KASAMA Vol. 18 No. 1 / January-February-March 2004 / Solidarity Philippines Australia Network

Colonial Name, Colonial Mentality and Ethnocentrism
by Nathan Gilbert Quimpo

Part Three of Four

'Filipinizing' the Moros

On the basis of the genealogy of Philippines and Filipino alone, the Muslim "Filipinos" have more than enough reason to object to these appellations. But there is still one other significant reason, perhaps an even graver one. To many Muslims, Philippines and Filipino reflect the efforts not just of the Spanish and American colonialists, but also of the indios, i.e. the Christianized majority, to force the Muslims to abandon their "savage" ways and to adopt the ways of Christian, Western "civilization". To many Muslims, Philippines and Filipino encapsulate the attempts of the Christian majority, continuing up to the present time, to turn the Muslims into the majority´s image and likeness - Christianized, Westernized and, in the eyes of these Muslims, very colonial-minded. In this writer´s view, the appellations are the very reflection of the ethnocentric bias of the Christian majority and of the ethnocratic tendencies of the Philippine state.

Unlike the Spanish colonialists, the American imperialists succeeded in vanquishing and colonizing the Muslims. Nonetheless, like the Spaniards, the Americans failed to Christianize and Westernize them.

The American imperialists were as racist as the Spanish colonialists. In the early years of American occupation, Filipinos (indios), together with other new additions to the American fold - Cubans, Puerto Ricans, Hawaiians and Guamanians - were conflated with Negroes and Indians (native "Americans") as "savages" in need of American´s civilizing influence.[63] The Literary Digest casually referred to them as "Uncle Sam´s New-Caught Anthropoids".[64] Dean Worcester, reputed to be the acknowledged authority on the Philippines, vividly described the indios in typical Orientalist fashion as wild and backward, as "half-naked savages". American soldiers called Filipinos "niggers" and "goo-goos". The American media etched Filipinos as "little brown fellows", who as inhabitants of the torrid zone, exhibited such familiar traits as dull-wittedness, enervation and sloth. Filipinos fought constantly among themselves, they were illiterate, they were pagans, headhunters, cannibals. Those who resisted the American invaders were labeled bandits. In its coverage of the Philippines, the American media often referred to Orientalist par excellence Rudyard Kipling who had characterized the natives of the Philippines as "half-devil and half-child" and exhorted America to "take up the White Man´s Burden" to bring the half-devils into the civilized world.[65] Aguinaldo, as leader of the Philippine resistance to American imperialism, was portrayed in a cartoon in Harper´s Weekly as a black dancing girl, with a stupefied Uncle Sam as a white old lady.[66] After the capture of Aguinaldo and with the waning of the Filipino-American War, the favored Filipino image in the American media "shifted from bandit to bambino", as coverage was geared more toward showing the cultural and educational deficit from which Americans claimed to be extricating their new wards.[67]

When armed hostilities broke out between the American invaders and the Muslims in Mindanao, the latter became the Americans´ new savage Other. Renowned for their skill and determination at hand-to-hand fighting, the Moros were portrayed, often with the curved, razor-sharp Muslim kris in hand, as wild-eyed juramentados - suicidal religious fanatics. Apart from being "savage", they were described as "fearsome", "terrible", and often, "fierce and fanatical". The Boston Journal remarked that it would be a "service to humanity and progress" to control the "fanatical and warlike Mohammedan Malay."[68] The .45-caliber pistol was invented to stop "fanatical charges of lawless Moro tribesmen". A 1963 U.S. Army poster, entitled "Knocking Out the Moros: The U.S. Army in Action", depicted a 1913 battle in Jolo, in which U.S. soldiers under the command of General Pershing annihilated a defending Tausug force of men, women and children. The poster described the defenders, who were falling under the firepower of the .45s, as "outlaws of great physical endurance and savage fighting ability".[69]

