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To my young daughter of the Philippines--Memories from EL GALEON DE MANILA

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Global navigation had really first become a reality with the one ship of Ferdinand Magellan that had succeeded in making an around the world cruise--way back in the 1520s.The world has never been the same since, but Mexicans and Filipinos since those heady centuries have often neglected to pass on the knowledge to their offspring that they were once tied together--like a child's umbilical cord to its mother.


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By Kevin Stoda: a father (tatay), a linguist, a historian

To my young daughter of the Philippines,

Among other things, by training, I am a Spanish teacher and (somewhat of) a Latin American historian. Because of these strong backgrounds in Latin American society and culture, I was aware early on that there was a strong connection between the cultures of Spain, Latin America and the Philippines. I had noted that the Spanish language had influenced the Filipinos for nearly 3 centuries before the USA came and occupied the 7000-plus islands of the Philippine Archipelago around the turn of the last century.

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However, the first time (circa 1986) I ever met a Filipina and tried to talk with her in Spanish, she had had no idea how to respond either in Spanish or even in her own tongue to the Spanish spoken to her by myself or my Latin American friends. That young college student had explained that English actually was more popular in her country in recent generations. At the time, I was living in Germany and had no intention of questioning what the young woman told me.

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Only, two decades later did I begin to partially call into question that young woman's response, i.e. that (American) English has greater influence on Filipino tongues, like Tagalog, and dialects than Spanish. This realization, of course, took place about the time I met your mother, who was born in the Visayas region of the Philippines. I learned from her and other Filipinos that "Spanish" language was spoken more in the Visayas region historically, where Cebu is located--and where the first Philippines to Mexico voyage crossing had been undertaken in 1565 under the helm of Andres de Urdaneta.


I learned from my-bride-to-be that her uncles and aunts had learnt Spanish when they first went to join convents and seminaries only a half-century or so ago. She, too, had learnt some Spanish in school (alongside English) and college. In some regions, towns, and islands of Visayas apparently, Spanish was an optional language in schools-- and even for final school exams in some cases well-into the 1980s.

Apparently, the Filipina I had met in Germany two decades earlier was from Luzon, or the more northern region of the Philippines archipelago, where only certain major enclaves of Spanish influence, like in central Manila, had been hollowed out on that largest of the Philippines islands. In contrast, my wife's two Visayan dialects--Ilongo and Cebuano--were, in fact, more continually influenced by the Spanish speaking peoples who dominated the region politically and economically for so long.

(NOTE: I should explain something that might be confusing here: The largest island in the Philippines is called Luzon and the northern region of islands is also called Luzon.) When I read the novels by Francisco Sionil Jose this past year [1], I learnt more about the role of Spanish in the modern Filipino psyche. I noted for example, in the novel that countless words referring to developments on the island of Negros, where my wife was born, were directly from Mexican or Latin American usage. For example, the concept of "hacienda" and "hacendero" were used in the same way that a Latin American novelist would project--i.e. not like in Spanish novels from Europe.


I had already long-noted in my visits to the Philippines that even the few Manila residents of Spanish descent --and who had grown up speaking Spanish (and who still have a Spanish identity)--used a Mexican or Latin American dialect--not an accent from Spain, i.e. not what the Mexicans would call castellano or Castillan dialect. [2]


Global navigation had really first become a reality with the one ship of Ferdinand Magellan that had succeeded in making an around the world cruise--way back in the 1520s. (Magellen, himself, was killed by Filipino natives in the Visayas region.) This first trans-global navigation and the eventual takeover of the Filipino Archipelago 30 years later quickly enabled Spain to create the first totally global trading and commercial system.


The world has never been the same since, but Mexicans and Filipinos since those heady centuries have often neglected to pass on the knowledge to their offspring that they were once tied together--like a child's umbilical cord to its mother. For this reason alone, there are over 5000 Spanish words adopted or adapted into each of the major languages and dialects of the Filipinos--even today. Probably in the Visayas region, where the Spanish influence was strongest early on, there has been left an even stronger language and cultural imprint than one might at first glance imagine.

For over 250 years--from the time of the conquest of Manila in the 16th century through the Independence of Mexico in the early 19th century, Spanish-led networks of commerce made Europe and Asian traders wealthy, i.e. as gold and other resources were sent either to Europe or East Asia from Spanish controlled Latin America. The shipping fleets that traveled back and forth between Mexico (Nueva Espana) and the Philippines were a key part of this commerce--and created in the Philippines, a special place where Asians, Europeans and Latin Americans lived and grew as a culture together.


The Spanish fleet that annually left from Acapulco was regularly loaded with gold and other new world recourses bound for Asia. These same fleets eventually came back from Manilas loaded with Eastern spices and goods for Mexico or to be carried overland and sent across the Carribean the Spanish motherland. In Mexico and Spain these ships were known as El Galeon de Manila in Mexico.


Meanwhile, "[t]rade served as the fundamental source of income for Spanish colonists in the Philippine Islands. A total of 110 Manila galleons set sail in the 250 years of the Manila-Acapulco galleon trade (1565 to 1815). Until 1593, three or more ships would set sail annually from each port. The Manila trade was becoming so lucrative that Seville merchants petitioned king Philip II of Spain to protect the monopoly of the Casa de Contratación based in Seville. This led to the passing of a decree in 1593 that set a limit of two ships sailing each year from either port, with one kept in reserve in Acapulco and one in Manila. An "armada" or armed escort of galleons, was also approved."


