This is my response to the blog Clarifying a misconception on the definition of “Filipino” posted on August 30, 2015, by Pepe. The blog seems to be a debunking of my own blog Ang Malaking Pagkakamali ni Renato Constantino sa kanyang aklat na The Philippines: A Past Revisited, which I posted on my webpage on August 14, 2015. I will respond in English, since Pepe’s blog was written in that language. But please be sympathetic with my English, for it is not my first language and I lack mastery of it.
The gist of my own blog is to point out historian Renato Constantino’s colossal blunder in his popular book The Philippines: A Past Revisited (Quezon City: Tala Publishing Services, 1975). This is what Constantino exactly exposes in the said book:
“There were five principal social classes in Philippine society during this period. At the top of the social pyramid were the peninsulares, Spaniards who came from Spain and who were given the choice positions in the government. Next in line were the creoles or insulares – Spaniards born in the Philippines who considered themselves sons of the country. They were the original ‘Filipinos’ (p. 124).”
“The first Filipinos were the Españoles-Filipinos or creoles – Spaniards born in the Philippines. They alone were called Filipinos (p. 151).”
The “period” Constantino speaks about was until the middle of the 19th century.
For Constantino, the creoles or insulares (Spaniards born in the Philippines) were the original Filipinos, the first Filipinos, and until the middle of the 19th century the only ones called Filipinos. Were this true, then the creoles or insulares were the first people to be called Filipinos.
Such allegation clearly rams against the records of history.
In the books of Spanish priests Pedro Chirino (1604), Francisco Colin (1663), Francisco Ignacio Alcina (1668), and Juan Francisco de San Antonio (1738), the natives of the Philippines were called naturales (natives), nativos (natives), indios (Easterners), and Filipinos (native-born inhabitants of the Philippines).
It was Chirino—in his book which he wrote beginning in 1590 and which was published in 1604—who was the first to use the term Filipino to refer to the natives of the Philippines.
Hence, Constantino’s allegation that the insulares were the original Filipinos, the first Filipinos, and until the middle of the 19th century the only ones called Filipinos is a fatal error.
Las Islas Filipinas
On his blog, Pepe says:
“To my observation, Royeca and Regalado did not tell us the complete definition of the term Filipino. Although they did share primary sources showing how the word Filipino was defined during the early years of our country’s vassalage under the Spanish monarchy, I wonder if they even bothered to ask themselves WHY the early Filipinos were called as such. I ask WHY because the name Filipino is NOT EVEN INDIGENOUS, meaning to say, the term does not come from any native language like that of the Tagálogs, the Visayans, the Aetas, etc.
“To further emphasize this: the term Filipino is not a Tagálog word. The term Filipino is not a Visayan word. The term Filipino is certainly not an Aeta word. And so on and so forth. The name Filipino is Spanish, thus the impossibility of the notion that the demonym used for the indios (as the indigenous were generally referred to at that time) had some natural or indigenous etymological imprint whatsoever. Due to this, Royeca and Regalado must now categorically point out WHY Fr. Chirino called the natives as Filipinos. Certainly, there must be a reason why the good friar called them as such.”
The Spaniards called the natives Filipinos because they were the native inhabitants of las Islas Filipinas—the official name that the Spaniards had given to the archipelago. Since las Islas Filipinas was already the name of the archipelago, it was only natural for the Spaniards to call its natives Filipinos.
That the term Filipino is not indigenous is very obvious because it came from the Spanish name of the archipelago—las Islas Filipinas. Its being very obvious instantly renders useless any effort of pointing out that it is not a Tagalog, Visayan, or any other native word.
Natives: “We are Filipinos!”
On his blog, Pepe challenges:
“And, to reiterate, while both of them successfully pointed out that Fr. Chirino called Tagálogs, Visayans, Aetas, etc. as Filipinos, can they also point out any indigenous individual who called himself a Filipino during the Spanish times?”
Jose Rizal and his fellow natives of the Philippines called themselves Filipinos while living and studying in Spain and other countries in Europe. They were the first generation of natives of the Philippines who called themselves Filipinos. In a letter to his Austrian friend Ferdinand Blumentritt dated April 13, 1887, Rizal said:
“They are creole young men of Spanish descent, Chinese half-breeds, and Malayans; but we call ourselves only Filipinos” (The Rizal-Blumentritt Correspondence. Centennial Edition, Part 1, Manila: Jose Rizal National Centennial Commission, 1961, p. 72).
On his blog, Pepe charges:
“In addition, Both Royeca and Regalado are also proven wrong when they implied, wittingly or unwittingly, that the insulares or Spaniards born in the islands were not called Filipinos at any time in our history.”
I have not indirectly or directly made it appear that the insulares were never called Filipinos. I was disputing Constantino’s claim that the insulares were the first, the original, and until the 1850’s the only ones called Filipinos.
Peninsulares: The First Filipinos?
In blatantly claiming on his blog that the peninsulares were the first Filipinos, Pepe relied entirely on a poem written by an insular, Luis Rodríguez Varela of Tondo, Manila, in 1812.
Varela’s edict that the first Filipinos were the vassals of Spain is frighteningly incorrect. He must not have read the accounts of Spanish missionaries, which categorically proved that the natives of the Philippines were the first people to be called Filipinos.
Poems belong to the ambit of creative literature. They can be purely fictional. And so utilizing them as a source for one bold historical claim—like the peninsulares were the original Filipinos—is an amateurish and slapdash crack at historiography.
I have a little more to say about this matter on my other blog, The Term Filipino: A Question of Identity.