Writings about Munich: Alter Südfriedhof

The old South Cemetery of Munich is a place that fascinates me. Just a few minutes from where I live a convenient shortcut to the Isar river as well as other parts of town, it is also a place to find peace of mind amidst great names resting in peace. If I am walking I walk through, if I am on bicycle I respectfully dismount before entering the gates which are open longer in spring and summer.

One tombstone I often pass by because it is between the west and east gates of the cemetery – is that of a Napoleonic officer wounded around 1800 who refused amputation and therefore died. His gravestone is marked with the months and years of the French revolution which were different. Bavaria was an ally of Napoleon and was declared a Kingdom by him, yet managed to somehow convince the Austrian Metternich, who took back many decisions of Napoleon, not to revoke their newfound status. Just like the Allies abolished Prussia in 1947, but spared Bavaria inspite of the fact that Nazism had its beginnings in pleasant Munich. Americans still seem to believe Bavarians are happy, beer-drinking fools in Lederhosen – but no problem it is good for business…

Grab Georg Ohm
Georg Simon Ohm
Famous physicist Fraunhofer
Alter Suedfriedhof Senefeldergrab-1
Senefelder (invented lithography)
Grabstein Elias Mauromichalis, Alter Südlicher Friedhof
Greek officer
Or the gravestones of numerous inventors, scientists, architects, artists, engineers and more from the 19th century which was a Golden Age. The newfound Bavarian Kingdom attracted talent. There is even a gravestone of a Greek officer, adjutant of Greece’s first modern king. Greece, lacking its own royalty after centuries of Ottoman rule, did what many European countries did – it imported a German noble. German nobles are about as numerous as datus in Filipino Muslim areas, but King Otto was a Bavarian prince. So more like a relative of the Sultan of Sulu, not just another datu. But he did not manage well.

There is a monument to the 1705 Sendling revolt. Bavarian peasants from the mountains fed up with the levies of the ruling Austrians in the War of Spanish Succession – Habsburgs vs. Bourbons – revolted. They marched toward Munich, but the townspeople who had promised to open the gates refused to do so.  The peasants had to flee and were killed by Hungarian horsemen on a hill nearby. Even the church they fled into was razed. Peasant leaders of the rebellion were publicly executed in the center of Munich, while local politicians and officials who had joined the revolt were mostly jailed and then released. The kings of Bavaria, whose ancestors had looked down upon the peasant revolt, revived the memory of that event in the 19th century for their propaganda.

Monument to 1705
Alter Südfriedhof München 2010-04-24-1753 Alte Südfriedhof München 2010 2 Brunnen im Neuen Suedfriedhof Muenchen-1 It is a good place to contemplate, to know how short our lives are in the context of the centuries, to know what great men have done in their lives before finding their resting place in this beautiful old cemetery. How they contributed to the community in which I live today, and how good leaders made it possible for them to do so. And how politics has always played, human nature being what it is.

Irineo B. R. Salazar, Munich, 18 May 2015

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Philippine History Part II – State. Section 1 – Founding Fathers


Main Article: Quo Vadis Philippines?

Next Article: Philippine History Part II – State. Section 2 – Enter America

Previous Article: Philippine History Part I – Territory

Filipino Ilustrados Jose Rizal Marcelo del Pilar Mariano PonceThe early 19th century brought the end of the Galleon Trade and direct rule from Spain. But even before that, the Galleon Trade started to become obsolete like the old order. Ships started to follow the shorter route to Spain via the Cape of Good Hope without resistance from the now irrelevant Portuguese in the late 18th century. Changes in Spain also affected the Philippines. The Jesuits were banned in the late 18th century and also expelled from the Philippines. The resulting shortage of priests led to more native priests being trained, schools for them were established.

Trade also was liberalized, slowly but surely. In 1834, Manila was opened to international trade. By the end of 1859, there were 15 foreign firms in Manila: seven of which were British, three American, two French, two Swiss and one German. The Suez Canal which opened in 1869 accelerated international trade even more. The administration was also modernized. The Claveria decree of 1849 regulated Filipino surnames. Queen Isabella decreed mandatory public schooling in 1863. The (Napoleonic) Spanish Civil Code was introduced in the Philippines in 1889 – the present Philippine civil code is mainly based on it.

