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Art and Theory in Baroque Europe: Bellori s Idea

Art & Theory in Baroque Europe

Christopher L.C.E. Witcombe

Giovanni Pietro Bellori (1613-1696) is one of the most important writers on art in the seventeenth century. In terms of artistic theory he was a classicist, as were almost all of his contemporaries. His essay The Idea of the Painter, Sculptor and Architect is the most authoritative statement of classical artistic theory that the seventeenth century produced. Bellori's concepts were not especially original, but they were thought of as definitive.

Bellori was born in Rome in 1613, the son of a poor farmer, but was brought up in the household of Francesco Angeloni, a well-to-do writer, collector, and antiquarian. It was Angeloni who established the intellectual climate in which Bellori's interests developed. Angeloni assembled, probably with Bellori's help, what was then one of the finest private collections of classical antiquities, important enough to be noted in contemporary guidebooks. In the field of modern art his preference was for the classicists, above all Annibale Carracci and Domenichino. At Angeloni's house Bellori could have met most of the prominent amateur archaeologists, art scholars, and connoisseurs of early seventeenth century Rome, among them Giovanni Battista Agucchi. Cassiano dal Pozzo, Vincenzo Giustiniani, and Cardinal Maffeo Barberini.

Bellori seems to have studied briefly as a painter under Domenichino, but his chief interests were literary. His long poem On Painting. which appeared in 1642 as an introduction to Giovanni Battista Baglione's Lives of the Artists. shows his tastes still relatively indiscriminate and his artistic theory not yet formulated. His Notes on Museums. a guide to the art treasures of Rome, which appeared in 1664, contains an addendum on the remains of ancient Roman painting that is said to be the first essay ever written on this subject. Both before and after this date he worked on his Lives of the Modern Artists. which was published in 1672. From this are taken the extracts from the lives of Annibale Carracci, Caravaggio, Lanfranco, and Algardi that appear in translation in this book. Toward the end of Bellori's life his interest centered on archaeology. He wrote essays on the arches of Titus and Constantine and the columns of Trajan and Marcus Aurelius, surveys of ancient Roman painting, and the like. The year of Bellori's death, 1696, saw publication of his elaborate description of Raphael's frescoes in the Vatican.

When Angeloni died in 1652 his collection was dispersed, but the collection Bellori built for himself reflects much the same interests. It too contained ancient coins, gems, medals, and bits of sculpture. It also included paintings by Titian, Tintoretto, Van Dyck, Annibale Carracci, and Maratti. During the latter part of his life Bellori worked in Rome for that most famous of Catholic converts, Queen Christina of Sweden. He served first as a connoisseur, helping her to assemble her collection of drawings and medals, then later as her librarian. In May of 1670 Pope Clement X named Bellori Commissioner of Antiquities of Rome. This position of high distinction he held for almost a quarter of a century, until his declining health forced him to resign. He died in 1696.

The biographical information is from Robert Enggass and Jonathan Brown, Italy and Spain 1600-1750 Sources and Documents (Englewood Cliffs: Prentice-Hall, 1970), 5-6

Giovanni Pietro Bellori
The Idea of the Painter, Sculptor and Architect (1664)

The following translation is taken from the English edition of Erwin Panofsky, Idea, A Concept in Art Theory. Translated by Joseph J. S. Peake (Columbia, S.C. University of South Carolina Press, 1968), 155-75

The highest and eternal intellect, author of nature, in fashioning his marvelous works looked deeply into himself and constituted the first forms, called Ideas, in such a way that each species was expressed by that original Idea, giving form to the marvelous context of things created. But the celestial bodies above the moon, not subject to change, remained forever beautiful and well-ordered, so that we come to know them from their measured spheres and from the splendor of their aspects as being eternally most just and most beautiful. Sublunar bodies on the contrary are subject to change and deformity; and although nature always intends to produce excellent effects, nevertheless, because of the inequality of matter the forms change, and human beauty is especially disarranged, as we see from the infinite deformities and disproportions that are in us. For this reason the noble Painters and Sculptors, imitating that first maker, also form in their minds an example of superior beauty, and in beholding it they emend nature with faultless color or line.

