Spanish Influence on Language, Culture, and Philippine History
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Spanish Influence on Language, Culture, and Philippine History
Spanish Influence on Language, Culture, and Philippine History

Leslie E. Bauzon, "Influence of the Spanish Culture," translated to Nihonggo and published as "Firipin bunka eno Supein no eikyo" in Shizuo Suzuki and Shinzo Hayase (eds.), TONAN AZIA NO JITEN FIRIPIN (ENCYCLOPEDIA OF SOUTHEAST ASIA: PHILIPPINES), Kyoto: Dohosha, 1991. Pp. 195-196.

Spain colonized the Philippines from 1565 to 1898. The Spaniards ruled the Filipinos for 333 years. Spanish influence on the Philippines and the Filipino inhabitants was immediately visible following the imposition of Castilian colonial sovereignty. The Spaniards transplanted their social, economic, and political institutions halfway across the world to the Philippine archipelago. The colonial masters required the native Filipinos to swear allegiance to the Spanish monarch, where before they only had village chieftains called "datus;" to worship a new God, where before they worshipped a whole pantheon of supernatural deities and divinities; to speak a new language, where before they had (and still have) a Babel of tongues; and to alter their work habits, where before they worked within the framework of a subsistence economy. The Spanish landholding system based on private ownership of land replaced the Filipino system of communal landownership. Thus, when the Spanish rule ended, the Filipinos found many aspects of their way of life bearing the indelible imprint of Hispanization.

To administer the Philippines, the Spaniards extended their royal government to the Filipinos. This highly centralized governmental system was theocratic. There was a union of Church and State. The Roman Catholic Church was equal to and coterminous with the State. Therefore, the cross as well as the scepter held sway over the archipelago. While the State took care of temporal matters, the Church took care of spiritual matters and hence preoccupied itself with the evangelization and the conversion of the Filipino inhabitants from their primal religion to Roman Catholicism. The Spanish friars wanted the Philippines to become the "arsenal of the Faith" in Asia. In the process, the Spanish Catholic missionaries helped in the implantation of Castilian culture and civilization on Philippine soil. This is because Spanishness was equated with Catholicism. The two terms were virtually synonymous with one another. One was not a genuine Spaniard if he was not a faithful Roman Catholic believer.

The imposition of the Roman Catholic faith upon the Filipino population permanently influenced the culture and society of the Philippines. This is due to the fact that the Spanish friars who undertook the immense task of evangelizing the Filipino natives looked at their missionary work and endeavor as involving more than simple conversion. By Christianizing the Filipinos, the Spanish Catholic missionaries were in effect remodelling Filipino culture and society according to the Hispanic standard. They would be Hispanizing the Filipinos, teaching them the trades, manners, customs, language and habits of the Spanish people. This influence is evident even in the way we tell time ("alas singko y media"), in the way we count ("uno, dos, tres"), and in the family names we carry ( De la Cruz, Reyes, Santos, etcetera).

The Filipino populace embraced Spanish Roman Catholic Christianity almost unquestioningly. The Spanish authorities congregated the scattered Filipino population into clustered village settlements, where they could more easily be instructed and Christianized under a friar’s eye. This policy paved the way for the emergence of the present system of politico-territorial organization of villages, towns, and provinces. At the same time, the compact villages which were literally under the bells of the Roman Catholic Church permitted the regular clergy to wake up the villagers each day, summon them to mass, and subject them to religious indoctrination or cathechismal instruction. This process enabled the Church to play a central role in the lives of the people because it touched every aspect of their existence from birth to growth to marriage to adulthood to death. Whether the natives clearly understood the tenets and dogmas of the Roman Catholic Church is of course another matter. Some scholars claim that the Spaniards only superficially Christianized the Filipinos, most of whom learned to recite the prayers and chants by rote, without any idea as to their meaning. Some native inhabitants became only nominal Christians. At any rate, there is no denying the fact that many Filipinos defended the Catholic faith devotedly.

Through the Church and its zealous missionaries, the Filipinos learned new techniques and procedures involving the cultivation of agricultural crops introduced from Mexico, one of Spain’s colonies in the New World. For example, prior to the imposition of Castilian rule, the Filipinos practiced swiddening or slash-and-burn agriculture. This farming technique involved clearing a hillside or a patch of land, cutting down the trees, burning the trunks, the branches and the leaves, removing the rocks, and then planting through the use of a pointed stick to create a hole on the ground into which seeds were thrown. Then the farmer simply waited for harvest time to arrive. This situation changed when the missionaries taught the Filipino natives horticultural techniques requiring intensive cultivation of land through better irrigation and water management so as to lessen their dependency on rainfall. In addition to teaching the Filipinos new farming methods and introducing to them new crops such as maize, avocado, tomato, and cacao, from which the nutritious drink of chocolate was derived, the Spanish friars taught the rudiments of reading and writing to the natives, not to mention useful trades such as painting, baking and locksmithing.

In the course of Spanish colonization in the Philippines, the friars constructed opulent Baroque-style church edifices. These structures are still found today everywhere across the country and they symbolize the cultural influence of Spain in Filipino life. The opulence of these edifices was clearly visible in the ornate facades, paintings, and sculpture, as well as in the behavioral patterns of the people and in the intricate rituals associated with Roman Catholic churches. While it is true that the Spaniards exploited labor in the construction of the imposing Baroque-style sanctuaries for Roman Catholic worship, it is also true that these same edifices became the means by which Filipino artistic talents and inclinations were expressed. The carpenters, masons, craftsmen, and artisans were mainly Filipinos. In this way, the Roman Catholic Church and religion influenced Filipino architectural and building style, even as the rituals and festivities of the Church influenced Filipino dances, songs, paintings, and literary writings. Through these influences, the Church afforded the Filipinos abundant opportunities for both solemn rites and joyous festivities and celebrations known as "fiestas." The services inside the Catholic churches often spilled out into the thoroughfare in the form of colorful and pageant-filled religious processions in which the rich and the poor participated. Dining, drinking, and merrymaking often followed or accompanied such religious activities. During these feasts, Spanish culinary specialties like "paella" (a dish consisting of a mixture of rice, chicken and shellfish), "arroz valenciana" (glutinous rice and chicken cooked in coconut milk), and "lengua" (sauteed ox-tongue usually with mushroom sauce) became part of the local table fare. The rites and feasts served to provide relief from the drudgery of humdrum village existence, to release pent-up social and economic frustrations, or to foster community spirit and unity.