After a series of very bloody wars of occupation in which several hundreds of thousands of Christian Filipinos and Moros were killed under the banner of "benevolent assimilation", the Americans "pacified" the natives, although, from time to time, armed resistance flared up in several local areas, especially in the South. Between the Christian Filipinos and the Moros, the American administrators found it easier to deal with the former, who were already influenced to some extent by Western ideas, thanks to the Spaniards. The Christians started to cooperate with the Americans and thus were given choice positions in the government. In anticipation of the granting of Philippine independence, Filipino political leaders pressed for the rapid Filipinization of the colonial administration. The rising Manuel L. Quezon, who later became the first president of the Philippine Commonwealth government in 1935, dramatically declared that he would prefer "a government run like hell by Filipinos than a government run like heaven by Americans."[70] Meanwhile, the Muslims, save for a few, showed little enthusiasm in participating in the colonial system. Thus, as Majul described it, the Americans´ plan to prepare the Muslims for independence was "altered and tailored to the Christian Filipinos."[71] The prospects of the Muslims eventually being granted a state of their own began to diminish, as the governance of the Muslim provinces was passed on to the Christians and not to the Muslims themselves.

As one of the governing principles of American colonial policy, Filipinization was narrowly defined as the gradual substitution of American with Filipino personnel in the government - part of the preparation of the Filipinos for self-rule and independence.[72] But to the Filipinos (indios), especially the ilustrados, Filipinization was actually much more than that. It was the continuation of the process of forging a new national identity for the emergent "Filipino nation", a process that had been disrupted by the coming of the Americans. Filipinization could not be anything else than the perpetuation of "Filipino nationalism", and the means for spreading Filipinism, the ideology of "Filipino nationalism". The ilustrados, who had been the very first to capitulate to the Americans and had thus garnered choice posts in the colonial government, had simply retained the appellations which they had earlier adopted: Philippines and Filipino.

Being among the inhabitants of the "Philippine" archipelago, the Muslims were considered as encompassed by the Filipinization process. But the Muslims did not have the same view of the process as the Christian Filipinos. To them, Filipinization meant being put under the governance of "people from the northern part of the country, who were totally ignorant of the indigenous customs and traditions and who for generations had harboured an incorrigible bias against the Bangsamoro people." It meant being policed by a Philippine Constabulary, which, though under American guidance, was composed wholly of Christian Filipinos.[73] The Muslims preferred to be under the Americans than under the Filipinos - at least prior to gaining their own independence - as they regarded a government run by Filipinos as indeed "hell". To the Muslims, Filipinization also denoted the opening or takeover of large tracts of land in Mindanao, including Muslim ancestral lands, to Christian settlers from Luzon and the Visayas, with government assistance. Most of all, Filipinization signified a process of "assimilation and acculturization [in which] the Moros - like the Filipinos - would be subtly induced to embrace Western habits and values so that they would soon lose their own national and cultural identity and obliterate their past."[74]

The Dominant Ethnie Model

In an essay on majorities and minorities in Southeast Asia, Anderson stated that Christianity was deployed to create a "supra-ethnic majority" in the Philippines, where the Moros remained "useful bogeymen" to the end of Spanish rule.[75] By the same logic, the Muslims, who belong to thirteen ethnolinguistic groups, can be considered as a supra-ethnic minority. Under Smith´s concept of ethnie, on the other hand, Filipinos and Moros, and arguably, Christians and Muslims as well, can be regarded as ethnies or ethnic communities. An ethnie or ethnic community, according to Smith, is "a named human population with a [belief or] myth of common ancestry, shared memories and cultural elements; a link with a historic territory or homeland; and a measure of solidarity."[76] Ethnolinguistic groups in the Philippines - such as the Christian Tagalogs, Cebuanos and Ilocanos, as well as the Muslim Maguindanaos, Maranaos and Tausugs - can be considered as smaller ethnic communities or they could fall under what Smith termed as ethnic categories, which are characterized by outsiders, e.g., scholars, missionaries and travelers, as having a distinct cultural (usually, linguistic) group, but possessing little or no sense of their common ethnicity.[77]

