All posts by uhmcps

Stop the Killing of Lumads

Lumad-killingsAttorney Reyna Ramolete will speak at Hamilton Library, Asia Multipurpose Room 401, Monday, October 5 at 5 PM, on the Lumad killings in Mindanao, Philippines. The Lumad are the indigenous people of southern Philippines.

Reyna is a local born Japanese/Filipina lawyer with the Legal Aid Society of Hawai’i. She also has experience with nonunion labor organizing in upstate New York. She went with a solidarity delegation to the Han-Ayan area in Mindanao on December 2014 and was at the Alternative Learning Center for Agricultural and Livelihood Development (ALCADEV) that was destroyed by paramilitary troops on September 1, 2015.

The lecture will also be an occasion to launch a “Save Our Schools” campaign to build solidarity among several community-based events in the Philippines and Hawaii.

This event is sponsored by Decolonial Pin@ys, Hawai’i Peace and Justice, Oceania Rising, UHM Hamilton Library, Women’s Voices/Women Speak, and UHM Center for Philippine Studies.

Philippine Lawyer Antonio Oposa Jr. to give lecture on environmental justice

OposaAntonio A. Oposa, Jr., noted lawyer and advocate of environmental justice in the Philippines, will give a public lecture on February 17, 2015, 7:00 pm at the Keoni Auditorium, Imin Center, East-West Center. Oposa holds the 2015 Daniel and Maggie Inouye Distinguished Chair in Democratic Ideals at UHM Richardson School of Law. The public is invited.

Recognized as one of Asia’s leading voices in environmental law, Oposa has fought to protect the Philippines’ natural patrimony. He has initiated landmark cases to protect the country’s remaining virgin tropical forests and to clean up Manila Bay. Oposa was awarded the Magsaysay Award in 2009, an honor some refer to as Asia’s Nobel Prize.

For more details, please visit this Site.

Study Abroad: Philippines

The Center for Philippine Studies is very pleased to launch a semester-long Study Abroad Program in the Philippines! For many years now, we have always dreamed of giving our students a truly unique experience of living and studying abroad in the Philippines–one of the most diverse, exotic and challenging nations of Southeast Asia. This is our first–and only–Study Abroad Program in Southeast Asia!

We in Hawai’i have this sense of familiarity and affinity with the peoples and cultures of the Philippines. The strength of this relationship ensures a program that would provide a valuable opportunity for Filipino students to reconnect and learn about their heritage, and for other students to learn about a fascinating culture that is deeply ingrained in the local culture of Hawai’i.

We have created a website that provides all the information students will need, including our partner institution, curriculum, housing, internship opportunities, field trips, program costs, and the application materials.

Deadline for Submission of Applications for Fall 2015: April 1, 2015. Schedule of Program: August 10, 2015-December 12, 2015. (Orientations on August 8 and 9, 2015)

Students are eligible to apply for a FLAS fellowship to go to the Philippines. If you are planning to pursue language studies (Tagalog/Filipino) during your Study Abroad in the Philippines, then you are eligible to apply for the Foreign Language Area Studies (FLAS) grants for undergraduates. Details about the grant and application materials could be accessed in this website:

The deadline for the fellowship is this Friday, January 16. We apologize for the late notice. Please submit a completed online application form by this Friday. Reference letters and transcripts, etc. could be submitted later.

Finally, there will be a Study Abroad Fair next Wednesday, January 21, 9am-2pm, at Campus Center. CPS will have a table and we’ll be able to provide more information regarding our program.

Thanks a lot! Please do not hesitate to contact Professor Vina Lanzona ( if you have any questions.

Fieldwork Report on the Mansaka of Davao

By Joy Marfil

I was in the Philippines from July 18 to August 4, 2013, to do my field research on Mansaka music in Tagum City, Davao del Norte, in preparation for my dissertation. My objectives were to interview musicians about their culture and traditions, and to record Mansaka songs, music, and dance. But I was surprised to learn that a protocol has to be followed in order for me to do research. Supposedly I had to meet the National Commission for Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) and The Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG), and had to secure a Free and Prior Inform Consent (FPIC) to gain access for my research. Usually the process takes about three months and there is no guarantee they would permit me to do my research in the tribal community. So I went to see the newly elected mayor of Tagum City, Mayor Allan Rellon, to ask his help. He was very supportive and immediately called Honorable Datu Rudy (Kimud) Onlos (Tribal Chieftain, Tagum City Federation of Barangay Tribal Council) to allow and assist me in my research. Mayor Rellon believed that my research would benefit their tribal community as well. Also, my classmate in high school, Dr. Janet Veloso, who is now a Division Supervisor of the Department of Education, Davao Region, helped me to negotiate with Mayor Rellon and Datu Onlos, with whom she is close friends. If not for Dr. Veloso, I would have had a hard time doing my research.