Finally, it is worth mentioning that the Spaniards enriched the Filipino languages through lexicographic studies produced by the friars. Many Spanish words found their way into the Tagalog and Visayan languages. The Spanish words somehow fitted into the phonetic patterns of the Filipino languages. These Spanish words like "mesa" (table), "adobo" (marinated cooked food), and others are commonly used today in the daily practical transactions of the Filipinos with each other. Ironically, the friars came up with excellent studies on Filipino culture and languages even as they sought to overthrow this same culture through their implantation of Spanish civilization.

The influences from Spain have become permanently embedded in Filipino culture. The Filipino people themselves have internalized them. They cannot be undone anymore. For good or bad, they have catapulted the Filipinos into the world of Spanish culture, into the world of Spanish civilization and its products. Nevertheless, it must be said that the Filipinos did not receive the cultural influences from Spain sitting down. They responded in a way that demonstrated their capacity to master the new and to balance the new against the old, in a way that called for their capacity to bring values and principles to bear with a critical and informed judgment, and in a way that called for them to be able to sift what is essential from what is trivial. Thus they responded selectively to the novelties the Spaniards brought with them to the Philippine Islands. The Filipinos accepted only those that fitted their temperament, such as the "fiesta" that has become one of the most endearing aspects of life in these islands, and made them blend with their indigenous lifestyle to produce a precious Philippine cultural heritage.




Florentino Rodao
Universidad Complutense de Madrid

Spain definitely lost its world empire in 1898 after the defeat toward the United States army, dedicating since then its colonial efforts exclusively to Equatorial Guinea and Morocco, in the African continent. But aside from the sorrow of the military disaster and the dislike against the United States for all the face and status lost in a time when ranking among nations was decided by square kilometres under their flag, it is neccesary to differentiate the cases of the caribbean colonies (Puerto Rico and, mainly, Cuba) and that of those in the Pacific (Micronesia and, mainly, the Philippines). Loss of power in Cuba meant the forced weakening of very strong ties between both territories, cultural as well as economic: the repatriation of capital was so important that many of the biggest banks in contemporary Spain were founded with money sent from Cuba at the turn of the century. The ties with the Philippines, on the other side, were not so strong and, more than that, it can be said that progressively surged a feeling in the Peninsula of being freed from a heavy burden: there had been no profits from such colonization and dominance in Manila was widely perceived to be the most inefficient and ruled by religious orders. "Souls" had been the only "benefit" of three hundred years of rule in the Philippines and even this argument could not be regarded very positively for an increasingly anticlerical intellectual thinking in Spain. After all, the United States had made a favour in the case of the Philippines and Micronesia, although not in relation to Cuba, the so-called Jewel of the Empire. It had been enough of adventuring in the Far East and since then it should be better to forget about all those territories; interest became exclusively exotic and shallow knowledge prevailed.

As one of the obvious consequences, official relations with the area dropped dramatically and even was thought to abandon one of the two embassies in the area, the one in Tokyo or that in Beijing. Also, any fact ocurred in the area has been undermined along the 20th Century and, with that, whatever happened to the former colonies there, aside from lip-service about the strong links and the hispanic identity of the Philippines. However, there were also private links, and they had become important enough as to continue functioning regardless of the official interest. Ties between Spain and East Asia walked on their own effort after 1898, regardless of offocial support and based mainly on those private interests. I deem neccesary to discuss those interests and, for reasons of clarity, I shall divide them into commercial, cultural, demographic and missionary interests. Those of a political character have not been included due to the limited importance and their rapidly changing nature. The choice of the year 1945 is because of two reasons, first because this year can be considered the lowest ebb of the Spanish presence (however the information compiled is, in some of the cases, previous to the Pacific War) and because, after the war, the mainstay on which the Spanish presence was based on changed totally: since then the official relations with east asian goverments dominated and those interests in Asia were not important anymore to shape the policy of Madrid.


In the case of China and Japan, economic interests were the only remaining relationships in the official contacts between Madrid and Tokyo or Beijing, but were not specially important. Wine was the predominant Spanish export product during the prewar period, being also the only commodity that was sold in quantities that did not fluctuated much. It was followed in importance by canned foods and ores. The imports were mainly semi-manifactured goods, with specific items from each country, such as Japanese silk or Philippine tobacco or sugar, as well as occasional imports as rice. It is very difficult, however, to know both the exact figures and the specific features, mainly because much of the merchandise proceeding from or destined to the Far East was exchanged in the ports of Singapore, Hong-Kong or Port Said, near the Suez Channel.

The problem that most affected the Spanish trading in the Far East was the absence of a strong enterpreneurial structure, something similar to the problems Spain faced in the rest of the world: only family-type businesses with scarce resources were predominant in those export-import activities in ports like Kobe or Shanghai. These small businesses operated mainly as locally based agents, purchasing in the name of their clients, evaluating merchandise, surveying the shipments and paying orders through bank loans, although in these cases the money was held until due authorisation for the money order was received. After the outbreak of the Spanish Civil (1936) and the Sino-Japanese (1937) Wars, most businesses in those ports broken, partly because the wars caused the fall in the mutual trading activities and partly because the Spanish exchange policy strongly restricted the access to foreign currency after Franco's Nacionales' success, forcing the workers or owners of these little companies to find jobs with companies of other nationalities. Related partially to this fact, the most constantly mentioned problem in the documents -in addittion to the previously mentioned absence of a strong trading structure-, was the lack of a Spanish navigation line between the Philippines and Spain, although some of the routes reaching Northern Europe from the Far East made a stopover in Barcelona.

The Spanish commercial interests in the Philippines had a very different character from those in China or Japan and maintained their importance until the end of the period covered by this article and in spite of being under different colonial rulers. A much more extensive research would be needed to devote to these interests the importance they deserve but, in any case, it is neccesary to emphasize that the economic and political power in the Philippines was maintained esentially by the same families as during the Spanish colonial period. Although attached culturally to Spain and its values, we know little about their direct connections between their companies or their branches to Spanish ones, as most of their wealth and profits stemmed from exports to the United States.The direct exchange between Spain and the Philippines increased since 1898, from a total of 7 to 13-14 million pesetas during the years preceeding the inauguration of the 2nd Spanish Republic (1931), dropping later to a total of 4 million in 1936, when the Spanish War started. Since 1908, exports from the Philippines into Spain surpassed imports, but this imbalance was cleared by the net capital sent to Spain. This took place under different categories: as revenues from properties in the Philippines whose owners lived in Spain; as pensions sent to the relatives in Spain by those working in the Philippines, or as amounts proceeding from the total or partial liquidation of the interests possessed by repatriated Spaniards (1).

