The Former Philippines thru Foreign Eyes
By Fedor Jagor et al
Public Domain Books
[Spain’s discovery and occupation.] The Philippines were discovered by Magellan on the 16th of March, 1521–St. Lazarus’ day.  But it was not until 1564,  after many previous efforts had miscarried, that Legaspi, who left New Spain with five ships, took possession of the Archipelago in the name of Philip II. The discoverer had christened the islands after the sanctified Lazarus. This name, however, never grew into general use; [Numerous names.] the Spaniards persistently calling them the Western Islands–Islas del Poniente; and the Portuguese, Islas del Oriente. Legaspi gave them their present name  in honor of Philip II, who, in his turn, conferred upon them the again extinct name of New Castile.  Legaspi first of all annexed Cebu, and then Panay; and six years later, in 1571, he first sub dued Manila, which was at that time a village surrounded by palisades, and commenced forthwith the construction of a fortified town. The subjection of the remaining territory was effected so quickly that, upon the death of Legaspi (in August, 1572), all the western parts were in possession of the Spaniards. [Mindanao and Sulu independent.] Numerous wild tribes in the interior, however, the Mahomedan states of Mindanao and the Sulu group, for example, have to this day preserved their independence. The character of the people, as well as their political disposition, favored the occupancy. There was no mighty power, no old dynasty, no influential priestly domination to overcome, no traditions of national pride to suppress. The natives were either heathens, or recently proselytized superficially to Islamism, and lived under numerous petty chiefs, who ruled them despotically, made war upon one another, and were easily subdued. Such a community was called Barangay; and it forms to this day, though in a considerably modified form, the foundation of the constitutional laws. [Spanish improvemnts.] The Spaniards limited the power of the petty chiefs, upheld slavery, and abolished hereditary nobility and dignity, substituting in its place an aristocracy created by themselves for services rendered to the State; but they carried out all these changes very gradually and cautiously.  The old usages and laws, so long as they did not interfere with the natural course of government, remained untouched and were operative by legal sanction; and even in criminal matters their validity was equal to those emanating from the Spanish courts. To this day the chiefs of Barangay, with the exception of those bearing the title of “Don,” have no privileges save exemption from the poll-tax and socage service. [Unthinking policy of greed.] They are virtually tax-collectors, excepting that they are not paid for such service, and their private means are made responsible for any deficit. The prudence of such a measure might well be doubted, without regard to the fact that it tempts the chiefs to embezzlement and extortion; and it must alienate a class of natives who would otherwise be a support to the Government.
[High character of early administrators.] Since the measures adopted in alleviation of the conquest and occupancy succeeded in so remarkable a manner, the governors and their subordinates of those days, at a time when Spain was powerful and chivalrous, naturally appear to have been distinguished for wisdom and high spirit. Legaspi possessed both qualities in a marked degree. Hardy adventurers were tempted there, as in America, by privileges and inducements which power afforded them; as well as by the hope, which, fortunately for the country, was never realized, of its being rich in auriferous deposits. In Luzon, for instance, Hernando Riquel stated that there were many goldmines in several places which were seen by the Spaniards; “the ore is so rich that I will not write any more about it, as I might possibly come under a suspicion of exaggerating; but I swear by Christ that there is more gold on this island than there is iron in all Biscay.” [Conquerors on commission.] They received no pay from the kingdom; but a formal right was given them to profit by any territory which was brought into subjection by them. Some of these expeditions in search of conquest were enterprises undertaken for private gain, others for the benefit of the governor; and such service was rewarded by him with grants of lands, carrying an annuity, offices, and other benefits (encomiendas, oficios y aprovechamientos). The grants were at first made for three generations (in New Spain for four), but were very soon limited to two; when De los Rios pointed this out as being a measure very prejudicial to the Crown, “since they were little prepared to serve his Majesty, as their grand-children had fallen into the most extreme poverty.” After the death of the feoffee the grant reverted to the State; and the governor thereupon disposed of it anew.
