A brief overview of the history of the Philippines
First habitation of humans in Philippine History is believed to have started more that 60,000 years ago. This is the earliest notification in history about people living in the Philippines.
In 2007, human remains were found and tested for their age. They appeared to be 67,000 years old.
The Callao man, as it was named, refers to fossilized remains discovered in Callao Cave, Peñablanca, Cagayan, Philippines in 2007 by Armand Salvador Mijares. Speculations are that Callao Man may be Homo sapiens or Homo floresiensis. In the same area bones of butchered animals were found: pigs, dear and cows, which means that they were butchering.
Not much is known of the period until the year 900 AD. Scientists are speculating how the present population came to the Philippines. But these first humans probably arrived by boats and rafts. Others say that the Philippines was connected to Asia’s main land at that time, and to the present Indonesia.
The earliest found written text in the Philippines is the so called Laguna Copperplate, and dates from 900 AD. The plate was found in 1989 by a laborer near the mouth of the Lumbang River in Wawa barangay, Lumban municipality, Laguna province. The inscription, written in a mix of the Old Malay language using the Old Kawi script, was first deciphered by Dutch anthropologist and Hanunó’o script expert Antoon Postma in 1992.
Read more about it at the Source: Wikipedia.
Philippines history would not be complete without mentioning the Spanish era.
In the 16th century, Spanish sailors and traders discovered the archipelago. Ferdinand Magellan, a Portuguese ship captain, hired by the Spanish Royals, was looking for a westward route to Indonesia known for it’s spices. It was March 16, 1521, when Magellan reached Homonhon island in the Philippines. He was the first European to reach the islands.
Several Spanish expeditions followed, but only the one led by Miguel Lopez de Legazpi in 1564 led to the colonisation of the archipelago. The whole archipelago was then named after the Spanish king Philip II.
The reason why the Spaniards could easily colonize the country was because there was no unity among the different tribes in the country, and there was no central government. So the Spaniards took their chance to get the country. But barangays however, were already functioning as units of government then.
The people of the Philippines were trading already with other ‘countries’ in the region like Indonesia, China, Japan, Cambodia and others. The Spanish took over this trade and Spain became one of the wealthiest countries because of it.
Spain reigned more than 3 centuries over the Philippines, until 1898. During this colonisational period, the Spanish brought Christianity in the Philippines. That’s the reason the Philippines has become the largest Catholic country in Asia.
1872 is the year when the Filipino revolution started, and a remarkable year in the history of the Philippines.
Jose Rizal, Graciano Lopez Jaena and Marcelo H. del Pilar were the most prominent members of the Propaganda Movement at that time.
Jose Rizal’s novels, Noli Me Tangere and El Filibusterismo, clearly depicted the sufferings of the Filipinos and the rampant abuses committed by the friars in the colony. Because of his criticisms of the government and the friars, Rizal made a lot of enemies. He was executed at Bagumbayan (later renamed Luneta Park and now called Rizal Park) on December 30, 1896.
The writings produced by the Propaganda Movement inspired Andres Bonifacio and other radicals to establish the Katipunan and set the Philippine Revolution in place.
In 1892, Jose Rizal (full name: Jose Protacio Mercado Rizal y Alonzo) returned to the Philippines and proposed the establishment of a civic organization called “La Liga Filipina” on July 3, 1892.
La Liga Filipina aimed to:
- Unite the whole country
- Protect and assist all members
- Fight violence and injustice
- Support education
- Study and implement reforms
La Liga Filipina had no intention of rising up in arms against the government; but the Spanish officials still felt threatened. On July 6, 1892 only three days after La Liga Filipina’s establishment, Jose Rizal was secretly arrested.
And Andres Bonifacio was one of those La Liga members who believed that the only way to achieve meaningful change was through a bloody revolution.
Bonifacio became convinced that the only way the Philippines could gain independence was through a revolution. He founded the “Katastaasang Kagalanggalangang Katipuanan ng mga Anak ng Bayan” (KKK) on July 7, 1892 in a house on Azcarraga street (now Claro M. Recto), in Tondo Manila. This is another important point in Philippine History.
The KKK members agreed on the following objectives:
- The political goal was to completely separate the Philippines from Spain after declaring the country’s independence.
