Philippine History


















It was believed that the early Filipinos came from “waves of migration”- Negritos, Indonesians and Malay. The Negritos or Aeta are believed to have migrated to the Philippines some 25,000 years ago from Borneo, Sumatra, and Malaya during the last glacial period. They are Australo-Melanesian people with dark skin and tight, curly brown hair. They are also distinctively small and short stature. They were once widespread throughout the Philippines but are now found only in the remote highland areas of Luzon, Palawan, Panay, Negros and Mindanao. Indonesians were the first immigrants to come by sea to the Philippines some 5,000 years ago. Today the Indonesian minority tribes are found in some interior parts of the country. They are the Apayaos, Ibanags,andf Kalingas of Northern Luzon; The Tagbanuas of Palawan; and the Bagobos, Manobos and Subanuns of Mindanao.

The Malayans followed in successive waves after the Indonesians about 2,000 years ago. This 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.

The migration of some Indonesians and Malay settlers to the Philippines contributed greatly to the development of Filipino Culture. The Malays who arrived in the country in ancient boats called balangays. The Malays brought with them a social life based on family and kinship. The basic unit of settlement was the barangay and ruled by a Datu.




Hindus from Asian mainland and nearby islands came to the Philippines as early as 900 A.D. Even though Hindus came to the Philippines, they never conquered the country, this is because the Hindu visitor to the Philippines came peacefully, and they were traders or foreign immigrants. Traces of Hindu culture are found in our religion, jobs, writing, language, custom and race.




The trading between China and the Philippines have started during the early T’ang period (A.D. 618-906).The system of trade between the Chinese and Filipinos is called barter. Like the Hindus, the early Chinese came to the Philippines to buy and sell only. In the 10th century A.D. more and more Chinese began settling in the country. Soon intermarriages took place between the early Filipinos and the Chinese traders. Among Asians, the Chinese exerted the widest influence over the Filipinos, influencing not only our economic activities but also our language, food, manner of dressing and values.


Through trading, the Arabs brought the spread of Islam in Sulu Archipelago. In 1380, the first Arab visitor named Mukdum came to Sulu from Mecca, Saudia Arabia. He spread Islam, the Muslim religion and built the first mosque at Simunul, Sulu. In 1450, another Arab missionary named Abu Bakr went to Jolo, married the princess of Jolo and founded the sultanate of Sulu. In 1475, an Arab trader named Kabungsuwan landed at Cotabato and conquered that valley. He also married the local princess and founded the sultanate of Maguindanao. From Mindanao, the religion of Islam spread to other places in the Visayas and Luzon. If the Spaniards had not come and spread Christianity, the Philippines would have become a Muslim country. However, the Spaniards did not succeed in completely removing the sultanates in Sulu, Cotabato and Lanao. The Muslim communities fought the Spaniards.




In the 13th century, there was already a flourishing trade between the Filipinos and Japanese. This resulted in the Japanese making some important contributions to Filipino culture, particularly on the economic aspects. Duck and fish breeding are now considered as the most important Japanese influence on Filipinos.




“The age of exploration and Colonization began in the 15th century when the Europeans began to explore and conquer new lands. European believed that the power of any country depended on how much wealth it had gathered and how many colonies it had conquered. The European monarchs thought that the fastest way to acquire power and wealth was through trade and colonization.”


Spanish Colonization of the Philippines

The west “discovered” the Philippines on March 16, 1521, when the Portuguese navigator and explorer Ferdinand Magellan headed the first Spanish expedition to the Philippines. They sighted the island of Homonhon, part of what is now Samar. He was welcomed by two Rajahs, Kolambu and Siagu. He named the islands the Archipelago of San Lazaro, erected a cross and claimed the lands for Spain. Friendship developed between the Rajas and a blood compact was entered into by Magellan and Rajah Kolambu. On March 31, 1521, the first Christian mass on Philippine soil was conducted at Limasawa.

A short time later he met an untimely death on the nearby island of Mactan. In a battle between Spanish soldiers and Lapu-Lapu’s (Datu of Mactan Island) warriors, Magellan was killed on April 27, 1521.

Four more expeditions followed between 1525 and 1542. The commander of the fourth expedition, Ruy Lopez de Villalobos, named the islands “Felipinas” in honor of Prince Philip heir to the Spanish throne (Philip II 1556-1598).