According to Smith, the "territorial nations" that emerged from the former colonies in Africa and Asia were created in two ways: the "dominant ethnie" model, in which the culture of the new state´s core ethnic community became the main pillar of the new national political identity and community; and one in which there was no acknowledged dominant ethnie and the new state endeavored to forge a supra-ethnic "political culture" for the new political community. In Smith´s analysis, the nation-states of the second model, in particular, experienced great difficulty in welding disparate ethnies and ethnic categories into new nations and in forging new national identities. Paradoxically, it was where the new state was built up around a dominant ethnie that the best chance of creating a "territorial nation" and political community arose. Nonetheless, Smith acknowledged that many dominant-ethnie states did encounter fierce opposition from ethnic minorities within the state. This, he said, revealed "the failure to ´invent´ a new political culture and mythology, one that can encompass or transcend the ethnic identities of both dominant and minority ethnie."[78]

As Smith himself noted, the Philippines followed the dominant ethnie route.[79] In the main, the culture, identity and social values of the new nation-state were shaped by the dominant Christian ethnie - the Christian ethnolinguistic groups which comprised the majority of the population and had managed to achieve considerable integration in the course of struggling against Spanish and American rule. The Philippines certainly cannot qualify as a dominant-ethnie success story, if one considers that it has been wracked by an armed ethnic conflict that has lasted for over 30 years, claimed 120,000 lives[80] and turned hundreds of thousand into refugees.

Unlike in many of the other postcolonial states, the process of forging a new national culture and identity in the Philippines began way before the attainment of independence from colonial rule. Filipinization, as among others the assimilation and acculturization of the Muslims and other minorities to the Christian Filipinos´ Western values, marked the start of the process. Vis-à-vis the relationship between the dominant Christian ethnie and the non-Christianized peoples, Filipinization initially tended to highlight the "savage"-"civilized" differentiation. The Christian Filipinos had by then imbibed Western ideas and standards of "civilization", and now ethnocentrically looked at the non-Christians through the Western prism.

In the early years of American rule, the Moros had been placed in a political grouping with other "savages" under the Bureau of Non-Christian Tribes. "[P]opular books on the Philippines," noted Vaughan, "listed the exotic cultural markers distinguishing Moros from other Filipinos as part of an ethnographic laundry list that typically began with the nomadic Negritos and climbed a rough pecking order to the ´civilized´ Christian lowland metropolitans."[81] Worse, Worcester considered the term Filipino as "properly applicable to the Christian peoples only" and such usage was repeated by him and other writers, including Worcester´s assistant James Le Roy and Superintendent of Education Fred Atkinson.[82]

When Filipinization was pursued, the "savage"-"civilized" question still continued to be all-important: to be considered Filipinized, one had to be sufficiently "civilized", i.e., in the Western sense. Thus, far from serving as a symbol of national unity and identity, the term Filipino excluded, and discriminated against, the country´s non-Christian peoples. As pointed out by Alejandro R. Roces, pre-World War II dictionaries defined Filipino as "a native of the Philippine Islands belonging to a Christianized Malayan tribe as distinguished from the pagan or wild tribes and the Mohammedan Moros."[83]

As late as 1943, no less than Carlos P. Romulo, General MacArthur´s aide-de-camp, who later became the Secretary of Foreign Affairs and the president of the University of the Philippines, in his book, Mother America, racistly denigrated the Igorots as "our wild tribes" and "primitive black people" and disowned them with this appalling remark: "[T]he Igorot is not Filipino and we are not related, and it hurts our feelings to see him pictured in American newspapers under such captions as ´Typical Filipino Tribesman.´"[84] (Romulo could very well have taken the cue from Worcester and from Francis Burton Harrison, the American governor of the Philippines, who, when visiting the Igorots, "had carried with him a cake of carbolic soap and had washed himself whenever possible after shaking hands with an Igorot".[85] ) Roces rightly castigated Romulo´s attitude as the "Gunga Din Syndrome."[86]

