Main Article: Quo Vadis Philippines?

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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.