By Marco Samson
This research paper explores the practice of dog meat consumption, its relevance to Philippine history, US history, and how it became an over-extended and racialized stereotype about Filipino Americans. As there are many cultures that have their own stories and values surrounding the practice of eating dog meat, for Filipinos in particular, dog meat consumption has its origins in the pre-colonial era of the Philippines; this is when, according to anthropological studies, the earliest form of dog meat consumption in the Philippines has occurred.
According to anthropological studies, Indonesians were the first to introduce dogs to the Philippines. One of the earliest recorded anthropologists to do research and write about pre-colonial Philippines credited a sea-faring group scattered throughout Southeast Asia, whom he called the “Malays,” (Beyer 1921). The Malays introduced the practice of domesticating dogs for meat consumption to the “Negritos,” the dark-skinned people that originally inhabited the Philippines1 (Blumenbach 1865).
16th century anthropologist Johann Friedrich Blumenbach in ―On the Natural Varieties of Mankind ― introduced the concept of the Malay race to refer to a sea-faring group scattered throughout Southeast Asia. Malay was also considered one of the five human races but later anthropologists have challenged the idea that humans can be simplified to five races. Also, the usage of the word “Negritoes” to refer to darker-skinned Filipino natives has been seen as racist by more recent historians and scholars. (Goldberg 1993; Gould 1998;Junker 1998;West 2002; Smedley 2005) More information will be provided in the Literature Review.
Later historians would explain that the tradition of eating dogs has been passed down the generations and expanded due to lack of food throughout the Philippines and continued through and passed the Spanish discovery and colonization of the islands. Spain’s occupation of the Philippines had, in turn, enabled some of the first Europeans to observe Filipinos eating dogs. As the stories of explorers were often exaggerated to interest their countrymen back home; these stories include accounts such as Filipinos having ears as big as their heads. Spaniards generally described Filipinos eating dogs as barbaric and uncivilized. However, as a contradiction, some Spaniards were even forced to eat dog meat themselves due to the scarcity of food in the Philippines (Fernandez 1919).
In recent history, White Americans in the United States had some of their earliest experiences of Filipinos eating dogs at the St. Louis World Fair, where an exhibition of the Igorrot people of the Philippines was showcasing the tribe in their native attire, doing their traditional rituals, and eating dog meat. As the popularity of this exhibit grew, controversy was not far behind. White Americans throughout the United States began judging Filipinos according to their own system of values; the Europeans were disgusted and referred to Filipinos as “barbaric savages” while others expressed tolerance, and others even donated dogs for the Filipinos to slaughter. These judgments and perceptions on Filipinos marked an important beginning of a cultural clash between American and Philippine values, and perhaps most importantly, a continuance of the racial hierarchy that was put forward by the founding anthropologists.
Today, even Filipinos have mixed feelings about the practice of dog meat consumption; some are regretful and argue that practice is no longer needed and some argue on the grounds of cultural relativism, saying that it is part of their culture and should be respected by others. However, regardless of whether Filipinos eat dogs or not, and regardless of their opinions on the practice, the Filipino and Filipino American dog eating stereotype has been overextended, racialized, and continues the long history of comparing races relative to a cultural hierarchy established by early White and European scholars and researchers.
This research paper is not meant to take a side on the issue of whether or not Filipinos should eat dogs. Rather, it will examine the beginnings of the dog eating stereotype in the Philippines, the role that European racial ideologies and cultural perceptions on Filipinos have played in the stereotypes negative connotation, racialization, and how the stereotype affects Filipino Americans in the United States today. In particular, a discussion surrounding the following questions will take place: How and when did dog meat consumption start in the pre-colonial Philippines? How did Filipino dog eating become an issue in the United States? How are negative portrayals of Filipinos eating dog meat played out in the media and how are these portrayals part of the historical process of racialization and continuance of the cultural hierarchy?
When and How Did Dog Meat Consumption Start in the Philippines?
