Hello everyone! Most of the new guys know me as an American. But the older guys that have known me over the years know that I’m an avid patriot of my ethnic country. In about four hours from now at the time of writing, it will be June 12 in Asia. This coming June 12 will mark the 122nd anniversary of Philippine Independence against foreign occupation by the Spanish Empire. For nearly three centuries the Spanish Empire occupied our islands cutting us off from the rest of Southeast Asia. To celebrate our independence, I would like to share with all of you a brief and interesting history about my country. Join me as I share the vast history of my people. Mabuhay ang Tawalisi!
My people are known ethnically to be part of the Austronesian Language Family. What is the Austronesian language family? We are group of genetically, culturally, and linguistically related people that speak the Austronesian languages. From Easter Island, Taiwan, and Madagascar. The Austronesian language family was the world's largest family in terms of distance and most spread out across the globe before the advent of European Colonization. Austronesian peoples consist of the people of Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore, Brunei, the Philippines, the indigenous people of Taiwan, all of Polynesia, the Champa people of Vietnam, and the Merina people of Madagascar. Long before what is today known as the Philippines, the islands were originally inhabited by Australo-Melanesians. They were the first wave of human migrants out of Africa that traveled to island Southeast Asia.
The original inhabitants of the islands.
The history of my people starts at the late Neolithic age of history. The ancient homelands of the Austronesian peoples are believed to be coastal Southeastern China. We share our ancient homelands together with the people of the Tai-Kadai and Austroasiatic languages. The people of modern-day Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam. There is scientific debate as to whether we share ancient ties with the Koreans and Japanese as well due to the ancient Kumaso and Hayato tribes of Japan believed to be of Austronesian origin. (I hope we don’t) We were all eventually pushed out of southeastern China by the Han peoples who would also one day form the Han Empire. My people were pushed down to the island of Taiwan. What is so interesting is that scholars believe the Island of Taiwan to be the birthplace of the Austronesian language family. From there the great “Austronesian expansion” took place. My people spread south once more to the Island of Luzon in the northern Philippines. There my people came into contact with the Australoid-Melanesians that landed thousands of years earlier. My people were relentless. The great Austronesian expansion was so great that we spread out across all of maritime Southeast Asia and the Pacific absorbing all of the smaller indigenous populations into the dominant Austronesian culture and population. From the island of Taiwan all across the pacific from Easter Island to Maritime Southeast Asia to the island of Madagascar.
The indigenous peoples of Taiwan are considered to be the modern day ancestors of Filipinos, Malaysians, and Indonesians.
The Amis Taiwanese tribe is the closest genetically to the people of the Philippines.
The Austronesian Expansion.
By the ninth century various Maritime Kingdoms and Thalassocracies formed. In Indonesia and Malaysia the Siri Vijaya and Majapahit empires dominated sea trade routes in Southeast Asia. In Polynesia the Kingdom of Hawaii had formed. In Madagascar the Merina Kingdom was formed. My people call our home islands various legendary names such as Tawalisi or Maharlika. Alas we never had a formal name for our home islands. We were a divided set of Rajahnates, Sultanates, and Maritime Kingdoms. The most famous would be the Rajahnate of Namayan, the oldest recorded Hindu-Buddhist Kingdom in the Philippine islands. Other notable Indianized Kingdoms would be the Rajahnates of Tondo, Cebu, and Maynila. The Sultanates of Lanao, Mindanao, and Sulu. There is so much history hidden behind my nation's colonial past. For example, legends of the origins of the Rajahnate of Cebu state that Cebu was created by a prince of the collapsing Sir Vijayan Empire. Other legends about my country is the legendary story of Empress Sasaban. She was a Dayang (Princess) from Namayan who was married off to the Emperor of the Majapahit Empire. Thus, she reigned as Empress Sasaban over all of Maritime Southeast Asia. There are accounts of Maharlikan (feudal noble) warriors taking part in the Burmese invasion of Siam in the 13th century.
The Rajahnate of Cebu and the Sultanate of Sulu had commercial contacts as far west as India and as far north as Japan.
