The story of the Philippines from 1521 to 1898 is an exciting epic of how a handful of Christian missionaries, Spanish conquistadores, indigenous nobles, early European settlers and Malay population built a nation that became the Philippines of today. The road to nationhood was difficult with continuous threats of disintegration brought about by invasions from the Dutch, British, Chinese, Japanese and Malay rebellions. Amidst the crises, the Philippine people stood together to keep the colony intact. The 1800s, however, was a period of global change under the banner of liberty, equality and brotherhood brought about by the patriotisms of the French and American Revolutions. In 1898, Filipino patriots seceded from the declining Spanish Empire and formally declared independence under the First Philippine Republic.
This article covers the history of the Philippines from the arrival of European explorer Ferdinand Magellan in 1521 up to the end of Spanish rule in 1898.
Europeans first arrived in the archipelago in 1521, when Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan first sighted the mountains of Samar on March 17, 1521, claiming the lands for Spain, and naming them Islas de San Lazaro. The first Holy Mass was celebrated on March 31, 1521 in the island of Mazaua which was located by eyewitnesses at three different latitudes, Antonio Pigafetta said it was at 9° 40' North, Francisco Albo at 9° 20' North, and The Genoese Pilot at 9° North. Another eyewitness, Ginés de Mafra located the isle at 15 leguas (45 nautical miles using the Spanish scale of 1:3) south of or below Butuan of 1521. The reference point of de Mafra was the tip of today's Surigao del Norte, at either Bilaa Pt. or Madilao Pt. There are no islands the naked eye can see at the latitudes given by Pigafetta, Albo and the Genoese Pilot, whose latitude is where de Mafra locates Mazaua. But in 2001 a group of earth scientists, composed of a geomorphologist, geologists and archaeologists discovered an isle at 9° N exactly where de Mafra suggested. The isle has yet to be proven to be Mazaua through concrete, material objects that can be directly linked to Magellan and other Europeans who visited Mazaua. This can only be done through comprehensive archaeological excavations in the isle.
Magellan sought friendship among the natives beginning with Humabon, the chieftain of Sugbu (now Cebu), and took special pride in converting them to Catholicism. Magellan got involved with political rivalries among the native tribes and took part in a battle against Lapu-Lapu, Chieftain of Mactan Island and a mortal enemy of Humabon. Magellan invaded Mactan Island with only 48 armored men (less than half his crew) against Lapu-Lapu's army of some 1,500 warriors. Several hours later, Magellan lie dead without having reached the shores of Mactan. See Battle of Mactan
After the battle, the Spanish were to few to man three ships so they abandoned the "Concepcion". The remaining ships - "Trinidad" and "Victoria" - sailed to the Spice Islands in present-day Indonesia. From there, the expedition split into two groups. The Trinidad, commanded by Gonzalo Gómez de Espinoza tried to sail eastward across the Pacific Ocean to the Isthmus of Panama. Diseases and a shipwreck disrupted Espinoza's voyage and most of its crew members died. Survivors of the Trinidad returned to the Spice Islands, where the Portuguese imprisoned them. The Victoria continued sailing westward, commanded by Juan Sebastián Elcano, and managed to return to Sanlúcar de Barrameda, Spain in 1522. In 1529, in the treaty of Zaragoza, Spain relinquished all claims to the Spice Islands (and westward) to Portugal. However, the treaty did not stop the colonization of the archipelago from New Spain.
After Magellan's voyage, subsequent expeditions were dispatched to the islands. Four expeditions were authorized: that of Loaisa (1525), Cabot (1526), Saavedra (1527), Villalobos (1542), and Legazpi (1564). In 1543, Ruy López de Villalobos named the territory Las Islas Felipinas after Philip II of Spain. (Some scholars give the name as Las Felipinas, attributing the naming to Bernardo de la Torre, also known as "Capitan Calabaza", who was commander of the ship San Juan de Letran In Villalobos' fleet). The most successful expedition was that of Miguel Lopez de Legaspi who founded the first Spanish settlement of San Miguel in Sugbu (now Cebu).
