Stop looking for the “pure” Filipino

One recent discussion with a commenter saw him state that he is looking for the “pure” Filipino, a culture that is untainted by foreign influences. Some people like him believe that there is a Filipino culture free of any influence from foreign sources. They believe that achieving this “pureness” is done by excising foreign influences, and that it will be good for the country.

Unfortunately, this will never be true.


Another recent article saw Benign0 of Get Real Philippines propose the elimination of Tagalog as a medium of instruction and the maintaining of English only as such (although it does not mean we cannot learn our local languages). Again, this raises the issue of allowing foreign influences into our culture. Some feel that using English is copping out to other countries and being a traitor to our own culture. I beg to differ; as I explained in a comment, English can help unite our different ethnicities, which is has done since American times.

In the thread back in Antipinoy where the topic was first raised, BongV posted a lengthy comment containing the article “The Fabricated Philippine State” by Joseph Fallon that explains the history of the Philippine identity. Bong’s starting comment is right: there is no such thing as the “pure” Filipino. Get over it.

One of the myths some have about other countries is that they were able to develop their cultures without outside influence. Japan is often cited as an “independent” culture. But look back into their history. Japan during the start of the imperial era actually copied China, and hence the similarities in their lettering system, dress and architecture. Look at our western world. America is not an original culture. It took from Britain, which is turn took from most of Europe, which took from Rome, which took from Greece, which took from Crete and Egypt, and so on. Even ancient cultures like Sumer and Egypt are thought to have not originated on their own. Thus, every modern culture today is a “tainted” culture. No country at all has a pure culture. We are all melting pots of the entire human race. That goes for the Philippines as well; there was foreign influence even before, when the old bahag-wearing tribes and datus were dealing with Chinese and other cultures.

Any claim to have a “pure” culture may be a hint to claiming a “pure” race, and that comes dangerously close to Nazi beliefs, which claimed that there is a pure race and their culture that is the highest of all. And the Nazis believed that this race and culture can only be protected from “mixing” and desecration by destroying the other “races.” And thus, that is racism, nationalism and genocide all rolled into one. Cultural purists in the Philippines may be at risk of being like this.

I will quote in entirety a Wiki Answers entry to the idea of “pure Filipino values:”

“I don’t think Philippines have a pure Filipino values of their own. All the values exhibited at present are acquired from various cultures.
Respecting the elderly and being a close-knit family is also the same as with our neighbouring Asian countries. Predilection for new technology and cartoons came from the Japanese. Siesta, fiesta and fatalism came from the Spaniards. And so on.
The values that our families brought us up with display the strength of our moral fiber.”

On the last statement I offer again my article on family values.

And there you have it. There are sure to be so many reputable sources aside from the above saying that the Filipino culture cannot be “pure.” Even the word Filipino – the Philippines itself – comes from King Philip II, the Spanish King during Magellan’s time (so being “Filipino” actually means paying homage to King Philip – sorry purists, you just shot yourselves in the foot).

On another note, perhaps God created resources distributed in different parts of the world to teach people that they should get along to be able to access the resources the other has. Hence, we have international trade. The Philippines should not close up to this setup just because it wants to be proud. All it is doing by isolation is shouting to the world that it is not the village idiot when in fact it is the village idiot.

The problem with the “pure” Filipino belief is that it is pure sentimentalist drivel without a practical purpose in mind. All it looks for is pride. But making pride a prime pursuit often leads to folly. It is vanity; it is arrogance. I always argued that if we ever drop the foreign influences, such as Spanish and American colonialism, we would go back to the days of alibata and wear only bahags. We would become backward, without technology and our factionalism today would be more violent, as was most likely in ancient days.

A wish to find the “pure” Filipino is probably based on trying to find someone else to blame for our defective culture. It may even be part of triumphalism, the belief that Filipinos are always good and perfect, and should prove themselves as superior to the rest of the world. The movement thus can be considered an expression of anti-foreignist sentiments from vested interests to pass the buck. It’s also just a “feel good” pill. However, our defective culture has nothing else to blame but ourselves. Even without our former foreign colonizers around, we still bear the same laziness and bad habits, as well as the social structure, that keep us backwards, and yet we keep blaming the colonizers for it. Why don’t we change the bad habits and social structure then?

