Spain & the Philippines (1571-1890)


Innocence before subjugation - Philippines prior to the Spanish

The Philippines, like her neighbor Indonesia, is a Southeast Asian archipelago. While Indonesia provides Southeast Asia’s southern border, The Philippine islands define the boundaries of her eastern territory. The waters of the South China Sea lap onto the western beaches, while the Philippine Sea embraces the shores to the east. The Philippine islands are the borders for these two bountiful seas. Both of these smaller bodies of water are connected with the enormous Pacific Ocean to the east.

The Spanish invaded the Philippines from the east – the Pacific Ocean. Southeast Asia’s other territories were invaded from the west - via the Indian Ocean. This is why some refer to the Philippines as Southeast Asia’s back door.

There are other reasons as well. The islands were off the beaten path from the major trade routes between India and China. As such, the influence of these cultural giants on the Filippinos was negligible compared to the rest. During the 1st Millennium, Southeast Asia’s other territories were forming Indianized kingdoms - the Cham in Vietnam, the Khmer in Cambodia, the Mon in Thailand, the Burmese in Myanmar, and the Javanese and Sumatrans in Indonesia. In contrast, the natives of the Philippines retained their tribal nature until the arrival of the Spanish.

The indigenous people were organized in semi-nomadic hunting and fishing tribes called barangay. Led by a chief - called a datu, these tribes contained about 100 people. This is the natural size for wandering groups of humans. More than that becomes cumbersome. The sheer number of people makes moving around more difficult, which threatens survival. The local people did have slaves captured from neighboring tribes, but they were not permanent. After a generation or two, they were assimilated into the tribe.

Because of the limited size of these tribes, they didn’t form a centralized government, as did Southeast Asians elsewhere. Because of the absence of political centralization, there were also no elite groups with advanced literary and artistic traditions. As a nomadic culture, the natives also didn’t build large temple complexes.

We imagine that the indigenous Filipinos lived in a type of paradise. They simply wandered from place to place on the gorgeous islands - hunting on game-filled lands and fishing in shallow waters that were rich with sea life. Due to this natural abundance, they only developed a minimal amount of backbreaking agriculture. Unencumbered by religious dogma, they were able to enjoy just Being without trapping and killing it with Ideas. In short, they inhabited the innocent, unadulterated Garden of Eden, untainted by the trappings of civilization. No kings to dominate and no priests to indoctrinate.

The influence of Hinduism and Buddhism, the major religions of the rest of Southeast Asia, was minimal in the Philippines. However in the 15th century, Islam transmitted via Brunei was making huge inroads. Two sultanates had already been formed on the southern islands and the religion had begun to spread to the northern islands. This was the first time that the natives began to organize themselves in larger groups.

Then the Spanish galleons arrived from Mexico. If the Spanish had been more like the Dutch - more interested in trade than in conversion, the Filipinos would probably be Muslim now. But, as mentioned in earlier chapters, the Catholic countries were intent upon conversion as well as profit.

Spain takes after Rome, her ancestor

To this purpose, Catholic priests always accompanied the soldiers. Their primary purpose was to convert the natives to Catholicism. By converting, they could become part of Spanish culture. In this way, Spain could simultaneously spread the 'true Word' and expand the population base of their Empire.

Spain was simply following the example established by her illustrious ancestor, Rome. The Romans also acted to include the soldiers from the defeated armies in their enormous empire. If the conquered soldiers agreed to join the Roman army, they were granted full Roman citizenship. This carrot was joined with the stick. Any rebellion was ruthlessly suppressed to teach the native populations that it was better to cooperate than to resist.

In addition to incorporating the opposing armies into their empire, the Roman rulers also acted to merge their pantheon of gods with those of the indigenous people. This religious merger further acted to incorporate the conquered communities into Roman culture. After the pantheon of gods began losing their hold on the community, Rome united their Empire by demanding that everyone belong to the common religion of Christianity. This cultural glue held Rome together for millennia. Everyone was included in the benefits of belonging to the Empire, but only if they joined Roman culture.