- The moral goal was to teach the Filipinos good manners, cleanliness, hygiene, fine morals, and how to guard themselves against religious fanaticism.
- The civic goal was to encourage Filipinos to help themselves and to defend the poor oppressed.
Jose Rizal (living in exile in Dapitan, a small, secluded town in Zamboanga) never became involved in the organization and activities of the Katipunan. But the Katipuneros still looked up to him as a leader. In fact, Rizal’s name was used as a password among the society’s highest-ranking members, who were called bayani.
In July 1897, Aguinaldo established the Biak-na-Bato Republic and issued a proclamation stating the following demands:
- Expulsion of the friars and the return of the friar lands to the Filipinos
- Representation of the Philippines in the Spanish Cortes
- Freedom of the press and of religion
- Abolition of the government’s power to banish Filipinos
- Equality for all before the law.
United States Era
In 1898, the Americans helped Cuba to become independent from Spain. And the United States also had interest in the Philippines.
At that time, Assistant Secretary of the Navy, Theodore Roosevelt, wanted a war to erupt between the US and Spain so he could strengthen and expand the US Navy, he immediately put his plan into place. On February 25, 1896, he ordered Commodore George Dewey to make Hong Kong the headquarters of the American Asiatic Squadron. He also directed Dewey to attack Manila Bay and destroy the Spanish fleet, the moment hostilities between Spain and US break out.
Spain declared war on the United States on April 23, 1898. The United Sates declared war against Spain on April 25, 1898. On May 1, 1898, the United States Navy lead by Commodore George Dewey crushed the Spanish squadron in Manila Bay and the Spanish naval base at Sangley Point in Cavite. By June, 1898, the American had control of portions of the Philippine islands. The Spanish-American War ended with the Treaty of Paris signed on December 10, 1898. The treaty conferred ownership of the Spanish colonies of Guam, Puerto Rico and the Philippines to the United States. In turn, the U.S. paid Spain US$ 20 million.
Revolution against Spain
By June 1898, General Emilio Aguinaldo had captured the whole of Luzon and was ready to storm Manila with the help of Gregorio del Pilar, Artemio Recarte, Antonio Montenegro, Pantaleon Garcia, and many other able generals. At that time, the term “Manila” referred to the walled city of Intramuros. Aguinaldo’s men surrounded the walls of Intramuros. Nearby areas like Tondo, Sta. Cruz, San Juan, and Caloocan were likewise secured. The Spaniards stubbornly hoped for the arrival of reinforcements from the Spanish mainland, but none ever came. Aguinaldo on the other hand, was firmly convinced that it just was a matter of days before the Spaniards surrendered. Therefore, he started planning for the declaration of Philippine independence.
Emilio Aguinaldo agreed to hold a peace conference between Filipino and American leaders. The conference lasted from January 9 to 29 in 1899. It ended without definite results, because the Americans were actually just biding time, waiting for more reinforcements to arrive from the US. Hostilities finally exploded between the Filipinos and Americans on February 4, 1899 in San Juan. An American soldier named Robert Grayson, saw 4 armed Filipino men on San Juan Del Mote Bridge and ordered them to stop, but they ignored him. This prompted Grayson to fire at the men, who immediately fired back. The following day MacArthur ordered his troops to openly engage the Filipinos in battle. The Filipino American War was on. From San Juan, American soldiers marched on to Pasig and nearby areas. In a matter of days, they were able to overrun Guadalupe, Pateros, Marikina, and Caloocan.
Gen. Funston plotted the capture of Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo. On the night of March 6, 1901, He boarded the American warship Vicksburg and docked at Casiguran Bay on March 14. From Palanan Funston group reached Aguinaldo’s headquarters in Palanan on March 23, 1901. The Macabebe Scouts pretended to have been sent by Lacuna, with the American officials as their prisoners. Thus Aguinaldo have no idea of his impending capture until Tal Placido of the Macabebe Scouts embraced him. The Americans then declared the arrest of Aguinaldo and his men in the name of the United States government. Aguinaldo was brought to Manila and presented to then military Governor-General Arthur MacArthur, Jr. (father of General Douglas MacArthur) at Malacanang Palace. On April 19, 1901 he finally pledged allegiance to the United States.
And the Philippine Revolution Ends here.
