Philippines Asia or Pacific ?

Philippines and Indonesia are usually thought of as being in Asia. When/how did that start?
Checking ethnobotanical, linguistic, etc… sources, their IndoMalay cultures have more in common with the the Austronesian family, hence the Pacific islands: language (syntax & phonemes), agriculture (root crops, Canrium spp.), traditional beliefs and practices & so on.

“Proverbs for Paranoids, 2: The innocence of the creatures is in inverse proportion to the immortality of the Master.”
Thomas Pynchon, Gravity’s Rainbow.

Probably because they are really big archipelagos that are found near Asia. Their association with Asia predates the study of the various culture phenomena that you mentioned. This is not too different than a Eurasia vs “Europe and Asia” discussion. Lots of terms and references hang on in a language long after any technical objections to their origins have been raised.


Olentzero: Here’s another place for your Orwell quote. :slight_smile:

“Their association with Asia predates the study of the various culture phenomena that you mentioned.”

Actually, the reverse, tomndebb. Prior to western contact, Chinese and Arab sea traders described them separately from Asia (often something like “Principates of the Eastern Sea” and such). Under Spanish rule, the Philippines were thought of as part of their Pacific outposts, as those in Micronesia were (Asia was the goal; Spaniards had the Westbound routes around S.America, the Portuguese the eastbound around Africa). At the time of the Spanish-American War, Teddy Roosevelt referred to the need for holdings in the Pacific Islands (complaining about European posts in Samoa, Ponape, etc…), leading to the Philippine-American War. Twain and other journalists continued to see (the Philippines, anyway) as Pacific Islands. That US view held through WW2: the battles of the Coral Sea, Bataan, Halmahera, Leyte, et al., were all reported as the Allies’struggle in the Pacific, from what sources I’d checked.

So the change in geography is only recent, a generation or so. Some possibilities point to either:

both nations’ post-independence period, and some kind of public-relations theme (or propaganda ?) after membership in SEATO & later ASEAN (leave the US sphere of influence & join the Asian ?); or

the relative strength of ethnic Chinese communities in Indonesian & Philippine politics.

Oops, I meant to add “what do suppose happened in this last generation or two ?” and “can you think of similar cases of geographical cut-and-paste ?”. Disculpeme.

I’d love to, Nickrz, but this is an actual serious thread as opposed to the “My continent can beat up your continent” thread focusing on Greenland. :wink:

Cave Diem! Carpe Canem!

I think you hit the nail on the head when you mentioned membership in SEATO, Jorge. If you pick up text books on Southeast Asia, you’ll find that those written before the Vietnam War confine themselves to the former Dutch, French and British colonies and Thailand. During the 60s and 70s the Philippines were thrown into the curriculum. Around 1980, that country stopped being discussed in SE Asian studies. Perhaps, the Philippines are on their way back to being part of the Pacific, especially now that the US “Asiatic” Fleet is no longer based there.

Well jorge, i believe that most linguists feel that the Austronesian languages (over 1,000) most likely started in the area of Vietnam and Thailand, and spread south, then east from there. Its also believed that the Polynesians most likely originate from the Philippines or Indonesia, so the cultural and agricultural traditions would have come from the Philippines or indonesia (As you said root crops like taro are widely grown in the Philippines). Culturally it depends who you ask. Some would say the Philippines is more “hispanic” because of many spanish traditions incorporated into the culture. The Philippines is an odd mix of many cultures. Most prominent is the Spanish, there are some indian traditions (such as the Fatalistic Bahala Na attitude), there are also a lot of chinese traditions in the luson area.I say the Philippines is Asian because the Philippines is closer to asia than to many of the polynesian islands.

Tnx, P-Bear. It seems that one could almost get to some single political speech, or 1960 textbook, where it changed. (Think of Kemal Attaturk and Turkey: pre-Kemal, Asia Minor; post-K, Europe-leaning, ending up as a NATO member).

Doobieous: well, “because it’s closer”? Than my relatives in the Cape Verdes are actually Africans, and not Spaniards ? Or Falklanders are South Americans ? [of course, the archipelago should be the Malvinas, etc…] The indian traditions, such as “ningas cogon” and “bahala na” are precisely Pacific in nature. The Spanish influence is limited to an odd animist Catholicism, and market terminology (counting prices, goods…). You’re correct about the Chinese influence in Luzon (particularly Ilocos), but that is an imposition no different than Indian [Hindu] culture on Fiji, and nobody thinks of Fiji as part of the Indian sub-continent.