The first Filipino Nationalist was early 19th-century Luis Rodríguez Varela, a Filipino creole knighted by the Spanish king, educated in France and exposed to the ideals of the French Revolution. Andres Novales, who revolted in 1823, was a Creole as well. Originally the word Filipino was reserved to Spaniards born in the Philippines – also known as Insulares to distinguish them from the Spanish-born Peninsulares. Eventually the term was extended to all who lived in the Philippines. The newly affluent and educated native ilustrados were instrumental in this. Many of them originally came from the native principalia.

Gat Andres BonifacioIn the 1860s, the First Propaganda Movement campaigned for the rights of Filipino priests, meaning creoles, mestizos and natives. In 1869, Governor Carlos Maria de la Torre came to the Philippines and was very friendly to Filipino priests and ilustrados. De la Torre was recalled in 1871, and his harsher successor Izquierdo was an important factor in the Cavite mutiny and the subsequent execution of the three Filipino priests Gomez, Burgos and Zamora in 1872, which stoked the fires of nationalism even more.

Numerous ilustrados went to study in Europe and formed the Second Propaganda Movement, which campaigned for equal rights and representation of Filipinos within the Spanish system. Jose Rizal, one of the foremost “Propagandists”, formed the short-lived Liga Filipina when he returned in 1892, but was arrested and exiled to Dapitan in Mindanao soon after. Former Liga members then formed the revolutionary Katipunan. The Philippine Revolution started in 1896, Rizal was seen as a culprit and executed.

Emilio Aguinaldo (ca. 1898)The Revolution continued, but was blocked by a leadership conflict between Aguinaldo and Bonifacio – one a local politician from the countryside, the other coming from the original Katipunan founded in Manila – and their supporters. At the Tejeros convention, the conflict even turned physical. Bonifacio was executed upon orders of Aguinaldo in 1897. Aguinaldo accepted voluntary exile to Hong Kong in the pact of Biak-Na-Bato with the Spanish in 1897 – which included payments to his group.

Enter the USA, who had been moving into the Pacific for decades. Commodore Perry had forced Japan to re-open in 1854, Alaska was purchased from the Russians in 1867, control of Hawaii began in 1887. The Spanish-American War started in 1896. Aguinaldo returned to Manila in 1898, brought back by the USA to help fight the Spanish, and assumed control over the Revolution again. He declared Philippine Independence just a month after Commodore Dewey won the Battle of Manila Bay.

The first Philippine state under Filipino rule was there. With its Spanish foundations, it was to be further formed and consolidated by the United States, which had it’s own plans. Filipino nationalism was there, with a distinctly Tagalog Focus under the nascent Filipino ruling class. The Katipunan was mainly in Luzon, the Visayans had their own Republican plans, Mindanao was only partly under Spanish control at that time. President Aguinaldo was the first Filipino “trapo” – and dictator.

Irineo B. R. Salazar, Munich, 16 May 2015

Part of the Philippine History Series.



Book Review: Hari Kunzru – Memory Palace

From time to time, there will be special articles in this blog that have nothing to do with the Philippines, just stuff I happen to be interested in writing about. Cheers.

Hari Kunzru, a Londoner of Kashmiri and English origin, produced a beautiful illustrated novel called Memory Palace, the accompanying exhibition at the Victoria and Albert Museum was highly  acclaimed. 45 Bank Street with 40 Bank Street skyscraper in London, spring 2013 (1)It is about a time in the future where our civilization has been destroyed by electromagnetic pulse, its achievements just distant memories. It was because people relied too much on computers – called pewter in the distant future – they were helpless and desperate when they were suddenly gone:

“An aura was seen all over the world, great waves of light shivering in the sky. They saw the great waves of light, and their screens spewed out their last sign and went dark. After that, all memory was gone, and the market was empty and the people wandered the cities looting and burning and killing one another. ItIndian-Battle-Axe 3 is said that people had lived in the realm of sign so long that no one could remember how to get food, and without pewter they no longer knew their own names… It was a war of all against all, each against each.”

