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About History of Philippines

Geography of Philippines

The Philippines is an archipelago, or string of over 7,100 islands, in southeastern Asia between the South China Sea and the Pacific Ocean. The two largest islands, Luzon and Mindanao, make up for two-thirds of the total land area. Only about one third of the islands are inhabited.

When Spanish Came in Philippines

The History of Philippines: Discovery of the Philippines by the West and Revolution The Philippines were claimed in the name of Spain in 1521 by Ferdinand Magellan, a Portuguese explorer sailing for Spain, who named the islands after King Philip II of Spain. They were then called Las Felipinas. By the 1830’s Spanish culture and thought had penetrated into Filipino culture to the extent that the Filipino people began thinking about liberation from Spain. The government of Spain developed Filipino agriculture to the point that it was self-sufficient.

Fast Facts: The Philippines

  • Official Name: Republic of the Philippines
  • Capital: Manila
  • Population: roughly 108,000,000 (2019)
  • Official Languages: Filipino and English
  • Currency: Philippine pesos (PHP)
  • Form of Government: Presidential republic
  • Climate: Tropical marine; northeast monsoon (November to April); southwest monsoon (May to October)
  • Total Area: 115,831 square miles (300,000 square kilometers)
  • Highest Point: Mount Apo 9,692 feet (2,954 meters)
  • Lowest Point: Philippine Sea 0 feet (0 meters)
  • Religion: Roman Catholic 79.5%, Muslim 6%, Iglesia ni Cristo 2.6%, Evangelical 2.4%, National Council of Churches in the Philippines 1.1%, other 7.4%, none <0.1% (2015 est.)
The History of Philippines Timeline
The History of Philippines Timeline

The First Humans In The Philippines

Pre History of Philippines (The Ancient History of Philippines): In 2018, stone tools were discovered in Rizal that show that there were already humans in the Philippines 709,000 years ago. In the same way, in 2007 Homo luzonensis or “Man of Callao” was found in the Cave of Callao (near Tuguegarao, Luzon). These make up the first human remains of the Philippines, 67,000 years old.  The History of Philippines. 

Both discoveries imply that humans already existed in the archipelago, before the arrival of the so-called negritos (ethnic groups that inhabited isolated areas of Southeast Asia and the Andaman Islands also called atis, aetas or dumagats) and the Austronesians. It is not known exactly when the first ones arrived, although it is estimated that it could have been around 5000 BC.C. The first Austronesians were able to do so around 2200 BC.C. from Taiwan and settled in Batanes and the northern part of the island of Luzon.

It is believed that around 1000 BC.C. the inhabitants of the Philippines would be divided into 4 categories:

  • Tribal groups such as the Aetas, the Hanunuo, the Ingolots and the Mangyan, hunter-gatherers who lived in the forests.
  • Societies of itinerant warriors such as the Isneg or the Kalinga.
  • The plutocracy of the Ifugao in Cordillera.
  • The peoples who lived near the rivers and coasts that based their economy on maritime trade.

Between 300 and 700 BC.Ctrade with the so-called “Indian world” intensified, specifically with the Malay archipelago (Indonesia, Singapore, Brunei, Malaysia, East Timor and much of Papua New Guinea) and with East Asia, from where the influences of Buddhism and Hinduism arrived. These crossings were made in the so-called balangays (sailboat), from which the word barangay arises, neighborhoods / villages in which the Filipinos lived.

Remains in caves such as Kalanay (Masbate) or Tabon (Palawan) confirm that the Sa Huỳnh culture, which originated in southern and central Vietnam, was also part of the history of the Philippines. The History of Philippines. 

Philippines The pre-Colonial Period

Pre Colonial History of Philippines: Around 1000 AD.C. you would not find any unified state if you arrived in the Philippines. What you would see are many semi-autonomous states under the power of thalassocracies ruled by datuswangs, rajas, sultans or lakans or societies that lived in the mountains ruled by plutocrats or economic elites. Such are the Kingdom of Maynila, the Kingdom of Taytay, the Kingdom of Tondo, the Rajanate of Cebu or the sultanates of Maguindanao and Lanao.

