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Quo vadis Philippines?

To know where the Philippines is going, it is important to know how it came to be. How the islands that became the Philippines were settled is a subject of numerous theories. The earliest documented trace of a civilization is the Laguna copperplate, dated to 900 A.D. and mentioning Tondo for the first time. Tondo was also known to have contact with the Ming dynasty. Around 1500, the Sultanate of Brunei established a city known as Kota Selurong on the opposite bank of the river Pasig. This city was also called Maynila, possibly due to a native plant growing there.

After first landing in the Philippines in 1521, the Spanish eventually conquered the Manila Bay area and founded the city of Manila on the place where Kota Selurong was in 1571. After some initial difficulties and insurrections, Manila became the capital of the Spanish East Indies which included the Philippines, Guam, the Caroline islands, parts of what is now Taiwan and the Moluccas under the Viceroyalty of New Spain which was in Mexico City. The galleon trade between Acapulco and Manila persisted for around 250 years, loading silver from Potosi and Mexico to be traded for oriental goods taken to Manila by Chinese merchants. Inspite of  numerous revolts, Chinese pirates and Muslim sultanates in the South that were never fully under Spanish control and regularly conducted slave raids, and a short British occupation of Manila in the late 18th century, the Philippines was ruled via Mexico until it became independent in the early 19th century.

Direct Spanish rule brought many changes, especially from the mid-19th century onwards, when public schooling was introduced and the Suez canal was opened, leading to more educated and affluent people in the country. John Crawfurd said in his book History of the Indian Archipelago, (1820) that the “Philippines alone did improve in civilization, wealth, and populousness under the colonial rule”. Increasing opportunities led Filipinos seek first more autonomy, then finally independence. A revolution broke out in 1896, also the start of the Spanish-American war.

The United States had supported the revolution, but then bought the Puerto Rico, Guam, and the Philippines from Spain in 1898, while Cuba was released into independence. The Philippine-American war broke out between the newly declared Philippine Republic and the United States and lasted for three years, with the last rebel groups surrendering years later. From 1901-1913, the United States fought the Moro Wars against the Muslims in the South of the Philippines. The United States consolidated their colonial rule over the Philippines, then gave autonomy in 1935.

The Philippine Commonwealth prospered from 1935 onwards, only to be interrupted by the Japanese invasion. After returning to the Philippines, the United States released the country into independence in 1946, with United States bases that stayed until 1991 and preferential trade agreements that lasted until the early 1970s. President Ferdinand Marcos, who had been voted into power twice in 1965 and 1969, declared Martial Law in 1972. Even if Martial Law was officially lifted in 1981, Marcos rule was a de facto dictatorship marked by numerous human rights abuses.

The murder of Marcos rival Benigno Aquino Jr. at Manila International Airport in 1983 fueled a mass movement that culminated in snap elections in 1986 and the People Power movement that made his widow Corazon Aquino President in 1986 via the February revolution on EDSA where Minister of Defence Juan Ponce Enrile and Philippine Constabulary chief Fidel Ramos switched sides. Under the new Constitution, “Cory” ruled for six years until 1992, a time marked by numerous military coups and troubles. President Fidel Ramos took over in 1992 and ruled until 1998.

Former actor Joseph Estrada, also known as “Erap”, was voted into the Presidency due to his popularity in 1998. Numerous scandals caused him to face impeachment in 2000, a new mass uprising know as EDSA Dos caused him to be ousted and replaced by his Vice-President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo in 2000. Arroyo’s reelection in 2004 was marred by the Hello Garci scandal. Numerous scandals caused President Arroyo to become very unpopular. In the hope of a better future, the Filipino people voted the son of Benigno and Corazon Aquino into power in 2010.

