U.S. President Donald Trump was not referring to the Philippines when he tagged as “shitholes” countries from which he will not admit immigrants to the U.S. nevertheless, he was referring to countries in the West Indies that, like the Philippines, were once colonies of a European power.
David West of the Golden State Warriors wryly explained why these countries became “shitholes” with a quote from Dominican friar Bartolome de las Casas. Here is my edited-for-brevity version of Mr. West’s highlights of what the 16th century historian and social reformer wrote:
“These people are the most guileless, the most devoid of wickedness and duplicity, the most obedient and faithful to their native masters and to the Spanish Christians whom they serve … They are by nature the most humble, patient, and peaceable… They are also poor people, for they not only possess little but have no desire to possess worldly goods...For this reason they are not arrogant, embittered or greedy…”
“Yet… into this land … there came some Spaniards who immediately behaved like ravening beasts… killing,… torturing, and destroying the native peoples doing all this with the strangest and most varied new methods of cruelty…”
As a child growing up in my hometown I heard from elders about the cruelty of the Spaniards. Now as an adult I cannot help but wonder how much of the cruelty of the Spaniards and how much of the guilelessness, humility, and peacefulness of the natives that de las Casas talked about in the West Indies were also true in the Philippines and how much of all that explains why we are in fact a “shithole” country for a staggering thirty to forty million Filipinos.
I am sure a fresh and critical look at our colonial past can prove this to be the historical context of many Filipinos’ deep devotion to Sto. Nino and to the Black Nazarene. Catholic Spain forcibly took away our ancestral land and declared it and its people property of the King of Spain. Spanish soldiers and friars alike but with some exceptions treated us cruelly then gave us our faith that worked as a veritable opiate that tamed us into accepting our misfortune as the will of a God that the Spanish king claimed he represented.
Thus it is clear to me now as an adult that the teeming masses of poor Filipinos are the descendants of the guileless converted-Christian-natives that now continue to run to Sto. Nino and to the Black Nazarene for deliverance from poverty, ignorance and ill-health. They have to run to God for deliverance because it is also clear that today’s descendants and inheritors of the colonizers’ cruel and debasing leadership style continue to so un-Christianly fail to give due and effective attention to the people’s physical needs.