Between the fourteenth and sixteenth centuries there is what is known as the Barangic period in the history of the Philippines. That is, the socio-political organization of the country in barangay states, which have a nomadic nature, but which are transformed into settlements or fleets according to resources (mainly wood). Between them they made alliances or fought.

The first barangays were small communities of 30 to 100 families, with a population between 100 and 500 people commanded by a chief. Then they became larger, especially those located by the sea. The most successful were those near a river delta.

It should be noted that during these centuries many immigrants and merchants continued to come from Sumatra, Java, the Malay Peninsula, Japan and China, who settled in the Philippines. This, for example, led to the influence of Sanskrit on native languages (take a look at baybayin and you will see what we are talking about), the flourishing of Islam, the teaching of making certain weapons or tools and the use of materials such as porcelain, lead, silver or tin. The History of Philippines. 

History of Manila
History of Manila

The arrival of Catholicism in Philippines

The Catholicism History of Philippines: On March 17, 1521, a Spanish expedition commanded by the Portuguese Ferdinand Magellan arrived. It does so on the island of Homonhon, southeast of Samar. The explorer began to establish relations with some local leaders such as Raja Humabon, whom he later supported in the Battle of Mactan against Lapu-Lapu, the warlord or datu of the island. Magellan died during the war. The History of Philippines. 

Even so, the thing did not stay that way. In the following decades of Philippine history, several Spanish-flagged expeditions arrived on the islands. As a curiosity, it was at this time when they were baptized as Philippine Islands in honor of Philip II.

The most important expedition was that of 1565 when Miguel López de Legazpi arrived from Mexico with 5 ships, 400 men and 5 Augustinian monks with strict orders to colonize and catholicize. It was he who had Fort St. Peter erected, which you can still see in Cebu.

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From those dates began to form Spanish settlements, try to unify an archipelago fragmented into dozens of states and, of course, introduce Catholicism in a territory where Islam had spread in recent centuries. They were island by island until they arrived in 1571 at Maynila, where they fought Raja Sulayman to “found” Manila and make it the capital of the Philippine Islands. The construction of Intramuros began, the original center of government, education and commerce and where a large part of the wealthy classes would live in the following centuries.

The new colony was part of the Viceroyalty of New Spain, so they were administered from Mexico City until 1821, when Mexico gained independence. Although there was a governor, the reality is that outside manila the friars were the ones who had the most power. During the Friarocracy, the friars tried to build larger villages and erected imposing stone churches. Some of these vestiges of the history of the Philippines can still be visited such as That of San Agustín in Intramuros or that of Paoay, in Ilocos Norte. History of Philippines. 

The Consolidation of Spanish Power in Philippines

History of Philippines: Throughout the seventeenth century soldiers from Spain, Mexico and Peru, mainly, arrived with the aim of defending the settlements that had already been established along the archipelago. From the interaction with the first inhabitants of the islands emerged the first mestizos and languages such as Chabacano, which we talk about in Languages of the Philippines.

At this time colleges and universities were also founded such as the College of Manila (later called the University of San Ignacio) or the University of Santo Tomás, where, in addition to religion, physics, chemistry or mathematics classes were taught. In the smaller communities, missionaries were in charge of teaching Spanish and cultivation techniques for seeds that were brought from Latin America such as corn, chocolate or pineapple. Schools and hospitals were also built.

⛵ This was, of course, the golden era of the Manila Galleon. The route linked Manila with the ports of New Spain in America, especially Acapulco, and was an economic boost for the capital, which came to be known as the “Pearl of the Orient” for its beauty.

