Are Filipinos Hispanic?

Are Filipinos Hispanic? I was very puzzled because this is not the first time I come across this question. I decided to do some research and personally call Dr. Gaerlan and Dr. Nadal, two qualified professionals at different universities in the U.S. to speak about the matter. Below are their answers…

Can Filipinos Be Hispanic?

Barbara S. Gaerlan, Ph.D., Assistant Director at the UCLA Center for Southeast Asian Studies

The answer could be “yes” or “no” or even “yes and no.” It is a personal choice on how people wanted to identify themselves. The person’s definition of the word “Hispanic” would be crucial in making the decision.

The U.S. Census Bureau defines “Hispanic” as a person of Hispanic, Latino or Spanish origin. By this they usually mean people whose ancestors originated in Spain and/or Latin American countries that speak Spanish today as their main language. By this definition, Filipinos would not be Hispanics, since they come from an Asian country, and very few Filipinos today speak Spanish at home.

Filipino Old Man

The most widely-spoken languages are Tagalog-based Filipino and English (the result of a U.S. colonial presence from 1898-1946 and continued close political, economic, migratory, and military ties with the U.S. since 1946). And, in the U.S. Census, Filipinos are included as a separate, Asian American category.

So for people for whom these criteria are most important, and who choose to define Filipino identity by the country’s evolution during the 20th century, the answer would be “no.”

On the other hand, a different definition of “Hispanic” could yield a different answer. Filipinos can be considered Hispanic if one prioritizes the definition that countries colonized by Spain are “Hispanic” because of that historical influence — no matter what their location on the globe or current linguistic status.

Spain colonized the Philippines in 1565 and ruled most of the country until 1898 (333 years) — a longer time period than in some Latin American countries. To research Philippine history during those 333 years, knowledge of Spanish is essential for scholars.

Ethnically, although there was not as much migration to the Philippines from Spain as there was to Latin America, quite a few Filipinos can claim some Spanish ancestry.

Migration to the Philippines from Spain was quite extensive after the Suez Canal opened in 1869. By this definition Filipinos could choose to self-identify as Hispanic.

Even today, the Philippines nationally continues to exhibit numerous traits inherited from Spain: overwhelmingly Roman Catholic religion and related cultural legacies, many Spanish personal names, Spanish musical traditions, many Spanish vocabulary words incorporated into Filipino indigenous languages, etc. People emphasizing this historical and cultural legacy could answer “yes,” Filipinos are Hispanic.

Finally, people could acknowledge the complexity of Filipino history and say “yes and no” — claiming some Hispanic heritage but recognizing that in the Philippines at least, it is receding as time goes by.

Are Filipinos Hispanic?
Why is this question being asked today?

In the United States, Filipino immigrants to the U.S. have come into close contact with immigrants from Latin America. This contact has helped to educate both groups about their shared “Hispanic” heritage. This bodes very well for increased investigation of the many centuries of shared colonial history even if there was a break during the 20th century.

Even if Filipinos immigrated to the U.S. without a thought of “Hispanic” identity, once here, Filipino Americans are more likely to study Spanish language than are Filipino students in the Philippines. Also once in the U.S. some Filipino Americans begin doing research on the history of Filipinos in California, Mexico, Louisiana, etc., in the days of the Galleon Trade between Manila and Acapulco (1565-1815).

All these activities help to expand consciousness about “Hispanic” Filipino identity, and lead to more and more people questioning the extent to which Filipinos are “Hispanic.”

Kevin L. Nadal, Ph.D. Assistant Professor, Department of Psychology and Deputy Director of Forensic Mental Health Counseling Program at John Jay College of Criminal Justice- City University of New York

Dr. Nadal lectured on “Filipino American Psychology: A Handbook of Theory, Research, and Clinical Practice” at the Asian American Research institute of the City University of New York.

When I asked Dr. Nadal: Are Filipinos Hispanic? He answered…
In earlier censuses and other surveys, Filipinos have been classified as Hispanic, due to the 350+ years of Spanish colonization.

Filipinos share many commonalities with Latinos/Hispanics including Catholicism/Christianity, cultural and family values, gender roles, and even some aspects of language.

Also, because of their Spanish surnames and phenotype, some Filipinos often get mistaken for Hispanic, adding even more to their connection with Hispanic communities.


  1. flordeliza says:

    Thank you to the people who create and help to share about the”Hispanic.” What it means…little by little I try to learn and read about the past history in Philippines…thank you. My town is near in Vigan Ilocos Sur…the Spanish houses are beautiful attraction of every one…

  2. Google hispanization of Philippines.

    Filipinos really are Hispanic.

    • Veritas et Mencii says:

      Don’t just google, read the books written by those who were in the Philippines at the time when we were under Spanish rule or American rule. I don’t hate the Americans and we should not hate the Spaniards either.