IMG_20130730_101713_187Before I started the research, I was given an Acceptance Ritual, which is one of the protocols, initiated by a baylan (tribal priest) in the presence of other baylan and twenty tribal chieftains from the different tribes – Mandaya, Manobo, and Kalagan. After the ritual, Datu Sucnaan proclaimed, “From now on you’ll be called Bia Joy,” which means “Honorable Joy.” Datu Onlos remarked, “Think of us as your family. Once you have been given an Acceptance Ritual, you are part of our family even if you don’t belong to any of the tribes. If you were not given a ritual, you cannot commune with us. But now you are accepted already by the tribes.” Datu Onlos also added:

“In the old times when foreigners arrived and were accepted by the tribe, they were given a piece of land. But now our problem is that we have only a few lands. We are supposed to give you a piece of land. That is our custom and tradition. If you want, we have it in the mountain; if you want to plant or farm, you can go to our ancestral domain anytime. That is how our system works. We give land right away. That is how our heart works because this is not our land. The Lord entrusted this land to us. So any good man that can be a steward of the land, we give it to him. Just like you, you came and wanted to build a relationship with us, so we also treat you as our sister.”

It was an overwhelming experience. They accepted me not only to do the research, but deeper than that, they accepted me as their family member. So whenever I go back to Tagum, I can visit them anytime.

After the ritual I was allowed to start my research. For my safety, Dr. Veloso gave me a bodyguard to accompany me during my entire stay in Tagum. In my research I was able to do the following: Interview Datu Onlos and Datu Aguido Sucnaan (baylan – tribal high priest of Tagum City, Cultural Master and Chieftain of Barangay Mapandan) about their music, culture, and tradition; visit a Mansaka community at Barangay Pandapan; record some of the Mansaka songs, music, and dance performed by Mansaka Cultural Masters; dine and drink wine (made by Datu Onlos) with them; dance with them; and most gratifying of all, learn to play the gimbal and agung and perform with their ensemble. The Mansaka tribe does not record or notate their music. They were kind and generous enough to perform different songs, dances, rituals, and ceremonies for me to record and transcribe.

The Mansaka is an ethnic group found in the southern part of the Philippines, particularly in the provinces of Davao del Norte and Compostela Valley. According to Datu Onlos, the Mansaka, Mandaya, and Kalagan (or Kagan) tribes used to be a single tribe. However, they became divided – some went up to the mountains (Mansaka), some to the upper portion of the river (Mandaya), and some stayed in the seashore or riverside (Kalagan). The Kalagan tribe is divided into two. Half of the group followed the Muslim faith, while the other half retained their traditional faith.

DSCF0519The term “Mansaka” derives from “man” meaning “first” and “saka” meaning “to ascend,” so Mansaka means “the first people to ascend the mountains or go upstream.” Farming is their primary source of living. According to Datu Onlos, the first generation of Mansaka was not open to new development. They wanted to protect their culture and tradition, and going up to the mountain was their way of protecting the community. Datu Onlos also mentioned that they believe in the God called Magbabaya. They also believe in the Holy Trinity – the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit (diwata), and Jesus Christ being the tamisa na anak ng Magbabaya (“the only Son of God”).

Mansaka instruments consist of the following: gimbal (double-headed drum made of deer skin); kubing (jaw’s harp); agung (wide-rimmed, vertically suspended gong); kulintang (row of eight small, horizontally-laid gongs); lantoy (mouth bamboo flute); parundag (mouth or nose bamboo flute, bigger than lantoy); and kudlong (two-stringed instrument, which resembles the Muslim kudyapi, where one string functions as a drone while the other string plays the melody). There are three different kinds of kudlong depending on the number of frets: Kyagan (five frets); Panganduan (seven or eight frets); and Binudyaan (thirteen frets). The more frets, the larger the instrument is. If two kudlongs are played together, it is known as bandayon.

While the beginner kulintang player uses a two- or three-gong kulintang, the advanced player uses a five- to eight-gong kulintang. Usually the instruments are played in pairs. For example, the gimbal and agung are played together, particularly for prayer/ritual on Pagtabi; and the kudlong and lantoy or parundag are also played together. The kudlong or any of the bamboo flutes can also be played as solo instruments. The instrumental ensemble consists of gimbal, kulintang (usually from 3 to 8 gongs), and agung. I found out also that two to three players may play on one agung – playing the boss, edge, and rim, creating different colors.