In the period before the Pacific War, two processes affected the development of Filipino-Spanish links: the dramatic diminishing of the speculative capital benefits, due to the failure in gold mining investments(2), and the massive denationalisation of the elite, which had kept Spanish citizenship until then(3). Consequently, the proportion of Philippine foreign trade under Spanish management fell from around two thirds in the 1920s to a minimum percentage in the period just after the Pacific War. This change was mainly because Spanish managers and businessmen had changed nationality not due to decreasing fortunes, which were maintained and increased regardless of which passport they held.

The most important among the Spanish companies in the Philippines before the war was the Compañía General de Tabacos de Filipinas, popularly known as Tabacalera. Created in 1881, based in Barcelona and built with French capital, its expansion took place mainly during the first third of the 20th Century, during the American period. In the Philippines, it was estimated that, besides the state administration, it was "the organisation feeding more people", among them around 200 spanish citizens. Tabacalera dealt with almost all Philippine export products, specially tobacco, sugar, copra, and coconut oil, while it imported specially spanish wine, olive oil brands and canned food. It also had subsidiary companies such as "Tabacalera Steamship Co.", "Central Azucarera de Tarlac", "Central Azucarera de Bais" and "Compañia Celulosa de Filipinas". These societies were recorded according to the rights and duties of the Philippines law, although their capitals were partly or totally Spanish.

Other important spanish companies were "Banco de la Islas Filipinas", "Banco Hipotecario de Filipinas", "Philippine Sugar Estates Inc.", "La Insular, Fábrica de Tabacos y Cigarrillos", "La Yébana, Fábrica de tabacos y cigarrillos", "Commonwealth Insurance Co." and "Tuason y Sampedro", besides other ones in different fields. Spanish family-owned bussiness were of much bigger importance than those run in Shanghai or Kobe. They represented some of those powerful Spanish families, as in the cases of "Ayala & Co.", "Elizalde & Co.", "Lizarraga Hnos.", "Roxas & Cia", "A. Soriano & Cia" or "R. Perez Samanillo". The Ayala and Pérez Samanillo groups operated almost exclusively as managers of the families' real estate, while the rest of them operated in a similar way as the Tabacalera, with a very broad business scope. From them all, the main character and leader of the Spanish community in the prewar period was Andrés Soriano, whose properties included gold mines, real estate and the lucrative "San Miguel Brewery" conglomerate . We do not have much information about his businesses in Spain although he sometimes spent six months a year in the peninsula; a source opposed to him stated that "although it is known that among them [his businesses ] is "Editorial Calleja", and it is also rumored as a mere probability that he is connected with the dollars exchange black market".(5) After the breakup of the Spanish War, he received the Great Cross of Naval Merit and had direct access to Franco's headquarters.

The connection of these Filipino-Spanish capital with the Chinese mainland seems to be important, as they were following the route of the chinese inmigrants that were so significant to the Philippine economy. One of them was the "Chino-Spanish Trading Co.", an import-export company managed by Francisco Abóitiz, and another one were the Jai-Alai courts, whose manager was Teodoro Jáuregui, a basque who himself had been a pelotari. The Jai-Alai Courts were run in Shanghai, Tientsin and Manila by companies of different nationalities, but were considered to be one of the more important businesses run by Spaniards.(6) It must be noted, however, that the situation and influence of Spaniards in China was quite different to that in the Philippines, not only because their economic might was more limited but also because the final date of the privileges that allowed benefits for theirs businesses could be foreseen, once the Unequal Treaties came to an end as had happened already in Japan and Siam. Since mid-19th century Spain had started enjoying its derivative prerogatives, such as functioning almost freely in the foreign concessions and benefiting from extraterritoriality, but the end of those privileges would come soon and, also, was not in its hands: there was no other choice than doing what big powers decided.(7)


Among the cultural ties between Spain and East Asia, it is convenient to distinguish the territories which had been colonies from those that had not been. No special affinities existed between China or Japan on one hand and Spain on the other and their mutual perceptions were based mostly on second-hand images and information, which reached both territories mostly through English-speaking channels. Some direct information came through Spaniards or Latinamericans residing in Asia who contributed to journals or newspapers edited in the Peninsula while religious publications where writtings by missionaries could be found did not reach the general public. But not only China or Japan showed little affinities with Spain, also those territories where the Spanish presence had been sporadic -such as Pohnpei in Micronesia, occupied only at the end of 19th century-, felt little affinities. Needless to say, the Philippines and Guam were the territories with stronger cultural links to Spain, but it is also neccesary to emphasize that compared with Latin American countries the identity was felt in a much lesser degree.

The more important aspects of this cultural influence remain even nowadays: the language and the Catholic religion. At the beginning of the Pacific War, the Spanish language still maintained its role in the Philippine society. It was used by around 1 million people, basically among middle-upper and upper classes, as a language for understanding among themselves, and still maintained its position as the official language for law and administration as well as was the lingua franca in trading, together with English. Also, it had acquired a curious role in the societies of both the Philippines and Guam because, although having been a colonial language, it took on an anticolonial character as a way of national identificacion and resistance to the rule of the United States which was symbolised by English. Its role went much further beyond the spanish community(8) Regarding the Catholic religion, an overwhelming majority of the native population in the Philippines practised it and even in Micronesia Catholicism was followed by as many persons as those who were Protestants, although the proportion in each island varied extremely. The perception of this overall spanish cultural identity, furthermore, was less noticed than in other cases since they were deeply assimilated within the society and its structure.

There was not much effort from Spain to make these links stronger. The sporadic mentions in the Peninsula of the mutual affinities between Spain and its colonies and to the common history were never backed by financial means. Furthermore, the ties were restricted to very reduced groups of those specialized or with direct connections such as family or missionary zeal. In the Philippines, however, hispanic identity spread much beyond the community: newspapers in spanish language were widely read and the community itself afforded the invitation to academicians, charlistas, poets or writters to visit the islands in order to perform artistic exhibitions or conferences.(9) This efforts to maintain such a direct contact with the Peninsula during the first half of the 20th century shows that cultural ties grew alive, but mostly due to the efforts made from the Philippine side. Hispanism century walked on its own effort, mostly driven from the Archipelago.


