Tuesday, August 02, 2005

The Arab-Filipinos in History and Philippine Society

Review of related literature reveals that the affluence of the Arab-Filipinos in the realm of history and their role in Philippine society remains slightly explored and studied. Although attempts were made by the Spanish writers as part of their colonial strategy and the early American scholars like Dr. Najeeb M. Saleeby, an Arab physician who worked for the US government, as part of their colonial effort for the American forces to assume sovereignty in Mindanao, Sulu and Palawan, there was no comprehensive study to understand the relations of the Filipinos and the Arab world. Since then, there were no succeeding studies on the particular subject under the administrations of Presidents Aguinaldo, Quezon to Macapagal. It was only during the Marcos presidency when the Philippine government opened the avenue of research towards understanding the Muslims in the Philippines and their relations with other members of the Muslim world in line with Philippine national interests. During this time, efforts by scholars like Dr. Cesar Adib Majul, a prolific Filipino academic of Syrian Arab descent from Cagayan Valley who in the process of his studies turned Muslim, wrote about the Islamic Influences in the Philippines and observed that one of the many things in common between the socio-culturally related peoples, the Filipinos and Arabs, that need to be explored was the strong sense of history and Islamic heritage.[1]

This research work, although limited, is designed to answer the following: How did the relations of the Arabs and Filipinos come into being? How did the Arabs influence the way of life of the Filipinos, Islamic institutions, and marriage alliances that flourished in the Philippines? How were the Arab-Filipinos integrated in the Philippine and Arab societies? And finally, what are the roles of the Arab-Filipino as a people in Philippine society?

This study shows that the Arab-Filipinos played a vibrant role not only in early history but also in the present-day Philippine society. The policies of integration of the Philippines shaped and influenced their lives as part of the Philippine society. The Arab-Filipinos who followed the Islamic way of life have a hard time in the integration process in the Philippines unlike those who are not identified with the Muslim world. This study also presents some of their experiences as a people.

[1] Esnaen M. Catong, "Philippines-Saudi Arabia Relations, 1968-1998: A Diplomatic History," (MA Thesis, University of the Philippines, Diliman, Quezon City, 2004), unless otherwise indicated is one of the main sources of this paper.
A research work presented during the National Conference of the U.P. Lipunang Pangkasaysayan held on August 18-19, 2004 at Balay Kalinaw, University of the Philippines, Diliman, Quezon City.