On April 27, 1565, Spanish conquistadores numbering a mere 500 attacked the defiant Tupas, son of Humabon, and was made to sign an agreement. On that same day, the first permanent Spanish settlement of San Miguel was founded in Cebu. In 1570, Juan de Salcedo, in the service of Legaspi, conquered the city of Maynilad (now Manila). Legaspi then made Maynilad the capital of the Philippines and renamed it Nueva Castilla. The name didn't stick and the hispanized name of Manila (from Maynilad) survived to this day. This action pleased the King of Spain and pointed Legaspi as the colony's first governor-general. Cebu then receded into the background as power shifted north to Luzon with the fertile lands of its central plains. The archipelago was made Spain's outpost in the orient as the Spanish East Indies. The colony was administered through the Viceroyalty of New Spain (now Mexico) until 1821 when Mexican patriots seceded from the Spanish Empire. After 1821, the colony was governed directly from Spain.
Spanish colonial rule brought Catholicism to the islands. One friar, Fr. Juan de Placencia wrote a Spanish-to-Tagalog Christian Doctrine in 1593 which was a transliteration from Roman letters to Baybayin characters, the alphabet of the natives around Manila. This effort probably sped the Christianization of the islands 3. In 1590, missionaries from the Society of Jesus, led by Fr. Antonio Sedeño, S.J., established the Colegio de Manila, which in 1623 became the Universidad de San Ignacio, the first pontifical and royal university in the Philippines and in Asia. In 1595, the Jesuits established the Colegio de San Idelfonso (since 1948 the University of San Carlos). In 1611 the Dominican friars founded the University of Santo Tomas in Manila, which currently has the oldest extant university charter among Philippine schools (after the San Ignacio closed in the 1770s following the Suppression of the Jesuits, who only returned in 1859). Christianization did not reach the remote areas of the mountain provinces and inland communities of Mindanao, which remains largely Muslim to this day.
Early colonial economy depended on the Galleon Trade between Manila and Acapulco, Mexico. To avoid hostile powers, most trade between Spain and the Philippines was via the Pacific Ocean to Mexico (Manila to Acapulco), and then across the Caribbean Sea and Atlantic Ocean to Spain (Veracruz to Cádiz). The European population steadily grew although natives remained the majority. They depended on the Galleon Trade for a living. In the later years of the 18th century, Governor-General Basco introduced economic reforms that gave the colony its first real income from the production of tobacco and other agricultural exports. In this later period, agriculture was finally opened to the European population, which before was reserved only for the natives.
During Spain’s 333 year rule in the Philippines, the colonists had to fight off the Chinese pirates (who lay siege to Manila, the most famous of which was Limahong in 1574), Dutch forces, Portuguese forces, and indigenous attacks with limited resources. Moros from western Mindanao and the Sulu Archipelago constantly raided the coastal Christian areas of Luzon and the Visayas and occasionally brought home loot and fair women. They often sold their captives as slaves.
In the late 16th century, the Japanese, under Hideyoshi, claimed control of the Philippines and for a time the Spanish paid tribute to secure their trading routes and protect Jesuit missionaries in Japan.
Serious challenges to Spanish rule began in 1761, during Spain's involvement in the Seven Years' War. In 1762, colonial forces of the British East India Company captured Manila with a force of 13 ships and 6830 men, easily taking the Spanish garrison of 600, but made little effort to extend their control beyond the city. In accordance with the 1763 Treaty of Paris, the Philippines was returned to Spain. British victory inspired the rebellion of Diego Silang, who in 1762 expelled colonial authorities from the coastal city of Vigan.
The most prominent feature of Spanish cities were the plaza, a central area for town activities such as the fiesta, and where government buildings, the church, a market area and other infrastructures were located. Residential areas lay around the plaza. During the conquista, the first task of colonization was the reducion, or relocation of the indigenous population into settlements surrounding the plaza.
Like most of Europe, the church always had control over the state affairs of the colony. The friars controlled the sentiments of the native population and was more powerful than the governor-general himself. Among the issues that resulted to the Philippine revolution of 1898 that ended Spanish rule was the abuse of power by the religious orders.