This Idea, or truly the Goddess of Painting and Sculpture, when the sacred curtains of the lofty genius of a Daedalus or an Apelles are parted, is revealed to us and enters the marble and the canvases. Born from nature, it overcomes its origin and becomes the model of art; measured with the compass of the intellect it becomes the measure of the hand; and animated by fantasy it gives life to the image. Certainly, according to the statements of the major philosophers, the exemplary motives reside with assurance in the spirits of the artists forever most beautiful and most perfect. The Idea of the Painter and the Sculptor is that perfect and excellent example of the mind, to which imagined form, imitating, all things that come into sight assimilate themselves: such is Cicero's fiction in his book on the orator, dedicated to Brutus: "Ut igitur in formis et figuris est aliquid perfectum et excellens, cuius ad excogitatam speciem imitando referuntur ea que sub oculis ipsa cadunt, sic perfectae eloquentiae speciem animo videmus, effigiem auribus quaerimus" [Cicero, De Oratore. II, 7ff]. Thus the Idea constitutes the perfection of natural beauty and unites the truth with the verisimilitude of what appears to the eye, always aspiring to the best and the most marvelous, thereby not emulating but making itself superior to nature, revealing to us its elegant and perfect works, which nature does not usually show us as perfect in every part. Proclos confirms this value in Timaeus when he says that if you take a man fashioned by nature and another formed by sculptural art, the natural one will be less excellent, because art fashions more accurately. But Zeuxis, who formed with a choice of five virgins the most famous image of Helen, given as an example by Cicero in the Orator. teaches both the Painter and the Sculptor to contemplate the Idea of the best natural forms in making a choice among various bodies, selecting the most elegant.

Hence I do not believe that he could find in one body alone all these perfections that he sought for in the extraordinary beauty of Helen, since nature makes no particular thing perfect in all its parts. "Neque enim putavit omnia, quae quaereret ad venustatem uno in corpore se reperire posse, ideo quod nihil simplici in genere omnibus ex partibus natura expoluit" [Cicero, De Inventione. II, 1]. Thus Maximus Tyrius claims that the image of the Painters taken this way from different bodies produces a beauty such as may not be found in any natural body that approaches the beautiful statues. Parrhasius conceded the same to Socrates, that the Painter who has placed before him natural beauty in each of its forms must take from various bodies together what each has most perfect in its individual parts, since it is impossible to find a perfect being by itself. Thus nature is for this reason so inferior to art that the copyist artists and imitators of bodies in everything, without selectivity and the choice of an Idea, were criticized. Demetrius was told that he was too natural, Dionysius was blamed for having painted men resembling us and was commonly called anthropographos. that is, painter of men. Pausanias and Peiraikos were condemned even more for having imitated the worst and the most vile, just as in our time Michelangelo da Caravaggio was criticized for being too natural in painting likenesses, and Bamboccio was considered worse than Michel Angelo da Caravaggio. Thus Lysippus reproached the vulgarity of the Sculptors who made men as they are found in nature, and prided himself for forming them as they should be, following the advice given by Aristotle to Poets as well as Painters.

This shortcoming was not attributed to Phidias, on the other hand, who made marvels of the forms of heroes and gods and imitated the Idea rather than nature. Cicero asserts that Phidias, in shaping Jupiter and Minerva, did not look at any object that he could have taken for a likeness, but conceived a form full of beauty, in whose fixed image he guided his mind and hand to achieve a likeness. "Nec vero ille artifex cum faceret Iovis forman aut Minerve, contemplabatur aliquem, a quo similitudinem duceret, sed ipsius in mente insidebat species pulchritudinis eximia quaedam, quam intuens in eaque defixus ad illius similitudinem artem et manum dirigebat" [Cicero, De Oratore. II, 9]. Hence it appeared to Seneca, although he was a Stoic and a severe judge of our arts, to be a great thing, and he marveled at how this Sculptor, never having seen either Jupiter or Minerva, had nevertheless conceived their divine forms in his mind. "Non vidit Phidias Iovem, fecit tamen velut tonantem, nec stetit ante oculos eius Minerva, dignus tamen illa arte animus et concepit Deos et exhibuit" [Seneca the Elder, Rhetores Controversiae. X, 34]. Apollonius of Tyana teaches us the same thing, that fantasy makes the Painter wiser than imitation, because the latter creates only those things that are seen, while fantasy creates even those that are unseen.