The instrumentation varies depending on the ceremony or occasion. Ideally, a bigger ensemble is usually used for a big celebration such as the harvest and wedding ceremonies, while a smaller ensemble is usually for solemn ceremonies such as a healing ceremony and acceptance ritual. A solo instrument – kudlong is usually played for courtship.

When a Mansaka engages in dancing, the hand and eye movements convey certain meanings. Usually it is a gesture of prayer. A dance for prayer or ritual is called Binalyan – communicating to Magbabaya (God). Datu Sucnaan stated that “According to our ancestors, God finds pleasure when you dance.” Sometimes the dancers imitate the movements of the bird called “kabuwa,” in which the dance step is called “kinabuwa.” This bird usually appears during summertime.

Mansaka music has specific functions in their lives as part of their culture and tradition. For example: Binarig is for courtship; Barabay is for entertainment; and Sinakay-sakay is used for all types of ceremonies and rituals – wedding, harvest, etc. Dancing has always been a part of every ceremony and ritual. Some examples of their ceremonies and rituals are:

Piyagsawitan (harvest ceremony)
• Wedding Ceremony
Pag-ipad or Pagdiyaga (healing ritual)
• Ritual to Become a Bagani (tribal warrior)
Dawot (song)

In the Mansaka tribe, dawot is an extemporaneous singing that talks about their history, culture, and tradition. According to Datu Sucnaan, each story has a different babawoy or tonada (tune). There is no written record in their history and it is through dawot that their history is being told and preserved. In a way, dawot is a form of storytelling. As the story is told from one generation to the next, new information is added, thus making the dawot longer and longer. Very few Mansaka are able to perform the dawot, only those who are gifted and given wisdom – anointed ones. Thus, the singer depends on the Holy Spirit as he performs the dawot. Dawot can be sung in a cappella, ideally in high register. It can be accompanied by different instruments but usually is accompanied by the kudlong. While the singer performs the dawot, the audience motivates him through pag-iyak – a sort of shouting, which is the counterpart of Western clapping. Example: “Huh” or “Yahu.”

The Mansaka learn their music through their dead ancestors, who appear to them in a sacred place in Masara Mountain called “Pula,” where only the Mansaka are allowed. Non-Mansaka people are prohibited from going, to keep them away from trouble and sickness. According to Datu Onlos, they hear different kinds of music and instruments in the sacred place. The chosen ones, or what they call the cultural masters, learn their music by listening to the performance of their dead ancestors, who appear to them in human form, and they imitate the melody and rhythm. This may sound strange, but is fact. Datu Onlos himself actually sees and talks to his dead ancestors when playing kudlong in their sacred place. Thus, each of the cultural masters has their own specific music. Until the present time, that was their method of learning music. But of course the cultural masters teach the music aurally to the younger ones. However, if a cultural master notices that the young one doesn’t have an interest, he will not force him. Mansaka don’t have a method of notation but rather they play by ear and imitation. One of the concerns of Datu Onlos is the preservation of Mansaka music. He commented that the younger generation nowadays hardly appreciates their traditional music.

After transcribing several Mansaka songs (dawot) and instrumental music, I discovered that most of their music was constructed in pentatonic scale (a scale consisting of five tones), which is the main characteristic of Asian music. Chanting is a common practice in Mansaka’s style of singing. Ornamentation of the melodic lines is also common both in singing and playing instruments. In instrumental music, the rhythm is set for each kind of music with regular beat and meter. Oftentimes, each instrument plays with a variation of the basic rhythm. The tempo is set from the beginning and it is the same tempo throughout the entire performance.

DSCF0579The dance steps correspond to the beat. A change in dynamics will also indicate changes to their movements. For softer sound, their movement is fine, slow, and subtle. For louder sound, there are bigger, faster and sometimes wild hand movements and footsteps. The indication of a sudden change of the dynamics level from soft to loud is called lugoy.

Some pieces are strophic form, binary form, and through-composed. However, depending on the ceremony and occasion, the performance may last for several days. For example, in the wedding and harvest ceremonies, the celebration may last for weeks. Even in dawot, the singer can sing stories about their history and ancestors endlessly.

It was a fulfilling research. Datu Onlos and the rest of the staff of the Tagum City Federation of Barangay Tribal Council were very supportive and made sure that I received what I needed. It was sad news though when I received an email recently that Datu Onlos passed away on July 23, 2014. Indeed, he helped me so much with my research and so I would like to dedicate my dissertation to him.


Joy Marfil is a PhD student in Music at the University of Hawai’i at Mānoa. She is the first recipient of the Belinda A. Aquino International Philippine Studies Endowment. This research is conducted toward her PhD dissertation.

