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Are Filipinos Asian?

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My wife is Filipino. She says she is Asian. Is she correct? There comes a need when accomplishing government forms to state one’s race. I have seen some forms that actually list Filipino, but most don’t and have two categories that I think a Filipino might feel are correct: Asian or Pacific Islander. My wife does not think of herself as a Pacific Islander just like Japanese people mostly do not consider themselves Pacific Islanders even though they are on islands in the Pacific. All maps of Asia I have seen include Japan and most include the Philippine Islands. I am going to expound on whether or not Filipinos are Asians on the following bases: Cultural, Genetic, Geographical, and Self Identification.

Cultural

There are some aspects of Filipino culture that are very Asian. Filipinos eat rice with every meal (but not with chopsticks) and foods like pancit and lumpia fit in with other Asian cultures. Filipinos also respect elders, have strong family ties, are polite and have the Asian concept of face and the importance of not losing face. On the other hand, Filipinos have Filipino time, which seems to be more of a laid-back Pacific Islander attitude and they roast pigs over a fire in a style similar to Pacific Islanders. Filipinos also have Spanish influences like siestas, some traditional dances and clothes, Catholic Church, and many Filipino foods show Spanish influence. Filipinos have adopted the cultures of other areas in a cafeteria-style taking what suits them and leaving the rest. Makes sense to me, but I don’t think this help in our attempt to classify Filipinos as Asians or Pacific Islanders or Hispanics.

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Genetic

My wife will see someone on television sometimes and say, “She looks very Asian.” When she says this I see the person and I think they look very Filipino, but not really very Asian. Filipinos to me do not look very much like Chinese, Koreans or Japanese. They do look similar to Indonesians and to a lesser extent Vietnamese. If you were looking for an in-depth scientific anthropological dissertation on the origin of the people of the Philippines I am sorry to disappoint you. It is my understanding that the inhabitants of the Philippines came from Indonesia and some may have come from China. I don’t know, but that would lend credence to Filipinos being Asians. I understand that Spain ruled the Philippines for years, but few Filipinos have a lot of Spanish blood, but many have Spanish names.

Geographic

The Earths Tectonic Plates

The Earths Tectonic Plates

Most maps of Asia include the Philippines, but I wanted to see if the Philippines was on the Asian Continental Tectonic Plate. It actually does and doesn’t. About half the Philippines falls on the Asian plate and half on the Philippine Tectonic Plate. This actually explains the very existence of the Philippine Island Chain. The Philippines was created by volcanic activity along the border of the two plates. Classifying peoples race by what continent they are from does not seem logical to me, but in the case of the Philippines, I am not sure it is clearly in Asia.
An interesting fact that I think not many realize is that Israelis are more clearly Asian than Filipinos geographically. I enjoyed recently watching Israeli-born Gal Gadot in Wonder Woman. On previous visits to the Philippines, I enjoyed watching Philippine-born Angel Locsin play Darna on Filipino television. I have 7 questions for pondering and answering if anyone wants to share:

  • Is Gal Gadot and/or Angel Locsin Asian?
  • How is the Asian race defined?
  • Does being from the same continent make you the same race?
  • Why do we even used the word American, Asian or African to describe someone’s race?
  • Do we need to identify people by race?
  • Who would win a fight between Darna and Wonder Woman?
  • Is the author of this article better at asking questions than answering them?

Self-Identification

Does anyone care if both either or neither of these ladies is Asian

Does anyone care if both either or neither of these ladies is Asian

I had a friend in college who to me looked half African American and half Native American. It turned out that his father was Caucasian and his mother was Filipino. He said that he was legally entitled to check Asian, Hispanic, Pacific Islander or White when accomplishing forms. His mother who was fully Filipino insisted empathically that she was White even though she looked to me at the time Hawaiian. I thought her a little odd. She seemed to me to be a little ashamed of her Filipino heritage and I did not and do not understand why. I did not argue with her, though and I wouldn’t argue today either. I personally list myself as White or Caucasian. My wife identifies herself Filipino when a choice and Asian when not. Our boys are always listed as Asian and White, I check both boxes.

I write more to learn than to teach, so I ask more questions than I answer. The central question is in the title of this article and I would love to read comments especially from Filipino readers. A follow-up question to “Are Filipinos Asian?” is “Does racial identification matter?

Jay Stainback

Jay Stainback lives in Raleigh, NC, USA and is hoping/planning to retire to Bohol in about 10 years. He is married to his beautiful Filipina wife Juliet whom he met on-line. They were married 12/7/02 and have two boys’ ages 9 years old and 5 years old. Jay has visited the Philippines 4 times the first time 1 week, the 2nd time 2 weeks, the 3rd time for 3 weeks, the 4th time 4 weeks spending most of their time in Bohol.

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Mark Kuivenhoven
Mark Kuivenhoven
4 years ago

First there is Aeta an indigenous people and no one knows for sure where they came from. Then there is Malay that share DNA with Polynesians and many other visitors throughout time

Jay
Jay
4 years ago

Hi Mark,

I am not sure I am smart enough to understand, but you would say there is genetic evidence for Pacific Islander. Thanks for commenting!

