Sunday, October 17, 2010

Spanish occupation (1565-1898)

The first recorded arrival of Europeans in the archipelago in 1521 was a Spanish expedition led by Portuguese-born Spanish explorer Ferdinand Magellan which first sighted the mountains of Samar at dawn on 16 March 1521 (Spanish calendar). Magellan had abandoned his Portuguese citizenship and became a Spanish subject prior to his contract with Spain. On Easter Sunday, 31 March 1521 (Spanish calendar), at Masao, Butuan, (now in Agusan Del Norte), he solemnly planted a cross on the summit of a hill overlooking the sea and claimed possession of the islands for Spain, naming them Archipelago of Saint Lazarus.

The first Holy Mass was celebrated on Easter Sunday, 31 March 1521 (Spanish calendar). The site was located by eyewitnesses at three different latitudes, Antonio Pigafetta said it was at 9° 40' North, Francisco Albo at 9° 20' North, and The Genoese Pilot at 9° North. Another eyewitness, Ginés de Mafra located the isle at 15 leguas (45 nautical miles using the Spanish scale of 1:3) south of or below Butuan. The reference point of de Mafra was the tip of today's Surigao del Norte, at either Bilaa Pt. or Madilao Pt. There are no islands the naked eye can see at the latitudes given by Pigafetta, Albo and the Genoese Pilot, whose latitude is where de Mafra locates Mazaua. But in 2001 a group of earth scientists, composed of a geomorphologist, geologists and archaeologists discovered an isle at 9° N exactly where de Mafra suggested. The isle has yet to be proven to be Mazaua through concrete, material objects that can be directly linked to Magellan and other Europeans who visited Mazaua. This can only be done through comprehensive archaeological excavations in the isle. Modern scientists are often unaware of how inaccurate latitude readings and especially longitude readings were at that time. Reliable chronometers did not exist then and longitude was very much a hit and miss affair with European sailors often hitting coasts and reefs at night because of poor longitudinal information. The readings of Magellan and his companions could not be accurate, and any attempt to rely on them as accurate is most likely to fail.

Magellan sought friendship among the natives beginning with Humabon, the chieftain of Sugbu (now Cebu), and took special pride in converting them to Catholicism. Magellan got involved with political rivalries among the native tribes and took part in a battle against Lapu-Lapu, Chieftain of Mactan Island and a mortal enemy of Humabon. At dawn on 27 April 1521, Magellan invaded Mactan Island with 48 armed men (less than half his crew) and 1,000 Cebuano warriors, but had great difficulty landing his men on the rocky shore. Lapu-Lapu had an army of 1,500 warriors on land. Magellan waded ashore with his Spanish soldiers and attacked the Mactan defenders ordering Datu Humabon and his Cebuano warriors to remain aboard the ships and watch. Magellan seriously underestimated the fighting ability and courage of Datu Lapu-Lapu and his men, and grossly outnumbered, Magellan and 14 of his soldiers were killed. The rest managed to reboard the Spanish ships.

After the battle, the Spanish were too few to man three ships so they abandoned the "Concepcion". The remaining ships - "Trinidad" and "Victoria" - sailed to the Spice Islands in present-day Indonesia. From there, the expedition 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. Disease and shipwreck disrupted Espinoza's voyage and most of the crew died. Survivors of the Trinidad returned to the Spice Islands, where the Portuguese imprisoned them. The Victoria continued sailing westward, commanded by Juan Sebastián Elcano, and managed to return to Sanlúcar de Barrameda, Spain in 1522. In 1529, Charles I of Spain relinquished all claims to the Spice Islands to Portugal in the treaty of Zaragoza. However, the treaty did not stop the colonization of the Philippine archipelago from New Spain.

After Magellan's voyage, subsequent expeditions were dispatched to the islands. Four expeditions were authorized: that of Loaisa (1525), Cabot (1526), Saavedra (1527), Villalobos (1542), and Legaspi (1564).

