Explore - History
Early History -The Negritos are believed to have migrated to
the Philippines some 30,000
years ago from Borneo, Sumatra, and Malaya.
The Malayans followed in successive waves. These people belonged to a primitive
epoch of Malayan culture, which has apparently survived to this day among
certain groups such as the Igorots. The Malayan tribes that came later had more
highly developed material cultures.
In the 14th cent. Arab traders from Malay and Borneo introduced
Islam into the southern islands and extended their influence as far north as Luzon. The first Europeans to visit (1521) the Philippines
were those in the Spanish expedition around the world led by the Portuguese
explorer Ferdinand Magellan. Other Spanish expeditions followed, including one
from New Spain (Mexico)
under López de Villalobos, who in 1542 named the islands for the infante
Philip, later Philip II.
Spanish Control - The conquest of the Filipinos by Spain
did not begin in earnest until 1564, when another expedition from New Spain, commanded by Miguel López de Legaspi, arrived.
Spanish leadership was soon established over many small independent communities
that previously had known no central rule. By 1571, when López de Legaspi
established the Spanish city of Manila on the
site of a Moro town he had conquered the year before, the Spanish foothold in
the Philippines was secure,
despite the opposition of the Portuguese, who were eager to maintain their
monopoly on the trade of East Asia.
Manila repulsed the attack of the Chinese pirate
Limahong in 1574. For centuries before the Spanish arrived the Chinese had
traded with the Filipinos, but evidently none had settled permanently in the
islands until after the conquest. Chinese trade and labor were of great
importance in the early development of the Spanish colony, but the Chinese came
to be feared and hated because of their increasing numbers, and in 1603 the
Spanish murdered thousands of them (later, there were lesser massacres of the
The Spanish governor, made a viceroy in 1589,
ruled with the advice of the powerful royal audiencia. There were frequent
uprisings by the Filipinos, who resented the encomienda system. By the end of the 16th cent. Manila
had become a leading commercial center of East Asia, carrying on a flourishing
trade with China, India, and the East Indies.
The Philippines supplied
some wealth (including gold) to Spain,
and the richly laden galleons plying between the islands and New
Spain were often attacked by English freebooters. There was also
trouble from other quarters, and the period from 1600 to 1663 was marked by
continual wars with the Dutch, who were laying the foundations of their rich
empire in the East Indies, and with Moro
pirates. One of the most difficult problems the Spanish faced was the
subjugation of the Moros. Intermittent campaigns were conducted against them
but without conclusive results until the middle of the 19th cent. As the power
of the Spanish Empire waned, the Jesuit orders became more influential in the Philippines and
acquired great amounts of property.
War, and U.S.
Control - It was the opposition to
the power of the clergy that in large measure brought about the rising
sentiment for independence. Spanish injustices, bigotry, and economic
oppressions fed the movement, which was greatly inspired by the brilliant
writings of José Rizal. In 1896
revolution began in the province of Cavite,
and after the execution of Rizal that December, it spread throughout the major
islands. The Filipino leader, Emilio Aguinaldo, achieved considerable success
before a peace was patched up with Spain. The peace was short-lived,
however, for neither side honored its agreements, and
a new revolution was brewing when the Spanish-American War broke out in 1898.
After the U.S.
naval victory in Manila
Bay on May 1, 1898,
Commodore George Dewey supplied Aguinaldo with arms and urged him to rally the
Filipinos against the Spanish. By the time U.S.
land forces had arrived, the Filipinos had taken the entire island of Luzon,
except for the old walled city of Manila,
which they were besieging. The Filipinos had also declared their independence
and established a republic under the first democratic constitution ever known
in Asia. Their dreams of independence were
crushed when the Philippines
were transferred from Spain
to the United States
in the Treaty of Paris (1898), which closed the Spanish-American
In Feb., 1899, Aguinaldo led a new revolt, this
time against U.S.
rule. Defeated on the battlefield, the Filipinos turned to guerrilla warfare,
and their subjugation became a mammoth project for the United States—one
that cost far more money and took far more lives than the Spanish-American War.