Dr. Henry Otley Beyer, an American anthropologist and “pre-historian” credited for having been the father of Philippine anthropology at the University of the Philippines, and undisputed expert on Philippine prehistory, claimed that Indonesians first introduced dogs to the Philippines around 6,000 to 8,000 years ago( Beyer 1921; Zamora 1974; Ogunseye 2003). This claim has been relied by numerous scholars and researchers writing about the origins of dog eating in the Philippines (Keesing 1934; Zaide 1957; Thiel 1987; Zaide 1999; Melencio 2010). Interestingly enough, according to various biographies on Dr. Beyer’s life, his passion for anthropology escalated in 1904 when he visited the Louisiana Purchase Centennial Exposition that took place in Saint Louis, otherwise known as the St. Louis World Fair2 (Zamora 1974; Ogunseye 2003). Dr. Beyer’s work uses terminologies that are still used today but have been challenged because of Johan Blumenbach, the earlier anthropologist who coined the terms, has been seen as racist and white supremacist in his usage and views of the terms (Goldberg 1993; Gould 1998; Junker 1998;West 2002; Smedley 2005).
Citing Dr. Beyer’s studies in the Philippines, Felix M. Keesing in his discussion of how the Indonesians had brought dogs to the “Negritos,” dark-skinned precolonial Philippine people, wrote about how the Negritos would follow the Indonesian’s introduction of dogs for religious sacrifices and feasts during ceremonies with the Malayan use of dogs for agricultural uses. According to Keesing, “Culturally, the Malays were more advanced than the Negritos, for they possessed the Iron Age culture. They introduced into the Philippines both lowland and highland methods of rice cultivation, including the system of irrigation; the domestication of animals (dogs, fowls and carabaos)…” (1934). According to Keesing, Filipinos have used dogs in the same manner ever since. One historian writes about the respect that some native Filipino tribes had for the dogs that they sacrificed and consumed. According to Paul Kekai, a book writer and researcher, some native Filipinos worshiped dogs during the precolonial era in the Philippines. They would dress them up with jewels and amulets to protect them from danger. However, the dogs would later be sacrificed in sacred rituals, ceremonies, and later consumed. (2006)
Antonio Pigafetta, one of Magellan’s crew members when Magellan discovered the Philippines for Spain, gave a narrative account of his experiences of Spaniards meeting native Filipinos for the first time and gave some of the earliest accounts of their use of dogs from the European perspective (Pigafetta 1519-1521 translated by Skelton 1969). According to Pigafetta, about a week after Magellan first set foot on the native Philippines islands, “On the island of Limasawa, the natives had dogs, cats, hogs, goats, and fowl. They were cultivating rice, maize, breadfruit, and had also coconuts, oranges, bananas, citron, and ginger” (1521). Historians and researchers have also noted that Colonists and other early foreigners to the Philippines witnessed Filipinos eating dog meat following Magellan‟s discovery of the Philippines (Blair 1904; Boyce 1914; Keesing 1934; Zaide 1957; Thiel 1987). Later, Spanish colonizers also had to succumb to eating dogs after they realized the scarcity of food in the Philippines (Fernandez 1919).
As Spanish colonizers witnessed Filipinos eating dogs during their occupation, they helped create a word to describe the Filipino dog eating practice, “asocena.” The term itself is a combination of the word “aso,” the Tagalog term for dog, and “cena,” the Spanish word for dinner (Aspiras 2009).
Most of the early Spaniards actually did not like the fact that Filipinos were eating dogs. Europeans during the era of Colonial Philippines, in general, insisted that pigs and dogs be treated differently: one as a pet and one as food. As Pigafetta exaggerated claims of his voyages in his journals, which were widely published when they came back to Spain, other Spaniards later came to ridicule certain tribes in the Philippines for their specific cultures, ways of life, and appearances. The Spaniards focused their ridicule onto tribes that they could not control; one of the Filipino groups was the Igorrots, later famous for dog eating in the American World Fairs (Scott 1974). A historian noted that many of the earliest Spaniards and later scholars claimed that the Igorrots were barbaric and savage creatures that needed to be tamed (Simons 1994, Schmidt-Nowara 2005).
The Spanish explorer Alfonso, whom re-discovered the Philippines after Magellan, observed the native Filipinos eating dogs in the year 1565 and, ever since, Christianity has been resistant to native practice of Filipinos eating dog meat (Simoons 1994). Other historians account for how the Spaniards proposed to address the problem of civilizing the savage native Filipinos. As a result of their disgust and feeling the need to correct the savage Filipino tribes, Spanish missionaries believed that the only way to civilize the non-Christian savages was to baptize them (Keesing, 1934).