And race has recently been debunked as a “natural” feature and is proven to be a mere social construct. Culture is also a social construct. And so is the nation.

One of the problems with the attempts to achieve a “pure” culture is that they can be based on falsehood. Much like the lunar buggy or the fluorescent lamp purportedly being invented by Filipinos. Much of the attempts to inspire a dollop of nationalism in our people have been marred by lies and exaggerations. Perhaps it is a reflection of how bankrupt we have become as a culture.

I reiterate. There is no such thing as a “pure” Filipino. A Filipino is part of the Malay race in East Asia right? And when we look at Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam and Malaysia, some of them look so much like Filipinos. We are of the same race, cut from the same mold, endure the same weather and have similar cultures. And they also had foreign influences. Let us stop pursuing this false notion of a “pure” culture and embrace these foreign influences along with indigenous parts, because together, they define our culture.

For a closing thought, let me offer the opinion of Nusaybah Muti, who posted his paper about Filipino culture on Scribd:

“The Philippines is surely a melting pot of the world’s cultures. Yet, out of that pot, it has made a distinctive product that is only one of a kind – Filipino! We should all be very proud of this heritage.”


About ChinoFern

Just another nobody on the Internet who believes even nobodies should have a voice... because the Internet provides that.
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40 Responses to Stop looking for the “pure” Filipino

  1. Marcing Pin says:

    We need to tackle this “pure Filipino” mentality.. even in basketball, Filipinos prefer “pure” Filipino Jordan wannabes than a Fil-foreign player who knows the fundamental rules of playing proper basketball

    • Aegis-Judex says:

      “Pure” Filipino? What is that but something of the soul? My definition of a “pure” Filipino is this: Someone who, regardless of age, creed, or gender, is willing to do what he must for the sake of the Philippines. That is the heart of the Pure Filipino.

      • ChinoF says:

        That can be a better definition of “pure.” Meaning, “pure” intention. And there’s no need to make enemies of non-Filipinos to do it.

  2. Hyden Toro says:

    The only nation that promoted the “Pure Race” theory was: the NAZIs of Germany, headed by Adolph Hitler, before World War II. They claimed to had come from the ARYAN Race. A superior human breed of
    Extra Terrestials and Humans. (Watch out for Scientologists!). Other races were deemed sub-human. They were only good in being servants of the German Aryan Race. The Pure Aryan Race must be : white, blond and blue eyed. The Jews, Gypsies, and other minorities were deported to the Concentration Camps; to serve as laborers; until they die of starvations. Others were forced to the Ghettos, like the slums of todays, subsisting on hand to mouth existence, because they were sub-human.

    There is no such thing as pure race. I, myself, is a mixture of races: Filipino, Chinese, Spanish, Indian, etc..
    To claim to go back to wearing a “bahag” is not only stupid, but ridiculous. We can rediscover our noble past; claim them, that they are inherently ours; but not to the tune of sacrificing what we have already advanced in our: culture, education and civilization.

    Globalization is the trend for our world. We must be members of the Human Community. Instead, of secluding ourselves of this idiocy of being a “Pure Filipino.” I see every human being as the same; inspite of their: races, color, sex, natural origin, religion, belief, sexual orientation, etc…We are all part of the human race. Once, we will be able to discover the means of travelling faster than the speed of light: we will soon discover other Planets. Perhaps, other beings and other civilizations in other Planets of this vast Universe. THINK IN TERMS OF HUMANITY. NOT IN TERMS OF NATIONALITY. This is the call of the future…

    • famous wolf says:

      A lot of Filipinos are blatant racists is general, they don’t know it but it’s there, it’s no wonder why someone like Carolla made that podcast.