The Philippines was not formally organized as a Spanish colony until 1565 when King Philip II appointed Miguel Lopez de Legazpi, the first Governor-General. Legazpi, who established the first permanent Spanish settlement, in Cebu, in 1565 and later selected Manila for the capital of the colony in 1571 because of its fine natural harbour and the rich lands surrounding the city.

Spanish colonization moves were in full swing at the end of the 16th century. Captain Juan de Salcedo conquered the province in the island of Luzon one by one, from Manila then northward to Ilocos and down to Bicol. He also led the forces that stopped the invasion of Manila by a Chinese pirate Lim ah Hong.

For over 333 years, the Philippines was a crown colony of Spain. The foremost aim of Spanish colonization was to spread Christianity. This was attested by the last will and testament of Queen Isabella, by the Catholic spirit of the laws of the Indies, by the apostolic labors and achievements of missionaries and by the actual result of Spain’s more than 300 years of colonial work. Thus, Christianity was the greatest legacy of Spain.

The second aim of the Spanish colonizers was economic wealth. This aim rose from the keen struggle among European nations to control the right spice trade in the orient. Magellan and other navigators blazed their ways across the pacific to secure spices and oriental wares for the Spanish crown.

The third aim of Spanish colonization was political grandeur, by acquiring the Philippines, Spain emerged as a mighty empire whose frontier comprised both hemisphere.

The colonizing of the Philippines for Spain is carried out as much by Roman Catholic friars as by any state administration. Spanish rule has a lasting effects on Philippine society; the near universal conversion of the population to Roman Catholicism. Although under the direct order of Philip II that the conversion of the Philippines to Christianity was not to be accomplished by force, the monastic orders of the Augustinians, Dominicans, Franciscans, Recollects and Jesuits set to their missionary duties with purpose. Unable to extirpate the indigenous pagan beliefs by coercion and fear, Philippine Catholicism incorporates a deep substrate of native customs and ritual. But the Muslims of Mindanao and Sulu, whom the Spanish called Moros, were never completely subdued by Spain.

The Spanish hold on the Philippines first began to weaken in 1762 when the British briefly captured Manila during the Seven Years’ War. In support of the British invasion, the long persecuted Chinese merchant community rose in revolt against the Spanish authority. The Treaty of Paris returned Manila to Spain at the end of the War but with increasing diversion of the China trade to Britain and, even more importantly, with an irretrievable loss of prestige and respect in the eyes of its Filipino subjects.


The Struggle of Filipinos for Independence

“The Philippine Revolution began in 1896 and ended in 1901. At first, it was a war of independence against Spain. Later, it turned into war of independence against the United States, because the American imperialist replaced the Spaniards.”

The opening of the Suez Canal in 1869 cut travel time to Spain. Traveling to other countries exposed Filipinos of modern ideas of liberty. This prompted the rise of the ilustrados, an enlightened Filipino upper class, since many young Filipinos were able to study in Europe.

Enlightened by the Propaganda Movement to the injustices of the Spanish colonial government and the “frailocracy”, the ilustrados originally clamored for adequate representation to the Spanish Cortes and later for independence. José Rizal, the most celebrated intellectual and radical illustrado of the era, wrote the novels Noli Me Tangere and El Filibusterismo, which greatly inspired the movement for independence.

It became clear to the Filipinos that the peaceful campaign for reforms would not materialize. Although some reforms had been granted they were minor one. The abuses and injustices of the colonial leaders left the Filipinos with no alternative but to stage a different campaign – armed revolution and finally political separation from Spain. This campaign began when Bonifacio left La Liga Filipina and activated his secret revolutionary organizatio, the Kapitunan, a secret society whose primary purpose was that of overthrowing Spanish rule in the Philippines, was founded by Andrés Bonifacio who became its Supremo (leader).

The Philippine Revolution began in 1896. Rizal was arrested and imprisoned; he was implicated in the outbreak of the revolution and executed for treason in 1896. With the news of the discovery of the Katipunan, Bonifacio, Jacinto and the other top katipunan leaders escaped to the hills of Balintawak, north of Manila. A mass meeting of Katipuneros was conducted at the vicinity of the house of the son Melchora Aquino in Pugad Lawin in Balintawak. The final plan for revolution was discussed.

