Ethnic Groups of the Philippines

Spanish Filipinos

The three hundred and thirty-three (333) years of Spanish reign have cemented the Spanish influence in almost all aspects of Filipino culture, arts, education, religion, languages, and even people’s surnames. Unsurprisingly and inevitably, this period has also resulted in children of mixed Filipino and Spanish blood. They are the Spanish Filipino people, also called Español Filipino, and Hispano Filipino, and colloquially referred to as tisoy for males and tisay for females (from the Spanish word mestizo/mestiza).

Filipinos of Spanish ancestries are scattered all over the country. At present, they mostly speak English and Filipino, along with the Spanish-based creole language Chavacano or Chabacano for inhabitants of Zamboanga del Sur, Zamboanga del Norte, Zamboanga Sibugay, and Basilan.

Most Hispano Filipinos today belong to the upper and middle socioeconomic classes. They remain influential in various sectors, including politics, business, and entertainment. Some of their members are part of elite families in the country.

Spanish Government

The establishment of the Spanish settlement started with conquistador Miguel López de Legazpi arriving in Cebu in 1565, later establishing Manila as the capital of the Spanish East Indies in 1571. The country was later named the Philippines after King Philip II of Spain and was forced under the territory first of Mexico City until the 19th century, then later under Madrid, Spain in 1821. As a result, Spanish became the lingua franca of the country in the late 1500s until the 20th century, only being demoted in 1987. During this time, pure-blooded Spanish people are natively referred to as kastila (“Castilian”), while the Filipino indigenous people are referred to with the derogatory term indios (“uncivilized”) by the Spanish. Today, most Filipinos of Spanish descent are part of the ethnic groups in the Philippines speaking their respective regional languages, with only a minority still knowing Spanish.

Spanish-Written Philippine Literature

One of the most relevant influences of the Spanish government is the spread of Christianity in the Philippines. Therefore, it is of no surprise that one of the earliest books printed in the country is the Doctrina Christiana, an early book of Roman Catholic Catechism written by Fray Juan de Plascencia in 1593. After its publication, the emergence of significant writings in Spanish during the 19th century followed. Subsequently, Filipino writers used Spanish in their bodies of work.

For a while, literature was the most important medium of expression for Filipino rebellion against Spanish reign. Some notable works that were written during this time include Noli Me Tángere (Touch Me Not) in 1887, El Filibusterismo (The Filibustering) in 1891, and Mi Último Adiós (My Last Farewell) in 1896, all written by the Philippine national hero, Dr. Jose Rizal. Likewise, other publications at the time included Del Superior Gobierno in 1811, which was the first Philippine newspaper; Diario de Manila from 1848 to 1852, and 1860 to 1898; El Comercio from 1869 to 1925; and La Solidaridad from 1889 to 1895. It is important to note that La Solidaridad was the instrument of the propaganda movement against Spain and the leading medium for national writings in the 19th century. As for its primary contributors include Graciano López Jaena, Marcelo H. del Pilar, José Rizal, Antonio Luna, Mariano Ponce, and José María Panganiban.

When the Americans colonized the country, the surge for Spanish literary activity ensued, aptly dubbed as “The Golden Age” of Philippine Literature. One of the main reasons for this surge is that Spanish remained as a medium of expression in the Philippines, along with English and local languages (e.g., Tagalog, Ilocano, Bisaya, et al).

Secondly, and most importantly, liberal ideas were finally permitted. The newspapers El Renacimiento and La Vanguardia thrived the most during this time, along with popular poetry books Bajo los Cocoteros by Claro M. Recto (1911), Crisálidas by Fernando Ma. Guerrero (1914), Mi Casa de Nipa by Jesus Balmori, and Pentelicas by Cecilio Apostol (1941). What’s more, in theaters, audiences were able to watch zarzuelas by Claro M. Recto, Pascual Poblete, and Antonio M. Abad.

Some of the most important novels in Spanish include: Bancarrota de Almas and Se Deshojo la Flor by Jesus Balmori (1910 and 1915, respectively); El Ultimo Romantico, La Oveja de Nathan, and El Campeon, all written by Antonio M. Abad (1927, 1929, and 1939, respectively).

Eventual Decline of the Use of the Spanish Language

After the Americans defeated Spain in the Battle of Manila Bay on 1 May 1898, and finally having successfully driven out the Spaniards in the country, the Spanish language served as a reminder of more than 300 years of occupation over the Philippines and gradually died out in daily use as well as in literature. English eventually became the lingua franca in the country. Today, barely any Filipino speaks the Spanish language anymore.




Ethnic Groups Philippines. Spanish Filipinos
National Commission for Culture and the Arts. Philippine Literature in Spanish
Wikipedia. Filipino Mestizos
Wikipedia. La Solidaridad
Britannica. Battle of Manila Bay
Wikipedia. Spanish Filipino
Wikipedia. Spanish Language in the Philippines