General Wesley Merritt was the highest-ranking American official in the Philippines after Spaniards surrendered Manila on August 13, 1898. He established a military government and became the first American Military governor of the Philippines. The objectives of the Military government are: 1) to establish peace and order to the Philippines, and 2) to prepare Philippines for civil governance. The government in the Philippines can be classified into opposition and collaboration. The Americans used propaganda and other means to win the Filipinos to their side.
The first commission was chaired by Dr. Jacob G. Schurman, president of Cornell University. Thus it became known as the Schurman Commission. Their group arrived in the Philippines on February 4, 1899. The commission proposed the following:
- Establish civil governments in areas were peace and order had been restored
- Set up a bicameral legislature with members of the lower house to be all elective
- Appoint American and Filipino member of the Upper house to head the cabinet
- Preserve Philippine natural resources
- Create a civil service system
- Assign highly qualified Filipinos to important government positions
The US Congress adopted all the recommendation of the Schurman commission.
On March 16, 1900, United States President William McKinley appointed the then Judge William Howard Taft to head the second Philippine Commission. McKinley wanted to hasten the transition of the Philippine military government into a civil one. The Taft Commissions was given executive and legislative powers it could use to achieve the President’s objective.
The Commonwealth era is the 10 year transitional period in Philippine history from 1935 to 1945 in preparation for independence from the United States as provided for under the Philippine Independence Act or more popularly known as the Tydings-McDuffie Law. Manuel L. QuezonThe Commonwealth era was interrupted when the Japanese occupied the Philippines in January 2, 1942. The Commonwealth government, lead by Manuel L. Quezon and Sergio S. Osmeña went into exile in the U.S., Quezon died of tuberculosis while in exile and Osmeña took over as president. At the same time, the Japanese forces installed a puppet government in Manila headed by Jose P. Laurel as president. This government is known as the Second Philippine Republic. On October 20, 1944, the Allied forces led by Gen. Douglas MacArthur landed on the island of Leyte to liberate the Philippines from the Japanese. Japan formally surrendered in September 2, 1945.
After liberation, the Commonwealth government was restored. Congress convened in its first President Manuel A. Roxas of the Philippinesregular session on July 9, 1945. It was the first time the people’s representatives have assembled since their election on November 11, 1941. Manuel Roxas was elected Senate President, and Elpidio Quirino was chosen President Pro Tempore. Jose Zulueta was speaker of the house, while Prospero Sanidad became speaker pro Tempore. The first law of this congress, enacted as commonwealth act 672, organized the central bank of the Philippines. The commonwealth deal also tackled the issue of collaboration. In September 1945 the counter intelligence corps presented the people who were accused of having collaborated with, or given aid to, the Japanese. Included were prominent Filipinos who had been active in the puppet government that the Japanese had been established. ”A Peoples Court” was created to investigate and decide on the issue.
Amidst this sad state of affairs, the third commonwealth elections were held on April 23, 1946. Sergio Osmeña and Manuel Roxas vied for the Presidency. Roxas won thus becoming the last president of the Philippine Commonwealth. The Commonwealth era formally ended when the United States granted independence to the Philippines, as scheduled on July 4, 1946.
2nd world war
On December 8, 1941, Japan invaded the Philippines. Clark Air Base in Pampanga was first attacked and also Nichols Field outside Manila was attacked, then on December 22, The Japanese forces landed at the Lingayen Gulf and continued on to Manila. General Douglas MacArthur declared Manila an open city on the advice of commonwealth President Manuel L. Quezon to avoid its destruction. Manila was occupied by the Japanese on January 2, 1942. MacArthur retreated with his troops to Bataan while the commonwealth government withdrew to Corregidor island before proceeding to the United States. The joint American and Filipino soldiers in Bataan finally surrendered on April 9, 1942. MacArthur escaped to Corregidor then proceeded to Australia. The 76,000 captured soldiers were forced to embark on the infamous “Death March” to a prison camp more than 100 kilometers north. An estimated 10,000 prisoners died due to thirst, hunger and exhaustion.