President Benigno Simeon Aquino III brought economic progress and modernization into the country and also was able to reduce corruption, but had enormous difficulties in dealing with entrenched political forces. His term has been beset by political crises since the beginning, the most severe one being the recent massacre of 44 Special Actions Forces policemen in Mamasapano in course of killing the international terrorist Marwan who was hiding in the area. Autonomy for Filipino Muslim areas after more than 40 years of conflict is being questioned as a result.

The coming 2016 election is seen as the most important election, especially in view of the progress the country has made. The Asian region is becoming more important. China is making a grab at islands also claimed by the Philippines and Vietnam, which may cooperate more in the near future. Malaysia was heavily involved in the negotiations for the Bangsamoro Basic Law which is designed to give autonomy to Filipino Muslim regions. The United States is the Philippine’s major ally. In this situation the question is – where is the Philippines going next? Into what future?

Irineo B. R. Salazar

München, April 23rd 2015

21 comments to Quo vadis Philippines?

  • karlgarcia

    Irineo we had a hanging discussion, I propose that Bill to write a blog here.

    Bill In Oz on March 30, 2017 at 2:17 pm
    An off topic : Just before we came here to Oz last July I read that there were 15 coal fired power plants then being built or in the planning stage in the Philippines. ..So renewable energy (Co2 free) power is a long way off in the Philippines. ( BTW Japan has 45 coal fired plants in the pipeline, as they move away from nuclear power. And I herd that about another 110 others are being built in Asia…

    So climate change is inevitable I suspect.

    Meanwhile here in Oz we are closing down our generating electricity plants to reduce carbon emissions. In place we have solar cell and wind generators. And power costs to consumers have jumped by around 200% in 4 years. Not a very smart move. And upcoming state elections will see governments being given a big electoral kick up the arse because of this.

    karlgarcia on March 30, 2017 at 2:27 pm
    Thanks for that.

    NHerrera on March 30, 2017 at 3:19 pm


    A look at the map of Australia gives immediately a reason for Nuclear Power to have a place in its Power Plant mix:

    * It is a vast country with lower population density;

    * Nuclear Power Plants (NPP) may be located around the country near the shore for the needed cooling water from the ocean;

    * Because of the big area, NPP can be located far from the populace;

    * Power transmission cost is significant but in the scheme of things is not that big; the country is close to being a circle which unlike the Philippines makes interconnection rather convenient;

    * Australia is technically advanced and the people to run the NPPs can be trained at the best management of NPPs with its risk;

    I am pretty sure Australia has looked at the NPP angle, but my point is that the Wind, Solar power and other RE sources cannot provide the base load. And as you pointed out the electricity cost will be high with its present power plant policy.

    Bill In Oz on March 30, 2017 at 4:22 pm
    Thanks N’herrera, yes Nuclear power would be a good surce of base load power…especially as here in South Australia we mine lots of Uranium yellow cake..In fact one of the best global sources in the world.. But for political reasons it is ‘verbotten’..The local greenies are too scared it might blow up or create nuclear weapons.

    Bill In Oz on March 30, 2017 at 7:00 pm
    Sure Karl,,I’ll see if Irineo is interested.

    Bill In Oz on March 30, 2017 at 5:55 pm
    Karl.. You wrote earlier ” The deal between the British and The sultanate of Sulu happened in 1878, and the sultanate claims that the British ‘leased’ it from them”

    This is largely true. The language of the agreement between the Sultan of Sulu & the British was in old Malay. What you translate as ‘lease’ also means ‘grant’ in old Malay. So Malaysia believes Sabah is a legitimate part of it’s territory. Another part of the agreement states that the British would pay an annual payment to the Sultan of Sulu in exchange for his granting of Sabah to the British. And Malaysia has continued to make those payments every year to the Sultan’s descendant.

    The important thing is that the Sultan of Sulu was independent of the Spanish rule in 1878. In fact most of Mindanao & the Islands of the South were ruled by local rulers ( Datus ) who never recognised Spanish rule and were independent of Spain and the colonial government in Manila. The only Spanish outpost was Zamboanga where there was a spanish fort and colonial troops.