      La Solidaridad – AÑO III Madrid 15 Enero de 1891 Num 47
      after more than three centuries of annexation to the Mother Country The knowledge of the Spanish language is so limited that interpreters are still needed so that Spaniards may be understood by the natives, communication that should have been easy between peoples of the same nationality

      Exposición de filipinas: colección de artículos publicados en El Globo, diario ilustrado político, cientifico y literario Madrid 1887- “In a population of 7 millions at least 200,000 speak Spanish. Only at least 200,000 has knowledge of our language, understand our laws, and able to study our civilization. Not a single amount appears on the budget to boost the teaching of Spanish, not even the slightest effort is being done to end this shame.”

      I have asked the gentleman from Pennsylvania how many voters there would be in this country if the people of the United States were required to read and write German or any other foreign language And I ask the same question again. Neither Spanish nor English are native languages in the Philippines

      Marketing Communications, Volume 117 1921
      Page 136 Manila is the commercial metropolis of the islands it is true but it is only the radiating centre of their activities It is a tremendously important city out of all proportion to its 300,000 people But there are 10,000,000 people in the Philippines. Nearly all the merchants are Chinese and while many of them have a smattering of English or of Spanish their understanding is touched most readily through reading their (Continued on Page I41)
      own tongue The younger Filipinos who have attended American schools read and speak English but how about their fathers? Isn t it wise to reach both the father and the son with advertising And the father uses one of the eight dialects depending on the Province in which he lives

  3. At the very least, Filipinos SHOULD be consider Latino because The Philippines is apart of the Latin Union, so it wouldn’t make sense if they’re not consider Latino even though they belong to a Latin group.

  4. The question will perhaps be key to the answer. The question, “Are you Hispanic/Latino?” is largely a very American question. I assume the American way (values) suggests choice (freedom and independence) and confidentiality. (There’s a certain innocence and courage about that, but that’s something for another time and place.) My point is, if I self identify as Hispanic, then, every other American is going to have to respect that (or, hussshh, it’s confidential). So I may not have a single drop of blood or thought or feeling that’s Hispanic and still identify myself as Hispanic… somewhat absurd, but it carries through what I think is key. Fortunately, we generally want to be honest with ourselves, which I think in the end, is also a main reason why the question came up in the first place.

  5. Filipinos are not Hispanic nor Latino,our culture is too different from them.There’s a 10 Facts that Filipinos are not Hispanic nor Latino.

    1.Filipinos let their male children circumcise,circumcision is part of our culture and it’s not part of Hispanic/Latino culture also we had 2 superstitious belief on it like if a boy is newly circumcised he must not step a chicken’s poop it will not cure it takes too long to be cure and he must not hold a mortar and pestle it will not cure it takes to long to be cure if he hold it.Practicing of circumcision is not introduce by Arabs its truly native.

    2.Filipino important food is rice and vegetable also less meat.Hispanics eat a lots of beans but we Filipinos don’t eat beans a lot.And rice is considered sacred it should not be played and if the uncook rice fall in the grown it should be pick if your newly move into new house bring rice,it brings luck.

    3.Philippines is not dominated Spanish descent or Mestizo de Español and they are not making as a largest minority of the country.The largest minority in our country is Chinese descent also Spanish is not making a largest spoken language at all.

    4.Filipino chew areca nut and betel leaf Hispanic/Latino dont chew areca nut and betel leaf.

    5.Filipinos dont address ”Don,Doña,Señora,Señor,Señorita,Señorito” to stranger to us we use that honorific name if we’re addressing rich people in our society.There’s a quote in Tagalog ”Huwag kang magpaka tamad hindi ka senyorita” in Cebuano ”Ayaw pagpaka tapulan nga murag senyorita” it means dont be lazy like a rich kid.

    6.A lots of Tagalog,Kapampangan,Ilonggo,Waray,Ilokano and Cebuano etc actually they have Sanskrit words and Native words replacement for Spanish loanwords such as:
    In Tagalog:dyosa-diwata
    In Cebuano:kultura-budaya
    In Ilokano:bandera-wagaway

    7.Filipinos eat durian,shrimp paste(bagoong),balot(embro duck egg),toyo(soy sauce) ,pandan(Pandanus amaryllifolius) and dried fish in my experience I called my Hispanic friends to let them smell the shrimp paste and durian to them its disgusting,they even get disgusted seeing duck embryo(balot).Filipinos used pandan to steam rice if necessary if there’s available on it Hispanic dont use pandan.Philippines neighboring country use and eat urian,shrimp
    paste(bagoong),balot(embro duck egg),toyo(soy sauce) ,pandan(Pandanus amaryllifolius) and dried fish.

    8.Filipino traditional value leave their shoes and slippers any outdoor footwear when they are entering homes like the neighboring countries of Philippines do that.Hispanic dont do that

    9.Roman Catholicism has NOTHING to do with Hispanism,the legitimate language of Roman Catholicism is Latin not Spanish(Español).For example once a person practice Protestantism he/she is considered Anglo Saxon,once a person practice Islam he/she is considered Arab,once a person practice Buddhism he/she is considered Nepalese?

    10.Typical Filipinos or Native Filipinos have flat nose,brownish skin and almond eyes.Typical Hispanic have pointed nose and lighter skin complexion compare to Native Filipinos or Typical Filipinos and THIS IS NOT RACISM it’s a fact at all.AND THERE’S NO UNIFICATION OF RACE IN THE NAME OF RACE,RACE UNIFIED IN THE NAME OF NATIONALITY NOT RACE.