However, during the eighteenth century, conflicts with the Muslims to the south, the long war with the Dutch to the west and the attacks of Japanese pirates coming from the north, together with how unprofitable the colony was, greatly weakened the power of the Spanish and facilitated that between 1762 and 1764 Manila was invaded again by the British. The History of Philippines. 

In 1821, with the independence of Mexico, the Philippines became part of the Kingdom of Spain. In fact, the Constitution of 1870 qualifies the archipelago as an “overseas province”. In the nineteenth century it invested considerably in infrastructure and education. In 1863, Isabel II decreed the establishment of the public education system. While in 1851, the Spanish-Filipino Bank of Isabel II was created to manage the economic boom that meant the exploitation of crops such as abaca or coconut in a more orderly way.

The Philippine Revolution

History of Philippines Revolution: The independence of Spain from several Latin American countries caused distrust in Latin and Creole army officers to grow and they were replaced by those known as peninsulars, that is, those born in Spain. This racist movement led to the discontent of a large part of the army, which began to show signs of it in several revolts.

On the other hand, the feeling of independence of Filipinos settled in America and Europe began to grow significantly in the late nineteenth century. The Cavite mutiny, in 1872, was the final impulse, because taking advantage of the failed uprising of some 200 soldiers and workers, the government decreed the death by club of several Filipino leaders and 3 famous priests, convicted of sedition. This aroused even more anger and resentment against the colonial government. The History of Philippines. 

Meanwhile, in Europe, the Enlightened (the “educated” class of Filipinos) are beginning to organize into protest movements. Among them, the Philippine League is already emerging in the Philippines. This was a peaceful association that sought to defend the rights of Filipinos within the government of Spain but without speaking at any time clearly about independence.

Here comes into play a fundamental pillar of the history of the Philippines: José RizalAn illustrator, physician, poet, novelist, painter, sculptor and linguist, he was one of the founders of the Philippine League and today is considered a national hero. Although his objectives were not to bypass the framework of legality, in 1892 he was considered a suspect of rebellion and exiled to Dapitan, Mindanao.

On the same day of that arrest, Andrés Bonifacio founded the Katipunan or KKK. This secret society, of which José Rizal was not a part, did arise with the intention of achieving independence from Spanish power. On August 6, 1896, when it had about 30,000 members, it was discovered by the Spanish authorities, starting what was known as the Philippine Revolution.

On October 6, 1896, Rizal was imprisoned in Barcelona on his way to Cuba to care for the victims of yellow fever in an attempt to prove that he was on the side of the colonial government. He is accused of being part of the KKK and of sedition, rebellion and conspiracy, so he is immediately sent to Manila. His last days were spent in a cell in Fort Santiago, Intramuros, where he wrote his famous poem “My last goodbye” until December 30 of the same year when he was shot in the place that is now Rizal Park.

Now you can visit the exact corner in which it happened, you will find a representation of the murder. The History of Philippines. 

After several months of revolts, the Katipuneros and the Spanish government signed a peace agreement and General Emilio Aguinaldo, leader of the Magdalo faction of the KKK, agreed to go into exile in Hong Kong in December 1897. However, neither side complied with the pact and tension continued to grow as tensions between the United States and Spain escalated until the start of the Spanish-American War, which moved to Philippine lands, where the Americans helped the rebels become strong.

Spain was defeated by American forces in the 1898 Battle of Manila Bay. A few months later, Aguinaldo returns to the Philippines aided by the United States, declares the independence of the archipelago and the First Philippine Republic. The Treaty of Paris, signed on December 10, 1898, ends the Spanish-American War and Spain sells the Philippines, Guam and Puerto Rico to the United States for the derisory amount of 20 million dollars. This marks the end of more than 300 years of Spanish presence in the Philippines.

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⭐ The only ones who did not seem to hear the news of the withdrawal were members of the Baler detachment, northeast of Manila. The so-called Last of the Philippines remained confined to the Church of St. Louis of Toulouse until they surrendered on June 2, 1899.