  3. ulong pare says:

    … daaang

    … to figure out my ancestry, my dna/gnomes was chopped down to atomic level. i didn’t like what i found out…. i should have left it alone…

    … result: i’m half jackass, half flip… >>> 101 % flipass… :mrgreen:

    … 1% dickhead! 😳

  4. Joe America says:

    Yes, I agree. It seems to me the US is a melting pot of different nationalities of people who went there to find new opportunity, and generally found what they were looking for. The Philippines is a nation cobbled together over a couple of centuries, as BongV has pointed out in a recent historical summary, and has a variety of national origins from Malay to Spanish and even a few Americans, bless them. The island residents weren’t and aren’t even today looking for much, just subsisting, in the main . . . and bickering now and then. Therein lies the big difference between American “push” and Filipino “getting by”.

    Nationhood is an artificial construct, held together well or not well by ideologies such as those expressed in the American Constitution, or various Ayatollahs, dictators, parliaments, or kings. The purpose is security and economic . . . um . . . advancement. The method varies. Filipinos in the modern era have no outside enemies. Just inside. There is a heartfelt desire for nationhood, but other parts of the body don’t cooperate.

    • NFA rice says:

      @Joe America,
      I admire the basis of the American Constitution. It was formulated as some form of protest against the excesses of Europe. Our Constitution is mostly a copy of the American one and I find little fault with that.

      The problem in the Philippines is that people have vague (or non-existent) idea what the Constitution is all about. Education about history mostly dwell on how the people are being “oppressed” by foreign powers, eulogies of our so-called heroes and how great the FIlipino nation is. No wonder people have a false sense of national pride, without actual knowledge of what the nation actually is – that is, the Constitution and the laws emanating from it.

      • NFA rice says:

        I should add that respect for our national institutions is derived from a knowledge of the origins of the Constitution. It is not just a piece of paper but the sum of history.

  5. Anonylol says:

    >”One recent discussion with a commenter saw him state that he is looking for the “pure” Filipino, a culture that is untainted by foreign influences.”

    I laughed.

    Then I realized that that guy was probably serious. Suddenly, it wasn’t so funny anymore.

  6. Dee says:

    If we want to talk about “pure” Filipino, we should not forget the Aetas. I mean most Filipinos are Malay-looking but Aetas are the indigenous people who has been in the country even before the Austronesian migration and the Spanish colonial establishment. I’m not completely sure but I feel like many of them still maintain their tradition and culture. Even though quite primitive, it’s the closest one to being “pure” if not pure.

    • ChinoF says:

      If you mean “pure” as who was first in this land. Like the American Indian tribes. Though that doesn’t really matter in the end.

      • Dee says:

        Not really the first in this land.

        This was the given definition:

        “One recent discussion with a commenter saw him state that he is looking for the “pure” Filipino, a culture that is untainted by foreign influences. Some people like him believe that there is a Filipino culture free of any influence from foreign sources.”

        The Aetas are the ones who really didn’t assimilate nor integrate into the mainstream Filipino society that’s heavily influenced by foreigners, thereby retaining their original culture, or at least most of it, in addition to being the first settlers who naturally existed rather than migrated (like the rest) into the Philippine islands. I’m not very familiar with the contemporary culture of the Aetas so I could be wrong.

      • ChinoF says:

        I was immersed in Aeta community back in my Ateneo Theo 104 days (1996). They watched local TV then, so by now, they should have some improvement. If not, well… you know why they’re still considered a “marginalized” culture.

        Even if Aetas provs the commenter right, the motive is still wrong. Removal of foreign influences… we should not do that at all.

      • ChinoF says:

        Oh yeah, here’s the clincher… so if Aetas are “pure,” should all Filipinos be like the Aetas? That’s “pure” stupidity for me. Live in the world, not just in the Philippines.

      • Dee says:

        Sorry I missed the part of removing foreign influences. But yes I completely agree with you.

        1. It’s impossible.
        2. It’s the most idiotic thing to even attempt to do.

        If it were possible to just eliminate the negative influences.. fine, that sounds pretty good to me. But again, it’s not possible. Attempting to do so would likely do more harm than good.

