It was Magellan in 1521 who put the Philippine archipelago on the map of the world. Magellan was called the “rediscoverer” of the Philippines. The archipelago, named Felipinas for Spain’s Philip II, was composed of 7,107 islands and islets spanning 1854 kilometers from north to south. The Philippines stretched from China to the north and the Indonesian archipelago to the south. Y’ami is the northern most tip of the country while Sibutu is the southernmost tip. The Philippines strategic location makes it an ideal location for commerce. Maila and Cebu are premiere centers of trade in the region. To the east is the vast Pacific Ocean and beyond, the New World. To the west is Indo China including Cambodia and Thailand. To the southwest is Malaysia. There are three major geographical groups in the country: Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao.

Spanish colonizers succeeded in introducing Christianity in Luzon and Visayas, but failed in Mindanao where Moslems would not accept the Spanish efforts. Spain ruled the Philippines from the 16th century to the 19th century, but was marked with a series of revolts. When three Filipino priests were executed for nationalist activities, a group of reformist formed the Propaganda Movement that would later pave the way for the Philippine Revolution. Jose Rizal, a young doctor-writer, was executed by Spanish officials for criticizing Spanish rule. He was later recognized as Asia’s first nationalist. The Philippine Revolution began on August 29, 1896 and independence was officially proclaimed on June 12, 1898. Political independence from the US was officially proclaimed in 1946.

The national Language is Filipino, which is based on the language of Tagalog. There are several dialects spoken in every region. English is used throughout the country as well as Hokkien, Cantonese, and Mandarin. Currently the Philippines is the third-largest English speaking country in the world. USEFUL PHRASES * Please – Pah-kee * Thank you – Sahlah-mat * Hello – Kuh-moos-tah * Good bye – Paalam-na po * Today – Nga-yohn * Tomorrow – Boo-kaas * Yes – Ooh * No – Hin-dee * One – Ee-sah * Two – Dalawa * Three – Taht-loh * Do you speak English? – Mah-roo nohng ho kay-yong mahg-Ing-glehs?

83% Roman Catholic, 9% Protestant, 5% Muslim, 3% Buddhist and Other.

Ethnic Groups
91.5% Christian Malay, 4% Muslim Malay, 1.5% Chinese, 3% other.

People and Culture
The country is a blend of cultures. It is mostly Malay with some Chinese, American, Spanish, and Arab blood. Because of the visits with merchants and traders, a people of a unique blend of east and west emerged. The Filipino character is a combination of all the cultures put together. The spirit of kinship and camaraderie is said to be taken from Malay forefathers while the close family relations are said to be inherited from the Chinese. The piousness is said to come from the Spaniards. Hospitality is very important in the Filipino culture. Their hospitality is actually legendary in Southeast Asia.

Filipinos often use their eyes, lips, and hands to convey a wide range of messages. Raised eyebrows and a smile indicate a silent “hello” or a “yes” in answer to a question. Fixed eye contact between men is considered an aggressive gesture. The proper method to summons somebody is with a downward wave. They place great emphasis on polite language and gentle conversation. Voice tone is always soft and gentle, and direct questions should be avoided. They value their self-esteem, so never criticize or argue with them publicly. Most men, when so provoked, will fight for the preservation of their pride or self-esteem. Avoid topics such as politics, religion, corruption and foreign aid. Filipinos enjoy conversations about their families.

United States and Filipino Immigrants History
Prepared by Dr. Juanita Santos Nacu

1521 Islands now called Philippines discovered by Magellan (Spain).

1565 Spaniards founded St. Augustine, Fla.The oldest city in what is now the US.

Manila-Acapulco Galleon Trade.

Filipinos were sailing across the New World since June 1565.

1587 First Filipino at Moro Bay/ San Luis Obispo.

1607 Jamestown, 1st permanent founded by 100 colonists.

*Filipinos were arriving in the New World 42 years before the first 1850 Permanent English settlement was established.

1620 Plymouth Colony founded more than half a century be fore the Mayflower crossed the Atlantic, Filipinos were crossing the pacific as sailors on Spanish galleons.

1763 Treaty of Paris

Filipino permanent setlemnet New Orleans, Louisiana.

1764 “Taxation without representation is tyranny” colonists slogan.

1770 Monterey, California-Filipinos confirmed by Fr. Junipero Serra.

1776 July 4-colonists Declaration of Independence.

1781 Antonio Miranda a Filipino was one of the 44 sent by Spanish government from Mexico to establish the city now the now known as Los Angeles.

1787 US Constitution

1803 Louisiana purchased for $15 million from France.

1812 Louisiana became a state.

Battle of New Orleans-Filipinos signed up with Laffitte who fought side by side with Andrew Jackson.

1850 California became a state.

California and Alaska-Filipino workers in railroad building and exploratory ships.

1861-65 Civil war

1863 Emancipation Proclamation. Freedom for slaves.

1846-54 “Two gentlemen from Manila” applied Hawaiian Citizenship during the reign of King Kalakua.

1867 Alaska bought from Russia for $7 M.

1898 Spanish American War. Spain defeated.

Hawaii annexation to US.

1899 Filipino-American War

1902 End of Filipino –American War Philippines became a US territory.

1918 End of World War I

Filipinos already enlisted in the US Navy.

1930’s Depression

Estimated 25,000 Filipinos as Navy enlistees.

1934 Philippine Independence ACT (Tydings-McDuffe Act) guaranteed independence in ten years, declared all Philippine-born Filipinos as Aliens.

1941-45 World War II

1942 First Filipino Infantry regiment at Salinas with 143 officers and 3,000 enlisted men.

1943 Granted citizenships

1946 Philippine Independence

1950 Korean War

1959 Alaska 49th state. Hawaii 50th state.

1964 Civil Rights Act


The Philippines boasts an abundance of tropical fruits and vegetables, which are central to the Filipino diet. In addition, the many spices and herbs that are plentiful on the island are used to flavor the fish, meat and poultry of Filipino cuisine. Rice is a staple food as well. Over the years, through cultural contact, Filipino food has also been influenced by Chinese and Spanish culture as well.

Websites Worth Surfing:

Additional Reading:
Bulosan, Carlos, and E. San Juan, Jr. On Becoming Filipino: Selected Writings of Carlos Bulosan.

Catillo-Tsuchida, Adelaida. Filipino Migrants in San Diego, 1900-1946.

Espiritu, Yen Le. Filipino American Lives.

Francia, Luis H., and Eric Gamalinda. Flippin’: Filipinos on America.

Rafael, Vincente L. Discrepant Histories: Translocal Essays on Filipino Cultures.

San Juan, E. Jr. From Exile to Diaspora: Versions of the Filipino Experience in the United States.