What does our colonial history have anything to do with this site? Well, understanding our history could help anyone appreciate the culture and the diverse experiences the Philippines has to offer. It explains why Filipinos are predominantly Catholics while most of our South East Asian neighbors are Buddhists, Muslims, and Hindus. Why we speak English despite having over 170 local languages in the country.
The Philippine colonial history is often described as “300 years in a convent and 50 years in Hollywood,” which pertains to the Spanish occupation from 1521 to 1898 and the American occupation from 1898 to 1946. Less popular and sometimes forgotten are the British occupation from 1762 to 1764 and Japanese Occupation from 1941 to 1945 and those painful wars in between.
Here’s a brief overview of our history:
Pre-colonial period (1st to 14th centuries)
- Philippines consisted of autonomous social groups called “barangay” or “dulohan."
- Barangays are lead by Datus and they band together to form a larger settlement led by the more senior or respected among them called a Lakan, Sultan, Rajah, or simply a more senior Datu. Large coastal settlements served as progressive trading centers with the trading powers of Southeast Asia, including Malaysia, China, Thailand, Brunei, Vietnam, Japan and other Austronesian islands.
- 1300s – arrival and eventual spread of Islam in the southern port of the country.
Spanish Colonization (1521 to 1762)
- 1521 – The beginning of Hispanic colonization with the arrival of Ferdinand Magellan and his fleet in Homonhon, Eastern Samar
- 1543 – Spanish explorer Ruy López de Villalobos named the archipelago Las Islas Filipinas in honor of Philip II of Spain
- 1565 – The Philippines became part of the Spanish Empire. Catholicism was introduced and churches were built around the country.
British Colonization (1762 to 1764)
- 1762 – British forces occupied Manila in an extension of the Seven Years War.
- 1764 – The British occupation ended as part of the peace settlement of the war
Spanish Colonization (1764 to 1898)
- 1764 – Spanish rule was restored following the 1763 Treaty of Paris
- 1863 – The Spanish decreed the introduction of free public schooling and abolished slavery.
- 1872 – Execution of 3 priests Mariano Gómez, José Burgos, and Jacinto Zamora (collectively known as Gomburza) led to Propaganda Movement (members include Rizal, del Pilar, Ponce) that was a precursor to the Philippine Revolution
- 1892- Andres Bonifacio established the militant secret society called the Katipunan, who sought independence from Spain through armed revolt.
- 1896 – Rizal was executed; Bonifacio and the Katipunan started the Philippine Revolution.
- 1898 – Philippines was ceded by Spain to the United States alongside Puerto Rico and Guam as a result of the latter’s victory in the Spanish–American War. A compensation of US$20 million was paid to Spain according to the terms of the 1898 Treaty of Paris.
- July 12, 1898 – Aguinaldo declared Philippine independence from Spain in Kawit, Cavite; the First Philippine Republic was established in the Barasoain Church in the following year.
Philippine–American War (1898 to 1902)
- 1899 – The Philippine–American War – resulted when the First Philippine Republic objected to the terms of the Treaty of Paris under which the United States took possession of the Philippines from Spain.
- The war lasted for 3 years, 4 months and 4 weeks killing an estimated 250,000–1,000,000 Filipinos, most because of famine and disease; including 200,000 dead from cholera.
American Colonization (1902 to 1935)
- 1902 – Philippines was defeated and was administered under an American Insular Government.
- 1935 – the Philippines was granted Commonwealth status with Manuel Quezon as president. He designated a national language and introduced women’s suffrage and land reform.
Japanese Invasion (1941 to 1945)
- 1941 – Japanese invasion of the Philippines started on 8 December 1941, ten hours after the attack on Pearl Harbor.
- 1942 – S. surrender of the Bataan Peninsula resulted to the Bataan Death March where 76,000 starving and sick American and Filipino defenders were forced to march (estimated 7,000–10,000 died or were murdered).
- 2 September 1945 – Japan formally surrendered. Philippines had suffered great loss of life (estimated one million military and civilian Filipinos died) and tremendous physical destruction
- July 4, 1946 – the Philippines, was officially recognized by the United States as an independent nation through the Treaty of Manila. Olongapo (home to Subic Bay Naval Base) and its 9,000 Filipino residents remained under United States Navy administration.
- July 4 was chosen as the date by the United States because it corresponds to the United States’ Independence Day, and that day was observed in the Philippines as Independence Day until 1962.
- On August 4, 1964, Republic Act No. 4166 renamed July 4 holiday as “Philippine Republic Day", proclaimed June 12 as “Philippine Independence Day" in commemoration of the First Philippine republic’s declaration of Filipino’s inherent and inalienable right to freedom and independence.
Truth be told, we are angry at our history. We are angry at colonialism, invasion and the violence of war. We are angry at the people who came to our country, invaded our land, treated us as slaves, called us Indios and savages, executed our heroes and obliterated our way of life.
We are angry that foreigners who stole our land and freedom and bartered them as part of international Treaties and negotiations. We are angry that our forefathers were enslaved, tortured, killed, orphaned, raped and displaced in their own country. We are angry that we have been forced to fight wars for the sake of our freedom.
Yet, despite our anger, we don’t live in the past. We have come to embrace and appreciate history as part of our rich and diverse heritage.
Catholicism is considered the most significant legacy from Spain. Spain left more than 100 years ago but about 86% of Filipinos have remained Catholics. Today, there are more Catholics in the Philippines than in Spain.
The United States is credited with establishing and influencing our current educational system. English has remained an official language in school and in the government and about 92% of the population can speak English as a second language.
Most importantly, we haven’t let all these negative experiences strip away our innate friendship and hospitality. Filipino hospitality has been evident in pre-colonial Philippines and we have managed to preserve and continue this beautiful tradition.
Today, foreigners visiting the Philippines can expect our warmest welcome – with open arms and hearts.