History of the Philippines

The Philippines, officially known as the Republic of the Philippines, is an island nation made of over 7,107 islands comprising the Philippine Archipelago, located in South-east Asia, with Manila as its capital city. The original inhabitants of the Philippines are said to have arrived from the Asian mainland around 25,000 B.C. The history of the Philippines gave us a clear picture from the time the first man landed on the island to the invasions of foreign rule till it got its freedom.

Early History

According to the theories suggested by the archeologists and paleontologists the Homo sapiens existed in Palawan about 50,000 BC. The history of the Philippines begins with the arrival of the first humans, the 'Negritos' who are believed to have migrated to the Philippines some 30,000 years ago from Borneo, Sumatra, and Malaya by land bridges. These people belonged to a primitive era of Malayan culture, which has apparently survived even today among certain groups such as the 'Igorots'. On 16th March, 1521 the first Europeans visited the Philippines led by the Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan. Expeditions by other Spanish explorers followed, including one from New Spain (Mexico) under López de Villalobos.

Spanish Control

The next 333 years saw the Spanish military fighting numerous local indigenous revolts and various external colonial challenges, especially from the British, Chinese, Dutch, French, Japanese, and the Portuguese. An important loss for Spain was the short-term occupation of the capital, Manila, by the British during the Seven Years' War. Many small independent communities that previously had known no central rule was established by the Spanish leadership and on 1571 the Spanish foothold in the Philippines was secure with there conquering of the Moro town in Manila.

In 1574 Manila revolted the attack of the Chinese pirate Limahong. Though Chinese trade and labor were of great importance in the early development of the Spanish colony, they later were feared and hated because of their increasing numbers. With the decline of the power of the Spanish Empire, the Philippine Revolution of April, 1896 began against the Spain, with a proclamation of independence and the establishment of the First Philippine Republic two years later.

Revolution, War, and U.S. Control

The rising sentiment for independence was in large measure brought by the opposition to the powers of the clergy. A propaganda movement, which was greatly inspired by the brilliant writings of José Rizal, then a student studying in Spain, soon developed on the Spanish mainland. To notify the government of the injustices of the administration in the Philippines as well as the abuses of the friars was the order of the day. With the execution of Rizal in December, 1896 the revolution spread throughout the major islands.

The Spanish-American War began in Cuba in 1898 and with the defeat of the Spanish squadron at Manila Bay it soon reached the Philippines. Aguinaldo was invited to return to the Philippines by the U.S. and after his return he was supplied with arms and urged to rally the Filipinos against the Spanish. The independence of the Philippines in Kawit was declared by Aguinaldo on 12th June, 1898, establishing the First Philippine Republic under Asia's first democratic constitution. The dreams of the Philippines were later crushed with the Treaty of Paris in 1898, which closed the Spanish-American War. This resulted in the Philippine-American War of 1899 between the United States and the Philippine revolutionaries which ended when Aguinaldo was captured by American troops with the struggle continuing until 1913.

The Commonwealth

In 1932 the Hare-Hawes Cutting Act was passed by Congress providing complete independence of the islands in 1945. The Bill was later opposed by Philippine Senate President Manuel L. Quezon and the next year a revised act, the Tydings-McDuffie Act was finally passed. The commonwealth was said to have its own constitution and be self-governing, though certain legislation required approval of the United States president. Finally on 1935 the country's status as a colony changed and it became the Commonwealth of the Philippines, which provided for more self-governance.

Over the next decade, plans for increasing independence were interrupted during World War II when Japan invaded and occupied the islands on 8th December, 1941. Manila was declared an open city to prevent its destruction and occupied by the Japanese on 2nd January, 1942. The puppet government gained little support and the people suffered greatly from Japanese brutality leading to their defeat in 1945. The Philippines achieved independence from the United States on 4th July, 1946.

The Republic of the Philippines and After

With its independence Manuel Roxas became the first president of the Republic of the Philippines. Since its inception the state faced political instability with various rebel groups. Marcos the then president, barred from seeking a third term declared the martial law on 21st September, 1972 and ruled the country by decree. In January 1986, Marcos allowed for a 'sudden' election, after large protests, believed to be a sham resulting in a standoff between military mutineers and the military loyalists. Corazon Aquino was the recognized winner of this election after which she called for a constitutional convention to draft a new constitution. Marcos with his family and allies fled to Hawaii.


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