The Philippine-American War

History of Philippines America War: Although the United States government had remarked to the Katipuneros that their interest was to defeat the Spaniards and help them achieve their independence, the truth is that it did not take long for them to show other intentions. U.S. President William J McKinley, heeding the imperialists, declared that filipinos were “not prepared for self-government” and that they had to “civilize” them. The History of Philippines. 

Aguinaldo, realizing that U.S. troops were there to occupy the country, placed the capital at Malolos (outside Manila) and declared war in early 1899. Unfortunately, the number of Filipino troops and their meager equipment resulted in the death of some 20,000 soldiers. Almost 200,000 civilians did so mostly because of a cholera epidemic stemming from the scarcity of the war.

The Philippine president was captured in March 1901, but the war continued until July 4, 1902, when the United States declared victory. Even so, it had been a while since the U.S. government had put the batteries to organize the political system to its liking.

The U.S. Occupation

A few years after dissolving the military government, the United States, though distrustful, allowed a bicameral system. The Philippine Assembly was the lower house elected by the people, while the Philippine Commission, whose members were hand-picked, was the upper house. In addition, they publicly promised the eventual independence of the Filipinos. The History of Philippines. 

In the early years of the twentieth century, important reforms were established, especially with regard to education. A public school system was put in place and hundreds of U.S. teachers came to the country to teach numeracy, reading, writing and, of course, English. It is estimated that in 35 years of American occupation, 27% of the population could speak this language and 50% ceased to be illiterate.

In 1935 the Commonwealth of the Philippines or Philippine Commonwealth was established along with a new constitution and a president elected by its citizens, Manuel L. Quezon, leader of the Nationalist Party. This would last until 1946, when the Philippines would become an independent country. The History of Philippines. 

World War II in the history of the Philippines

History of Philippines in World War2: Unfortunately, what seemed like it was going to be a quiet period turned out to be quite the opposite with the start of World War II. The Japanese attacked the Clark military base in 1941 and the American forces, commanded by General MacArthur, had to surrender but not before declaring in his famous speech that he would “return”.

The Japanese occupation ends with MacArthur’s return to the island of Leyte, where the Battle of Leyte Gulf took place, the largest naval battle in the history of the modern world. However, the decisive move would occur during the Battle of Manila, which lasted almost a month and which not only caused almost the total destruction of the Pearl of the Orient but the death of some 150,000 civilians. Manila became, along with Warsaw and Hiroshima, one of the most devastated cities during the war. The History of Philippines. 

More than a million Filipinos died during World War II. Poverty was rampant. The History of Philippines. 

Independence of the Philippines

History of Philippines Independence: After the death of President Quezon in 1944 and a quick succession by Sergio Osmeña, elections were held in 1946 and Manuel Roxas was declared the first president of the now independent Republic of the Philippines. However, the destruction by the war meant that, de facto, it remained economically dependent on the Us.

Several presidents fought for the recovery of the country, with greater or lesser success, but also others were accused of corruption. Something that, as you will see, has been repeated throughout the history of the Philippines.

About History of Philippines
About History of Philippines

The Marcos government

In 1965, Ferdinand Marcos of the Nationalist Party was elected the 4th President of the Philippines after the end of World War II. Under the slogan “This nation can be fabulous again”,the beginning of his term focused on making some reforms that would bring the economic state of the country before the war. He was the first president to be re-elected for the 2nd time in 1969.

The People’s Power Revolution

Social unrest and pressure from the United States culminated in a presidential election in February 1986. Although in the opposition was benigno Aquino’s widow, Corazon Aquino, the results gave power back to Marcos. Local and international observers claimed electoral fraud and unleashed a string of peaceful civil revolts known as the People’s Power Revolution.

Two million civilians and various political, military and religious groups took to the streets unarmed to protest against regime violence and electoral fraud. With a festive atmosphere, most of the tour was made along Epifanio de los Santos Avenue in Manila, also called EDSA, so it is also known as the EDSA Revolution. The History of Philippines. 

