History of the Philippines

Philippines Explained In 8 Minutes

The Philippines - Time Line

When you ask Filipinos about their history, you either learn a bit about the very recent history, going back to maybe José Rizal or maybe to Ferdinand Marcos.  More often you hear stories about “Kaiba-an”, “Balang” and “Aswang”, ghosts, phantoms and witches. If you look for more scientific sources, you have to read lots of very thick books. But we found Wolfgang Bethge’s website “Literaturbrücke Philippinen” in which the history of the Philippines can be found in form of 3 chronological tables. We thank Wolfgang Bethge for his excellent work and are grateful that he allows us to use his history tables. The 3 chronological tables are: First, from prehistoric era to the end of the Spanish colony. Second, from the beginning of the American colony to the end of the second world war. And third, from 1945 up to now.


DateYearCultural, natural, social and political events
250 000 BCTool findings in the Cagayan Valley (Northern Luzon)
50 000 BCManufacture of stone tools in the Tablon Cave in Palawan. A skull finding is dated about 30 000 BC.
40 000 BCAustraloids (ancestors of today’s Negritos) begin to immigrate to the Asian continent on the remaining land bridges (not proven). They are collectors and hunters (archers), have stone tools, and live mostly in caves.
7.000 – 5000 BCFirst waves of immigration of “Malays” which originally came from southern China. They come in boats (“barangays” or “balangays”) from Taiwan, Vietnam, Malaysia and Indonesia. They control fire, the manufacture clothing made of bark and animal skins, pottery and cultivate rice.
3 000 BCRock art of Angono – the oldest artifact of the Philippines with the artistic representation of human and animal figures
3000 – 1000 BCImmigration of old Malay and other tribes. They are the ancestors of today’s Ifugao, Bontocs and Mangyans. They know the cultivation of dry rice and manufacture of glass. They lived in huts on stielts and made tools of copper, bronze and iron. Animism, shamanism and a pronounced death cult to determine the religious life.
from 200 BCImmigration of young Malay tribes from today’s Indonesia. They are the ancestors of the vast majority of today’s Filipinos. They are known for their wood carvings and jewelry making.
0 BCStart of construction of the rice terraces with sophisticated irrigation technology in and around Banaue, the “Eighth Wonder of the World”
A balangay, the first known ships in the Philippines
Similar dwellings were found in Guam
Pottery, about 2000 years old, from Sultan Kudarat

Before Colonial Era


DateYearCultural, natural, social and political events
900Copper plate inscriptions (Laguna) show settlements in and around Manila
1000Begin of trade with Chinese porcelain. Chinese traders set up bases in the Philippines.
1200 – 1300Wave of immigrants from Borneo. Islam reaches the southern Philippines.
1240Islamic missionaries in Sulu. Relatively peaceful mission among the tribes in the southern Philippines because islamic missionaries widely tolerate the traditions of the indigenous tribes .
1250Legislation written by Datu Sumakwei on Panay island
1380Sharif Makdon builds the first mosque on Sulu island
1433Datu (chief) Kalantiaw of the island of Negros also publishes a law code. The Datu is at the head of the ruling aristocracy, followed by the honorary citizens (Maharlikas), the free citizens (Timaguas) and two groups of slaves (Alipin)
1450Establishment of a Muslim sultanate on Jolo under Sultan Sharif ul-Hasim Abubakr
1475Islam is spreading in Mindanao. Later it spreads up to Central Luzon
1494By the Treaty of Tordesillas, Pope Alexander VI. divides the world between the two competing maritime powers Portugal and Spain.
1511Portuguese conquer Malacca (now Malaysia) and establish an important trading post
Early Chinese traders in the Philippines
Sheik Makhdum Mosque in Tawi-Tawi
Muslim Bethrotal

Spanish colonial period (1521 - 1898)


