Puneet Varma

Filipino people of Spanish ancestry

Updated on
Share on FacebookTweet on TwitterShare on LinkedIn
Filipino people of Spanish ancestry

Spanish settlement in the Philippines first took place in the 16th century, during the Spanish colonial period of the islands. The conquistador Miguel López de Legazpi founded the first Spanish settlement in Cebu in 1565, and later established Manila as the capital of the Spanish East Indies in 1571. The Philippine Islands is named after King Philip II of Spain, and it became a territory of the Viceroyalty of New Spain which was governed from Mexico City until the 19th century, when Mexico obtained independence. From 1821, the Philippine Islands were ruled directly from Madrid, Spain.


Spaniards are referred by Filipinos as "Kastila" (Castilian) named after the former Kingdom of Castile, now a region of Spain. The majority of the Filipinos of Spanish descent are of Andalusian origin, while a minority are Catalan or Basque descents. Another term for them is "Hispano Filipinos".

Filipino mestizos of Spanish ancestry

The Spanish conquest of 1565, prompted the colonization of the Philippine Islands that lasted for about 333 years. The Philippines was a former territory of the Viceroyalty of New Spain until the grant of independence to Mexico in 1821 necessitated the direct government from Spain of the Philippines from that year. Early Spanish settlers were mostly explorers, soldiers, government officials, religious missionaries, and among others, who were born in Spain and Mexico called Peninsulares (Spanish migrants living in the colony) or Criollo (Spaniards of pure blood), who settled in the islands with their families to governed the colony, and the majority of the indigenous population. Some of these individuals married or inter-bred with the indigenous Filipino (Austronesian/Malay/Malayo-Polynesian) population while most married only other Spaniards. Their succeeding generation called Insulares (Spaniards or Hispanics born from the islands), became town local officers, and were granted with haciendas (plantation estates) by the Spanish government. In some provinces like, Iloilo, Cebu, Pampanga, and Zamboanga, The Spanish government encouraged foreign merchants to trade with the indigenous population, but they were not given certain privileges such as ownership of land. From this contact, social intercourse between foreign merchants, and indigenous people resulted in a new ethnic group. These group were called Mestizos (mixed-race individuals), who were born from intermarriages of the Spaniards and merchants with the indigenous Filipino (Austronesian/Malay/Malayo-Polynesian) natives. Some of their descendants, emerged later as an influential part of the ruling class, such as the Principalía (Nobility).

The Spanish implemented incentives to deliberately entangle the various races together in order to stop rebellion: - It is needful to encourage public instruction in all ways possible, permit newspapers subject to a liberal censure, to establish in Manila a college of medicine, surgery, and pharmacy: in order to break down the barriers that divide the races, and amalgamate them all into one. For that purpose, the Spaniards of the country, the Chinese mestizos, and the Filipinos shall be admitted with perfect equality as cadets of the military corps; the personal-service tax shall be abolished, or an equal and general tax shall be imposed, to which all the Spaniards shall be subject. This last plan appears to me more advisable, as the poll-tax is already established, and it is not opportune to make a trial of new taxes when it is a question of allowing the country to be governed by itself. Since the annual tribute is unequal, the average shall be taken and shall be fixed, consequently, at fifteen or sixteen reals per whole tribute, or perhaps one peso fuerte annually from each adult tributary person. This regulation will produce an increase in the revenue of 200,000 or 300,000 pesos fuertes, and this sum shall be set aside to give the impulse for the amalgamation of the races, favoring crossed marriages by means of dowries granted to the single women in the following manner. To a Chinese mestizo woman who marries a Filipino shall be given 100 pesos; to a Filipino woman who marries a Chinese mestizo, Ioo pesos; to a Chinese mestizo woman who marries a Spaniard, 1,000 pesos; to a Spanish woman who marries a Chinese mestizo, 2,000 pesos; to a Filipino woman who marries a Spaniard, 2,000 pesos; to a Spanish woman who marries a Filipino chief, 3,000 or 4,000 pesos. Some mestizo and Filipino alcaldes-mayor of the provinces shall be appointed. It shall be ordered that when a Filipino chief goes to the house of a Spaniard, he shall seat himself as the latter's equal. In a word, by these and other means, the idea that they and the Castilians are two kinds of distinct races shall be erased from the minds of the natives, and the families shall become related by marriage in such manner that when free of the Castilian dominion should any exalted Filipinos try to expel or enslave our race, they would find it so interlaced with their own that their plan would be practically impossible.