    Mindanao really only became part of the Philippines after the USA invaded in 1898. And it took American organised forces till 1915 or longer, to conquer & ‘pacify’ this area. Settlement by Filipinos especially from Visaya speaking areas, then started in the 1920’s.

    can you see how the the Philippines claim to have residual sovereignity over Sabah is again bizarre ?

    karlgarcia on March 30, 2017 at 6:23 pm
    If you are up to it, you could blog about this at Irineo’s.
    So you,me,Irineo,Sonny and others can discuss this further.

    sonny on April 1, 2017 at 11:27 am
    Modern eyes tend to impose lenses that may or may not be valid on events of eras past. The Moro situation is one such era. I welcome a discussion on this subject. The caveat for this reportage is always: we were not there. 🙂

  • sonny (Irineo’s comment then)

    “Medyo gumagaan ang loob ko kapag nakikita ko ang mga ganitong posting.

    Nakakapanghinayang naman siguro kung pitong henerasyon pagkatapos ng magkaroon ng konting malay ang Pilipinas noong bandang 1830 immature pa rin ang sambayanan.

    Nakikita ko kasi sa karamihang mga dyaryong Pilipino puro tsismis, puro siete na lang, bihira ang may tunay na inpormasyon, analysis at kaalaman halos wala pa. Para bang nasa palengke ka at pinakikinggan mo ang tsatsatan ng mga nagtitinda at namimili.

    Mabuti at hindi na pinag-aawayan ng mga istoryador kung sino ang mas bayani o hindi – si Rizal ba o si Bonifacio. Ngayon bistado na ang mga kabalastugan ni Aguinaldo.

    Kahit anong mangyari sana patuloy pa rin ang pagmulat ng mga kabataan, huwag nang hayaang maging ignorante ang mga iyan dahil sayang na talaga. Hindi lang iyong mga nangyari noong 1986 kundi pati 1896, pati iyong mga nasimulan ni Quezon noong 1935. …”

    Just happen to re-view this post and your comment above. The following thoughts I hope to take up again as before-and-after election pictures of our PH state of affairs. I intend to reflect on them intently. Reading the interlocutions from almost all contributors, I was taken by the heightened feelings of civic conscience so palpable in the Mar 03 commentariat. You summed it so well, PiE.


    From Manong Sonny – a panorama of Philippine history:

    Our rainforest-cover now is only 2% of what it was when Magellan sighted our 7106 islands almost 500 yrs ago and was home to around 650,000 Malays speaking 13 distinct major languages. We were even then deeply divided in speech and behavior and still are. During the twilight of the Spanish, In the middle of the 18th century up to the advent of the Americans, the Sultanate of Sulu was the economic center of a slave system that raided Malays in Luzon and the Visayas whose sailing corridor included the ports of call of these slave raids. The conquest and disruption of this slave enterprise were the reasons America sent troops to Mindanao at the same time as the pacification of Luzon and the Visayas. The areas covered by this colonization circumscribed the territory that is now the Philippines. One can thus say the nationalization of the Philippines occurred in three stages: the Spanish (333 yrs), the American (37 yrs) and now the Filipino stage (81 yrs & counting). Looking at the events and bloodshed in those stages, I feel we have paid our “proverbial dues” and our young of today should recognize this..

    I mention the denudation of our forest-cover to point to the former abundance of our natural resources and our population of under a million to show the role-reversal looking at the abundance of our 105 million strong human capital of today. Our country was cobbled into a fragile nation and brought into geo-politics by two European civilizations and now after five centuries in the middle of much world turmoil we are in the hands and at the mercy of our own home-grown “statesmen.”

    So the question is, whither goest us?