DateYearCultural, natural, social and political events
March 161521Ferdinand Magellan lands with three ships (“Conception”, “Trinidad” and “Victoria”) on the small island of Homohon (east of Samar).
March 291521Magellan On the island Limasawa, Magellan establishes a friendship treaty with the chief Rajah Kulambo
March 311521First Catholic Mass held in Limasawa
April 271521Magellan dies in battle of Mactan island against the later national hero – chieftain Lapu-Lapu.
February 21543Captain Ruy de Villalobos Lopez lands in the archipelago and names the islands after the Spanish Crown Prince Philipp II
February 21565Miguel Lopez de Legaspi reaches the Philippines with four ships and 380 men. In Cebu, he establishes the first permanent settlement of the Spaniards. He is the first Spanish governor-general in the Philippines. The following is a quick hand in hand walking of Christianity and Hispanization in large parts of the sparsely populated country (estimated population: 750,000)
1569Beginning of the Galleon’s trade (1569 – 1815) between China and Mexico. Manila is the hub of this trade of Mexican silver coins and Chinese silk, porcelain objects, pearls and spices.
June 241571Manila is proclaimed capital of the Philippines. Intramuros is the fortified part of town.
1574The Chinese pirate Limahong attacks Manila twice, until he is defeated.
1574Lakandula initiates first short-term revolt against the Spanish.
1576Chinese are allowed to immigrate to the Philippines, but are still discriminated and expelled (riots against Chinese and others in 1603, 1639, 1662 and 1782)
1590The Jesuits found the Colegeo de Manila, later called the “Universidad de San Ignacio”
1600 -1670Several unsuccessful attempts by the Dutchmen, to conquer parts of the country
1603Rise of the Chinese in Manila
1611Opening of the Universidad de Santo Tomas, the oldest Catholic university in Asia
1622Several revolts against the forced levy in Bohol, Leyte, Samar and Panay. Francisco Dagohoy is the leader of the revolt in Bohol which lasts over 85 years (1744-1829).
September 2217626800 British soldiers with 13 ships attack Manila and takes it.
1762In the province of Ilocos a revolt starts under Diego Silang because of the compulsory levy. The uprising is initially successful. The “independent and free Ilocos” is proclaimed. Silang is killed a year later by a former friend. His wife continues the fight, but is defeated and hanged along with other companions in 1763.
1763Treaty of Paris ends the British occupation of parts of the Philippines (1764).
1774Filipinos may become priests.
1787Moro pirates plunder Bacolod on Negros Island. The attack on Bacolod is only a representative for many others. Until the first half of the 19th Century, Moro pirates attack villages in southern Luzon and the Visayas.
January 221809The Philippines become an integral part of Spain and Filipinos are given the Spanish nationality and a right of representation in the Spanish Parliament (1810-1837). Iin 1812, the liberal Cadiz constitution is adopted. Napoleon cancels this integration in 1816.
1820Increasing agricultural production (tobacco, sugar cane, abaca)
1828Strong earthquake which destroys buildings and churches in Manila.
1835The first Philippine bank is established.
1838The epic poem “Florante at Laura” by Francisco Balagtas is published
June 191861José Rizal is born in Calamba (Laguna Province). Rizal studied medicine, philosophy and literature at the Ateneo de Manila and the University of Santo Tomas in Manila.