Now if we want to confront the precepts of the sages of antiquity with the best methods of our modern teachers, Leone Battista Alberti maintains that we love in all things not only the likeness but mainly the beauty, and that we must select the most praiseworthy parts from the most beautiful bodies. Thus Leonardo da Vinci taught the painter to form this Idea, to consider what he saw and to consult himself, choosing the most excellent parts of everything. Raphael of Urbino, the great master among those who know, wrote thus to Castiglione of his Galatea: "In order to paint a beauty I would have to see several beauties, but since there is a scarcity of beautiful women, I use a certain Idea that comes to my mind." Guido Reni, who surpasses all the other artists of our century in creating beauty, wrote to Monsignor Massani, housemaster for Urban VIII, when he sent the painting of Saint Michael to Rome for the Church of the Capuchins: "I would have liked to have had the brush of an angel, or forms from Paradise, to fashion the Archangel and to see him in Heaven, but I could not ascend that high, and I searched for him in vain on earth. So I looked at the form whose Idea I myself established. An Idea of ugliness may also be found, but that I leave to the devil to explain, because I flee from it even in thought, nor do I care to keep it in my mind." Thus Guido also boasted that he painted beauty, not as it appeared to his eyes, but as he saw it in the Idea; hence his beautiful abducted Helen was esteemed as an equal of that by Zeuxis. But Helen was not as beautiful as they pretended, for she was found to have defects and shortcomings, so that it is believed that she never did sail for Troy but that her statue was taken there in her stead, for whose beauty the Greeks and the Trojans made war for ten years. It is thought therefore that Homer, in order to satisfy the Greeks and to make his subject of the Trojan War more celebrated, paid homage in his poem to a woman who was not divine, in the same way that he augmented the strength and intelligence of Achilles and Ulysses. Hence Helen with her natural beauty did not equal the forms of Zeuxis and Homer; nor was there ever a woman who had so much extraordinary beauty as the Venus of Cnidos or the Athenian Minerva, known as the beautiful form; nor did a man exist of the strength of the Farnese Hercules by Glycon, nor any woman who equaled in beauty the Medicean Venus of Cleomenes.

For this reason the best Poets and Orators, when they wanted to celebrate some sublime beauty, turned to a comparison of statues and paintings. Ovid, describing Cyllarus, the most beautiful Centaur, praises him as most like the most famous statues:
    Gratus in ore vigor, cervix, humerique, Manusque Pectoraque Artificum laudatis proxima signis.
    [Ovid, Metamorphoses. XIII, 397]
And elsewhere he wrote in high praise of Venus that if Apelles had not painted her, she would have remained until now submerged in the sea where she was born:
    Si Venerem Cois numquam pinxisset Apelles Mersa sub aequoreis illa lateret aquis.
    [Ovid, Ars Amatoria. III, 401]
Philostratus upholds the beauty of Euphorbus as similar to statues of Apollo and he claims that Achilles surpassed the beauty of Neoptolemus, his son, as beauties are surpassed by statues. Ariosto, in creating the beauty of Angelica tied to the rock, likens her to something moulded by the hands of an artist:
    That she was feigned, a thing of alabaster
    Or finest marble, so Ruggiero thought,
    And that thus to the rock in this way bound,
    Through artifice a clever sculptor wrought.
In these verses Ariosto imitated Ovid, describing the same Andromeda:
    Quam simul ad duras religatam bracchia cautes
    Vidit Abantiades, nisi quod levis aura capillos
    Moverat, et tepido manabant lumina letu,
    Marmoreum ratusesset opus.
    [Ovid, Metamorphoses. IV, 671]
Marino, in celebrating the Magdalena painted by Titian, hails the work in the same way and places the Idea of the artist above natural things:
    To what the learned artist feigned
    Nature does yield,the Real gives way,
    So fine, so live is that which from
    His thoughts and soul he did portray.

It appears that Aristotle, on Tragedy, was unjustly criticized by Castelvetro, who maintains that the virtue of painting is not in creating a beautiful and perfect image, but in resembling the natural, either beautiful or deformed, for an excess of beauty lessens the likeness. This argument of Castelvetro is limited to icastic painters and portraitists who keep to no Idea and are subject to the ugliness of the face and body, unable to add beauty or correct natural deformities without violating the likeness. Otherwise the painting would be more beautiful and less accurate. The Philosopher does not mean such icastic imitation, but he teaches the tragedian the methods of the best, using the example of good Painters and Makers of perfect images, who rely on the Idea. These are his words: "Since tragedy is the imitation of the best, we should imitate the good painters, because, in expressing the form proper to their subjects, they create them more beautifully [follows text in Greek] [Aristotle, Poetics. XV, 11]

