5 Things to Thank Spain For

Aug 10, 2010

Bad as they were, our Spanish conquerors did not spend all day dreaming up ways to make us Filipinos miserable.

They made us miserable by their very existence, milking our labour and resources to feed their empire. Still, we have to admit that their centuries as our overlords left us some good things, too.

Here are five things that may just wash the bitter taste of subjugation from our mouths.


5. The Battle of Mactan

battle of mactan by manuel panares

Photo credit: Manuel Panares


Alright, they didn’t really give this to us, per se, but it’s on the list anyway because it’s one of the few military victories we have.

Our war chiefs were not the best in the world, relying more on passion than any actual strategy or tactics, but this time, natives armed with spears, blades and bows won the day against one of the most formidable fighting forces of the age. Sure, they raped us for the next few hundred years, but on that day, we laid the smack down and made the Spanish our bitches.


4. Education

Spain did not really feel the need to educate us indios, but they did need to teach our elites a bit of literacy. After all, there was no sense in having collaborators who couldn’t send you written reports of native uprisings and friar gossip, or couldn’t read orders demanding more slave labour.

This came back to bite them in the ass when our educated elites started the propaganda movement, and began agitating for equal rights and representation in the Cortes. It was all done politely, to be sure, but it planted the seeds of revolution.


3. Beer

philippine beer by pinoyirish

Photo credit: Cliff Simonne Velasco


Fermentation is a natural process, and it doesn’t really take a rocket science to make hooch: our ancestors were getting drunk on rice wine and coconut toddy long before Magellan

’s dad had his first wet dream. Anyone who has had tapuy (rice wine), lambanog or basi knows, though, that novelty aside, they’re pretty vile drinks that trade potency for flavour.

Beer brought us to the threshold of civilisation when the first brewery in Southeast Asia was established in 1890, promptly taking us away again within hours. If there’s any doubt that beer is the manly man’s drink, consider that Bonifacio and his band of brawlers ignited the Philippine Revolution six years later.

2. Siesta

Come on, it’s a cultural excuse to be unproductive after lunch. What’s not to like? This Spanish habit of taking a midday nap is such a part of our psyche that parents enforce it every afternoon, threatening their children with spankings with various implements like rubber slippers and leather belts. Nobody ever whipped a kid to force him to attend Sunday Mass, but parents will readily flay a child within an inch of his life if he doesn’t lie down and pretend to be asleep for at least an hour after lunch. That is how important siesta is.


1. Puta

Not prostitution, obviously. We’d have figured that out for ourselves, but the word itself is a thing of beauty.

No word can resonate across our hundreds of ethno-linguistic groups and convey so many different emotions than puta. It’s the glue that holds our society together. When at a loss for words or unsure how to react, this is generally a safe route to go (in terms of expressing emotion, though, and not actual safety.)


This post was originally published on Indolent Indio in May 2008.