1863Reform of the education system. It allows now the Filipinos higher school qualifications. Wealthier families can finance studies in Spain. A numerically small, liberal-minded, educated middle class developes slowly. Also a small elite group of “Illustrados” is established.
1863A powerful earthquake destroys most of the buildings in Manila (except the San Augustin church).
1869The opening of the Suez Canal allows permanent maritime links between the Philippines and Spain.
1873The German ethnologist Feodor Jagor published his book “Travels in the Philippines”
1880First underwater telegraph cable to the Philippines
1887Rizal’s novel “Noli me tangere” is published in Madrid.
1891Rizal’s novel “El Filibusterismo” is published
June 261892Rizal returns to the Philippines
July 31892José Rizal founds the politically moderate, but anti-clerical “Liga Filipina“. Andreas Bonifacio joins this elite league.
July 71892Rizal is arrested because of the creation of the “Liga Filipina. Without any court ruling he is sent in exile to Dapitan.
July 81892Bonifacio founds the secret society Katipunan. The covenant is based nationalist ideas and wants an to end the Spanish oppression. Unlike Rizal, the Katipunan accepts also the use of force.
August 191892The Katipunan-conspiracy is uncovered. Individual members are arrested, , however, most of them can take refuge in the hills of Balintawak.
August 231896Bonifacio anounces the Revolution (“Cry of Balintawak”). The followers burn their Spanish identity papers.
August 301896The outcry of the Katipunan spread across eight provinces. The Spanish general governor declares the state of war.
September 21896Rizal is falsely accused of having been the founder of the Katipunan.
December 301896José Rizal is executed. He becomes the national hero of the Philippines for future generations
April 291897Aguinaldo is elected President of the Katipunan. Bonifacio is elected minister of war. Bonifacio does not accept Aguinaldo position.
May 81897The Katipunero leaders accuse Bonifacio of sedition and treason and sentence him to death.
December 141897Because of the Spanish supremacy, Aguinaldo decides to negotiate with the Spaniards. In the pact of” Biak-na-Bato” the Katipuneros are commited to lay down their weapons if the Spanish authorities carry out reforms and respect the human rights. For a fee of 800,000 pesos, Aguinaldo agrees, to leave the Philippines with his companions for exile in Hong Kong.
February 81898The U.S. government asks Aguinaldo for support them in their struggle against the Spanish government. Aguinaldo agrees, because the Americans promise the independence of the Philippines for the help in the fight against Spain.
February 121898The United States of America declare war to Spain.
June 121898The Philippine’s independency from Spain is proclaimed in Kawit, Cavite. Manila is still held by Spanish troops. The new Philippine flag is hoisted and the new national anthem being played. Tthe first Philippine Republic is born.
June 231898On the advice of Apolinario Mabini, the “dictatorial” government is converted in a “revolutionary” one, the “Malolos Republic“.
July 171898The Americans, under General Wesley Merritt E. strengthen their military presence in the Philippines. Their attitude towards Filipinos changes and becomes worse.
December 101898In the Treaty of Paris, Spain sells the former Philippine colony for 20 million dollars to the Americans. This is the end of the Spanish colonial period of 333 years.