On top of the negative accounts of Spanish and Europeans regarding Filipinos culture and ideologies that made them disgusted of tribes that ate dog meat, many of the early anthropologists that have written about early Philippine history, for example Johann Friedrich Blumenbach, have been seen as racists, white supremacists by more recent scholars. Recent scholars and researchers now argue that Blumenbach paved the way for the racialization of early Filipinos in Philippines (Ferber 1999). According to Abby L. Ferber, who researched race, gender, and white supremacy for the University of Oregon, Blumenbach categorized people via five different races, one of which being “Malay,” and he ranked them according to how civilized they were compared to Europeans (Ferber 1999).
Cornel West, another scholar and a professor of African American studies at Princeton University, writes that Blumenbach’s comparisons of people, such as the Malays, to European ideals, as a tool to measure standards of beauty and cultural norms (2002). Anderson Kay also writes about the racialization of Filipinos with regards to dog eating. Kay argues that, going against “Anglo racial intolerance,” African Americans, Filipinos, and other minorities shared sensitivity to racialization based on color and culture with regards to the use of dogs for things other than pets. So, they were tolerant of eating dog meat even if their own personal beliefs were against it. Meanwhile, Filipinas adopted cultural relativism to deal with the topic of dog eating being part of their particular culture (Kay 2003).
How did Filipino dog eating become an issue in the United States?
From the researchers and scholars that have written about Filipino American dog eating after the 20th century, the 1904 St. Louis World Fair is the most cited event representing the first widely viewed exhibition of a kind of a Filipino tribe practicing traditions and rituals of eating dog meat. There have been several authors that have written about the St. Louis World Fair (Fermin 1904; Pilapil 1994; Sonderman 2008; Sit 2008; Walker 2008; Melencio 2010). These historians and scholars agree that, after native Filipinos adopted the culture of dog-eating from the Indonesians described by Professor Beyer, one of the very first connections between dog eating in the Philippines and Filipino Americans lay in the first encounter of White Americans in the United States with the Filipino Igorrot tribe (Fermin 1904; Pilapil 1994; Sonderman 2008; Sit 2008; Walker 2008; Melencio 2010).
It was during the St. Louis World Fair that White Americans first witnessed the Igorrot tribe practice their traditions and rituals of eating dog meat. According to Melencio, this world fair was also called the “Lousiana Purchase Exposition to commemorate the 100th anniversary of USA’s purchase of Louisiana from France.” It was the biggest in physical size and longest in its duration compared to all the other expositions that occurred in the World Fair during that time (Melencio 2010). And, Pilapil discusses how the Igorrots were the most popular amongst White Americans for their practice of eating dog meat. He also noted White Americans were affected by the St. Louis World Fair and how it influenced their attitudes toward Filipinos. According to Pilapil, there were mixed reviews. There were the opposers, e.g. the St. Louis Women’s humane society; and, there were the sympathizers, many White Americans even donated hundreds of dogs for the Igorrots to slaughter.
It is also speculated that the term for the popular food item “hot dog,” was born during the world fair due to the popularity of the Igorot exhibit. (1994) According to Melencio, “after this world fair experience, a small village in the southern part of Forest Park where the exposition in St. Louis, Missouri was held came to be known as Dogtown. This was later burned but another place, also in St. Louis, was renamed Dogtown” (2010). In more recent times, scholars, historians, and actual witnesses to the fair have given contrasting criticisms of the St. Louis World Fair in a series of documentaries to describe and depict historical perspectives on the White American experience at the St. Louis World fair as well as explain how it was “a defining moment in Philippine-American relations and Filipino history” (Breitbart, Lance, Luba 1994). In this documentary, White American witnesses testify to things such as how the fair was a life-changing experience for them, and some even said that it showed what it meant to be American for them in the 20th Century. The documentary itself narrates that the fair defined what it meant to be “American in the 20th Century” (Breitbart, Lance, Luba 1994).