Taking their example from Rome, Spain created a political empire by insisting that all of natives in her colonies belong to Spanish culture. Their culture included the universal religion of Catholicism. This cultural uniformity was a natural progression for the Spaniards. After all , Spain came to exist as a country because the warring nobles of Aragon and Castile had united behind Catholicism to throw the Moors off the Iberian Peninsula.

This process began with the marriage of Ferdinand II of Aragon and Isabella I of Castile in 1469. Their newly formed Spanish government initiated the Inquisition in 1486 to purify their territory of religious diversity. This cultural purification was followed by the expulsion of the Jews and the conquering of Granada, the last Moorish kingdom on the peninsula. Both of these events occurred in 1492. While intolerant, these extreme measures ensured both the religious and cultural uniformity of the kingdom. It was certainly a key to the building of Spain as an independent country. Note that this unification occurred just a few decades before Spain began colonizing the New World. Of course, the Spanish aristocracy used the same intolerant techniques in their overseas empire that they had successfully employed at home to establish control.

Spain's entry into Southeast Asia

These carrot and stick techniques that the Spaniards inherited from the Romans were triumphantly employed in Mexico, Spain’s first overseas venture. The conquistadors supplied the stick - brutally suppressing local rebellions, while the priests supplied the carrot. Catholicism provided a humane alternative to the human sacrifice that was currently being practiced by the ruling Aztecs. Many of the Mexican tribes had already been attempting to eliminate this horrible practice. Taking advantage of native discontent, the Catholic priests aligned with these more compassionate tribes to overthrow the Aztecs.

Bolstered by this success in civilizing the Mexican tribes of their barbaric practices, Spain hoped to use the same techniques in the East Indies. By converting the natives to the one true Faith,they could justify the domination of indigenous cultures. Perhaps, this rationalization might have assuaged the guilt the Spaniards might have felt due to their savage treatment of fellow human beings. We can imagine them thinking as they were slaughtering the locals: “Our methods might seem brutal, but our noble intent is to save these pagans from going to Hell.”are introducing .

Unfortunately, Portugal beat Spain to the punch in Southeast Asia. However, the Spaniards still hoped to make inroads there. Magellan provided them with the route. He sailed around the world - landing in the Philippines in 1521. This archipelago was the first major land that he encountered as he sailed west across the Pacific Ocean. Albuquerque and the Portuguese had only established their claims a short decade earlier, sailing east across the Indian Ocean. Due to their geographical ignorance, the Spaniards hoped that the Philippines were the Spice Islands. Failing that, they hoped that it would only be a short stop from there to the Spice Islands and the subsequent wealth that was to be derived from the spice trade.

Although the Portuguese established an immediate military presence in Southeast Asia, it took the Spaniards another 40 years to establish a permanent colony. It was only in 1571 that Manila, Spain’s first colony, was formed in the East Indies. By this time in history Philip II ruled Spain. The archipelago was named the Philippines to honor him.

The Spanish Governor General & the Archbishop

To maintain a presence and prevent things from slipping out of control, the Romans had always installed a military and a civilian authority. They were independent of each other, as a sort of checks and balance system. Each reported to Rome separately on the activities of the other. The civilian authority was responsible for profits, while the military authority was responsible for political control. In the desire for control, the military had a tendency to destroy the economic base. The civilian authority was there to check their excesses. Following the Roman tradition, Spain also had military and religious authorities that were intended to be relatively independent of each other. Hence friars marched with soldiers to establish control of the Philippines.

The Spanish were relatively successful everywhere but in the south, where the ‘cursed religion of Islam’ had already become entrenched. This was especially true on the island of Mindano and the mini-archipelago of Sulu, which were loosely connected to the sultanate of Brunei in Borneo. The Spanish called these islanders Moros after the Moors, whom they had already defeated back home. Spain was never able to subdue these southerners. It took the Americans, over 300 years later, to finish this task of political subjugation. These Islamic islands are still in the process of rebellion from Christian rule up to the present day.

