The Philippines
Republika ñg Pilipinas

The other Oriental

Günter Schwarz & Rosalinda Morgado-Schwarz
© 2002

Bukid Any visitor who is travelling throughout the Philppines the first time will be surprised by its feature. In vain he is looking for the typical distinctive signs of the countries in the neighborhood, i.e. the Hindu temples with their magnificently carved "God-Towers", the golden Buddha Statues, and the high Dagobas. Just in the southern Muslim region of the country he will see the mosques and their slim minarettes. Instead of these all over the country from the north of Luzon till the south of Visayas the guest meets thousands of churches and Houses of God that reflect a strange baroque opulence of forms and shapes in their tropical surrounding. The Philippines are the only catholic country in South-East- Asia and consequently, it is not strange at all that you are merely reminded at any other landscapes - may be at any regions in of Latin America.

It seems there is a certain correspondence of the around 7100 islands and even in relation to the Philippinian food any expectation of the tourists will not be fulfilled since any biting curries and any are hot spices like satays are totally missing. The kitchen of the Filipinos offers an unusual mild and almost ascetic "island diet" that is influenced by the conservative Spanish kitchen and by a certain portion of Chinese improvising talent. However, of course they do not completely neglect chilies either!

procession of kids Between the 21st. and the 5th. latitude, situated at the margin of the Pacific Ocean, the Philippines are actually only a part of a sunken mountain-ridge that had been part of a large and high Cordillera that extended from Indonesia via the Philippines and Taiwan up to Japan. From north to south the country measures 1,840 km whereas the maximum extention from its eastern to its western islands is 1,104 km.. Y'ami in Batangas is situtated 241 km south of Taiwan and Sibutu an island of the Tawi-Tawi-group is only 48 km far away from Borneo. The Chinese border is approximately 1,000 km west of the Philippinian Islands. The 11 large islands of the archipelago cover around 96 % of the 300,780 sq km surface of the country. Not even 1 of 10 Philippinian islands is inhabited. The two largest islands, Luzon an Mindanao, cover 65 % of the total surface and around 60 % of the 83 Million population settles on these islands. The ridge of land of the archipelago corresponds approximately with the one of Italy and it is only a little bit smaller than Japan's surface and a bit bigger than the British Islands. As a result of the numerous islands the coast line of the Philippines even excels to the one of the United States of America

Three hundred twenty-five Years "Monastery" and fifty Years "Uncle Sam"

The challenging combination of the sea and the mountains probably caused that the archipelago did never play an essential role in Asian's history. In the run of Thousands of years China, Indone-sia, India, and Indochina (presently Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos) experienced the rise and the fall of big dynasties and mighty empires. These historical events with a lot of consequences never touched the archipelago - neither in geographical nor in political respects. It neither experienced rising kingdoms nor was it conquered by ambitious warriors heading any dangerous and bloodthirsty armies. Even after the Islam gained a foothold on the southern islands - it is not even 1,000 years ago - the consequences remained locally since the islands never had been a real nation.

When the Spaniards who were looking for spices accidentally "discovered" the islands in 1521 they met on an accumulation of small sultanates and kingdoms but there was not any central power. The natives were descendants of poeple who had emigrated on to the islands within the run of 4,000 years. They had developed from their Malayan-Polynesian roots to relatively isolated families, clans, and tribes. This social structure aided the Spaniards to colonize the archipelago easily. Although the power of the sword and the Kastilian Cross established a certain degree of unity the basic differences among the proud local groups and tribes have survived till today. Neither the Spanish Empire nor the United States of America were able to solve the existing rivalries and disputes. The colonial dominion had considerably been engraved on the country and nevertheless, the period of three hundred twenty-five years monastery followed by fifty years Uncle Sam was not able at all to destroy the characteris-tic mentality of the Filipinos.

The Malayan-Polynesian Speech Community

According to the last censuses on the Philippines, presently, there are still 111 different classes of people that have different cultural and linguistic roots. The officially spoken language Pilipino or Tagalog originally had been the dialect of the Tagalogs out of the area of Manila and the southern regions of Luzon. Besides of this language, in the country there still are further 70 spoken languages and dialects of the Malayan-Polynesian speech community. However, since English had been the main language for approximately 70 years, still nowadays you can communicate with natives even in rural areas much more easily than in any other part of Asia

Doubtless the Filipino is a close relative to the Malayan and to the Polynesian people and a far relative of most of the Southeastasian and Pacifician people, but there also are some drops of Indian, Arabian, Chinese and Spanish blood in his veins.

A totally inoriental Oriental

It is throughout possible to discover attributes and characteristics of the Filipino that he has in common with the Mexican, the Argentinian or the Indio who also had been attacked by Madre Españas regiment. A heritage of the more than 300 years lasting Hispanization is a touch of Mañana-mentality, inconstancy, a predilection for rhetoric and style, a like for fashion and any other follies, and a musical talent that enables Philippinian music groups to work as entertainer in any Asian night clubs all over the continent.

It is not a wunder that this creature, an oriental who does not fit into the normal scale of orientals, even has to stand a moderate criticism in his own country. The Chinese consider him to be too much "Americanized" to correspond to their Mandarin taste, the Indians are astonished about his burlesque way to use the spoken standard English, and the Malayan shake their headas as soon as they meet a Malayan who looks and talks like they do but who is not a Muslim

Their obstinacy and inconsequence makes it difficult to judge the Pinoy (the Filipinos themselves call familiarly each other as Pinoys). He combines the Malayan kindness of heart and generosity, the temper of the Latin Americans, any states of mind that suddenly drop him out of the blue sky of his optimism and makes him become ill-humored, imprudent but, nevertheless, still charming.