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Spanish Colony 1565 – 1898Ferdinand Magellan set out from Spain in 1519 on the first voyage to circumnavigate the globe with five ships and a complement of 264 crew. Three years later in 1522, only the one ship, the Victoria, returned to Spain with 18 men.

The Philippines were the death of Magellan. The expedition sighted the island of Samar on March 16, 1521. Magellan was welcomed by two Rajas, Kolambu and Siagu. He named the islands the Archipelago of San Lazaro, erected a cross and claimed the lands for Spain. The friendly Rajas took Magellan to Cebu to meet Raja Humabon. Humabon and 800 Cebuanos were baptized as Christians. Magellan agreed to help Raja Humabon put down Lapu-Lapu, a rebellious datu on the nearby island of Mactan. In a battle between Spanish soldiers and Lapu-Lapu’s warriors, Magellan was killed on April 27, 1521.

Disputes over women caused relations between Raja Humabon and the remaining Spaniards to deteriorate. The Cebuanos killed 27 Spaniards in a skirmish and the Spaniards, deciding to resume their explorations, departed Cebu.

For all its losses, the voyage was a huge financial success. The Victoria’s 26 ton cargo of cloves sold for 41,000 ducats. This returned the 20,000 ducats the venture had cost plus a 105 percent profit. Four more expeditions followed between 1525 and 1542. The commander of the fourth expedition, Ruy Lopez de Villalobos, named the islands after Philip, heir to the Spanish throne (r. Philip II 1556-1598).

The Philippines was not formally organized as a Spanish colony until 1565 when Philip II appointed Miguel Lopez de Legazpi the first Governor-General. Legazpi selected Manila for the capital of the colony in 1571 because of its fine natural harbour and the rich lands surrounding the city that could supply it with produce.

The Spanish did not develop the trade potential of the Philippine’s agricultural or mineral resources. The colony was administered from Mexico and its commerce centered on the galleon trade between Canton and Acapulco in which Manila functioned secondarily as an entrepot. Smaller Chinese junks brought silk and porcelain from Canton to Manila where the cargoes were re-loaded on galleons bound for Acapulco and the Spanish colonies in the Americas. The Chinese goods were paid for in Mexican silver.

Spanish rule had two lasting effects on Philippine society; the near universal conversion of the population to Roman Catholicism and the creation of a landed elite. Although under the direct order of Philip II that the conversion of the Philippines to Christianity was not to be accomplished by force, the monastic orders of the Augustinians, Dominicans, Franciscans, Recollects and Jesuits set to their missionary duties with purpose. Unable to extirpate the indigenous pagan beliefs by coercion and fear, Philippine Catholicism incorporates a deep substrate of native customs and ritual.

While the missionaries spread through the colony to found their parishes and estates in the barangays, the officials of the civil administration preferred to stay in Manila and govern indirectly through the traditional barangay datu or village chief. Although the traditional kinship organization of the barangay had maintained the communal use of land, the Spanish governors brought with them their feudal notions of land tenure with “encomienderos” and subordinate vassals. The traditional village chiefs became a class of landed nobility wielding considerable local authority. The creation of a priviledged landed-holding elite on whom most of the rural population was dependent as landless tenants introduced a class division in Philippine society that has been the perennial source of social discontent and political strife ever since.

In most villages, the priest and the local “principale” or “notable” represented between them Spanish authority. The “friarocracy” of the religious orders and the oligarchy of the landholders were the twin pillars of colonial society whose main interests were in keeping their positions of authority and priviledge.

The Spanish hold on the Philippines first began to weaken in 1762 when the British briefly captured Manila during the Seven Years’ War. In support of the British invasion, the long persecuted Chinese merchant community rose in revolt against the Spanish authority. The Treaty of Paris returned Manila to Spain at the end of the War but with increasing diversion of the China trade to Britain and, even more importantly, with an irretrievable loss of prestige and respect in the eyes of its Filipino subjects.

Spain had governed the colony for two hundred years in almost complete isolation from the outside world. The royal monopolies prohibited foreign ships from trading in the Philippines. After the Seven Years’ War, in collusion with local merchants and officials, foreign ships and merchants could ever more easily circumvent the monopolies and enter the Philippine trade.

The colonial government had always operated at a financial loss that was sustained by subsidies from the galleon trade with Mexico. Increased competition with foreign traders finally brought the galleon trade with Acapulco to an end in 1815. After its recognition of Mexican independence in 1821, Spain was forced to govern the colony directly from Madrid and to find new sources of revenue to pay for the colonial administration.