A Spanish woman married the Muslim warrior Rajah Samporna, a descendant of Sharif Kabungsuwan and an ancestor of Rodrigo Duterte.

Mexicans of European or Mestizo heritage known as Américanos (Americans) also arrived in the Philippines during the Spanish colonial period. Between 1565 and 1815, Hispanics from Mexico and Spain sailed to, and from the Philippines as government officials, soldiers, priests, settlers, traders, sailors, and adventurers in the Manila-Acapulco Galleon, assisting Spain in its trade between Latin America and the Philippine Islands.

Amerindians, Negroes and Mulattos also settled in the Philippines as crews, prisoners and slaves. Some of these individuals married native Filipinos of different ethnic groups, and classes, and have integrated into Philippine society.

The official percentage of Filipinos with Spanish ancestry is unknown. However, only those Filipinos who possess a clear mixed-race appearance are considered by most as actual mestizos. Some offspring of Spanish men and indigenous Filipino women may have adopted the culture of their fathers, and grand parents; however only a few mixed race families in the Philippines still speak Spanish among themselves. The Philippine Statistics Department does not account for the racial background or ancestry of an individual. The official population of all types of Filipino mestizos that reside inside and outside of the Philippines remains unknown.

Migration of Filipino-Spanish mestizos

A minority of Filipinos of Spanish descent have migrated to Spain, Latin America, Australia, or the United States, after the Spanish–American War, and World War II.

Spanish Filipinos for the most part are found in both the upper, and upper middle socio-economic classes, with a relatively small percentage found among the lower socio-economic classes. Some are active in politics, commerce, entertainment industry, and professional sports.

Language and culture

Most Filipinos of Spanish descent speak their respective regional languages and considered them to belong to Ethnic groups in the Philippines as, they speak they respective regional languages. They also use English in the public sphere, and may also speak Filipino and other Philippine languages. Spanish was, along with English, the co-official language in the Philippines from the Spanish Colonial Period until 1987 when its official status was removed.

Only a minority of Spanish descended Filipinos speak Spanish; Some Filipinos of Spanish descent, particularly those of older generations and recent immigrants, have preserved Spanish as a spoken language. In addition, Chavacano (a criollo language based largely on Spanish vocabulary) is spoken in the southern Philippines, and forms one of the majority languages of Zamboanga del Sur, Zamboanga del Norte, Zamboanga Sibugay, Basilan and is mostly concentrated in Zamboanga City. It may also be spoken in some parts of the northern Philippines.

Due to a decree by the Spanish government in 1849 to establish a census, Filipinos (of Indigenous descent) may have Spanish or Spanish-sounding surnames; The government distributed a book of surnames for the use of all Filipinos.

Socioeconomic status

Filipinos of Spanish descent currently constitute the great majority of both the upper and middle classes and rarely intermingle with those outside their ethnic group. Many are either in politics or are high-ranking executives of commerce and industry, entertainment and sporting ranks. Most elite Filipino family dynasties, political families and the elite clans are of Spanish origin. A number of Filipinos of Spanish descent are also found in the lower classes.

Recent immigration

According to a recent survey, the number of Spanish citizens in the Philippines regardless of ethnolinguistic affiliation was about 6,300 of the Philippine population with the vast majority of them being actually Spaniard-Filipinos, but excluding Philippine citizens of Spanish descent. Spaniards are referred to as Kastila from the name Castile. The vast majority are Andalusians, while a minority are Catalans or Basques.


During the Spanish Colonial Period, large numbers of Spaniards settled in the Americas, which resulted in widespread miscegenation between them, indigenous women and enslaved African women. The Spanish authorities developed and established a highly complex caste system based on a racial hierarchy of Spanish descent, which later became associated with whiteness. The racial doctrine used after the end of the Reconquista, called limpieza de sangre, or cleanliness of blood, was applied to the caste system. It described and classified a person based on their purity of Spanish "blood" or heritage. Some of the castes defined were as follows:

Only in the Americas, however, were mixed-race persons of Spanish ancestry with less than one-eighth indio, or Amerindian, blood considered legally classified as criollo or white.