CPS Annual Report, 2013-14

By Vina A. Lanzona

In the second half of the year 2013, the Philippines suffered several tragedies, one after another. During the month of October, a hostage crisis in the southern city of Zamboanga dominated the headlines. A group of disgruntled and rogue Islamic separatists from the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) laid siege on Zamboanga City and declared it a Bangsa Moro or Moro Nation, under the leadership of Nur Misuari. The siege lasted for weeks with frequent clashes between government and rebel forces. About 10,000 homes were destroyed and over 200 people killed, which led the United Nations to declare the event a humanitarian crisis.

BoholThe following month, another tragedy struck when an earthquake with a magnitude of 7.2 shook the Visayan provinces of Bohol and Cebu, the strongest earthquake the nation experienced in more than two decades. Over 220 people died, thousands were injured, and the destruction of centuries-old colonial Churches, broke the hearts of thousands. All these tragedies did nothing to prepare Filipinos for another catastrophic event that occurred in November: the death and destruction caused by typhoon Haiyan, or Yolanda, that swept throughout Central Visayas and was the strongest and most powerful typhoon ever recorded in history. The 315 kmh winds that accompanied the storm surges wiped out entire villages in Leyte and Samar, and led to more than 5000 deaths and 2000 missing. The Philippine government was highly criticized for not acting swiftly and efficiently, in direct contrast to the international relief efforts launched by institutions and individuals from all over the world.

Haiyan2The Center for Philippine Studies, in cooperation with the Filipino community in Hawaii, also sprung into action. Within the first week of the tragedy, the CPS, with its numerous student volunteers set up a table for donations at the Campus Center. It also took the leadership in coordinating the efforts of various organizations and individuals within the UH community. The CPS was present when the Music Department staged a benefit concert at the Kawaiaha’o Church and when student and faculty chefs of the Food Sciences Department held an All-You-Can-Eat (and sold out) Pasta event at the Agricultural Sciences building. From these two events, and several other fund-raising events organized by the Graduate Business Student Association, East-West Center/UH Pinoy, Katipunan and Timpuyog student organizations, SEED, Phi Alpha Theta History Honors Society, the Cancer Center and collections from UH students, staff and faculty, the CPS helped raise a total of $11,520.00. The CPS donated this sum to the Filipino Community Center, where all donations were matched dollar for dollar by the Hawaii-based Consuelo Foundation. Thus, the UH community raised more than $23,000 for the relief and rehabilitation efforts of the communities ravaged by typhoon Haiyan. It was our first major effort at fund-raising, and it was very successful thanks to the generosity of the UH community.


To see background information on our fundraising efforts, please check Here.

For more information on how the Consuelo Foundation helped to rebuild communities with our donations, please click this Site.

These events obviously dominated CPS work at the end of the Fall semester. But just like previous semesters, we continued our CPS Colloquium Series, and this year’s theme focused on the publications of our own faculty, and welcoming new and old faculty to our Philippine Studies ohana. Professor Vernadette Gonzalez of the American Studies Department launched her new book, Securing Paradise: Tourism and Militarism in Hawaii and the Philippines (Duke, 2013), and Professors Jon Okamura of Ethnic Studies Department and Patricia Halagao of the College of Education presented their recently published essays from a volume entitled, The Other Students: Filipino Americans, Education, and Power (Information Age Publishing, 2012). We also welcomed as a new faculty member, Professor Joyce Mariano of the American Studies Department, who presented her work on the anti-Marcos movements in the US; Professor Francis Dalisay of the Communications Department, on the attitudes of Chammoros and Filipinos regarding US militarization; Professors Anthony Guerrero and Gretchen Gavero of the Department of Psychiatry, on the challenges facing Filipinos in pursuing health careers, and finally, Professor Diane Desierto, the newest addition to the Richardson School of Law, who discussed the controversial pork barrel system in the Philippines.desierto

Aside from this very rich series of talks, the CPS also co-sponsored the visits of several important scholars of the Philippines and Southeast Asia. In the Fall, the CPS launched the documentary Marilou Diaz-Abaya, Filmmaker on a Voyage, a moving film about the late award-winning director Marilou Diaz-Abaya by Mona Lisa Yuchengco, the former editor of Filipinas magazine. Our United States Institute of Peace (USIP) grant also funded the travels of three Professors from Mindanao State University: Dr. Faina A. Ulindang, Dr. Samuel E. Anonas, and Dr. Jamail Kamlian, who led a workshop entitled Migration, Elections, and Muslims: A Symposium on Mindanao, which was co-sponsored by Congress of Visayan Organizations and the Philippine Consulate. In the Spring, the CPS co-sponsored the visit of prominent Yale Professor and Southeast Asian scholar James Scott, as well as participated in several activities that featured the environmental lawyer/activist Tony Oposa, who was sponsored by the Richardson School of Law.Oposa-Flyer

All these events demonstrate the important role played by the Center for Philippine Studies in the intellectual and community life of UHM: from organizing academic talks and lectures, to welcoming new and prominent scholars, and rallying the UH community to assist communities in the Philippines. The CPS aims to sustain this active and important role as it enters its 40th year of existence. Indeed, we are excited to announce that we will be celebrating our 40th anniversary year in Spring 2015, with a variety of activities including an international conference in April, dance performances in May, and community events throughout the year.