Alas a vast majority of my nation’s culture and identity would be lost to history when the Spanish Empire attacked in 1521. Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan landed in Cebu in search of the mythical spice islands. He stuck a Spanish flag on the beaches of Mactan and proclaimed the entire archipelago for the Spanish Empire. For the next 50 years each Rajahnate, Sultanate, and Confederation would fall one by one to the divide and conquer tactics of the Spanish Conquistador, Miguel lopez de Legazpi. When the last Rajahnate was defeated Legazpi proclaimed the ruins of the Maynila Rajahnate the new capital of the Spanish East Indies. The city of “Manila”. The islands were to be named in honor of King Philipp of Spain. “Islas de Filipinas”. The brutality of Spanish colonization is so evident in my country you can see the effects today. There are accounts of Spanish priests and friars burning sacred texts and murdering anyone who would refuse to convert from Buddhism and Hinduism to Christianity. The reason why so many Filipinos today have Spanish names is because the colonial authorities mandated that all natives must convert to Christianity and take on Spanish surnames. The Spanish colonial authorities noticed the vast commercial and diplomatic connections with the rest of Asia. They noticed small details such as the Kingdom of Siam sending its diplomats to bring gifts to the Rajahante of Tondo. It has also been recorded that Chinese and Japanese traders settled in Pangasinan bringing back native goods back to mainland China. In Japan there are “rusonstubo” or “Luzon Jars” exquisite ornate Jars imported to Japan from the Philippines during 14th century. At the bottom of each Luzon Jar is a character from the ancient Philippine Baybayin alphabet. The Kriss dagger from Javanese culture was very common in the southern Philippines because of southern islands inclusion in the Majapahit Empire. The Philippines was one of the most prized territories of the Spanish Empire. To protect its trade the Spanish closed off the Philippines from the rest of Asia. For the next 300 years the Philippines would be cut off from the rest of Asia only being allowed to trade with Madrid and Mexico City and having extremely limited contacts with the Americas and Europe. Thus, Manila became one of the original “World Cities” together with Madrid and Mexico City because of the vast amounts of wealth that traveled between the three cities.
After nearly three centuries of foreign occupation the natives had enough. There have been numerous rebellions in the past to free our islands such as the Tondo Conspiracy or the Panay revolt but they were nothing compared to the Philippine revolution. In 1896, eight major provinces openly revolted against the Spanish. These were Batangas, Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna, Manila, Nueva Ecija, Pampanga, and Tarlac. On June 12, 1898 the Republic of the Philippines was declared in Cavite in the ancestral home of Field Marshal Emilio Aguinaldo who would become our first President. During the war the USS Maine docked in Cuba suffered a fatal explosion sinking it. To this day there is debate whether the explosion was caused by internal combustion or a Spanish torpedo. Either way the U.S. was itching for a fight with Spain. The United States declared war on Spain resulting in the Spanish American war. To defeat Spain the United States saw the Philippine revolution as a way to cut off Spain from its Asian colony. The United States sent its Asiatic fleet to support Philippine revolutionary forces against the Spanish. The battle of Manila bay was one of the last major naval battles of the world that proved that the age of Ironclads was coming to an end.
The USS Olympia fires her main batteries at the Spanish fleet at the battle of Manila bay.
The revolution would be fought in vein. As the war was coming to an end the Spanish were getting desperate and did the unthinkable. Rather than face defeat from the natives they would rather save face. At the end of the Spanish American war the treaty of Paris was signed. Part of the treaty was to cede the Philippines islands to the United States. Feeling betrayed President Emilio Aguinaldo declared war on the United States in 1898. Still recovering from the revolution our Republic was in no shape to take on the U.S. The Americans had control of Manila and complete naval superiority. For the next three years we would wage a bloody guerilla war of resistance against the Americans. In 1902 the Philippine American war came to a close with the first Republic signing an unconditional surrender to the Americans. The atrocities committed by the Americans were atrocious. Women and teenagers being raped by Americans troops. Shooting surrendering soldiers, and killing young boys for fear of being enemy scouts. Another chapter ends in our 300 years of resistance from occupation.
Battle of Quingua, April 23, 1899
Philippine General Gregorio del Pilar and his troops in Pampanga, around 1898
Field Marshal Emilio Aguinaldo would become the first President of the Republic
For the next 40 years we would be the lone American Colony in Asia. During the 1930s the Commonwealth of the Philippines was established. An all Filipino semi-autonomous government that laid the groundwork for planned Independence by July of 1946. General Douglas Macarthur retired from the U.S. Army and volunteered to raise the Philippine Army. He moved to the Philippines and became Field Marshal of the Philippine Commonwealth Army. On December 8th 1941 Naval and Air Forces of the Japanese Empire attacked the home islands. The Nanshin-ron doctrine of the Imperial Navy was to use the home islands as a staging ground for the invasion of Malaya and Indonesia. In May of 1942 General Macarthur retreated to Australia after the fall of the Philippines thus marks the beginning of the Japanese occupation. There are numerous stories of Japanese war crimes such as the Bataan Death March and the beheading of women and children but I don’t want to go into detail for it brings me pain to think of the past. In 1944 the Philippines was liberated by American and Philippine Commonwealth troops after the battle of the Philippine Sea and the Battle of Leyte gulf. These battles are very historic because the Philippine Sea was world's largest carrier battle and Leyte Gulf being the world's largest naval battle. A vast majority of the Imperial Navy’s ships were sunk in the Philippines including the world’s largest battleship, the Musashi which was the sistership of the Yamato. Other ships like the dreadnought Fuso and the heavy cruiser Atago were also sunk in the Philippines.
The battle of Leyte Gulf was the largest naval battle in the world.
