Finding Sites, Dishes and Music with Spanish Influence in the Philippines

Reigning over the Philippines for more than 300 years, the Spanish culture has long been embedded into the history of this archipelagic nation. Find out how!

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Filipino history orbited within the Spanish cultural circle for more than three centuries of colonial rule. This was the case since the discovery of the Philippines in 1521 by Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan and until 1898. Therefore, it’s no surprise that the Spanish influence in the Philippines is still very perceptible in its culture nowadays.

Perhaps one of Spain’s greatest legacies is the Catholic faith, which still echoes in the country’s historical and religious sites. Along with festivals, cuisine, surnames and more, these are all living proof that Spanish influence in the Philippines is indelible. Now, in this article we’ll focus on Filipino historical sites and dishes, but we’ll also talk about music and dances briefly. So get ready to explore with us the Spanish heritage of one of the richest melting pots of Southeast Asia.

Sites with a Spanish influence in the Philippines

If you want to do something more interesting and educative in the Philippines, different than beach hopping, you can visit these next places. There are plenty of notable sites that depict the rich history and heritage of the country during the Spanish colonization. These places are centuries old and give a fascinating glimpse at the times Spain used to reign over the archipelago. If you’re visiting the Philippines or you’re planning on doing so, these sites should be on your list. Not only do they speak about the history of the archipelago, but they’re beautiful works of architecture.

Rizal Park

This image shows the Jose Rizal National Monument at the Rizal Park (or Luneta Park), a site that speaks of the history of Spanish influence in the Philippines.
The Rizal Monument at the Rizal Park (or Luneta Park), a site that speaks of the history of Spanish influence in the Philippines. By Adamdaley – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=54946807

One of the most remarkable sites is the Rizal Park or Luneta Park, which was built as a tribute to the country’s national hero. Dr. Jose Rizal revolted against the Spanish regime and became a cornerstone of the independence movement. Now the park is a popular attraction in Manila, where families flock together during holidays and weekends. The Rizal Monument, consisting of a bronze statue and a granite obelisk, is the centerpiece of the park. It stands at 12.7 metres (42 ft.) and it’s heavily guarded by the national government, so you should act accordingly while in there.

Intramuros

This image shows a portion of Intramuros, a historical site that speaks about the Spanish influence in the Philippines.
A portion of Intramuros, a historical site that speaks about the Spanish influence in the Philippines. Flickr photo by Stefan Munder, (CC BY 2.0)

Nestled within the bustling Manila scope, Intramuros is a 15th century stone citadel founded by the Spaniards. Its purpose was to protect the place from foreign invaders and natural calamities. This extensive 64-hectare landmark features massive stone fortifications, walls and it’s often called the “Walled City”. The historic site located in the heart of Manila is one ideal way to relive the vintage vibes in a modern light. A must-visit spot here is the Church of the Immaculate Conception of San Agustín, declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Calle Crisologo

"Calle Crisologo in Vigan, Ilocos Sur, Philippines", the site that best represents the Spanish influence in the Philippines.
“Calle Crisologo in Vigan, Ilocos Sur, Philippines”, the site that best represents the Spanish influence in the Philippines. By Simon Burchell – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=8265365

A classical cobblestone path in Vigan, Ilocos Sur, showcases the wide Spanish influence in the Philippines. Calle Crisologo is a 500-meter (1640.4 ft.) street that’s fringed with Hispanic heritage houses and calesas (carriage) of colonial style. The old homes were once the abode of the rich people during the Spanish colonial times.

Basilica del Santo Niño

By shankar s. from Dubai, united arab emirates – Basilica Santo Nino (Santo Nino cathedral), CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=68306435

As the oldest Catholic church in the country (founded in 1565), Basilica del Santo Niño is a distinguished religious site. It’s the place where Spanish navigator Miguel Lopez de Legazpi, discovered the image of Child Jesus. Now, the church holds the annual Sinulog festival that is attended by thousands of devotees and tourists. If you’re interesting in visiting this site while also witnessing the festival, go on the third Sunday of January.