    • Sorry L.C but you have a very illogical reasoning.

      I’m a Filipina with Spanish ancestries. My great grandmother is a pure Spanish.

      I just want to oppose your illogical reasoning.

      1. Circumcision is a Roman Catholic teaching. Catholic teachings are based on the bible. Since the old covenant stated on Genesis 17, you can read it clearly that circumcision is a covenant between the Lord and His people to increase their numbers. You did tell us about the superstitious beliefs are actually the culture of other races who shared their cultures with us including the chinese and the arabs.
      3. We are actually dominated by Spanish descent. There were immigrants from Spain, Mexico, and other Hispanic colonies who came to the Philippines. The Philippines has been colonized by Spain for 333 years. There’s only a small percentage possibility that the exisiting Filipinos are of pure Filipinos not because of just having Hispanic ancestry but of different races too like american, chinese, japanese, and etc. In fact, Andres Bonifacio, a well known filipino hero, has spanish ancestry. His granfather is a spanish. Spanish language has only been taught to those rich people in the Philippines or to those who can get themseles to school. The reason the Spaniards did not want all the Filipinos to learn Spanish is that because if the Filipinos will be able to learn their language it will be the reason for the Filipinos will stand agianst them because they can already figure out their plans whenever they talk to each other an dthe Filipinos will be able to speak against them too. But this is also been a reason why Filipinos stood against Spaniards. Dr. JOSE RIZAL wrote his novels in spanish language. He published copies and leave it anywhere take for instance in kalesas. He is so clever. Why? He leaves the copies of his novels to kalesas for the next person to ride the kalesas will have the chance to read it. What if the person does not understand spanish? If a person will not understand spanish ofcourse will have to seek for a person who does speak spanish and that is the reason why noli me tangere and el filibusterismo has been spread. It is mot true that Filipinos never speak Spanish. There are. And we actually still speak Spanish but because of influences of other countries especially USA who bought us from the Spaniards, there is a big impact in our vocabulary. The basis for saying that we still do speak spanish is because we still use their alphabet. There are i guess 7 or 8 consonants we have that are from the Spanish especially ñ. We still speak it but because of the decline of spanish language, filipinos just changed the spelling of certain words. Take for instance cuchara which is written in filipino kutsara.
      5. Same as what I have just said above. There was a decline of spanish language. And we address don as sir now because of the american colonization in our country. Ate is called for older sister while kuya is for older brother is because of the chinese culture. Ate is atsi in chinese while kuya is aya.
      6. It is also like in number 4 and 5. It is because spanish are not the only people who went to the philippines. Americans also did. In fact, malaysians and indonesians are the first people who settled in the philippines after the aetas. We also derived our words from Bahasa indonesia and melayu. In indonesian, aku is for i which is ako in filipino. Pintu in indonesian while pinto in filipino.
      8. Please read more of philippine history.
      9. ROMAN CATHOLIC WAS BROUGHT AND INTRODUCED TO US BY THE SPANIARDS! The first filipino catholics were baptized in Cebu.
      10. hispanics have dark skin as we have but theirs are lighter because of their weather. Our nose are not pointed as they have because native filipinos are indonesian malaysians. It means, we have 2 races. If a pure spanish produced an offspring with a filipino (with indonesian malaysian traits), filipino features will most likely to dominate.

      Filipinos are Hispanics. We have Spanish ancestry. We may not adapt the pure hispanic culture because americans shared their cultures, chinese did, indonesians did, japanese did, and etc. It is impossible that there exists pure filipinos. For 333 years many scenarios happened. There could be a girl who has been raped by a guardia civil.

  6. La Solidaridad – AÑO III Madrid 15 Enero de 1891 Num 47
    The knowledge of the Spanish language is so limited that interpreters are still needed so that Spaniards may be understood by the natives communication that should have been easy between peoples of the same nationality

  7. In the USA, if you speak Spanish to someone from south of the USA he or she might get offended. They will tell you, too many times this happened, “I speak English”.

  8. I consider myself Hispanic. Both sides of my family are of Spanish descent and I can trace my lineage and roots to the actual regions of Spain my family is from. (Catalonia and Andalusia). (I’m at least 15-20%) Latinos/Chicanos also get confused because they mistake me as Latina ALL the time. The thing is, at home I speak Spanish with my mom, and I speak Spanish with my Latino friends at school. And apparently they say my accent when I do speak Spanish, is very Castilian. You also have to take into consideration the different geographical areas and ethnic groups of the Philippines. I am Ilocano and Kapampangan–Both having HIGH amounts of Spanish influence in the culture and food/vocabulary. Plus, I’m pretty sure my dad didn’t get his high bridge nose, height, and hazel eyes from an aeta. I’m a 5’8 Filipina, which definitely doesn’t add up to my mom’s Ilocano descent, especially regarding their common facial characteristics, etc. So yes, when people ask me what ethnicity I am, I reply “I am Indigenous Filipino and Spaniard”. So yes, in terms of my background, I am Hispanic, but this is not the same case for other Filipinos.


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