They Don't Speak Spanish in the Philippines?

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Panorama of Manila. Photo by joiz on Flickr, used under the Creative Commons license Attribution-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-ND 2.0).

The Philippines, a Southeast Asian archipelago of more than 7,000 islands, is like Latin American countries a former colony in the Spanish Empire. The Philippines was under Spanish rule for three centuries, in fact, belonging specifically to the Kingdom of New Spain. During this time, the dominant language of the colonial government in the islands was Spanish, only to be replaced by English, after the Spanish-American War, when Spain ceded control of the islands to the United States for $20 million.

Throughout the 20th century, the use of Spanish declined, particularly after the destruction of the Spanish stronghold in the Battle of Manila. The country's subsequent modernization and World War II left English the nation's most common language.

In 1946, the Philippines gained independence from the United States, but it retained English as one of its two official languages, Filipino being the other. Currently, Filipinos have English or one of the local languages as their mother tongue. It is estimated that less than 1% of the current Filipino population speaks Spanish. 

In 2008, Gaspar Canela wrote in the Reino de Siam blog that the state of the Spanish language in the Philippines was actually much worse because, in his opinion, the Spanish never succeeded in replacing local languages: 

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Intramuros. Image by shankar s. on Flickr, used under the Creative Commons license Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0).

Muchos filipinos, los menos estudiados, hasta desconocen que estuvieron sometidos a un reino ibérico durante más de tres siglos. Los estadounidenses, tras expulsar a los españoles, trajeron a Filipinas barcos repletos de profesores de inglés. Tuvieron más éxito que los españoles en extender el uso de su idioma, pero tampoco todos en las islas dominan hoy día la lengua de Shakespeare.

Many Filipinos do not even acknowledge that they were subjects of an Iberian kingdom for more than three centuries. The Americans, after expelling the Spaniards, brought ships full of English-language professors to the Philippines. They had more success than the Spaniards in extending the use of their language, but still not everywhere on the islands does the language of Shakespeare reign. 

Nonetheless, Spanish did not disappear from everything. Traces of the Spanish language are present in the surnames of many Filipinos, in the names of cities and historic sites, as well as on the country's streets and plazas. Moreover, classic Philippine literature was written entirely in Spanish, even during much of the twentieth century. Among the many works of classic Spanish Philippine literature is Noli me tangere, by writer José Rizal, who, scholar say, played a significant role in the consolidation of Filipino nationalism

Rizal, now considered a national Filipino hero, was executed on December 30, 1896, on charges of sedition by the Spanish authorities. The night prior to his execution, he wrote a poem titled “My Last Farewell”, which describes his love for the Philippines. YouTube user Hispanic Filipino uploaded a video where he recites the poem: 

But is Spanish a dead language in the Philippines? Hardly. Spanish remains strongly rooted in the islands, even though it's difficult to notice at first. Guillermo Gomez Rivera, director of the Manila weekly Nueva Era, is optimistic about the future of the language in the Philippines and shares his opinion on web blog, Filipinas Única where he states that Spanish is very easy for any Filipino who speaks Tagalog, Visayan, and Ilokano:

El español es bien fácil para cualquier filipino que hable tagalo, bisaya, bicolano e ilocano porque en estas lenguas indígenas están incrustadas miles de hispanismos. En estos idiomas indígenas todas las prendas que se llevan en el cuerpo se llaman en español: sombrero, camiseta, cinturón […] Todos los muebles y enseres que se encuentran dentro del hogar se llaman en español: cocina, cuarto, sala […] Todo lo que es infraestructura de urbanización se llama en español: […] esquinita, avenida, plaza…

Spanish is very easy for any Filipino who speaks Tagalog, Visayan, and Ilokano because thousands of hispanisms are embedded in these indigenous languages. In these indigenous languages, all articles of clothing are referred to in Spanish: sombrero (hat), camiseta (shirt), cinturón (belt) […] All furniture and appliances that are found in the home are referred to in Spanish: cocina (kitchen), cuarto (room), sala (living room) […] All urbanization infrastructure is called in Spanish: […] esquinita (corner), avenida (avenue), plaza (square)… 

Internet user Neptuno Azul demonstrates this principle with Eloidoro Ballesteros's poetry, written in Chavacano, a creole language derived from Spanish and various local languages: 

Recently, there are signs that interest in Spanish might be rising, thanks to efforts by the Cervantes Institute and other Spanish and Philippine institutions, as well as people who want to rescue the legacy of the Philippine language. These groups even got some official support from the former government of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, who started the partial reinstatement of Spanish in secondary education in 2009. Outside schools, the business community's interest in Spanish is also rebounding.