The country is now ruled by Thanes who worship power and hate knowledge, while exploiting the many weak and ignorant:

“And of course ideas are a poor substitute for true power. True power lives in the bone. It courses through the blood. Even you should be able to see that. We are men. We were meant to be warriors. We were meant to exist in a wild world.”

Their secret enemies are the Memorialists, people devoted to keeping the memory of the civilized past alive in a present where even writing things down – called trace – is prohibited.  Units of measurement – called accounting by the memorialist rebels – are outlawed, numbers above forty are forgotten, the last person who could read or write died ten generations ago. The memorialists rely only on memory passed on by secret word of mouth. Yet their memories of the past are distorted, they are what is left from hundreds of years ago:

“Once there were great palaces called hospitals. The tradition of hospitality was revered across the land. It meant helping customers, healing them and seeing to their needs. Men and women greeted each other by asking “How can I help you today?” The doctors performed great feats of surgery and roamed the cities, looking for the sick, whose faces would appear on their screens so that all men would know who was in need. It was a time of great wonder.”

Scientific laws are memorized, scientists of old like “Milord Newton” are revered as lawlords. Another distant memory are:

“Museums. A palace where the Lawlords went to muse. Museums were filled with treasures kept for musing on or amusement.
These pa
laces were silent and heavily guarded, because even in the Booming, amusement was precious and rare“.

The tragic hero of the novel is caught with trace of the periodic table of the elements, is imprisoned, betrays the other members of his internet – his secret group, but is still set for execution. Another memorialist who is secretly inside the system comes to his cell and asks him to download all he knows to her so she can memorize it. And he may add exactly one memory of his own:

Land's End rocks - geograph.org.uk - 724396“I was walking over a green field, with my lover. In front of us scampers our cowardly little dog. My lover and I hold hands. I see her long dark hair, feel the cool pressure of her hand in mine. We walk over the field. Up ahead is the brow of a hill. In the moment, we will reach the top and be able to see the view.”

It is a story of knowledge versus superstition. It is a story of truth versus power.

It is a warning of how fragile civilization and its achievements can be if taken for granted.

Irineo B. R. Salazar, Munich, 15 May 2015 – illustrations are mine of course…

P.S. I also highly recommend Transmission by Hari Kunzru – a novel about a disgruntled Indian IT expert who turns the world upside down after being fired by an antivirus corporation. He creates a worm called Leela after his favorite Bollywood actress. Among other things, it turns the Europol database upside down, causing a high-class English marketing executive to be jailed as an “Albanian” human trafficker…


What is Filipino?

Norma Capuyan

Mindanao Lumad leader

We all refer to Filipinos and the Philippines, yet have we asked ourselves what a Filipino actually is? Let us see:

  • Cultural influences from many historical periods, with different impacts on different subgroups.
  • A history that is told very differently by different interest groups, no overarching national narrative yet.

So how can a national identity be defined? There are two things I would consider very important:

  • Tradition is not worshipping the ashes – it is keeping the fire burning, said famous German composer Gustav Mahler. Culture changes over time, is a living thing with many manifestations.
  • There are many nations with diverse subgroups. Accepting differences can be a better way to increase the buy-in by the diverse communities in a nation than forcing them to go by a standard dictated centrally.

Modernity and diversity are therefore essential in defining any nations’s identity – accepting it as what it is.

Manila Post Office at sunrise

Manila post office (American colonial style)

19th-century definitions of nation and people are outdated. The modern definition of a nation that I like the most is that of a Schicksalsgemeinschaft, a community united by fate. This is probably THE definition best suited to define what a Filipino is. The people descended from those who were shaped by a common destiny of:

  • being those who settled in the islands, whatever their origins were
  • having been subjected to varying cultural influences to different degrees
  • having been part of – or opposed to – a state formed by Spain then the USA
  • having lived as part of a nation that became the Republic of the Philippines
  • now facing the future and trying to find out how it will look like for everybody

For better or for worse, this is where the Filipino nation – seen from far away by me – is in my humble opinion. What the people now part of this nation will make out of it is their call – and their identity theirs to define.