The Catholic religion remained as a fundamental stronghold from the years of Spanish dominance in the Philippines. Besides this, in the rest of the region, there were aproximately 3.5 million Catholics in China, and less significant figures in other parts of the region. Due to it and despite the fact that the task of taking care of the faithful was in charge of religious orders with members from many nationalities, missionaries became the most widespread Spanish presence around the Asia-Pacific region during the first half of the 20th century. Transnationality was one of the characteristics of those Orders and they allowed changes of nationality in their ownership when neccesary, such as when Spain lost Extraterritoriality Rights in China in 1937 or when, in the beginning of the 1920's, the Jesuits decided it was more convenient to adapt to new rulers using replacing the Spaniards with Americans. On the other side, the economic resources owned by the religious orders thanks to the Spanish colonial period had made the Philippines a key point for the religious presence in the Asia-Pacific area: it was through these resources that their missions were financially supported and from where received some kind of instructions. The missionaries assigned to Asia, for example, traveled first to Manila, where the Orders had their Conventos Madre (Santo Domingo, San Agustín or San Nicolas) and then were sent to their designate destinations.(10)

The presence of the regular Spanish clergyman was as follows during the Pacific War:

In the Japanese Archipelago the most important presence was by the Dominican Fathers. They were located at the island of Shikoku, in far poor rural areas. Matsuyama Church (Ehime Prefecture) was the Vicariate seat while another group lived in Takamatsu, in Kagawa Prefecture. There was also a nursery in Niihama and a church in Uwajima, again in the Ehime Prefecture and another one for children in Enoguchi in Kôchi Prefecture. The reduced number of Spanish jesuits in Japan were mixed up with priests from other nationalities, living in the city on Yamaguchi, capital of the prefecture of the same name and in Kojimachi, in Tokyo. There were also a Salesian and a Marian. Among the nuns, both the Mercedarian Sisters of Berriz and the Handmaids of the Sacred Heart had a school in Tokyo, the first in Kôenji and the second in Azabu. The Adoratrix of the Most Holy Sacrament had a house in Yokohama and another one in Kojimachi. There was also a Franciscan in Fujisawa (Kanagawa Prefecture) and two Sisters of San Mauricio.(11)

In Micronesia, changes of colonizer were frequent after the Spanish departure, but its missionaries managed to maintain a strong presence, partly because assingment in these islands was a destiny not many desired. The Agustinians from Spain were replaced by Germans until World War I, when the Japanese took over and maintained under a same flag a lot of territories conquered during the conflict. Tokyo requested the Vatican to send missionaries from countries that had maintained their neutrality in the conflict and therefore the Spaniards went back to proselityze, this time Jesuits who had no other way but to accept the instruction from the Pope.(12) They built residences in Yap, Palau, Chuuk and Pohnpei. Since 1937, the so-called "Nanyô (South Seas) Commission" provided that the missionaries should speak Japanese, so some of them went to learn it to Japan. In Guam, there were no changes since Americans bought the island to Spain. The Agustinians were evicted after the Spanish defeat and this territory, under American rule, became a jurisdiction of the Spanish Capuchins until 1936, when American Missionaries belonging to the same order were sent. A progressive process of change started and, when the Pacific War started, only two Spaniards remained, Bishop Monsignor Olano and his secretary, Ramón Jáuregui.(13)

In the Philippines, the presence of the Spanish clergy was still extensive until the Pacific War and therefore it is more convenient lo list them in alphabetical order. The Agustinian Recollects had arrived in 1608. They were in charge of Palawan, being in charge of the Apostolic Prefecture and the Bacolod Diocese. They also had the San Nicolas de Tolentino convent, the Convent-Church in San Sebastian, another one in Cebu and the Institute Santo Tomas at Villanueva (San Carlos, Negros Occidental). The Agustinians were the first established in the Philippines, since the 1570s. They were in charge on the Convent of San Agustin in Intramuros and the Convents of Santo Niño in Cebu and Iloilo, administering also parishes in Pampanga, Iloilo and Cebu. The Benedictines established in 1895, thet were also in the process of substituting the Spanish members when the Pacifis War started; they owned San Beda School and assisted in the Santiago and San Jose Hospitals, the first in Arlegui and the other in Balmes. The Capuchins had established themselves in the Philippines in 1887 and were almost exclusively dedicated to their parish activities, being based in Manila, Tarlac, Pangasinan and Cavite. The Dominicans had established in the Philippines in 1587 and their most important work was in the educational field, their most important centers being the Colegio de San Juan Letrán, in Intramuros, and the University of Santo Tomas (UST). They had a sanctuary in Rizal and other one in Pangasinan, a convent in Batanes and a "Dominican Hall" in Baguio. The first Franciscans arrived in 1577. Besides the convent in Intramuros, they owned three residences, a convent-school, a parish in San Francisco del Monte (Quezon City) and ten parishes in Samar Island and in Albay and Sorsogon provinces. The fathers Paul's or Vincentians arrived relatively late into the Philippines and directed the Diocesan Seminars, where they formed a great part of the Filipino clergy and episcopate. Their Central house was San Marcelino convent and parish, and the seminaries of the Sacred Heart in Bacolod (Negros), San Carlos in Sargao (Cebu), San Vicente in Calbayog (Samar), San Vicente Ferrer in Jaro (Panay), San Carlos (South Camarines) and Rosario, in Naga, were under their responsability. The Jesuits were the first order to replace Spanish priests by Americans, beginning in the 1920s, and therefore we can not considered them to be inside this account, although some of the Spanish Jesuits were still in the Philippines when the Pacific War broke out. Among the nun congregations, were: Sisters of Charity (17 schools in Cebu, Iloilo, Baguio and Manila, as Santa Rosa School), the Daughters of Jesus (3 schools in Iloilo and Pototal), the Missionaries of Santo Domingo (5 centers in Santa Catalina and Pangasinan), Handmaids of St. Joseph (4 schools in Panay), the Terciary Augustinians (10 schools), Augustinian Recollects (6 centers), The Congregation of nuns of Virgin Mary (37 schools), the Dominican Missionaries (4 schools) and Franciscan Missionaries of Mary (15 schools). (14)

