What Are Some Chinese Influences on Filipino Culture?

Chinese traders arrived in the Philippines as early as the ninth century A.D., establishing settlements and permanent trade routes, intermarrying, and introducing aspects of Chinese culture. Many words in the Filipino languages are Chinese in origin. The influence of Chinese food is prevalent in Filipino cuisine. Even the Filipino emphasis on family values has strong similarities to that of Chinese Confucianism.

Over 170 languages are spoken on the 7,107 islands of the Philippines, as groups who came to the islands via prehistoric land bridges were later separated. Due to the existence of so many subcultures, the specific influences of the Chinese can be difficult to ascertain. Filipinos with some Chinese heritage account for 18 to 27 percent of the total population of the Philippines.

The Filipinos and Chinese coexisted for five centuries before the Spanish arrived in 1571 and began colonizing the Philippines. The Spanish quickly instituted Christianity as the mandatory religion and imposed a hierarchical class system, radically altering the cultures of the island nation. The Chinese and Chinese Filipinos made up the labor class, working for the Spanish carving icons and building churches with Chinese motifs.

The Spaniards isolated those with Chinese ancestry inside the Parian, a walled-off quarter of Manila, causing them to form Chinese communities and institutions for protection. The Chinese Filipinos who had studied in the Philippines and abroad, including national hero Jose Rizal, introduced liberal ideologies to the people, which led to the formation of a revolutionary army that fought the Spanish and, later, the Americans.