Vigan Calle Crisologo 4

Vigan, old town (Spanish colonial style)

The Americans have the motto “E Pluribus Unum” on their national seal. Out of Many, One. When the great Bulgarian Khan Kubrat was dying more than a thousand years ago, he ordered his sons to break a bundle of sticks tied together. None of them managed. Kubrat untied the sticks and broke them one by one. Unity makes strength, he told his sons – Съединението прави силата is on the Bulgarian coat of arms to this very day. It will be up to Filipinos, as a community united by destiny, to find a way to become one out of many and find strength in unity.

  • to find a way to tell their history in a way that acknowledges all influences and all groups involved
  • to define their culture and traditions, not to worship the ashes, but to keep the fire burning
  • to find ways to communicate, teach and learn in a way that acknowledges diversity and modernity

There are many different approaches to achieving this, why not try to put the best of all approaches together? Different groups can talk to one another, listen to one another, try to understand and learn from on another to achieve enormous synergies. The country has enormous talent. To weave a bright multicolored fabric. Identity.

Irineo B. R. Salazar, Munich, 14 May 2015

Tradition ist nicht die Anbetung der Asche, sondern die Weitergabe des Feuers

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Building civil society

Sugar cane truck PhilippinesFor the most part, the Philippines still seems to be an elite democracy, run by the few for the few. Inspite of two People Power uprisings, could it be that true civil society is still a long way to come, that their spirit does not translate into continuous action, allowing citizens to truly address their concerns and get them solved?

  • Media seem to be mostly bread and circuses for the masses, including a reporting that has the reputation of being for the most part sensationalist and tabloid-like.
  • Citizens seem to act just on an emotional basis, voting politicians for popularity, not for performance.
  • Various groups that want to represent Filipinos belt out tired ideologies instead of looking at real issues.

But there are some rays of hope:

  • Within the blogosphere, there are websites that are truly informative and non-partisan, like that of Raissa Robles which I have linked on this blog.
  • There are online media like Rappler and interaksyon which provide fairly good coverage, more comprehensive and informative than most Philippine newspapers.

And more of what truly constitutes civil society can already be found in the Philippines:

  • Bayanihan 2Mindanews is one of the rare examples of a truly good newspaper, possibly because it is essentially a cooperative of independent journalists.
  • Closely linked to it and partly funded by the European Union is the Citizen Action Network for Accountability, which grew out of the peranatinito initiative of the late Jesse Robredo and is composed of citizen groups monitoring politicians and local politics across the entire country. It includes enabling citizens to better understand local government concepts.
  • There is also kayanatin which looks like a mixture of some politicians and grassroots initiatives. Notably, Senator Bam Aquino is involved here. He is of course from one of the elite families, but also known for his support of small- and medium-sized businesses.
  • President Aquino’s Good Governance and Anti-Corruption Plan 2012-2016 includes strengthening the Department of Interior and Local Government’s partnership with Civil Society Organizations. A Citizen Satisfaction Index System institutionalizes citizen evaluation of Local Government Units performance.
  • The European Union is strongly promoting building Civil Society in the Philippines.

For a stable free-market democracy, a stable middle class combined with local enterpreneurship and a civil society is essential. Other possible exponents of progress may be Federalism or decentralization, to give regions and local government units more of a voice and remove the holdovers of post-colonial rule based on perceived excessive centralism from Manila. The recent economic progress in cities such as Cebu and Davao, but not only, may give this more of a push. The result may be a more modern, progressive Philippines. Let us see where this goes.

Irineo B. R. Salazar, München, May 13, 2015
DISCLAIMER: opinions expressed in linked articles or sources are not necessarily mine.


Sun Tzu in Filipino Chapter 1

Ang Kasanayan sa Gyera ni Sun Tzu. Unang Bahagi – Paggawa ng Plano

1. Sabi ni Sun Tzu: ang kasanayan sa gyera ay mahalaga para sa bayan.

2. Buhay at kamatayan, kaligtasan o pagkasira ang nakataya rito. Kaya ito’y dapat pag-aralan ng mabuti at huwag pabayaan.

3. Lima ang mga bagay na dapat bigyan ng pansin sa kasanayan sa gyera, habang nagpaplano at nag-uusisa sa kalagayan ng lugar kung saan lalaban.