However, making men more beautiful than they ordinarily are and choosing the perfect conforms with the Idea. The Idea is not one beauty; its forms are various - strong, noble, joyful, delicate, of any age and both sexes. We do not, however, praise with Paris on lovely Mount Ida only soft Venus, or extol the tender Bacchus in the gardens of Nyssa, but we also admire in the wearying games of Maenalos and Delos, the quiver-bearing Apollo and Diana the huntress. The beauty of Jupiter in Olympia and of Juno in Samos, as well as of Hercules in Lindos and Cupid in Thespiae, was certainly different again. Thus different forms conform with different people, as beauty is nothing else but what makes things as they are in their proper and perfect nature, which the best Painters choose, contemplating the form of each. In addition to which we must consider that Painting being at the same time the representation of human action, the Painter must keep in mind the types of effects which correspond to these actions, in the same way that the Poet conserves the Idea of the angry, the timid, the sad, the happy, as well as of the laughing and crying, the fearful and the bold. These emotions must remain more firmly fixed in the Artist's mind through a continual contemplation of nature, since it would be impossible for him to draw them by hand from nature without first having formed them in his imagination; and for this the greatest care is necessary, since the emotions are only seen fleetingly in a sudden passing moment. So that when the Painter or Sculptor undertakes to reproduce feelings, he cannot find them in the model before him, whose spirit as well as limbs languish in the pose in which he is kept immobilized by another's will. It is therefore necessary to form an image of nature, observing human emotions and accompanying the movements of the body with moods, in such a way that each depends mutually upon the others. Moreover, in order not to exclude Architecture, it too uses its own most perfect Idea: Philo says that God, as a good Architect, looking at the Idea and at the example he had conceived himself, made the visible, from the ideal and intelligible world. So that since Architecture depends upon the example of reason, it also elevates itself above nature. Thus Ovid, describing Diana's cave, envisages that nature, in creating it, took its example from art:
    Arte laboratum nulla, simulaverat artem
    Ingenio Natura suo;
    [Ovid, Metamorphoses. III, 158]
Torquato Tasso perhaps recalled this in describing the garden of Armida:
    Nature appears like art, that for delight
    Jestingly imitates her imitator.
    [Torquato Tasso, Gerusalemme liberata. XVI, 10]

Moreover, it is such an excellent edifice that Aristotle argues: if construction were a natural thing, no different from Architecture, it would be executed by nature, which would be compelled to use the same rules in order to give it perfection, just as the habitations of the gods themselves had been imagined by Poets with the diligence of Architects, arranged with arches and columns, as they described the Realm of the Sun and of Love, thereby raising Architecture to heaven. Hence this Idea and divinity of beauty was conceived in the minds of the ancient cultivators of wisdom, by observing always the most beautiful parts of natural things, because that other Idea, formed for the most part from experience, is ugly and base, according to Plato's concept that the Idea should be a perfect understanding of the thing, starting with nature. Quintillian teaches us that all things perfected by art and human ingenuity have their origin in the same nature, from which the true Idea springs.

Hence those who without knowing the truth follow common practice in everything create spectres instead of shapes; nor are they dissimilar from those who borrow from the genius and copy the ideas of others, creating works that are not natural children but bastards of nature, so that it seems as though they are wedded to the paintbrushes of their masters. Added to this evil, arising from lack of genius or the inability to select the best parts, is the fact that they choose the defects of their teachers and form an idea of the worst. On the other hand, those who glory themselves with the name of Naturalists have no idea whatever in their minds; they copy the defects of the bodies and satisfy themselves with ugliness and errors, they, too, swearing by the model, as their teachers. If the model is taken from their sight, their whole art disappears with it. Plato likens these first Painters to the Sophists, who did not base themselves on truth but upon the false phantom of opinion; they resemble Leucippus and Democritus, who compose bodies of the vainest atoms at random. Thus the art of Painting is degraded by these Painters in concept and practice, since, as Critolaos argues, eloquence should be a manner of speaking and an art of pleasing, tribe (in Greek, tribe and kakotechnia or atechnia ), a habit without skill and reason, taking function away from the mind and turning everything over to the senses. Hence what is supreme intelligence and the Idea of the best Painters, they would prefer to be common usage, equating ignorance with wisdom; but the high-minded spirits, elevating thought to the Idea of the beautiful, are enraptured by the latter alone and consider it a divine thing. Yet the common people refer everything they see to the visual sense. They praise things painted naturally, being used to such things; appreciate beautiful colors, not beautiful forms, which they do not understand; tire of elegance and approve of novelty; disdain reason, follow opinion, and walk away from the truth in art, on which, as on its own base, the most noble monument of the Idea is built. It remains to be said that since the Sculptors of antiquity used the marvelous Idea, as we have indicated, a study of the most perfect antique Sculptures is therefore necessary to guide us to the emended beauties of nature and with the same purpose direct our eyes to contemplate the other outstanding masters. But we will leave this matter to its own proper treatise on imitation, in order to satisfy those who find fault with the study of the statues of antiquity.

