Divisiveness and Betrayal - A Fatal Flaw of the Filipino Character?
by Dr. Manuel Pardo
November 2017

On a recent visit to the Philippines, while reading some old history books, I was struck by how far back in its history in fighting and betrayal among Filipinos has existed.

When Ferdinand Magellan first set foot on Philippine soil in 1521 he encountered a group of natives led by their king, Rajah Humabon, who agreed to be converted to Christianity. However, another group led by their ruler, Lapu Lapu, refused to embrace Christianity. Magellan refused the offer of Humabon’s help and faced Lapu Lapu with his men in their armor. Unfortunately, Magellan got hit with a poisoned arrow and was killed in combat.

With the Spanish conquest of the Philippines, the Filipinos rebelled against Spain. Jose Rizal advocated for a more peaceful means of gaining independence. However, Emilio Aguinaldo and Andres Bonifacio wanted a more militant approach. In a struggle for leadership, Aguinaldo and Bonifacio turned against each other.

During the American time, after the end of the Spanish American War, Aguinaldo went into hiding, after rebelling against the Americans. Hot on his trail was the American General Frederick Funston. Aguinaldo was betrayed by the Macabebe Scouts leading to his capture.

At the time of the Japanese Occupation of the Philippines during World War II some Filipinos collaborated with the Japanese and turned against their fellow Filipinos. Even among those who united in their effort to fight against the Japanese, the guerilla forces sometimes fought among themselves for leadership.

After World War II, a band of disgruntled farm workers who had originally fought against the Japanese now turned against the government. The Huk movement turned Filipinos against Filipinos. President Magsaysay was credited with winning peace by military force and social action. Despite efforts at agrarian reform conflict remains among different farm groups.

Among Filipino immigrant communities who settled in the U.S. clannish groups formed usually based on which region of the Philippines they came from. For example, those from the Ilocos region called Ilocanos and those from the Visayan Islands called Bisaya stuck together. The same was true for those from other regions. As a result different Filipino organizations fragmented as various leaders formed their own association.

While these social observations may also be true in other parts of the world or with other cultural groups, none is more conspicuous in intensity of struggle than that seen among the Filipinos. It can go from forming smaller subgroups to suing each other to even killing each other.

I read somewhere that when labor recruiters were seeking farm workers for Hawaii and California before and after World War II they purposely mixed Chinese, Korean and Filipino workers so they would be less likely to form labor unions and make demands.

Is divide and conquer a natural consequence of any group dynamics?

And, therefore, just part of human nature?