4. Ang mga ito ay: (1) Ugali (2) Panahon (3) Lugar (4) Ang Heneral (5) Pamamalakad at disiplina.

Scarborough Shoal Landsat5,6. Gawa ng magandang ugali, susunod ang mga tao sa kanilang Pangulo na walang takot sa anumang panganib at walang pakialam sa kamatayan.

7. Ang ibig sabihin ng panahon ay gabi at araw, lamig at init, ulan at araw.

8. Ang lugar naman ay kalayuan at kalapitan, panganib at kaligtasan, lugar na bukas at masikip na pagdadaanan, kung saan maaring mamatay at kung saan maaring makatakas.

9. Ang Heneral naman ay may mga katangian ng talino, katapatan, kagandahang-loob, katapangan at kahigpitan.

10. Ang pamamalakad at disiplina naman ay tungkol sa paghanay ng mga militar sa kani-kanilang kumpulan, sa mga ranggo ng kani-kanilang mga opisyal, sa pagkaayos ng mga kalye para makaabot ang supplies sa mga puwersa, at sa pag-control sa mga gastos na militar.

11. Dapat malaman ng bawat Heneral ang mga limang bagay na ito: mananalo ang nakakaalam nito, matatalo ang walang alam tungkol dito.

12. Kaya sa mga pag-uusap ninyo, kung ninais ninyong malaman kung sino ang nakakalamang, heto ang dapat ninyong tignan ng mabuti:

13(1) Sino sa dalawang Pangulo ay may mas magandang ugali?Honor guard of the People's Liberation Army

13(2) Sino sa dalawang Heneral ay mas may kakayahan?

13(3) Sino ang mas may lamang pagdating sa Panahon at Lugar?

13(4) Sino ang mas may pamamalakad at disiplina?

13(5) Sino ang may militar na mas mabisa?

13(6) Sino ang may mga pinuno at tauhan na mas sanay?

13(7) Saan tumpak at malinaw kung sino ang pararangalin at kung sino ang mapaparusahan?

14. Kung titignan ko ang pitong bagay na ito, malalaman ko kaagad kung sino ang mananalo o matatalo.

15. Ang Heneral na sususunod sa payo ko, mananalo, huwag ito tanggalin! Iyong ayaw makinig sa akin, matatalo, tanggalin agad!

16. Makinig kayo sa payo ko, pero kung may makatulong sa inyong deskarte, gamitin ninyo ito.

17. Baguhin ang plano depende sa sitwayson at sa deskarte.

18. Lahat ng pandidirigma nakabase sa panloloko.

19. Kaya kung handa tayong umatake, magkunyari tayong hindi pa natin kaya. Kapag ginagamit natin ang militar natin, kunyari walang nangyayari. Kung malapit tayo, dapat isipin ng kalaban na malayo pa tayo, kung malayo tayo, dapat isipin ng kalaban na napakalapit na natin.

20. Painan ang kalaban para matukso. Magkunyaring nagkakagulo, tapos gulatin at idikdik sa lupa ang kalaban.

Isinalin ni Irineo B. R. Salazar mula sa Ingles, ika-12 ng Mayo, 2015.

another translation of Sun Tzu into Filipino, unfortunately unfinished.

Also the Filipino used there is more intellectual – I prefer my own mixture of formal and colloquial Filipino so more people understand my translation.

Intellectual Filipino and the Filipino I use are as different as the German of Goethe from today’s everyday German…

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The Islands issue

South China Sea vector The South China Sea or West Philippine Sea is a crossroads of international shipping lanes. The islands in the middle of these seas, mostly between Vietnam and the Philippines, may also give access to hydrocarbons and aquatic resources.It is presently the site of a struggle, mainly between the claimants Vietnam and the Philippines against China.I will not go into the details of the decades-long dispute. What is important is common sense – these islands did not really belong to anybody before, so it makes sense that they belong to the countries closest to them. Vietnam and the Philippines have worked together scientifically in the area and may work together more closely in the future to keep China from occupying more islands in the area. China’s claim, delineated by the red line in the map to the left, is obviously imperialist and absurd, fueled by the desire for hegemony over trade routes and natural resources.
2011 brought escalation to the conflict between both China and Vietnam as well as China and the Philippines, and lead to Scarborough Shoal and Ayungin Shoal being occupied by China. In this conflict, Malaysia and Taiwan are more on the Chinese side. There has also been Indian presence on the side of Vietnam, which was heavily protested against by China. Vietnam and Japan have been conducting oil development in the area, as well as China alone.