In 1543, Ruy López de Villalobos named the islands of Leyte and Samar Las Islas Filipinas after Philip II of Spain. Philip II became King of Spain on January 16, 1556, when his father, Charles I of Spain, abdicated the Spanish throne. Philip was in Brussels at the time and his return to Spain was delayed until 1559 because of european politics and wars in northern Europe. Shortly after his return to Spain, Philip ordered an expedition mounted to the Spice Islands, stating that its purpose was "to discover the islands to the west". In reality its task was to conquer the Philippines for Spain.

On April 27, 1565, Spanish conquistadores numbering a mere 500 attacked the defiant Tupas, son of Humabon. Tupas was defeated and made to sign an agreement after his defeat and effectively placing the Philippines under Spain. On that same day, the first permanent Spanish settlement of San Miguel was founded in Cebu. In 1570, Juan de Salcedo, in the service of Legaspi, conquered the Kingdom of Maynila (now Manila). Legaspi then made Maynila the capital of the Philippines and renamed it Nueva Castilla. The name didn't stick and the hispanized name of Manila (from Maynila) survived to this day. This action pleased the King of Spain and he appointed Legaspi as the colony's first governor-general. Cebu then receded into the background as power shifted north to Luzon with the fertile lands of its central plains. The archipelago was made Spain's outpost in the orient as the Spanish East Indies. The colony was administered through the Viceroyalty of New Spain (now Mexico) until 1821 when Mexican patriots seceded from the Spanish Empire. After 1821, the colony was governed directly from Spain.

Early colonial economy depended on the Galleon Trade which was inaugurated in 1565 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). The European population steadily grew although natives remained the majority. They depended on the Galleon Trade for a living. In the later years of the 18th century, Governor-General Basco introduced economic reforms that gave the colony its first real income from the production of tobacco and other agricultural exports. In this later period, agriculture was finally opened to the European population, which before was reserved only for the natives.

During Spain’s 333 year rule in the Philippines, the colonists had to fight off the Chinese pirates (who lay siege to Manila, the most famous of which was Limahong in 1574), Dutch forces, Portuguese forces, and indigenous attacks with limited resources. Moros from western Mindanao and the Sulu Archipelago constantly raided the coastal Christian areas of Luzon and the Visayas and occasionally brought home loot and fair women. They often sold their captives as slaves.

On February 8, 1597, King Philip II, near the end of his 42 year reign, issued a Royal Cedula instructing to Francisco de Tello de Guzmán, then Governor-General of the Philippines in severe terms to fulfill the laws of tributes and to provide for restitution of ill-gotten taxes imposed on the natives. The Cedula also decreed an undertaking by which the natives (referred to as Indians}, "... freely render to me submission." The decree was published in Manila on August 5, 1598. King Philip died on 13 September, just forty days after the publication of the decree, but his death was not known in the Philippines until middle of 1599, by which time a referrendum by which the natives would acknowledge Spanish rule was underway. With the completion of the Philippine referendum of 1599, Spain could be said to have established legitimate sovereignty over the Philippines.

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.

Spanish rule

Political System

The Spanish quickly organized their new colony according to their model. The first task was the reduction, or relocation of native inhabitants into settlements. The earliest political system used during the conquista period was the encomienda system, which resembled the political system known as Feudalism in Medieval Europe. The conquistadores, friars and native nobles were granted estates, in exchange for their services to the King, and was given the privilege to collect tribute from its inhabitants. In return, the person granted the encomienda, known as an encomendero, was tasked to provide military protection to the inhabitants, justice and governance. In times of war, the encomendero was duty bound to provide soldiers for the King, in particular, for the defense of the colony from invaders such as the Dutch, British and Chinese. The encomienda was entrusted to the encomendero by the King for only two generations. The encomienda system was abused by encomenderos and was replaced by a more advanced system of governance of the times.

The most prominent feature of Spanish cities was the plaza, a central area for town activities such as the fiesta, and where government buildings, the church, a market area and other infrastructures were located. Residential areas lay around the plaza. During the conquista, the first task of colonization was the reduction, or relocation of the indigenous population into settlements surrounding the plaza.