Marcos, following the recommendation of the United States, was forced into exile in Hawaii (taking, of course, several million dollars) and “Cory” Aquino was declared the 11th president in the history of the Philippines. The History of Philippines. 

During his tenure democratic institutions were re-established, civil rights were protected, and a new constitution was drafted, yet Cory did not have it easy. He faced up to 6 military coups, the communist insurrection and the reverse in the economy caused by natural disasters such as the eruption of one of the volcanoes of the Philippines, Pinatubo, in 1991.

On the other hand, the Philippine Senate rejected a treaty to extend the use of U.S. military bases in the archipelago. December 1992 ended nearly 100 years of U.S. military presence in Philippine history. The History of Philippines. 

A Brief The History of Philippines Timeline

Summary of history of Philippines: A Concise History of Philippines Country Timeline.

Milestones in Philippine History

65,000 a.C.: It is believed that the first humans arrived in the Philippines by raft. The remains of the Man of Callao date from that time, although traces of human activity of about 709,000 years old have been found.

100-200 a.C.: First commercial exchanges with China.

100 a.C.-1000 d.C.: Many immigrants and traders from Sumatra, Peninsular Malaysia and the island of Java settle in the Philippines.

1200-1600: Flourishing trade with China and Chinese settlements. Trade was also carried out with India, Japan, Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand. The country was divided into several sultanates and Rajanates.

1521: Ferdinand Magellan arrives on the island of Homonhon (Samar) and claims that it is owned by Spain. He is killed in the Battle of Mactan by Lapu-Lapu, tribal chief of the island of Mactan.

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1565: Legazpi arrives on an expedition from Mexico and manages to include the Philippines within the Viceroyalty of New Spain.

1571: After battling with the raja of the city, Legazpi founded what is known today as Manila and began the construction of Intramuros.

1565-1815: The golden age of the Manila Galleon, the route between Manila and the ports of New Spain (Acapulco mainly). Trade between Asia, Europe and America made Manila one of the richest and most beautiful cities in the area, becoming known as the Pearl of the Orient.

1762: Uk occupies Manila for 2 years. The rejection of Spain by the people begins to be seen.

1821: The independence of Mexico is declared and the Philippines is administered by Madrid.

XIX century: Many cities are founded, infrastructure and public schools are invested. There is an economic boom due to innovation in agriculture and the tobacco and sugar industry creates a class of wealthy mestizos. The Enlightened, natives of the Filipino middle class who studied mainly abroad, begin to sow the ideas of independence.

1872: The Cavite mutiny is the ultimate proof of the rise of Filipino nationalism. It ended with the death of Father José Burgos and two other priests convicted of treason and sedition.

1892: José Rizal returns to the Philippines and forms the Philippine League, a civic movement to call for social reforms within the framework of the legality of the time. However, he is deported to Mindanao.

1896: The Philippine Revolution begins and José Rizal is unjustly accused and executed. He becomes a hero of Philippine history and nationalist sentiment against the Spanish government increases.

1898: The Treaty of Paris is signed, ending the Spanish-American War and ceding the Philippines to the United States.

1901: The Americans capture revolutionary leader Emilio Aguinaldo within the framework of the Philippine-American War.

1935: The first national elections are held and Manuel L. Quezon wins. It declares the Commonwealth of the Philippines, a commonwealth with the United States.

1942: 75,000 American and Filipino troops are forced to surrender to Japan and retreat to Batan.

1946: The Philippines gains independence and Manuel Roxas becomes the first president of the independent republic.

1965: Ferdinand Marcos is the first president to be re-elected for a second term but the economy is slowing and corruption is rampant, stoking people’s resentment.

1972: Marcos declares martial law and imprisons journalists and opposition leaders, including Benigno “Ninoy Aquino Jr.,” who later went into exile in the United States.

1983: On his return from the United States, Aquino is killed at the Manila airport. Protests begin in front of Marcos.