The United States is interested in freedom of navigation in the area including the right to peaceful military activities, while China of course claims these activities are not peaceful. The US is not yet a member of UNCLOS, while the Philippines has filed a case against China with this international organization, showing its new foreign policy independence.

Spratly with flags
FloorGoban What to do? Some important points in my opinion:

  • It may be wise to keep the USA out of this conflict, because a direct confrontation between the US and China may trigger the Third World War. Possibly even with Russia emboldened to attack Europe with the US busy elsewhere – this would be a war with drones and everything flying around.
  • Just accepting China’s creeping expansion is not good either. So it may be important for a Vietnam-Philippine alliance to hold what can be held – with US helping in the background.
  • Fighting China directly is out of the question now. So tighten control of what is held. Strengthen naval and air defences to prevent more incursions. This is not a short-term matter, this is probably going to be a ten to twenty year siege-type situation. Do not provoke or let oneself be provoked.

China I think does NOT want to conquer the Philippines – or any other country in the region. It wants to control sea lanes and resources. This should be prevented from happening, in this game of island go.

Irineo B. R. Salazar, Munich, 11 May 2014.
DISCLAIMER: opinions expressed in linked articles or sources are not necessarily mine.

P.S. it may make sense to look at the classic Chinese work of strategy in this situation:

The Art of War as PDF or audio.

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Philippine History Part I – Territory


Main Article: Quo Vadis Philippines?

Next Article: Philippine History Part II – State. Section 1 – Founding Fathers

Balangay Replica Modern scientific tools such as geology, plate tectonics, archaeology, linguistics and genetics are increasing our understanding of Philippine early history. Many old theories – some of which are still taught in Philippine schools – are discredited, while many new theories are not yet fully proven.The territory that became the Philippines rose from the sea sometime in the past due to plate tectonics. The earliest prehistoric finds in the Philippines are Callao Man and Tabon Man. How the Melanesian Agta came to the Philippines is not fully clarified, old theories of land bridges are now seen as obsolete.The majority of Filipinos are of mainly Austronesian descent – the term Malayo-Polynesian being outdated.The Austronesians settled the entire Pacific and the area where the Philippines, Malaysia and Indonesia are now. Madagascar and South America were also reached by Austronesian sailors. There are two theories of how Austronesians settled the Pacific, the out of Taiwan and Sundaland theories. One way or another, Austronesians already lived in the Philippines in the first millenium B.C.

Trade with India led to Indianized Kingdoms in Southeast Asia starting in the first millenium A.D. There are indications that it had to do with looking for gold or with the blockade of the Silk Route by the Huns. From the 7th to 11th centuries, Sri-Vijaya was a major power ruling from Sumatra, influencing the entire Malay area including the Philippines. The Kingdoms of Butuan and Tondo are evidence of Hindu cultural influence in the Philippines. The Kingdom of Tondo traded with Ming China. There may have been Japanese trading posts in Northern Luzon.

The second large Indianized empire in the Malay world was Majapahit on Java which existed from the 13th to 16th centuries. Yet following the old trade routes from the Orient via the Indian subcontinent, Islamic missionaries arrived in Southeast Asia starting from the 11th century onwards. Brunei became Islamic in the 15th century, during which the Sultanate of Sulu was also founded while that of Maguindanao was founded in the 16th century.

Brunei expanded its power in the late 15th century and established Kota Selurong or Maynila as a colony on the other side of the Pasig River around 1500, making the Kings of Tondo vassals. Other powers were getting interested in the Asian region by that time. The Spice Route was blocked by the newly founded Ottoman empire, forcing Europeans to find new ways, while Portugal and Spain still had a lot of energy from the recently succesful Reconquista. The Portuguese reached Sri Lanka in 1505, Malacca in 1511, Timor, Neu Guinea and Ternate in Indonesia 1512 and cornered the Spice Trade.