We hope that you’ll join us in celebrating the 40th Anniversary of the CPS in the coming year. Please stay tuned and regularly check our websites for updates and upcoming activities!!!

Please click here for previous reports:
Annual Report, 2012
Annual Report, 2013

Kundiman 808 addresses domestic violence in Hawaii

On Sunday July 27, 2014 the 2nd Annual Kundiman 808 will showcase a variety of different talent ranging from music performances, dance, spoken word, live art addressing this year’s theme of domestic violence in the Filipino American community here in Hawaii.


For more information please visit their Eventbrite for more information.

Kababayan Connections: Oliver Tolentino

By Jonathan A. Valdez

Kababayan Connections aims to connect conversations with Filipinos in the diaspora and UH Manoa students in how the study of the Philippines can be applied in different disciplines. Our first Connection is Oliver Tolentino.


Hollywood fashion designer Oliver Tolentino was born in Bataan and attended college and fashion school in the Philippines.  After years of hard work as a designer in Manila, Tolentino gradually came to dress a “who’s who” of Filipino entertainers including Arnel Pineda, Lea Salonga, Kuh Ledesma, Lani Misalucha, Cherie Gil, Zsa Zsa Padilla, Regine Velasquez, Pops Fernandez, Sam Milby and former First Lady Imelda Marcos.  Tolentino’s creations have also been featured at the Oscars, Golden Globes, Emmys, Grammys, SAG Awards, American Billboard Awards, People’s Choice Awards, Cannes Film Festival, Monte Carlo TV Festival, and on TV programs American Idol, America’s Next Top Model (cycles 17 & 18)ExtraDick Clark’s Rockin’ New Year’s EveThe View, The Early Show, Live With Kelly & Michael, and E!’s Fashion Police.

In 2009, Tolentino became the first Filipino designer to expand operations to the United States when he opened a boutique on Melrose Avenue in Los Angeles while maintaining his Manila boutique in Makati.   Tolentino soon attracted Hollywood’s attention, and was honored as a 2009 OSCARS Designer Challenge finalist, chosen as the prestigious “2011 Designer of the Week” at the El Paseo Fashion Week in Palm Springs and chosen the next year as the first featured designer of San Diego Women’s Week.  In the Philippines, ABS-CBN & Metro Society magazine honored him as their prestigious MetroWear Icon in 2011 and eco-ethical endeavor Rags2Riches selected him as its 2011 Featured Designer.

In 2013, Tolentino became the first Filipino designer in 53 years to have a gown worn by an Oscar winner with director Jennifer Lee winning for the smash Disney animated feature “Frozen.”  Only Tolentino and Pitoy Moreno, who dressed Puertorriqueña Rita Moreno when she won “Best Supporting Actress award for West Side Story” in 1961.

Oliver answered some questions for us about his personal and professional life:

What was your first experience with Philippine fabrics and what was it?

OT      I was born and raised in Bataan province so my first experience with wearing the fabric myself was my baptismal dress when I was one year old.

What influenced you to use Philippine and environmentally sustainable fabrics in your designs, and also where do you see this advocacy leading the Philippines?

OT       Being a Filipino designer, I’ve always worked with Philippine fabrics in barongs and ternos for clients.  When I opened my main atelier on Melrose Avenue 5 years go, I decided to promote our local fabrics on the international stage, and especially in Hollywood, in order to help all the weavers and embroiderers back home who pass these skills down from generation to generation.   But first I had to modernize the look of the fabrics so they’d be popular with non-Filipinos.  In 2009, I introduced the fabrics with my Oscars Designer Challenge gown, and in 2010, I showed pieces at Bahamas Fashion Week where I introduced the dean of the Parsons School of Design in New York to our fabrics.  He had never seen them before.  