With the fair having such a great influence and significance in the United States and how Americans view Filipinos, the 1904 St. Louis World Fair started controversies for Filipinos in the Philippines as well. Some of the early controversies came from the denial of some Christianized Filipinos in the Philippines to their connection to the rituals and practices of the Igorrots displayed at the fair. As Filipino Christians began to differentiate themselves from what White Americans viewed as “barbaric,” they started to appeal to the Americans by arguing that they are more civilized than the depicted Igorrot tribes in the World Fair. In James Blount’s “…Non-Christian‟ Worcestor,” he explains how,as a result of the 1904 St. Louis World fair, the best known “wild “dog-eating tribe of the Philippines were the ” savage Igorrotes” (1912). In this article, Blout makes it a point that the dog-eating Igorrots were non-Christians. He even brings up his Filipino friend, whom he referred to as “gentleman,” a Christian governor from the Philippines which expressed regret and disapproval of the Igorrots eating dogs in the St. Louis World Fair. This friend wrote to him to explain how the “real” Filipinos, the Christian majority in the Philippines, have been offended by the St. Louis World Fair exhibit. He explained how the dog eating perception of Filipinos was unjustified because the Igorrots merely represented a minority in the Philippines and does not actually reflect “real” Filipinos because real Filipinos were the majority, whom were Christianized, civilized, and did not eat dogs ( Blount 1912). There were other signs of disapproval and regret by Filipinos that would come later on.
Other locations in the United States also had similar World Fairs. A historian notes that the St. Louis World Fair spawned an demand for World Fair exhibits of native Filipino tribes and their rituals so they have been exhibited in subsequent world fairs year after year, he lists the following world fairs the Lewis and Clark Centennial and American Pacific Exposition and Oriental Fair in Portland, Oregon, in 1905; the Jamestown Tercentenary Exposition in Jamestown, in Virginia, in 1907; he Alaskan-Yukon-Pacific Exposition in Seattle, Washinton, in 1909; […] and the Panama-Pacific International Exposition in San Francisco, California, in 1915. (Fermin 2004) Of the many different subsequent world fairs listed above that followed the one held in St. Louis, the 1909 Alaskan-Yukon-Pacific Exposition (AYPE) in Seattle that came later would be the second most cited early White American of Filipinos eating dog meat in the United States (Bakken 2003, Becker 2009, Rice 2009, S. and B. O‟reilly 2009).
The AYPE fair itself took place in the same area that the University of Washington (UW) stands today. According to Gordon Morris Bakken, the fair was originally planned to showcase Alaskan Native Americans. But, with the success and popularity of the St. Louis World fair, they decided to model it after 1904 St. Louis World Fair (2003). The exposition itself was similar to the St. Louis World Fair in that it also had an exhibition of Filipinos eating dog meat. This further encouraged the concept of Filipinos as dog eaters (Becker 2009). Shannon and Brenan O’reilly, who wrote a book about the Alaskan Yukon Pacific Exhibit, explain and show pictures taken at the event. They explain how the exhibit was a difficult chapter for the AYPE, which allowed the living exhibits of native Filipinos like museum or zoo animals for display to the White American public. (2009) The Oreillys show photographs of the AYPEs version of the St. Louis World Fairs “Igorrote Village,” where White Americans exploring and examining the half naked Filipino tribes people like they were alien artifacts in a museum or some exotic savage creature.
The AYPE exhibition is has also been criticized by recent Filipino organizations, one being the “Filipina sa Seattle,” Filipino American organization. According to Jeff Rice, a member of the “Filipina sa Seattle” (translated as “Filipino Woman in Seattle”) organization, Filipinos have since demanded apologies for the World Fair Exhibits in Seattle. They argued that “In 1909, Seattle hosted the AYPE with the most popular exhibit being the “Igorrote Village ” which displayed a recreated village where Filipinos were made to eat dogs and act out indigenous practices for entertainment. On the centennial of the AYPE, the groups are calling for a public apology for this historic wrong where the racist event created stereotypes of Filipinos.” (2009)
How has the stereotype been racialized, over-extended, and negatively portrayed for Filipino American culture today?
Over three hundred years after the first anthropologists have studied and categorized Filipinos among the Malay race,whom also used the classifications as a way to bolster a framework of White European racial supremacy, and one hundred years after the first World Fair in the United States, there are still Filipino Americans dealing with dog eating as a racialized stereotype. Anderson Kay writes that “although dog eating was not common among U.S. Filipinos, associations with dog eating appeared to exacerbate Anglo racial intolerance” ( Kay 2003). Ultimately, the clash between ancestral Filipino American ways, traditions, rituals and practices of eating dog meat and how Americans see dog eaters as “barbaric” and “inhumane” plays a role in the cultural clash that shapes Filipino American Identity in the United States (Kay 2003). As Johan Blumenbach coined the terms to categorize the people of the world into different races, he has also put these categories into a racial hierarchy that places the European race and their culture, physical appearance, dress and customs as the most desirable beautiful, and ideal (Ferber 1999).