In China, the Spanish missionaries had their hardest time after the beginning of the Chinese-Japanese War. The Jesuits (settled since 1912) were in Anhui and Hubei provinces. They had an Apostolic Vicariate in Wuhan (Hubei) since 1921, with a principal residence, and 22 secondary ones, with another seminary in Suanchen and 25 secondary residences. In Anhui province, they had a principal and 21 secondary residences. Their properties were appraised in 12 million pesetas. The Agustinians were in Hunan province and had a Vicariate in Xiangtan, near the capital, Changsha, where they became victims of the Japanese bombing, as well as in Jishou and Lichou. They were settled also in Nanchang (Jiangxi) and Shanghai, with properties appraised at 8.5 million Taels. The Dominicans (settled since 1900), predominated in Fujian province where they had three vicariates based in Fuzhou, Fuding and Xiamen (Amoy, with the foreign concession of Kulangsu), with a total of 76 secondary residences and had a novitiate installed in Hong-kong, the Convent of San Alberto Magno. Their properties were valued at 17.1 million pesetas. Under Japanese rule, they were also settled in Taiwan, with their principal house in Taizhong (Taichu) and a church in Kaohsiung (Takao). Agustinian Recollects were also in China since 1925, in different Catholic mission in Hunan province. Their principal mission in Kweitehfu was plundered during the Japanese invasion to the province, where they had also 10 secondary houses, with a total property value of 3 million pesetas. The Vincentians were in the Aberdeen School of Arts and Crafts in Hong-kong and in Marampur and Sharampur provinces, as documentation mention the towns. The Franciscans first arrived hey arrived first in China in 1633 and had, since 1911, an Apostole Vicariate in Norht Shaanxi province, in Yan'an, with 5.7 million pesetas in properties. The Capuchins were in Jiangsu and Xinjiang provinces, with 29 secondary residences. Regarding the sisters, the Daughters of Jesus were in Beijing and Anquing, the Mercedarian Missionaries of Berriz were in Wuhan,the Terciary Augustinians were in the north of Hunan. (15)

Moving to South-East Asia, we can find three Orders in clearly defined territories. In French Indochina or the "Tonkin Privence", all missionaries were Dominican, holding missions in Banc-Ninh, Cat-dam and Thai-binh, an Apostolic school in Haiphong and seminaries in Nam-Dihn and Quang-Puong. In Siam, the Brothers of Saint Gabriel were in Bangkok, in charge of the well reputed Assumption College, and in Borneo were the Discalced Carmelites.

The figures of the Spanish missionaries in East Asia are quite difficult to state since they registered in the Consulates when they had time to make a trip, some even took the citizenship of other European countries, mostly French, a country that wished to be seen as the defender of catholic religion in China, if that country's consulate was closer.(16) We have been able to determine more accurately the number of missionaries in Japan, counting around 150 to 160 members, including those in Micronesia and Taiwan.(17) In continental South-east Asia the total number was more than 50, with ten Gabrielists in Siam, 42 Dominicans in French Indochina, while in Borneo there were four Discalced Carmelites and in Guam two Jesuits remained.(18) In China, the number decreased slightly to 400 by the end of the Sino-Japanese War at 1945(19) and in the case of the Philippines we do not have complete figures, but it must have been higher than in China.(20)

The exact amount of their properties and investments, independently from the appraisals which they made on their own, has to be speculative since the very Orders were suspicious in providing concrete information due to taxation reasons, specially to the Spanish authorities. The variety of nationalities among its members allowed them to be easily opaque to the authorities. In the Philippines, the privileges they had during the Spanish period were reduced with the new American administration although they maintained an enormous economic power.(21) Many existing testimonies mention their economic might but the Orders themselves still have not documented their own accounts.(22)

Problems stemming from political motivations were constant by this time. In Japan, some of the positions held by the Spanish among the hierarchy were transferred to the Japanese as a consequence of their nationalist policy. In China, all the Spanish diplomatic representatives turned or allied themselves with the Franco side (which was not recognised by the Chinese government) at the beginning of the Spanish Civil war, therefore Spanish citizens lost their extraterritorial rights and this caused some missionary properties to change hands to other nationalities. In the Philippines, the Orders followed different strategies to adjust to the new American power: for example, while the Spanish Jesuits were replaced by Americans in 1921, the Dominicans had their Novitiate house installed in the United States in the first decade of the century. After the outbreak of the war in Spain, the sending of alms to the Missions became very difficult not only in the leftist Republican side, but also from the Franco Government which forbade such practices because of its monetary policy.(23)

Direct violence also affected the working of missions. The war in the peninsula stopped the sending priests from Spain and, in some cases, they died while waiting for departure, such as some of the Gabrielists. In Asia, the Pacific War took the lives of seven missionaries in Micronesia in 1945, killed presumably by Japanese soldiers(24); the Sino-Japanese War provoked a continuous form of violence in China which in part continued from the times prior to the conflict; bandit attacks and kindapings requesting large sums in reward were frequent since the beginning of the century. Once the political and military hostilities spread, the missionaries put up with air bombings and indiscriminate actions by Japanese soldiers and, once the Pacific war started, lessen the situation worsened because their revenues from the Philippines were cut off. Nevertheless, we can say that the human losses were not excesive in China; some missionaries died as a result of air bombings, but there were no massacres due to armed confrontations.(25) It was in the Philippines where death took its biggest toll, being where the destruction was more concentrated at this time. Massacres did happen: 52 religious died due to the conflict, most of them in the American seizure of Manila (13 Agustinians, 6 recollects, 9 Capuchins, 2 Dominicans, 8 Franciscans and 14 Vincentians). Their material losses were estimated at 14.893.910 Philippine pesos, of which 8.023.371 pesos were presumably caused by Japanese, 5.656.487 pesos by Americans, 15.900 pesos caused by guerrillas, a similar amount by riots and 77.735 pesos from unknown origin. All the Orders had losses, with the Dominicans claiming the biggest damage: around 4.5 million pesos.(26)


The most useful way of dividing the Spanish communities in the Asia-Pacific area during these years can be into lay and clerical groups, the latter prevailing in all the territories except in the Philippines. In Japan, of around 200 Spanish citizens, the non-religious group counted only 34 persons in 1937, most of them traders or teachers with their families. In China there was an important non-religious group that was born out of Spain, 305 out of a total of 605 Spaniards in 1927. The right of extraterritoriality was the reason for this: they were basically of Filipino origin and their ties with Spain were only due to this seeking of the benefits enjoyed by foreigners. The opinion of an official is thet they maintained the nationality "in order to avoid the indigenous [chinese] legislation, without being quite sure [this group] of where Spain was nor speaking Spanish, of course".(27) The total figure of Spanish residents must have increased later on due to the new arrivals of missionaries as well as after the opening of two Jai Alai courts during the1930s, employing around 50 families among players, Jaialai basket makers and referees.