The insurrection was effectively ended with the capture (1901) of Aguinaldo by
Gen. Frederick Funston, but the question of Philippine independence remained a
burning issue in the politics of both the United States and the islands. The
matter was complicated by the growing economic ties between the two countries.
Although comparatively little American capital was invested in island
industries, U.S. trade
bulked larger and larger until the Philippines became almost entirely
dependent upon the American market. Free trade, established by an act of 1909,
was expanded in 1913.
When the Democrats came into power in 1913,
measures were taken to effect a smooth transition to self-rule. The Philippine
assembly already had a popularly elected lower house, and the Jones Act, passed
by the U.S. Congress in 1916, provided for a popularly elected upper house as
well, with power to approve all appointments made by the governor-general. It
also gave the islands their first definite pledge of independence, although no
specific date was set.
When the Republicans regained power in 1921, the
trend toward bringing Filipinos into the government was reversed. Gen. Leonard
Wood, who was appointed governor-general, largely supplanted Filipino
activities with a semimilitary rule. However, the advent of the Great
Depression in the United States
in the 1930s and the first aggressive moves by Japan
in Asia (1931) shifted U.S.
sentiment sharply toward the granting of immediate independence to the Philippines.
The Commonwealth - The Hare-Hawes Cutting Act, passed by Congress in 1932, provided
for complete independence of the islands in 1945 after 10 years of
self-government under U.S.
supervision. The bill had been drawn up with the aid of a commission from the Philippines, but Manuel L. Quezon, the leader of
the dominant Nationalist party, opposed it, partially because of its threat of
American tariffs against Philippine products but principally because of the
provisions leaving naval bases in U.S. hands. Under his influence,
the Philippine legislature rejected the bill. The Tydings-McDuffie Independence
Act (1934) closely resembled the Hare-Hawes Cutting Act, but struck the
provisions for American bases and carried a promise of further study to correct
“imperfections or inequalities.”
The Philippine legislature ratified the bill; a
constitution, approved by President Roosevelt (Mar., 1935) was accepted by the
Philippine people in a plebiscite (May); and Quezon was elected the first
president (Sept.). When Quezon was inaugurated on Nov. 15, 1935, the
Commonwealth of the Philippines
was formally established. Quezon was reelected in Nov., 1941. To develop
defensive forces against possible aggression, Gen. Douglas MacArthur was
brought to the islands as military adviser in 1935, and the following year he
became field marshal of the Commonwealth army.
War II - War came suddenly to the
Philippines on Dec. 8 (Dec.
7, U.S. time), 1941, when Japan attacked
without warning. Japanese troops invaded the islands in many places and
launched a pincer drive on Manila.
MacArthur’s scattered defending forces (about 80,000 troops, four fifths of
them Filipinos) were forced to withdraw to Bataan
Peninsula and Corregidor
Island, where they entrenched and
tried to hold until the arrival of reinforcements, meanwhile guarding the
entrance to Manila
Bay and denying that
important harbor to the Japanese. But no reinforcements were forthcoming. The
Japanese occupied Manila
on Jan. 2, 1942. MacArthur was ordered out by President Roosevelt and left for Australia on
Mar. 11; Lt. Gen. Jonathan Wainwright assumed command.
The besieged U.S.-Filipino army on Bataan finally crumbled on Apr. 9, 1942. Wainwright
fought on from Corregidor with a garrison of
about 11,000 men; he was overwhelmed on May 6, 1942. After his capitulation,
the Japanese forced the surrender of all remaining defending units in the
islands by threatening to use the captured Bataan and Corregidor
troops as hostages. Many individual soldiers refused to surrender, however, and
guerrilla resistance, organized and coordinated by U.S. and Philippine army officers,
continued throughout the Japanese occupation.
Japan’s efforts to win Filipino loyalty found
expression in the establishment (Oct. 14, 1943) of a “Philippine Republic,”
with José P. Laurel, former supreme court justice, as
president. But the people suffered greatly from Japanese brutality, and the
puppet government gained little support. Meanwhile, President Quezon, who had
escaped with other high officials before the country fell, set up a
government-in-exile in Washington.