So far as Architecture is concerned, we say that the Architect must conceive a noble Idea and establish it in his mind, so that it can serve as law and reason for him, placing his inventions in the order, in the disposition and in the measure and just proportion of the whole and of its parts. But with regard to the decoration and ornamentation of the orders, he is certain to find the established and confirmed Idea in the examples of the Ancients, who established a successful method in this art after long study. When the Greeks set the best limits and proportions for it, which have been confirmed by the most educated centuries and by the consensus of a succession of learned men, they became the laws for a marvelous Idea and an ultimate beauty. There being one beauty only for each species, it cannot be changed without being destroyed. Hence, unfortunately, those who change it with innovations deform it, since ugliness is close to beauty, just as vice touches on virtue. We recognize such an evil in the fall of the Roman Empire, along with which fell all the five arts, and Architecture most of all, because the barbarian builders, having contempt for the Greek and Roman models and Ideas as well as for the most beautiful monuments of antiquity, adopted indiscriminately so many different fantastic caprices for orders that they made it monstrous with the most unsightly confusion. Bramante, Raphael, Baldassare, Giulio Romano and most recently Michelangelo have worked tirelessly to restore antiquity to her original Idea and aspect from the heroic ruins, choosing the most elegant forms from the ancient structures. But today, instead of giving thanks to these most learned men, the latter are ungratefully vilified along with the Ancients, almost as though one had copied from the other without esteem for genius or originality. Moreover, everyone conceives in his mind a new Idea and appearance of Architecture in his own way, displaying it in the square and on façades - men certainly devoid of any science that pertains to the Architect, whose name they vainly bear. Not content with deforming buildings, cities and memories, they adopt crazy angles, broken spaces and distorted lines, and discompose bases, capitals and columns with yokes of stuccoes, fragments and disproportions; and yet Vitruvius condemns similar novelties and holds the best examples up to them. But the good Architects retain the most excellent forms of the orders.

Painters and Sculptors, choosing the most elegant natural beauties, perfect the Idea, and their works exceed and remain superior to nature - which is the ultimate value of these arts, as we have shown. This is the origin of the veneration and awe of men with regard to statues and paintings, and hence of the rewards and honors of the Artists; this was the glory of Timanthes, Apelles, Phidias, Lysippus, and of so many others whose fame is renowned, all those who, elevated above human forms, achieved with their Ideas and works an admirable perfection. This Idea may then well be called the perfection of Nature, miracle of art, foresight of the intellect, example of the mind, light of the imagination, the rising sun, which from the east inspires the statue of Menon, and fire, which in life warms the monument of Prometheus. This is what induces Venus, the Graces and the Cupids to leave the gardens of Idalus and the shores of Cythera and dwell in the hardness of marble and in the emptiness of shadows. In its honor the Muses by the banks of Helicon tempered colors to immortality; and for its glory Pallas scorned Babylonian cloth and vainly boasted of Daedalian linens. But as the Idea of eloquence yields to the Idea of painting, just as a scene is more efficacious than words, speech therefore fails me and I am silent.

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Educatinal Views And Ideas Essay Research Paper

Educatinal Views And Ideas Essay Research Paper

Educatinal Views And Ideas Essay, Research Paper

Philippines, republic in the western Pacific Ocean, made up of the Philippine Islands and forming in physical geography a part of the Malay Archipelago. Situated about 1210 km (about 750 mi.) east of the coast of Vietnam, the Philippines is separated from Taiwan on the north by the Bashi Channel. The republic is bounded on the east by the Philippine Sea, on the south by the Celebes Sea, and on the west by the South China Sea. The country comprises about 7100 islands, of which only about 460 are more than 2.6 sq. km (more than 1 sq. mi.) in area. Eleven islands have an area of more than 2590 sq. km (more than 1000 sq. mi.) each and contain the bulk of the population. These islands are Luzon, Mindanao, Samar, Negros, Palawan, Panay, Mindoro, Leyte, Cebu, Bohol, and Masbate. The total area of the Philippines is about 300,000 sq. km (about 115,830 sq. mi.). Manila is the capital and largest city of the Philippines.

This geographical condition of the Philippines made it very accessible and very easy to penetrate by foreign people.


It may be said that the Filipinos are intelligent, with retentive memory, quick perception, and talents for art and science. They also are gentle, friend] y, and cheerful people, noted for their courtesy and hospitality.

Filipinos are famous not only for their warm hospitality, but also for their close family ties. The parents work hard and sacrifice much for their children; in return, the children love and respect them and take good care of them in their old age.

Filipinos owing to their beautiful country are passionately romantic. They are ardent in love, as they are fierce in battle. They are born poets, musicians and artists.

Filipinos are a liberty-loving and brave people. They valiantly resisted the Spanish, American and Japanese invaders of their native land. They rank among the bravest people of the world. Filipino courage has been proven in the Battle of Mactan (1521), in the Battle of Tirad Pass (1899), in the battle of Bataan, Corregidor, Bessang Pass during World War II, and in many other battlefields.

Gratitude is another sterling trait of the Filipinos. They are grateful to those who have granted them favors of who are good to them. Their high sense of gratitude is expressed in the phrase Utang na loob (debt of honor).

Filipinos are cooperative. They value the virtue of helping each other and other people. They cherish the ancestral trait of bayanihan, which means cooperation. In rural areas, when a man is building, repairing or transferring a house to another place, the neighbors come to help him.