Also collected was the bandalâ (from the Tagalog word mandalâ, a round stack of rice stalks to be threshed), an annual enforced sale and requisitioning of goods such as rice. Custom duties and income tax were also collected. By 1884, the tribute was replaced by the Cedula personal, wherein colonists were required to pay for personal identification. Everyone over the age of 18 was obliged to pay.
Hispanization failed to reach the inland communities of Mindanao. The Moros had a more advanced political system than their Malay counterparts in the Visayas and Luzon most notably the Sultanate. Spanish cities were limited to the coastal areas of Zamboanga and Cagayan de Oro.
The 1800s was a period of global change. The world had entered its first phase of globalization under the British Empire. In Europe, the Industrial Revolution had spread from Great Britain which had entered its Pax Britannica known as the Victorian Age. The rapid industrialization of Europe were seeking new markets and found them in the colonies. The colonies prospered with the production of raw materials for the mother countries. It was during this period that Governal-General Basco opened the Philippines to World Trade. The economy of the Philippines rose rapidly and its local industries developed to satisfy the rising industrialization of Europe. European immigration increased with the opening of the Suez Canal which cut the travel time between Europe and the Philippines by half. New ideas, which the friars and colonial authorities found dangerous, found their way into the Philippines notably Freemasonry and ideals of the French and American Revolutions.
In the early 1800s, the Suez Canal was opened which made the Philippines much nearer to Spain. The rapid increase of Peninsulares from the Iberian peninsula threatened the secularization of the Philippine churches. In state affairs, the Creoles were displaced from government positions by the Peninsulares, whom the Creoles regarded as foreigners. The Creoles had become increasingly Filipino and called themselves Los Hijos del Pais (sons of the country). Among the early proponents of Filipino nationalism were the Creoles Padre Pedro Pelaez, archbishop of Manila, who fought for the secularization of Philippine churches and expulsion of the friars; Padre Jose Burgos whose execution influenced the national hero Jose Rizal; and Joaquin Pardo de Tavera who fought for retention of government positions by Filipinos. In retaliation to the rise of Filipino nationalism, the friars called the Indios (possibly referring to Creoles and Mestizos as well) indolent and unfit for government and church positions. In response, the Creoles came out with the Indios Agraviados, a manifesto defending the Filipino against discriminatory remarks. The tension between the Creoles and Peninsulares erupted into the failed revolts of Novales and Cavite Mutiny of 1872 which resulted to the deportation of prominent Filipino nationalists to the Marianas and Europe who would continue the fight for liberty through the Propaganda Movement. The Cavite Mutiny implicated the Creoles Fathers Gomez, Burgos and Zamora (see GOMBURZA) whose executions would influence the subversive activities of the next generation of Filipino nationalists, in particular Paciano Rizal, elder brother of the Philippine national hero. In turn, José Rizal dedicated his novel, "El Filibusterismo" to the three martyred Filipino priests.
The Liberals won the Spanish Revolution of 1869. Carlos María de la Torre y Nava Cerrada was sent to the Philippines to serve as governor-general (1869-1871). He is one of the most loved governors-general in the Philippines having implemented reforms in the colony. At one time, his supporters serenaded him in front of the Malacañang Palace. Among those who serenaded were Padre Burgos and Joaquin Pardo de Tavera. When the Reactionaries regained power in Spain, De La Torre was recalled and replaced by Governor-General Izquierdo who vowed to rule with an iron fist.
The mass deportation of nationalists to the Marianas and Europe in 1872 led to a Filipino expatriate community of reformers in Europe. The community grew with the next generation of Ilustrados taking graduate studies in European universities. They allied themselves with Spanish liberals, notably a certain Spanish senator named Morayta and formed the La Solidaridad. Among the reformers was Jose Rizal, who wrote his two famous novels while in Europe. Among the manuscripts of the reformers, his novels were considered the most influential causing further unrest in the islands particularly the founding of the Katipunan. A rivalry developed between himself and Marcelo Del Pilar for the leadership of La Solidaridad and the reform movement in Europe. Majority of the expatriates supported the leadership of Marcelo Del Pilar. Jose Rizal then returned to the Philippines to organize La Liga Filipina and bring the reform movement to Philippine soil. He was arrested just a few days after founding the league. In 1892, Radical members of the La Liga Filipina, which included Andres Bonifacio and Deodato Arellano, founded the Kataastaasang Kagalanggalangan Katipunan ng mga Anak ng Bayan (Katipunan or KKK), which had the bold objective of seceding the Philippines from the Spanish Empire. From the Creole uprisings of the early 1800s of Fathers Pelaez and Burgos, the Filipino discontent had escalated to a full blown armed revolution.