Even where the Muslims were no longer regarded as savage or uncivilized, the ethnocentrism of the Christian majority still manifested itself in that the dominant ethnie shaped a national "Filipino" identity and culture that was too alien and alienating to the Muslims. According to Tan, the Muslims found Filipinism and the very idea that they were Filipinos hard to accept, as they equated Filipinism with Christianization. The difficulties with Filipinism as a unifying concept of Christian Filipinos and Muslims persisted even by the time the 1935 Constitution was promulgated, as the ambiguities of ethno-religious origin and expression remained unresolved. Beyond the contexts of geography and law, Christian Filipinos and Muslims held little in common. "The only meaning that could be given to ´Filipino,´" wrote Tan, "was one who was a citizen of the Philippines, and to ´Filipinism´ that which pertained to the Filipino."[87]

During the period of the Philippine Commonwealth, the Muslims still refused to enter the mainstream of Philippine society. They felt offended by the national laws enacted by the Commonwealth government, which upheld standards drawn from Christian ethics and Western social history and which were thus alien to the Muslims, whose cultural heritage was drawn largely from ancient Malay societies. They also resented the new educational system, which emphasized Western "progressive" ideas and Western values and which taught that the Muslims were pirates and slave traders. "Muslim religious leaders," stated Majul, "came to believe that the new government´s legal and educational system constituted an intentional scheme to extinguish Islam in the Philippines."[88]

The Failure of Assimilation

When the Philippines gained independence in 1946, most Muslims could not share a sense of national identity with the Christian Filipinos. Apart from perceiving the new republic´s laws and public school system as being too Christianized and Westernized, the Muslims deeply resented the steady influx of Christian settlers to Mindanao and the displacement of Muslims from their ancestral lands. Muslim leaders blamed all the ills on the "Christian government" in Manila.[89]

Instead of righting the wrongs of the colonial era, the postcolonial government aggravated the problem between the Christian and Muslim communities. Early on, the government came up with a rather one-sided view of the nature of the problem, characterizing it as the "Moro problem". This clearly reflected the ethnocentric bias of the Christian majority. (Understandably, some Muslims fumed about the "Christian problem.") A special committee of the Philippine House of Representatives, properly headed by a "Muslim Filipino", defined the Moro problem as "nothing but the problem of integrating into the Philippine body politic the Muslim population of the country, and the problem of inculcating into their minds that they are Filipinos and that this Government is their own and that they are part of it."[90]

As its response to the "Moro problem" and the "problem" with other "cultural minorities", the Philippines adopted integration as its basic policy: all the minorities would be completely and permanently integrated into the mainstream of Philippine national life - culturally, politically, economically and every other way. To implement this integration policy, the government established the Commission on National Integration in 1957. In the analysis of Peter Gordon Gowing, the government´s integration program vis-à-vis the Moros revolved around the philosophy that if the Moros were provided with more roads, schools, health facilities and factories, instructed in modern farming methods, given more scholarships for higher education and given more jobs in government, then they would be "integrated", i.e., resemble the Christian Filipinos. This was in reality a philosophy of assimilation, reflecting a basic contempt for the religious, cultural and historical factors upon which the Muslims anchored their psychological and social identity. Gowing explained the Moros´ grave misgivings:

[M]any Moros think they see a connection between integration and the coming of migrants from the northern provinces into Moroland. The two are but different sides of the same coin whose name is assimilation. Integration takes away the Moro religious and cultural identity; migration and resettlement programs take away their land - thus, Moros and Moroland become assimilated into the Philippine nation.[91]