Nationalist Movement and Katipunan Rebellion 1834 – 1897Through the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, Spain gradually exposed the Philippines to international commerce and, as a consequence, to the contemporary currents of European political thought. In 1834 Spain opened the Philippine ports to international free trade. Until then, Philippine agriculture had produced little more than a subsistence plus the small surplus that local markets could absorb. Under the influence of British and American merchants trading internationally, Philippine agriculture was transformed from local self-sufficiency to the export of cash crops for international markets; principally tobacco, sugar and abaca (hemp fibre for rope).

The commercialization of Philippine agriculture and the resulting economic expansion greatly advantaged the landed elite in the country and the Chinese mestizo merchants in the provincial centers. Importantly, many used their new prosperity to obtain modern, professional educations, both in the Philippines and in Europe, for their families.

The friarocracy had long used its control of education in the colony to maintain its position. The religious orders excluded the teaching of foreign languages and scientific and technical subjects from their curricula. The Spanish government conceded to the growing demand for educational reform and in 1863 introduced a system of public education that opened new opportunities to Filipinos for higher learning.

A long standing source of resentment was the exclusion of Filipinos from the religious orders and the priesthood. This led to the armed revolt of Apolinario de la Cruz in 1841. The Spanish put down the revolt and executed Brother Apolinario.

Spain itself was having trouble adjusting to the liberal democratic aspirations of nineteenth century Europe. In 1868, a liberal revolution in Spain deposed Queen Isabella II and gave rise to the short lived First Republic. A liberal governor, General Carlos Maria de la Torre, was appointed at this time to the Philippines. He abolished censorship and extended to Filipinos the rights of free speech and assembly contained in the Spanish constitution of 1869. The popular governor did not last long. De la Torre was replaced in 1871 by Rafael de Izquierdo who promptly rescinded the liberal measures.

The following year in Cavite, 200 Filipino recruits revolted and murdered their Spanish officers. The Spanish suppressed the revolt brutally and used the opportunity to implicate the liberal critics of Spanish authority in an imaginary wider conspiracy. Many liberals were arrested or driven into exile. A military court condemned the reformist Fathers Jose Burgos, Mariano Gomez and Jacinto Zamora to death. The three priests were garroted publicly on February 20, 1872 and made martyrs for the nationalist cause. The Spanish repression succeeded in joining the religious and secular discontents in a common spirit of Filipino nationalism opposed to the colonial authority.

The Philippine emigre community in Spain, exiles and students, developed the Propaganda Movement. It advocated the moderate aims of legal equality between Spaniards and Filipinos, Philippine representation in the Spanish Cortes (parliament), free speech and association, secular public schools and an end to the annual obligation of forced labour.

A prominent Propagandist was Graciano Lopez Jaena who left the Philippines for Spain in 1880 after publishing a satirical novel, Fray Botod (Brother Fatso), describing the life of a rural friar. In 1889 he started the newspaper, La Solidaridad (Solidarity), that circulated both in Spain and the Philippines and was the medium of the Propaganda Movement. Another Propagandist was a reformist lawyer, Marcelo del Pilar, who was active in the anti-friar movement. He fled to Spain in 1888 and became editor of La Solidaridad.

The most famous Propagandist was Jose Rizal. He studied medicine at the University of Santo Tomas in the Philippines and in 1882 went to complete his studies at the University of Madrid. He took an interest in anthropology with a view to discrediting the racial notions of Filipino inferiority through the scientific study of the history and ethnology of the Malay people. His more popular works were his two novels Noli Me Tangere (Touch Me Not) and El Filibusterismo (The Subversive) published in 1886 and 1891 respectively. The novels portrayed the authoritarian and abusive character of Spanish rule in the colony. Despite their ban, the books were smuggled into the Philippines and widely read.

Rizal returned to the Philippines in 1892 and founded a national organization for peaceful reform – La Liga Filipina (The Philippine League). He was soon arrested for revolutionary agitation and exiled to the isolation of Dapitan on Mindanao.

Rizal’s arrest and exile in 1892 set in train a chain of events that was to lead directly to armed insurrection for national independence. On the night of Rizal’s arrest, Andres Bonifacio founded a secret society, the Katipunan (The Highest and Most Respectable Association of the Sons of the People), modeled on the Masonic Order and dedicated to national independence through revolution. From its origins in the Tondo district of Manila, Bonifacio gradually built the Katipunan to a strength of 30,000 members.

In another Spanish colony, 15,000 km away, the Cuban revolution for independence started in February 1895. To escape from his exile, Rizal volunteered to serve as a doctor for the Spanish army in Cuba. Rizal’s offer was accepted but just as he left for Cuba by ship, the Spanish learned of Bonifacio’s Katipunan. The Spanish began making hundreds of arrests and Bonifacio had little choice but to issue the call to arms, the Cry of Balintawak, on August 26, 1896.