After establishing political control, Spain appointed a Governor General, whose duty was to be the political and military ruler of the territory. In theory, he was still subservient to the Spanish monarchy. In practice however, he was like an independent monarch. This was due to the infrequency of communication between the Philippine islands and Spain. Their galleons only visited the Southeast Asian shores twice a year from Acapulco in Mexico. An entire continent plus the Atlantic Ocean further separated Acapulco from the Spanish homeland. The result was that the Philippines became a tributary kingdom to Spain, under her influence, but not really part of her territory.

The Governor General was the de facto king of the Phillipines. He appointed his own civil and military governors. He also acted as the civilian head of the Church, dominated the Court of Justice, and was the captain general of the military. With this absolute control of all facets of the islands, he was able to amass incredible profits on the silver and silk trade that the Spaniards established between Mexico and China. There were periodic native uprisings, which included the massacre of Spanish colonists combined with retaliation by the military. Despite this internal turbulence, the Spanish established commercial dominance that they never relinquished.

Combined with the Governor General was the Archbishop. He was appointed by the Governor General. More than once in the history of the Philippines, the Archbishop's religious authority was equal to, if not greater, in authority than the Governor General. These Bishops acquired great wealth from their extensive land holdings. Adding to the Church’s influence, the Catholic priests and friars had command of the local language, while the military authorities did not. In addition, the religious people outnumbered the political and military authorities. Taking after their Roman ancestors, the cultural goal of the clergy was the full Christianization and Hispanicization of the Filipinos.

Initially the native animism was vigorously suppressed. But subsequently, the entrenched, indigenous beliefs were tolerated and accepted. There was an attempt to move people into pueblos surrounding the stone churches for more effective control, but the dispersed demographics of the Philippine islands thwarted this attempt.

Like Rome, Spain co-opts local rulers

Another technique the Romans successfully used to meld their diverse holdings together was to co-opt the local leaders. This was accomplished by granting the local leaders citizenship if they would cooperate with the Roman agenda. This cooperation included generating wealth, frequently at the expense of the native population. Further, the successive generations of leaders would be educated in Rome. This education abroad encouraged the indigenous leaders to adopt Roman ways, which further distanced them from their people. Eventually the local rulers and their descendants would become part of the ruling aristocracy, completely abandoning their tribal relationship with their community. Putting on airs, as it were. Greed combined with Power is almost irresistible.

The Spaniards successfully employed the Roman technique of assimilating the local leaders into the invading culture by in the Philippines. The Spanish co-opted the local chiefs, the datus, so effectively that they became part of the aristocracy. They are still part of the ruling class in the Philippines in the 21st century. Mimicking the Spanish, the datus, the local chiefs, adopted private ownership and assumed aristocratic privileges. They became know as the principalia, and have played a nefarious role in the history of the Philippines.

Philip II and the Habsburgs

Let us take a brief digression to address the topic of Aryan political domination of native populations everywhere. As mentioned, Philip II was the king of Spain when the Spanish conquered the Philippines. Phillip was a member of the Habsburg dynasty. The Habsburg dynasty was a dominant political force in Europe during the middle of the 2nd millennium.

The family first established themselves as a German princedom in the 10th century, after conquering Switzerland. This included placing themselves as overlords of the indigenous population, who were of Celtic descent. Many small German princedoms elected Rudolf I, a Habsburg, to be their king in 1273. He took advantage to expand his holdings to include Austria. Threatened by the growing power of the Habsburgs, the German princes didn’t elect another Habsburg king or Holy Roman Emperor until 1438. However, after this point the Habsburgs were regularly elected to be kings and emperor.

One of the primary techniques that the Habsburgs used to increase their domains was marriage diplomacy combined with militarism . Maximilian I, son of the Habsburg Emperor Frederick III, was married to Mary of Burgundy in 1477. In this fashion, the dynasty acquired her rights to the Low Countries, which included the Netherlands. Maximilian succeeded his father as Emperor in 1493. Due to his marriage with Joan the Mad, daughter of Ferdinand and Isabella, Maximilian's son Philip I, became the ruler of the Castile. After Philip I died unexpectedly at the age of 28, Ferdinand, his maternal grandfather and King of Aragon, resumed control. With Ferdinand’s death in 1516, Philip’s son, Charles became king of both Aragon and Castile, effectively uniting the dominant provinces of Spain under one ruler for the first time.