The Muslims did get some roads, schools, scholarships, government jobs, etc., but they remained as un-integrated as ever. Meanwhile, their area had shrunk to just about a fifth of Mindanao, concentrated in a handful of provinces that counted among the country´s poorest and most neglected. By the 1960s, many Muslims felt that only two choices were left to them: integration or secession.[92] Muslim nationalism soon came into full flower with the establishment of the Moro National Liberation Front and the launching of the armed struggle for independence from "Philippine colonial rule." Just as the ilustrados had appropriated for the indios the pejorative Spanish-given name Filipino, the MNLF adopted the Spanish epithet moro for the Muslim people. But while the ilustrados had taken on Filipino in colonial fawning, the MNLF wrested moro in a show of defiance - to the Muslims´ enemies, moro had evoked not only contempt, but often also awe, dread or even fear. To emphasize the complete break with "Philippine colonialism", the MNLF asserted the nationhood of the Moro people - Bangsamoro (Moro Nation) - and announced their goal to establish a nation-state of their own - the Bangsamoro Republik.

In retrospect, the Philippine government´s integration policy was actually only part of a larger scheme. In its efforts to attain rapid development, the government had followed the so-called "modernization paradigm", which was the dominant development paradigm in the immediate postwar decades and which was basically patterned after the Western model of development. Many postcolonial nation-states of Africa and Asia adopted or were strongly influenced by the modernization model as they strove to catch up with the more advanced capitalist countries. Guided by this paradigm, the new states undertook "nation-building" through "cultural assimilation" and "social mobilization". Cultural assimilation meant the absorption of smaller, subordinate ethnic communities or nationalities into the larger, dominant "nation". The emergent states were mostly oblivious to the dangers of deadly and protracted inter-ethnic violence, as allegiances towards one´s ethnic community or group were thought to be mere relics of traditionalism that would fade away or be swept away in the course of modernization and development. In a good number of postcolonial states of Africa and Asia, these allegiances, instead of fading or being swept away, gave rise to full scale wars.

Too often, observed Smith, the construction of nations has been equated with state-making. According to him, state-making involves the establishment of an administrative apparatus with skilled personnel; a code of law and system of courts; a taxation system and fiscal policy; a unified transport and communications system; effective military institutions; systems for welfare benefit, labor protection, insurance, health and education, etc. Nation-building, on the other hand, includes the following processes:

State-building, though it may foster a strong nationalism, noted Smith, is not to be confused with the forging of a national cultural and political identity among culturally heterogeneous populations. "The establishment of incorporating state institutions," he wrote, "is no guarantee of a population´s cultural identification with the state, or of acceptance of the ´national myth´ of the dominant ethnie; indeed, the invention of a broader, national mythology by the elites to bolster the state´s legitimacy may leave significant segments of the population untouched or alienated."[93]

Part Four will be printed in the next issue of Kasama


[63] Christopher Alan Vaughan, "Obfuscating a New Other, Defining a New Self: Popular Discourses on the Colonization of the Philippines" (PhD dissertation), University of California, Berkeley, 1997, p. 158.
[64] Jan Nederveen Pieterse, White on Black: Images of Africa and Blacks in Western Popular Culture, New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1992, p. 217.
[65] Vaughan, pp. 92-147.
[66] Pieterse, p. 216.
[67] Vaughan, pp. 141-147.
[68] Ibid., pp. 148-173.
[69] Frake, p. 49.
[70] Corpuz, pp. 566-567.
[71] Majul, p. 22.
[72] Teodoro A. Agoncillo and Milagros C. Guerrero, History of the Filipino People, Quezon City: R. P. Garcia Publishing Co., 1970, p. 303.
[73] Abdurassad Asani, "Moros - not Filipinos", Diliman Review, Vol. 29, No. 2, March-April 1981, pp. 32-33.
[74] Ibid., p, 33.
[75] Anderson (1998), p. 321.
[76] See Michael E. Brown, ed., Ethnic Conflict and International Security, Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1993, pp. 4-5; and Smith, "The Ethnic Sources of Nationalism", in M. E. Brown, pp. 28-29.
[77] Smith (1993), p. 30.
[78] Smith (1991), pp. 110-116.
[79] Smith (1991), p. 114.
[80] Macapado A. Muslim and Rufa Cagoco-Guiam, "Mindanao: Land of Promise", Accord, Issue 6/1999, p. 16.
[81] Vaughan, p. 150.
[82] Benito M. Vergara, Jr., Displaying Filipinos: Photography and Colonialism in Early 20th Century Philippines, Quezon City: University of the Philippines Press, 1995, p. 51.
[83] Alejandro R. Roces, Fiesta, Philippines: Vera-Reyes, Inc., 1980, p. 27.
[84] Carlos P. Romulo, Mother America, Garden City, New York: Doubleday, Doran & Co., 1943, p. 59.
[85] Pieterse, p. 196.
[86] Roces, p. 25.
[87] Samuel K. Tan, "Islam and Christianity in the Philippines", Mindanao Studies Reports, No. 3, Quezon City: University of the Philippines Press, 1995, pp. 6-7.
[88] Majul, p. 25.
[89] Ibid., pp. 29-32.
[90] Peter Gordon Gowing, Muslim Filipinos - Heritage and Horizon, Quezon City: New Day Publishers, 1979, p. 208.
[91] Ibid., p. 210.
[92] See Glang, Muslim Secession or Integration?, 1969.
[93] Smith (1995), pp. 38, 89-90.

