"The devil influenced them in other curious ways (other than their "carnal" form of circumcision); for the greater sensuality and duration in their carnal acts, methods which are now completely extinct." (Blair and Robertson's, "Native Peoples and Customs" in vol. 40 pg. 365:)Although the padres associated Filipino sexual practices with the devil, the Filipinos themselves saw sacredness in the art. Probably the best evidence of this are the phallic devices known in the Philippines, and also in neighboring Indonesia, as curicung, palang, ampallang, etc. According to the Boxer Codex, there were at least 30 different types of these devices, each with a name sacred in the native language. The Spanish also mentioned a type of "circumcision" that was practiced for the purpose of enhancing sexuality. This rite, though, was also considered sacred and it was not associated with immorality.
The sacred names of the curicung and the sacredness of the special sex-enhancing circumcision ritual show that the Filipinos had a very different outlook toward sexual relations. On the different types of curicung used, the first description came from Magellan's companion, Pigafetta:
"Both young and old males pierce their penises with a gold or tin rod the size of a goose quill. In both ends of the same bolt, some have what resembles a spur, with points upon the ends; others are like the head of a cart nail. I very often asked many, both young and old, to see their penis, because I could not credit it. In the middle of the bolt is a hole, through which they urinate. The bolt and the spurs always hold firm. They say that the women wish it so, and if they did otherwise they would not have communication with them.Miguel de Loarca writing in the 16th century confirms Pigafetta's observations:
"An abominable custom among the men is to bore a hole through the genital organ, placing within this opening a thin tube, to which they fasten a wheel like that of a spur a full palm in circumference. These are made of tin, and some of them weigh more than half a pound. There are twenty kinds of these wheels, but modesty forbids us to speak of them. By means of these they have intercourse with their wives."The purpose of the curicung and similar devices was dual. To stimulate the woman, and to prolong the duration of intercourse.
On the sexual mores of the people, the Spanish governor, Antonio de Morga wrote: "From their early youth, they intermingled with each other very frequently and with scant self-restraint. They have no regrets for whatever happened to them, and neither did their parents, brethren and relatives, especially if any pecuniary considerations were involved, and very little of this element was necessary for certain things to happen."
"The women are beautiful but unchaste," stated Miguel de Loarca, and his comments were verified by others. Even after some degree of Christianization had taken place, the Filipino was slow to give up the indigenous ways. In vol.51, pg. 268-270 of Blair and Robertson's, the Spanish author of "Reforms in Filipinas," writes about Filipinos who study for the priesthood:
"There they devote themselves to studies in Santo Tomas, San Jose and San Juan de Letran making progress in a short time, and deceiving the professors with their apparent ingenousness (sic); at the same time they are occupied as servants to the Spaniards and foreigners, but only nominally, since they do not go to their master's house except for eating, sleeping, and stealing from him. After a little time, having abused the master's patience and violated his wife, daughters, and other relatives, if he has such (without respecting even those who have not reached the age of puberty) they end up departing with the utmost coolness...with no more covering than a mere breech-clout."Furthermore, the Spaniard was wont to complain about the crime: "Still less does he say a word about the rape, in order not to make public his own dishonor." (pg.269)
The author complains that these fellows return to their home provinces ordained as clerics and often obtained curacies.
However, as was the case in Polynesia, the women were looked upon by the Europeans with much more favor than the men. The same author wrote concerning the Filipina:
"if it were possible to put an end to all the men and leave only the women, or rather unite them to other men who would possess their good qualities and think as they do, Filipinas would come to be the most wealthy and fortunate country in the universe." (pg.271)The vilification of the local men, and the portrayal of the European male as the 'savior' of the local female became a common theme in European colonialism.
Sebastian de Pineda in his Ships and Shipbuilding (Bl. and Rb., vol 18) complained about the Filipino seamen who in the early 1600's were still up to their tricks in taking multiple wives:
"The first great offense commited against our Lord, for many of those native Indians of the Filipinas Islands who come as common seamen are married in those said islands; and inasmuch as they are unknown in Nueva Espana, they remarry here." (pp.183-85)
Benguet Igorots dance amidst the rice terraces
The Rooster comes to America
When the Philippines was colonized by the United States and single Filipino men began coming to work in the States, they again gained their reputation in the sexual arena. Not having many Filipino women around to associate with, the Filipino often turned to white women, to the dismay of the white male.