The Second Republic
On September 20 1943, the KALIBAPI- under the leadership of its director general, Benigno Aquino Sr. held a party convention to elect 54 members of the National Assembly. The Assembly was actually made up of 108 members; but half of this number was composed of incumbent governors and city mayors. Jose P. Laurel was elected as president of the second republic (the first republic was Aguinldo’s Malolos Republic) and both Benigno Aquino Sr. & Ramon Avancena as a vice-presidents. The new republic was inaugurated on October 14 1943 on the front steps of the legislative building in Manila. The Philippine flag was hoisted as the national anthem was played. Meanwhile, the Japanese started using propaganda to gain the trust and confidence of Filipinos who refused to cooperate with them. They hung giant posters and distribute their materials that contains such slogans as “the Philippines belong to the Filipinos.” they also used newspapers, movies, and others to publicize the same idea. Promoting Japanese propaganda was one of the main objectives of the KALIBAPI, but still Japanese failed to gain the trust of the Filipinos.
After the Americans returned to the Philippines in 1944, the Japanese in Manila would not give up easily. In fact, it took 3 weeks of intense fighting before they finally surrendered on February 23. Gen. MacArthur continued to liberate other parts of the country. And finally proclaim general freedom from the Japanese on July 4, 1945.
Proclamation of Martial Law: On September 21, 1972, President Ferdinand E. Marcos placed the Philippines under Martial Law. The declaration issued under Proclamation 1081 suspended the civil rights and imposed military authority in the country. Marcos defended the declaration stressing the need for extra powers to quell the rising wave of violence allegedly caused by communists.
Thirty-thousand opposition figures including Senator Benigno Aquino, journalists, student and labor activists were detained at military compounds under the President’s command (Proclamation 1081 and Martial Law). The army and the Philippine Constabulary seized weapons and disbanded private armies controlled by prominent politicians and other influential figures (Proclamation 1081 and Martial Law). Marcos took control of the legislature and closed the Philippine Congress. Numerous media outfits were either closed down or operated under tight control. Marcos also allegedly funneled millions of the country’s money by placing some of his trusted supporters in strategic economic positions to channel resources to him. Experts call this the “crony capitalism.”
The deterioration of the political and economic condition in the Philippines triggered the decline of support on Marcos’ plans. More and more Filipinos took arms to dislodge the regime. Urban poor communities in the country’s capital were organized by the Philippine Ecumenical Council for Community and were soon conducting protest masses and prayer rallies. These efforts including the exposure of numerous human rights violations pushed Marcos to hold an election in 1978 and 1981 in an aim to stabilize the country’s chaotic condition. Marcos, in both events, won the election; however, his extended term as President of the Republic of the Philippines elicited an extensive opposition against his regime. Social unrest reached its height after former Senator Benigno Aquino was murdered. The incident sent thousands of Filipinos to the streets calling for Marcos’ removal from post. Turning again to his electoral strategy, Marcos held a snap election in 1986 but what he hoped will satisfy the masses only increased their determination to end his rule that seated Corazon Aquino, widow of Benigno Aquino, as President of the Philippines ousting Marcos from Malacañang Palace and ending the twenty-one years of tyrant rule.
EDSA People Power’s Revolution
The Philippines was praised worldwide in 1986, when the so-called bloodless revolution erupted, called EDSA People Power’s Revolution. February 25, 1986 marked a significant national event that has been engraved in the hearts and minds of every Filipino. This part of Philippine history gives us a strong sense of pride especially that other nations had attempted to emulate what we have shown the world of the true power of democracy.
The true empowerment of democracy was exhibited in EDSA by its successful efforts to oust a tyrant by a demonstration without tolerance for violence and bloodshed. Prayers and rosaries strengthened by faith were the only weapons that the Filipinos used to recover their freedom from President Ferdinand Marcos’s iron hands. The Epifanio de los Santos Avenue (EDSA) stretches 54 kilometers, where the peaceful demonstration was held on that fateful day. It was a day that gathered all Filipinos in unity with courage and faith to prevail democracy in the country. It was the power of the people, who assembled in EDSA, that restored the democratic Philippines, ending the oppressive Marcos regime. Hence, it came to be known as the EDSA People Power’s Revolution.
Fifth Republic (1986–Present Time)
And the rest of the history, many of us have personally experienced it in the last few decennia. No need to go in details about that.
As you understand, many other important facts have not been described here. It would be a too long story. I summarized just the most important history facts.