“One-Page History of the Philippines”
© 1996 Oscar Peñaranda
The Philippine archipelago is made up of approximately 7,100 islands. Ever since the beginning of time, it has always been at the crossroads of diverse civilizations. Negritoes or Aytas, along with Malays and Indonesians have been there since pre-historic times. Chinese, Arab and Hindu traders also frequently visited these islands. Many came to stay. All of these traditions imprinted their ways, culture and religions upon the people. The Islamic religion and culture found their way to the Philippines around 1300 A.D. The “Western” influences first came when the Spaniards colonized the archipelago for over 300 years, beginning in 1565. Then, the Americans in 1898 tried their hand in colonizing the Filipinos. The Japanese could only stay a short three years, 1942-1945, in their attempt to subjugate.
However, the native Filipinos never acquiesced to any form of foreign domination. A seafaring, freedom-loving people, liberty, self-government in their communities, and close family ties were trademarks of their life ways. From day one, when Lapu-lapu and his warriors killed the Western invader and would-be colonizer, Magellan, in 1896, the Filipinos always resisted any attempt by strangers to usurp their precious sovereignty. During the long Spanish period of colonization and abuse, the Filipinos recorded no less than over two hundred revolts and uprisings. The history of the Philippines is a history of protests and resistance to foreign rule. But it would not be until 1896, the year of the Philippine Revolution against Spain, that the Filipinos would see themselves as one nation, one people, with one destiny. The times that brought about this sentiment was the propaganda era of the latter half of the nineteenth century, when the intellectuals and ilustrados of Philippine society wrote and clamored for reforms, most of them traveling to Spain for their protests. The man who was most instrumental in bringing about this awakening of nationhood was Jose Rizal, a brilliant genius who, among other things, wrote two novels that sparked the flames of the inevitable revolution. Though Rizal was only for reform within the system, it took the efforts of another man to convince the Filipinos that the time of peaceful protests and reforms within the government was over. It was time for armed revolt and separation from Mother Spain. His name was Andres Bonifacio. It was he who organized the Katipunan, the secret and core society that launched the Revolution. The Katipunan was no longer a group of elite intellectuals. It was an organization whose base was the Filipino masses themselves. They finally overthrew the Spanish government in 1898.
It was the same year that the Americans arrived in the Philippines. It was not their turn to possess the Philippines. Again, the Filipinos fought. This time, it was for their independence. And this time, their leader was Emilio Aguinaldo. By 1898, the Filipino people had declared independence, written a national constitution, created an army, and elected officers for their newly-formed government, the first republic in the history of all Asia. The Americans occupied and colonized the Philippines for fifty years. The Filipinos, including the never-vanquished indigenous peoples and Muslims, also fought this domination fiercely and continuously, till independence finally came in 1946, after repelling the Japanese, who ruled the Philippines between1942-1945.
The story of the Filipinos is a story of the struggle for sovereignty, dignity, respect as a people, and reclamation of their heritage and birthright, which is what all peoples of the world would desire and deserve.