Regarding the Philippines, the Consulate checked the situation of every citizen during the Japanese occupation and noted that the number of Spanish citizens had dropped to 3100 persons from 3500 in the period prior to the outbreak of the war. The report showed 1735 men, 1735 women and 190 children under 14. Of these, setting aside the missionary group, the largest was that of employees working in trading, agricultural and industrial firms, both Spanish and foreign owned. This was followed by traders, industrialists and agriculturists who worked on their own, with a very reduced number of farm labourers, manual workers or poverty-striken, similar to the situation in the Latin-American countries. Besides that, the number of de facto Spaniards, or those who had adopted Filipino citizenship in the six or seven years prior to the Pacific War, was calculated to be around five or six thousands while those of mestizos, cuarterones (a quarter of filipino blood) and the like who that maintained Spanish tastes, education and customs is calculated to be around 500.000, although it seems an overestimated figure. (28)


As we have seen, the Spanish presence in Asia had two main pillars until the Pacific War changed dramatically the situation: the missionaries and the Spanish-Filipino oligarchy. Those interests were strongly linked by good personal relationships, ideological affinities and economic links: the religious orders invested a lot of money in the firms of their co-leaders among the Spanish colony. Their joint importance was great in China and in the Philippines, but not in Japan, where the economic interests were weak and missionaries location was disperse. It was also balanced between both of them, missionaries were spread along the region and they had a better knowledge of the language of the inhabitants while the wealthy families were more adapted to the functioning of society and had better political ties with local and national power.

Therefore, the opinion of these two groups was very important, if not determinant, in the Spanish decission-making process in relation to Asia, not only among the diplomats working in Asia but also in the different ministries in Madrid. Diplomats assigned to Asia could be in big problem, for instance, if they decided to stand up to their demands: the office of the spanish consulate in Manila, for instance, was functioning freely inside the Spanish Casino, that was ruled by the wealthy families, and in case any diplomat decided to seek independence from their guidelines (as the Falange did during the Spanish war) it should start asking for money to Madrid to set up an office outside it, something that could, at least, take a lot of time. The prevalence of those interests in configurating Madrid's policy toward Asia could be seen since the outbreak of the Pacific War, as the defense of the interests of the spanish companies in the occupied territories soon became much more important than the relations with Tokyo as a country aligned with Germany.

The situation changed completely by the end of the world conflict. The change of citizenship of an important part of that old spanish elite in the Philippines, the beginning of the collapse of all the remaining firms that continued being Spanish and the massive return of citizens whose fortune had irreversibly declined, diminished definitively the importance of these private links. On the other hand, the economic importance of the religious orders was unequivocally affected by the disasters of the Battle of Manila (most of the Conventos Madre in Intramuros were destroyed, for example) and afterwards, once the Communists took over China in 1949, faded away from that country by being evicted.

Since then, the two principal pillars upon which links between Spain and East Asia would be based were going to be the missionary zeal and the political interests from Madrid. Although they could be assimilated to the interests during the prewar period, the change was going to be radical, as this two pillars had a much weaker basis and, even worse, were more mutable. In the first case, the influence of the church could no longer be, as before, the outcome of its own power, wealth and knowledge of the area, but it became derivative mainly from politics in Spain: the open support than the Franco regime gave to the Church. In the second case, the Franco government felt a strong political interest in East Asia stemming from its international isolation and the need to improve relations with Washington. East Asia started to be seen as a sort of "back door" that could help to improve contacts with the United States because of three main reasons: first, the increasing tensions with the Soviet Union (mainly, due to the Korean War) highlighted the strategical position of Spain as an ally, located in a protected territory shielded by the Pirynees from the Soviet troops in the case of a hypothetical attack; next, the rise of communism (mainly, the Communist take over in China) was a "confirmation" of the Spanish warnings about the increasing threat of Moscou and, finally, the anti-communist regimes in the region (mostly Manila, Bangkok and Tokyo) were excellent places to establish contacts with American officials. While opposition to the Franco regime was a hotly debated issue by public opinion along the rest of the world, those governments in East Asia had no problems to contact with its representatives.(29) Certainly, those facts came about in Asia precipitated the beginning of the Cold War and therefore influenced strongly in the cessation of the Madrid' international issolation after 1953, when Spain established relations with the Vatican and with Washington.

However, those interests from Madrid changed in time. Chances of cristianizing East Asia decreased soon, not only because of the rise of Communism but also because interest on Cristianism in Japan faded away once the American occupation ended. Something similar happened to the political interests: once the international recognition after 1953 endorsed the continuity of the Franco regime, the reasons for maintaining contacts with Asia were seen as minimal. Since then, there has not been any new political (or religious) reason, up to last decade, to deepen the relationship and contacts with East Asia, while the private interests have almost dissapeared in the Philippines, and only recently the Spanish companies are starting to show an interest in Asia, as a needed target in their drive to globalize. Since the Spanish presence and its relation with Asia went into its lowest point in 1945, situation has slightly improved. We still suffer from the consequences of that lack of interest that could be perceived before 1898.


** A previous version of this article, titled "Presencia Española en Extremo Oriente alrededor de 1945" was published in the proceedings of the Asian Hispanistas Conference. Asociacion Asiatica de Hispanistas. Actas del Tercer Congreso de Hispanistas de Asia. Tokyo, 1993. pp- 1069-1079. The author thanks the help from Ricardo T. Jose in correcting and commenting the english version.

1) Consul Castaño to the Minister in Tokyo, Santiago Méndez de Vigo, Manila, 9 September 1943. Archives from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Renovated Section, box 2910, folder 9 (hereafter referred as AMAE-R-2910-9 and so on). See Rodao, F. Spanish Companies after the Philippine Revolution, Proceedings of the Centennial Conference, Manila, forthcoming.