Back to square one: was there some, say Chinese-influenced publication, political statement, etc… saying “Asia over Pacific”, a textbook which told you it’s closer to Asia therefore Asian, or (PapaBear’s good suggestion) the arrival of the US “Asian” fleet ?

Stronger than the Spanish influence there was always the US military lingo, which no doubt in the Vietnam era would have seen the RP as an Asian domino. Anybody know where to find some good original “domino theory” source quotes ? Maybe the culprit is there.

And we haven’t touched on Indonesia, other than previous comment about Dutch colonies.

Perhaps it was the Japanese who first put The Philippines in Asia. Their rational for invading the islands in 1941-42 was so that they might be included in the Greater East-Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere.

When you think about pre-war politics and influence in what was at the time an American protectorate with an undetermined future, it benifited the USA to have The Philippines considered part of the Pacific (like Hawaii). I’m sure the Japanese did everything they could to convince the world that The Philippines was an Asian country (like Formosa) and thus properly placed under the protection and influence of Japan.

Another interesting point is that Spain, at one time, considered The Philippines as one of their American possesions.

“Another interesting point is that Spain, at one time, considered The Philippines as one of their American possesions.”

Where’s that cite from ? (I believes ya, just never seen it & awful curious)

I wish I had a precise cite for you, Jorge. I’ve come across references in Spanish sources to spices and hemp from the New World (or the Americas). These products, in fact, were from the Philippines “via the Americas”. Indeed, the islands were first “discovered” by Magellan by way of South America. The famous Manila Galleon treasure ships also stopped over in the New World on both the westbound and eastbound trips between the Philippines and Spain. Thus you had news and riches from both possesions arriving in the same ships. No doubt, if the Spanish ships had approached the islands from the east, they would have been considered part of India in those geographically imprecise days.

I’ll hunt around and see if I can find a cite for you. I think I may have seen such a reference in one of a few books about Francis Drake or the Armada that I read several years ago.

Uh hello? Have you thought that these “precisely pacific in nature” ideas in Polynesia may be because Polynesians probably started out from the Philippines? So that the cultural traditions come from Indonesia and or the Philippines? The Indian influence also extends to things other than just a few cutural attitudes. There are the native scripts of the Philippines (like the now extinct Tagalog, and the living ones of Palawan), there are the terms for some of the Gods (Bathala), even terms for some of the mythological creatures are from Indian words (like the Laho which comes from the sanskrit word “rahu” meaning darkness). There is even a copperplate inscription that was found at the mouth of the Lumbang river that gives a specific date in the Sanskrit calendar (Written in a script called Kavi).

So, many of the cultures that have had dealings with the Philippines HAVE left lasting marks on the islands, more than just a few superficial cultural attitudes and terms like you seem to be saying.

Yes, and most of the urban dances and music (most notably the Filipino Rondalla music), styles of dress (i’m not talking Moro or Tribal),some of the terms for cooking and styles of cooking (lechon), and the 5,000 odd Spanish words that have made it into the Tagalog language, Not to mention that Spanish is one of the official languages also? Also some of the architectural styles in Manila are also some of the lasting Spanish influences.

I wouldn’t go with the American president’s rationale of that time for grabbing hold of the Philippines. Remember, it was “to Christianize the Philippine people.” Conveniently forgetting that a majority of them had been Catholic for a few centuries already.

[qoute]Remember, it was “to Christianize the Philippine people.”

I seriously doubt William McKinley ever said or even thought that. American acqisition of the Philippines was just a by-product of the War with Spain. America’s resentment of having a medevil empire at her doorstep (read the Cuban colony) and latent aspirations for a modern American empire were the direct causes for the war and the conseqential changing of masters in the Philippines.

American hegemony over the Philippines was purely military (Manila was a perfect home for the US Asiatic Fleet). I think you may be confusing the Philippines with Hawaii which about the same time was handed to Washington DC on a silver platter by New England missionaries.

