An excerpt from an essay: “Flavors Beyond Asia” by Fernando Nakpil Zialcita
Zialcita, Fernando. 2005 Authentic Though Not Exotic, Quezon City: Ateneo de Manila University Press.
Austronesia. The Philippines, like Malaysia and Indonesia, belongs to a language family that takes in Madagascar and covers most of the Pacific Islands. Because of the longing to belong to a prestigious Asia of sophisticated civil cultures, Filipinos have forgotten their links with a major part of this cultural region. And yet they share myths, seafaring lore, and a crafts tradition with other Pacific Islanders. The ancestors of Micronesians and Polynesians sailed for their new homes millennia ago from the Philippines and Indonesia (Bellwood 1985).
Southeast Asia. The Philippines is situated in a tropical region characterized by inland seas, large islands, narrow river valleys, an extensive mountainous terrain, and deep forests (Winszeler 1976). There are four civilizations present in the region, the Chinese-influenced, the Indian-influenced, the Islamic, and the Western, and four language families, the Austronesian, the Austro-Asiatic, The T’ai, and the Tibeto-Burmese. Yet if one looks at the region as a particular type of ecosystem requiring a particular response, it indeed forms a unity, though not as a single civil culture. Throughout the region, because of the preference for living by or on the water where the main sources of protein are found, wooden houses are built on stilts……If religious prejudices on both sides be suspended, Christian Filipinos, Moslem Malays, and Moslem Indonesians can easily be comfortable with each other because of linguistic and other affinities.
The Hispanic World. The Philippines was the westernmost extension of the Spanish Empire. However, Spain ruled it through the viceroyalty of Mexico; after 1821, Spain ruled it directly. Ideas came in that are common to all Spanish-influenced countries; at the same time some ideas were Mexican in origin. Conversely, the Phlippines influenced the Mexican West Coast. Baroque art entered the islands; in exchange Manila workshops exported exquisite ivory saints to all of Spanish America and Spain. Mexican soldiers and missionaries brought in fruits and vegetables…The Filipino migrants reciprocated by bringing in the mango and the coconut wine, which continues to be called tuba on the Mexican West Coast.
Shared habits foster sympathy. During my travels abroad, I keep meeting ordinary Spanish and Spanish Americans whose remarks reveal much reading on the Philippines. Sympathy in turn can lead to a helping hand. At a parish in Hamburg, I met non-Spanish-speaking Filipino workers who had been invited by Spaniards and Spanish Americans to join their club on the grounds that they were brothers in spirit.