History of the Philippines

From Roses, Tulips, & Liberty

Premodern history

Contemporary with Confucius' lifetime, the Philippines developed its initial indigenous mercantile and tribal cultures. Contact with various Hindu-Buddhist empires, such as the Pallava and Langkasoeka, paved the way for the establishment of sovereign Philippine states influenced by Indian, Islamic, and Malay cultures during the medieval period. Philippine states such as Manilla, Chinese-influenced Kaboloan, Hindu Cebu, and Islamic Ternate flourished during the precolonial period. Barangays formed the basic unit of several states. Commerce and conflict with China, Japan, the Caliphates, Champa, India, Java-based empires like the Madjahapit, and others continued uninterrupted for centuries.

A map depicting the kingdoms of the precolonial Philippines, excluding Papua and Maluku del Norte.

By the mid-15th century, Islam was established in Mindanao, the kingdoms of Ternate and Tidore, Borneo, and barangays along the coast of Luzon. Emigrants from Malacca, the Middle East, and Champa settled in Mindanao, consolidating the presence of Islam and Indic civilization. In the same time frame, the Ming dynasty had accepted Kaboloan and the city of Bigan as tribute states.

Luzones, aristocrats and merchants from the kingdoms of Luzon, were heavily involved in trade and politics across the region. They participated in a Burmese war against Siam and established commercial relations with the freshly conquered Portuguese stronghold of Malacca.

Captaincy period (1565–1856)

The exploratory period (1521-1565)

In the early 16th century, the Bruneian empire and its allies, most notably the kingdom of Manilla, attacked various Luzonese states, such as the Tondo empire and the Madya confederation. In 1512, a decade before the Spanish, the Portuguese made contact with the sultanates and kingdoms of the modern Philippines,

In 1521, Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan arrived in the area, claiming the islands for Spain and beginning the three century-long colonial era. Magellan was killed the same year in the Battle of Mactan and was subsequently betrayed by Raja Humabon of Cebu. After many failed expeditions, noted explorer Villalobos was successful in 1543. For the next two decades, the Spanish would spend their time preparing masses of soldiers and missionaries in order to conquer the Philippine islands.

Early Captaincy period (1565-1661)

Miguel López de Legazpi arrived from Mexico in 1565, establishing the first Spanish settlement in the modern-day Philippines. By 1571, the Spanish had defeated the monarch of Manilla, Rajah Sulayman, and other local rulers in the Battle of Bangkusay. Three years later, the Captaincy-General was formed with its capital in Manilla as a subordinate of New Spain, which would govern Spain's colonial possessions in the area for centuries. The Spanish began to invade several local states by employing the principle of divide and conquer, bringing most of what is now the Philippines into a more or less unified administration. Disparate barangays were deliberately consolidated into towns, where Catholic missionaries were able to convert the inhabitants. The Manilla Galleons began, conducting consistent trade between the Americas and the Philippines. Several pirate raids and local insurgencies against the Spanish plagued the colonial government.

Wars with Brunei and Kampuchea

Spain declared war against Brunei in 1578 for refusing missionaries and diplomatic relations. Two Bruneian princes, Prince Lela and Prince Ratna, collaborated with the Spanish. While the Captaincy was not able to depose the Sultan of Brunei and install Prince Lela as the new Sultan, they successfully ended Bruneian influence in Luzon. Regular relations between Spain and Brunei commenced a few years later, and the Spanish began to focus on defeating the Sulu.

Over a decade later, the Spaniards of the Philippines decided to conquer Kampuchea. Joined by Japanese Christian mercenaries, they eventually failed, with Kampuchea coming under the influence of Siam not long after.

The Tondo Conspiracy

In 1587, the aristocracy of Tondo and other Barangays plotted to overthrow the colonial occupation. Rajah Agustin of Tondo, nephew of Sulayman, employed the help of his father-in-law the Sultan of Brunei, Japanese pirates, and various Luzonese principalities. Antonio Surabao, a member of the anti-Spanish clique, betrayed them. Raja Agustin was executed along with others, and several Filipinos were exiled to Mexico.

Influence of religious orders

In 1581, the Jesuits arrived in the Philippines. They were influential, most notably by pressuring the Captaincy to ban the enslavement of Filipinos.

In the Muslim empires of the south

In the mid-1520s, the Spanish began a tense alliance with the sultan of Tidore. By the 1530s, the Portuguese had established political influence over the neighbouring empire of Ternate and had acquired the strategic island of Amboina by 1550. In 1551, the rival state of Jailolo was annexed by Ternate. However, Europeans were expelled in the 1570s. Sultan Saidi was deposed and deported to Manilla in 1606, defeated by a military composed of Spanish and Boholians; prior to colonisation, the state of Dapitan and Ternate had been enemies. With the Portuguese expelled, the Spanish were the dominant European force in Maluku del Norte for six decades.

The Dutch established an alliance with the Ternatians in 1607, eventually assisting them in expelling the Ternateños - the Spanish creole ruling class - in 1663. In 1683, Ternate lost its sovereignty when it was made a vassal of the Dutch. The Ternateños and Spanish rule would not return for two centuries until 1855, when the Captiancy-General of the Philippines reacquired the territories of the empires of Ternate and Tidore.