      • ChinoF says:

        No problem, I did not assume you were against my point. At least other readers will benefit from this exchange.

      • ulong pare says:

        … daaang

        … if y’all want to be “pure flips” like aetas (negritoes), allah eh… kayo na lang… :mrgreen:

        … i was featured at National Geographic as the “missing link”… a photo showed my thingy was hanging all the way to my knees… all the world’s sexy gurlz went amok…. at close inspection, the photo revealed that it wasn’t my thingy… it was my bahag (g-string)

        … i accidentally started a new fad/haute couture >>> thongs aka butt floss… 😳

        … so folks, if y’all looking for PURE FLIPS, look no further… i’m the real thang!!! :mrgreen:

        … dang you prez abnoy! dang you obama!

  7. jp says:

    LOL thanks im gonna use this argument in 4chan as basis that there is no pure race (getting tired of all the Nordic posts there)
    thanks for the article

  8. benign0 says:

    We just need a good value proposition to surround the whole idea of “being Filipino”. Whether or not being Filipino offers a good value proposition can be somewhat ascertained on the basis of how convincingly we are able to answer this question:

    Of what benefit is it to me to be seen to be or considered part of the Filipino nation?

    In short: What’s so great about being Filipino?

    If we are able to answer those questions with conviction, then that indicates that the whole idea of “Filipino” offers a strong value proposition. But if we stammer our way towards even coming up with a half-arsed answer to those questions, well, the verdict becomes a bit more obvious… 😉

    • Miriam Quiamco says:

      I am Filipino only to foreigners on the basis of my nationality, I am a Philippine passport holder. That is all, abroad I consider myself Filipino because I originate in the Philippines, but I do not identify with a lot of values that Filipinos abroad want you to embrace such as saying things to another that you don’t actually mean in order to create that goody-goody feeling when the group congregates. I also do not identify with the Filipino churchgoers here, I go to church close to my home and not to seek out the company of other Filipinos. We are only Filipinos insofar as we are all Philippine passport holders and we are somehow knowledgeable of the ills facing the country at the moment. There are Filipinos here whose ways I am totally averse to, such as their tendency to scream and call attention to themselves at public places by not following standard Japanese behavior. For example, at the airport, you see Filipino women sitting on the laps of their Japanese husbands or being overly solicitous to the needs of their foreign husbands. Well, I don’t know if this is part of Filipino identity, but I am totally turned off by it all.

      Abroad, we are often made to identify ourselves in terms of our cultural heritage, I tend to be circuitous when pressed on what constitutes being a Filipino. It is true there is no such thing as pure Filipino for the Philippines is a construct of the Spanish imagination. Imperialist powers in Southeast Asia agreed amongst themselves to apportion islands, calling a group Dutch East Indies, the other grouping belonged to the Brits and the Spaniards claimed a group of islands theirs by naming them the Philippines. But some of the islands in the Spanish grouping could very well be part of Dutch Indonesia and others part of British Malaysia, so there you go, besides we are all mixed blooded. I for one have Chinese, Spanish, Malay and probably some British ancestry, who is a pure Filipino, this is an oxymoron.

  9. Baron Von Cruzer says:

    I have to bring up one correction. The Phillipines were named on the second expedition to the islands, and Philip was crown prince at the time, not king. In fact, he wasn’t born yet during the Magellan expedition. His father, King Charles I of Castille and Aragon (not King Of Spain) was just past his teens when he approved the expedition.

    Incidentally, King Charles I as Holy Roman Emperor Charles V is the same guy who condemned Martin Luther igniting the Protestant Revolution. That’s why he is oftentimes wrongly called King Charles V of Spain.

    King of Spain is a historical designation. Spain were two separate countries at the time. Castille was the one that ruled the Philippines and the Americas. Aragon ruled most of Italy, including Sicily. The Mafia had it’s origins in the struggle against Spanish rule.