Colonial caste system

The history of racial mixture in the Philippines occurred mostly during the Spanish colonial period from the 16th to 19th century.

The same Spanish racial caste system enforced in Latin America existed in the Philippines, with a few major differences.

The indigenous Filipino population of the Philippines were referred to as Negritos or Indios.

Persons classified as 'Blanco' (white) were the Filipino (person born in the Philippines of pure Spanish descent), peninsulares (persons born in Spain of pure Spanish descent), mestizos de español, and tornatras. Manila was racially segregated, with 'blancos' living in the walled city Intramuros, un-Christianized sangleys in Parían, Christianized sangleys and mestizos de sangley in Binondo, and the rest of the 7,000 islands for the indios, with the exception of Cebu and several other Spanish territories. Only mestizos and mestizo de sangleys' were allowed to enter Intramuros to work for whites as servants and various occupations needed for the colony.

Indio was a general term applied to native Malay or Malayan, a Malayo-Polynesian speaking people known as the Austronesian inhabitants of the Philippine archipelago, but as a legal classification, it was only applied to Christianized Malayo-Polynesian who lived in proximity to the Spanish colonies.

Persons who lived outside of Manila, Cebu, and the major Spanish posts were classified as such: 'Naturales' were Christianized Austronesian/Malay/Malayo-Polynesian of the lowland and coastal towns. The un-Christianized Aetas and Austronesian/Malay/Malayo-Polynesian who lived in the towns were classified as 'salvajes' (savages) or 'infieles' (the unfaithful). 'Remontados' (Spanish for 'situated in the mountains') and 'tulisanes' (bandits) were Austronesian/Malay/Malayo-Polynesian) and Aetas who refused to live in towns and took to the hills, all of whom were considered to live outside the social order as Catholicism was a driving force in everyday life, as well as determining social class in the colony.

Persons of pure Spanish descent, as well as many mestizos and castizos, living in the Philippines who were born in Spanish America were classified as 'Américano'. A few mulattos born in Spanish America living in the Philippines kept their legal classification as such, and sometimes came as indentured servants to the 'américanos'. The Philippine-born children of 'américanos' were classified as 'Filipinos'. The Philippine-born children mulatos from Spanish America were classified based on patrilineal descent.

The Spanish legally classified the Aetas as 'negritos' based on their appearance. The word 'negrito' would be misinterpreted and used by future European scholars as an ethnoracial term in and of itself. Both Christianized Aetas who lived in the colony and un-Christianized Aetas who lived in tribes outside of the colony were classified as 'negritos'. Christianized Aetas who lived in Manila were not allowed to enter Intramuros and lived in areas designated for Indios.

Persons of mixed Aeta and Austronesian/Malay/Malayo-Polynesian ancestry were classified based on patrilineal descent; the father's ancestry determined a child's legal classification. If the father was 'negrito' (Aeta) and the mother was 'india' (Austronesian/Malayo-Polynesian), the child was classified as 'negrito'. If the father was 'indio' and the mother was 'negrita', the child was classified as 'indio'. Persons of Aeta descent were viewed as being outside of the social order as they usually lived in tribes outside of the colony and resisted conversion to Christianity.

This legal system of racial classification based on patrilineal descent had no parallel anywhere in the Spanish colonies in the Americas. In general, a son born of a sangley male and an indio or mestizo de sangley female was classified as mestizo de sangley; all subsequent male descendants were mestizos de sangley regardless of whether they married an india or a mestiza de sangley. A daughter born in such a manner, however, acquired the legal classification of her husband, i.e., she became an india if she married an indio but remained a mestiza de sangley if she married a mestizo de sangley or a sangley. In this way, a chino mestizo male descendant of a paternal sangley ancestor never lost his legal status as a mestizo de sangley no matter how much percentage of Chinese ancestry the person possessed.