These ideals of beauty and idealism would translate into the consideration of the races, which did not resemble Europeans in appearance and culture, in being undesirable or not beautiful (West 2002). So, aspects of Filipino culture, such as dog eating, would be seen as undesirable by European standards. Later, White Americans would continue the ideas behind the framework of racial hierarchy after they witness Filipino Igorrots in the St. Louis World Fair and judge them, in comparison to their own cultures and perceptions of ideal behavior. The negative connotation of the dog eating stereotype, therefore, is a product of “Anglo racial intolerance” among Filipino Americans (Kay 2003). The issues involved in the racialization of Filipino Americans and Filipinos in general have sprouted new debates. The clash between European-influenced on Filipino cultures and modern Filipino American culture has come to the extent that scholars are beginning to question where the lines must be drawn when studying Filipino, Filipino American, and all other Filipino topics such as the affect of the dog eating stereotype on the Filipino Identity ( Legasto 2010).
As the Filipino dog eating stereotype has been a product of racialization and classifying Filipinos within the framework of early Anthropologists racial hierarchies, the unjust over-extension of the stereotype among Filipinos presents further problems. In “Growing up Brown,” an article by Peter M. Jamero, he writes about his struggles with the dog eating stereotype, even though he has never eaten dog meat, how he learned to live in America, and how it helped him uncover his Filipino American Identity among his White American classmates and counterparts (2006). He is an example of the many Filipino Americans that have had to face the idea of eating dog and struggle with its over-extension among them According to Jonathan Okamura, young Filipinos in Hawaii, are continuously nagged and taunted about being dog eaters (2008). These struggles that Filipinos must deal with in regards to the dog eating stereotype asks the question, are Filipinos really dog eaters? And it is in Okamura’s earlier work that he discusses whether Filipinos are really part of the model minority or are they merely just dog eaters (2008).
Okamura’s articles give a “yes and no” to imply an answer to the question of whether or not Filipinos are dog eaters. Okamura suggests that some do and some do not. Other scholars cover the over-extension issue of the Filipino dog eating stereotype by discussing certain questions about whether or not Filipinos really do eat dogs; They claim that, if it is answered by a simple “yes,” people do tend to think that it means all Filipinos eat dogs. Plainly, that is not true. We can definitely say “yes” that there have been Filipinos that eat dog meat and there are many that still do, despite new laws. However, the practice is not true for all and some Filipinos believe it should stop because the practice is outdated (Melencio 2010). Anderson Kay, on the other hand, notes that Filipino Americans that are not against dog eating reduce to arguments of cultural relativity (2003).
As Filipinos, influenced by the European and Anglo ideologies of ideal behaviors, debate the issue of whether Filipinos should still be eating dogs, the negative portrayals of Filipinos eating dog meat in contemporary American life persist. Comedians like Frank De Lima, whom are well accepted by the Filipino American community, perform jokes about Filipino dog eating (Okamura 1998).Although he is well-taken by Filipino Americans, he makes jokes and parodies about Filipino American culture that suggest of the clash and comparison between American and Filipino culture, one being his parody of a Filipino Christmas song where he sings, “black dog roasting over an open fire” (Okamura 1998). Reminiscent of the traditional American ” The Christmas Song,” the jokes tells of a comparison that makes the joke funny to begin with ( Okamura 1998). Okamura argues that, though De Lima is Portuguese Hawaiian, which has historically been seen as a non-white minority in Hawaii, De Lima has justified his jokes by claiming that people should be able to laugh at themselves, the jokes are “no aloha” to Filipino Americans as they continue the negative stereotype that has pervaded Filipino American culture for a long time (2003).
