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The Philippines: The Other Melting Pot

Americans tend to think of the states as the ultimate melting pot of cultures; what started as a British colony is now a rich chunky stew of virtually every ethnicity of the world. Most would like to think we are a unique happenstance, but a truly unexpected culture formed on the Indonesian archipelago. Over 7,000 islands, collectively known as the great country of the Philippines, have a distinct Eastern culture seamlessly blended with a thick Western influence.

Tamaraw Falls in Puerto Galera
Tamaraw Falls in Puerto Galera

Because of the colonization of the world by Europe, the Philippines became another melting pot of cultures similar to the United States. With its own rich cultural traditions, Club Med worthy beaches and coastal areas, and expansive tropical forests; the island country is an often times missed traveling hotspot for tourists. Here are some of the cultural influences which have been blended into the Philippines:

Spanish

One of the most prevalent cultures on display in the Philippines is that of the Spanish. In 1565 when they arrived, they left a plethora cultural remnants the Philippians still use today. The Spanish language is the most commonly used. When the Spanish arrived, they made it a mission to give everyone a name in their own tongue in order to assimilate the country into their rule.

The Spanish also brought with them the Catholic religion which can be witnessed in some gruesome crucifixion rituals still practiced today. Spanish architecture takes a prominent role in most towns, where large Catholic churches became the center of town.

American

After the Spanish American war, the Treaty of Paris gave control of the Philippines over to the Americans. In an article on NPR about the 1904 World’s Fair in St. Louis, it is said that there were large exhibits displaying native cultures. With the recent acquisition of the islands, the country was given the largest exhibit; a 47 acre site where 1000 native people lived in replica huts in Forest Park.

Today, anything with a “Made in America” sticker or label on it is favored by people in the country. They are also infatuated with pop music, television, and other pop culture from America.

French

One of the most conspicuous absences from the list of countries who conquered or settled in the Philippines is France. While the French did not have as much of an impact on the economic or political means of the culture, their influence can be seen with the extravagant food structure and the importance placed on meals throughout the day. In France, food is seen as a social occasion and the Filipinos have the same mentality while eating about six times a day. The writer Felix Roxas said in a newspaper, “He who has not stayed in Paris has not seen the world and has not lived.”

Chinese and Japanese

While Western influence on the Philippines is prevalent, the two major powers of the far-east, China and Japan, were settling the country long before any Europeans or Americans. Through various occupations and economic ties, these two countries have had the most influence on the islands.

With cultures rubbing off on the Filipinos for several centuries and their own indigenous population being an important cultural factor; this group of islands in Southeast Asia is cultural goldmine.

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    2 Responses to “The Philippines: The Other Melting Pot”

    1. Joseph D says:

      I would love to visit the Philippines. I didn’t know they have over 7,000 islands. That’s crazy! I learned a lot from this article. Good history lesson. Keep up the good work!

    2. Frederick says:

      7, 107 to be exact…And because of this, I feel so lucky to be Pinoy because we’re very rich of resources and places to travels.
      Frederick´s last blog post ..Visit Taoist Temple in Cebu City

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