[The feudal “encomiendas."] The whole country at the outset was completely divided into these livings, the defraying of which formed by far the largest portion of the expenses of the kingdom. Investitures of a similar nature existed, more or less, in a territory of considerable extent, the inhabitants of which had to pay tribute to the feoffee; and this tribute had to be raised out of agricultural produce, the value of which was fixed by the feudal lord at a very low rate, but sold by him to the Chinese at a considerable profit. The feudal lords, moreover, were not satisfied with these receipts, but held the natives in a state of slavery, until forbidden by a Bull of Pope Gregory XIV, dated April 18, 1591. Kafir and negro slaves, whom the Portuguese imported by way of India, were, however, still permitted.
[Extortions of encomenderos.] The original holders of feudal tenures amassed considerable booty therefrom. Zuñiga relates that as early as the time of Lavezares, who was provisional governor between 1572 and 1575, he visited the Bisayas and checked the covetousness of the encomenderos, so that at least during his rule they relaxed their system of extortion. Towards the end of Sande’s government (1575-80) a furious quarrel broke out between the priests and the encomenderos; the first preached against the oppression of the latter, and memorialized Philip II thereon. The king commanded that the natives should be protected, as the extortionate greed of the feudal chiefs had exceeded all bounds; and the natives were then at liberty to pay their tribute either in money or in kind. The result of this well-intentioned regulation appears to have produced a greater assiduity both in agriculture and trade, “as the natives preferred to work without coercion, not on account of extreme want.” [Salcedo “most illustrious of the conquerors."] And here I may briefly refer to the achievements of Juan de Salcedo, the most illustrious of all the conquerors. Supported by his grandfather, Legaspi, with forty-five Spanish soldiers, he fitted out an expedition at his own expense, embarked at Manila, in May, 1572, examined all parts of the west coast of the island, landed in all the bays which were accessible to his light-draught ships, and was well received by the natives at most of the places. He generally found great opposition in penetrating into the interior; yet he succeeded in subduing many of the inland tribes; and when he reached Cape Bojeador, the north-west point of Luzon, the extensive territory which at present forms the provinces of Zambales, Pangasinan, and Ilocos Notre and Sur, acknowledged the Spanish rule. The exhaustion of his soldiers obliged Salcedo to return. In Vigan, the present capital of Ilocos Sur, he constructed a fort, and left therein for its protection his lieutenant and twenty-five men, while he himself returned, accompanied only by seventeen soldiers, in three small vessels. In this manner he reached the Cagayan River, and proceeded up it until forced by the great number of hostile natives to retreat to the sea. Pursuing the voyage to the east coast, he came down in course of time to Paracale, where he embarked in a boat for Manila, was capsized, and rescued from drowning by some passing natives.
["The Cortes of the Philippines."] In the meantime Legaspi had died, and Lavezares was provisionally carrying on the government. Salcedo heard of this with vexation at being passed over; but, when he recovered from his jealousy, he was entrusted with the subjugation of Camarines, which he accomplished in a short time. In 1574 he returned to Ilocos, in order to distribute annuities among his soldiers, and to receive his own share. While still employed upon the building of Vigan, he discovered the fleet of the notorious Chinese pirate, Limahong, who, bent upon taking possession of the colony, was then passing that part of the coast with sixty-two ships and a large number of soldiers. He hastened at once, with all the help which he could summon together in the neighborhood, to Manila, where he was nominated to the command of the troops, in the place of the already deposed master of the forces; and he drove the Chinese from the town, which they had destroyed. They then withdrew to Pangasinan, and Salcedo burnt their fleet; which exploit was achieved with very great difficulty. In 1576 this Cortes of the Philippines died. 
