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Europeans first arrived in the Philippine Islands in 1521, when Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan first sighted the mountains of Leyte on 1521, claiming the lands for Spain, and naming them Islas de San Lazaro. The first Holy Mass in the Philippines was celebrated on March 31, 1521 on the shores of Masao, which is believed to be the present-day Butuan.

Ensuing the victories in attaining the friendship of various tribal groups living in the Visayas region, Magellan befriended Humabon, the king of Cebu and took special pride of converting many natives to Catholicism. However, he became involved with political issues and rivalries with other tribal groups and took part in a battle against Lapu-Lapu, a mortal enemy of Humabon. Magellan invaded Mactan Island with 49 soldiers and after several hours of fighting, Magellan was killed by Lapu-Lapu at the Battle of Mactan.

After the defeat, three of his ships, including the Concepción, Trinidad and Victoria and several remaining crew members managed to escape the battle and reached the Spice Islands of Indonesia. From there the Spaniards and Portuguese abandoned the Concepción and split into two groups.

The Trinidad, commanded by Gonzalo Gómez de Espinoza tried to sail eastward across the Pacific Ocean to the Isthmus of Panama. Diseases and a shipwreck disrupted Espinoza's voyage and most of its crew members died. Survivors of the Trinidad returned to the Spice Islands, where the Portuguese imprisoned them, while the Victoria continued sailing westward, commanded by Juan Sebastián Elcano, and managed to return to Sanlúcar de Barrameda, Spain in 1522.

In 1529, in the treaty of Zaragoza, Spain relinquished all claims to the Spice Islands (and westward) to Portugal. This treaty did not stop subsequent colonization from New Spain.

Subsequent expeditions were dispatched to the islands. Four expeditions were authorized: that of Loaisa (1525), Cabot (1526), Saavedra (1527), Villalobos (1542), and Legazpi (1564). In 1543, Ruy López de Villalobos named the territory Las Islas Felipinas after Philip II of Spain, during his failed expedition.
Colonization by Spain - Challenges to Spanish rule - Divide and conquer
Peaceful reformation - Emergence of a Filipino Consciousness and Identity

Colonization by Spain

On April 27, 1565, Spanish troops numbering a mere 500 soldiers invaded the archipelago and attacked the defiant Tupas, son of Humabon, and Tupas was made to sign an agreement after his defeat and effectively placing the Philippines under Spain.

On that same day, the first permanent Spanish settlement was founded by the Conquistadores, Miguel López de Legazpi in Cebu, which became the town of San Miguel. In 1570 the native city of Manila was conquered and declared a Spanish city the following year. When Legazpi decided to transfer his capital to Manila, Cebu receded into the backwaters as influence and power shifted north to Luzon and its wide expanse of fertile lands. The Spanish took control of the islands, which became their outpost as the Spanish East Indies. Until 1815, the Philippines were administered as a colony of New Spain (present day Mexico).

Spanish colonial rule brought Catholicism. One friar, Fr. Juan de Placencia wrote a Spanish-to-Tagalog Christian Doctrine 1593 which transliterated from Roman characters to Tagalog Baybayin characters; since most of the population of Manila could read and write Baybayin at one time, this effort probably helped the conversion to Christianity 3. Most of the islands, with the exception of Mindanao, which remained primarily Muslim, were converted. Muslims resisted the attempts of the Spanish to conquer the archipelago and this resulted in a lot of tension and violence which persists to the modern era.

In 1590, missionaries from the Society of Jesus, led by Fr. Antonio Sedeño, S.J., established the Colegio de Manila, which in 1623 became the Universidad de San Ignacio, the first pontifical and royal university in the Philippines and in Asia. In 1595, the Jesuits established the Colegio de San Idelfonso (since 1948 the University of San Carlos). In 1611 the Dominican friars founded the University of Santo Tomas in Manila, which currently has the oldest extant university charter among Philippine schools (after the San Ignacio closed in the 1770s following the Suppression of the Jesuits, who only returned in 1859).

The colonial period also saw the Spanish dominate the economy, focusing on the tobacco, as well as the Galleon Trade between Manila and Acapulco, Mexico. To avoid hostile powers, most trade between Spain and the Philippines was via the Pacific Ocean to Mexico (Manila to Acapulco), and then across the Caribbean Sea and Atlantic Ocean to Spain (Veracruz to Cádiz).