    All this isn’t really relevant to this discussion, but there was just a need to clarify how the term “Filipino” came about. “Filipino” originally meant a Spaniard born in the islands. Natives were called “Indio” (Indian).

    • ChinoF says:

      Thanks for coming and clarifying those things. We need to have perspectives with the right information.

      Thus, the meaning of Filipino has changed. Does being called Filipino mean we all want to be Spaniards? Nope. It’s the name of our country. Live with it. If you try to think of another name, we’ll have another Moro-Moro in our hands (pardon the pun).

      So what you pick? Are you for Castile or Aragon? The latter sure sounds it’s from Lord of the Rings. 😛

  10. Ponse says:

    A detailed study of World history should be a part of our school curriculum really. All I recall my children study are things like Sibika and local history – very little emphasis on other cultures and nations. It encourages a very insular mindset.

    • ChinoF says:

      It encourages a very insular mindset.

      That is the problem. I am very anti-insularist, and feel that insularism is anti-foreign and detrimental to us.

  11. t0da says:

    Nick Joaquin had some brilliant points to share. Unfortunately, I cannot find the text online (“Culture and History”). So here’s someone’s blog that I just copied from, which is basically what Joaquin was saying. (No infringement intended)

    “Culture is a dynamic process. It is a contested process of meaning-making. Culture is what people make it to be, and people are not always in agreement over what it is and what it ought to be (which is precisely why I am replying lengthily to this post, because though we were both Filipino we don’t agree over what that actually means). Cultural identities are not bound or static: they are dynamic, fluid, constructed situationally, in particular places and times. As conditions change, cultural groups adapt in dynamic and sometimes unpredictable ways.”

    “is culture simple addition and identity subtraction? Peel away all the accumulated layers of foreign influence and we’ll end up with the true basic Filipino identity?”

    If we reverted to our “pure” Filipino cuisine, we’d lose a lot of what we have. We’d end up with boiled soup (and all its incarnations).

  12. Lorenz says:

    If this is directed to me then i would like to clarify this as this is not what i meant at all. i should have rephrased my words.

    Eastern and Western cultures are vastly different.

    I just want to know everything about the people who lived in the Philippines before the Spaniards came. Their cultures, traditions, mythology, folklore, cuisines,etc. because there is little to no information available. This is what i meant.

    What i meant by pure Filipino is the Filipino who was once a pure Asian not influenced and tainted by Western cultures. Our original ancestors were said to be heavily influenced by Chinese, Indian, and Arab cultures which are all Asian.

    Face it, West and East are vastly different and will always be. The Chinese culture was never ever influenced by the West and so does other empires in the east. It’s only when colonizations and conquering of Asia by Western nations that influences started coming in.

    BTW, i’m a supporter of Pan-Asianism (not the one by the Japanese Empire) and i am for interaction of different cultures.

    Taken from Wiki : “The idea of Asian values is somewhat of a resurgence of Pan-Asianism. One foremost enthusiast of the idea of Asian values is the former prime minister of Singapore, Lee Kuan Yew.”

    Also, Read this. Here is a remark by a Japanese film producer:

    “He later explained in numerous interviews that he created Lain(anime) with a set of values he took as distinctly Japanese; he hoped Americans would not understand the series as the Japanese would. This would lead to a “war of ideas” over the meaning of the anime, hopefully culminating in new communication between the two cultures. When he discovered that the American audience held the same views on the series as the Japanese, he was disappointed.”

    Why was he disappointed?

    • ChinoF says:

      Lorenz, yes, I wrote this in reaction to your comment. Thanks for coming over to clarify your stance. I wrote this because I am worried that looking for an untainted Filipino identity has no other purpose than to stuff up a false sense of national pride and make “enemies” of foreigners. The latter is the last thing we should do in today’s era.

      Since you know that before the Spanish came, we were different tribes that never united as a nation, it would make a poor source of unity or national identity to look at that time. Unity is something we can’t find in the past, we have to look forward for that. Our foreign influences are a good tool for unity. That’s why I agree with Benign0’s article that called for English only as the instructional medium in our education.

