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Philippine History

The history of the Philippines is believed to have begun with the arrival of the first humans via land bridges at least 30,000 years ago. The earliest archeological evidence of man in the archipelago is the 40,000-year-old Tabon Man of Palawan and the Angono Petroglyphs in Rizal.

Prior to Magellan’s arrival, the Negritos were the early settlers in the Philippines, but they were later displaced by Austronesians. The basic unit of settlement was the barangay, originally a kinship group headed by a datu or chief. Within the barangay, the social divisions consisted of the maharlika or nobles; timawa or freemen; and alipin or slaves.

The first recorded visit from the West is the arrival of Ferdinand Magellan in Homonhon Island, southeast of Samar on March 16, 1521. Magellan established friendly relations with some of the local leaders and converted some of them to Roman Catholicism. However, Magellan was killed in a dispute with the indigenous tribal groups led by a chieftain named Lapu-Lapu. Colonization began when Spanish explorer Miguel Lopez de Legazpi, arrived in 1565 and formed the first European settlements in Cebu. One of Spain’s objectives in colonizing the Philippines was the conversion of the local population to Roman Catholicism.

Enlightened to the injustices of the Spanish colonial government, the Filipinos clamored for independence. Jose Rizal, the most celebrated intellectual and radical leader of the era, wrote the novels “Noli Me Tangere” and “El Filibusterismo”, which greatly inspired the people for independence. The Katipunan, a secret society whose primary purpose was to overthrow Spanish rule in the Philippines, was founded by Andres Bonifacio.

The Philippine Revolution against Spain began in April 1896, but it was largely unsuccessful until it received support from the United States, which ended two years later with a proclamation of independence and the establishment of the First Philippine Republic. The Treaty of Paris ended the Spanish-American War and control of the Philippines was transferred to the United States. U.S. colonial rule started in 1905 and partial autonomy was granted in 1935. Preparation for full independence from the United States was interrupted by the Japanese occupation during World War II.

With a promising economy in 1950s and 1960s, the Philippines in the late 1960s and early 1970s saw a rise of student activism and civil unrest against the corrupt dictatorship of President Ferdinand Marcos who declared martial law on September 21, 1972 by virtue of Proclamation No. 1081.

The peaceful and bloodless People Power Revolution of 1986 brought about the ousting of Marcos and a return of democracy for the country. Since then the country has been marked by political instability and hampered economic productivity.



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