Girish Mahajan (Editor)

Ethnic issues in the Philippines

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Ethnic issues in the Philippines

Ethnic issues in the Philippines are multifarious and emerged in various portions of the history of people, institutions and territories coinciding to that of the present-day Philippines.


Against Bangsa Moro

Polls have shown that some Filipinos hold negative views directed against the Moro people.

Against ethnic Chinese

Contact between the indigenous peoples of the islands and the Han began hundreds of years ago, predating the arrival of Westerners. Strong ties through trade and commerce sustained ancient states such as the Kingdom of Tondo. The Sultanate of Sulu also has significant relationship with the Ming Dynasty whereas its leader Paduka Batara, granted the only foreign monument in China, was sent with his sons to pay tribute to Emperor Yung Lo. Despite years of contact, the rift between the two groups emerged at the height of the Spanish colonization.

After the destructive raids of various ports and towns including the newly Spanish-established Manila by Chinese pirate Limahong, the colonial government saw the Chinese as a threat and decided to curb the Sangley in the colony by ethnic segregation and immigration control. Assimilation by conversion to Catholicism was also enforced by the governor-general Gómez Pérez Dasmariñas in the late 16th century. Only Catholic Sangleys, Indio wives and their Mestizo de Sangley children were granted land such as in Parían and nearby Binondo. However, these measures to attain racial control were seen to be difficult to achieve. As a result, four massacres, the first happening in 1603, and expulsions ensued against unconverted Sangleys. Other ethnic-motivated incidents were during the massacre of Sangleys as a retaliation to Koxinga's raids of several towns in Luzon during 1662. This, fortunately, resulted to a failed invasion. It was said that although the ethnic Chinese in the island themselves distanced from the military leader, anti-Chinese sentiments among locals grew and led to killings in the Manila area. Another event is after the 1762 British occupation of Manila amidst the Seven Years' War. As the Spanish, who regained control of invaded Manila and nearby port province of Cavite, many non-natives specifically Spanish, Mestizos, Chinese and Indians were imprisoned for supporting the British.

The Spanish colonial government imposed legislation on the ethnic Chinese, which were viewed unfavorably. Such laws were meant to Christianize the ethnic Chinese, aid them assimilate into mainstream Philippine society and to encourage them to take up farming. The Chinese were viewed as an economic, political and socio-religious threat to the small Spaniard colonial population in Spanish Philippines.

On highland ethnic groups

Ethnic divide among highland tribes began from the conception of a Philippine state notably during the United States-appointed Commonwealth of the Philippines. In order to actualize the dream of a unified Philippine identity, the said Commonwealth government established the Institute of National Language (Tagalog: Surian ng Wikang Pambansâ) which adopted Tagalog as the national language.

The rights of the Philippines highland groups are legally protected under Indigenous Peoples’ Rights Act (IPRA) which is cited as the first of its kind in Southeast Asia. The law enabled them to acquire titles to their ancestral domains. However the highlanders continue to experience some degree of discrimination and are described by cultural anthropologist Nestor Castro that “They still cannot identify with the so-called mainstream society or culture.” Highlanders particularly experience marginalization in urban areas such as in Manila.


Ethnic issues in the Philippines Wikipedia