Bonifacio and Emilio Jacinto attacked the Spanish garrison at San Juan on August 29, 1896 with 800 Katipuneros. Insurrections also broke out in eight provinces surrounding Manila on Luzon and soon spread to other islands. The rebels were not trained regulars and had little success against the colonial troops. In the province of Cavite, however, under the leadership of Emilio Aguinaldo, the Katipunan rebels defeated the Civil Guard and the colonial troops.

Meanwhile, Rizal was arrested in transit to Cuba and ordered returned to Fort Santiago in Manila to stand trial for rebellion, sedition and illicit association. He was tried on December 26, found guilty and condemned to death. Jose Rizal was shot by a firing squad on December 30, 1896. Rizal’s execution gave the rebellion fresh determination.

The Katipunan was divided between factions loyal to Bonifacio and Aguinaldo. Due to his successes in battle, Aguinaldo was elected to replace Bonifacio. Bonifacio withdrew his supporters and the two factions began to fight. Bonifacio was arrested, tried and executed on May 10, 1897 by Aguinaldo’s order.

Aguinaldo’s forces were driven from Cavite to Bulacan where Aguinaldo declared the constitution and established the Republic of Biak-na-Bato. Both sides soon came to realize that the struggle between Spain and the new Republic had reached an impasse. The rebels could not meet the Spanish regulars in the field but neither could the Spanish put down the guerrillas.

Negotiations began in August and concluded in December with the Pact of Biak-na-Bato. The agreement extended a general amnesty to the rebels with a payment of US$800,000 for Aguinaldo and his government to retire in voluntary exile to Hong Kong. Aguinaldo left the Philippines with his government on December 27, 1897. While in Hong Kong, Aguinaldo and his compatriots designed what is today the Philippine national flag.

Spanish-American War / War of Philippine Independence 1898 – 1901Relations between the United States and Spain deteriorated over the conduct of the war for independence in Cuba. On February 15, 1898 the American battleship, USS Maine, exploded and sank in Havana harbour under mysterious circumstances with the loss of 260 men.

As war between the United States and Spain became imminent, the commander of the U.S. Asiatic Squadron, Commodore George Dewey, had discussions with Emilio Aguinaldo’s government in exile in Singapore and Hong Kong.

On April 25, 1898, the United States declared war on Spain and the Secretary of the Navy, Theodore Roosevelt, ordered Dewey to attack the Spanish fleet in the Philippines. The Battle of Manila Bay was the first hostile engagement of the Spanish-American War. In the darkness before dawn, Commodore Dewey’s ships passed under the siege guns on the island of Corregidor at the entrance to Manila Bay and by noon on May 1, 1898 had destroyed the Spanish fleet.

Aguinaldo arrived back in the Philippines on May 19, 1898 and resumed command of his rebel forces. The Filipino rebels routed the demoralized Spanish forces in the provinces and laid siege to Manila. From the balcony of his house in Cavite, Emilio Aguinaldo proclaimed the independence of the Philippines on June 12, 1898.

Whatever understanding Dewey and Aguinaldo may have reached in Hong Kong prior to the war, neither could have appreciated the full extent of the geopolitical forces at play. By late May, the newly appointed Admiral Dewey had received intructions to distance himself from Aguinaldo and his independence cause.

The declared war aim of the United States was Cuban independence from Spain. This was soon accomplished. The American forces landed in Cuba on June 23 and, with the surrender of Santiago on July 16, the Spanish sued for peace through the French ambassador in Washington two days later. Events in the Cuban theatre were concluded in less than a month.

The United States had not expressed an interest in taking over the remnants of Spain’s colonial empire. On news of Dewey’s victory, warships began arriving in Manila Bay from Britain, France, Japan and Germany. The German fleet of eight warships was especially aggressive and menacing. All of these imperial powers had recently obtained concessions from China for naval bases and designated commercial spheres of interest. American interests had reason to fear that leaving the Philippines to the designs of the imperial powers might exclude the United States from the Asia-Pacific trade altogether.

By late July, 12,000 American troops had arrived from San Francisco. The Spanish governor, Fermin Jaudenes, negotiated the surrender of Manila with an arranged show of resistance that preserved Spanish sensibilities of honour and excluded Aguinaldo’s Filipinos. The Americans took possession of Manila on August 13, 1898.

As it became apparent that the United States did not intend to recognize Philippine independence, Aguinaldo moved his capital in September from Cavite to the more defensible Malalos in Bulacan. That same month, the United States and Spain began their peace negotiations in Paris.

