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Travel Guide > Asia > Philippines

Philippines History & Politics

  
 
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First steps

Several thousand years ago, the first settlers in the Philippines crossed shallow seas and land bridges from the mainland Asia to arrive in this group of islands. These were the Negritos or Aetas. Direct descendants of these people can still be found in Zambales province to the North of Manila. Several thousand years later, they were then followed by Austronesian settlers travelling the same route as the Negritos but this time over sea in their impressive Balangay boats. This word is where the basic form of political institution, the baranggay, came from. The settlers are believed to originate from neighbouring countries notably Malaysia and Indonesia.

Pre-Spanish era

After the first Filipinos settled in the islands, they traveled further Pacific. The early Austronesians of the Philippines simultaneously traded with each other as well as with the Chinese, Japanese, Okinawans, Indians, Thais, Arabs and other Austronesians of present-day Malaysia and Indonesia. An interesting mix of cultures developed in the islands, and a writing system called baybayin or alibata, as well as a social structure developed quickly, some of the traders stayed and married the natives. Hinduism and Buddhism was introduced by traders from India, Sumatra and Java. These two religions syncretized with the various indigenous animistic beliefs. Later, Arab, Malay and Javanese traders converted the natives, mainly in the island of Mindanao and the Sulu Archipelago to Islam. Later then Indianized kingdoms associated with the Srivijaya Kingdom and Islamic sultanates came to rise in the country.

Spanish and British rule

When the explorer Ferdinand Magellan set foot on Philippine soil through the island of Homonhon in 1521, the Philippines was predominantly animist, with some Muslim and Hindu inhabitants mainly in the southern part of the country. Famished, Magellan's crew were treated to a feast by the welcoming islanders who wore elaborate gold jewelry. Magellan was Portuguese but it was a Spanish Expedition which he led to the islands which were eventually claimed by Spain as its colony. Lapu-Lapu was against the Christianization of the natives, he then fought a battle with Magellan where Lapu-Lapu won while Magellan was killed. The Philippines was later on named for Crown Prince Philip II of Spain and most of the natives converted to Catholicism. Some Muslims in the south and various animistic mountain tribes, however, resisted Spanish conquest and Catholic conversion.

The longest revolt against Spanish colonization was led by Francisco Dagohoy in Bohol which lasted for 85 years covering the period of 1744-1829. As a cabeza de barangay or barangay captain, Dagohoy opposed the Spanish colonizers which were represented by priests and civil leaders, which required payment of excessive taxes, tributes. They also oppresed the Philippines' natives by not subjecting them as slaves and sending them to prison for disobeying rules. The Manila Galleon trade made contact between the country and Mexico as well as the whole of the Americas, Mayans and Aztecs settled in modern day Mexico, Pampanga and introduced their cultures which then was embraced by the Filipinos, other Asians used the Manila Galleon trade in order to migrate to the West. During the Spanish rule, people such as the Dutch, Portuguese and British tried to colonize the country, however only the British did so and it lasted for 2 years in the modern-day capital; Manila. The Philippines remained a Spanish colony for over 300 years until 1899 when it was ceded by Spain to the United States following the Spanish-American War.

Colonization strikes again

The Filipinos declared independence on June 12, 1898 and resisted the American occupation and colonization and fought the Americans for seven years until the Filipinos surrendered which completed the colonization of the Philippines. The American presence remained until World War II when Japan invaded the Philippines. The Japanese occupation lasted from 1941 to 1945 when Gen. Douglas McArthur fulfilled his promise and liberated the country from the Japanese. In 1946, the Philippines was granted full independence by the U.S., although they maintained a military presence in the country through the Subic Naval Base in Zambales and Clark Air Base in Angeles City. These facilities were ultimately returned to the Philippines in the early 1990's.

Pre-Modern Era

Up until the 1960's, the Philippines was second only to Japan in terms of development in Asia. Several decades of rule by Ferdinand Marcos plunged the country into deep debt. Poverty was widespread and infrastructure for development was severely lacking. In 1986, the People Power uprising finally overthrew the Marcos government. He was replaced by Corazon Aquino, widow of slain opposition leader, Benigno "Ninoy" Aquino, Jr.

Modern era

Prior to the 21st Century, corruption became one of the main problems of the country. The country suffered slightly in the 1997 Asian Financial crisis but led to a second EDSA which overthrew Pres. Joseph Estrada, the then Vice-President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo (daughter of one of the former presidents) took his place who will end her term this 2010. Growth in the Philippines is slow but it is hopefully catching up with its neighbours. On 2009, Typhoon Ketsana stormed the country, in just a day it flooded the whole of Metro Manila leaving casualties.





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