I was born in an American military base on the Philippines in 1959.
In many ways, Philippine culture in 1959 was a synthesis of American and Philippine influences.
Interestingly, my being an American born in the Philippines reflects cultural synthesis.
Sub-point One: Philippine culture was largely influenced by the United States, since it was occupied by the Americans for several decades before independence.
In 1959, the President of the Philippines was Carlos P. Garcia, who was elected two years earlier.
Many of the popular songs, television shows, and films that came out in 1959 in the Philippines were influenced by American popular culture or came directly from the United States.
Sub-point Two: However, the indigenous Philippine people strongly struggled to retain and assert their national, ethnic and cultural identities in 1959.
Philippine literature and film became an expression of nationalism and cultural pride.
In 1959, the national language of the Philippines was renamed Pilipine by the Department of Education, in accordance with growing nationalistic and anti-American sentiment.
3. Many American military bases, like the one on which I was born, became dismantled in 1959.
C. Sub-point Three: Tension between the two cultures was alleviated through a synthesis of many political, cultural, religious, and linguistic elements.
1. Much Philippine literature, film, and music during 1959 demonstrated a synthesis of indigenous and American or European cultural elements.
2. In June of 1959, the Liberal and Progressive political parties merged, leading to the eventual election of a president who was more sympathetic to American interests than Garcia.
Because the Philippines had been occupied by the Spanish and subsequently the United States, Philippine culture is remarkably synergistic, blending elements of indigenous culture with American influences.
Central Idea: I am in a unique position to appreciate the mixing of these two cultures, since I am a Caucasian-American who was born in the Philippines.
I was one of many children born to an American father who was stationed abroad in the American military. My earliest memories are of the tropical heat of the Philippines, an archipelago nation in Southeast Asia. A culturally and ethnically diverse country, the Philippines had a wealth of different languages and ethnicities before any European powers invaded and occupied it. After the Spanish-American War at the turn of the century, the United States helped the Philippines eventually obtain independence, but not before becoming another occupying power. As a result of cultural contact with the United States, the politics and culture of the Philippines after World War Two became even more diverse than it was before. American popular culture seeped into Philippine culture, and many American television shows and pop songs made their way onto Philippine airwaves. Philippine films became so influenced by American cinema that in 1959, the American movie industry began to make their own films in the Philippines. Not all of the contact between the United States and the Philippines was peaceful, however. Increasingly discontented with the presence of American military bases in their country, the Philippine government changed their military assistance pact with the United States and dismantled several American bases. Moreover, much Philippine arts and literature began to protest imperialism. In spite of these tensions, however, Philippine culture in 1959 demonstrated a constructive synthesis of indigenous and American elements and I was lucky enough to be born on the cusp of these two cultures.
Philippine culture was largely influenced by the United States, since it was occupied by the Americans for several decades before independence. One of the main ways that the United States influenced the political development of the Philippines was through the creation of the Republic of the Philippines. The structure of Philippine government closely resembled the structure of the American republican government; elections were even held in November. In 1959, the year I was born, Carlos P. Garcia was the president of the Philippines. Garcia was anti-communist, which the Americans liked, but nevertheless he was strongly devoted to the nationalist cause.
Another key way the United States influenced Philippine culture was through arts, literature, and entertainment. American television shows such as “Perry Mason” and “Rawhide” were being broadcast in the country. Popular American songs from 1959 such as those by Buddy Holly and Marty Robbins would be heard on Philippine radio. The Philippine people inherited many American army surplus vehicles, changing the character of Philippine roads and cities. The Americans influenced the ways Philippine people went shopping, how they ate, and what they spoke: English is now the official second language of the Philippines. Moreover, although Catholicism had already firmly taken root in the country due to the Spanish influence, American protestant religions made their mark around the time I was born. In fact, in 1959, the Universalist Church of the Philippines (UCP) was created by indigenous Philippine people. The Church was heavily influenced by the American Universalist Church and was therefore initially officially recognized by it.
However, the indigenous Philippine people strongly struggled to retain and assert their national, ethnic and cultural identities in 1959. In 1959, an English-language book by indigenous Philippine author N.V.M Gonzalez called the Bamboo Dancers came out. The book was critically acclaimed and was also a powerful work of social commentary and protest against oppression. The book championed indigenous cultural values and reflected a strong nationalistic trend in the Philippines. The trend was in large part a reaction against continued American presence in the nation, visible in the many military bases there like the one in which I grew up. An indigenous Philippine film star named Fernando “da King” Poe landed his first starring role in 1959, in a film called Markado. “da King” was so popular because he championed the cause of the poor and disempowered. In 1959, under President Garcia, the Philippines reduced the 99-year leases granted to the United States government on their military bases there. The Philippine government also shut down many bases.
Tension between the two cultures was alleviated through a synthesis of many political, cultural, religious, and linguistic elements. For example, in 1959, director Gerardo de Leon made a film called Terror is a Man. The film was a co-production with American filmmakers and producers, and sparked a revolution in the film industries in both these nations. In 1959, Philippine roads were peppered with a curious mixture of American army jeeps, horse-drawn carriages, and rickshaw bicycles. Philippine composer Angel Pena synthesized Western and indigenous musical traditions with his novel compositions. Giant sporting arenas like the Araneta Coliseum were built in 1959 in the Philippines, reflecting growing interest in Western-style spectator sports.
In 1959, the Philippines was growing into an increasingly complex nation. Its language, culture, politics, and arts remained strongly tied to tradition and yet increasingly drew from American influences. Nationalistic tendencies and increased cultural pride led to a strong movement in the arts and politics of 1959 that emphasized indigenous traditions. On the other hand, the Philippines heartily embraced some elements of American popular culture and infused those elements into a synergistic whole. Because I was born in the Philippines in 1959, I am lucky enough to be a product of true cultural synthesis and of cross-cultural communication.
Ballard, Ted. “Clark Field Memories.” TerryBallard.org. http://www.terryballard.org/clark.htm.
Caruncho, Eric S. “The Jazzman Comes Home.” Global Nation. 2003. Online at http://www.inq7.net/globalnation/sec_fea/2003/jan/30-01.htm.
The Philippines.” Columbia Encyclopedia. 6th edition, 2001. Online at http://www.bartleby.com/65/ph/PhilipRep.html.
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