When he died (Aug., 1944), Vice President Sergio Osmeña became
president. Osmeña returned to
with the first liberation forces, which surprised the Japanese by landing (Oct.
20, 1944) at Leyte, in the heart of the islands, after months of U.S. air strikes against Mindanao.
The Philippine government was established at Tacloban, Leyte,
on Oct. 23.
The landing was followed (Oct. 23–26) by the
greatest naval engagement in history, called variously the battle of Leyte Gulf
and the second battle of the Philippine Sea. A
victory, it effectively destroyed the Japanese fleet and opened the way for the
recovery of all the islands. Luzon was invaded (Jan., 1945), and Manila was taken in
February. On July 5, 1945, MacArthur announced “All the Philippines are
now liberated.” The Japanese had suffered over 425,000 dead in the Philippines.
The Philippine congress met on June 9, 1945, for
the first time since its election in 1941. It faced enormous problems. The land
was devastated by war, the economy destroyed, the country torn by political
warfare and guerrilla violence. Osmeña’s leadership was challenged
(Jan., 1946) when one wing (now the Liberal party) of the Nationalist party
nominated for president Manuel Roxas, who defeated Osmeña in April.
Republic of the Philippines -
Manuel Roxas became the
first president of the Republic of the Philippines when independence was
granted, as scheduled, on July 4, 1946. In Mar., 1947, the Philippines and the United
States signed a military assistance pact (since renewed)
and the Philippines gave the
a 99-year lease on designated military, naval, and air bases (a later agreement
reduced the period to 25 years beginning 1967). The sudden death of President
Roxas in Apr., 1948, elevated the vice president, Elpidio Quirino, to the presidency,
and in a bitterly contested election in Nov., 1949, Quirino defeated José
Laurel to win a four-year term of his own.
The enormous task of reconstructing the war-torn
country was complicated by the activities in central Luzon
of the Communist-dominated Hukbalahap guerrillas (Huks), who resorted to terror
and violence in their efforts to achieve land reform and gain political power.
They were finally brought under control (1954) after a vigorous attack launched
by the minister of national defense, Ramón Magsaysay. By that time Magsaysay
was president of the country, having defeated Quirino in Nov., 1953. He had
promised sweeping economic changes, and he did make progress in land reform,
opening new settlements outside crowded Luzon island. His death in an airplane crash in Mar., 1957, was a
serious blow to national morale. Vice President Carlos P. García succeeded him
and won a full term as president in the elections of Nov., 1957.
In foreign affairs, the Philippines
maintained a firm anti-Communist policy and joined the Southeast Asia Treaty
Organization in 1954. There were difficulties with the United States
over American military installations in the islands, and, despite formal
recognition (1956) of full Philippine sovereignty over these bases, tensions
increased until some of the bases were dismantled (1959) and the 99-year lease
period was reduced. The United
States rejected Philippine financial claims
and proposed trade revisions.
Philippine opposition to García on issues of
government corruption and anti-Americanism led, in June, 1959, to the union of
the Liberal and Progressive parties, led by Vice President Diosdado Macapagal,
the Liberal party leader, who succeeded García as president in the 1961
elections. Macapagal’s administration was marked by efforts to combat the
mounting inflation that had plagued the republic since its birth; by attempted
alliances with neighboring countries; and by a territorial dispute with Britain
over North Borneo (later Sabah), which Macapagal claimed had been leased and
not sold to the British North Borneo Company in 1878.
and After - Ferdinand
E. Marcos, who succeeded to the presidency after defeating Macapagal in the
1965 elections, inherited the territorial dispute over Sabah; in 1968 he
approved a congressional bill annexing Sabah to the Philippines. Malaysia
suspended diplomatic relations (Sabah had joined the Federation of Malaysia in
1963), and the matter was referred to the United Nations. (The
Philippines dropped its claim to Sabah in 1978.) The Philippines
became one of the founding countries of the Association of Southeast Asian
Nations (ASEAN) in 1967. The continuing need for land reform fostered a new Huk
uprising in central Luzon, accompanied by
mounting assassinations and acts of terror, and in 1969, Marcos began a major
military campaign to subdue them. Civil war also threatened on Mindanao, where groups of Moros opposed Christian
settlement. In Nov., 1969, Marcos won an unprecedented reelection, easily
defeating Sergio Osmeña, Jr., but the election was accompanied by
violence and charges of fraud, and Marcos’s second term began with increasing
In Jan., 1970, some 2,000 demonstrators tried to
storm Malacañang Palace, the presidential residence; riots erupted
against the U.S.