One useful demonstration of Spanish as a living language in the Philippines is this YouTube video, titled “Teaching Spanish in the Philippines”, where several Filipino students show what they've learned in school.

Post originally published in Globalizado blog.

119 comments

  • nocolony

    Spanish is not a power commerce language. The only advantage to speaking spanish is if you work in social services (i.e. the dole, welfare) or you work in a .99 cent or Dollar store. Spanish is the lengua of commerce for the third world drug, street, and black market. Most of your clients and customers who would speak spanish have no money to pay you. This is the sad reality. Spanish speaking commerce is a secondary market for uneducated and unskilled consumers. Now, it’s true. Please dont allow the Spanish language into the cultural psyche. Hopefully the memory of opression, abuse, and rape are still strong enough to reject this brainwash propaganda. The only people pushing Spanish are propagandists and those souls who wish to be a part of something they imagined through stockholm syndrome. Shri Vijaya…..look deep, embrace pre colonial identity. Do not worship a european sephardic faces deity. All other cultures of the worlds have unifying deities from their.own cultures that look like themselves. Wake up!!! Wake up!!!! Snap out of the pro-spanish brainwash. Latinos are criminals and gang members. This is not latino land. Wake up. Look in the mirror.

  • abolishspanish

    Spanish was abolished. Spanish should remain abolished. This is an attempt to re-indoctrinate youth in the ways of the rapists. Any malay fool who says the Spanish were kind deserves to remain in ignorance. Remember the inquisitions and pillagings. Remember the holocaust. Jews dont try to reuse the prison camps as schools or condos. Auschwitz and Dachau arent housed as showcase places of worship like your spanish cathedrals are. A deity placed in your psyche with a cauasian face, all of your original beliefs beaten out of you and destroyed, taken out of existence. People made to be ashamed of their original beliefs, shame in their own customs, and beliefs by a foreign invader and oppressor, yet some of you REALLY BELIEVE.the sham that spanish is good for you. Let europe be europe, tall white people, and let southeast asia.be.southeast asia. Learn different languages on your own. Travel. Study. Dont be dictated to. Please learn history. Remember that jews will NEVER let the world forget the holocaust, statues of Lenin were toppled, black slaves were freed, women obtained the right to vote, spanish inquistion is taught.the world over, yet some people are buying the farm, getting the wool pulled over their eyes and are somehow believing even for one minute that Spanish has any place in southeast asia — in their home after a loong history of pillaging raping brainwashing.and soul damning their people. People the world over overthrow and abolish their oppressors — even jesus threw people out…. so im fairly certain that the will of the people (not the global propagandists) is to be free from the past oppression reminders…which in large part is spanish (religion) culture and language.

  • gkoy

    Oh no. No offense, bit Spanish never had a pervasive affect on the native languages. In context, language is fairly intact. Our language is.almost identical to the ami tribe of taiwan. We have 25% sanskrit. We share commonalities in language and culture with nearby malaysia and indonesia. Pfft. Spanish has no place in the economies of southeast asia. When Mexicans start moving to the far east, then there will be a use for Spanish. However, there are so many first world toilets that need cleaning there may not be much migration anytime soon. Also as far as ofws, there is more benefit to know english. No.employers.worth.anything speak spanish.because Spain left colonies bastardized third world economies. For shame on any.malay.who would say they want.to be a spanish indio. That means you want.to remain barefoot ignorant unwashed.and dirt.ass impoverished. We’re not talking european spain like brainwashed.natives think they are (which they are not – less than 3% of the.population ever mixed with.spaniards —- the.cultures were unappealing.to oneanother. That means your oppressor thought he was above you, so much so that he.never.taught.you spanish and.you.never.wanted to.lean it. Long live pre colonial native culture. Burn the.past. burn spanish. It is an anachronism, a hold over, an invader who has overstayed his drunken raping trespass. Be gone.Spanish. East los angeles and Tijuana called (gang culture) —- it wants.its spanish back. Andale!!!

  • iboy

    elieve me, it’s commendable to be multilingual but spanish is the language of unwashed masses. Southeast asians, who reside in the current economic power center of the world should not buy into the last stronghold of its brutal colonial past. Focus on chinese mahal deep tagalog and all of the beautiful native languages of the country. If you.let the propagandists invade your psyche thru language youre done….you will disappear further than all of your literature has. Reading philippine literature is indistinguishable from any south american. Uplift yourselves. Mahal ki ta. Malay. Bahasa. Ami. No spanish. Do not get deeper into the stockholm syndrome.