Peace

Jay

Mark Kuivenhoven
Mark Kuivenhoven
4 years ago
Reply to  Jay

Oo but in reverse they came from the Philippines or at least there DNA did

David Auyeung
David Auyeung
4 years ago

I consider Filipinos Asians, but American “way” respects individuals to choose which ethnicity they belong to in case of a mixed one. So I respect the will of the Filipina who insists her child is whowh.

David Auyeung
David Auyeung
4 years ago
Reply to  David Auyeung

I meant white

Tootsie Sonia
4 years ago

I, myself as born Filipino, Philippines ?? considered “Pacific Islanders” we are not part of Asia, since our country has separated from Asia and the Philippines ?? stand itself on the southeast Pacific Ocean which lies on south of Indonesia, west China sea. In Japan ?? most of my friends and family there never considered themselves as part of Asia, no wonder, because like the neighborhood Philippines ?? Japan ?? also stand itself on the Pacific Ocean. Am I correct? So therefore, when someone asked me, where you from? I’m from the Philippines ?? Pacific Islander

Randy Stalter
4 years ago

I mean no disrespect Tootsie, but Philippines is not in the southeast pacific ocean and it isn’t south of Indonesia.. Philippines is in the southwest of the pacific ocean and north of Indonesia.

Paul Blackburn
4 years ago

Race is an outdated construct and serves no purpose other than division. Who cares? Cultural values are more important.

gcl65
gcl65
4 years ago
Reply to  Paul Blackburn

My thoughts exactly! I was just thinking that when you put on this or that label, somebody is going to use it to cause problems and divide.

Jay Stainback
4 years ago
Reply to  Paul Blackburn

Hi Paul- I personally agree with you, but my wife identifies heavily with being Asian and I certainly don’t want to argue over it. It does seem that once society starts grouping people by a characteristic the belief that one group is superior follows. Thanks for the comment! Peace Jay Stainback

Paul Blackburn
4 years ago
Reply to  Paul Blackburn

Jay Stainback I didn’t say to argue. My wife is the same way. The Philippines isn’t really conservative as Asian nations though.

Jeff Kelton
Jeff Kelton
4 years ago

A quick Google came up with the most logical answer,in my opinion.(not that it really matters!) The basic Filipino belongs to Malay stock and have brown skin color compared to typical yellow race Asian (Chinese, Japanese and Koreans). Malays were descended from peoples of SOUTH ASIA-Indian sub-continent, not South China. DNA studies showed that many of the inhabitants of the Philippines were related to Ethnic Malays. Filipino languages (Ilocano, Pampango, Tagalog, Cebuano, Bikol) are part of the Austronesian group, which originates in Asia. The Philippines was isolated from the rest of Asian culture because of more than 300 years of… Read more »

Jeff Kelton
Jeff Kelton
4 years ago
Reply to  Jeff Kelton
Jay
Jay
4 years ago
Reply to  Jeff Kelton

Hi Jeff,

Thanks for adding the information! Race is confusing and my feeling is that if a Filipino wants to identify with being Asian or Pacific Islander or as you said both than I have no problem with it and certainly would not argue the point. Even though Filipino is a term of nationality I think it is the most useful term to use to describe a person from the Philippines as I can usually tel a Filipino from other Asians. I did mistake a Vietnamese lady in church for Filipino once though.

Peace

Jay

stephen
stephen
4 years ago
Reply to  Jay

The right word would be Malay or Austronesian if that is what you are looking for. Filipino is a regional constructed identity. Cebuano, Tagalog etc are linguistic identities. At the end of the day, a person is free to choose and identity with what they feel best defines them. There is nothing wrong in identifying as Asian, as Filipinos are considered part of the Asian family.

Curtis Lee Cooper
4 years ago

I would say Pacific Islanders.

Rick Levy
4 years ago

Excellent post. I’ve often pondered some of the same points. Add to the issue is that so many Filipinos are part Chinese, my wife among them.

Jay
Jay
4 years ago
Reply to  Rick Levy

Hi Rick,

Thanks for the comment and compliment! I think in some areas of the Philippines there are quite a few Amerasians, who may be half white or half Black. The important thing to remember is we are all children of God. As Martin Luther King said we need to judge people by their individual “content of character”.

Peace

Jay

Mark Kuivenhoven
Mark Kuivenhoven
4 years ago

Sometimes it’s just about geography

Jay
Jay
4 years ago

Hi Tootsie,

I will not argue with you or my wife. I have always got the impression that most Japanese feel they are Asian, but I could be wrong as I do not talk to many Japanese. Thanks for commenting and sharing your thoughts!

Peace

Jay

stephen
stephen
4 years ago
Reply to  Jay

It is a person’s free choice what they identify with the most or not. Each person gets to decide that based on their upbringing, language, culture or geographical identity. Citizenship is different. I don’t feel anyone has to be forced into identifying themselves as anything if they don’t wish to and they have their own choice to choose from.

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