The Treaty of Tordesillas of 1494 divided the world between Spain and Portugal along a line which more or less defines were Brazil ends today and Spanish South America begins. The areas east of that line were reserved for Portugal, which is why Magellan sailed the other way around in 1521. He died in the Philippines but his men reached the Portuguese areas after him. Soon after a war erupted between Spain and Portugal, after which the Treaty of Zaragoza in 1529 made clear the the Moluccas belonged to Portugal and the Philippines belonged to Spain. In 1545, the Potosi silver mine in Bolivia was opened. It was the main source of silver for the galleon trade which started in 1565, even before Legazpi subjugated Manila in 1571. Limahong attacked Manila in 1574 and there was the 1578 war of Spain against Brunei which ended with a decisive Spanish victory, securing their control of the business.

16th century Portuguese Spanish trade routes

The galleon trade between Manila and Acapulco changed many things. Southern Chinese traders came to Manila to trade Oriental goods for Spanish gold and silver. In China, Spanish silver became a major economic factor, especially from the 1750s onward. Charles Mann’s book “1493” shows how most plants in the Filipino song Bahay Kubo are not of native origin. According to that book, Filipino communities existed in Mexico City, with their own Catholic processions. That there was strong Mexican influence on the Philippines has been detailed by many authors. The Dutch entered Southeast Asia and attacked Manila unsuccesfully in 1646, but they did supplant the Portuguese in their areas. The British arrived in Asia starting in the late 18th century, occupying Manila from 1762-1764 and helping Ilokano rebel Diego Silang – and his widow Gabriela – against the Spanish. Yet they were not able to dislodge the Spanish or the galleon trade.

The late 18th century brought upheaval to Europe and America – the United States became independent, the French revolution started, the Napoleonic wars destabilized Spain and led to revolution in many of its colonies including Mexico. The galleon trade thus ended in the early 19th century. The only colonies Spain had left in Latin America were Cuba and Puerto Rico. The Spanish East Indies to which the Philippines belonged, which were ruled from Manila but also included the Marianas and the Caroline Islands among others, now was to be ruled directly from Spain.

Tagalog dress, early 1800s By the early 19th century, the territory of the Philippines and the people living on it were clearly defined. The state apparatus that the colonial government had put in place until then was rudimentary, more about keeping order and getting taxes especially in form of polo y servicio (forced labor) paid. In the pacified areas of the country, Spanish priests and the local principalia took care of most matters by themselves.The beginnings of a state were there, those of a nation were yet to come.Irineo B. R. Salazar, München, 10. May 2015 with special thanks to sonny for contributing many inputs and Karl Garcia for constructive feedback.

Part of the Philippine History Series.


Philippine Foreign Relations

Philippines on the globe (Philippines centered) The Philippines always has been at the conjunction of major sea lanes.The upcoming articles on Philippine history will show how this strategic position always made the Philippines the focus of foreign interests. Presently, the conflict in the West Philippine Sea regarding the islands claimed by the Philippines, Vietnam and China among others is becoming more important. Long-standing rivalries between Malaysia and the Philippines may have more to do with who controls the sea lanes that were in the distant past controlled by the Sultanate of Brunei.

It is time to look at the foreign relations of the Philippines.

  • ASEAN: relations to ASEAN neighbors are a mixed bag. Let us have a closer look:
    • Vietnam: both longer-standing scientific and more recent political cooperation in the islands both partly claim lying between them.
    • Indonesia: good political relations recently evidenced in the handling of the Mary Jane Veloso case, but not only.
    • Malaysia: long-standing tensions regarding Sabah and the Muslim regions in the Philippines.
    • Thailand: relations have apparently always been distant and difficult due to mentalities.
    • Singapore: the situation of Philippine OFWs there seems to have soured up relations.
  • Northeast Asia (Japan, South Korea and Taiwan)
    • Japan: good relations, a lot of financial help and investment has come from Japan
    • South Korea: good relations, some tensions with Korean migrants in the Philippines
    • Taiwan: business relations seem to be OK, some political tensions recently.
  • China: tense relations to say the least.
    • The present crisis over the islands which China wishes to control.
    • Increasing numbers of Philippine drug mules caught in China.
    • The Manila hostage crisis involving Hong Kong tourists has not been forgotten.
  • United States: mostly good relations with some issues typical for a post-colonial relationship.
    • Strong cooperation in defense matters and in the war against terror, most recently in getting Marwan.
    • Strong economic ties due to colonial and postcolonial history, also due to English language in the Philippines.
    • The present challenge is to find a way to a politically mature alliance free of both postcolonial servility and defensiveness.
  • Europe: strong trade relations, stronger political relations, foreign aid initiatives. Some issues, relations could be deepened.
    • The EU party funds the Citizen Action Network for Accountability, a grassroots initiative for citizen participation in local politics.
    • The unsolved NAIA3 issue still clouds relations with Germany, even if it seems that both sides made many serious mistakes.
    • The challenge here is to overcome prejudices and see the advantages of working more with a major political and economic area.