The battleship USS Pennsylvania leading USS Colorado and the cruiser USS Louisville to the shores of Lingayen.
General MacArthur landing on Samar with Philippine President Sergio Osmena.
On July 4, 1946 we were finally given our independence. After 425 years we were finally free from colonial oppression. Although we were free there were a few strings attached to our independence. During the Cold War the Philippine served as the capital of American hegemony in Asia against the Soviet Union. The American Naval base at Subic Bay and Basa Air Force Base were the largest American bases to have ever been built outside the United States. The CIA Asia Operations were also stationed in Manila to keep track of communist uprisings in Indonesia, Malaysia, and Vietnam. In 1950 the Philippines was the first Asian nation to send 7,500 troops to help in the defense of South Korea during the Korean War. The most notable battle they took part in was the battle of Yultong when the tenth battalion composed of only 900 soldiers defended against the Chinese 44th Division composed of 40,000 soldiers. The battle ended in a heroic victory for the defenders.
Independence day ceremony lowering the American flag and raising the Philippine flag.
The battle of Yultong.
The 1950s and 1960s was a bustling time for my country. Our economy was the most developed in Southeast Asia compared to Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Vietnam, and Thailand at the time. We even had the most developed military compared to them as well. Not many people know this but after WW2 the Japanese economy was so devastated that our economy surpassed theirs during the 1950s. The future was looking bright for our nation. Oh, if only the future had stayed bright. The next chapter of my country’s history takes a turn for the worst. If you ask a Filipino “who is Ferdinand Marcos?” you’ll get mixed opinion. Half the population loves him, the other half calls him a tyrant. President Ferdinand Marcos is perhaps the most controversial president our country has ever seen. One side of the argument states that he was the greatest President our country ever had. During his reign there was much improvement within our country. Japan preferred the Philippines when it came to trade and other economic treaties. The Philippines was a founding member of the now defunct Southeast Asia Treaty Organization or SEATO. Marcos tried to revive the MAPHILINDO. A Union between the Philippines, Malaysia, and Indonesia. It was during his reign our country built its first Nuclear Power Plant. The other side of the argument sees Marcos as a Dictator. Numerous money laundering scandals, reports of killing political rivals, and declaring martial law without any proper reason. This part of history gets a little fuzzy. At 7:00PM on September 23, 1972 President Marcos declared martial law. Officially it was to combat a nationwide communist insurgency that had been lingering since the days of Japanese occupation and an Islamic insurgency that had gained traction in the southern islands. Unofficially it has been put forward that martial law was declared because of the amounting evidence of human rights abuses and other scandals that were rising. None the less martial law had brought our nation down so low that our economy nearly crashed completely. Eventually Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore, and Thailand overtook our economy. We went from being the wealthiest nation in Southeast Asia to near rock bottom. On February 22, 1986 the EDSA Revolution or “People Power Revolution” took place in Manila to overthrow Marcos’s reign. Corazon Aquino toppled Marcos’s government and took office as the 11th president of the Philippines and the nation's first female president.
President Marcos's inauguration.
The founding of the Southeast Asia Treaty Organization SEATO.
American President Ronald Reagan with Marcos and First Lady Imelda.
Japanese Emperor Hirohito with Marcos visiting Manila
Marcos visiting the White House.
American President Lyndon B. Johnson with Marcos and Imdelda
Marcos declares martial law.
Corazon leading the People Power Revolution.
Corazon being inaugurated.
Current President Rodrigo Duterte 16th President of the Republic.
34 years and five presidents later here we are today in 2020. What's going on today you might ask? Our economy is the 34th largest in the world. Our GDP is at 356 billion. If you take look at our economy, we are actually larger than Romania’s economy of only 239 billion. Economists see the Philippines as Asia’s 5th largest economy by 2050 and 15th largest in the world by 2060. Here’s to hoping I’ll still be alive when my country one day becomes a developed nation. Today our current president is Rodrigo Duterte. You may have heard about him on the news a few times. He has taken the spotlight on the world stage ever since he took office in 2016. He is a bit controversial because of his very brash attitude but he is definitely a patriot who loves our country. But alas he is not a perfect President. Ever since he took office, he has been trying to pursue an independent foreign policy shifting allegiance away from the U.S. and pursuing closer ties with Russia and China. Which is ironic because China has been bullying many of its neighbors including the Philippines in the whole South China Sea debate. In 2016 the Hauge ruled in favor of the Philippines during the United Nations Arbitration Philippines v China. The Hauge ruled that China does not have historical claims in the south China Sea and is not allowed to build naval bases and prevent sea traffic from entering the area. Each day more and more navy ships from both China and the U.S. are being sent to patrol the South China Sea so is definitely a hot spot for a potential future conflict. These are the modern problems my country faces today and I hope that one day these issues can be resolved in a peaceful manner. That was quite a journey we took huh? And this concludes a brief history of the Philippine Islands. Happy birthday Philippines! Bless my homeland forever...