2) "... the reckless stock exchange has ruined the mitre, the clergy and many Spanish and Philippine trading firms. The Philippines is not the same country as in 1937, when everybody earned money by sacks with the gold mines bluff". Consul Maldonado to the Foreign Affairs Minister (hereafter referred as  Mae), Manila, 12 September 1940. AMAE-R-1736-21.

3) It affected almost all those owning properties. The Spanish subordination to the Axis caused nervousness among its citizens after the beginning of the World War II and when the war was more clearly perceived in East Asia it caused the massive defection from the Spanish nationality. Between summer of 1941 and the beginning of the Pacific War, a large portion of the Spanish nationals applied for Filipino nationality while Andrés Soriano did it to American.

4). Report from Francisco Ferrer to Mae, Manila. AMAE-R-2910-20 

5) Information provided by Consul Castaño who was an enemy of Soriano. Dispatch from Castaño to Mae, Manila, 24 July 1941. AMAE-R-1736-26.

6) Jose de Ygual, Consul in Shanghai, refers to it as "perfect business". Dispatch from Ygual to Mae, Shanghai, 17 July 1940. AMAE-R-3196-4.

7) Dispatch from González de Gregorio to Mae, Shanghai, 2 October 1945. AMAE-R-3196-4. According from information dated in 1932, industrial firms appraised in 171,000 Pesetas and Commercial Firms, appraised in 733,500 Pesetas were found in the Records of the Consulate of Shanghai. Ojeda, Mercedes. Relaciones entre España y China entre 1927 y 1937. In Cuadernos de Historia Moderna y Contemporánea, 1980 (I): p. 222.

8) About it, see Rafael, Vicente. Anticipating Nationhood: Collaboration and Humour in the Japanese Occupation of Manila. In Diaspora (I): 67-82 and Rodao, F. Spanish Language in the Philippines. In Philippine Studies 45 (I): 94-107.

9) Camilo Barcia, Federico García Sanchiz, Conrado Blanco or Vicente Blasco Ibáñez  were some of those invited to travel to the Philippines. See, for instance, Barcia, Camilo. Puntos Cardinales de la Política Internacional Española, Madrid, 1939, p. 159.

10) Foreign Affairs Ministry to General Franco, Madrid, 18 April 1945.

11) Eduardo Herrera to Foreign Falange Headquarters, Katase (Japan), 29 January 1941. General Administration Archives, Secretaria General del Movimiento (Falange Party, hereafter referred as AGA-SGM) Also, Chief of the Cultural Relations Department to the Director of the Americas Section, Madrid, 14 April 1945. AMAE-R-3195-25 and for the Dominicans account, see Delgado García, José P. Los Dominicos en la Provincia del Rosario en Japon, 1904-1979. In Misiones Dominicanas. 1979: 13.

12) Interview with Father Bizcarra, Koror, 30 May 1994 . See also Hezel, Francis SJ. The Catholic Church in Micronesia. Chicago, Loyola House Press, 1991, and Rodao, F. The Spanish Culture in the Pacific after 1898. In Alaima Talu and Max Quanchi (ed) Messy Entanglements. Brisbane. Pacific History Association, 1995, pp. 173-179.

13)  Olano, Miguel Angel de. Diary of a Bishop. Since the Invasion of Guam. Manila, University of Santo Tomas, 1949.

14) "Report about the Spanish Colony in the Philippines" by Francisco Ferrer. Manila, 30 November 1945, AMAE-R-2910-20. See also Report from the Consejo Superior de Misiones a Mae, Madrid, 5 June 1943. Also, Castro y Calvo-Magazo, Jose F. Relaciones Hispano-Filipinas. Unpublished Graduation Dissertation at Escuela Diplomática. Madrid, 1956: 30-33. See among other books related to the presence of the Orders, Fernandez, Pablo OP. Dominicos donde nace el Sol. s.l., 1958. Sanchez, Victor and Fuertes, Cayetano S. (de) España en Extremo Oriente. Filipinas, China, Japon. Presencia Franciscana, 1578-1978. Madrid, 1978. Dela Goza, Rolando CM & Cavanna, Jesús Mª, CM. Vincentians in the Philippines, 1862-1982. Manila, 1985, De La Rosa, Rolando V., OP. Beginnings of the Filipino Dominicans. Madrid, 1990 and González, José María, Historia de las Misiones Dominicanas en China, vol. 4: 1900-1954. Madrid, Studium, 1955.

15) Report from Carlos Martínez de Orense at Madrid attached to Dispatch dated 11 February 1947, AMAE-R-3200-13; Méndez de Vigo to Mae, Tokyo, 7 April 1938, AMAE-R-1004-9; Memorandum from the Cultural Relations Department Chief to the Overseas Department Chief, Madrid, 4 April 1944 and Pedro de Ygual to Mae, Shanghai, 30 July 1939, AMAE-R-1734-46. The value of the properties is taken from Ojeda, op. cit., pp. 228-29, being this data collected from AMAE-R-859-1 to 3 and AMAE-R-721-136. No date given.

16) The Consular Registries, although they seem to be the best means to fulfill a quantitative study, must have been sent to Madrid, or are still being used, but do not appear as a definite source. For example, when Pedro de Ygual arrived in Shanghai as a Consul after the Spanish Civil War, he realised that many Spanish citizens did not have their citizenship documents or were not enrolled in the corresponding registers.  In order to solve this, he published advertisements in the newspapers and sent them to the Missionary Orders but, even after doing this, he decided to offer missionaries the free issuance of the corresponding documents. Ygual to Mae, Shanghai, 30 July 1939, AMAE-R-1734-36. They also preffered the french nationality because they received a broader legal protection (Ojeda, op. cit., pp. 227-228).

17) This is the only territory where we have found the complete figures from the period prior to the War, although they are from 1937. There were around a hundred in  the Japanese Mainland (7 Jesuits, 14 Mercedarian of Berriz, 11 Adoratrix and 11 Dominican), 43 in Micronesia and 14 in Formosa.List by Francisco J. Castillo to the Foreign Affairs Secretary (Salamanca, Franco's Government), Tokyo, 31 July 1937, with an appendix dated 30 August 1937. AGA, Foreign Affairs Fund, Documents from the Tokyo Legation, 5176. Maybe the most accurate list, indicating sex, is the one from the delegate of the Falange representative in Japan, dated January 1941: 82 in Japan, 28 in Formosa and 51 in Micronesia. Report to Mae, Madrid, 4 April 1944. AMAE-R-1736-7.