Dishes with a Spanish influence in the Philippines

As we’ve discussed before, Filipino cuisine is a beautiful mix of native and foreign influences. But once again, one of the most prominent among them is the Spanish cuisine. Ruling the country for almost 400 years, it’s totally understandle why it created such a lasting impact on the Filipino taste buds. Here you have some of the most popular dishes with a Spanish influence in the Philippines.

Lechon

This image shows a lechon, one of the most beloved Filipino dishes that demonstrates the Spanish influence in Philippines.
Lechon, one of the most beloved Filipino dishes that demonstrates the Spanish influence in Philippines. Flickr photo by Laine Trees, (CC BY 2.0)

These mouthwatering roasted suckling pigs are staples during special occasions. Characterized by a crunchy skin and flavorful meat, lechon is downright appetizing and is a great match with a platter of rice. Originated from the Spanish roasted suckling pig, you shouldn’t miss its crispy and juicy centerpiece with a Filipino twist. If you’re wondering what’s the best lechon in the country, nothing can compete with Cebu’s lechon. Widely known for its texture and tasty meat, it’s something that you just couldn’t possibly ignore.

Chicharron

Just like lechon, chicharron is a prominent Filipino treat that you can find everywhere in the country. These fried pork rinds are delectable finger food, best paired with vinegar and beer. Some also use these as toppings on other local cuisines like adobong kangkong or monggo soup. The first one is a dense mix of chopped cooked pork in sauce and vegetables, while the other one’s a bean soup.

Adobo

Adobo, one of the most common dishes in the country and with a strong Spanish influence in the Philippines.
Adobo (in this image, chicken adobo) is one of the most beloved dishes in the country and with a strong Spanish influence in the Philippines.

Whether it’s chicken adobo, pork adobo or even vegetable adobo, it’ll always be one of the most loved Filipino cuisines. It’s one of the things that Filipinos are most thankful to the Spaniards for —some would even say the only one. The meat is marinated in a stock blended with soy sauce, vinegar, garlic and other spices to enhance the flavor and extend its food lifespan. This food with a platter of rice and the company of friends and family is just the best meal ever.

Caldereta

Caldereta is another sumptuous Filipino dish with origins from Spain’s cauldron. This hearty goat meat stew is even more complete with potatoes, tomatoes, carrots, bell peppers… But also the most important part, the secret ingredient ―liver paste. There are different variations that include the likes of beef, pork and chicken caldereta. They’re all super tasty and enjoyable, so they’re definitely a must-eat.

Leche Flan

A heavier and creamier twist on the Spanish Flan de leche, Leche Flan is a favorite dessert among sweet tooth Filipinos. Made with egg yolks and condensed milk, this custard treat comes with a nice caramel topping to elevate its rich texture and sweet flavor. This dish deserves its time and it’s perfect at any time, from celebrations to family meals. If you make any Filipino friends and they invite you to their place, they’ll most likely offer you this.

Music and Dance with Spanish influence in the Philippines

This image shows the Harana, a tradition with heavy Spanish influence in the Philippines.
Harana, a tradition with heavy Spanish influence in the Philippines. By Markytour777 – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=63648039

The Filipino music and arts have lots of great influences by the Spanish culture. A very unique culture practiced by early Filipinos is the harana or the old-fashioned way of courtship featuring a man with a guitar serenading a woman underneath the window. Kundiman is also another traditional form of Filipino love song during the Spanish era. This classical way of serenading has a person expressing his longing and love for his beloved.

Aside from music, some folk dances have Spanish origins such as Polka sa Nayon, Mazurka Mindorena, Mazurka Boholana and Estudiantina. The three first are in couples, while the last one is only by girls and young women. These dances are taught to Filipinos by their families since they’re very young and even at school. This is because Filipinos are very proud of their culture and all the influences that defined it. Over the years, the Philippines have developed its own cultural heritage but the Spanish traces will always be part of its history even after many generations.

Have you ever been to the Philippines? Did you visit any of the places or try any of the food or dances we just mentioned? Tell us your most memorable experience in the comments section below!

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