As in Europe, the church always had control over the state affairs of the colony. The friars controlled the sentiments of the native population and was more powerful than the governor-general himself. Among the issues that resulted to the Philippine revolution of 1898 that ended Spanish rule was the abuse of power by the religious orders.

National Government

On the national level, the King of Spain, through his Council of the Indies (Consejo de Indias), governed through his sole representative in the Philippines: the Governor-General (Gobernador y Capitán General). With the seat of power in Intramuros, Manila, the Governor-General was given several duties: he headed the Supreme Court (Real Audiencia), was Commander-in-chief of the army and navy, and was the economic planner of the country. All known executive power of the local government stemmed from him and as vice-regal patron, he had the right to supervise mission work and oversee ecclesiastical appointments. His yearly salary was P40,000. For obvious reasons, the Governor-General was usually a Peninsular (Spaniard born in Spain) to ensure loyalty of the colony to the crown.

Provincial Government

On the provincial level, heading the pacified provinces (alcaldia), was the provincial governor (alcalde mayor). The unpacified military zones (corregidor), such as Mariveles and Mindoro, were headed by the corregidores. City governments (ayuntamientos), were also headed by an alcalde mayor. Alcalde mayors and corregidores exercised multiple prerogatives as judge, inspector of encomiendas, chief of police, tribute collector, capitan-general of the province and even vice-regal patron. His annual salary ranged from P300 to P2000 before 1847 and P1500 to P1600 after it. But this can be augmented through the special privilege of "indulto de commercio" where all people were forced to do business with him. The alcalde mayor was usually an Insulares (Spaniard born in the Philippines). In the 1800s, the Peninsulares began to displace the Insulares which resulted in the political unrests of 1872, notably the execution of GOMBURZA, Novales Revolt and mutiny of the Cavite fort under La Madrid.

Municipal Government

The pueblo or town is headed by the gobernadorcillo or little governor. Among his administrative duties were the preparation of the tribute list (padron), recruitment and distribution of men for draft labor, communal public work and military conscription (quinto), postal clerk and judge in minor civil suits. He intervened in all administrative cases pertaining to his town: lands, justice, finance and the municipal police. His annual salary, however, was only P24 but he was exempted from taxation. Any native or Chinese mestizo, 25 years old, literate in oral or written Spanish and has been a cabeza de barangay of 4 years can be a gobernadorcillo. Among those prominent is Emilio Aguinaldo, a Chinese Mestizo and who was the gobernadorcillo of Cavite El Viejo (now Kawit). Early officials of the pueblo were taken from the Maharlika class or nobles of rep-Colonial society. Their names are survived by prominent families in contemporary Philippine society such as Tupas, Gatmaitan, Liwanag, Pangilinan, Panganiban and Agbayani to name a few.

Barrio Government

Barrio government (village or district) rested on the barrio administrator (cabeza de barangay). He was responsible for peace and order and recruited men for communal public works. Cabezas should be literate in Spanish and have good moral character and property. Cabezas who served for 25 years were exempted from forced labor. In addition, this is where the sentiment heard as, "Mi Barrio", first came from.

The Residencia and The Visita

To check the abuse of power of royal officials, two ancient castilian institutions were brought to the Philippines. The Residencia, dating back to the fifth century and the Visita differed from the residencia in that it was conducted clandestinely by a visitador-general sent from Spain and might occur anytime within the official’s term, without any previous notice. Visitas may be specific or general.

Maura Law

The legal foundation for municipal governments in the country was laid with the promulgation of the Maura Law on May 19, 1893. Named after its author, Don Antonio Maura, the Spanish Minister of Colonies at the time, the law reorganized town governments in the Philippines with the aim of making them more effective and autonomous. This law created the municipal organization that was later adopted, revised, and further strengthened by the American and Filipino governments that succeeded Spanish rule.


