of the Philippines
Many groups of people are believed to have reached the
Philippines by crossing a land bridge that is no longer in existence.
From about 7000 BC to 2000 BC, larger groups of people from present-day China
and Vietnam arrived in the Philippines. It is believed that the largest
migration to the islands occurred after the 3rd century BC.
The Indonesian and Malay archipelagos are where the latest arrivals to the
Philippines originated. Seafaring skills, along with iron tools and
technologies (including glassmaking and weaving) were brought with these
With the diverse mixture of cultures a new civilization emerged by the 5th
century AD. There were influences from other countries as
well, primarily the Middle East, India and China, bringing economic and social
Islam spread throughout the southern parts of the Philippines during the 14th
century, thus becoming firmly entrenched there. The 15th century brought
about trade with merchants from the Chinese Ming Dynasty.
Ferdinand Magellan, a Portuguese navigator for Spain, arrived in the
Philippines in March 1521. A national hero was made when Magellan was
killed in a skirmish the next month over paying tribute. Chief Lapu-Lapu
of Mactan resisted Magellan's demands for payment of a tribute and successfully
defended his island against the Spanish.
There were disputes between Portugal and Spain over possession of the
Philippines. The "possession" went back and forth between the
countries until King Philip of Spain also became king of Portugal in 1580.
Other countries wanted a foothold in the Philippines and during the 16th
century there were attempts to achieve this goal in part by the English and
The Filipinos wanted independence and to self rule. Jose
doctor, founded the Philippine League, a secret society. He was critical
of Spanish repression and in writing about it he stirred the anger of the
Spanish colonial authorities. As a result of this writings he was executed
in 1896, thus making him a martyr for the Filipinos. A direct result of
his death was the desire to establish independence by open revolt with the
Katipunan (Tagalog for association). When the insurrectionists were
discovered in 1896, they could no longer hide their activity so they began armed
hostilities. Although they were initially successful, Spanish
reinforcements soon weakened the revolutionary forces. But soon other
forces were to be reckoned with over seas and in the Philippines.
In April 1898, the Spanish-American War began and shortly thereafter, the
Americans were on Philippine soil after destroying the Spanish fleet in Manila
Bay. Aguinaldo, the chief of the rebel forces, returned to the Philippines
after his exile to Hong Kong with the help of the United States. He
resumed command of the Philippine revolutionary army and in July that same year,
was able to establish a new government with himself as the president, since the
Spanish were retreating.
This independence was short-lived as the Treaty of Paris (December 10, 1898)
declared Spain cede the entire archipelago to the United States for $20
million. When the United States stated the establishment of U.S. military
rule in the Philippines, Aguinaldo refused to acknowledge it. Early the
next year the Philippine-American War broke out when US sentries fired upon
The military authority in the Philippines was replaced by a U.S. civil
government in 1902 with William Howard Taft becoming the first civil
governor. Taft later became an American president. American politics
affected the islands as Taft and his successors were unwilling to delegate very
much authority to the Filipinos. Eventually, a commission was appointed to
investigate the situation in 1921. Under opposition of the Filipino
advocates for independence, the commission declared immediate independence would
be a betrayal of the Philippine people.
Official policy was changed with the election of another United States
president, Franklin D. Roosevelt. A bill was passed in 1933 granting the
Philippines independence after 12 years. A catch to this was that the US
would have military and naval bases. Another catch was that Philippine
exports were to have tariffs and quotas imposed on them. Needless to say,
this bill was rejected by the Filipinos. Another bill was passed in 1934
that pleased both sides, by 1946, the Philippines would be granted complete and
absolute independence. This second bill also provided for a Philippine
president to oversee an interim commonwealth, supervised by the United
States. In 1935, the constitution was approved by Roosevelt and ratified
by the Philippine people.
Trouble wasn't over for the islands because in 1941, the Japanese attacked
the Philippines which began a large scale invasion two weeks later.
Destruction was wrought with the invasion and occupation of the islands by the
Japanese, but they surrendered to General MacArthur (of the US) in 1945.
The United States established preferential trade relations with the
Philippines in order to help rehabilitate the islands. They also gave the
Philippines several hundred million dollars as rehabilitation and war damage
In 1946, with their independence again, the Republic of the Philippines was
formally proclaimed. Unfortunately, the country was filled with internal strife
along with the organization of a rebel government. When the U.S. requested
troops for the Korean War, the Philippines responded in spite of the internal
The government changed hands several times during the next few years until
the elections of 1965. At these elections the Nationalist candidate,
Ferdinand Marcos won. Marcos was reelected in 1969 because of rapid
economic developments that brought prosperity. Civil unrest by Communist
ideological influences troubled his second term. Guerilla war was waged on
the government by two separate forces, the Communist New People's Army and the
Moro National Liberation Front (a Muslim separatist movement in the
south). With the excuse of the unrest and criminal depredations, martial
law was declared in 1972. Marcos ruled by decree after this as Congress
was dissolved and the opposition leaders were arrested.
With the promulgation of a new constitution in 1973, Marcos was able to
continue with absolute powers due to a transitional provision attached to
it. Elections were postponed and Marcos sought approval for his acts with
repeated referendums. By 1980, the opposition had had enough and urban
guerillas carried out a series of bombings in Manila in an attempt to demand the
end of martial law.
In 1981, martial law was officially ended by Marcos, but his tight hold on
the country didn't lessen. An opposition leader exiled in America, Benigno
Aquino, returned to Manila only to be assassinated by a military escort that was
sent to arrest him. Marcos' approval rating with the people dropped even
more and his mandate was called into question. Aquino's widow, Corazon,
ran in an election against Marcos in 1986 and won after Marcos' attempts at
cheating during the elections was exposed.
When Marcos sent an armored tank to crush the uprising (which was led by his
Defense Minister and Armed Forces Vice Chief) that was pledging allegiance to
Corazon, protestors filled the streets. With the tanks not being able to
reach the rebel encampments, along with a rebel attack via helicopter on the
presidential palace, Marcos was convinced to flee. He fled to Hawaii,
where he later died.
In 1987, Aquino was sworn in as president and won the enactment of a
new constitution. Trouble with military unrest as well as popular
discontent with the slow economic reform threatened her government. The US
Air Force was able to suppress a coup attempt in 1989. In November 1992,
the US Navy withdrew from the Philippines after a basing agreement wasn't
ratified. This agreement was necessary because the eruption of Mount
Pinatubo in 1991 caused damage that forced the abandonment of Clark Air Base.
The election of Fidel Valdez Ramos, Aquino's former defense secretary, in
1992 was the beginning of a turnaround in Philippine economy.
Exhibiting dramatic growth by 1994 and 1995, the economy looked poised to
compete with its Southeast Asian neighbors. These hoped were dashed with
the Asian financial crisis in 1997, causing a slowdown in the Philippine
The country weathered the regional crisis in better shape than most of its
neighbors, due to the economic reforms that had been put in place along with a
democratic system that assured transparency of governance.
President Fidel Ramos, former Vice President for Corazon
Aquno, attempted to amend the Philippine constitution in 1997 in order to allow
presidents' two 6-year terms. This was thoroughly denounced by Ms. Aquino
and Jaime Cardinal Sin. Ramos' vice president, Joseph Estrada narrowly
defeated the House Speaker Jose de Venecia who was endorsed by Ramos.
Estrada, a former actor as well, held the office for a little over two and half
years before being ousted