    • sonny

      PiE, Here are some history datapoints I came across for the same timeframe (18-19th centuries) as above:

      o The Sultanates of Sulu, Brunei, and Cotabato competing for the British-China trade encompassing exp-imp products of No. Borneo, Manila, Brunei, Jolo, Cotabato, Celebes; the infrastructure is maritime: Sulu Sea & Celebes Sea; product demand supplied by No. Borneo and the Celebes, mainly Tea.

      o The manpower demand for this economy supplied by Moro raids on Luzon & Visayas (Filipinos) from east/west Luzon, Central Visayas

      • Thanks… one can also see that in the late 19th century, the Spanish finally attempted to take more control of the Southern Philippines.

        I wonder if more modern warships were a factor. And of course the necessity to keep the trade from the Suez canal opening onward safe from piracy.

        • sonny

          Right on the nose, PiE. These two themes still need to be reported on to add to our history narrative. The Spanish point of view during its swan song relations with its eastern colony need to be clarified: the response of the Catholic part of Spain to the French reign of terror ideas entering the peninsula and the initial effects on PH of the opening of Suez Canal, as you state.


      From Edgar Lores, another panoramic view of Philippine history:

      Here’s my take, which is not generational but multi-centurial.


      1. High – “Comes after a crisis, where individualism is weak, and institutions are strong—people, fresh from a crisis, want to come together.”
      2. Awakening – “Where those seeking individual or spiritual freedom attack institutions.”
      3. Unraveling — “Where besieged institutions are deeply distrusted, and individuals are relatively independent of each other.”
      4. Crisis – “When, in the face of the threat of a general collapse, people turn once more to a sense of community, to renewing cooperation and strengthening institutions.”

      B. BREAKDOWN (1521 – 2017) 496 years

      1. High: Spanish colonial period (1521 – 1898) 377 years

      2. Awakening: Philippine Revolution (Aug 1896 – Jun 1898)
      ….[2.1. High: First Republic (Jan 1899 – Mar 1901)]

      3. High: American colonial period (April 1898 – July 1943) 45 years
      ….[3.1. Awakening: Philippine Commonwealth (1935 – 1946)]

      4. Unravelling: Japanese colonial period and Second Republic (Oct 1943 – Aug 1945) 2 years

      5. High: Third Republic (Jul 1946 – Sep 1972) 26 years

      6. Unraveling: Martial Law and Fourth Republic (Sep 72 – Feb 1986) 14 years
      ….6.1. Awakening: EDSA I (1986)

      7. High: Fifth Republic (Feb 1986 – Jun 2016) 30 years
      ….7.1. Semi-awakening: EDSA II (2001)

      8. Unraveling: Reign of Terror (Jul 2016 – Present) 2 years

      C. SUMMARY

      1. Colonial Periods = 377 + 45 + 2 = 424 years (85%)

      2. Independent Period= 26 + 14 + 30 + 2 = 72 years (15%)

      ….2.1. Internal high = 26 + 30 = 56 years
      ….2.2. Internal unraveling = 14 + 2 = 16 years

      3. Total years = 424 + 72 = 496


      1. The Philippines has been in perpetual Crisis. That is, we have faced and are ever facing the “threat of general collapse.” But we have not turned – never fully turned? — to a sense of community.

      2. Our history can be divided into 2 eras – the Colonial Era and the Independent Era.

      3. The Colonial Era extends over 424 years. This accounts for 85% of our total years as a “nation.” In this era, we have had:

      o 2 Highs – Spanish (377 years) and American (45 years) colonial periods
      o 1 Unraveling – Japanese period (2 years)

      4. The Independent Era covers 72 years. This makes up the remaining 15% of our total years. In this era, we have had:

      o 2 Highs – Third Republic (26 years) and Fifth Republic (30 years). These “good” times of 56 years constitute 78% of our Independent Era.
      o 2 Unravelings — Martial Law (14 years) and the Reign of Terror (2 years). These bad times of 16 years constitute 22% of our Independent Era.