With Philip’s death in 1506, Charles inherited both Castile and the Low Countries, i.e. the Netherlands, from his father. When his grandfather Ferdinand died in 1516, Charles inherited Aragon as well as their French and Italian territories, which included Sardinia, Naples, and Sicily. As if these territories were not enough, when Maximilian I died in 1519, Charles inherited his paternal grandfather’s estate. The land included the rest of the Habsburg domains, which included extensive territory in the Holy Roman Empire, including Austria and some smaller princedoms. Through family marriages, he also had hereditary claims to Hungary and Bohemia. After the Turks of the expanding Ottoman Empire killed the king of Hungary, he moved militarily to assume control of this kingdom as well. These were the most extensive European holdings since Charlemagne.

With his grandfather’s death, Charles was elected king of Germany. Then in 1530, the Pope crowned him as the Holy Roman Emperor . In summary, Charles was king of Germany and Spain, the Holy Roman Emperor, and ruler of Holland, Hungary, as well as myriad other territories as well.

Besides these European territories, he also inherited the growing Spanish overseas empire. Thus through inheritance alone, Charles acquired title to the largest European empire ever known. Of course, retaining possession of these extensive land holdings was not as easy as acquiring them. Luckily for Charles, abundant wealth had begun to flow into Spain from her colonies. He used this money to fund his multinational armies to maintain control of his Habsburg Empire.

It was not easy. He was being attacked on many fronts simultaneously. The first place was his gold mine, Spain. Charles was born in Belgium and didn’t even speak Spanish. Promised privileges by Charles, the Spanish ruling class effectively suppressed s popular revolution against foreign rule. With his primary source of revenue secured by cooperation with Spanish aristocracy, he relied more and more heavily upon their assistance to achieve his ends.

This included fighting off the Turkish Ottoman Empire in Hungary, attempting to balance the Protestant Reformation in Germany against the Catholic Inquisition in Spain, Rome and southern Italy, and last, but not least, defending his Italian, French and German holdings from the rising power of the French.

He funded these wars with the wealth from the Spanish colonies combined with massive loans from the German banking family of Fugger and the money market at Antwerp in his homeland of Belgium. Despite the enormous wealth at his disposal, he was still cash poor due to the enormous amount of real estate he was defending from such a diversity of enemies - internal and external to his domain.

At the Council of Trent in 1555, the European powers resolved the conflict between the Protestantism of the German princes and the Catholicism of Italy, France and Spain. Charles then abdicated all his power and retired to a life of luxury, which included art, music and food. He gave the Holy Roman Empire to his brother Ferdinand and his Spanish Empire to his son Philip. He became Philip II of Spain. This is the Philip that the Philippines were named after.

Foreign Military Aristocracy rules Indigenous Populations of Europe and Southeast Asia

The point of this longer than expected exposition is that Spaniards did not rule Spain. The Habsburgs were not in any way Spanish, although they ruled Spain for two centuries. Not only that, but they were replaced by the Bourbons, a French dynasty, who ruled Spain for the next few centuries. Before the Habsburgs inherited Spain, there had only been a brief period when local leaders, i.e. Ferdinand and Isabella, ruled the Spanish populace. Prior to this local rule, the Moors from Africa ruled Spain for many centuries. Before the Moors, their leaders were the Ostrogoths, a Germanic tribe, and before that the Romans.

Hence when we speak of Spain, we are speaking of her government and not her people. In fact there were frequent uprising that the military aristocracy regularly suppressed up until the second half of the 20th century. In other words, the military aristocracy, which harked back to the original Aryan invaders, acted independently of the people they ruled. The leaders of the variety of warring countries were rarely acting in the best interests of the populace. Frequently the kings didn’t even belong to the same culture and so had no bond with or understanding of the people living in the country. Thus the harsh techniques they used to colonize foreign lands were no different than the techniques they used to suppress peasant revolts at home. The wealth of Spain didn’t go to the populace of the country but instead went to fuel the interminable wars between the descendants of the Aryans, who preferred to fight rather than work.

