- Philippine history, many argue, did not began with the coming of Portuguese explorer, Ferdinand Magellan in 1521. Rather, it began in the 13th century, when 10 datus from Borneo, each with a hundred of his kinsmen, landed in what is now known as Panay Island in the Visayas.
Yet, it was Magellan, and succeeding expeditions from Spain, who put the Philippine archipelago on the map of the world. The intrepid Magellan was dubbed as the discoverer of the Philippines after he landed in Homonhon Islet, near Samar, on March 17, 1521. He was later killed in Mactan Island of Cebu in a clash with native warriors led by a chieftain named Lapu-Lapu.
The Philippines was a prize catch for Spain which, at that time, was locked in a fierve struggle for world colonization with Portugal. The archipelago, named Filipinas for Spain's Philip Philippines, also a window to the New World, stretched from China to the north and theIndonesian archipelago to the south. The northernmost tip of the country, Y'ami of the Batanes Island group, is 241 kilometers south of Taiwan, while the southernmost tip, Sibulu of the Tawi-Tawi group of islands, is just 14.4 kilometers north of Borneo.
The Philippines, in fact, is at a most strategic location, making it a natural hub for commerce. Manila and Cebu are premiere centers of trade in the region. To the east is the vast Pacific Ocean and beyond it, the New World. To the west are the kingdoms of Indochina, including Cambodia and Thailand; while southwest is Malaysia.
There are three major geographical groups in the country: Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao. The northern portion of the archipelago is composed of the largest island, Luzon. The Visayan region is made up of about 6,000 islands, including Panay, Leyte, Samar, Cebu, and Bohol, Mindanao is the second largest island and emcompasses about 400 smaller islands.
Spanish colonizers succeeded in introducing Christianity in Luzon and Visayas but were unsuccessful in Mindanao, where Muslims staved off Spanish efforts.
Spain's rule lasted from the 16th to the 19th centuries but was marked with a series of revolts. When three Filipino priests were executed for national activities, a group of reformists formed the Propaganda Movement that would later pave the way for the Philippine Revolution. A young doctor-writer, Jose Rizal, was arrested and later executed by Spanish officials for his scathing criticisms of Spanish rule in the Philippines through two novels. Rizal, who was just 30 years old when he was executed, would later be recognized by historians as Asia's first years old when he was executed, would later be recognized by historians as Asia's first nationalist. His contemporaries include Gandhi and Dr. Sun Yat-sen.
The Philippine Revolution was launched after Rizal's death and was led first by Andres Bonifacio and then by Emilio Aguinaldo. Philippine independence was proclaimed on June 12, 1898, on the balcony of Aguinaldo's home in Kawit, Cavite. However, the Philippines was annexed by the Americans by means of the Treaty of Paris with Spain on December 10, 1898. This brought about the Filipino-American War. The Philippines then remainded an American colony for nearly 50 years. In 1935, a semiautonomous Philippine Commonwealth was inaugurated in Manila, with President Manuel L. Quezon and Vice-President Sergio Osmena. This became the Philippine government in-exile during the war.
From 1941-1945, the Philippines came under the Japanese empire. A puppet government, the Second Philippine Republic, was established, with President Manuel A. Roxas. This was the first fully independent and internationally recognized Filipino government.
The Philippines then became the showcase of democracy in Asia and led other Southeast Asian economies in the 1950s. It enjoyed the freest press in Asia and had peaceful transition of power through many successive presidents --- Roxas, Quirino, Magsaysay, Garcia, Macapagal, and Marcos. On September 21, 1972, President Marcos declared Martial Law and pushed through a new constitution in 1973, which prolonged his stay in power. He jailed his political rivals, dismissed Congress, silenced media critics, and ruled as a virtual dictator in what he called "Constitutional Authoritarianism."
On August 21, 1983, his arch-rival former Senator Benigno "Ninoy" Aquino, returned home from three years of self-exile abroad. At the airport, Aquino was shot dead by a military assassin. This galvanized the Filipino people to fight the dictator. And on February 22, 1986, Defense Minister Juan Ponce Enrile, Deputy Armed Forces Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Fidel V. Ramos, and reformist military officers broke away from the Marcos camp and prepared to fight a bloody confrontation with Marcos and his loyalist forces. They were supported by the "People Power Revolution" of February 22-25, 1986, which forced Marcos and his party to flee to Hawaii on board the US Air Force planes.
Mrs. Corazon "Cory" Aquino became the Philippines' first Lady President on February 25, 1986. She was succeeded by President Fidel V. Ramos in 1992.
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