1986: The EDSA Revolution or People’s Power Revolution was a peaceful revolt that led to Marcos leaving the government. Ninoy Aquino’s widow, Corazon Aquino, became president until 1992. The History of Philippines. 

1991: The Pinatubo volcano erupts and Clark’s base becomes unusable. The Senate does not renew the extension of military bases in the country and ends the US military presence.

2013: Typhoon Yolanda hits the Visayas region, which is almost destroyed.

2016: Rodrigo Duterte is elected president of the Philippines. His government is not without controversy, with its “war on drugs” having resulted in thousands of extrajudicial executions, most criticized by human rights groups and international bodies such as the UN. The next elections will be held in May 2022. The History of Philippines. 

Places of interest to visit and learn about the history of the Philippines up close

Throughout this article we have already been citing some places where you can get a little closer to the history of the Philippines. However, here we summarize the ones that we find most interesting in case you want to include them in your trip:

  • Manila: although the capital of the Philippines is not a pretty city (especially when reading the destruction of World War II), we advise you to go to Intramuros, where the Fort of Santiago, the Cathedral of Manila or the Church of San Agustín are located, among other historical buildings. You can read more in our articles What to do in Manila and What to see in Intramuros.
  • Cebu: In the capital of Visayas you will also be able to learn about the history of the Philippines in places like Fort San Pedro and the nearby ancestral houses. We tell you everything in What to do in Cebu. The History of Philippines. 
  • Vigan: This is the best preserved colonial city in the country. If you want to taste that Spanish air that is still breathed in the archipelago, do not hesitate. The History of Philippines. 
  • Iloilo: This city on the island of Panay also played an essential role in Spanish times. In it you will find the Iloilo Museum and some interesting churches. In addition, 40 kilometers away is the Migao Church, built between 1787 and 1797 and declared a World Heritage Site. The History of Philippines. 
  • The Cordillera area: to enter the tribal groups that populated the archipelago before the arrival of Magellan, we advise you to make a getaway to Banaue, Batad, Sagada and Kalinga land. The History of Philippines. 
  • Corregidor Island: This is one of the excursions from Manila that you can do. The defense base of Manila Bay, where you will find vestiges of World War II. The History of Philippines. 


Today, the Philippines is still poor, but things are changing. Since 2010, the Philippine economy has grown by about 6% annually. Today there is reason to be optimistic about the future. At present, the population of the Philippines is 103 million. The History of Philippines. 

History of Philippines Flag

History of the flag of the Philippines

The day that this flag with the blue and red bands flies with the inverted colors will mean that the country is at war: the Philippines is the only state in the world that plans to reverse the stripes of its flag in case of war situation. The History of Philippines. 

The History of Philippines Flag
The History of Philippines Flag

Discovered by Ferdinand Magellan, on March 16, 1521, this Asian archipelago, located between the Pacific Ocean and the South China Sea, became the tomb of that Portuguese navigator in the service of Spain, when he died a month later at the hands of the Natives.

The sun shines on the flag of this island state. Its eight rays recall the provinces that, with the support of the United States, revolted in 1896 against Spanish colonial rule. The History of Philippines. 

Who created the Philippine flag?

Emilio Aguinaldo created the current Philippine flag in 1898. This banner was adopted and hoisted on May 19, 1898, the day of liberation. After the defeat of Spain, the Philippines was ceded to the government of Washington. Independence was officially proclaimed in 1946. The History of Philippines. 

Meaning of the colors of the flag of the Philippines

  • The red color of the Philippine flag is a tribute to the bravery of the people and the blood shed. The History of Philippines. 
  • The color blue expresses the patriotism of the nation. The History of Philippines. 
  • The three gold-colored stars evoke the three main geographical areas of the island: Luzon, Mindanao and the Visayas archipelago. The History of Philippines. 
  • The white triangle symbolizes peace. The History of Philippines. 

Culture And Fashion in Philippines


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