Foreign writers assert that the Filipinos are indolent. In reality they work hard in the face of very adverse conditions. They work on the farms from sunrise to sunset, though not from noon to 3 p.m. due to the scorching heat. They work hard in the sugarcane and pineapple plantations in Hawaii, the fruit orchards of California, the fish canneries of Alaska, and in the oil wells of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and other Arab countries of the Middle East.

Finally, the Filipinos are noted for their durability and resiliency. Through the ages they have met all kinds of calamities–revolts, revolutions, wars, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, typhoons and epidemics. Unlike the Polynesians of Oceania and the Indians of North Central and South Americas, they did not vanish by contact with the white race. They can assimilate any civilization and thrive in any climate. Against the adversities of life or nature, they merely bend, but never break. They possess the formidable durability of the narra tree and the resiliency of the bamboo.



Philippine history has often been described as an amalgam of regional developments and outside influences. Excavations in archeological sites have proven that during prehistoric times, the native Negritos came in contact with Malays and Indonesians who left their ancestral home in Southeast Asia by crossing the seas in their sailboats (balangay), and settled the Philippine archipelago. Inter-racial marriages took place among them and out of these racial mixtures emerged the Filipino people.

The early Filipino Malay ancestors brought with them their culture–food and drinks, community life, government and laws, language and literature, religion, customs and traditions and arts and sciences. They left their cultures to their descendants, as the Filipino Malayan inheritance.

In the course of the centuries, long before the Spaniards colonized the Philippines in the 16th century; the native Filipinos came in contact (by commerce) with Hindus from India, the Chinese and the Arabs whose civilizations were much older and more advanced than those of Spain and other Western countries. As a result of these early contacts with these great Asian people, the Filipino native culture and way of life (Malayan Heritage) were enriched.

The cultural influences of both India and Arabia came indirectly to Philippine shores through Malaysia, while the Chinese cultural influence came direct from China.

In subsequent years, the Filipinos intermarried, not only with the Indians, Chinese and Arabians, but also with the Spaniards, the Americans, the Japanese, the British, the French, the Germans, and other peoples of the world. Today, it may be said that the bloods of the East and the West meet and blend in Filipino veins.

It must be noted that during the first two and a half centuries (1565-1828) Spain ruled the country through Mexico. The viceroy of Mexico governed the country in the name of the Spanish king. During this period the famous Manila-Acapulco trade existed. And many Mexicans–colonial officials, missionaries, soldiers, and traders–came to the Philippines. They introduced plants and animals, industries, songs and dances, customs and traditions into the country. Moreover, many of them married Filipino women. So it came to pass that Filipino acquired a Mexican heritage.

After 333 years of Spanish rule, the Americans conquered the country and like Spain, America imposed her culture upon the people. During four decades of U.S. rule (1898-1935), the people acquired the American heritage, which included democracy, popular education, the English language and Protestant Christianity.

Beneath the veneer of Hispanic, Mexican and American heritage, the people, in heart and in spirit, are Asians. They are Asian in race and in geography with an indestructible Asian heritage.

The warmth and natural hospitality of the nation’s 66,000,000 Filipinos today, is known throughout the world. The 11 cultural, linguistic and racial groups endow the Filipino people with varying customs and traditions. In spite of their diversity, Filipinos have basically two dominant traits: a love of family and a strong religious faith.


Filipinos came from a mixture of Asian, European, and American peoples–the Negritos, Indonesians, Malays, Chinese, Indians, Arabs and other Asians; The Spaniards, British and other Europeans; the Mexicans and Americans of South and North America.

According to Dr. H. Otley Beyer, noted American anthropologist, the racial ancestry of Filipinos is as follows:

Malay – 40%; Indonesian – 30%; Chinese – 10%, Indian (Hindu) – 5%, European & American – 3%, and Arab – 2%.



When the Spaniards arrived in the Philippines, the indios (natives) had reached different levels of political development, including simple communal groups, debt peonage (often erroneously described as slavery) and proto-feudal confederations.

The Spaniards imposed a feudal system, concentrating populations under their control into towns and estates. During the first two centuries of their occupation, the Spaniards used the Philippines mainly as a connecting point for their China-Acapulco (Mexico) trade. The country’s economic backwardness was reinforced by Roman Catholicism, which was practiced in a form that retained many pre-colonial elements such as animism while incorporating feudal aspects of the colonizers’ religion such as dogmatism, authoritarianism and patriarchial oppression. The Spaniards were never able to consolidate political control over the entire archipelago, with Muslims and indigenous resisting the colonizers most effectively. Among the groups that were subjugated, there were numerous localized revolts throughout the Spanish occupation.

In the 19th century, the Philippines was opened to world trade, allowing the limited entry of liberal ideas. By the late 19th century, there was a distinct Filipino nationalist movement that erupted into a revolution in 1896, culminating with the establishment of Asia’s first republican government in 1898.