However, a 'mestiza de sangley' who married a "blanco" ('mestizo de espanol', 'peninsular', or 'américano') kept her status as 'mestiza de sangley'. But her children were classified as tornatrás. An 'india' who married a blanco also kept her status as india, but her children were classified as mestizo de espanol.

A mestiza de espanol who married another blanco would keep her status as mestiza, but became an india if she married an indio (which would force her to pay the indio tax rate). Unlike in the Americas, where Amerindian ancestry was permitted in Criollos, and subsequently - with 'Limpieza de Sangre' - back to "pure Spanish", Asian ancestry was not. The status of a filipina mestizo will never change from mestiza de espanol if she married a mestizo de espanol, filipino, or peninsular.

On the contrast, a mestizo (de sangley or espanol) man's status stayed the same regardless of who he married. If a mestizo (de sangley or espanol) married a filipino woman of pure Spanish descent, she would lose her status as a 'filipina' (in the original sense, pure Spanish) and would acquire the legal status of her husband and become a mestiza de espanol or sangley. If a 'filipina' married an 'indio', her legal status would change to 'india', despite being of pure Spanish descent.

The social stratification system based on class that continues to this day in the Philippines has its beginnings in the Spanish colonial area with this caste system.

The system was used for tax purposes. Indios paid a base tax, mestizos de sangley paid twice the base tax, sangleys paid four times the base tax, and the blancos or whites ('filipinos' or peninsulares) paid no tax. Negritos who lived within the colony paid the same tax rate as the indios.

The Spanish colonial caste system based on race was abolished after the Philippines' independence from Spain in 1898, and the word 'Filipino' expanded to include the entire population of the Philippines regardless of racial ancestry.


  • Luis Rodriguez Varela, "El Conde Filipino", early Philippine nationalist
  • Gabriela Silang, female revolutionary leader
  • José María of Manila, priest and martyr
  • Francisca Fuentes, Roman Catholic religious figure
  • Arts and Literature

  • Fernando Zóbel de Ayala y Montojo, painter, art collector, founded Museo de Arte Abstracto Español in Spain
  • Guillermo Gómez Rivera, famous Hispanist, multilingual author, historian, language scholar
  • Armida Siguion-Reyna, celebrity, singer, film and stage actress, producer, television show host
  • Politics

  • Manuel Quezón, first President of the Commonwealth of the Philippines
  • Benito Legarda, Philippine Resident Commissioner in the U.S. Congress
  • Joaquin Miguel "Mike" Elizalde, Philippine Resident Commissioner in the U.S. Congress; later Secretary of Foreign Affairs
  • José Ozámiz, Senator and Governor of Misamis Occidental
  • Trinidad Pardo de Tavera, physician and historian
  • Entertainment

  • Pilita Corrales, singer and songwriter
  • Federico "Fred" Elizalde, classical and jazz pianist, composer, conductor and bandleader
  • German Moreno, actor, comedian, host, talent manager
  • Jaime Fabregas, film actor and musical director
  • Joey de Leon, actor and composer
  • Isabel Granada, singer and actor
  • Marian Rivera, actress and model
  • Sports

  • Paulino Alcántara, footballer and manager of Club de Futbol de Barcelona
  • Francis Arnaiz, former player of Toyota and Ginebra San Miguel basketball team, from 1975-1986
  • Carlos Loyzaga, basketball player
  • Business

  • Vicente Madrigal, business tycoon, industrialist and politician
  • Jaime Augusto Zobel de Ayala, industrialist, philanthropist, member of the Zobel de Ayala clan
  • Andres Soriano, industrialist, soldier, philanthropist, former President of San Miguel, founder of ANSCOR
  • Enrique K. Razon, industrialist, head of International Container Terminal Services, Inc.
  • Jon Ramon Aboitiz, industrialist, member of Aboitiz clan
  • Beauty Pageant

  • Margarita Moran-Floirendo, Miss Universe 1973, patron of the arts, peace advocate
  • Charlene Gonzales, Bb. Pilipinas-Universe 1994, actress, TV host, model
  • References

    Filipino people of Spanish ancestry Wikipedia

    Similar Topics
    Friends and Neighbours
    Darren Perry
    Pietra Rivoli