  • saram

    Im glad that most natives reject Spanish language and culture but see articles like this as propaganda for the new.world order and a hail mary holdover for long dead anachronistic colonialism. Viva southeast asia!!!!!! Andale buenos noches adios espanol. We arent european, dont need to worship a caucasian sephardic deity and have more in common.with malaysia and indonesia. Thanks for the inquisition and the abuses and enslavement. Nobody believes your reverse psychological propaganda campaign. Spain was brutal and oppressive. Say, adios enemy!!!

  • noworldorder

    This website is a global voices website…pushing.mongrelization and propaganda. Resist the.New World Order. Reject.Spain the.colonizing oppressor (They european.spanish.elite were not.just.colonizing. they exercised severe.psychological and.physical abuse upon our.ancestors and saw.natives as.neyond.inferior, never mixing.and.not.spreading.the.spanish language thru.education —- less than 3% of the.population…you are not european my malay brothers and sisters). Go home.Spanish. You are valued in: south.america. Not southeast asia. Spanish is not cool.. Spanish is not a language.spoken by a wealthy.demographic. Thus, it would be a.mistake and bad judgment.to believe this.braimwash.that.it has.any value in the.world of employment or commerce at this time…. Southeast asia!!! Rice, pointy hats, lumpia, pansit, …. not european culture of rape.war psychological warfare.

  • proasia

    Im pro asia. I like my asian culture of rice and noodles and spicy coconut dishes. I nor any of my friends.favor.Spanish in the elite school for rich kids that I attend. We think Spanish is only spoken by gang members and jailbirds and drug pushers. We think it’s loud and ugly. In fact most affluent and young favor taglish and tagolog and our native dialects to Spanish. Spanish has no place in the far eastern future.super economy. If anything we’re learning mandarin to stay competitive. Spanish is a reminder of cruelty and a language of crime. No thanks, and the.other elite kids will stay with.taglish. Maraming Salamat!!!

  • Vanishapanish

    Vanish spanish. Be gone. Intiendes? Pansit. Lambanog Arrack Sanskrit Shri Vijaya and Sultanates Bayinbayin Garuda statue…beautiful pre existing life and culture pre arrival of the white brutalists called Spaniards who raped and pillaged mind body and soul. 25% sanskrit language. Oh Spain and any sad brainwashed oppressor globalist propaganda brainwash lover. Remember the past or you’ll be damned to repeat it. People dont forget holocausts and they dont retain the.death camps as schools or condos. Dont ne foolish. Most.educated bright and promising youth of the region reject the propaganda. There is no identification with Spain or Spanish culture. That’s a Henry Kissinger move to make people believe these lies. No educated self respecting young person wants to learn Spanish. Many poor people are recruited.and paid to say they.like Spanish by New World Order capitalists who come.to the.Philippines to rape girls from poor families. There’s much talk about this on college.campuses amongst the countrys burgeoning and brightest. No Spanish. Reject the propaganda. Dont believe the brainwash. Remember history. Remember the.lies deception and cruelties.that left you worse off by Spanish anything. Forgotten remnant hanger on…spanish.

  • halaka

    We are having a discussion at Ataneo UST and UP …a delegation… we, as well as many other.college students.and.alumni who have participated believe it is a major.step.backwards when campaigns which employ articles like this suggest that the country is in favor of adopting Spanish into a general curriculim. Distinguished alumni in the highest.levels of the government know this is a disinformation campaign. Spanish was abolished.because the region has never forgotten the atrocities at the hands of Spain. The nation and its educated.brightest are not inclined to move backwards in time. Salamat!!!!!

  • nohatenoracismnobullying

    No hate no racism no bullying no intolerance. Spain was all of these things. Spain hated natives treated them as subhuman. Spain was racist against natives. .Spain bullied natives. Spain was intolerant of native religious practices other than catholicism. Spain was intolerant of surnames that were not spanish. If you believe in oppressing humanity, physical and psychological torture, racism, bullying, intolerance, rape, hegemony, lies, and deception, then.please go learn and speak all the spanish you want then go be treated.badly in europe.and go.to.work.with a population of.poor uneducated south americans. That will be your karma for siding with evil. Evil… Spain represents evil imposed on your ancestors on your homeland on your great grandparents. This article represents evil psy operations playing on unsuspecting minds.

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