Ferdinand Magellan
This kind of junks were adopted by pirates as Limahong.
José Rizal

The Oppression

1898 America bought the Philippines for USD 20 Millions from Spain. Today’s worth would be USD $543,691,923.00. Imagine the Americans came today and would pay USD 5 or PHP 250 for each Pinoy or Pinay. Everybody would shout Scandalous! But have a look in the red-light districts and the big foreign plunderers of land, sea and underground. The ugly game continues.  Afterwards, the Commonwealth system brought some superficial freedom. Within the own boarders the Philippine government had authority. But for any negotiation with foreign countries or companies, they needed to ask Uncle Sam for permission.  The Partido Liberal wanted to become a state of the United States. The communists wanted independence. America refused both ideas. The communist party was immediately declared illegal by the Supreme Court.  World War II had been atrocious all over our planet. The Japanese arbitrary terror and the rice starvation killed about a million Filipinos. The Americans came back and finally brought freedom and independence to the Philippines. In 1946 the Philippines became a free and rather independent country after over 400 years of slavery and colonialism. Today these 400 years sit still deep inside the Filipino’s soul. The hope is with the young intellectuals.

American Colonial rule and Japanese Occupation

DateYearCultural, natural, social and political events
December 101898In the Treaty of Paris, Spain sells the Philippines for $ 20 million settlement to the US. Philippine representatives are not involved in these negotiations.
The Americans pursue primarily strategic interests with the acquisition. The Philippines is an important location for them in the enforcement of their sales interests in the Pacific. These interests are threatened by other colonial competitors (including Germany, Japan, France).
The new colonial power, however – especially in the thirties, and in contrast to the former Spanish colonial power – will give the Filipinos much greater autonomy in internal affairs.
December 211898The American President McKinley claims in a statement the US’s sovereignty over the Philippines. He promises a “benevolent assimilation” of the Philippines, taking into account rights and laws.
The annexation is also criticized many times in the states and happens only with difficulty the American Senate. For example, American steelmaker Andrew Carnegie wants to repurchase the Philippines for the Filipinos for 20 million. The American humorist Marc Twain also strongly denounced American imperialism.
January 211899Aguinaldo, who was disappointed by the earlier American commitments, calls for a revolutionary congress in Malolos. This is the “Malolos Constitution”. It sees a republic on the western model with a strong weight of the legislature. Two days later Aguinaldo was named President of the First Republic .
The new colonial leaders do not recognize the government of the “outlaw bandit” (lawless bandits). Aguinaldo warns the Americans before armed conflicts.
February 21899Outbreak of hostilities between the Americans and Filipinos by a controversial incident, where a Filipino soldier was allegedly killed by an American patrol.
February 51899Aguinaldo declared war on the Americans. This is the beginning of the Philippine-American war (1899-1902). The Filipino troops are badly armed and are fighting mainly from the ground. The armed conflicts, particularly in Luzon, are brutally tortured and arrested.
February 61899The US Senate ratifies the Treaty of Paris. The military is empowered to “pacify” the country and to assure American supremacy in the Philippines by force.
March 41899The Schurman Commission arrives in Manila. It emphasizes once again the pre-eminence of the USA, promises however at this early time the full autonomy of the Philippines.
April 291899The Spanish Archbishop of Manila excommunicated the military vicar Aglipay, appointed by Aguinaldo. He later founded the “Iglesia Filipina Independiente”, an independent church independent of Rome.
May 61899Mabini’s peace talks with the Americans fail. The American General Otis insists on an unconditional surrender.
June 51899General Antonio Luna, who leads the Philippine troops, is shot by an Aguinaldo supporter. Aguinaldo now takes command of the Philippine guerrilla fighters.
October 121899The Americans are launching a military large-scale offensive with 126,000 soldiers. Aguinaldo goes into underground.
1898 political cartoon showing U.S. President McKinley with a child "savage".
When the Americans created the ignoble expression 'LBFM'
Apolinario Mabini
DateYearCultural, natural, social and political events
December 231900The “Partido Liberal”, founded by Filipinos, pleads for a connection of the Philippines to the USA. However, she can not go through with her plans.
March 21901The plenipotentiary of the American president now “civil” the Philippines. Formally, the military regime ends over the Philippines.
March 231901Aguinaldo is arrested. Already a week later, he makes his allegiance to the US and calls on his fighters to lay down their arms. He announced during these days that the freedom of the Philippines will come thanks to the “generosity” of the US. The first Republic of the Philippines failed.
July 41901The Americans proclaim the end of the American-Philippine war, but the fighting of individual groups of resistance continues – especially in the Muslim regions in the South – until 1913.