The Treaty of Paris was signed on December 10, 1898. By the Treaty, Cuba gained its independence and Spain ceded the Philippines, Guam and Puerto Rico to the United States for the sum of US$20 million.

Disappointed at having lost the opportunity to acquire the Philippines as a colony, Germany applied diplomatic pressure during the Paris negotiations to block the American request for the Caroline Islands. Spain subsequently sold the Caroline and Marianas Islands (less Guam) to Germany.

The Treaty of Paris was not well received in the Philippines. Filipino nationalists were incensed at the arrogance of the imperial powers to bargain away their independence for the tidy price of US$20 million with not so much as a pretence of consultation with Filipinos.

Given its own history of colonial revolution, American opinion was uncomfortable and divided on the moral principle of owning colonial dependencies. Having acquired the Philippines almost by accident, the United States was not sure what to do with them. On January 20, 1899, President McKinley appointed the First Philippine Commission (Schurman Commission) to make recommendations.

Aguinaldo did not need recommendations to decide what he would do. On January 23, 1899 he proclaimed the Malalos Constitution and the First Philippine Republic.

The hostilities in the Philippine War of Independence began on February 4, 1899 and continued for two years. The United States needed 126,000 soldiers to subdue the Philippines. The war took the lives of 4,234 Americans and 16,000 Filipinos. As usually happens in guerrilla campaigns, the civilian population suffers the worst. As many as 200,000 civilians may have died from famine and disease.

As before, the Filipino rebels did not do well in the field. Aguinaldo and his government escaped the capture of Malalos on March 31, 1899 and were driven into northern Luzon. Peace feelers from members of Aguinaldo’s cabinet failed in May when the American commander, General Ewell Otis, demanded an unconditional surrender.

Aguinaldo disbanded his regular forces in November and began a guerrilla campaign concentrated mainly in the Tagalog areas of central Luzon. Aguinaldo was captured on March 23, 1901. In Manila he was persuaded to swear allegiance to the United States and called on his soldiers to put down their arms. The United States declared an end to military rule on July 4, 1901. Sporadic resistance continued until 1903. These incidents were put down by the Philippine Constabulary.

American Colony and Philippine Commonwealth 1901 – 1941President McKinley’s Schurmann Commission (1899) recognized the determination of the Filipino people to gain their independence and recommended the establishment of the institutions for a civilian domestic government as soon as practical.

Even though on March 16, 1900 the fighting in the War of Independence was still far from over, President McKinley appointed the Second Philippine Commission (Taft Commission) and gave it the legislative and executive authority to put in place the civilian government the Schurmann Commission had recommended.

In 499 statutes issued between September 1900 and August 1902, the Taft Commission swept away three centuries of Spanish governance and installed in its place the laws and institutions of a modern civil state. It established a code of law, a judicial system and elective municipal and provincial governments.

The Philippine Organic Act of 1902 extended the protections of the United States Bill of Rights to Filipinos and established a national bi-cameral legislature. The lower house was the popularly elected Philippine Assembly and the upper house was the Philippine Commission appointed directly by the President of the United States.

Following American practice, the Philippine Organic Act imposed the strict separation of church and state and eliminated the Roman Catholic Church as the official state religion. In 1904 the administration paid the Vatican US$7.2 million for most of the lands held by the religious orders. The lands were later sold back to Filipinos. Some tenants were able to buy their land but it was mainly the established estate owners who could afford to buy the former church lands.

The first elections to the Philippine Assembly were held in July 1907 and the first session opened on October 16, 1907. The Nacionalista Party of Manuel Quezon and Sergio Osmena won the election and continued to dominate Philippine electoral politics until World War II.

The political success of the Nacionalista Party was the skill of Quezon and Osmena in tying the traditional patron-client relations (utang na loob) to the new institutions of the modern civil state. It was also their worst mistake. The Nacionalista Party was a network of overlapping patron-client relations that were more concerned with particular local and personal interests and little inclined to address the larger national issues of social reform; land ownership, tenancy rights, population growth and the distribution of wealth. The Party built the power and influence of the old landed elite into the new institutions of democratic governance.

And what is the same thing stated differently, the new party politics excluded the non-elites from the rewards and benefits of representative institutions. The failure of democratic politics in the Philippines to represent its non-elites and mitigate their grievances has been the recurrent cause of violent discontent and the desperate resort to revolt and insurrection.

The Jones Act of 1916 carried forward the Philippine Organic Act of 1902. An elected Philippine Senate replaced the appointed Philippine Commission and the former Philippine Assembly was renamed the House of Representatives. As before, the Governor-General, responsible for the executive branch, was appointed by the United States President.



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