During Spain’s 333 year rule of the Philippines, there were more priests and missionaries rather than soldiers or civil servants in the country. The Spanish military had to fight off the ethnic Chinese pirates (who sometimes came to lay siege to Manila, the most famous of which was Limahong in 1574), Dutch forces, Portuguese forces, and rebelling natives. Moros from Mindanao and the Sulu Archipelago, in response to attacks on them from the Spanish and their native allies, raided the areas of Luzon and the Visayas that were under colonial control. They often sold their captives as slaves.

In the late 16th century, the Japanese, under Hideyoshi, claimed control of the Philippines and for a time the Spanish paid tribute to secure their trading routes and protect Jesuit missionaries in Japan.

Serious challenges to Spanish rule began in 1761, during Spain's involvement in the Seven Years' War. In 1762, colonial forces of the British East India Company captured Manila with a force of 13 ships and 6830 men, easily taking the Spanish garrison of 600, but made little effort to extend their control beyond the city. In accordance with the 1763 Treaty of Paris, the Philippines was returned to Spain. Defeat at the hands of British, however, inspired resistance from Filipino rebels such as Diego Silang, who in 1762 expelled the Spanish from the coastal city of Vigan. During the revolt led by Diego Silang, for instance, natives from Pampanga were used as soldiers against the rebellion in Ilocos. The government quelled uprisings from one region with natives from another, using the Roman military strategy Divide et impera.

Colonization by Spain - Challenges to Spanish rule - Divide and conquer
Peaceful reformation - Emergence of a Filipino Consciousness and Identity


Challenges to Spanish rule

In 1781, Governor José Basco y Vargas established the Economic Society of Friends of the Country and sought to make Philippines independent of New Spain. However, New Spain still managed to hang on to the Philippines until 1815, when the colony was put on hold due to the Mexican War of Independence. Mexico declared its independence from Spain in 1821 and the Spanish Crown took full control of the archipelago.

Commerce was tightly controlled by Spanish authorities until 1837 when Manila was made an open port. Some Philippine forces participated in Franco-Chinese War (1884-1885). In 1863, Queen Isabel II of Spain decreed the establishment of the public school system. Developments in and out of the country and the opening up of the Suez Canal in 1869, which helped cut travel time to Spain, brought new ideas to the Philippines. This prompted the rise of the ilustrados, or the Filipino upper middle class. Many young Filipinos were thus able to study in Europe.

The 1872 uprising, in Cavite, was notable since it had a large effect on the country. The Spanish subdued by executing three Filipino priests.

This execution further aggravated mass discontent and is said to have indirectly ignited the Philippine revolution and had a profound effect on Dr. Jose Rizal, the most famous of the propagandists. Historians generally agree that this execution marks the start of the Philippine Revolutionary Period.

The three priests:
Fr. Jose Burgos, Fr. Zamora, and Fr. Gomez
From the illustrados came a group of students who formed the Propaganda Movement. They did not wish separation from Spain, but did demand equality and political rights. They spoke out against the injustices of the colonial government, especially of the Catholic friars.

Although many Spanish friars protested abuses by the Spanish government and military, they themselves had committed many abuses and had utilized the government for their own means. Many Filipinos were enraged when friars blocked the ascent of highly trained Filipino clergy in the Catholic Church hierarchy. Vast lands were claimed as friar estates from landless farmers. There were also sexual abuses. 'Anak ni Padre Damaso' (Child of Father Damaso) has become a cliché to refer to an illegitimate child, especially that of a priest. It was in the light of these abuses also that the Philippine Independent Church was born in 1902.

Rizal used the words of Christ to further the movement: touch me not (John 20: 13-17); he was executed on December 30, 1896. Among the propagandists were Marcelo H. del Pilar, and Graciano Lopez Jaena, too. The propaganda movement created a unified Filipino identity overcoming linguistic and cultural differences across the diversified regions.

In 1892, Andres Bonifacio founded a revolutionary society called the Katipunan. By 1896, Filipinos were openly rebelling against the Spanish and the revolution was spreading throughout the islands. The Filipinos succeeded in taking almost all Philippine territory, except for Manila.