Manila-Acapulco Galleon Trade

The Manila-Acapulco Galleon Trade was the main source of income for the colony during its early years. Service was inaugurated in 1565 and continued into the early 19th century. The Galleon trade brought silver from New Spain and silk from China by way of Manila. This way, the Philippines earned its income through buy and sell - that is, they bought silk from China for resale to New Spain and then bought American silver for resale to China. The trade was very prosperous. However, initially it neglected the development of the colony's local industries which affected the Indios since agriculture was their main source of income. In addition, the building and operation of galleons put too much burden on the colonists' annual polo y servicio. However, it resulted in cultural and commercial exchanges between Asia and the Americas that led to the introduction of new crops and animals to the Philippines notably tobacco that gave the colony its first real income which benefit extended to the common Indio. The trade lasted for over two hundred years, and ceased in 1821 with the secession of American colonies from Spain.

Royal Society of Friends of the Country

Jose de Basco y Vargas, following a royal order to form a society of intellectuals who can produce new, useful ideas, formally established the Real Sociedad Economica de Amigos del Pais. Composed of leading men in business, industry and profession, the society was tasked to explore and exploit the island's natural bounties. The society led to the creation of Plan General Economico of Basco which implemented the monopolies on the areca nut, tobacco, spirited liquors and explosives. It offered local ad foreign scholarships and training grants in agriculture and established an academy of design. It was also credited to the carabao ban of 1782, the formation of the silversmiths and gold beaters guild and the construction of the first papermill in the Philippines in 1825. It was introduced on 1780, vanished temporarily on 1787-1819, 1820-1822 and 1875-1822 and ceased to exist in the middle of the 1890s.

Royal Company of the Philippines

On March 10, 1785, Charles III created the Royal Philippine Company with a 25 year charter. It was granted exclusive monopoly of bringing to Manila, Philippines; Chinese and Indian goods and shipping them directly to Spain via the Cape of Good Hope. It was stiffly objected by the Dutch and English who saw it as a direct attack on their trade of Asian goods. It was also vehemently opposed by the traders of the Galleon trade who saw it as competition. This gradually resulted into the death of both institutions: The Royal Philippine Company in 1814 and the Galleon trade in 1815.


To support the colony, several forms of taxes and monopolies were imposed. The buwis (tribute), which could be paid in cash or kind (tobacco, chickens, produce, gold, blankets, cotton, rice, etc., depending on the region of the country), was initially was fixed at 8 reales (one real being 12.5 centavos) and later increased to 15 reales, apportioned as follows: ten reales buwis, one real diezmos prediales (tithes), one real to the town community chest, one real sanctorum tax, and three reales for church support.

Also collected was the bandalâ (from the Tagalog word mandalâ, a round stack of rice stalks to be threshed), an annual enforced sale and requisitioning of goods such as rice. Custom duties and income tax were also collected. By 1884, the tribute was replaced by the Cedula personal, wherein colonists were required to pay for personal identification. Everyone over the age of 18 was obliged to pay.

Forced Labor (Polo y servicio)

The system of forced labor otherwise known as polo y servicio evolved within the framework of the encomienda system, introduced into the South American colonies by the Conquistadores and Catholic priests who accompanied them. Polo y servicio is the forced labor for 40 days of men ranging from 16 to 60 years of age who were obligated to give personal services to community projects. One could be exempted from polo by paying the falla (corruption of the Spanish Falta, meaning "absence"), a daily fine of one and a half real. In 1884, labor was reduced to 15 days. The polo system was patterned after the Mexican repartimento, selection for forced labor.


By the 1800s, the Philippines had become an important possession. The early small number of European settlers, soldiers and missionaries brought with them aspects of European life, i.e. the Spanish menu, religious festivals, stone houses, manner of clothing and fashion. The colonists used the Gregorian calendar, the Latin script and used theocentric art, music, literature. Likewise, the European settlers and their descendants, known as Insulares (lit. "islanders"), also adapted to oriental culture learning to eat rice as their staple and use soy sauce, coconut vinegar, coconut oil and ginger. Today, Filipino culture is a blend of many different cultures.

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