The information about the number of victims of the relentlessly conducted war fluctuate. It is estimated that 4200 American and 16,000 Filipino soldiers were killed. Information on the victims of the civilian population – including deaths from hunger and disease – varies between 100,000 and one million.
William Taft becomes the first American governor-general.
September 271901Surprise attack of the Philippine guerrilla captain Daza on an American military camp on Samar, where half the American soldiers are killed. 300 Marines are then mobilized under Brigadegeneral Smith. He gives orders to kill over 10-year-olds who can carry weapons.
November 41901The “Sedition Law” is passed. It provides the death penalty or long-term prison sentences for those who propagate the independence of the Philippines or the separation from the US.
February 21902Isabelo de los Reyes founds the first union.
1902Adopting the “Cooper Act” by the US Senate. According to the American model, it provides for a two-chamber legislature with a lower and upper house for the Philippines.
1903Governor Taft formulates the slogan “The Philippines the Filipinos” and promises to put the administration in the hands of the Filipinos, if stable government conditions exist.
However, he still has a vetress and controls the executive. In the meantime, outdated Spanish laws are gradually being abolished, the infrastructure improved, the education and health system is expanded and modernized according to the American model. Approximately 600 American teachers brought to the Philippines. English is declared the official language of the country.
1904The American civil administration adopts a law according to which the Catholic Church has to sell most of its land. The land is re-distributed. Increasingly, Filipinos also occupy higher church offices. The extremely uneven distribution of the soil is nevertheless retained.
June 301907First congressional elections, after free party foundations had previously been admitted.
Until the end of the war the “Partido Nationalista”, which is regarded as moderately conservative, will have the political majority under Manuel Quezon and Sergio Osmena.
1908The “University of the Philippines” is founded.
Uncle Sam
Filipino casualties on the first day of the war
American outpost at the causeway separating san roque and mainland cavite province
DateYearCultural, natural, social and political events
1909Free trade with the United States with favorable special conditions for the import of American finished goods and the export of Philippine agricultural products. Foreign trade is largely concentrated in the USA. Industrialization is largely excluded.
January 271911Mount Taal volcano explodes and kills 1330 people
October 161916The Democrats are now reigning in Washington. The “Jones Law” is passed, there is an exclusively Philippine legislature with the House of Representatives and the Senate. Manuel Quezon (1898 – 1941) is elected President of the Senate and Sergio Osmena (1898 – 1961) as Speaker of the House of Representatives.
January 111917The first Philippine Cabinet of Ministers, which is primarily recruited from representatives of the old power and economic elites.
1918The Philippines is participating on the side of the US on World War I, sending 25,000 soldiers to Europe.
1925The unequal distribution of land is increasingly the problem of strikes of dissatisfied farmers and workers. They continue until 1940.
November 301930Establishment of the Stalinist-oriented “Communist Party of the Philippines” under the leadership of Crisanto Evangelista
October 261932The “Communist Party of the Philippines” is declared illegal by the Supreme Court.
March 241934US President Roosevelt approves “Philippine Independence Law”. It provides for a 10-year transitional period as a “Commonwealth of the Philippines” before the ever-promised full independence.
May 141935The “Commonwealth” constitution is passed in a referendum.
September 171935President Quezon is elected President and Sergio Osmena vice-president in the presidential elections.
November 151935The “Philippine Commonwealth” is officially put into force.
This status includes, in particular, the internal autonomy of the country. Decisions about foreign trade, immigration and currency still require the consent of the American President. The office of the US Governor-General is dissolved. The American interests now take on high commissars.
December 211935Introduction of general military service and building of a separate army.
July 261941The Philippines is in an alliance with America. One is concerned about the Japanese expansion impulse.
On the advice of the Military Minister of the Philippine Commonwealth Douglas MacArthur, the Philippine units are integrated into the “United States Army Forces in the Far East”. The combined troops comprise about 110,000 men.
November 111941Re-election of President Quezon and Vice-President Osmena.
Manuel L. Quezon takes oath of office as the first Philippine President
Sergio Osmeña taking his oath of office as President of the Philippines
Taal Volcano in the crater after the Jan. 30, 1911 eruption
DateYearCultural, natural, social and political events
December 81941Immediately after the bombing of Pearl Harbor (07.12.) Japanese aircraft attack Manila. Japanese military forces land in northern Luzon and Mindanao (10 December). The invasion hits the Filipino and American troops unprepared.
General MacArthur, now commander of the American forces in the Far East, withdrew to the Bataan Peninsula before the troubled Japanese troops.