More recently, I have gotten Hollywood celebrities to wear our fabrics.   Carrie Underwood, Jessica Alba, Emmy Rossum, Sophia Bush, Maria Menounos, and Tara Lipinski wore my dresses made out of Philippine fabrics.  Carrie wore my peach piña gown to perform on American Idol, Tara Lipinski reported live from the Kentucky Derby in my pink dress, and Maria Menounos put 3 of my gowns up for a vote to Extra TV viewers and they chose my blue piña gown for her to host Extra‘s Emmy Awards red carpet.  These things provided high-profile exposure to our fabrics.  I’ve shown Philippine fabric pieces in L.A., Palm Springs, New York, San Francisco, San Diego, Bahamas, Bali, Barbados, Hong Kong, Milan, and even at the U.N.’s Palais des Nacions in Switzerland, and I hope this will lead to our fabrics becoming more popular in the world, mostly because it benefits all the hard-working people back home who depend on this for their livelihoods.  I want to keep these centuries-old industries alive and prospering.

You mention briefly growing up and self-teaching yourself all about the fashion world in Bataan and visiting Aklan, Lumban, and Palawan, is there a dream spot in the Philippines you want to visit and why?

OT      I spend several months of each year in the Philippines.  I enjoy my time there and traveling to all our beautiful beaches and cities, but my dream spot will always be my home in Orani, Bataan.

Where do you see the Philippine fashion industry going?

OT      I think the Philippine fashion industry is always going to be healthy because we Filipinos are so interested in beauty and fashion.  I hope my presence in Los Angeles and Hollywood helps open the doors for Filipino designers, and I think some of that has happened in the past 5 years.  I made a decision when we opened the L.A. boutique to put up on the display window in big letters “MANILA * LOS ANGELES” under my name so everyone driving by and any actress or stylist coming there would know where I’m from.  I speak about being a Filipino and our food and beaches with every actress I meet and dress.  That opens their minds to the Philippines and to wearing Filipino designers.  In a small way, I’m trying to be an ambassador not just for Philippine fashion but for the Philippines.  And I’m humbled that visiting Filipinos pass by my Melrose boutique and take photos in front because they are proud.

For aspiring fashion designers what advice would you give them that has served you well?

OT      Fashion is not all about glamour like people think.  It’s a business where you have to work long hours, learn, know your craft, and constantly challenge yourself.  The greatest advice I can give anyone wanting to be a designer is to study and know everything about your business, not just how to draw.  Keep studying and learning every day.  And love what you do.

You can find more about Oliver Tolentino at


A special thank you to Oliver’s assistant Andrew Carutthers for being our go intermediary and helping CPS launch our first Kababayan Connection.

And another special thank you to Eileen Blancas for advice in writing this post.

How Philippine Studies Began

By Belinda A. Aquino

Although they are complementary and often used interchangeably, Philippine Studies and Filipino American Studies have separate origins and different scopes.  The earlier of the two, Philippine Studies, or studies on Philippine society and culture, started in the early 1900s when the country became a colony of the United States.  Commodore George Dewey’s defeat of the Spanish fleet in the Battle of Manila Bay and the subsequent annexation of the archipelago in 1898 aroused great interest in American circles.

The historical documents in the Spanish archives were translated into English by Emma Blair and James Robertson, and published in 55 volumes as The Philippine Islands, 1493-1803.  U.S. President William McKinley subsequently created the Philippine Commission to collect whatever data were available on the new American colony in Asia.  It was headed by Jacob Schurman, then president of Cornell University, a prestigious Ivy League academic institution.

Another professor, Dean C. Worcester of the University of Michigan, who had been in the Philippines in the 1890s, got other American academics like David Barrows, Albert Jenks and N. M. Saleeby to conduct ethnological studies on the indigenous tribes of the Mountain Province and the Muslims in Mindanao and Sulu.  In time a group of scholars, mostly anthropologists, made their careers in Philippine studies.  This group included H. Otley Beyer, Roy Barton, Fay Cooper Cole, Laura Benedict, and John Garvan.

Beginnings of Philippine Studies

In 1916 Beyer, who was to remain in the Philippines until his death, put out a landmark volume, Population of the Philippines. The book expressed the hope that “educated Filipinos will awake to the importance of preserving for future generations the history of their own race, and that scientists of other countries may grasp the fleeting opportunity to record knowledge of interest to the world at large.” Beyer eventually became a big name in Philippine archaeology and inspired other Western academics to study the Philippines.

Carl Guthe headed the University of Michigan Expedition in 1922-25, which called attention to the country’s relationship with China and Southeast Asia in pre-Hispanic times. Linguists compiled a number of grammar books and dictionaries like the one on the Ibaloi language in Benguet by Otto Scheerer.   A pioneering contribution, Tagalog Texts, by Leonard Bloomfield, was published by the University of Illinois at Urbana in 1917.