embassy. When Pope Paul VI visited Manila
in Nov., 1970, an attempt was made on his life. In 1971, at a Liberal party
rally, hand grenades were thrown at the speakers’ platform, and several people
were killed. President Marcos declared martial law in Sept., 1972,
charging that a Communist rebellion threatened.
The 1935 constitution was replaced (1973) by a new one that provided the
president with direct powers. A plebiscite (July, 1973) gave Marcos the right
to remain in office beyond the expiration (Dec., 1973) of his term. Meanwhile
the fighting on Mindanao had spread to the
Sulu Archipelago. By 1973 some 3,000 people had been killed and hundreds of
villages burned. Throughout the 1970s poverty and governmental corruption
increased, and Imelda Marcos, Ferdinand’s wife, became more influential.
Martial law remained in force until 1981, when
Marcos was reelected, amid accusations of electoral fraud. On Aug. 21, 1983,
opposition leader Benigno Aquino was assassinated at Manila
airport, which incited a new, more powerful wave of anti-Marcos dissent. After
the Feb., 1986, presidential election, both Marcos and his opponent, Corazon
Aquino (the widow of Benigno), declared themselves the
winner, and charges of massive fraud and violence were leveled against the Marcos
faction. Marcos’s domestic and international support eroded,
and he fled the country on Feb. 25, 1986, eventually obtaining asylum in the United States.
Aquino’s government faced
mounting problems, including coup attempts, significant economic difficulties,
and pressure to rid the Philippines
of the U.S. military
presence (the last U.S.
bases were evacuated in 1992). In 1990, in response to the demands of the Moros,
a partially autonomous Muslim region was created in the far south. In 1992,
Aquino declined to run for reelection and was succeeded by her former army
chief of staff Fidel Ramos. He immediately launched an economic revitalization
plan premised on three policies: government deregulation, increased private
investment, and political solutions to the continuing insurgencies within the
country. His political program was somewhat successful, opening dialogues with
the Marxist and Muslim guerillas. However, Muslim discontent with partial rule
persisted, and unrest and violence continued throughout the 1990s. In 1999,
Marxist rebels and Muslim separatists formed an alliance to fight the
Several natural disasters, including the 1991
eruption of Mt. Pinatubo
on Luzon and a succession of severe typhoons,
slowed the country’s economic progress. However, the Philippines escaped much of the
economic turmoil seen in other East Asian nations in 1997 and 1998, in part by following
a slower pace of development imposed by the International Monetary Fund. Joseph
Marcelo Estrada, a former movie actor, was elected president in 1998, pledging
to help the poor and develop the country’s agricultural sector. In 1999 he
announced plans to amend the constitution in order to remove protectionist
provisions and attract more foreign investment.
Late in 2000, Estrada’s presidency was buffeted
by charges that he accepted millions of dollars in payoffs from illegal
gambling operations. Although his support among the poor Filipino majority
remained strong, many political, business, and church leaders called for him to
resign. In Nov., 2000, Estrada was impeached by the house of representatives on
charges of graft, but the senate, controlled by Estrada’s allies, provoked a
crisis (Jan., 2001) when it rejected examining the president’s bank records. As
demonstrations against Estrada mounted and members of his cabinet resigned, the
supreme court stripped him of the presidency, and Vice
President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo was sworn in as Estrada’s successor.
Macapagal-Arroyo was elected president in her
own right in May, 2004, but the balloting was marred by violence and
irregularities as well as a tedious vote-counting process that was completed
six weeks after the election.
Source: The Columbia Encyclopedia,
Sixth Edition. 2001-05.