What Was Polo Y Servicio?

Glow Images, Inc/Glow/Getty Images

Polo y servicio was a practice employed by Spanish colonizers for over 250 years that required the forced labor of all Filipino males from 16 to 60 years old for 40-day periods. The workers could be placed on any project the Spanish wanted, despite hazardous or unhealthy conditions.

The Philippines acted as the epicenter of the Spanish Galleon trade from Manila to Acapulco, which was so prosperous for Spain that it neglected to consider and develop the colony’s local industries. The Filipino people were agriculturally based and grew crops, not only for profit, but also for their own diet. Aside from injuring and killing many Filipino males, the polo y servicio crippled the ability of the Filipinos to feed themselves, causing hunger and frustration and leading to numerous rebellions.