The 1930s saw a flourishing interest in Philippine Studies, in part due to the efforts of Joseph Ralston Hayden, another University of Michigan professor who had been appointed Vice Governor General of the Philippines. The Philippine Council of the Institute of Pacific Relations requested Felix and Marie Keesing to undertake a study of government and culture in Northern Luzon.  It was also in the 1930s that one of the earliest Filipino scholars in the U.S., Serafin Macaraeg, obtained a Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin.  During this period Filipino government “pensionados” were coming to the U.S. for further education and training.

The Second World War

World War II and its aftermath accelerated Philippine Studies largely due to the experiences of American servicemen who saw action in the Philippines.  U.S. policy-makers began to see the need for area and language programs for political and military purposes in the “Far East” or the “Orient.”  (The politically correct term now is “Asia”.)  Hayden was attached to the office of General Douglas MacArthur and had plans to establish a Center devoted to Philippine Studies at the University of Michigan because of the rich Filipiniana library collections in that campus.  But a fatal heart attack aborted the project, and it was only years later that a Center for South and Southeast Asian Studies, which include the Philippines, was established.

The Fifties to the Present

A real breakthrough came in the 1950s when Professors Alexander Spoehr and Frederick Wernstedt got funding from the Carnegie Corporation for research on the Western Pacific and the Philippines.  A Philippine Studies Program was instituted as part of the Department of Anthropology at the University of Chicago.  Many Filipino anthropologists were trained by Professor Fred Eggan of the Department.  Eggan’s death effectively discontinued Philippine Studies in Chicago.  But Southeast Asian Programs at other major American universities, such as Cornell, Yale, Berkeley, Michigan, Stanford, Northern Illinois, Syracuse and Hawaii included the Philippines in varying degrees in their academic curricula.

Cornell, for instance, had a long-standing exchange with the University of the Philippines in Los Baños (UPCO project) to train Filipino agricultural scientists.  Michigan specialized in training Filipino Ph.D.s in history.  A. Clyde DeWitt program at the same university provided graduate training for Filipino lawyers.  And as early as 1963-64, there had been courses on Philippine Anthropology and Tagalog at the University of Hawaii.  The university also produced dictionaries and grammar books on Tagalog, Ilokano, Pangasinan, Kapampangan, Cebuano, Bikol and Hiligaynon, a monumental work of Philippine language specialists.  Some of these specialists had served in the Philippines as Peace Corps Volunteers in the 1960s.  In 1969 the First National Colloquium on the Philippines was chaired by Charles Houston of Western Michigan University.

A major development field came in 1975 when the Hawaii state legislature passed a resolution authorizing the University of Hawaii to establish a program which was the forerunner of the current Center for Philippine Studies.

Thus, Philippine Studies in the U.S. was spurred mainly by annexation at the turn of the 20th century following America’s empire-building ambitions in the Pacific.  Studies on the newly acquired colony revolved around the traditional fields of culture, history, language, geography, archaeology, literature, arts and religion.  Many of these works reflected the “cold war” thinking of the time.  Research on tribal groups and cultural communities in remote areas was particularly fascinating for Western scholars from academic and religious circles. Dictionaries and language resources were developed.  Archaeological diggings and expeditions before and after World War II were undertaken in an effort to document the Philippine past.

A “special relationship” developed between colonizer and colonized even in the academic arena.  Some like to call this a “love-hate” relationship.  Appropriately, a favorite topic of research or contention was the state of Philippine-American relations, mainly on the issue of the U.S. military bases in the Philippines.  A resurgent wave of Philippine nationalism in the early 1960s, among other factors, was changing the ideology and direction of Philippine Studies on both sides of the ocean.  More contemporary fields like politics, international relations, drama, economics, sociology, psychology, and demography began to be popular in the postwar period.

Ethnicity as a Central Concern

Civil rights, the anti-war movement, women, ethnic minorities, and other groups forced dramatic social changes in American society in the 1960s.  These “sea-changes” spilled over into academia.  In time, non-traditional fields of study were asserting themselves as legitimate areas of intellectual inquiry.

For Philippine Studies, it was no longer enough to focus on a country 10,000 miles away across the Pacific. The Filipino community in America was growing much faster than its Asian counterparts, especially after the 1965 liberalization of immigration laws.  Local-born, second, third and even fourth generation Filipino Americans were coming on their own as distinct entities with different cultural and educational needs.  The question of ethnicity or cultural identity, usually taken for granted by immigrant or Philippine-born Filipinos, became a central concern for the American-born.