December 201941President Quezon withdrew with his government cabinet to the fortress of Corregidor Island.
December 261941Manila is abandoned. On January 2, 1942, the Japanese troops entered Manila. The Philippine-American army withdrew to Bataan.
January 31942The Japanese chief commander, General Homma, announces the end of the American occupation. The Japanese troops had come to free the Filipinos from American oppression. The Philippines should become an “independent member within an East Asian prosperity zone”.
Without prejudice to his pan-Asian manifestations, he imposed the right of war over the country.
January 131942A law provides incitement, the destruction of military property, drinking water poisoning as well as robbery and plunder under death penalty.
February 11942The Japanese military administration convenes an executive committee, including the following Philippines politicians: Jorge Vargas, Benigno S. Aquino Sr. and Jose P. Laurel
February 201942President Quezon and his Cabinet escaped to the United States to form an exile government.
March 111942The former military adviser and now General MacArthur, whose father was also the last American military governor, went to Australia to take over a higher military command. Before that he gives the Filipinos the promise “I shall return”.
March 291942It forms the anti-Japanese, partisan movement “Hukbalahap” (also “Huk”) under its left-oriented leader Luis Taruc. The roughly 30,000 strong “Volksmeen” pursues their own goals. MacArthur declines to cooperate with her because he assumes that she wants to introduce communism to the Philippines. In addition to the “Hukbalahap”, pro-American resistance movements also form.
April 91942The American and Philippine troops under General Edward King, on Bataan, surrender. The Japanese send 80,000 captured soldiers to a “death march” with subsequent concentration camp-like imprisonment. 36,000 soldiers do not survive the torture.
September 201943A Japanese-friendly National Assembly is called. She elects Jose P. Laurel as President of the Second Republic of the Philippines .
After the end of the war, he will emphasize again and again that he has collaborated with the Japanese occupiers in order to make their arbitrary rule more bearable. A minority among the Filipinos collaborated with the Japanese occupiers. However, the majority rejected the Japanese occupation regimes.
1943Rice starvage in the country. The Marionette government under Laurel calls for a “green revolution” to counter food shortages and famine.
Most historians speak, at the latest from this point, of a beginning arbitrary terror of the Japanese. They control 12 of 48 provinces of the country.
August 11944In the US, Quezon dies from tuberculosis. His successor will be the former Vice President Sergio Osmena.
September 211944Heavy air attack by the Americans on Manila, which calls for many civilian victims. Under pressure from the Japanese, President Laurel declared war on America.
>October 201944General MacArthur landed with four armored divisions and over 650 ships on the island of Leyte. There are further landings on Mindoro and Luzon.
February 41945American troops in front of Manila.
February 221945Luis Taruc and other HUK leaders are arrested by the US secret service. They are accused of their communist sentiments.
February 241945Battle for Manila. It comes to a relentlessly led house battle with strong Japanese counter-defense. Japanese troops are massacring the population. In the end, Manila is one of the most destroyed cities in World War II.
The Japanese troops surrender. Exile President Osmena again refers to the Malacanang government palace and forms a government.
March 221945Marionette president Laurel is looking for refuge in Japan.
June 51945The congress, which was elected in 1941, meets again and elects Manuel Roxas as spokesman.
July 71945General MacArthur proclaimed the liberation of the Philippines. The rate of military service in the Philippines cost about 300,000 Japanese, 60,000 American and about 100,000 Filipino soldiers. Civilian casualties are valued at a million.
August 151945After the American atomic bombshells on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan capitulates officially.
September 31945Japanese surrender of the Philippines
September 121945Marionette president Laurel is arrested in Japan and sent to the Philippines to be sentenced.
April 201946Manuel Roxas from the Liberal Party defeated Osmena from the Nacionalista Party in a presidential election.
Japanese soldiers in the Philippines
Mitsubishi "O" Zero
Japanese surrender of the Philippines on September 3, 1945

Modern History

The now over 70 years since World War II have been and still are a turbulent time. Lead a country with over 7000 islands, 92 official languages and different cultural influencies is a tough task. Folks up in the Batanes islands are very different from the sultanates in the southern Sulu sea. The national government in Manila struggles with similar problems as the European Union’s government in Brussels.  Manila the former Pearl of the Orient became a hustling megacity. Transportation became and is still becoming a national network on land, on sea and in the air. Tourism industry is seriously competing with fishery and mining industry. Population grew from 18.786 Million in 1948 to 103.280 Million at this moment (March 3, 2017). To give this rather long third section a structure, we have decided to divide it by presidencies. We also could have chosen typhoons. But presidents occurred a bit less frequently.

1946 by presidents