Nathan Gilbert QuimpoABOUT THE AUTHOR:

taught at the University of the Philippines (Diliman), the University of Amsterdam (Netherlands) and was an Associate Professor in Political Science and International Relations at the University of Tsukuba in Japan for many years.

He is the author of Contested Democracy and the Left in the Philippines after Marcos (Yale University Southeast Asia Studies and Ateneo de Manila University Press, 2008), and co–editor, with Patricio Abinales, of The US and the War on Terror in the Philippines (Anvil Press, 2008).

We have the following articles written by Nathan Quimpo in the CPCA library and we´d be happy to send you copies for the cost of photocopying plus postage. Contact CPCA at the address below:

  • What Muslim Mindanao Really Means to Arroyo
  • Contested Democracy and the Left in the Philippines
  • Trapo Parties and Corruption
  • Red leaders afraid Kintanar knew too much, Philippine Daily Inquirer, 28 January 2003.
  • The Left and Democratisation in the Philippines
  • Peace Movement and Credible Mediator Needed to Save Talks
  • Balikatan: Tripwire to a Bigger, Internationalized War?, Conjuncture, Vol. 14 No.1, Jan-Feb 2002
  • Internal Struggle in CPP: Sisons vs. Tiamzons, part 1 of 2, Philippine Daily Inquirer, 13 August 2001.
  • Different styles, same goals: The struggle continues, part 2 of 2, Philippine Daily Inquirer, 14 August 2001.
  • The Revolutionary Left: Back to centre stage?, Philippine Daily Inquirer, 24 June 2001.
  • Options in the Pursuit of a Just, Comprehensive, and Stable Peace in the Southern Philippines, Asian Survey, Vol. XLI, No. 2, March/April 2001.
  • Options in the Pursuit of a Just, Comprehensive, and Stable Peace in Mindanao, paper delivered at the forum Kalinaw! The Quest for Lasting Peace in the Philippines, Institute of Social Studies, The Hague, The Netherlands, 29 September 2000.
  • Colonial Name, Colonial Mentality and Ethnocentrism, Public Policy, Vol. IV No. 1, January-June 2000.
  • Dealing with the MILF and Abu Sayyaf: Who´s Afraid of an Islamic State?, Public Policy, Vol. III No. 4, October/December 1999.
  • Barrio Utrecht, Sunday Inquirer Magazine, 7 November 1993.
  • Toward a Revolutionary Strategy of the 90s, published under the pseudonym Omar Tupaz, Debate, Issue No. 1, Sept 1991, quarterly journal of the Kalinaw Foundation, Amsterdam, The Netherlands, August 10, 1991.

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