Spain laid the foundation for a feudal health care system. The religious orders built charity hospitals, often next to churches, dispensing services to the indio. Medical education was not extended to the indio until late in the 19th century, through the University of Santo Tomas. This feudal system of the rich extending charity to the poor persists to this day among many church-run as well as non-sectarian institutions.

THE U.S. OCCUPATION (1898-1946)

The first Philippine Republic was short-lived. Spain had lost a war with the United States. The Philippines was illegally ceded to the United States at the Treaty of Paris for US$20 million, together with Cuba and Puerto Rico.

A Filipino-American War broke out as the United States attempted to establish control over the islands. The war lasted for more than 10 years, resulting in the death of more than 600,000 Filipinos. The little-known war has been described by historians as the “first Vietnam”, where US troops first used tactics such as strategic hamleting and scorched -earth policy to “pacify” the natives.

The United States established an economic system giving the colonizers full rights to the country’s resources. The Spanish feudal system was not dismantled; in fact, through the system of land registration that favored the upper Filipino classes, tenancy became more widespread during the US occupation. A native elite, including physicians trained in the United States, was groomed to manage the economic and political system of the country. The U.S. also introduced western models of educational and health-care systems that reinforced elitism and a colonial mentality that persists to this day, mixed with the Spanish feudal patron-client relationship.

Militant peasant and workers’ groups were formed during the U.S. occupation despite the repressive situation. A movement for Philippine independence, involving diverse groups, continued throughout the occupation. A Commonwealth government was established in 1935 to allow limited self-rule but this was interrupted by the Second World War and the Japanese occupation. The guerilla movement against Japanese fascism was led mainly by

Socialists and communists, known by their acronym, HUKS.

Shortly after the end of the Second World War, flag independence was regained although the U.S. imposed certain conditions, including the disenfranchisement of progressive political parties, the retention of U.S. military bases and the signing of economic agreements allowing the U.S. continued control over the Philippine economy.

The Spanish and American colonization had instituted in our minds the values and characteristics that we possess at the present time.

Individuals regard their success or failure as to luck, fate, God, or the spirits, expressed by the phrase Bahala na (”What will be, will be”).

Filipinos will go to great lengths to avoid causing others shame (hiya). To be criticized as walang hiya (shameless, insensitive) is a potent censure.

A debt of gratitude, honor, or blood, this term literally means “inner debt” or “heart debt”. Filipinos live within a network of two-way obligations: requesting and accepting a favor implies a willingness to repay it.

Closely linked with the desire for social acceptance and approval, pakikisama (conformity, camaraderie) manifests itself in-groups of all kinds and ages regardless of class. To maintain pakikisama, Filipinos will yield to group opinion, subjugate ill-feeling beneath a pleasant demeanor, avoid speaking harshly or saying “No” directly, and will only criticize or reprimand very tactfully.

Filipinos are very sensitive to criticism, insults, and hurt feelings, whether real or imagined, and they can become implacable enemies for reasons that Westerners would deem trivial. Hiya, utang na loob, and pakikisama all affect an individual’s amor propio (self-esteem). It demands conformity to approved behavior patterns. It can also lead to showing off, especially in the presence of peers and subordinates.


And because of the colonization of many countries in the Philippines, the Filipino’s developed values that made them closer to their fellow-Filipinos and made them a Nation-loving people.

Filipino families are much closer than those of the West. The environment is highly personalized. Children are brought up to be polite, cooperative, modest, and religious. Communal feeling is encouraged. Upon marrying, newlyweds usually set up their own home, but family ties remain strong. The husband is nominally head of the household, but the wife runs the home and manages the finances. They make important decisions together.

Sharing both good fortune and crisis, the clan operates as disciplinary mechanism, placement agency, and social assistance program. It provides its members with tremendous security, so that to be poor in the Philippines is somewhat different from poor in the West. In the absence of a public welfare system, the clan eases the impact of illness or unemployment. When a Filipino needs help, he can depend on his family; likewise, he can be called upon to help others in need. There’s a great deal of sharing. Unlike Westerners, who draw strength from independence, Filipinos like the security of this interdependence existence, with its close bonds bred of mutual responsibility.

The family is enlarged through marriage. Filipinos count blood relatives down to fourth cousins, and the relatives of in-laws are considered family.

Filipinos place great emphasis on personal loyalty, and the network of allegiance and reciprocal obligation extends to society as a whole. Powerful patrons provide material help, employment, influence, and protection, and are repaid with personal services ranging from specific tasks to political support.

It has been suggested that Filipino women are “more equal” within their society than Western women are in theirs, a status which predates colonial times. Women in the Philippines maintain a very high profile in public life, from the president down to barangay level.

Filipinos by nature dislike doing things alone, whether at work or leisure. Bayanihan is the communal spirit that enables Filipinos to come together and help each other at a moment’s notice in times of need.

