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  Various historical evidences show that Philippines could have been inhabited for thousands of years. Native population of the archipelago (like Negritos and Aetos) had travelled through prehistoric lands, continental glaciers and settled down in the lush forests of the islands. Later, Austronezian speaking settlers from Sothern China came to the islands.   

Connections with Asia, Buddist kingdoms

  Chinese merchants came to the islands in the 8th century. Prosperity of powerful Buddist kingdoms stimulated trade with the countries of Indonesian archipelago and South-East Asia, as well as with India and Japan, however constant wars (internicine and with foreign invaders) soon weakened them, thus strengthening influence of other countries.

Meanwhile, spread of Islam through trade and proselitism (just like the spread of Christianity) allowed to convert merchants and local inhabitants  into Muslim faith. In the 14th century Arabs arrived to Mindanao. By the time the first Europeans, under the command of Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan, arrived on the islands in 1521, Northern parts of the archipelago (the territory of contemporary Manila) had been ruled by rajahs, who, due to certain historical conditions, were paying homage to the countries of South-East Asia, namely to the kingdom of Srivijaya. But practically, already at that time Philippine islands were self-sufficient and had their own administration. 

Spanish invasion and colonization

  In 1521 first Spanish and Portuguese explorers arrived to the islands under the command of Ferdinand Magellan. 44 years later, on the 27th of April 1565, Spanish explorer Miguel López de Lagazpi with 400 soldiers landed on the island of Cebu and established the first Spanish settlement on the territory of Philippines.  

  Arrival of Spanish and defeat of Rajah Sulaiman II in Manila started 333 year long period of Spanish rule in the Philippines. In search for fortune, Spanish explorers were conquering island after island, establishing settlements and spreading Christianity. 

With the help of missionaries, Catholicism became the major religion of the islands; also Spanish laws, set by the King Philipp II had been spread. The only force which opposed Spanish rule were mountain tribes and Muslims (which continue fighting up to this day), even despite the fact that rebelions were taking place in the coastal areas throughout the folowing three centuries. They were aimed against harsh and oppressing Spanish colonial regime and absence of reforms. New territories were parts of New Spain (Mexico), which allowed to develop prosperous trade between Acapulco and Manila.

Etymology of the name “Philippines”

  In 1543, during his unsuccessful expedition, Ruy López de Villalobos named island Samar (or Leyte) “Philippine” in honour of Spanish king Philipp II. The archipelago was also known under such names as: New Castile, Islands of the West, Manila islands (the Manilas), Islands of st. Lazarus etc. Finally, all islands of the archipelago were referred to as the “Philippines”.

Spanish claims

  During colonial period locals never called themseves "Philippinos". Instead, they were called  Indios (Indians), or by the name of a corresponding ethno-linguistic group. Spanish rule was harsh and cruel, which lead to several rebellions. With the help of military power, Spanish government was suppressing rebellions in different regions by using ancient Roman strategy called  “Divide and Conquer”. For example, in a story by Diego Silang, local population of Makabebe and Pampanga was used as military force against the rebells of Ilocos.

  Serious claims towards Spanish rule took place in 1762, when Spain participated in Seven Years’ War (1756-1763) against Great Britain. In 1762, after a bloody battle, Manila was taken by British forces. According to the Treaty of Paris (1763), which meant the end of Seven Years’ War, the Philippines were given back to Spain. Defeat from British, however, strengthened the resistance of  Philippinian rebells (such as Diego Silang, who, in 1762 withdrew Spanish from a coastal city of Vigan). Being weakened by the Seven Years’ War and fighting with the rebells, Spanish were not able to defend Christian communities on the South of Luzon and Visayan islands from pirates. Thousands of Philippino Christians became slaves, while pirate attacks remained a serious problem throughout the whole 18th century. Chinese, being indignant of Spanish descrimination actively supported the British, supplying them with labour and military force.

Rizal, the Propaganda movement and revolution

  Local economy appeared only in the 19th century. Birth of ambitious Philippinian middle class, which consisted of educated Philippinos, also of local Spanish and Creole, Spanish Mestizos and rich Chinese community of Mestizos (who were ready to fight for the independance of their motherland all together)- meant an end of Spanish colonial domination. Being inspired by the Propaganda movement, which allowed people to know about injustice of Spanish colonial administration, they were claiming for independance. José Rizal (the most famous propagandist) was arrested and executed for subversion in 1896. Soon afterwards Philippinian revolution took place; it was lead by the society of “three K’s” (Kataastaasan at Kagalang Katipunan ng mga Anak ng Bayan) or Katipunan (secret revolutionary society, established by Andrés Bonifacio, and later lead by Emilio Aguinaldo). Finally, by 1898, rebells almost succeeded in withdrawing Spanish from the islands. 

American interference and later period

  In 1898 after the Spanish-American War, in accordance with the Treaty of Paris (1898), Spain gave Philippines, Cuba, Guam and Puerto-Rico to the USA for 20 million dollars. On the 12 of June 1901 Philippines proclamed its independance from Spain, with Emilio Aguinaldo as the President.


It lead to various wars with local rebells and revolution during Philippino-American war, which officially ended in 1901 (with separate battles continuing up to 1913). The Philippines (with their small government) became dependent territory of the USA, and only in 1935 they received the rights of an autonomy.  Practically, the Philippines received full independance only in 1946. 

  The following period was full of post-war problems. Civil unrest during the dictatorship of Ferdinand Marcos ended only in 1986.  Nowadays, there are still problems with communist mutanies and Muslim separatism.

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     Last modified: 2021 year, 05 of May, 17:47