A student recently emailed me and asked me three questions for a history project that she is working on. I gave it my best shot. :)
What are some major moral values that you think were prominent within the Filipino people during WWII?
First you must remember that the Philippines is a vast archipelago of over 7000 islands and most of them were undeveloped and isolated during the period of WWII, with a wide variety languages and tribal cultures. That being said, an overwhelming amount of the population was (and still are) Christian and follow the teachings of the Bible and the Church in their daily lives.
Filipinos are also noted for their strong, extended family bonds. Family is always first. Family is always right. (I.e; if you slap my cousin, then you slap my whole family.) This usually works well for the clan; there is always someone to help out in hard times. However, it can go very badly if the cousin did indeed deserve to get slapped.
Additionally, in my opinion, Filipinos had a sturdier allegence to their ethnicity. For example, a person from island of Cebu felt more Cebuano than Filipino.
Lastly, Filipinos had a stronger sense of their rank in society. Villages were smaller and more remote back then, a small world with few choices. Good or bad, that made it easier to find your place in it.
The Japanese were a highly powerful and influential country when trying to take over Asia during WWII. What effect do you think the Japanese had on Filipino values, morals, or culture?
When the Japanese Army invaded the Philippines, they brought a large propaganda machine with them. Money, movies, radio and newspapers were cleverly blended into Japanese/Filipino nationalism. "Asia for Asians!" proclaimed the banners in the streets.
But the Filipinos, previously invaded and colonized by the Spanish and the Americans, weren't buying it. They had heard that old song and dance before. The reality was that Japan wanted obedient workers and reliable resources for the war effort. They tried to introduce a foreign discipline enforced by slave labor, brutal violence and espionage.
The period of the Japanese occupation, and the horror that was World War Two, basically reinforced the core values that the Filipinos already had: faith and family. But a another value rose like it had never before: the desire for freedom.
Do you still see any impact of the Japanese occupying the Philippines still present in the Filipino culture today?
The Japanese occupation of the Philippines was a short, brutal time marked by terror, violence, starvation and death. I believe most Filipinos would prefer to forget it.
However, it was during this dark time that the majority of the Filipino people began to understand themselves as one nation: the Philippines. Together with the Americans, they fought back and drove the Japanese away. Much Filipino blood was shed; heros were born. This developed into a nationalist pride: pride in themselves and pride of their country. This is probably the most lasting legacy of the Japanese occupation.