Filipino Ancestry: History, Culture, and Tradition
Located at the rim of East Asia, the Philippines is an archipelagic country teeming with a blended history and culture. Filipino people have been immigrating all over the world since the early 15th century, and as a result, that blended history and culture has made its way to several different pockets of the world. If you think you might be of Filipino ancestry, you may want to consult a Filipino DNA test in order to see exactly where your genetic history lies. But in the meantime, there’s plenty of Filipino history, culture, and tradition to explore and learn more about – without even leaving this web page.
A brief history of the Philippines
The archipelago is said to have been originally formed by several volcanic eruptions around 50 million years ago. And about 30,000 years ago, its earliest recorded inhabitants moved over from Asia – presumably via land bridges that were built during ice ages. While most Filipinos are of Mongol descent, many Chinese settlers also moved to the country, making it an amalgamation of largely Asian islanders today. Although somewhat small, the Philippines is quite diverse, consisting of more than 7,000 islands (with the largest being Luzon, where the capital Manila is located). The archipelago was named after Spanish King Philip II, who led the colonization of the Philippines in the 16th century. The Philippines was under Spanish rule for a total of 333 years, and owned by the U.S. for another 48. As a result, the Philippines is ripe with Western cultural influence, which has blended in with existing regional traditions. English is an official language of the country, and Roman Catholicism is exceptionally prominent.
A timeline of Filipino migration
Although the Philippines remains highly populated (just over 113 million people live in the archipelago), many natives have migrated to other countries throughout the past several centuries. The first recognized wave of Filipino migration occurred in 1417, when Sultan Paduka Batara wanted to improve trade relations with China. Then, when the country was under Spanish rule in the 18th century, Manila began trading with Acapulco, and this resulted in many Filipino people moving to Mexico – and eventually, Louisiana and California, where the immigrants began working as fruit pickers.
The tailend of the 19th century saw many Filipino people leave the Philippines to move to Europe. Most of these emigrants were in pursuit of work or educational opportunities. When the 20th century rolled around, a larger group of Filipino people began moving to the U.S., arriving to work on Hawaiian sugar plantations and Alaskan fish canneries. Since the country was under U.S. rule at the time, these immigrants were considered U.S. citizens, which made the process much more seamless. Towards the end of World War II, the U.S. government began restricting Filipino immigration to the Navy, which led to a significant decline. During this time, Filipino people migrated to other Asian countries, Iran, and Iraq – and in the 1960s, the U.S. relaxed their immigration rules to begin welcoming more Filipino people once again. In the 1970s, Filipino people were increasingly encouraged to emigrate for economy stimulation purposes, and labor migration has steadily increased in the country ever since.
Popular Filipino culture and traditions
Filipino people have settled in many different areas of the world. They’re known for adapting to a wide variety of environments, while still bringing their unique cultural flair into the mix. Here are some of the most widely recognized Filipino cultural ideals and traditions that Filipino people have carried with them all over the globe:
- Filipino people are very family-oriented.
Family always comes first for Filipino people, and preserving that relationship remains a priority for many Filipino people and Filipino immigrants throughout the world today. This even extends to close family friends. Once you’re considered a member of a Filipino family, you will be part of the clan for life.
- Filipino people tend to be very religious.
Roman Catholic culture has been prominent in the Philippines since Spanish colonization first took place hundreds of years ago, and the religion remains prominent throughout Filipino culture worldwide. Most Catholic Filipino people attend church frequently – like, multiple times a week – and adorn their homes and living spaces with ornate religious regalia.
- Filipino people are raised with respect and community spirit.
Respecting elders and prioritizing the community’s wellbeing are pillars of Filipino society. These morals are taught to Filipino children at a young age, and passed down from generation to generation. Most younger people are expected to take care of their elders as they move further into old age, and as we mentioned earlier, doing things for the family rather than for the self is a quality many Filipino people share.
- Filipino culture places a lot of emphasis on holidays, parties, and celebrating.
Filipino people are definitely ones to celebrate any occasion: birthdays, holidays, or just general gatherings. The islands regularly host massive festivals – like Bacolod’s MassKara Festival, Davao’s Kadayawan Festival, or Marinduque’s Moriones Festival – and celebrate major holidays like Christmas for months on end.
- Filipino cuisine includes influence from Spanish, Indian, American, and Chinese dishes.
Filipino food is diverse and delicious, and holds inspiration from several different cultures. Here are some of the most popular Filipino dishes you should definitely try if you’re interested in Filipino ancestry:
Influenced by Chinese culture, lumpia is a deep-fried spring roll that is stuffed with minced meat and vegetables.
- Chicken Adobo
Influenced by the Spaniards, chicken adobo is a slow-cooked dish steeped in crushed garlic, vinegar, black pepper, and soy sauce.
Another Spanish-inspired Filipino dish is sisig: a spicy meat dish where pig liver and head are marinated in vinegar, soy sauce, calamansi juice, and chili peppers.
- Leche Flan
Leche flan is a tasty dessert that was also inspired by Spanish culture. It’s also a popular dish in Mexico and other Latin countries.
Also influenced by Chinese culture, pancit is a type of noodle that is designed for tasty convenience. It’s often mixed with meat and/or vegetables, depending on how hungry you are.
Chicharones – or fried pork rinds – are incredibly popular in Spanish and Latin cultures, and they’re also regularly enjoyed by Filipino people.
Influenced by no one but Filipino people, kare-kare is an indigenous stew comprised of oxtail, vegetables, and a savory, viscous peanut sauce. It’s often referred to as Filipino comfort food.
Another native Filipino dish, sinigang is a sour, savory stew made from onions, tomatoes, ginger, spinach, eggplant, and fish sauce.
- Cassava Cake
Dessert lovers will enjoy cassava cake: a native Filipino sweet made from cassava flour and coconut milk.
- Arroz Caldo
A hybrid dish influenced by Spanish, Chinese, and Filipino culture, arroz caldo is a rice and chicken porridge that is stewed in ginger, chives, broth, and saffron.
Filipino people love music, and often turn to karaoke when getting together with family or friends. The country has also contributed greatly to the international music scene – particularly pop music. Original Pinoy Music or “OPM” was established in the 1970s and 1980s, and is made up of pop ballads and upbeat rock songs that make you want to dance. Some popular OPM stars include: Sarah Geronimo, Regine Velasquez, Zack Tabudlo, Ogie Alcasid, Jesse Zaragoza, Lea Salonga, and Unique.
Dancing can be a very ritualistic practice for Filipino people, and it’s a popular method of expression at festivals, celebrations, and gatherings. It’s meant to transcend words and convey emotions, and is a very powerful live experience for Filipino people to perform and witness. Tinikling is considered the main national dance of the Philippines, and is characterized by at least two people beating, tapping, and sliding bamboo poles against each other and on the ground in coordination with other dancers, who move between the poles as they dance. Other popular dance styles include: pandanggo sa ilaw (an evolvement of the Spanish folk dance fandango), cariñosa (a folk dance meant to represent the courting phase of a romantic relationship), rigodon (a French-based lively baroque dance), and balitao (a common festival street dance often accompanied by flowers).
- Martial arts
Asia is known for being a major birthplace to many forms of martial arts, and the Philippines have made their own contributions to the fighting style. Known as Kali, Arnis, or Eskrima, Filipino martial arts are very effective for adapting to situations and overcoming dangers. Most styles focus on hand-to-hand combat (like grappling, throwing, striking, or takedowns), but some forms of Filipino martial arts utilize weaponry like sticks and blades.