      5. I believe we have had three and a half awakenings:

      o Philippine Revolution – awakening to independence
      o Commonwealth – awakening to democracy
      o EDSA I – awakening to authoritarianism
      o EDSA II (half point) – awakening to corruption

      5.1. I would point to the Commonwealth (1935-46) as perhaps our most promising “awakening”.
      5.2. Are we undergoing another awakening right now? That is, awakening to human rights?

      E. Explanatory Notes

      1. First Republic (1899-1901) – Aguinaldo
      2. Commonwealth (1935-46) – Quezon, Osmeña, and Roxas
      3. Second Republic (1943-45) – Laurel
      4. Third Republic (1946-72) – Roxas, Quirino, Magsaysay, Garcia, Macapagal, and Marcos
      5. Martial Law and Fourth Republic (1972-87) – Marcos and Cory
      6. Fifth Republic (1987 – 2016) – Cory, FVR, Erap, GMA, and PNoy
      7. Reign of Terror (2016-17) Duterte

      • sonny

        Allow me a quibble: the yrs from 1521-1565 (44 yrs) the Philippine islands only existed in the Royal navigational charts, literally only a colonial ember.

  • karlgarcia

    Among them them The Lagubna Copperplate,Golden Tara of Agusan,a few more and this.
    9. Butuan “Mother Boat.”

    Butuan Mother Boat

    In 2012, the remains of what archaeologists believe to be the biggest balangay (plank boat) in Philippine history was recovered in Butuan City.

    Estimated to be around 800 years old, the newly-discovered Butuan “mother boat” may be centuries older than the European ships that landed in the archipelago in 16th century, and even predates Magellan’s arrival and death in 1521.

    According to National Museum archeologist Dr. Mary Jane Louise A. Bolunia, the said “mother boat”–estimated to be at least 25 meters long–is believed to be the main “safekeeping” boat where trade goods and supplies were stored. On the other hand, the smaller balangays–similar to the eight previously-recovered Butuan boats–might have functioned as mere support vessels.

    Although a long and careful study is still needed to prove that the discovery is an authentic balangay, its proximity to previous balangay excavation sites seems to promise a positive result.

  • karlgarcia

    This artifact, which was dated to early 13th century, is considered the one of the most significant discoveries in Philippine archaeology. It was discovered in 1917 by a Manobo woman named Bilay Ocampo [1], in the bank of a river in Esperanza, Agusan.

    Made of 21-karat gold and weighing four pounds, the statue depicts a Malay-Hindu goddess sitting cross-legged. Her body were ornamented and on her head was a kind of a headdress [2].

  • A nice and funny summary of the Spaniards first landing in the Philippines by deceased Visayan comedian Yoyoy Villame:

  • karl garcia

    ulitin ko dito ang hindi marunong lumingon sa pinang galingan ay hindi makararating sa paroroonan. at kailangan ng magpahilot sa leeg.Importante ang bangsamoro,sa kapayapaan,at sa kaunlaran.Tumingin sa nakaraan para di na ulit ulitin ang mali.Learn from the past for a better future.Malaki ang pag-asa.

    • Tama. Kaya ko isinummarize ng husto iyong kasaysayan ng Pilipinas. Para makita iyong mga mahalagang development. Sa sobrang haba at puro dates at detalye ng ibang mga pagsasalaysay, nawawala ang big picture. Sa tingin ko, starting with 19th century lang talaga nagsimulang mabuo ang Pilipinas, bago rito mga tribo-tribo lang sa Spanish East Indies na parte ng Nueva España, tapos mas binuo pa ito ng mga Amerikano.

      Ngayon sa palagay ko, dalawang puwersa ang nagbubuo sa sambayanan: pagtatrabaho sa abroad at mass media. Sa abroad ang maraming nagkakatagpo at nagkakakilalang iba’t ibang tao, tapos sa TV at sine lahat natututo ng common language.

  • Clyde Icuspit

    So much information in so few paragraphs. For a data geek like me it’s just the right data density. Well done Irineo. I look forward to the next blog post.

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