I was in elementary when I first heard of colonial mentality. It was taught in our HEKASI class and being the young student I once was, I was only keen on memorizing the term and its meaning. I had no understanding of how apparent and prominent colonial mentality was and is in our society.
As I grew older, I started to realize how colonial mentality really affects Filipinos. Products from overseas—typically Western ones—are usually favored over locally produced ones by the masses. There always seems to a “premium” status associated with imported goods. I would usually see families in supermarkets buy food from New Zealand or whatever while simultaneously neglecting food made by our own hard-working farmers, which is usually accompanied by the families saying, “Ay, wag yan! It’s from local lang.”
To some, this may come as no surprise. For almost majority of its history, the Philippines has always been under a much larger sovereignty. The most prominent may be the Spanish. The Spanish colonial period ran from 1521 to 1898—more than 300 years. It was an oppressive, manipulative regime to say the least. Afterwards, we were bought off by the United States then we were acquired by the Japanese. Historians would call this the post-colonial period, which is ironic since, well, we were still technically a colony then—kind of.
The prolonged state of the Philippines as a colony of Western countries may be the cause of our preference of anything Western. However, although it has been decades since we were last colonized, it is interesting to ask why colonial mentality is still rampant. Why haven’t we moved on and have grown to love our own?
Colonial mentality is often characterized by the feeling of inferiority for being a Filipino or shame for one’s Filipino heritage. Ironically, there also exists internal discrimination. Those in the more urbanized cities in the country discriminate against those from the rural areas, those who are “less westernized”. Their accent and external features are often made fun of.
In television and film, there is great adoration for people with Western features. Those without talent but have light skin or a pointed nose will still be able to make it because that’s what the fans love. TV has fed society with the false truth that beauty only comes from the white man—or woman.
So do we change the system of the industry? Yes. Will it have any significant effect on colonial mentality? It might. However, that solution can only go so far.
If we are to change the landscape of Filipino culture, we must make a change in its roots. We should change the name of the Philippines. Funny as it may seem, but hear me out. A brief background on the etymology of the Philippines would tell you that when Spanish explorer Ruy Lopez de Villalobos reached the islands of Samar and Leyte in his expeditions, he named them after the then prince of Asturias and eventual king of Spain, King Philip II.
Although it did undergo some changes throughout the years, there weren’t any prominent deviations since most of them were just different variations of King Philip’s name. If we rebrand our country, it will definitely change how we look at ourselves. We should not pattern ourselves after the white man. The only template that we should follow is our very own.
Changing the name of the Philippines may be a crucial step in our endeavor to abolish colonial mentality. We must rid the very thing that reminds us that we were once colonized, that we are just named after a white, Spanish king.