18) Carlos Martínez de Orense to Mae, Madrid, 11 Febrero 1947. AMAE-R-3200-13. See also  La Mision de Guam, notes typewritten by Fr. Pastor de Arrayoz, s.l., s.f., p. 18. Copy typed at the Micronesia Area Research Centre (Guam).

19) In 1939, Consul Ygual calculates around 500 religious "since there are 110 only in the Mission of Wuhu (Wuhan)"  (Shanghai, 30 July 1939. AMAE-R-1734-36) and Alvaro de Maldonado numbers them at around 800 (Personal letter to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Shanghai, 4 September 1942, AMAE-R-1734-24). The figures from the Consejo Superior de Misiones, above mentioned, give a total of 356, although the figures of every Order is not stated. Thanks to the above mentioned report from Carlos Martínez de Orense, written in 1947, when the postwar inflow of Missionaries had not yet started, we can compare the proportion among the Orders: 13 Mercedarians, 124 Jesuits (38 in Wuhan and 86 in Anhui, being also the only Order mentioning the seniority of  its members), 62 Dominicans (21 in Hong Kong, 19 in Fuzhou and 32 in Xiamen), 16 Franciscans, 13 Daughters of Jesus and 6 Marians. The same report above mentioned dated 4 April 1944 gives a total of 62 missionaries, 8 nuns, 38 churches, 101 oratories, 3 orphanages, asylums, and seven dispensaries in the China occupied by the Kuomintang (and presumably by the Communist Party of China) and 259 missionaries and 306 nuns in the part occupied by the Japanese Army.

20) The Chancellor during the Japanese occupation, Francisco Ferrer, quantified them as being 17% of the Spanish Colony (553, being 390 men and 163 women), but does not specify the Orders. Report to Mae, Manila, 30 November 1945. AMAE-R-2910-20. Excluding the Agustinian Recollects, whose numbers were never provided, and making a list according to the provinces: 7 Slaves of Saint Joseph in Antique, 7 Franciscans in Batangas, 54 Franciscans in Camarines Sur, 21 Agustinians and Paul's in Cebu, 44 Agustinians and Paul's in Iloilo, 6 Paul's in Laguna, 296 in Manila (Agustinians, Benedictines, Capuchins, Dominicans, Franciscans, Paul's and Daughters of Jesus), 12 in Negros Occidental, and with unknown numbers in Negros Oriental, Mindoro, Cavite, Bohol and Basco (Batanes). The latest compilation on that matter, by Tormo, Leandro. Bibliografia Reciente sobre la Historia de la Iglesia en Extremo Oriente relacionada con España. In Solano, F. de, Rodao, F. and Togores, L.E.. El Extremo Oriente Ibérico. Investigaciones Históricas: Metodología y Estado de la Cuestión. Madrid, 1989, pp. 391-413. In the same book are other works about documentation in the Archives of different religious Orders.

21) When the Spanish Domination was close to its end, several false commercial firms were created in order to keep for them the property of lands in the Philippines. One of the companies, mentioned in a book published by the Dominicans, was "Sugar Development Company". Fernández, op. cit., pp. 10 and ss.

22) According to the Ambassador of Spain in Beijing in 1927, the goods not declared  by these Orders to the authorities were very important and it was difficult to calculate the amount "even approximately"(Ojeda, op. cit, p. 223). References in relation to that can be found in  a letter from "various members of the colony" to the Minister of Foreign Affairs from Shanghai dated 11 May 1933 as well as in a Dispatch from Consul Ygual to Mae, Shanghai, 20 January 1940. AMAE-R-1737-10. Also, in a book whose aim is mostly literature, it is stated that "The Jesuits have a pawnshop in Manila and control a large part of the currency exchange business in Hong Kong, the Dominicans in  Shanghai monopolise the richshaw rent business, the Recollects were major stockholders of San Miguel Beer, being more important than Soriano and Roxas, etc.". Gil de Biedma, Jaime. Retrato del Artista en 1956. Barcelona, 1992, p. 78.

23) Briefing of an interview with Fernando Navarro by Jose de Cárcer, Madrid, 25 June 1946. AMAE-R-2910-16.

24) Mariano Vidal to Mae, Tokyo, 9 May 1946 and German Baraibar to Mae, Washington, 14 November 1947. AMAE-R-3206-21. Missionaries in Japan also suffered material destructions, as some Dominican buildings in Shikoku and others owned by Adoratrix in Tokyo.
25)  Maybe it was the country where they received less governmental protection, partly due to the lack of consular or vice-consular agents who could communicate easily and also because the missionaries hardly asked for official aid. The total damages estimated after the War -except for the Dominicans in Hong Kong- are calculated in 2.673,842 Dollars. González de Gregorio to Mae, Shanghai, 2 August and 18 October 1946. AMAE-R-3196-6. Also references to these losses in the Archives of the Spanish Presidency of the Government, head of State Section, Box. 1, Folder 4.2. Letter from the Procurator of Anking to Francisco Franco and to General Castro Girona, Anking, 26 August 1940.

26) For information about losses during the Occupation of the Philippines, ser AMAE-R-5521-15.

27) Ojeda, op. cit., p. 22. Eduardo Vázquer Ferrer to Mae, Shanghai, 17 April 1940. AMAE, Personal File. Also, Ygual to Mae, Shanghai, 17 April 1940, AMAE-3196-4. There were also 14 sailor refugees during the Pacific War. González de Gregorio to Mae, Shanghai, 2 October 1945. AMAE-R-3196-4.

28) Francisco Ferrer to Mae, Manila, 30 November 1945. AMAE-R-2910-20.

29) In relation to this, see Rodao, F. Japón y Extremo Oriente en el marco de las Relaciones Hispano-Norteamericanas, 1945-1953. In Revista Española del Pacífico N.5 (1995): 223-241.

The Philippine Revolution and Beyond, (ed. Elmer A. Ordoñez) (Manila, National Centennial Commission). Vol. 2: 999-1011.

SOURCE: Cuadernos de Historia, Instituto Cervantes, Manila, N. 1 (1998): 177-190
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