Other portrayals of Filipinos in American media with the negative connotation that comes along with the dog eating stereotype is when the American boxing champion, Floyd Mayweather Junior, made fun of Manny Pacquaio, the Filipino boxing icon and Congressman of the Philippines, by claiming that he is a “dog eater.” He calls Pacquiao a “fucking midget, should roll him a sushi, and eat a cat and dog” (Rafael 2010). In this news release by the Sports organization, ESPN, Mayweather is portrayed as making derogatory statements about Pacquiao. The reporter claims that, though Mayweather is usually but extreme in his promotion of his upcoming fights, this may have “crossed the line” (Rafael 2010). This is prominent in the fact that Manny Pacquiao is the single most prominent celebrity in the world media today and an accusation of his eating dog meat, whether it is true or not, is seen as negative.
This research paper has shown, through the review of relevant literature and other studies, that the dog eating stereotype is racialized and based on a European ideology of White dominancy, has been over-extended among all Filipinos, and has been played out even through contemporary media portrayals of Filipinos and Filipino Americans; when Filipino Americans have different situations, values, and do not eat dogs like their ancestors, regardless of what the views and beliefs are of the Filipino Americans themselves about dog eating, they are still labeled as “dog eaters”. Through the discussion of the history of dog eating in the Philippines, this paper has shown that there does seem to be some truth to the stereotype. As a whole, Filipinos have had a long history– from pre-colonial all the way up to post-colonial times, there have been historical accounts to the phenomenon of Filipinos eating dog meat for traditional and/or a form of sustenance because there was no other food available. Furthermore, the stereotype’s truth has been extended when the emergence of dog eating amongst the Igorrot tribe of the Philippines was presented to Americans in the United States World Fairs during the early 1900‘s.
The history in the Philippines, coupled with the World Fairs in the United States, has summed up the historical story of Filipinos having relevance to a people that eat dogs. And, the idea persists that Filipinos are a people that eat dogs being a bad/undesirable thing according to Euro-centric ideals of normalcy and ideal forms of beauty and way of life. Under the Euro-centric ideals of beauty, normalcy, and way of life, Filipinos as dog eaters (whether factual or not on an individual basis) are considered barbaric or living a backwards lifestyle as a whole; and, for Filipino Americans who do not eat dogs, different from their ancestors in the Philippines and the Igorrots that were showcased in the US World Fairs, they must still deal with the unjust extension of this stereotype upon them.
Ultimately, this paper has shown that regardless of what Filipinos and Filipino Americans think about the issues surrounding the dog eating stereotype, Filipino Americans today are affected by the history of the racialized nature of their culture. They have historically been compared to European American ideals of beauty, culture, and ways of living. These comparisons have lived on in today’s portrayals of Filipino American culture and the practice of dog eating, as both carry a negative connotation when compared with the more dominant White or Anglo European or American culture. As a result, Filipinos around the world and Filipinos in the United States are marginalized, suggestive of their savage and uncivilized past, compared to mainstream ideals of culture, beauty, and acceptable ideals of normality.
As Filipino Americans must deal with the over-extension of the Filipino stereotype that they eat dogs and racialization of Filipinos, this paper merely pointed out the problem but a resolution has not been offered. However, the realization of a problem is a stepping stone; as the paper argues that the stereotype of dog eating has been over-extended to all Filipinos regardless of generational differences, it is in turn for people to realize that the stereotype has in fact been unjustly applied to Filipino Americans today.
It is only when people make this first step in realizing that there is a problem with the unjust stereotype of Filipino Americans as dog eaters that people could start to realize that they are wrong when they lump all Filipinos together in one category regardless of the individual experiences and situations of each generation and community. Finally, this discussion of the over-extended stereotype of dog eating amongst Filipino Americans is a great example of other stereotypes among Asian Americans and other minorities.
Furthermore, the racialization of Filipinos through the dog eating stereotype should mark as a great example of how old white supremacist ideas still linger among contemporary cultures today as the cultures compare dominant cultures and degrade the subordinate ones as barbaric or uncivilized. On top of the dog eating stereotype, there are many other stereotypes, with their own complexities, stories, and negative impacts that need to be addressed as well. So, future studies could use the argument that the stereotype of Filipino American dog eating is unjustified as example, a tool, or extension of the cause to eliminate unjustified stereotypes among Asian Americans and other minorities alike. Also, future researchers may want to refer people who ask negatively connotative questions like “Do Filipino people eat dogs?” with questions of why they ask such questions and whether or not their negative connotations are a product of racist, culture and race-supremacist ideologies.
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