In Ronald Takaki's book, Strangers from a Distant Shore, he discusses this subject in the chapter entitled "Dollar a Day, Dime a Dance." This title refers to the common Filipino practice of patronizing taxi-dance halls in the pre-war years. On page 327, a white worker from that period commented on his frustrations regarding the "Filipino boys":
"These Filipino boys are good dancers. They can dance circles around these 'white' boys, and the 'white' boys don't like it -- especially when the Filipinos dance with 'white' girls. It's no telling what these Filipinos will do if they keep comin'; and it's no telling what the 'white' man will do either. Something is liable to happen."Indeed, not long after this comment was made the Watsonville riots broke out over a Filipino man dating a white teenager (with the permission of the latter's mother). The following views were expressed by police officers and a police judge of San Francisco in the United States Commission of Law Observance and Enforcement, _Report on Crime and the Foreign Born_, no. 10, June 13 1931, p. 362:
"The Filipino is bad; by nature he is a criminal. Their crimes are of a violent nature. And in addition they associate with white girls..." "...The Filipino is our great menace. They are all criminally minded. They are great chasers of white women..." Shortly after the Watsonville riots, Judge D.W. Rohrback blamed the Filipinos for the violence: "Damn the Filipino! He won't keep his place. The worst part of his being here is his mixing with young white girls from 13 to 17, buying them silk underwear...keeping them out till all hours of the night. And some of these girls are carrying a Filipino's baby around inside them." The above remark resembles a quote from a deputy labor commissioner explaining the "Filipinos' success with white women," in America: "The love-making of the Filipino is primitive, even heathenish...more elaborate." (Takaki, p. 328) Also, from a California businessman: "The Filipinos are hot little rabbits, and many of these white women like them for this reason." (Ibid) In remarks to Time magazine, Judge Sylvain Lazarus of the San Francisco Municipal Court stated (Sylvain Lazarus, SFMC, January 1936): "Some of these [Filipino] boys, with perfect candor, have told me bluntly and boastfully that they practice the art of love with more perfection than white boys, and occasionally one of the [white] girls has supplied me with information to the same effect. In fact, some of the disclosures in this regard are perfectly startling in nature." In another Time article, the same sentiments were expressed: "To the intense dismay of many race-conscious Californians these little brown men not only have a preference for white girls, particularly blondes, but have established to many a white girl's satisfaction their superior male attractions." (Takaki, p. 333) However, some sought other explanations for why any white woman would be attracted to the Filipino "jungle monkeys": "The Filipinos got in trouble at Watsonville because they wore 'sheikier' clothes, danced better, and spent their money more lavishly than their Nordic fellow farmhands and therefore, appealed more than some of the latter to the local girls." (Baltimore Sun correspondent in Takaki, p. 328) Unlike previous Asian immigrants, the Filipinos posed a threat because they sought marriages with white girls. Many did not have the system of arranged marriages that other Asians possessed: "The Filpinos are ...a social menace as they will not leave our white girls alone and frequently intermarry..." (Takaki, p. 328) These comments were made by a white man to the House Committee on Immigration and Naturalization in 1930. The man went on to comment on an incident that happened earlier while he attended a car show in Washington D.C.: "As we were looking at some of the nicer cars along comes a Fiipino and a nice looking white girl. We followed them around to be sure we were not mistaken...I don't know what she saw in him." (Takaki, p. 328) The Myth and the Stereotype
As was the case with Polynesia, the stereotypes die hard. To some degree, the experience of Western men with prostitutes in the Philippines and Southeast Asia has reinforced these stereotypes. However, even at first contact with the Spanish, there were some Filipino peoples who had a high degree of chaste behavior, in some respects, at least.
The women of Pampanga and the Tagalog regions, for example, were said to be of good behavior and to have rarely had any relations with the Spanish. In modern times, even many Western men look to Filipinas to provide the "traditional" chaste wifes that they feel are impossible to find in the West.
The Filipino male is often still portrayed as a rake, especially by the Western male observer. But this stereotype too does not account for the majority of Filipino men who are good fathers and husbands. In many ways, what attracted white women in the 1920s and 30s was not so much the sexual passions of the Filipino male, but their ability to care for and treat a woman, of any race.
Photo Credits: Benguet dance from Armando Regala's webpage at http://www.tuns.ca/~armando
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