[Commercial importance of early Manila.] Apart from the priests, the first-comers consisted only of officials, soldiers, and sailors; and to them, naturally, fell all the high profits of the China trade. Manila was their chief market, and it also attracted a great portion of the external Indian trade, which the Portuguese had frightened away from Malacca by their excessive cruelty. The Portuguese, it is true, still remained in Macao and the Moluccas: but they wanted those remittances which were almost exclusively sought after by the Chinese, viz., the silver which Manila received from New Spain.
[Spain and Portugal united.] In 1580 Portugal, together with all its colonies, was handed over to the Spanish Crown; and the period extending from this event to the decay of Portugal (1580-1640) witnessed the Philippines at the height of their power and prosperity.
[Manila as capital of a vast empire.] The Governor of Manila ruled over a part of Mindanao, Sulu, the Moluccas, Formosa, and the original Portuguese possessions in Malacca and India. “All that lies between Cape Singapore and Japan is subject to Luzon; their ships cross the ocean to China and New Spain, and drive so magnificent a trade that, if it were only free, it would be the most extraordinary that the world could show. It is incredible what glory these islands confer upon Spain. The Governor of the Philippines treats with the Kings of Cambodia, Japan, China. The first is his ally, the last his friend; and the same with Japan. He declares war or peace, without waiting for the command from distant Spain.”  [Dutch opposition.] But the Dutch had now begun the struggle, which they managed to carry on against Philip II in every corner of the world; and even in 1510 De Los Rios complained that he found the country very much altered through the progress and advance made by the Dutch; also that the Moros of Mindanao and Sulu, feeling that they were supported by Holland, were continually in a state of discontent.
[Decline of colony.] The downfall of Portugal occasioned the loss of her colonies once more. Spanish policy, the government of the priests, and the jealousy of the Spanish merchants and traders especially, did everything that remained to be done to prevent the development of agriculture and commerce–perhaps, on the whole, fortunately, for the natives.
[Philippine history unimportant and unsatisfactory.] The subsequent history of the Philippines is, in all its particulars, quite as unsatisfactory and uninteresting as that of all the other Spanish-American possessions. Ineffectual expeditions against pirates, and continual disputes between the clerical and secular authorities, form the principal incidents. 
[Undesirable emigrants from Spain.] After the first excitement of religious belief and military renown had subsided, the minds of those who went later to these outlying possessions, consisting generally as they did of the very dregs of the nation, were seized with an intense feeling of selfishness; and frauds and peculations were the natural sequence. The Spanish writers are full of descriptions of the wretched state of society then existing, which it is unnecessary to repeat here.
[English occupation.] The colony had scarcely been molested by external enemies, with the exception of pirates. In the earliest time the Dutch had engaged occasionally in attacks on the Bisayas. But in 1762 (during the war of the Bourbon succession) an English fleet suddenly appeared before Manila, and took the surprised town without any difficulty. The Chinese allied themselves with the English. A great insurrection broke out among the Filipinos, and the colony, under the provisional government of a feeble archbishop, was for a time in great danger. It was reserved for other dignitaries of the Church and Anda, an energetic patriot, to inflame the natives against the foreigners; and the opposition incited by the zealousness of the priests grew to such an extent that the English, who were confined in the town, were actually glad to be able to retreat. In the following year the news arrived from Europe of the conclusion of peace; but in the interval this insurrection, brought about by the invasion, had rapidly and considerably extended; and it was not suppressed until 1765, when the work was accomplished by creating enmity among the different tribes.  But this was not done without a loss to the province of Ilocos of two hundred sixty-nine thousand two hundred and seventy persons–half of the population, as represented by Zuñiga.
[Many minor uprisings from local grievances.] Severity and want of tact on the part of the Government and their instruments, as well as bigoted dissensions have caused many revolts of the natives; yet none, it is true, of any great danger to the Spanish rule. The discontent has always been confined to a single district, as the natives do not form a united nation; neither the bond of a common speech nor a general interest binding the different tribes together. The state communications and laws among them scarcely reach beyond the borders of the villages and their dependencies.
