Thursday, November 15, 2007
The statues of saints in the Philippines are a manifestation of how Filipinos vernacularize the foreign. All along, the colonizers believed that they have conquered the people's spiritual lives when they uprooted the precolonial religious institutions yet they persisted even in the guise of the innocent-looking holy icons.
The religious images reminiscent of the Spanish colonial style were nothing but the same anitos which the natives had worshipped before the white men arrived in these shores. They might appear to be Caucasian and all, yet these were the same idols with which the babaylans communicated for the devotees to guide their general lives.
Vicente Rafael's concept of "fishing" can be used to describe this customization by the Filipinos of the colonial statues. The colonizers were fooled into believing that the natives did learn to worship the foreign icons with the manifest idolization of the Santo Niños, Birheng Marias and other statues. However, this was deemed superficial, since the natives did not truly know what this idol-worship meant in the Catholic context.
What they knew, in fact, was that they continued attending to the anitos which their Babaylans had them turn to for their daily needs. In short, they were just fishing what the Spanish thought them, the worship of santos in this case, but did not truly took them to heart because what was truly in their heart was the spirit of the anitos guiding them, only in a different (because white) form. Essentially, these statues kept their native form and that was what made the natives worship them.
While it seemed to foreigners that they completely paralyzed the Filipinos' "savage" animism by introducing their own brand of religion, it seemed to Filipinos meanwhile that they knew better than to divorce themselves from their native spirituality, hence the false worship of the statues and the continuation of their precolonial religiosity. This appropriation of the foreign by the natives is a way of showing that the Filipinos remain inscrutable in spite of the conquistadors' effort to colonize them consummately.