Indeed just as the indigenous cultures of Southeast Asia and the rest of the world revolted from their colonial rulers in the 20th century, so did the indigenous cultures of Europe revolt from their military overlords. Switzerland was one of the first. As mentioned, the Habsburgs were conquered and ruled the Swiss from the end of the first millennium. Their leadership included forced labor service and feudal payments. The Swiss loved their leaders so much that they fought for and declared their independence in 1291.

After Charles died, he split the enormous Habsburg Empire into two. The Spanish Empire including the Low Countries went to his son Philip, while the Holy Roman Empire went to his brother Ferdinand. In a few centuries the Spanish Habsburgs died out. The German holdings of the Habsburgs eventually morphed into the Austro-Hungarian Empire. To indicate how much popular support the regime had across their still extensive land holdings, there were multiple indigenous revolts of the myriad cultures that they continued to dominate through the beginning of the 20th century. One of these revolts led to World War I. Indeed this European Civil War could be called an unsuccessful war of succession combined with a successful war for independence.

The Germans stepped in when the crumbling Austro-Hungarian Empire could no longer maintain control of their European colonies. As we shall see, America did the same with the crumbling Spanish Empire a few decades earlier. Afraid of Germany’s growing power, the other European countries aligned together to prevent them from taking over the Austrian turf. This military conflict led to World War II.

To further indicate how artificial the leadership of the aristocracy was, let us speak about the variety of major countries that were ruled by foreign princes and kings. First Charlemagne and the Franks, who conquered most of Europe at the end of the first millennium, were a Germanic tribe, not French, although they gave their name to France. The Burgundians, who ruled another section of France, belonged to another Germanic tribe - as were the Lombards who settled in Italy - as were the Ostrogoths who conquered Spain. Further the Normans who first conquered Normandy and then England and Sicily were Norsemen from Scandinavia. They continued to rule England and sections of France for the next four hundred years. After the Normans, the English experienced a few hundred years of genuine home rule. Then at the beginning of the 18th century, the English chose a German king, who spoke no English, as their ruler. About the same time, the French Bourbon dynasty began to rule Spain. German and Scandinavian dynasties ruled England; German and French dynasties ruled Spain; and Germanic tribes ruled France.

The extent of the game is further indicated by the many Wars of Succession, which usually lasted for many years. These normally occurred when a strong or widely recognized leader died with no one to inherit the throne. These costly wars had little to do with needs of the populace and mostly had to do with turf wars between the Aryan military leaders who sought the accumulation of power.

At the heart of these Wars of Succession is the myth of royal blood - the idea that one bloodline is more suited to rule than another. This mentality provided a great advantage in terms of social evolution in that it ensured an orderly succession of kings, if a son was born. If however the child was weak, the queen was childless or couldn’t bear a son, then the vultures stepped in to assert their claims, sometimes legitimate and sometimes not.

The factions always included a variety of princes, kings and emperors, who were attempting to seize someone else’s property or retain their own. The property in this case included entire nations with their human livestock - called variously slaves, serfs, peasants, the working class, or the proletariat.

Hence the subjugation of indigenous populations including women was something that the military aristocracy of Europe inflicted upon their own people as well as the rest of the world. Further, the quest for freedom of native cultures everywhere is an ongoing process, which never ends. This is because the military aristocracy is not dead. It has just changed nationalities.

This political arrangement, where a military aristocracy rules the indigenous people, also applied to Southeast Asians near the beginning of the 20th century. The French ruled Indo China; the English dominated Myanmar and Malaysia; and the Dutch governed Indonesia. The Spanish also controlled the Philippines. But the dynamic political landscape was on the verge of change. A newcomer was about to enter the Southeast Asian political picture. Although seemingly benign at the very beginning, this foreign power turned out to be a disaster for Southeast Asians.


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