After heated arguments the Katipuneros who were in the meeting decided to begin the revolution. Bonifacio and the Katipuneros took out their cedula (certificates) as the symbol of the Filipino vassalage to Spain, and tore them to pieces at the same time shouting ” Long Live the Philippines ! Long Live Katipunan ! “this event recorded in history as the Cry of Pugaw Lawin or the Cry of Balinatawak.

Despite several uprisings against Spain, including the Katipunan, a revolutionary movement inspired by Dr. Jose Rizal and led by Andres Bonifacio, it was America that broke the Spaniard’s grip on the Philippines. Unfortunately, that began the nation’s second period of colonization. Once again there was resistance, this time led by Emilio Aguinaldo, but his rag-tag army was no match for Admiral Dewey’s forces. In 1901, with Aguinaldo’s capture, the Americans were entrenched.

The Philippines under American Regime


“Freedom was almost achieved by the Filipinos at the end of the 19th century. Success was almost at hand in breaking up the long chain of colonization. However, it was never expected that the Philippines would be placed yet again under another foreign rule. Before the dawn of the 20th century, The United states proved to be a strong force that would continue colonialism in the country.”

The Spanish-American war which started in Cuba, changed the history of the Philippines. On May 1, 1898, the Americans led by U.S. Navy Admiral George Dewey, attacked the Spanish Navy in Manila Bay, in participation of Emilio Aguinaldo who was urged by Admiral Dewey to return to the Philippines and once more lead the Filipinos in their fight for independence from the Spaniards, this time with the help of the United States. The Spaniards faced with defeat, the Philippines was ceded to the United States by Spain in 1898 after a payment of US$ 20 million to Spain in accordance with the “Treaty of Paris” ending the Spanish-American War.

Philippine- American War


“Many Filipinos expected that the United States will help in the fight for freedom. Unfortunately, the United States had a different aim. They also occupied the Philippines.”


On June 12, 1898, Filipinos led by Emilio Aguinaldo declared independence. This declaration was opposed by the U.S. who had plans of taking over the colony. In defiance of the United States, Aguinaldo established the First Philippine republic in 1899.

Armed confrontation between Filipino and American troops started on the night of February 4, 1899, after an American sentry on patrol shot and killed a Filipino soldier crossing the San Juan Bridge, in Sta. Mesa, Manila.

Despite Aguinaldo’s attempt to evade a full-scale war, the Americans went ahead with the hostilities. Aguinaldo had no other recourse but to declare war against the Americans. Defeated on the battlefield, the Filipinos turned to guerrilla warfare. On March 23, 1901, Aguinaldo was captured at Palanan, Isabela and declared allegiance to the United States.

The American Colonial Government

Civil government was established by the Americans in 1901, with William Howard Taft as the first American Governor-General of the Philippines. English was declared the official language, The Americans brought over their educational system. Public education was established. Six hundred American teachers were imported aboard the USS Thomas. Some measures of Filipino self-rule were allowed. Democracy is American’s claim as its greatest legacy to the Filipino people.

The U.S. passed the Jones Law in 1916 establishing an elected Filipino legislature with a House of representatives & Senate. In 1934, the Tydings-McDuffie Act was passed by the U.S. Congress, In 1935, the Philippines became an American commonwealth country and promised Philippine independence by 1946.The law also provided for the position of President of the Commonwealth of the Philippines. On the May 14, 1935 elections, Manuel L. Quezon won the position of President of the Philippine Commonwealth. The status quo ended with the Japanese Occupation.


World War II and the Japanese Invasion

War came unexpectedly to the Philippines, on December 8, 1941, Japan made a sneak attack on the Philippines, a few hours after attacking the Pearl harbor, the air and naval base of the United States in the Pacific. Japanese troops attacked the islands in many places and launched a pincer drive on Manila. Aerial bombardment was followed by landings of ground troops in Luzon. The defending Philippine and United States troops were under the command of General Douglas MacArthur.

While the forces of Gen. Douglas MacArthur retreated to Bataan, the Commonwealth government of President Quezon moved to Corregidor Island. Manila was declared an open city to prevent further destruction. After the fall of Bataan on April 9, 1942 and Corregidor, In March 1942, MacArthur & Quezon fled the country and by invitation of President Roosevelt, the Commonwealth government went into exile to Washington D.C. American and Filipino forces surrendered in May 6, 1942.