On June 2, 1899, the last Spanish garrison in the Philippines, located in Baler, Aurora, was pulled out, effectively ending nearly 400 years of Spanish hegemony in Asia. While the Philippines was understood to be the Spanish East Indies, the current King of Spain still uses the title 'King of the Spanish East Indies'.

Colonization by Spain - Challenges to Spanish rule - Divide and conquer
Peaceful reformation - Emergence of a Filipino Consciousness and Identity

Divide and conquer

During the Spanish colonial period, the concept of Filipino did not include the native Malay population, as they were commonly referred to at the time as indios. The natives themselves normally classified each-other tribally, for example as Ilocanos, Batangeños and Cebuanos. The Spanish military quelled uprisings from one region with natives from another, in accordance with Roman military principle, Divide et impera (Divide and Conquer).

For example, Diego Silang attempted to establish a native Ilocano nation but Spanish authorities enrolled natives from neighboring Macabebe, Pampanga as enforcers to help suppress the rebellion; alienating the natives from themselves as a result. The Spanish-based creole language Chavacano was developed at first as a pidgin language, as native workers could not communicate in their native languages.

Colonization by Spain - Challenges to Spanish rule - Divide and conquer
Peaceful reformation - Emergence of a Filipino Consciousness and Identity

Peaceful reformation

The Philippine revolution was precipitated by peaceful and organized demands for reforms by Filipino intellectuals called the illustrados. The Church was highly influential in governing the colonial Philippine society. Native Filipinos attempted to reform the Church hierarchy. The La liga Filipina did not even demand a separate government or republic. All possible means for peaceful reforms were exhausted. The colonial government further outraged Filipinos by executing the priests Gómez, Burgos and Zamora (shortened to GOMBURZA) and the illustrado prodigy, Jose Rizal.

The GOMBURZA's martyrdom and propaganda literature by Rizal and other ilustrados gradually formed a unified Filipino consciousness and identity. Natives from different regions started to interact and coordinate. For the first time, revolutionaries united against the Spaniards when the Katipunan revolutionary organization formed.

The Friarocracy, the power of religious orders, remained one of the great constants of Spanish colonial rule over the centuries. Even in the late 19th century, the friars of the Augustinian, Dominican, and Franciscan orders conducted many of the executive and control functions of local government. They were responsible for education and health measures, census and tax records, reporting on the character and behavior of individual villagers, supervising the selection of local police and town officers, and maintaining public morals and reporting incidences of sedition to the authorities.

Contrary to the principles of the church, they allegedly used information gained in confession to pinpoint troublemakers. Given the minuscule number of Spaniards living outside the capital even in the 19th century, the friars were regarded as indispensable instruments of Spanish rule that contemporary critics labeled a "friarocracy" (frialocracia).

Controversies over visitation and secularization were persistent themes in Philippine church history. Visitation involved the authority of the bishops of the church hierarchy to inspect and discipline the religious orders, a principle laid down in church law and practiced in most of the Catholic world.

The friars were successful in resisting the efforts of the archbishop of Manila to impose visitation; consequently, they operated without formal supervision except that of their own provincial or regional superiors. Secularization meant the replacement of the friars who came exclusively from Spain with Filipino priests ordained by the local bishop. This movement, again, was successfully resisted, as friars through the centuries kept up the argument, often couched in crude racial terms, that Filipino priests were too poorly qualified to take on parish duties.

Although church policy dictated that parishes of countries converted to Christianity be relinquished by the religious orders to indigenous diocesan priests, in 1870 only 181 of 792 parishes in the islands had Filipino priests. The national and racial dimensions of secularization meant that the issue became linked with broader demands for political reform.

Colonization by Spain - Challenges to Spanish rule - Divide and conquer
Peaceful reformation - Emergence of a Filipino Consciousness and Identity

Emergence of a Filipino Consciousness and Identity

The martyrdom of Gomburza, propaganda literature by the illustrados and literature of Jose Rizal gradually formed a unified Filipino consciousness and identity. Natives from different regions started to coordinate and interact with each other. For the first time, revolutionaries united against the Spaniards when the Katipunan was formed.

Colonization by Spain - Challenges to Spanish rule - Divide and conquer
Peaceful reformation - Emergence of a Filipino Consciousness and Identity


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