In the late 1500s, the Spanish began attacking the sultanates of Sulu, Lanao, and Maguindanao. In response, Moro pirates conducted raids in Spanish settlements. In 1646, the Sulu signed a treaty with the Spanish, agreeing to effectively become a vassal. However, the Sulu and the Dutch had managed to cause the Spanish to evacuate their forts in Zamboanga and the Sulu islands in the 1660s. The colonial holdings in Zamboanga and Sulu were not re-established until the 1710s.

The Chinese and Japanese

Late Captaincy period (1661-1755)

During this period, five major revolts were put down by the Spanish. Numerous wars against the Moros, other Europeans, and pirates weakened the colonial administration and placed financial strain upon the Captaincy.

Racial and immigration policies

The government encouraged the immigration and conscription of Peruvians, Mexicans, and Japanese & Chinese Catholics. This was particularly true in Zamboanga and other frontier provinces, where Spain intensified the settlement of these peoples in order to form a bulwark against the Muslim sultanates, the Badjaus, and pirates.

Great Silesian War

Late colonial period (1755-1856)

Philippine acquisition of Papua

In 1811, the Captaincy of the Philippines seized western Papua from the Dutch-aligned sultanate of Tidore during the Augustine Wars, a period of incapacitation for the Dutch. Between 1811 and 1860, they slowly expanded their holdings in northern Papua, building on the centuries-old Tidorese imperial administration. In the 1830s, the Jesuits began Christianizing the population of coastal Papua as they had done in the Philippines centuries prior. Fearing British encroachment and communard influence, the Spanish started to impose stricter colonial policies on Papua in the 1870s.

Handover of Maluku del Norte

After war with the Dutch, the Moluccas - centred on the island of Halmahera - were ceded to the Spanish. The Ternateños, the creole ruling class of the Spanish Moluccas two centuries prior, returned to Halmahera. They became the primary colonial admins of the newly established, semi-autonomous Captaincy of the Moluccas, with its capital and largest city being Ternate.

Early Viceregal period (1856-1897)

Administrative reform

Administration of the Philippine islands were considered a drain on the economy of Spain and New Spain by the mid-19th century. However, this perspective would change when the Philippines was officially separated from New Spain and was promoted to a Viceroyalty in 1856.

Philippine trade and migration

In the 19th century, Philippine ports were increasingly opened to world trade and its economy modernised. With the fall of the Spanish monarchy in the 1870s, the Philippines were able to push harder for economic change then they ever were before.

Mexico and the Galleons

After Mexican independence in the early 1880s, New Spain was abolished and the antiquated Manilla Galleons were ceased. In 1886, the Philippines and independent Mexico established diplomatic and commercial relations.

Relations with the rest of Latin America

Societal changes

National identity

Prior to the 19th Century, the term Filipino only applied to the Spanish Colonialists residing in the islands, while the natives were only referred to as Indios. Eventually, the term started to apply to the natives themselves to distinguish them from their Latin-American counterparts. This change in definition directly led to the creation of a Philippine National Identity, and would allow future revolutions to use this concept as a banner to unite upon.

Linguistic reality

Unlike their Latin-American counterparts, Spain did not fully spread the use of Spanish in the islands outside of official documents and businesses. Instead, they learned the local dialects to teach Christianity instead. This resulted to most of the populace still speaking in their native tongue, while only the Spanish and the Native elites are the ones speaking Spanish.

First Republican revolt

Philippine revolutionaries were inspired after the Communard Revolutions overthrew the Habsburg monarchy and triggered the independence of Mexico and Peru. Crisostomo Ibarra, a Filipino ilustrado and an activist in Spain, publishes No me toques (1887) and El Filibusterismo (1891) criticizing the declining Spanish rule in the Philippines. These books were deemed heretical by the Archbishop of Manila, especially after the breakaway and Independence of Mexico a few years prior. Ibarra would return to the Manila in 1892, only to be exiled to Northern Mindanao. Ibarra books would eventually lay the groundwork for revolution, as Tagalog Revolutionary Mayo Pag-Asa would use these books, the Communard Revolution, and Mexico's War of Independence as his inspirations for the creation of the revolutionary organization Kataastaasan, Kagalanggalangang Katipunan ng mga Anak ng Bayan, simply known as the Katipunan. Balderama Jacinto, the Katipunan's vice supremo, would reach out to the Corean and Mexican Governments for funding and support which would be granted to them by 1895, allowing them to spread out not only in the Philippine Islands but also throughout the Moluccas, Papua, and even Vietnam. However, the Katipunan was far from being fully ready, and when the organization was exposed the following year by a disgruntled member, Mayo launches his revolt, attacking the town of San Juan Del Monte and seizing it from Spanish Forces. The provinces of Batangas, Bulacan, Cavite, Manila, Morong, Laguna, Nueva Ecija, Pampanga and Tarlac would follow suit in Mayo's revolution. Mayo's own campaign would be cut short in only a week, however, as after a disastrous defeat in Laguna he would be captured by Spanish loyalists and executed. With his death, Jacinto would take the reigns of the revolution.

