The Filipino Origin of the Colt .45

Any discussion of the Filipino origin of the Colt .45 must necessarily start with the origin of the Filipino.

The History

Prior to the Spanish arrival in the Philippine archipelago, the concept of Filipino did not exist. If you were to magically transport yourself back hundreds of years to the Philippine archipelago and find yourself in any kind of territory, whether the south, the west, the east or the north, few people will identify themselves with the archipelago.

In fact, people didn’t even know that the northern island called Luzon was called that because of the Chinese. The Chinese have a name for it, “long song”. That was a name for their island that outsiders gave that island. That was not the name that they gave themselves nor could they care less.

What people cared about is their specific language group. In the north are Ilocanos, Bicolanos, Pampangenos and other language groups. It would be nice to say that these language groups got together nicely. They didn’t. In many cases, they would wage war on each other, not on a mass scale, mind you, but on a village-to-village, small-scale basis.

This is why the Philippines, prior to the Spanish, never really had a unified governments. It’s very different from the situation in Indonesia. The Indonesians actually had an empire that was linked to India.

There was no such linkage in the Philippines. While the north of the country had several hundred years’ worth of trade contact with southern China, that was the extent of any kind of unitary or national consciousness. In other words, there was none.

For the longest time, this was the way things were in the Philippines until, of course, the Spanish came. Spaniards looked at the Philippines as a distinct territory that they will govern. What made the Philippines distinctive was not necessarily a unity of languages because there was none. There are actually over one hundred different dialects spoken in the Philippines. Nor was there a unity in religion. There were many local pagan gods.

Instead, the unifying feature of this archipelago, as far as the Spanish were concerned, was its colonial purpose. It was not Portuguese nor was it Dutch. That was good enough for the Spanish. In other words, the areas that they would label Filipino or Philippines were areas that they can physically influence.

This is what makes the Filipino experience quite interesting. It is one of the few countries on the planet that were colonized not by soldiers but by priests. The priests would form parishes and, sooner or later, they would pacify and Catholicize the ruling classes.

This was how they were able to create unity in the Philippines. They may have been divided in terms of language, culture, economics, but what united them was, at first, Catholicism and then later on, Spanish subjugation, which of course is shorthand for being Filipino.

In fact, even the world “Filipino” was not intended for the natives. The Spanish word for the natives was “indio” meaning Indian or native. Instead, the moniker Filipino was especially and specifically reserved for white-skinned Spaniards born in the Philippines. It was only during the revolutionary period of the Philippines that the term “Filipino” was extended to apply to brown-skinned Filipinos.

This is the Filipino contexts of the Colt .45. It is a history of subjugation, but there was a significant population that refused to bow to Spain. These are the Muslims. In particular, the fierce Tausug warriors of Sulu were particularly worrisome to the Spaniards.

Incursion after incursion, one Tausug warrior was often enough to beat back the Spaniards because the Tausug warrior did not care about dying. He would continue to swing his bolo until he has decapitated or wounded enough Spaniards before he bled to death, and that only needed to happen a few more times for the Spanish to lose their nerve.

For the longest time, the Spaniards claimed all of what would become the modern Philippine archipelago but, in reality, they could only claim up to Zamboanga and the northern parts of Mindanao. Everything else was Muslim. Everything else consisted of very fierce warriors who would not hesitate to decapitate them.

It is in this context that the Colt .45 was invented. It was intended as a handheld cannon that was so strong that it can blast a hole in the center of a man to stop him. It doesn’t matter whether he has controlled his blood so he can continue charging you. Just one blast was enough to knock him back and take him out. That is the Filipino context of the Colt .45.