Philippines History: From Magellan’s Discovery to Independence

By | October 27, 2021

Although the Portuguese had already landed in Mindanao, the discoverer of the Philippines is considered Magellan, who arrived there from the east during the first voyage of circumnavigation of the globe (March 16, 1521) and called them “islands of San Lazzaro”. In 1542 Ruy López de Villalobos landed in Mindanao and Leyte and baptized them “Philippines” in honor of the crown prince of Spain, the future Philip II (the name was later extended to the whole archipelago). The real conqueror of the Philippines, however, was Miguel López de Legazpi, who came from Mexico, who fixed the capital in Manila (1570) and ruled until 1571 with the title of adelantado. His successors, and in particular Juan de Salcedo (known as the Hernán Cortés of the Philippines), Guido de Lavezaris, Francisco de Sande, Gonzálo Ronquillo and others, consolidated the conquest, not without sporadic indigenous resistance (the igorot of the northern mountainous region and the mindanao Islamic groups were never colonized). At the same time, Augustinians, Franciscans, Jesuits and Dominicans carried out a vigorous evangelizing action. The enormous distance from Spain (with which contacts took place only via Mexico) and the frequent fights against Chinese and Muslim pirates, as well as against irreducible European enemies and competitors (British and Dutch in the first place), often put the Spanish rule in the sec. XVII, so much so that at the time of Philip IV it was even thought of abandoning the islands. Manila, however, also experienced moments of economic flourishing, as a sorting center for Chinese and Japanese products (silk, spices, ivories, etc.), which arrived in Europe via the famous “Acapulco ship”.

According to usprivateschoolsfinder, progress was accentuated in the second half of the century. XVIII, with the establishment of direct contacts with Spain, via Cape of Good Hope, and governors of “enlightened” ideas such as José Basco (1778-87) introduced modern methods in agriculture and favored – with the decisive contribution of the Royal Company of Philippines, created by Charles III in 1785 and operating until 1834 – the export of tobacco, cotton, rice, sugar, pepper, cinnamon etc. Even the liberalization of trade, although limited, contributed to the enhancement of the islands. In the sec. XIX, while economic progress continued, the spread of liberal and independence ideas caused increasingly harsh repression by the Spanish generals (Oraa, Primo de Rivera and Izquierdo) who had various patriots shot, including, in 1896, José Rizal, rightly considered the father of national independence. As a consequence of this, a great revolt of the Tagali, led by Emilio Aguinaldo and supported by the United States, it broke out coinciding with the war between the latter and Spain. Defeated by sea at Cavite (1898), Spain had to cede the Philippines to the United States, by virtue of the peace treaty signed in Paris on December 10, 1898. While the debate was taking place in the Washington Senate which was to end on February 6, 1899 with the ratification of the same treaty, the situation in the islands quickly deteriorated. The Filipino patriots, who rose to gain full independence, were in fact facing the danger of de facto annexation to the United States. Thus, after the proclamation of independence from Spain (June 12, 1898), the revolutionary assembly drafted a Constitution, which was promulgated on January 23, 1899, while Aguinaldo was elected president of the Republic. On February 4, hostilities broke out in Manila between the Americans and the Filipinos surrounding the city; on February 6, Aguinaldo declared war on the United States. The war turned in favor of the Americans, McKinley had appointed (April 1900) WH Taft to head a Civil Commission for the Government of the Philippines. A series of governors general succeeded Taft from 1904, under whom the predominantly economic interests of the United States were cared for. A limited form of internal self-government was granted to the Philippines (a first Legislative Assembly was inaugurated in 1907), but only with the first presidency of FD Roosevelt the independence movement found a response in Washington.

A law of the American Congress, signed by Roosevelt in March 1934 and ratified by the Philippine Assembly on the following May 1, established that the Philippines would become independent in 1946, assuming in the transitional period the figure of a Commonwealth linked to the United States. In 1935 the Constitution was passed and the same year M. Quezon was elected president. Taken from the United States by Japanese aggression, the Philippines suffered three years of harsh occupation, until they were liberated in the last year of the war of the Battle of the Philippines. Washington kept the commitment to grant independence in 1946 and M. Roxas he was the first president of the Republic. The Manila government entered the American orbit (1947 Military Assistance Pact, 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty, renewed and modified in 1958, participation in SEATO, sending a contingent to Vietnam) and remained rigidly anti-communist. Initially the situation was exacerbated by the guerrillas led, since the end of 1949, by the so-called hukbalahap movement, which had first fought against the Japanese occupier and was now trying to obtain by force the indispensable social reforms, but impossible to obtain legally..

Philippines History