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 added 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),

In October 1944, Gen. MacArthur with President Sergio Osmeña (who assumed the presidency after Quezon died on August 1, 1944 in exile in Saranac Lake, New York) returned and liberated the Philippines from the Japanese.


Independent Philippines and the Third Republic

In April 1946, elections were held. Despite the fact that the Democratic Alliance won the election, they were not allowed to take their seats under the pretext that force had been used to manipulate the elections. The United States withdrew its sovereignty over the Philippines on July 4, 1946, as scheduled.

Manuel Roxas (Liberal Party), having been inaugurated as President as scheduled, on July 4, 1946 before the granting of independence, strengthened political and economic ties with the United States in the controversial Philippine-US Trade Act, In Mar., 1947, the Philippines and the United States signed a military assistance pact (since renewed) which allowed the US to participate equally in the exploitation of the country’s natural resources—and rented sites for 23 military bases to the US for 99 years (a later agreement reduced the period to 25 years beginning 1967). These bases would later be used to launch operations in the areas of Korea, China, Vietnam, and Indonesia.




  • In 1965, Diosdado Macapagal ran for reelection but was defeated by former party-mate, Senate President Ferdinand E. Marcos
  • In 1972 Philippine president Ferdinand Marcos declares martial law in response to an alleged ‘Communist rebellion’ and assumes near-dictatorial powers. (September 21).
  • In 1978, The first formal elections since 1969 for an interim Batasang Pambansa (National Assembly) were held in order to settle the Catholic Church before the visit of Pope John Paul II.
  • In 1981, Marcos officially lifted the Martial Law after 8 years, However, he retained much of the government’s power for arrest and detention.
  • In 1983 Former Philippine senator & opposition leader Benigno “Ninoy” S. Aquino, Jr., was assassinated at the Manila International Airport upon his return to the Philippines after a long period of exile, by an unknown gunman who is himself immediately shot dead.
  • In 1982-85, assassination of “Ninoy Aquino” encouraged a new and more powerful wave of anti-Marcos dissent. This amalgamated popular dissatisfaction with Marcos and began a succession of events, including pressure from the United States that ended in a snap presidential election
  • In 1986,( February) snap presidential election was held, 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.
  • People Power was held, Marcos’s domestic and international support battered and he fled the country on Feb. 25, 1986, finally obtaining refuge in the United States.
  • A peaceful civilian-military uprising forced Marcos into exile and installed Corazon Aquino as president on 25 February 1986.
  • 1986-1992 Corazon Aquino’s statement into power marked the restoration of democracy in the country. She immediately formed a government to normalize the situation, and provided for a transitional constitution.
  • In 1991, The Philippine Senate discarded a treaty that would have allowed a 10-year extension of the U.S. military bases in the country. The United States turned over Clark Air Base in Pampanga to the government in November, and Subic Bay Naval Base in Zambales in December 1992, ending almost a century of U.S. military presence in the Philippines.
  • Mount Pinatubo on Luzon in the Philippines erupts in beginning of June, caking fields, roads, and vehicles with talc-like gray ash, closing airports, and forcing evacuation of 20,000 Americans from Clark Air Base and Subic Bay Naval Station.
  • In the 1992 elections, Defense Secretary Fidel V. Ramos (Lakas-NUCD), authorized by Aquino, won the presidency with just 23.6% of the vote in a field of seven candidates. 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.
  • In 1998 election, Vice President Joseph Estrada, a former movie actor, was elected to the presidency with a landslide victory. Pledging to help the poor and develop the agricultural sector. Under the cloud of the Asian financial crisis which began in 1997, Estrada’s wayward governance took a heavy toll on the economy. Unemployment worsened, the budget deficit grew, the currency fell. Eventually, the economy recovered but at a much slower pace than its Asian neighbors.
  • In 2000, Estrada Legislature impeaches Estrada on corruption charges. Public outrage over corruption allegations forces Estrada to step down.
  • In 2001 January, the Supreme Court declared the presidency vacant and swore in Vice President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo as the country’s fourteenth President.
  • In 2004, Arroyo was elected to a full six-year term
  • In 2010, Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino was elected President of the Philippines.