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The People of the Philippines

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The Filipino is basically of Malay stock with a sprinkling of Chinese, American, Spanish, and Arab blood. The Philippines has a population of 76.5 million as of May 2000, and it is hard to distinguish accurately the lines between stocks. From a long history of Western colonial rule, interspersed with the visits of merchants and traders, evolved a people of a unique blend of east and west, both in appearance and culture.

The Filipino character is actually a little bit of all the cultures put together. The bayanihan or spirit of kinship and camaraderie that Filipinos are famous for is said to be taken from Malay forefathers. The close family relations are said to have been inherited from the Chinese. The piousness comes from the Spaniards who introduced Christianity in the 16th century. Hospitality is a common denominator in the Filipino character and this is what distinguishes the Filipino. Filipinos are probably one of the few, if not the only, English-proficient Oriental people today. Pilipino is the official national language, with English considered as the country’s unofficial one.

The Filipinos are divided geographically and culturally into regions, and each regional group is recognizable by distinct traits and dialects – the sturdy and frugal llocanos of the north, the industrious Tagalogs of the central plains, the carefree Visayans from the central islands, and the colorful tribesmen and religious Moslems of Mindanao. Tribal communities can be found scattered across the archipelago. The Philippines has more than 111 dialects spoken, owing to the subdivisions of these basic regional and cultural groups.

The country is marked by a true blend of cultures; truly in the Philippines, East meets West. The background of the people is Indonesian and Malay. There are Chinese and Spanish elements as well. The history of American rule and contact with merchants and traders culminated in a unique blend of East and West, both in the appearance and culture of the Filipinos, or people of the Philippines.

Hospitality, a trait displayed by every Filipino, makes these people legendary in Southeast Asia. Seldom can you find such hospitable people who enjoy the company of their Western visitors. Perhaps due to their long association with Spain, Filipinos are emotional and passionate about life in a way that seems more Latin than Asian.

The Spaniards introduced Christianity (the Roman Catholic faith) and succeeded in converting the overwhelming majority of Filipinos. At least 83% of the total population belongs to the Roman Catholic faith.

The American occupation was responsible for teaching the Filipino people the English language. The Philippines is currently the third-largest English speaking country in the world.

In 1998, the Philippines’ population stood at 77,725,860. These numbers are spread unevenly throughout the Philippines with a large portion of the country being uninhabited. Roughly 40 percent of the nation was urban during the late 1980s. In 1990, Manila’s entire population (greater) was 7,948,398 with 1,601,234 in Manila proper. As of 1998, the population of Metro Manila was approximately 10 million.

A person of Spanish descent born in the Philippines, is where the term “Filipino” originated. It was comparable to the “Creole” of the Spanish and French colonies in America. The meaning of the term “Filipino” changed after the 18th century to apply to the Christianized Malays who constitute the bulk of the Philippine population.

Inhabiting the Philippines since the collapse of land bridges to the Asian mainland and Borneo, are a pygmy people, the aboriginal Aetas. Migration of people of Malay and Polynesian descent has come in waves with the present Filipinos, mainly descendants of Malay invaders, divided according to language and religion.

The Visayans are one of the most important groups, numerically, who they live in the central portion of the archipelago. The other numerically important group, the Tagalogs, live in central Luzon.

The chief non-Malay groups are comprised of people of Spanish and Chinese descent.

Tribes of traditional warrior societies, the Moros were converted to Islam by Arab missionaries in the 15th century. They live mainly in the southern portion of the archipelago.

A small, but economically and politically important minority are a people of mixed Filipino and Spanish or American ancestry, the Mestizos.

There is also a small number (about 1.5%) of Chinese who reside in the Philippines and they are also quite involved in business.


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