The government of President Aquino has made big advances in  developing a foreign policy that works with multiple partners on different levels, and has been very diplomatic in dealing with China which is a wise course, while starting to strengthen cooperation with certain ASEAN partners like Vietnam and Indonesia. From what I have heard, the Department of Foreign Affairs has strongly professionalized in the past years, raising the requirements to become a career diplomat. This is a good thing because the Philippines is in the middle of major global changes.

To fully realize its potential, it might do the Philippines well to remember how the ancient Kingdom of Tondo leveraged its position in the middle of trading routes to become a respected maritime trading power. All such powers, whether old Phoenicia, ancient Greek Delian league, Venice, Portugal, Holland or England, had a powerful navy to protect their trading interests. Recent reports show that this is being realized by some in the Philippines. Possibly, the Philippines is on the way to becoming a player in its own right and managing its own interests with appropriate measures and selected allies.

Irineo B. R. Salazar, München, May 8, 2015. DISCLAIMER: opinions expressed in linked articles or sources are not necessarily mine.

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The Muslim regions

The Muslim regions of the Philippines with three major ethnic groups – Maguindanao, Maranao and Tausug – were never fully under control of the Spanish colonial government, otherwise the areas would have been Catholic like the rest of the Philippines. Ethnic groups living in the mountains that kept their original beliefs until the Americans came are another notable exception.

In the late 19th century, the Spanish did manage to impose some control over the area, but it was the American colonial government that waged the Moro Wars from 1903-1913 and achieved full control. Relative peace reigned for decades, until the conflict reignited in 1969.

Numerous attempts to find peace in the meantime included autonomy. I will not go into the alphabet soup of different rebel groups and agreements. The most recent attempt to find peace is the Bangsamoro Basic Law which proposes far-reaching autonomy for the area. This includes own police, own waters and nearly everything has to be coordinated with the proposed Bangsamoro government.

The full 122 pages of the BBL may be downloaded here. The BBL avoids mentioning the Philippine Government by name, referring to it always as the “Central Government”, and refers to the “pre-colonial” inhabitants of Mindanao, Sulu and Palawan as the Bangsamoro people. Malaysia played a strong, controversial role in the negotiations for the agreement, which involves an area rich in natural resources. On one hand, the desire for peace and prosperity after a protracted conflict is understandable. On the other hand, the dangers are obvious given the separatist tendencies among many Filipino Muslim rebels. Some will maintain they were never Filipino at all, but never miss watching Manny Pacquiao.

The goal should be to develop the area so that all have opportunities and rebellion does not start again, while having enough safeguards in place to prevent local corruption, renewed armament and uncontrolled expansion within Mindanao that may lead to a separate state. Otherwise, hopes of a fresh start will have been premature. Experts of all colors have pointed out weaknesses in the BBL which may have to be fixed. The history of Filipino Muslims, who comprise around 5% of the overall population, is part of Philippine history. This includes their resistance against Spanish and American rule as well as Japanese occupation, the slave raids conducted against Christian settlements and the protracted civil war. Hopefully a peace settlement accepted by most Filipinos especially in Mindanao can be achieved, as only this can truly bring the necessary closure.

Irineo B. R. Salazar – München, May 6th, 2015

DISCLAIMER: opinions expressed in linked articles or sources are not necessarily mine.