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Are we more European than we think?

Recently, the current fad among Filipino-Americans is to discover their roots. There are DNA testing companies in the United States that do just that. First, before they take the test, they recount their oral family history to shed light on the matter. Most-often-than-not, they would say, well, my father is from Bulacan and my mother is from Cebu, although I have a Spanish great grand-father. And true enough, there would be a percentage of their DNA that could be traced as far back from Southern Europe.

On the surface, we are given this breakdown of Ethnic groups living in the Philippines. Remember though that these are based on the language that they speak, more accurately, it should be labeled as ethnolinguistic groups. We have the following: 33.7% Visayan; 24.4% Tagalog; 8.4% Ilocano; 6.8% Bicolano; 26.2% other.

The Racial Classification of Filipinos is Austronesian, hence, we are related to the Malay People. The indigenous peoples of the Philippines form a minority of the population. There are more than 175 ethnolinguistic groups in the Philippines. Other large ethnic groups include Filipinos of Japanese, Indian, Chinese, Spanish, and American descent.

To dig in deeper into the ethnic groups in the Philippines, a 2019 Anthropology Study by Matthew Go, published in the Journal of Human Biology, practicing forensic anthropology, while exhuming cranial bones in several Philippine cemeteries, researcher Matthew C. Go estimated that 7% of the mean amount, among the samples exhumed, have attribution to European descent. Research work published in the Journal of Forensic Anthropology, collating contemporary Anthropological data show that the percentage of Filipino bodies who were sampled from the University of the Philippines, that is phenotypically classified as Asian (East, South and Southeast Asian) is 72.7%, Hispanic (Spanish-Amerindian Mestizo, Latin American, and/or Spanish-Malay Mestizo) is at 12.7%, Indigenous American (Native American) at 7.3%, African at 4.5%, and European at 2.7%.

By the 16th century, Spanish colonization brought new groups of people to the Philippines mainly Spaniards and Mexicans. Many settled in the Philippines, and intermarried with the indigenous population. This gave rise to the Filipino mestizo or individuals of mixed Austronesian and Hispanic descent. There was migration of a military nature from Latin-America (Mexico and Peru) to the Philippines, composed of varying races (Amerindian, Mestizo and Criollo) as described by Stephanie J. Mawson in her book “Convicts or Conquistadores? Spanish Soldiers in the Seventeenth-Century Pacific”. Also, in her dissertation paper called, ‘Between Loyalty and Disobedience: The Limits of Spanish Domination in the Seventeenth Century Pacific’, she recorded an accumulated number of 15,600 soldier-settlers sent to the Philippines from Latin-America during the 1600s. In contrast, there were only 600 Spaniards who immigrated from Europe, in which time-frame, the total population of the Philippines was only about 667,612. Another 35,000 Mexican immigrants arrived in the 1700s and they were part of a Philippine population of 1.2 Million, forming about 2.91% of the population. Old Spanish censuses state that as much as 33.5% or one third of the population of the main island of Luzon had full or partial Hispanic or Latino (Mestizo and Native-American) descent.

The Philippines was a former American colony and during the American colonial era, there were over 800,000 Americans who were born in the Philippines. As of 2013, there were 220,000 to 600,000 American citizens living in the country. There are also 250,000 Amerasians scattered across the cities of Angeles City, Manila, and Olongapo.

Scientifically, we now know that indeed most Filipinos have European blood in varying degrees as supported by the results of a massive DNA study conducted by the National Geographic’s “The Genographic Project”, based on genetic testings of 80,000 Filipino people by the National Geographic in 2008–2009, found that the average Filipino’s genes are around 53% Southeast Asian and Oceanian, 36% East Asian, 5% Southern European, 3% South Asian and 2% Native American. (Source: Wikipedia 2023)

In the final analysis, Filipinos with higher European lineage is roughly 15.4% of the total population. But because the Spanish Colonial Empire, had a complex racial stratification that promoted intermarriages-- unlike, for instance, the British Colonizers in their colonies that promoted segregation --the average Filipino has 5% European blood in his DNA. It is like adding a dash of salt and pepper and hot sauce to your pizza. History books only tell us that the contributions of the 333 years of Spanish rule to the Philippines are the Roman Catholic Religion, the food, the clothes, the dances, the arts, the Spanish names, but now we may truly claim our Eurasian Heritage that runs in our veins. Do not be surprised that in the next generations to come, a Kristine-Hermosa-looking great grand-daughter or an Ian-Veneracion-looking great grand-son would be born into your family.


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