[Danger from mestizos and creoles.] A consideration of far more importance to the distant metropolis than the condition of the constantly excited natives, who are politically divided among themselves, and really have no steady object in view, is the attitude of the mestizos and creoles, whose discontent increases in proportion to their numbers and prosperity. The military revolt which broke out in 1823, the leaders of which were two creoles, might easily have terminated fatally for Spain. The latest of all the risings of the mestizos seems to have been the most dangerous, not only to the Spanish power, but to all the European population. 
[Cavite 1872 mutiny.] On the 20th of January, 1872, between eight and nine in the evening, the artillery, marines, and the garrison of the arsenal revolted in Cavite, the naval base of the Philippines, and murdered their officers; and a lieutenant who endeavored to carry the intelligence to Manila fell into the hands of a crowd of natives. The news therefore did not reach the capital until the next morning, when all the available troops were at once dispatched, and, after a heavy preliminary struggle, they succeeded the following day in storming the citadel. A dreadful slaughter of the rebels ensued. Not a soul escaped. Among them was not a single European; but there were many mestizos, of whom several were priests and lawyers. Though perhaps the first accounts, written under the influence of terror, may have exaggerated many particulars, yet both official and private letters agree in describing the conspiracy as being long contemplated, widely spread, and well planned. The whole fleet and a large number of troops were absent at the time, engaged in the expedition against Sulu. A portion of the garrison of Manila were to rise at the same time as the revolt in Cavite, and thousands of natives were to precipitate themselves on the caras blancas (pale faces), and murder them. The failure of the conspiracy was, it appears, only attributable to a fortunate accident–to the circumstance, namely, that a body of the rebels mistook some rocket fired upon the occasion of a Church festival for the agreed signal, and commenced the attack too soon. 
[Summing up.] Let me be permitted, in conclusion, to bring together a few observations which have been scattered through the text, touching the relations of the Philippines with foreign countries, and briefly speculate thereon.
[Credit due Spain.] Credit is certainly due to Spain for having bettered the condition of a people who, though comparatively speaking highly civilized, yet being continually distracted by petty wars, had sunk into a disordered and uncultivated state. The inhabitants of these beautiful islands, upon the whole, may well be considered to have lived as comfortably during the last hundred years, protected from all external enemies and governed by mild laws, as those of any other tropical country under native or European sway,–owing, in some measure, to the frequently discussed peculiar circumstances which protect the interests of the natives.
[Friars an important factor.] The friars, also, have certainly had an essential part in the production of the results.
[Their defects have worked out for good.] Sprung from the lowest orders, inured to hardship and want, and on terms of the closest intimacy with the natives, they were peculiarly fitted to introduce them to a practical conformity with the new religion and code of morality. Later on, also, when they possessed rich livings, and their devout and zealous interest in the welfare of the masses relaxed in proportion as their incomes increased, they materially assisted in bringing about the circumstances already described, with their favorable and unfavorable aspects. Further, possessing neither family nor good education, they were disposed to associate themselves intimately with the natives and their requirements; and their arrogant opposition to the temporal power generally arose through their connection with the natives. With the altered condition of things, however, all this has disappeared. The colony can no longer be kept secluded from the world. Every facility afforded for commercial intercourse is a blow to the old system, and a great step made in the direction of broad and liberal reforms. The more foreign capital and foreign ideas and customs are introduced, increasing the prosperity, enlightenment, and self-respect of the population, the more impatiently will the existing evils be endured.
[Contrast with English colonies.] England can and does open her possessions unconcernedly to the world. The British colonies are united to the mother country by the bond of mutual advantage, viz. the production of raw material by means of English capital, and the exchange of the same for English manufactures. The wealth of England is so great, the organization of her commerce with the world so complete, that nearly all the foreigners even in the British possessions are for the most part agents for English business houses, which would scarcely be affected, at least to any marked extent, by a political dismemberment. It is entirely different with Spain, which possesses the colony as an inherited property, and without the power of turning it to any useful account.