Treaty of Malolos

With Spain now beginning to gain the upper hand, the revolutionaries would agree to a ceasefire. In 1898, the Treaty of Malolos brought about the voluntary exile of the revolutionary leadership to China with allowances from the Spanish Government under the agreement that Spain would introduce the reforms the revolutionaries listed, but when Spain failed to implement the reforms, the remaining Katipunan loyalists in Pangasinan, Ilocos, Morong, Negros, Panay, Bicol and Cebu would continue fighting the Spanish with Jacinto using Spain's own allowance to buy more arms for the revolution. The fight would drag on until 1916, when the last republican revolutionaries were finally captured and executed. Despite the Treaty and the imperialist victory, these revolts would indirectly pressure the Spanish to democratize their rule, leading to Philippine independence not long after.

Emigration and effect on trade

Late Viceregal period (1897-1935)

Post-insurgency crises

Las Filipinas Bill of 1902

The Spanish Viceroyalty passes the Las Filipinas Bill of 1902, which passed several liberal reforms in an attempt to prevent another large scale revolt.

The 1903 Moro rebellion

The sultanates of Sulu and Maguindanao declare independence in 1903, attacking Spanish forts in Jolo and Basilan. Sultan Mamaku of Maguindanao launches several offensives in the Kutabato region in an attempt to regain lost territories.

A Spanish naval counterattack on Jolo and the subsequent victory of Spanish forces in Basilan forces the Sulu sultan to negotiate. The Treaty of Jolo effectively makes the Sultan of Sulu a figurehead, abolishing the administrative authorities of the sultanate and creating the Governate of Sulu. In 1905, Maguindanaon forces are defeated by the Southern Expeditionary Force in the Siege of Dansalan. After a few months, Kutabato would be besieged and captured by the Spanish, with Sultan Mamaku being executed shortly after and his sultanate suffering the same fate as Sulu.

The First Assembly

Spain would permit the convention of the First Philippine Assembly in 1912. In 1924, the exiled Katipunan leadership would be invited back to the Philippines. This brazen act caused the Spanish government to pass the Edict of 1925, restricting the powers of the Assembly.

After Spain's loss in the Everglades War, the pro-independence leader Balderama Jacinto pushed for the Philippines' sovereignty in 1929. An aggressive move put forth by the Assembly forced Spain to agree to a legislative referendum and independence talks in 1930. The Philippine Assembly voted for independence in a landslide victory, with only a handful of politicians still pledging loyalty to the Spanish government.

A national identity

Cultural developments strengthened the continuing development of a national identity, and Tagalog began to take precedence over other local languages. 

Commonwealth period (1931-1935)

In 1930 a new Constitution for the Philippines would be drafted by elected representatives, mainly those from the Federal-Democratic faction that split from the original Nacionalistas in 1928. It would be narrowly approved by the Spanish Parliament in 1931.

The same year, the Philippines became a 'commonwealth', with Manuel Osmena as president and Sergio Quezon as vice president. Osmena marketed himself as a leader who would focus on defence, resolving inequality, and economic diversification. Spanish was declared the official language, with the lingua franca Chabacano (officially named la lengua filipina), Tagalog, and Cebuano recognized as national languages.

Treaty of Manilla

In June 12, 1935, the Philippines would finally be officially recognized by Spain as an independent nation with the Treaty of Manila.

Ibarraist period (1935-)

Ascendancy of the Ibarraist Party

Expansionism in Borneo

With British support, the Philippines would gain the Bornean territory of Api-Api from France. There was pressure to invade the entirety of French Borneo, a proposal which was ultimately declined.

Administrative reform

The Philippines officially gained independence from Spain. In order to address the issues of inefficient governance in several territories, President Osmena announces the Integrated Reorganization Plan which seeks to redraw the administrative borders of the Philippines. Several proposals would be drawn by lawmakers, with Esteban Garcia’s proposal ultimately being chosen by the Philippine Congress in 1938. Notably, the Garcian Proposal called for an enlarged indigenous-majority state in northern Luzon that encompasses the entirety of the Cordilleras.

First phase

The first phase of the reorganization begins, leading to the creation of the following states; Cagayan Valley, Central Tagalog, Southern Tagalog, Bicolandia, and Paragua. The sub-provinces of Benguet and Nueva Vizcaya are annexed to the Autonomous State of Igorotes. This led to the galvanization of the tribal groups of Luzon, now united under the Communard-inspired Alianza de Liberación Indígena. A few weeks before the end of the Great War, the Philippines would declare war on France over disputed territories in Borneo.

Second phase

The states of Agusan, Davao, Cotabato, Koronadal, and Bukidnon are created, with the latter made for the indigenous Lumad tribes in Mindanao. The Moros, faced with these reforms, accused the federal administration of trying to assimilate and Christianize the Moros. In response, President Osmena insists that the majority Muslim states of Cotabato and Koronadal would be sufficient for the Moro people to retain their culture.

Forced relocation and the La Montanosa massacres