The Philippines and Mexico share a lot of things in common. From the love of soap operas, to the same taste in cuisine, the two nations are like two close brothers that are half a world apart.
For starters, both countries endured centuries of colonial rule, and as Mexico celebrates its Independence Day, the strong ties and links between the two nations are highlighted as the Central American nation commemorates its freedom from Spanish oppression on September 16.
Mexican Independence Day is a major Mexican celebration held every year and it dates back to 1810, when Father Miguel Hidalgo made the cry of independence (El Grito de la Independencia) in the town of Dolores. He was one of the leaders during Mexico’s War of Independence, leading a resolute but meager bunch of soldiers against the Spanish in the fight for independence, but he was captured and executed on July 30, 1811, and Mexico’s independence was not declared until September 28, 1821.
Celebrations begin on the eve of Mexican Independence Day, or the “day of the Cry of Dolores (El Grito de Dolore), they then proceed with rousing merry-making, fireworks, fiestas, music, dance and of course, food. Mexican colors of red, white and green decorate public places, flags, dresses and flowers, seen in key areas in cities and towns in Mexico, while horns and whistles are blown and confetti is thrown as “Viva la Independencia” or “Viva Mexico” are shouted by the crowd.
Now, the noticeable parallelisms between the Philippines and Mexico does not only start with the simple fact that both gained independence from the same colonial master as well as the manner by which that it went down. Filipinos and Mexicans have always had intangible correlations from the time both went under Spanish rule, keeping a historical, cultural and spiritual connection despite being separated by thousands of miles.
The Manila-Acapulco galleon trade materialized the core of intercontinental ties between Asia and America constituting to evangelization and commercialization that prevailed during these trades.
Due to the grand exchange with the Philippines in those days, many cultural traits were adopted by one another, with Mexicans remaining in the Philippines, and Filipinos establishing their lives in Mexico, particularly the central west coast, near the port town of Acapulco.
In truth, there is an estimated 200,000 descendants of Filipinos in southern Mexico, and that was in 2000 alone. Sixteen years on, the community has definitely grown and with it, the Filipino-Mexican ties. They are concentrated in the Costa Grande north of Acapulco. In addition, the town of Coyuca 35 miles north of Acapulco, was even called “Filipino town” in the old days.
The links don’t end there.
The influence of Filipinos on Mexican culture is very apparent, and in Mexico’s Pacific Coast, people today continue to imbibe the drink derived from coconut trees called tuba. They also engage in games like kite-flying which they make with papel de China. Moreover, the names for their fishing boats is panga, which is also believed to be from the Filipino tongue.
Speaking of linguistics, Tagalog has more than 10,000 words with Spanish origins. Many Nahuatl words were adopted and popularized in the Philippines, such as Tianggui (market fair) and Zapote (a fruit), while the Mexican word palenque was also adapted by the Filipinos.
The spiritual and religious cords the two countries share are also apparent, with both sharing the same patron saint. The Virgin of Guadalupe, with its minor basilica in Mexico, is the Philippines’ “Heavenly Patroness” as declared on 16 July 1935 by Pope Pius XI. Hundreds of Filipinos come to Mexico to pay homage to the Blessed Mother with millions more revering the patron here in the Philippines.
The Philippines and Mexico have fortified trade relations through the years, expanding trade and commerce from the Spanish colonial period, to recent administrations, with a third state visit of a Mexican leader to the Philippines happening just last year.
The two countries have currently signed agreements on: Bilateral Agreement on Air Transport in 1952, Cultural Agreement in 1969, Agreement on Technical-Scientific Cooperation for Agriculture in 1994, Agreement on Cooperation for Tourism in 1995, Agreement on the Suppression of Non Ordinary Visas in 1997, Agreement on the Cooperation for the Fight against Illegal Trafficking and Abuse of Drugs in 1997, and Memorandum of Agreement for Academic Cooperation between the Department of Foreign Affairs of Mexico and the Philippines in 1997.
Today, the Philippines and Mexico are looking into fortifying trade relations apart from the already firm ties in culture, history and religion.
And it’s surprising how two countries cordially merged 450 years ago, thanks to ships that traversed thousands of miles to connect two nations seemingly worlds apart.
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