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From Urduja to Maria Clara; From Pura Villanueva to Lola Rosa - Faces of the Filipina Across Phases of History

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Document pages: 33 pages

Abstract: Not too many Filipinos are aware that women enjoyed a relatively more egalitarian society when the Philippine Islands were yet to be called as such. It may even be hard to believe that women experienced better treatment during primitive times but bits and pieces of evidence point to this fact prior to the onset of foreign influence. But, as history would have it, Philippine culture would be greatly enriched by a fusion of the East and the West. On one hand, its geographical location explains the oriental traditions that brushed against its extensive shores and became deeply engrained in the culture of the people. On the other, we see a long history of Spanish and, thereafter, American occupation that accounts for the people’s assimilation of colonial thoughts. Either way, paternalist ideals gradually permeated the indigenous culture of the Filipino people and greatly influenced not only their way of life but also the way they valued women. This article will trace the changing faces of the Filipina across various phases in history. It will commence with a discussion of available evidence on the egalitarian treatment of women in indigenous Filipino culture. It will move on to discuss the era of Western colonization, specifically, the three centuries of Spanish rule, followed by more than four decades of American regime. Paternalist attitudes were pervasive in the doctrines of Catholicism imposed by Spain upon the Filipinos. The Americans, on the other hand, started to teach concepts of liberty and equality but remained paternalist in countless ways, starting from the perception that the Filipinos were ill-prepared for the independence that they were seeking. Thereafter, the article will survey the three most compelling Eastern influences in Philippine history – the unique family dynamics brought by the Chinese merchants, the religious stimulus in Southern Philippines from neighboring Islamic countries, particularly, Indonesia and Malaysia, and the brief but painful era of Japanese occupation during the Second World War. The article will conclude that the paternalist traditions from both Eastern and Western influences collectively eroded what started out as a relatively egalitarian, though admittedly primitive, Philippine society.

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