Are Filipinos Asian?


Are Filipinos Asians or Pacific Islanders? Is the Philippines part of South-east Asia, Oceania or the Pacific Islands?

Officially, of course, Filipinos are categorized as Asians and the Philippines as part of South-east Asia. But describing Filipinos as Pacific Islanders isn’t necessarily wrong either. In fact, for a long time, Filipinos were known as Pacific Islanders.

The Philippines used to be called the Philippine Islands of the Pacific, and when the Americans first arrived more than a century ago, they described the Philippine Islands as ‘orphans of the Pacific.’

They might well have been referring to the geographical distance of the country from mainland Asia. Composed of more than 7000 islands, the Philippine archipelagic state was a political creation of Western colonizers. It was Spain during the 16th century that united the major islands of the Philippines—if it hadn’t occupied the islands, the Philippine nation state wouldn’t have existed.

What would have happened if the country hadn’t been united? Luzon, the largest island in the north of the Philippines, could have become a territory of China or Taiwan, while Mindanao in the south could have become a province of Malaysia or Indonesia. The formation of a bigger nation state composed of the Philippine Islands, Taiwan and parts of Malaysia and Indonesia could have been another possibility.

Philippine society evolved differently from other Asian nations. For example, the Philippines (aside from Timor Leste) is the only Christian-dominated nation in Asia. The blending of Western and native cultures created a unique society that’s neither Western nor Asian.

Many Filipinos are unsure about their identity and although they believe they’re Asians, many also feel closer to the West, especially the United States. Indeed, they seem to be prouder of their Western upbringing than their Asian identity. This colonial mentality has been identified as one of the negative traits of many Filipinos.

South-east Asia is defined as a purely geographical concept in the Philippines and Filipinos often don’t appreciate nor understand the cultural and religious practices of their neighbours. They’re also unaware of Indochina politics.

The Philippines was used as a launch pad by the United States during the Vietnam War. But while panic swept the rest of the region when Cambodia and Thailand almost went to war over a border dispute, the Philippines didn’t express any sense of alarm over the situation.

To Filipinos, their place in South-east Asia is just an accident of geography. This is unfortunate, because the Philippines’ detachment from mainland South-east Asia could have been maximized to exert political leadership in the region. By not being involved with the numerous squabbles in Indochina, the Philippines could have played the role of objective arbiter in the various regional conflicts and disagreements.

But Filipinos seem to be more interested in political events in the West. Instead of ignoring their neighbours, Filipinos should embrace their connection with South-east Asia. 

April 7, 2014 at 12:04

If the Luzon could have been with China and Mindanao with Malaysia, what about the Visayas? Just hypothetical.

joe mamma
February 27, 2014 at 11:47

thanks, my friend always says the he’s pacific islander

January 30, 2014 at 21:42


The Inquirer
December 21, 2013 at 07:12

This also fails to mention there where many territories governed from Manila that extended far out into the Pacific ocean and included islands such as the Mariana Islands which was governed via Manila. These Pacific islands have a lot of cultural similarities with the Philippines due to the proximity, also they share common Hispanic colonial roots and history both post and pre colonial. As far as I know, the only SE Asian country that can understand Filipino mentality, history and identity is East Timor. Philippines have gone through hundreds of years of colonisation and cultural assimilation to a degree not found in the rest of Asia (with the exception of east Timor). As a result we will never be understood by much of the Asian community. However I really hope that Asian communities can embrace us for who we are, and can accept that this is something we cannot change. The Philippines is home to one of the oldest Spanish Croele Languages which is about 400 years old called Chavacano which has different styles and names according to region. Tagalog, the recently dubbed ‘notational language’ comprises of 40% borrowed Spanish words, with Spanish being the dominant group of borrowed words found in Tagalog (I think around 5500 words, could be wrong). Before the Spanish arrived, Tagalog along with many other Philippines-Austranesian languages only had 3 vowels along side the way that the Spanish changed our pronunciation, accent, expressions and mannerisms. Even today Filipinos continually borrow new words to add to the dictionary however even thought they may borrow a foreign word they always Hispanises that new borrowed word even long after Spanish colonialism. For example, more recently Tagalog has borrowed the English word ‘Boxing’ and hispanises it into ‘boksingero’, this is common in Hispanic countries, my point being is that Filipinos have taken Hispanic Culture and Identity and made it their own, unique version. Also no one mentions the historical link between Mexico and the Philippines, for hundreds of years the Philippines was governed by Mexico City. aside from language and politics, the cultural links and similarities between Mexico and the Philippines (as well as all other ex Hispanic colonies and Spain) are immense and irrefutable. The Philippines has its own type of Spanish guitar’s, Filipino Tango, Many Filipino traditional Hispanic influenced dances such as Camposo (Filipino version of Mariachi), Harana (Based on mexican habanera), Cariñosa (Hispanic music, language, and dance) . Also a lot of modern music has Filipino Hispanic influence. Hispanic influenced foods such as Adobo, Lechon, Paella, chorizo, bolla de keso. Religious festivals such as ‘La virgen de Candelaria’, ‘La Virgen de guadalupe’, ‘Santa Nino’, ‘Santa muerte’ (which is thought to be Mexican only in origin). Also sombrero’s are thought to only originate from Mexico however they are native to both Philippines and Mexico. To conclude, I think its safe to say that Filipino’s are ethnically/ culturally Hispanic. Not to mention that it stayed a Spanish colony only until recently, and has been a Spanish colony for far longer than other Hispanic countries.

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