The experiences of their pioneering ancestors in the sugar plantations of Hawaii, the canneries of the Pacific Northwest, and the lettuce or artichoke fields of California needed to be told to the burgeoning Filipino American communities and to the larger society.  Not that the Philippines was no longer important or relevant. The home country was always there, albeit only as a memory or vignette of imagined community.  It had to be supplemented by knowledge on the Filipino experience in America.  This experience embodied stories of survival and strength, which the younger generations needed to know to bolster their own ethnicity.  “Our history” became the underpinning of many of the ethnic studies programs across the country in the 70s.

Thus Filipino American studies programs or centers have emerged in some campuses in America, combining the more traditional Philippine Studies offerings like history and language with newer courses on the continuing Filipino American experience.  In addition to Hawaii, the post-secondary institutions with such programs are the City College of San Francisco, California State University at Hayward, University of San Francisco, San Francisco State University, and Old Dominion University.  Among the bigger universities, the University of Wisconsin-Madison is particularly strong in research on the Philippines, especially history and politics.  Berkeley, UCLA, San Diego, Arizona State, Kansas State, SUNY Buffalo, Washington State, Oregon and Northern Illinois also have Philippine specialists on their faculty.

The downside is, in current American academia, ethnic or area programs are the first to be cut or eliminated in times of budget crisis.  They cannot compete with the newer or market-oriented programs like computer science, information systems, management, communications, science and technology, and so on.  As universities continue to downsize their area studies programs, it is hoped that the ethnic communities themselves will help keep them alive in some way.  Endowments, donations, gifts, scholarships, and other resources from the various Filipino American communities can augment the diminishing funding for such programs in universities across the nation.  At the University of Hawaii at Manoa, for instance, benefactors like Robin Campaniano, a Filipino American alumnus of the University of Hawaii and University of San Francisco, help to keep the Center for Philippine Studies afloat with their occasional donations.  Of course, we could use more, as our responsibilities increase without corresponding support.

In the long run, sustained financial initiatives from the outside will be critical to keep Philippine Studies and Filipino American Studies viable on any campus.  We live in an increasingly competitive and insidious world. And it is somewhat disappointing that for all the long decades of the so-called “special relations” between the United States and the Philippines, Philippine Studies in America is sporadic and has not been institutionalized. The promising programs in earlier decades have died a natural death either from attrition or lack of viable support.

But they say it’s never in the Filipino spirit to end on a bitter note.   And I suppose I echo the resolve of my colleagues when I say that the show must go on – we must keep Philippine Studies alive.

[This article first appeared in Filipinas magazine in October 2000. Reprinted with permission from the publisher.]

Doctoral Research Opportunities in Brunei Darussalam


For graduate students who wish to pursue a PhD (in History or Critical Asian Studies): The University of Brunei Darussalam (UBD) is offering full scholarship grants for 3 years to deserving applicants.  Possible areas of research include, but are not limited to, comparative history & historiography (mainly Indonesia and the Philippines, and to an extent Malaysia), Mindanao and Sabah-related issues, Filipino migration and (trans)national identity, history and memory of the 2nd WW or post-war political violence, and history of ideas and politics of knowledge production/consumption.

Minimum Requirements: MA in History or related disciplines (if BA, Summa or Magna Cum Laude); IELTS or TOEFL; and a developed research proposal.

For inquiries, please email, Dr. Rommel Curaming at

For more information please visit 

Congratulations to the 2014 CPS Grant and Scholarship Awardees

The Center for Philippine Studies of the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa is proud to announce our grantees and scholarship awardees for 2014.  From all of us here at CPS, congratulations and mabuhay!

2014 Alfonso Yuchengco Endowment Fund

Dylan Beatty is an MA graduate student in Geography.  He will be traveling to the Philippine to conduct research on mapping and contestation in the Spratly Islands produced by the Philippine state.  This research will contribute to the completion of his MA thesis.

2014 Ligaya Fruto Endowment Fund

Jonathan Sawyer is a PhD student in Urban and Regional Planning.  He will be traveling to the Philippines to conduct research on disaster resettlement and resilience in the Bicol region on the island of Luzon.  The results of the field study will used towards Jonathan’s dissertational project.

2014 Corky Trinidad Scholarship Fund

The Corky Trinidad Scholarship was awarded to three graduate students.

Isabel Chew is an MA graduate student in Asian Studies.  She will be completing her MA thesis focusing on the Philippine national hero Jose Rizal, Philippine nationalism, and Filipino diaspora in Hawai‘i.

Rusyan Jill Mamiit is a doctoral candidate in Natural Resources and Environment Management.  Her dissertation project focuses on assessing efficiency, sustainability, and social cohesiveness in the rice sector in the Philippines.

Aaron Rom Moralina is a doctoral candidate in History.  He will be traveling attending the Southeast Asian Studies Summer Institute (SEASSI) at the University of Wisconsin, Madison to study Bahasa Indonesia.