      I assume you are a believer in the East vs. West conflict. I see this as a false dichotomy. Within West, there are different values, and withing East, different too. But even if it exists, I see the East vs West mentality as pure propaganda of old days for mere pataasan ng ihi. It is being undone today, now with more understanding that uniting people of different cultures is essential for a much better world to live in, instead of diametrically opposing them just to prove who’s better (it will only prove that no one’s better).

      I myself am one of the skeptics of the existence of “Asian values.” Asian cultures are also widely varied, and should not be lumped together in opposition to “western values.” I believe in dropping that Asian Values concept altogether. It’s the theory of only a few, and I doubt it helps define successes of countries like Singapore. It’s economic policy that actually underpins their success. But the free exchange of ideas and cultures between Asian neighbors is good. We need that. But it should also happen between east and west, not just between east only.

      BTW, the producer of Lain had an expectation. It was frustrated. That’s what happens when you make any movie, novel or comics. If he is disappointed to learn that Japanese and American culture are not that much different, that’s nothing to be alarmed about; it is only his own opinion. If he wanted to separate the Japanese from foreign, say that Japanese is better, that’s a bias and of course will be treated as such.

      I think we should all drop this idea of East and West and just stop bundling thing under identities just to It’s just like pitting Madonna against Cyndi Lauper, or Duran Duran against Spandau Ballet. These parties don’t start the rivalries themselves (to the best of my knowledge), but the fans are the ones who start it. It’s making enemies out of those that should not be enemies.

      Lorenz, I know your intentions may be good in your comment, but alas the means does not justify the end. So I just disagree with your means. Of course, I took the liberty of taking off from your comment and looking into other issues. Thanks.

  13. Lorenz says:

    BTW, i am fully aware that Philippines is a country “firstly” made by the Spaniards and not by the citizens themselves. Bonifacio and Aguinaldo wanted to recreate and reborn the country but failed because of the Americans.

    BTW, to keep it simple, all people will always be different hence constant conflicts. It is the nature of man just like the animals to have and keep boundaries and feel more connected to their own. Those who think globalization to the extreme where one planet one people no country no boundary, you are in a severe delusion.

    • Baron Von Cruzer says:

      “Bonifacio and Aguinaldo wanted to recreate and reborn the country but failed because of the Americans.”

      Really?!!! You don’t think Aguinaldo ordering the murder of Bonifacio had anything to do with it?

      • ChinoF says:

        In a sense, Bonifacio and Aguinaldo each have their own ideas about how to recreate the country… and they still disagreed. And they hated each other. No different from how it is today. Split in the 1890s, split in the 1980s, split in the 2010s. Epic fail for more than a century.

  14. Zadkiel says:

    I believe that we don’t have to search for that pure Filipino. What we need is a better Filipino. Someone who is defined for what he values and walks, the two must be en sync. We want to progress then we have to develop a culture of a progressive people.

  15. Jay says:

    well that totally trumps the mainstream idea of finding the real Filipino. Don’t look in the past but build it for the future and I couldn’t agree anymore than that. I’ll certainly muse over that thought. I mean its not bad to look at the past of the Philippines, and be amazed at the the uncovered history (because no organization or entity has done much to collect on it) but it certainly doesn’t stop there. People had the right idea the Philippines is a young nation but never thought about evolving. Its always stories about the past, revering the old to the point of never ever wanting to forget them, probably in fear because they don’t know ALL about their past. When it is the present and the future they should build the Better Filipino for.

    kinda trumps Brownraise.

  16. manzi says:

    paano yung mga unggoy who claim to have european ancestry but can’t back it up?

  17. Mumbay says:

    The Spanish culture is also mixed and is also East and West. Many Spaniards who colonized other countries were of Arab ( and Jewish) descent. If you look at pictures of some conquistadors, they look very Semitic. Servantes looks like he could be from Dubai.

    So, you already have Asian in Spaniards. I bet you never thought of that.

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