Doobieous: might’ve misunderstood each other. My original point was precisely that there is a closer tie amongst Austronesian cultures (from Indo-Malaya, Philippines, out to Polynesia) than is generally “admitted” today. Filipinos, for example, are generally excluded from discussions about pan-pacific culture, whether at UH or publications such as Pacific Magazine, or UN-sponsored bodies such as SPREP, etc… When I said “precisely Pacific in nature”, I meant that here was an example of cultural attitudes closer to Pacific cultures rather than Asian (see original question).

As to “Indian”, I’m not sure if you meant “Indian sub-continent” (yr reference to Sanskrit) or to “indigenous” (Igorot, Manobo, Agta, Maguindanao, ad inf.). We probably agree on this - my point had been that “true” indigenous RP culture gets you closer to who they are/were, and who are next of kin (Polynesians, as opposed to Chinese). This means anything from gabi/taro culture, to frond weaving, to marinated fish, to bahala na…

That copperplate records a Srijivayan transaction, and is written mostly in old Malay, although in the different script. Still shows a Pacific islands, rather than Asian, tie, unless you want to go back all the way to early Indus valley expansions…

I’d still say that Spanish influence is an add-on. Most words of Spanish (or Mexican) origin are market and trade related; food is about 30% latinate (but that’s 'cause Spanish cooking is pretty good). In my experience, Spanish dance & dress is common in say Bulacan - but not the rest of the country. But let’s agree to disagree for now, as this is off-target.

On point: who [& when] split the Philippines [and Indonesia] off from the Pacific [Oceania] to which it has much closer ties (at the root, anyway) and slapped it in Asia ? Any rationale ?

PapaBear: am thumbing now through an old text with a variety of quotes of that era. So far, seen everything from Teddy Roosevelt calling for the retention of spoils of war, to the Reverend Wallace Radcliffe saying “…The peal of the trumpet rings out over the Pacific. The Church must go where America goes.” Your reasoning appears to be correct [you don’t seem to be wrong often…], the military/trade interests first, and the Church followed along. More later…

“Proverbs for Paranoids, 2: The innocence of the creatures is in inverse proportion to the immortality of the Master.”
Thomas Pynchon, Gravity’s Rainbow.

Stuart Creighton Miller’s “Benevolent Assimilation” is one of the texts whose quotes I’d been scanning. There are lotsa references to Philippine “Islands” and “Archipelago”, but no “Asia” references other than by apposition [do I have that word right ? as in Philippines are mentioned as a coaling port on the way to Asia]. Quite a few quotes refer to Filipinos with terminology reserved for African-Americans - not Asians.

Whitlaw Reid, editor of the NY Tribune, is quoted as urging “…converting the Pacific Ocean into an American lake.”

Certainly, IndoMalay/RP culture originates with the maritime empire at Sumatra (as Doobieous points out), then split: Lapita culture south and east, another branch out to Mcronesia.

Among other things, I was also wondering about the effects of this severance:

1)the present day split: Filipinos are put in the census as Asians, not Pacific Islanders; residents of Saipan engage in some evilly brutal racism against Filipinos, vehemently denying any kinship, while perennially looking East to Hawaii, Samoa, et al. for some Pan-Pacific brotherhood. Why exclude that culture (and protest too much) ?

2)it seems as if one almost find the date and text where the geography changed (SEATO conference, some pronouncement by Westmoreland, etc…), curious - particularly as regards a country and a war about whom most people (present company excluded) know very little, but have a great deal of contact with.

At this rate, should we move this to “Great Debates”?

Doubt all you want, Papa; however, here’s a link to a book discussing America’s little escapade in that group of islands: . Title of the book begins “In our Image.” And no, I was not confusing that with Hawaii. Last I checked, Hawaii had not been Catholic for hundreds of years. All wars are “purely military.” The spin for those deemed by politicians as otherwise are just that, spin. Gotta give the home crowd a reason not to turn on the government of the day, you know.

Drat. I left out “interview with the author of” immediately preceding “a book discussing…”

Your link attributes the attack on the Spanish Fleet (in Manila) to the renegade Sec. of the Navy. It looks like the Pres. probably had nothing to do with it!

If America really wanted to supplant Catholicism with their own brand of Christianity (whatever that might be) than I would think that they would start in their own cities where Catholics were not only the fastest growing religion but were also taking over politically (Tamany Hall)!