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A Historical Overview of the Philippines

Updated on December 27, 2014

Where the Filipino race started

Before the discovery of the Philippines by the Spanish explorer- Magellan in 1521 while searching for spices, the first people who migrated in the country were the cave men. They inhabited the caves in the country, which believed to have crossed from Indonesia in search for food around 250,000 years ago. They eventually left and migrated to another country. Around 30,000 years ago, a second group of migrants came to the country from Malaya, Borneo, and Australia through land bridges and ice glaciers towards Palawan, Mindoro, and Mindanao. They were known as the Negritos or Aetas, described as short height and dark-skinned. They permanently stayed in the country when ice glaciers started to melt and seawater level increased, which caused the land bridges to disappear. After the Negritos or Aetas, it is also belived that the Philippines was inhabited by the Tabon Man in Palawan, similar to the Java Man or Peking Man. The Indonesian seafarers also migrated to the Philippines through boats. They stayed in the country and built sturdy houses. Around 2000 years ago, the next wave of migrants came to the country. They were the Malays who traveled through boat from Java, Malay Peninsula, Borneo, and Sumatra. They were described having brown skin, medium height, straight hair, and flat nose.

Several races were believed to have boarded the country to trade resources and migrated. One of them would be the Muslims who did not just trade goods with the natives but also introduced the Islam religion. The Chinese also traded with the natives and played a significant role in the Philippine history as evidently shown in the number of Filipino-Chinese living in the country.

Walled City of Manila
Walled City of Manila

Spanish Era

In March 16, 1521, in honor of Spain, a Portuguese named Ferdinand Magellan went in an expedition to Indonesia for spices. In search for the Spice Island, he landed to the Philippines where he met Rajah Humabon of Cebu. Magellan introduced Christianity, which the rajah accepted. In an effort to spread Christianity throughout the island, Magellan went to Mactan Cebu where he was killed by Lapu-Lapu in April 17, 1521.

King Charles I decided to conquer the Philippines so he sent five ships but only two reached the country. Ruy Lopez de Villalobos landed in Mindanao on February 2, 1543. He named the country "Islas Filipinas" (Philippine Island) in honor of King Philip, son of King Charles. Villalobos did not stay long in the country due to lack of supplies and immediately left for Spain.

Miguel Lopez de Legaspi was the explorer who succeeded in colonizing the Philippines under the orders of King Philip II. He landed in Cebu on February 13, 1565. He made friends with Datu Sikatuna, a chieftain in Bohol. Legaspi was able to brought home spices and gold through the help of Datu Sikatuna. He went back to the Philippines on April 27, 1565 and destroyed the village of Raja Tupas where he built his fort. King Philip II sent over 2000 men to support Legaspi and to build a stronger fort.

The Spaniards heard of the riches of other islands so they went on another expedition from Cebu going to Manila. Rajah Suliman, a Muslim leader, welcomed the troops of Martin de Goiti in Manila. This friendship did not last as they realized the true intentions of the Spaniards. This led to a battle between the natives and the Spaniards, and eventually led to the downfall of Manila. Legaspi went to Manila to join Goiti and made peace with Rajah Suliman, Lakandula, and Matanda. He also ordered to build the walled city of Intramuros in 1571, then declared Manila as capital of the Philippines. After the death of Legaspi, Manila was given the title of "Insigne y Siempre Leal Ciudad de Espana" (distinguished and ever loyal city of Spain) by King Philip II.

Gen. Aguinaldo's declaration of Philippine independence
Gen. Aguinaldo's declaration of Philippine independence

Philippine Independence

When Emilio Aguinaldo, who was the first president of the Philippines, spear-headed the revolt against the Spaniards, they were able to take over all of Luzon except for Intramuros. Since the Spanish-American war is still on, they agreed to sign a treaty turning over the Philippines from the Spaniards to the Americans to end the war. This treaty was called - Treaty of Paris.

Another revolt led by Gen. Aguinaldo came, but now, against the Americans to claim the independence he had declared. However, he was captured by Gen. Frederick Funston. The Americans concentrated in developing the country's economy by opening the country to the world through Free Trade. The independence of the country was given back when the great depression came to the U.S. when Japan started to declare war in Asia.

The Japanese started to increase its power and reached the Philippines. Sergio Osmeña, who was the president at that time after the death of president Manuel L. Quezon (1st president of the Commonwealth), came back to the Philippines with the great forces of the Americans. This ended the Japanese reign in the country.

The Republic of the Philippines was then established with Manuel Roxas as the president.

People Power Monument
People Power Monument

Marcos' Reign

When Ferdinand Marcos won against President Macapagal in 1965 Presidential Election. Marcos was able to enrich the country's economy on the first part of his term when the Philippines became one of the founding countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nation (ASEAN) in 1967. However, as violence grew all over the country, President Marcos declared martial law in 1972. More darkness covered the country when the assassination of opposition leader Benigno "Ninoy" Aquino in 1983 happened at Manila airport (now Ninoy Aquino International Airport or NAIA). During the 1986 election came, the widow of Ninoy Aquino, Corazon Aquino, fought Marcos in the presidential seat. Both declared to have won the election, but the Filipinos stood up against the dictatorship of president Marcos, and joined forces together. This is the infamous "People Power" in EDSA which made the Marcos's from leaving Malacañang and fled to the United States.

After martial law...

When the Marcos's left the country, Corazon Aquino took the office as the new president of the Philippines. During her reign, there were several attempts to destabilize the government, wanting to take over Malacañang Palace. Aquino declined to run for re-election in 1992, then was succeeded by Fidel Ramos, who was her army chief of staff. During Fidel Ramos term, he focused on developing the country's economy. In 1998, Joseph Estrada, who was a famous movie actor and a long-term politician, run for presidency and won the election. Estrada launched several projects focusing on the poor Filipinos. He was loved by the masses, but was unpopular amongst the other sectors like businessmen, other politicians, and church leaders. Another uprising came led by those sectors who does not favor Estrada and had Gloria Arroyo, who was the vice president at that time, took her oath under the power of the Supreme Justice.

Manila, Metro Manila, Philippines

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    • conradofontanilla profile image


      6 years ago from Philippines

      Well-intentioned but with some inaccuracies. The Americans "bought" the Philippines from Spain when the Filipinos had already declared independence by their own revolution against Spain. The purchase was a ruse on the part of the Americans to establish their empire in Asia. The Filipinos fought the Americans who suffered more casualties than they had in the Cuba. The masses "loved" Estrada on their mistaken belief that his roles in the movies, champion of the masses, would be translated in reality when he became president.

    • kerlynb profile image


      7 years ago from Philippines, Southeast Asia, Earth ^_^

      Detailed presentation JKSophie. You have a neat hub here, congratulations! :)

    • profile image

      cute gurll_23 

      9 years ago

      i rilly like ur website because i can get a lot of info about the things i want to know!!!

    • JKSophie profile imageAUTHOR


      10 years ago from Philippines

      Thanks :-)

    • Ryan Hupfer profile image

      Ryan Hupfer 

      10 years ago from San Francisco, CA

      Thanks for answering my Request and welcome to HubPages! You should join our HubMob this week...check it out here:


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