Polite forms of address are used toward those of higher social rank, elders, and strangers. In conversation, a Filipino continually shifts from high to low status, depending on whom he’s talking to. In Pilipino, it’s common for “my poor and insignificant self” to address “your honored and exalted self”. Awareness of rank and status is reflected in the universal use of titles, e.g. Attorney Anolin, Mayor Quilala, Doctor Albino.

The Filipino way of doing things is heavily centered on relationships. Trust (tiwala) is a key element of camaraderie. Filipinos don’t feel comfortable in impersonal situations. In business and politics, this personalized approach too often leads to nepotism, cronyism, and favoritism; ability and merit are often secondary. Behavior depends on what others will think, say, or do, whenever they’ll be pleased or displeased. It’s aimed at maintaining “face,” smooth interpersonal relationships, group affiliations, and a strong personal alliance network. Typical Western frankness is considered tactless. In distasteful situations, they avoid confrontation by using respectful language, soft voice, gentle manner, and indirect approaches such as employing intermediaries, euphemisms, allusions, ambiguous expressions, and oblique comments.

In common with other peoples, acculturation has marked the history of the Philippines. Our ancient cultural heritage is result of the interplay and interpenetrating of diverse natural influences. To the credit of our ancestors, they borrowed the cultures of other peoples but improved on it as they adapted to their everyday life. They used the foreign culture to enrich the existing one. Each generation made its own imprint, and the resulting culture is uniquely our own. Jocano(1965), our leading anthropologists, stated this idea that-”Each passing generation leaves part of wisdom and experience for the succeeding generation to learn to use in adjusting itself to the changing modes of time.” This is the reason why we Filipinos embraced the cultures of the western colonizers such as the Spaniards and the Americans, because it is like an instinct that we need to embrace their culture in order to adapt and to survive along with their dominance over our race.

The three centuries of the Spanish occupation that contributed Christianity, have affected all aspects of life. Spanish culture developed the intellectual capacity of the Filipino and brought about the flowering of the arts and sciences. Spanish influences were felt in literature and music, and the sciences like pharmacy, medicine, and engineering. Spain established the first university, the University of Sto. Tomas in 1911. She introduced the art of printing in the country, brought to the Filipino the Castillan language, which enabled young Filipinos to seek education in Europe, and make progress in the technology available to them.

Mass education and the Democratic way of life may be considered America’s greatest contributions to the Philippines. Some critics, political and social, view the American influence as resulting in the development of American Imperialism, in the Filipino’s being trained to depend on imported products and to view anything foreign as their own. In short, the Filipino developed a colonial mentality.

The Americanization of Pepe and Pilar (peddled as

modernization) transformed consumption habits

towards a preference for US products, or for that

matter, anything imported. It re-oriented Filipino

aspirations towards the American way of life. Some

symptoms of colonial mentality:

a bowl of plastic apples, grapes and pears on

the dining room buffet

an imitation Louis Vuitton bag and Gloria

plastic evergreen trees laden with absorbent

cotton-’snow’ for Christmas

the log cabin steakhouse

Broadway plays emoted in a studied New

York cum British accent

the search for local counterparts to Hollywood

stars or the rise and fall of Diomedes Maturan

as the Perry Como of the Philippines

always saying ‘ang sarap parang mansanas!’

getting a nose lift and a bust lift

carpets and upholstered sofas copied from

Better Homes and Gardens (for the dust and

heat of the tropics)

shopping trips to Cash and Carry (and Dau

and nepo Mart) for PX goods

putting an American (or Japanese) brand

name on a local product so that it will sell

following the dictates of fashion magazines

through spring, summer, fall and winter (thank

God, the air gets cooler around December)

dyeing one’s hair with auburn streaks

insisting that the maid speak to the baby in

preferring to be an American citizen (Hodel

survey 1960) or wanting to have been born in

another country (UP survey of schoolchildren)

hoping the US will intervene in ousting a

This is a very limited and narrow point of view. This point of view has led us into developing an image of ourselves as devoid of real cultural tradition and values as a people. In short, the Filipino culture is a well-bred culture, a mixture of world-class society that is capable and competent to be even more superior than the world powers.

M. N. Francisco and F. M. C. Arriola 1987. The history of the Burgis. GFC Books Quezon City

Bong Barrameda’s Pinoy Trivia Vol. 1, Anvil Publishing, 1993 Manila

Philippine History and Government by Gregorio F. Zaide and Sonia M. Zaide

A. Bustos and S. Espiritu. Psychological, Anthropological, and Social Foundations of Education: Philippine Culture.Katha Publishing Co. Inc. 1996, Quezon City

M. L. Doronila ph.D. Filipino Culture and Heritage. Publishers Inc. 1989 Quezon City