In 1898, the Spanish-American War broke off. Emilio Aguinaldo returned to the Philippines with American aid, that is the blockading of Manila Bay from Spanish reinforcements. However, this aid was unnecessary as the Spanish reinforcements wouldn't have made it anyway as their Cazadores were tied down in Cuba both quelling a similar revolt and fighting the Spanish-American War there, and later the Americans turning against the Filipino patriots in the end after all. By 1898, the patriots have liberated much of the country from colonial rule. They declared independence in 1898 and established the First Philippine Republic. They laid siege to Manila and prepared to invade the city.
Emilio Aquinaldo failed to conclude the revolution by invading the capital city of Manila. The United States had promised to recognize Philippine Independence and the Americans requested Aguinaldo to wait for American reinforcements so that they could enter the city together. The Americans had asked Aguinaldo to turn over vital entries to the capital city over to the Americans, which he did so in good faith to their alliance. In a sudden twist of fate, the Americans secretly entered into a pact with the Spanish governor-general in which the latter agreed to fight a mock battle before surrendering Manila to the Americans. In Paris, the Spanish agreed to sell the Philippines to the United States for $20Million and turn over Guam and Puerto Rico. With this action, Spanish rule in the Philippines formally ended. With Manila taken, the Americans waited for reinforcements and prepared to attack the Philippine Republic.
In 1899, the Philippine-American War erupted resulting to the American colonization of the Philippines. Historians disagree on the actual end of hostilities as resistance against American rule occurred up to the 1940s during the arrival of the Japanese. In 1942, Artemio Ricarte returned to the Philippines with the Japanese on the pretext that he is continuing the war against the Americans. In February of 1899, hostilities broke out when an American sentry fired and killed a Filipino soldier on patrol. Accounts suggest that it was a result of misunderstanding when the American shouted "halt" which the Filipinos took as "Halto" which in Spanish meant "welcome". Nevertheless, the American Military Governor Otis used the incident to escalate hostilities "to the grim end". By December of this same year, the Philippine Army under the command of General Gregorio Del Pilar had been annihilated in Pangasinan and Aguinaldo fleeing to the mountain province with less than a hundred troops. In the Battle of Tirad Pass, the Republic could only spare 60 soldiers for the defense. From December 1899 to March 1901, the revolution was nothing more than a hide and seek masquerade between the pursuing American Army and Emilio Aguinaldo. At the same time though, the Tinio Brigade, which survived the annihilation of the main Philippine Republican Army in Pangasinan carried on guerilla warfare, which the Americans branded as nothing more than bandit "disorders". However, evidence is clear that those "disorders" were national in level and revolutionary in character. In March 1901, Emilio Aguinaldo was captured and swore allegiance to the United States. Some history books mark this event as the end of the war but the Battle of Balangiga under General Vicente Lukban which led to the massacre of an entire American regiment happened in 1902. Americans renamed it the Massacre of Balangiga and falsely called Samar an Islamic province to justify the "disorder". Americans then turned Samar into a "howling wilderness". After the capture of Aguinaldo, Miguel Malvar succeeded him as president of the Philippine Republic. Some books call him the last general to surrender to the Americans but in 1904, Artemio Ricarte returned from exile to continue the war against the Americans. "Disorder" disrupted American rule all throughout its duration. It was only in 1914 that resistance to American rule declined. A new generation of Filipinos educated in American public schools have replaced the patriots. The revolution had ran out of Filipinos to fight its wars.
For details of the events, see Philippine-American War