United States of America. Spanish and American culture blended with our native customs creating a way of like that implies an identity crisis of sorts... Doña Victorina is as common today as yesterday. So is the way we are today the fault of our foreign colonizers? Of course not...they saw our weakness and exploited it like any good colonizer. We were ignorant, naive, trusting...and these worked against us in the 16th century. The tragedy of the Filipino people lies not in the fact that we were colonized but the fact that we have not learned anything from our past...we are still ignorant, naive, trusting...it is like time stood still for us. The Marcos dictatorship, our politicians, the media, the communists, and who else is there, are our modern day colonizers...
Today is Pentecost Sunday...we celebrate the descent of the Holy Spirit, the birth of the Catholic Church. As Asia's only Catholic country, the Philippines will do well to heed the voice of the Spirit. The priest in the evening mass I attended stated that the cultural and language diversity of our country makes it hard for us to attain unity unless we practice using the universal language. And what is that language? It is the language of LOVE...love for country and love for others...because with love all things are possible.