[Menaces to Spanish rule.] Government monopolies rigorously maintained, insolent disregard and neglect of the mestizos and powerful creoles, and the example of the United States, were the chief reasons of the downfall of the American possessions. The same causes threaten ruin to the Philippines: but of the monopolies I have said enough.
[Growing American influence.] Mestizos and creoles, it is true, are not, as they formerly were in America, excluded from all official appointments; but they feel deeply hurt and injured through the crowds of place-hunters which the frequent changes of ministries send to Manila. The influence, also, of the American element is at least visible on the horizon, and will be more noticeable when the relations increase between the two countries. At present they are very slender. The trade in the meantime follows in its old channels to England and to the Atlantic ports of the United States. Nevertheless, whoever desires to form an opinion upon the future history of the Philippines, must not consider simply their relations to Spain, but must have regard to the prodigious changes which a few decades produce on either side of our planet.
[Powerful neighbors] For the first time in the history of the world the mighty powers on both sides of the ocean have commenced to enter upon a direct intercourse with one another–Russia, which alone is larger than any two other parts of the earth; China, which contains within its own boundaries a third of the population of the world; and America, with ground under cultivation nearly sufficient to feed treble the total population of the earth. Russia’s future role in the Pacific Ocean is not to be estimated at present.
[China and America.] The trade between the two other great powers will therefore be presumably all the heavier, as the rectification of the pressing need of human labor on the one side, and of the corresponding overplus on the other, will fall to them.
[Nearing predominance of the Pacific.] The world of the ancients was confined to the shores of the Mediterranean; and the Atlantic and Indian Oceans sufficed at one time for our traffic. When first the shores of the Pacific re-echoed with the sounds of active commerce, the trade of the world and the history of the world may be really said to have begun. A start in that direction has been made; whereas not so very long ago the immense ocean was one wide waste of waters, traversed from both points only once a year. From 1603 to 1769 scarcely a ship had ever visited California, that wonderful country which, twenty-five years ago, with the exception of a few places on the coast, was an unknown wilderness, but which is now covered with flourishing and prosperous towns and cities, served by a sea-to-sea railway, and its capital already ranking the third of the seaports of the Union; even at this early stage of its existence a central point of the world’s commerce, and apparently destined, by the proposed junction of the great oceans, to play a most important part in the future.
[The mission of America.] In proportion as the navigation of the west coast of America extends the influence of the American element over the South Sea, the captivating, magic power which the great republic exercises over the Spanish colonies  will not fail to make itself felt also in the Philippines, The Americans are evidently destined to bring to a full development the germs originated by the Spaniards. As conquerors of modern times, representing the age of free citizens in contrast to the age of knighthood, they follow with the plow and the axe of the pioneer, where the former advanced under the sign of the cross with their swords.
[Superiority over Spanish system.] A considerable portion of Spanish-America already belongs to the United States, and has since attained an importance which could not possibly have been anticipated either under the Spanish Government or during the anarchy which followed. With regard to permanence, the Spanish system cannot for a moment be compared with that of America. While each of the colonies, in order to favor a privileged class by immediate gains, exhausted still more the already enfeebled population of the metropolis by the withdrawal of the best of its ability, America, on the contrary, has attracted to itself from all countries the most energetic element, which, once on its soil and, freed from all fetters, restlessly progressing, has extended its power and influence still further and further. The Philippines will escape the action of the two great neighboring powers all the less for the fact that neither they nor their metropolis find their condition of a stable and well-balanced nature.
[Need of Philippine awakening.] It seems to be desirable for the Filipinos that the above-mentioned views should not speedily become accomplished facts, because their education and training hitherto have not been of a nature to prepare them successfully to compete with either of the other two energetic, creative, and progressive nations. They have, in truth, dreamed away their best days.