Soon, i.e. in the late 16th Century, Spain was forced to build the largest flotilla of great ships the world has ever seen, in order to both carry and protect the goods that were circumnavigating the globe (or were bouncing back between Asia and Mexico). "The galleons carried spices, porcelain, ivory, lacquerware, processed silk cloth gathered from both the Spice Islands, and Asia-Pacific, to be sold in the Americas, namely New Spain and Peru as well as in European markets. East Asia trading was primarily on a silver standard; the goods were mostly bought by Mexican silver. The cargoes were transported by land across Mexico to the port of Veracruz on the Gulf of Mexico, where they were loaded onto the Spanish treasure fleet bound for Spain. This route was the alternative to the trip west across the Indian Ocean, and around the Cape of Good Hope, which was reserved to Portugal according to the Treaty of Tordesillas. It also avoided stopping over at ports controlled by competing powers, such as Portugal and the Netherlands." It usually took 4 months to sail from Manila to Acapulco.

Simply put, "the galleons were the main link between the Philippines and the viceregal capital at Mexico City and thence to Spain itself. Many of the so-called "Kastilas' or Spaniards in the Philippines were actually of Mexican descent, and the Hispanic culture of the Philippines is [thus]somewhat close to Mexican culture." [3]


According to Perry Diaz, "Due to the long distance between Spain and the Philippines, the Viceroy of Mexico was given a carte blanche authority in governing the Philippines. . . . In 1815, Spain took over direct control of the Philippines when the Mexicans started fighting for independence. The 250 years that Mexico governed the Philippines has given rise to the claim that the Philippines was indeed a colony of Mexico. Why not? All of the governor-generals -- except Legazpi -- during the Mexican administration of the Philippines were born in Mexico. Most of the soldiers, colonists, missionaries, and traders who went to the Philippines were born in Mexico. Mexicans were encouraged to migrate to the Philippines. They were promised land and wealth."


Diaz, who feels strongly that Filipino textbooks need to be revised to show that Mexican and Filipino relations were very strong for 250 years, also notes, "With the continuous flow of Mexican colonists to the Philippines, immigration of Filipinos to Mexico also flourished. However, the circumstances were different. The Mexican colonists, with promises of land and wealth, were lured to settle in the Philippines. Filipinos ended up in Mexico for different reasons. The first Filipinos who "settled' in Mexico were four followers of Magat Salamat, the son of Lakandula who was the chieftain of Tondo at that time. These four men were exiled to Mexico in 1588 after revolting against Spain."

On the other hand, "In ensuing years [and centuries], hundreds of Filipino crewmembers -- due to harsh working conditions -- deserted their ships upon arrival in Acapulco. Some of them went as far as Louisiana where they founded a few villages. Others went to California. Those who remained in Mexico intermarried with Mexicans and settled in villages near Acapulco -- Espinalillo, Costa Grande, San Blas, and Puerto Vallarta, to name a few."

Likewise, "The Mexicans brought their native Nahuatl language to the Philippines. The Tagalog word "palenke' originated from the Nahuatl word "palenque.' Other Nahuatl words added to the Tagalog vocabulary included avocado, achuete, caimito, nanay, tatay, tocayo, and zapote. They also brought Mexican fruit trees and propagated them in the Philippines. Likewise, the Filipinos brought Mango and other exotic fruits to Mexico." Moroever, Nahuatl place and street names are prevalent in both the Luzon and in Visayas.

One blogger, who responded to Diaz' postings on the internets, staed, "This is a fascinating bit of Philippine history they don't teach in school. I've heard even the word 'tiangge' is Mexican in origin. Some Spanish colonial period churches, like the one in Morong, Rizal, have features of Mexican baroque. There could be more Mexican in us than we think."[4]

My dear daughter, Kenzenia, remember all this if someone in the USA mistakes a Filipino for a Mexican, OK?

I will write more to you on this as you grow bigger.




[1] Francisco Sionil Jose (born December 3, 1924) is one of the most widely-read Filipino writers in the English language and globally--as his works have been translated into nearly 25 languages. "His novels and short stories depict the social underpinnings of class struggles and colonialism in Filipino society."

[2] I must admit the following. Some parts of Spain, namely AndalucÃa, continue to hold similarities to Latin American Spanish. This is because many poor would-be conquistadors who went to Mexico were from this region of Spain, too. In short, Andalucian, the dialect in Spain, is today marked by a pronunciation much more similar to the Americas and the Spanish Caribbean than what is often spoken elsewhere on that same European peninsula.


[3] There is a city named Mexico in Pampanga. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mexico,_Pampanga

[4] Another commentator wrote:

"There is a small Filipino-Mexican common words book which I think was written by Leon Ma. Guerero.

The city of Merida on the gulf coast was the other end of the Manila-Acapulco trail. There are traces of Philippine culture in this city, probably much more than in Acapulco. They have ropa china which is like the blouse our lolas used to wear. Then they have certain cultural practices that come from the Philippines. Also some of their food is similar to ours. They are Mayas not Aztecs. In the countryside they live pretty much in the same way they did centuries ago.

Vera Cruz might also have traces of Filipinos since it was a port city in the gulf.

In Mexico City there is a church or chapel of Manila still standing. It's where missionaries bound for the Philippines stayed."




KEVIN STODA-has been blessed to have either traveled in or worked in nearly 100 countries on five continents over the past two and a half decades.--He sees himself as a peace educator and have been-- a promoter of good economic and social development--making-him an enemy of my homelands humongous DEFENSE SPENDING and its focus on using weapons to try and solve global (more...)

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